It is appalling, but not surprising, that this statement from the National Association of Scholars should be the first of 2023. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, one of the most cited and well-known modern intellectuals in Western civilization, has reported that his professional license—necessary for him to represent himself as a psychologist—is under threat of revocation. The charges leveled against him are spurious. Let these facts be submitted to a candid world:
- The claims against Dr. Peterson are that, by publicly airing his opinions on a handful of subjects, he drew the profession of psychological counseling into disrepute and harmed (or potentially harmed) individuals who seek such counseling. The validity of such claims evaporates the moment one pays attention to Peterson’s actual remarks: a joke made about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; sharing the commentary of Canadian Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre; criticizing current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; criticizing Trudeau’s former principal secretary, Gerald Butts; and a handful of similar acerbic remarks.
- The actions stated above are the public criticisms of public persons and personal views, protected under any credible right to free speech. None of these actions were taken in a clinical setting, nor with a psychotherapeutic patient, where the license of a psychologist would be subject to censure for conduct unbecoming of a medical professional.
There are a total of 12 formal complaints lodged against Dr. Peterson. None of the complainants, according to Dr. Peterson, are current or former patients of his clinical practice. Rather, Dr. Peterson conveys his message through public forums such as YouTube (6 million followers) and Twitter (6 million followers) and in interviews with interlocutors such as Piers Morgan. He is, by any objective criterion, a public intellectual, not a medical professional practicing at this time.
In fact, Dr. Peterson suspended his clinical practice some years ago due to his emergence into public life and because the government now compels the speech of medical professionals, making his job as a therapist technically impossible. Such policy erodes the ability not only of Dr. Peterson but also of therapists generally to be honest with their psychotherapeutic clients. If anything, Dr. Peterson is one of the few to have upheld the standards of exemplary professional conduct, whereas those who have laid these charges against him continue to engage in professional misconduct.
- Dr. Peterson is being told he must take a course on “social media retraining” and pay for it himself, with the “progress” of his re-education reported to the Canadian government. Should Dr. Peterson fail to comply (and he has stated that he has no intention of complying), he will face a professional tribunal and almost certainly have his license revoked.
- In his 20 years of practice as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Peterson has never once been investigated. These investigations and complaints only began in 2016, when Dr. Peterson became a public figure. Dr. Peterson has had one of the most successful careers in the history of his field, having helped millions of people so far and in generations to come.
The case of Jordan Peterson exemplifies just how far Western societies have drifted from their liberal roots. Increasingly, Western societies are coming to resemble an unholy alliance of liberal societies’ enemies, combining the collusion of government and industry of classical fascism, the Soviet-style weaponization of psychology against political dissidents, the subordination of science to ideology as exemplified by Lysenkoism (another gift of the Soviet Union), and the quasi-legalistic deprivation of livelihoods that characterized the purge of German universities in the 1930s by the National Socialists.
As we did when Jordan Peterson resigned his tenured position at the University of Toronto, the National Association of Scholars condemns the unrelenting illiberal attacks being levied against Dr. Peterson and against anyone who dares push back against the enemies of intellectual freedom and reasoned discourse. We also condemn his colleagues who have enthusiastically joined in the attacks and given them a faux credibility and those other colleagues who, though fully understanding the false and flagitious nature of the accusations against Dr. Peterson, have fallen into cowardly silence.