Durham County

Speaker Jordan B. Peterson calls Durham City Council self righteous, morally confused

Jordan Peterson during a lecture on January 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Zuma Press/TNS)
Jordan Peterson during a lecture on January 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Zuma Press/TNS)

Speaker Jordan B. Peterson, called out by the Durham City Council for "racist, misogynist, and transphobic" views, has responded to the controversy over his upcoming show at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Over the weekend, the Canadian professor whose YouTube lectures and self-help book have a large following, accused the elected leaders of claiming "moral superiority" in a statement signed by the mayor and council and shared on Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson's public Facebook page.

Peterson, a clinical psychologist, responded on his website in a post titled "Durham City Council Purchases Unearned Virtue with the Currency of Denouncement."

His statement led with the names and email addresses of the council members, unleashing a flood of angry emails to them over the weekend. Dozens of writers said that the council's statement misrepresented his beliefs. Some called it "disgraceful" and disgusting."

Many of those emailing council members listed their locations as Canada and the United Kingdom, though several were also local.

In Peterson's response, he wrote that the "City of Durham’s statement is one of the purest demonstrations I have yet seen of the tendency for the ideologically possessed to use denouncement tactically as a means to amplify and exaggerate personal or identity-group virtue. To lay this bare, I have composed this analysis of the psychological motivations and narrative structure of the statement."

Peterson is scheduled to bring his "12 Rules for Life Tour" to DPAC on Sept. 10.

His lengthy response addresses each paragraph of the council's statement. At one point he calls part of it "a conceptually brutal mishmash of self-righteousness, indignation and utter moral and political confusion."

The council statement says, in part: "We would like to be clear that we respect Mr. Peterson’s right to hold his opinions and to freely state his opinions without government interference. However, we wish to emphasize that a person’s right to free speech does not include the right to a platform or an audience. As many in our community have been disturbed and angered by Mr. Peterson’s racist, misogynist, and transphobic views, we would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our commitments and values to all of you as your elected representatives."

Peterson's response quotes much more of the council statement, which he thinks aims to "avoid responsibility and point a finger of blame at erstwhile colleagues" at DPAC and "to denounce me and my hypothetical audience (and claim moral superiority)."

He also said their statement is electioneering.

"Everything that is reprehensible about the radical and ideologically-possessed left – all the moral self-righteousness, the platitudes, the clichés, the mindless celebration of diversity for the sake of the demonstration of tolerance, the naivete, and the appalling malevolence of casual denunciation – is on painful display in this missive," Peterson wrote. "Exposure to such a piece of writing left me with a strong desire for a hot shower accompanied by plenty of soap and a scrub brush."

Peterson also counters the council members saying they found out Peterson was "invited" to DPAC by reading Indy Week. He rented out the theater, he said.

Peterson also invited the Durham City Council members to attend his lecture at DPAC in an email Monday night.

In an email exchange between City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton and Peterson on Tuesday, Middleton said he apologized to DPAC and Peterson for the statement's claim that DPAC invited Peterson rather than Peterson renting out the venue. Middleton also told Peterson that if his schedule permits, he would attend Peterson's event on Sept. 10.

Peterson asked Middleton if he could tweet it and that it would "defuse some of the tension."

"Absolutely," Middleton wrote. "My assumption since taking office is that every utterance I make is potentially 'tweetable.'"

Peterson and DPAC have not responded to requests for comment.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan
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