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Was Jordan Peterson Stumped By A Simple Civil Rights Question?
Or Is He Simply Protecting His Brand?
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Dr. Jordan Peterson has been nothing short than a media phenomenon of late, with his arguments for individualism, the reality of IQ, and his critique of the existential spiritual crisis facing Western Man. Yet Dr. Peterson found himself stumped by a very easy argument, coming from, of all things, an Australian comedian.

Here’s what happened. Peterson was asked about the issue underlying a recent Supreme Court case: Should bakers be forced to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings if they have religious objections? Peterson says, “I don’t think that would be a very good idea.” Jeffries then asked if a baker should be able to deny a wedding cake for black people. Peterson says they should probably be allowed to deny service to black customers, “but that doesn’t mean it’s right.” Jeffries then says that the civil rights movement did result in passing laws that required people to serve black people and that made society better and asks Peterson why this is different than now. Peterson says, “Maybe it’s not different. … Maybe I was wrong about that.”

[What Jordan Peterson doesn’t understand about religion and free speech, The Weekly Standard, June 22, 2018]

To his credit, Hemingway states “business owners should be able to turn down any customer for any reason, period.” However, he also cites the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision to argue that there is a difference between protecting the free expression of creative professionals (such as bakers) and those who provide services that are “essentially uniform and interchangeable.” He therefore makes a distinction between the the government ordering someone to “bake the cake” and allowing racial discrimination, though he admits there are difficult problems in determining where precisely the line should be drawn.

Still, attempting to maintain this distinction reminds one of Lawrence Auster’s “unprincipled exceptions.” While Hemingway is willing to make a principled defense of freedom of association, Peterson is not. One suspects this is less grounded in any kind of philsophic or political doctrine and is more grounded in the necessity for him to maintain a certain level of respectability. To paraphrase Ann Coulter taunt against libertarians, it is very easy to defend “freedom” in the abstract, but once you start talking about what your position on employment discrimination is, it becomes quite difficult.


For now, it is still possible to deny the legitmacy of, say, people deciding they are biologically a different gender, what we are now instructed to call the “trans” community. It is still possible (barely) to defend the right of Christians to disagree with gay marriage. However, it is not politically possible to disagree with the assertion that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made life better for all Americans, even though many Americans literally work their entire lives just so they can make enough money to escape from racial diversity. Ironically, to disagree with that publicly will make it very difficult for you to obtain essential services and may get you de-platformed from the Internet.

Ben Shapiro recently tried to explain Dr. Peterson’s popularity by saying, “Human beings are drawn to those who are willing to risk everything to say ‘n.'” [Intellectual Refusniks and Renegades, National Review, April 25, 2018]. Yet as with Shapiro himself, this is only true within certain limits. The conservative movement creates careers who are willing to disagree with liberalism’s most extreme manifestations, but not with the premises of liberalism itself, especially in regards to the supposed unreality of race. When a heretic advances to that intellectual line, Shapiro thinks “we should target them, we should find them and we should hurt their careers, because racism is unacceptable.”

Similarly, Jordan Peterson is willing to cave on freedom of association and his supposed message of inidividualism and liberty because to do otherwise would risk losing his brand. This isn’t to say that he is without courage or doesn’t face real opposition. But the “Intellectual Dark Web” that he is a part of will only keep getting mentions in the New York Times if, when all is said and done, he continues to play by the rules set by the leftists he supposedly fights.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Brabantian says: • Website

    Seems the difference in the examples of creating a wedding cake for gays, vs serving black customers in general, is this:

    If you are in business selling a product, you must offer it to anyone of legal age and capacity to buy it, and cannot discriminate by category of person

    But you are not obligated to ‘create’ something which you do not wish to create … The gay people can buy any off-the-shelf existing cake pattern, but cannot expect the baker to customise a cake for them … the Muslim videographer is not obliged to shoot a porn film etc

  2. KenH says:

    Since bakers aren’t a public utility and there’s usually a lot of competition they should be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation and race. After all, Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant without being served for working in the Trump administration. This is both racial and political discrimination as I doubt the lefty restaurant owner would have had the guts to ask Ben Carson to leave.

    The left condones discrimination by private enterprises when the targets are white people whose politics they dislike, but condemns it when a private enterprise targets any member of lunatic left wing fringe like homosexuals. Of course, most people know by now that pathological lying and rank hypocrisy is what the Jewish funded and led left is all about.

