A Response

I will preface this response by addressing your claims and accusations in the first bold paragraph at the outset of your response. You claim that portions of my analysis are “Peterson-esque, slippery-slope fairy tales.” My arguments and those of Peterson regarding C-16 are within the valid range of interpretation of potential ways in which the law is applied. There is the law as written and the law as applied. Peterson’s concern about legal-backing of the use of nonstandard pronouns is not a slippery-slope as it could fall under the notion of discrimination. Failure to recognize non-binary genders could also potentially constitute discrimination. The Wilfrid Laurier cases is notable in that Bill C-16 was explicitly mentioned (along with Ontario Provincial law) to restrict freedom of inquiry. My concern with you and your arguments here is that you oppose Peterson and support the use of non-standard pronouns (equating it with civil rights movements of the past). You are free to have whatever opinion of Peterson you wish but I suspect that your anti-Peterson bias (clearly visible, for example in a recent Twitter rant where you took quotes out of context) is fueling a great deal of energy behind this argument. I further support this claim by citing the following:

-Focusing exclusively on the language of a bill without taking into account any of the following:

-context (within the English Common Law tradition)

-terminology (and how it may, and indeed has been, misconstrued)

-concerns defining increasingly small groups (in this case far less than 1% of the

population).

-science — I argue that your position is pseudo-scientific at best because you are

supporting a law which is based on notions of social constructivism

-no mention of a relation between sex and gender

-no mention that biological sex is a bimodal distribution

-selective interpretation of approving psychologists and psychological

organizations

-Pronouns — arguing that misgendering someone, even intentionally, will not

constitute discrimination despite the fact that this is by no means clear. Furthermore,

supporting the use of nonstandard pronouns and seeing it as equal to civil rights

battles of the past

-Much of the nonstandard pronoun battle is theoretical and Peterson is

right to question whether usage of such pronouns constitute a power game

The push for marriage equality and rights for gay and lesbian individuals was based, in part on biological and psychological realities, not radical social constructivism. The push for rights for transgender individuals should follow the same path (and I’ve read and seen videos produced by transgender individuals who wish the same). Radical social constructivism, coupled with law, is as unscientific as banning the teaching of evolution in favor of creationism. You cavalierly dismiss concerns that the legislation might be misinterpreted. Furthermore, you do not consider related issues, such as transgender children. Under this law, could parents who want their children to put off surgical intervention until they are at least 18 be targeted. Could that constitute discrimination against transgender kids? (By the way, I should mention that I support allowing kids to express themselves however they wish but do not support surgical intervention until the child is an adult.)

On C-16 and what constitutes an offense: Suppose I refuse to use a nonstandard pronoun in conjunction with refusing to recognize the person’s nonstandard gender. Would that be grounds for fining me under this law?

We cannot prevent people from misunderstanding the law and the organic growth of the common law system works to correct those misunderstandings. In addition to the example in the previous paragraph, I do have an additional concern: giving the government more power (based on group rights, not individual rights) and then expecting the government to behave responsibly with that power. In the U.S., we can look at Plessy V. Ferguson (1896) as a clear example of the government upholding racist policies. Indeed, it took 100 years from the Civil War for the government to step in and promote lasting change in the South. The government is made up of the same people who make up the rest of society. Legislators and judges are people, not angels. They have their specialties and should perform their roles admirably. However, skepticism is very much needed. I would also, while I’m thinking about it, point to the judge in the ‘Affluenza Case’ of recent years. The government is not immune from having racist individuals holding office. The government of Canada is not immune from having those who oppose the rights of transgender individuals. Legal intervention, while it can be helpful, is not a panacea and does not change human nature.

Compelled speech is not directly present here. The concern is whether the legislation can reasonably be interpreted to support compelled speech (ex. not using certain pronouns or not recognizing a person’s non-binary gender, could constitute discrimination.

