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Jordan Peterson’s T-Shirt Policy

Jordan Peterson tells the Times Of London (paywalled) that he will no longer pose with lecture attendees wearing politically provocative t-shirts. Excerpt:

Professor Peterson had been offered a two-month fellowship to the university’s Faculty of Divinity that was scheduled to start this autumn. The university said yesterday that it revoked the offer because of a photograph of him posing with a fan wearing a self-mocking anti-Islam T-shirt.

The professor told The Times that the photograph was one of 30,000 taken with fans at live events in the past 15 months and among 150 taken at an event in New Zealand last month.

“I also have a strong belief that people should be allowed to express themselves as they see fit, and I haven’t invoked a dress code at my lectures, feeling that free people who have taken the time and trouble to attend and travel and pay have the right (as they clearly do) to wear whatever they choose,” he wrote in an email.

“Having said that, and despite the low base rate and my feelings about allowing those who attend my lectures their freedom of dress, I have now asked the company that handles the photos to politely ask those who are photographed with me to refrain from more provocative political garb, given that the fallout can be used by those who are not fond of me (a serious understatement) to capitalise on the opportunity the photos provide, particularly in isolation and context-free.”

Previously in this space, I speculated that it is possible that Peterson never saw the content of the t-shirt worn by the man who caused him such grief. As Peterson says, 150 people had their picture taken with him that night. Peterson makes it clear, though, that even if he had seen it, it wouldn’t have mattered with him, because he’s a free-speech absolutist.

But now it has to matter, because as he rightly observes, people who hate you will use anything you give them to destroy you. So, no more politically provocative t-shirts if you want to be photographed with Jordan Peterson.

Incidentally, this is a precise example of the emerging totalitarianism I will be writing about in my upcoming book. I say “precise” because four years ago, an Oxbridge professor friend of mine, a defector from what was once a communist country, told me that life in England today is starting to remind him and his wife of their youth back home. How? I asked. It’s the way the Left today will not simply oppose you, but will seize on anything they can to destroy your name and your reputation.

UPDATE: Sam M. writes:

And the “their side” will never have to worry about it. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez can absolutely pose with a kind in a Che tshirt, or a sickle and hammer tshirt. A few people on the far right might scream and moan, but generally “the right” won’t care to make a huge deal of it.

Maybe I am wrong. But a thought experiment: What kind of tshirt would Cornel West have to be standing next to in order to be banned from a gig at Notre Dame?

For me, it’s impossible for to think of a shirt that would make that happen.

Does that make the right weak? Or strong? If we could muster the wherewithal to return fire… should we?

I wouldn’t return fire on this. I don’t want to be the kind of horrible police-state people that so many of them are.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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