To insinuate that Jordan Peterson is a contributor to sectarianism and division is the opposite of the truth. If there were anyone you’d want an alienated, disaffected, potentially violent young man on the edge of doing something terrible to listen to, it would be Jordan Peterson. If you doubt this, spend a few hours reading through comments on his YouTube videos: his work is having a transformative effect on the lives of many by helping them turn from resentment and hopelessness to meaning and responsibility. To suggest, then, that Peterson would incite violence of any kind, let alone connect him with the massacre of innocent Muslims by a killer motivated by identity-driven hate, is slanderous. To remove his books from sale in the hope of reducing such violence, as a bookseller in New Zealand recently did, is also dangerous—equivalent to denying sick people access to the very antibodies that can heal their disease.
That the committee did not offer Peterson an opportunity to address their concerns is what really shows their hand. For if they had been genuinely concerned that he was endorsing anti-Muslim sentiment—which reasonable people who did not know Peterson might have been—they could simply have asked him. But no: Peterson’s providing a reasonable explanation for the photo’s existence (as he readily did for the Times) is precisely what they wanted to avoid, for that would have made it impossible to use the photo as an excuse to withdraw his fellowship.
Perhaps it will emerge what particular forces were at work in this sorry affair—whether misguided good intention, cowardice, ressentiment, Machiavellian internal politics, or hatred for truth itself. But whatever the particular motivations that led to this scandalous episode, this is about more than the actions of a few academics, or Peterson’s fellowship, or even the University of Cambridge. What is at stake are the conditions of human flourishing itself.