To repeat: Your position defending the use of nonstandard pronouns with legal backing and support of social constructivist notions put into the law have already been misunderstood. Furthermore, your support for pseudo-scientific notions does much damage to any scientific credibility you may have. Peterson is a clinical psychologist who is familiar with the scholarly literature in the field. His concerns are not based on ignorance.

On groups and individuals: I stand by my position arguing that the law should recognize only individual rights and not grant privileges for specific groups. Defining a person as part of a group (particularly in a legal context) is deeply troubling. All women do not think alike. All Asian-Americans do not think alike (although they are discriminated against when applying to elite universities in the U.S.). I have heard many accusations leveled against Jordan Peterson. On several occasions you have mentioned his popularity with the alt-right. Yet, he supports the rights of the individual and opposes nebulous group identities. Indeed, he has argued that (while groups are necessary for survival) retreating into group identities is harmful to the individual and consistent with the visions of radical ideologues. He has said that the purpose of the nation (a group of individuals with shared customs and beliefs) is to give rise to the individual. You seem to be arguing that groups are as important (or perhaps more important) than the individual. I’m not denying the very real presence of prejudice in society (although it has declined precipitously over the past century). I would be careful about trying to define a ‘black experience’ or ‘transgender experience’ as if all the members of that group are the same. I would further argue that emphasis on the individual would do infinitely more to empower people who happen to be members of historically disadvantaged groups.

“Racism has never done this country any good, and it needs to be fought against, not put under new management for different groups.” -Thomas Sowell

-On top-down vs. bottom-up approaches: I would be interested in seeing both a meta-analysis and analyzing the relation between correlation and causation. Citing a bump in support for anything because of a widespread broadcast can be interpreted in many ways. I am in the midst of studying marketing and can tell you that such techniques are regularly employed to get people to buy things after psychologically pumping them. I would further argue that popular culture and personal experience with a family member or friend who is gay did far more to advance greater acceptance of gay individuals than cautious politicians whose official positions are so often crafted to appeal to the greatest number of their constituents who are likely to vote.[1] Female suffrage was first passed in the western states. The eastern states, with intellectual elites, interestingly did not favor women’s suffrage until later. At the national level, women’s suffrage was not passed until after the First World War. Your example of female suffrage actually fits better with a bottom-up approach, not a top-down one. As for whether it would have really taken until the 1980s for women to get the vote in Mississippi, I remain very skeptical. Granted, you and I are engaging in speculation here. I would argue that the official ratification of the amendment was merely symbolic and would have passed sooner if women had not had the vote. I bolster my support of this argument by citing several symbolic peace agreements passed centuries later:

-Greco-Persian Wars (ended 439 BCE) — peace treaty 1902

-Peloponnesian War (ended 404 BCE) -peace treaty 1996

-Punic Wars (ended 146 BCE) — peace treaty 1985

-On non-standard pronouns: You conflate, yet again, promoting equal rights for transgender individuals and theoretical arguments around pronouns developed by proponents of radical social constructivism.

-On pronouns: So ‘zher’ and ‘wormself’ are acceptable pronouns but ‘your majesty’ is not? At what point does all of this become ridiculous crap that people made up? My argument in posing that question is that nonstandard pronouns are essentially privileges used by very few, if any, actual people. Suppose someone employed the logic used to concoct ‘zher’ in support of ‘your majesty’ as an acceptable pronoun. Where exactly do you draw the line? ‘He’ and ‘she’ (and I’ll even throw in the singular they if you wish) are pronouns of utility, making it relatively easy for people to navigate the complex world of social interactions. Inserting an endless stream of new pronouns would do a great disservice to the individuals who use them, especially if they supported by social constructivism legislation. You are basically encouraging people to see and construct identities utilizing the most basic aspects of communication between people. This is decadence, not a fight for civil rights.

-Your answer on pronouns is somewhat similar to Peterson’s (the latter part anyway). Peterson rejects the use of nonstandard pronouns and said he would likely just use the person’s name. Peterson also commented that, in order for him to use a different pronoun (than how the person in question presents himself/herself) he would have to get to know the person and make a decision as to whether the person was being genuine or just playing a power game. With regard to nonstandard pronouns, I would argue that that is actually a rational position. He also stated that he would most likely just use the person’s name — also a reasonable position.