  3. sb says:

    Is it OK to ignore Jews and hope they go away ?

  4. @Brabantian

    But why should the owner of a private business be forced to do business with anyone? It’s a private business. The owner should be allowed to discriminate for any reason – political views, race, religion, etc. It’s his (or her) business.

    This is the essence of freedom of association. Once you start carving out exceptions, it’s game over because the government can always come up with a compelling government interest to override your freedom. Now you freedom of association is at the whim of politicans and government bureaucrats.

  5. Yep, I watched it, and Peterson chickened out here. There’s no other way to interpret it.

    Leaving the pundits aside for a bit, the last high-level politician besides Dr. Ron Paul to have a Constitutionally-principled view on freedom of association was US Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. He didn’t do too well in that race, you may recall, but I doubt that his position on this was the reason. See, he was a “warmonger” while Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democrat and all, so, you know …

    They told me if my Dad voted for Barry Goldwater, we’d get into a major war in Vietnam, and they were right!

  6. @Citizen of a Silly Country

    Once you start carving out exceptions, it’s game over because the government can always come up with a compelling government interest to override your freedom.

    That’s a very good way to put it, CoSC.

    On this very issue, it’s the first time I’ve disagreed with Ann Coulter in damn close to a decade.

    • Replies: @KenH
  7. Anonymous[777] • Disclaimer says:


    Would you bake a cake and should the government force you to bake a cake for a customer who:

    – Is (black|white) (and no other attributes of the customer is known)
    – Is (black|white) and a single black mother of three on welfare
    – Is (black|white) and is known to not pay his bills
    – Is (black|white) and once raped your daughter
    – Is (black|white) and an editor of the NYT
    – Is (black|white) and is a member of the administration you despise
    – Is (black|white) and he orders a cake fêting Hitler
    – Is (black|white) and he orders a cake fêting the LGBT community
    – Is (black|white) and a single black mother of three on welfare and she orders a cake fêting Hitler
    – Is (black|white) and a single black mother of three on welfare and she orders a cake fêting the LGBT community

  8. KenH says:
    @Achmed E. Newman

    Yeah, I almost vomited over my computer a couple of weeks ago when she posted that bilge. She periodically lapses and virtue signals about that communist inspired legislation misnamed “civil rights” as some sort of necessary thing and crowning achievement of the stupid party.

    It drove a stake through the heart of freedom to associate and disassociate as we choose and has worsened race relations to the point of no return and possible race war.

    If she were honest she’d at least admit that the pre-1965 social order was in place due to the fundamental differences and incompatibility of blacks and whites and not blind race hatred and ignorance.

  9. Corvinus says:
    @Citizen of a Silly Country

    “But why should the owner of a private business be forced to do business with anyone? It’s a private business.”

    Except the business gets its legitimacy from the state in the form of a charter. In other words, the business agrees to adhere to certain laws as agreed upon by citizens.

    “The owner should be allowed to discriminate for any reason – political views, race, religion, etc. It’s his (or her) business. This is the essence of freedom of association.”

    You mean the essence of unfettered freedom of association, which does not exist. We have the liberty to not associate with anyone you do not like, with exceptions that a society agrees upon. Now, some people will find that troubling, but that’s how life goes sometimes. Learning how to deal with disappointment builds character.

    “Once you start carving out exceptions, it’s game over because the government can always come up with a compelling government interest to override your freedom.”

    Citizen interest. That is the key phrase here. And, again, Southrons are primarily to blame. In the Plessy case, it called for “separate but equal”. Except, clearly, things did not meet that standard. And then there were white Southerners who desired to live, work, and (gasp) marry blacks, but they were denied their freedom of association under sanction of law and social ostracism.

    “Now you freedom of association is at the whim of politicians and government bureaucrats.”

    No, it doesn’t work that way. Citizens go to court to redress their grievances, with a decision rendered by a judge. In some cases, lawmakers then make laws to strengthen or overturn those cases.

  10. allis says:

    Interesting principle. And a fair one. If applied to Google, Facebook, etc. these companies would be required to sell their advertising “space” to anyone. If they wouldn’t be, then they are not merely a “commercial” enterprise, but more like newspapers.

    Internet sellers would not be required to design webpages, but to provide webpage space for all buyers. Or not. Some censorship (one can’t shout fire in a theater) is reasonable, but where does one draw the line? Hate speech? Who decides what that is? Political differences of opinion?

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