UTM students deserve better than fake news

Last week’s Jordan Peterson editorial in The Medium spews misinformation, lacks facts

When I saw Jordan Peterson’s name on the opinion section of The Medium last week, I thought, “Oh, I wonder what scandal I’ll read about?”

Could it be when a Wilfrid Laurier University professor compared playing a debate featuring Jordan Peterson in a communications class to neutrally playing a speech by Hitler? Maybe people would like to know that he and the Laurier administration were forced to write a public apology to the TA they descended upon.

Or is it that after Ryerson administration canceled a panel on restriction of free speech, a group of students held a celebration downtown under the banner of the hammer and sickle? It might be good to know that what was a 200-person event was rescheduled on November 11 to a packed auditorium of 1,400.

Instead, this dissembling, ill-informed, badly written attack piece, from the copy editor Ayesha Tak, stains the pages of our newspaper.

The title: “What does Peterson have against the humanities?” The answer is nothing. To quote the article, “He is also planning to start his own online university that teaches the humanities.” Could that be a clue?

Jordan Peterson sees a radical authoritarianism that has hijacked many disciplines in the humanities. He believes that it is toxic to critical thought, and the radical leftist activists it produces will further polarize and harm western society. Jordan Peterson never tried to create a “dichotomy between […] the hard sciences against the soft sciences.” Nor was the issue ever centered on scientific rigor–though he does point out with regret that 80 per cent of humanities papers are never cited. Tak argues against a strawman for the most part.

“What does Peterson have against the humanities?” could be answered by simply watching his videos, something Tak evidently decided was not worth their time. If they had watched them, Tak would not have described them as “made in his spare time” and short. Peterson’s most popular lecture series is professionally produced, the last twelve videos are on average 73 minutes long. Isn’t it the job of the copy editor to make sure The Medium articles are free of error, strawman arguments, and outright lies?

The last three paragraphs, Tak resorts to blatant smears. The article laments the $50,000 (closer to $65,000 now) in donations per month he receives to “rant to his YouTube following.” This refers to the weekly lecture series on the psychological significance of biblical stories held downtown to a packed audience, and another providing in-depth analysis of thinkers, philosophers, and historians of the Western tradition. According to Tak, this is a man who “despises the humanities so much.”

“If Jordan Peterson can’t make a mark in psychology, it’s alright, because he definitely knows how to make money and garner fame through other means,” Tak writes. Jordan Peterson is one of the most cited academics in his fields, he is a certified clinical psychologist, he’s taught psychology at Harvard, and of course, U of T, and that’s just his accomplishments in psychology.

Thankfully the article ends, but not before one final slander: “to get exactly what he wants, even if it means making up about disciplines he has no background in.” I think Tak refers to the discipline that Jordan Peterson spent 13 years writing a book about’.The same discipline and book that was made into a 13-part TV series on TVOntario. The same discipline and book that was adapted into a psychology course that Jordan Peterson has taught for years. The same discipline that he critiques in depth from various perspectives to tens of millions of views on YouTube. But of course, he was just making all of that up. After all, who could argue against the framework of Marxism that, to quote Tak again: “has stood up to scrutiny throughout times”.

I expected better from a copy editor. I expected better from The Medium.