  • On ‘almost no one’: When measuring the LGBT population (at least in the U.S.), statistics show the average at about 3.8% (with a range by state from 2%-5.3% (and 8.6 % in Washington D.C.).[2] The Williams Institute found that, in 2016, 0.6% individuals identified as transgender. Most transgender individuals want to be referred to by the opposite pronoun. A sizeable portion of those who do not wish to use the singular they. The people who want to use these nonstandard pronouns constitute (in the U.S. at least) a tiny fraction of 0.6% of the population). I have to ask: how small of groups should the government be recognizing and codifying into law? I would argue that if you have legislation based on individual rights, many of the group-related problems would be solved through public discourse and experience with people who are different than oneself. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature explores how an increasing access to knowledge and experience with a greater diversity of people have contributed to the overall decline in violence over the past century in particular.

-On Socialism and Communism: I do not want to get off topic but must address this. I’ll start with a quote from Thomas Sowell:

“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

Next: the mass killings under communist regimes (estimates) in the 20th century[3][4][5][6]

-China: 65,000,0000

-Soviet Union: 20,000,000

-Cambodia: 2,000,000

-North Korea: 2,000,000

-Africa: 1,700,000

-Eastern Bloc: 1,000,000

-Vietnam: 1,000,000

-Latin America: 150,000

I ‘mistake’ real socialism with dictatorships? The old ‘that wasn’t real communism (or socialism) argument. Top-down political intervention is nowhere near as successful at meeting people’s basic economic needs as free market capitalism. Socialist ideals inspired leaders from Lenin to Chavez and Maduro. One of the major problems is, however, that people become corrupted by power, people are imperfect, government systems are very much imperfect, and opponents can very easily become public enemies to be exterminated. The old joke is that communism is always one death away from the perfect utopia that one can conjure up in one’s mind. Again, and again, socialist ideals turned various different societies around the world into regimes of death. Resentment among those deemed oppressed was used as justification to go after the perceived oppressors (see Ukraine in the 1920s or, Yugoslavia in the early 1990s). In the 20th century people who perceived themselves as victims (and I would include the fascists in here as well) committed the worst atrocities in human history. In short, we as a species, have tried communism and socialism many times over the previous century and it has FAILED, FAILED, FAILED!! The Scandinavian countries are not socialist. They are capitalist with a few extra social programs. Venezuela is socialist. Chomsky’s former friend Chavez drove that resource-rich country into poverty and now Maduro is continuing the process. Socialism does not work. Communism does not work. Neither is based in a realistic understanding of human nature. Socialist ideals are popular among academics (often because they are underpaid relative to their intelligence) but academic environments are not the real world. I’ve read enough Marxist arguments in graduate school to know the details. Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital, for example looks the development of steam power as if it were some kind of bourgeois conspiracy against people living in the countryside. Intellectuals are free to come up with all sorts of radical theories and spend time arguing from the moral high ground without any real-world consequences from the implementation of these veritable brain farts.

“Oh, Western freedom-loving “left-wing” thinkers! Oh, left-wing labourists! Oh, American, German and French progressive students! All of this is still not enough for you. The whole book has been useless for you. You will understand everything immediately, when you yourself — “hands behind the back” — toddle into our Archipelago.” -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn The Gulag Archipelago

[1] I am not denying that there were politicians who were genuinely supportive of gay rights despite popular opposition. Bernie Sanders supported gay rights since as early as the 1990s, for example.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United_States

[3] https://www.wsj.com/articles/100-years-of-communismand-100-million-dead-1510011810

[4] https://scottmanning.com/content/communist-body-count/

[5] https://www.theepochtimes.com/communism-the-leading-ideological-cause-of-death-in-the-20th-century_2212529.html

[6] http://www.thecommentator.com/article/4230/so_how_many_did_communism_kill

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