Examining Twitter politics and the awareness of public power

A tolerance for violent words is just as dangerous as actions or threats.  

On October 26th, UofT Professor of Psychology and advocate for the freedom of speech, Jordan Peterson, used his Twitter platform to expose the identities and actions of those who do not support his political views.  

Peterson tweeted, “Agitator for Ryerson U shutdown of our Aug free speech event featured the neighbourhood poster on her Facebook page: [link to facebook profile]”. He replied to this tweet stating that the community organizer Christeen Elizabeth played an instrumental role in shutting down a panel called “Stifling Free Speech on University Campuses” which included panelists such as Oren Amitay, Gad Saad, who have also echoed free speech cries, and former Rebel Media reporter Faith Goldy.   

Peterson also provided the link to another activist, who has since deleted their Facebook page.  

The panel discussion was cancelled by Ryerson in mid-August due to safety concerns after the tragic events at Charlottesville that had occurred earlier that week. On August 16th, Ryerson University released a statement stating that: “Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward, particularly given the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.” 

In his tweets, Peterson is referring to a poster found in his neighbourhood that labels him as a “Nazi philosopher” and campaigning against the rights of women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and Muslims over the past year. The poster challenges students to contact UofT, requesting for administration to take action against Peterson. 

 

 

In several threads to his initial tweet of finding the poster in his neighbourhood, Peterson posted letters sent to UofT by students declaring how Peterson has been an important figure in their academic success.  

Peterson has become a household name for supporters of free speech. Through campaigning for his political beliefs, based in the utilization of free-speech to deny referring to his students with their preferred pronouns and speaking against Bill- C16 which adds gender identity and expression to be prohibited from discrimination.  

“When people in positions of perceived power encourage this hate in even minor ways, it can manifest into actualized contextual violence,” says Elizabeth. Messages from Peterson supporters aggressively attacking Elizabeth’s political views were sent to her through Facebook. One of the messages Elizabeth has received in the wake of Peterson’s actions states: “Just so you know, you moronic, parasitic piece of shit, Anarchism doesn’t work because human beings are naturally hierarchical.” 

Elizabeth is an active participant and leader in efforts that go against events hosted by neo-Nazis. Elizabeth created the Facebook event page “No Fascists in Our City!” on August 15th which was in response to the planned panel discussion, “Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses”. The event raised concerns for violence between attendees of the event and those protesting it. Elizabeth stated earlier that the event was a “peaceful demonstration of a peaceful celebration of our success in cancelling a bigoted event”.  

Peterson’s recent series of tweets also provides a link to a new event of the same nature, “Free Speech Comedy Show” which is set to happen November 4th at Isabel Bader Theatre. The event description notes: “Our first attempt at this show was cancelled by some misguided people who thought we were Alt-Right” and “if you’re a Nazi or white supremacist you aren’t welcome at our show.” 

The scheduled comedy show has received pushback from students and Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC).  

“Peterson’s actions have resulted in hate mail and the targeting of my friends and family,” says Elizabeth. While something as micro as a tweet may seem meaningless and without substance, the effects of these actions of people who are given power are extensively macro and damaging.