In an explosive tweet late last week, rockstar Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson announced,

“The Ontario College of Psychologists has demanded that I submit myself to mandatory social-media communication retraining with their experts for, among other crimes, retweeting Pierre Poilievre and criticizing Justin Trudeau and his political allies.”

Peterson provided further eye-raising details of his sentence:

“I am to take a course of such training with reports documenting my ‘progress’ or face an in-person tribunal and suspension of my right to operate as a licensed clinical psychologist.”

Granted, Peterson has couched his news in Orwellian language — a smart move that has ensured global coverage by the alternative press.

And yet comparisons to Orwell are not so far-fetched. The “re-education” of Jordan Peterson is only the latest example of a string of professional associations cancelling members who are insufficiently woke and have the mettle to say so.

The question we should all be asking is, should “being nice” — these days, a synonym for being politically correct or left-wing — be a prerequisite for participation in professional life?

Thoughtcrimes

In an op-ed for the National Post, Jordan Peterson made a partial list of the “crimes” for which he faces mandatory therapy and possible de-registration:

    • I retweeted a comment made by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre about the unnecessary severity of the COVID lockdowns;
    • I criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau;
    • I criticized Justin Trudeau’s former chief of staff, Gerald Butts;
    • I criticized an Ottawa city councillor; and
    • I made a joke about the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.

The Free Press was a little more colourful in its description of Peterson’s misdemeanours:

Calling an advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “prik.” Snarking at environmentalists for promoting energy policies that hurt children in developing countries. Using female pronouns in reference to the transgender actor Elliot Page. Declaring a plus-sized model on the cover of Sports Illustrated “not beautiful.”

Peterson is accurate, however, in noting that these deeds have precious little to do with his clinical practice or his capability as a psychologist. He is also accurate in noting that all of the accusations against him are politically loaded:

“Every single thing I have been sentenced to correction for saying is insufficiently leftist, politically. I’m simply too classically liberal — or, even more unforgivably — conservative.”

Big Brother

Peterson’s directives have come from a government-commissioned body tasked with protecting the public from professional misconduct — essentially, an arm of the state.

This detail was not lost on Pierre Poilievre, Canada’s opposition leader whom Peterson retweeted. In a video he posted on social media, Poilievre warned:

“It should go without saying that in a free country, a professional should not lose their jobs and licenses because they express a political opinion contrary to the licensing body that’s mandated by the government.”

Poilievre lamented the ascendency of cancel culture and the woke movement responsible for “the idea that someone can lose their job, their status, their ability to study because they express something that is contrary to the government line”.

“I don’t believe that is the Canada we want,” he concluded, while drawing attention to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees (or is supposed to guarantee) Canadians freedom of expression.

Chillingly, the board-mandated “coaching program” Peterson has been ordered to undertake must be completed at his own expense — likely at a cost of hundreds of dollars an hour. Moreover, he will only be considered suitably reformed if he agrees to the statement,

“I may have lacked professionalism in public statements and during a January 25, 2022 podcast appearance.”

Particularly Orwellian is how the whole affair has been framed in terms of safety and even mental health. As The Free Press put it,

“By referring Peterson to a therapist for daring to speak his mind, the College of Psychologists of Ontario has pathologized dissent. It has made political disagreement into an illness.”

The piece continues:

“There is a long history here — one Peterson is surely aware of, seeing that he wrote the foreword to the new Vintage Classics edition of The Gulag Archipelago by the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

For most of its existence, the Soviet Union, among other uthoritarian regimes, used mental illness as grounds for marginalizing countless voices: those who believed in free expression, or liked abstract art, or read the wrong novels, or, worse yet, shared those novels with their friends.”

Taking a step back from the disturbing details, it is almost humorous that the Ontario College of Psychologists has assumed Peterson will bend the knee to them. This is, after all, the man who rose to global fame for refusing to utter mandated pronouns, and whose infamy has only grown in tandem with his resistance to wokery.

Refuse again he has, tweeting last Thursday, “I have formally indicated my refusal to comply.”

The only thing worse than Jordan Peterson the anti-woke crusader is Jordan Peterson the martyr. The Ontario College of Psychologists will perceive as much if they have any sense. And Peterson knows it.

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate...