Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, the controversial university professor, author, YouTuber and free speech advocate has filed multiple defamation lawsuits against his critics for their very questionable descriptions of his beliefs.
According to new reports from The National Post and The Cut, the professor is now suing Wilfrid Laurier University, Cornell University and Vox Media for over $1.5 million each in damages for allegedly defamatory statements which label the man a “misogynist” (by suggesting “it doesn’t seem accidental that [Peterson’s] skepticism about objective facts arises when it’s conveniently anti-feminist) among other things. His lawyers demand all statements be “immediately retracted.”
It appears two of these lawsuits are being filed through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the same Canadian legal system that Peterson criticized to fame for their anti-free speech stance when it comes to issues such as “gender identity or expression” under Bill C-16. Peterson has made clear that on principle he would gladly refer to transgender and non-binary students by whatever pronouns they want, but would refuse to do so if compelled by laws that restrict his fundamental human right to free speech. His critics, however, shouldn’t hold their breath if they’re waiting for a free speech defense of their own.
The first lawsuit is against Wilfrid Laurier professors Nathan Rambukkana, Herbert Pimlott and their Diversity and Equity Office staffer Adria Joel, who each compared Peterson to Adolf Hitler by suggesting he was an anti-semitic “charlatan,” among other things, during their private meeting with teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd. The footage of this conversation grew wide-spread media attention when it was released by Shepard, who at the time was being accused of transgender discrimination by merely presenting her literature class a TV Ontario debate regarding gender-neutral pronouns in which Peterson was a panelist.
This shouldn’t be confused with the lawsuit brought forth by Shepherd, now suing the school for $3.6 million for making her “unemployable in academia” based on the firing squad meeting presented above. Peterson’s lawsuit should be considered far more questionable since Laurier argue their comments are not defamatory due to the fact they were only made in the context of a private meeting, never intended for public scrutiny.
“They played no role whatsoever in uploading the recording of the impugned words to YouTube, and are not responsible in any way for any repercussions flowing therefrom,” the university said in their defense statement. “Rather, these defendants state that the impugned words were uploaded to YouTube by Shepherd and that she is therefore responsible for the damages, if any, that flowed from the impugned words being broadcast on YouTube.”
Shepard has the defense the release of her footage was protection from unethical termination, that her university superiors would put the incident on her record in the event that she was forced to leave and there was no evidence to clear her name. There’s an argument for due compensation. Peterson, however, has only seen an increase in revenue, media coverage and guest appearances since their remarks came to light.
In his second lawsuit, Peterson is directly going after Laurier’s statement of defense in which they asked for the lawsuit to be dropped. Instead of dropping the charges, Dr. Peterson is taking issue with their claims that he “benefited from the press” surrounding the controversy, writing this claim was just about as ridiculous as saying “those who survived the Holocaust should be grateful to their oppressors for teaching them survival skills.”
Peterson has since published a New York Times bestseller, “12 Rules For Life”, made regular appearances on right-wing YouTube shows Louder With Crowder, The Rubin Report and The Daily Wire, bipartisan TV guest spots on BBC, Fox News, Real Time With Bill Maher, Comedy Central, held and appeared at sold-out speaking engagements across multiple countries and currently makes over $60,000 per month on the crowd-funding site Patreon (up from the $52K in the months before the video’s release). Peterson has since hidden the amount of money he receives through the site, possibly to help bolster the credibility of his lawsuits as he moves toward making them single action.
For my money, the world clearly can’t get enough of Dr. Peterson, and he’s certainly a big boy with a decent amount of big money for his earned reputation. But maybe that’s not enough for him. Understand that his second lawsuit also takes issue with the university’s claims that the “stated purpose” of Peterson’s original defamation lawsuit is “causing academics and administrators to be more circumspect in their choice of words and that the lawsuit is being used as a means of unduly limiting expression on matters of public interest.” Ironically, instead of counter-addressing these claims through more speech, Dr. Peterson is seeking retractions and another $1.75 million in damages for their words, despite the existence of his own YouTube video where he directly states he hoped his lawsuit would convince professors to be “much more circumspect in their actions and their words.”
Perhaps — and please don’t sue me for this obvious theory, Peterson — these notions of being more careful with their words is less about the university taking personal responsibility and more about silencing critics who will otherwise face the wrath of the legal system he rightfully criticizes for coddling people’s feelings. We’re more than happy to air Peterson’s response, completely in fairness and context.
But alas, the lawsuits don’t seem to stop at Laurier. According to an exclusive report from The Cut, Peterson’s third lawsuit is being made against the author of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” and Cornell University assistant professor Kate Manne, who recently criticized his book, and the majority of his work, as being “misogynistic” in a July interview with Vox.
In their letters to Manne, Cornell chair Derk Pereboom and Vox journalist Sean Illing, Peterson’s lawyer Howard Levitt demanded that all three parties “immediately retract all of Professor Manne’s defamatory statements, have them immediately removed from the internet, and issue an apology in the same forum to Mr. Peterson. Otherwise, our client will take all steps necessary to protect his professional reputation, including but not limited to initiating legal proceedings against all of you for damages.”