2017-01-23: Social Justice/Freedom of Speech: Bill C16 Debate Queen's Law School

Quote from this lecture. Jordan Peterson on Hate speech:

“One of the tenants of clinical therapy, including psychiatry in its non-medical forms, is that dialogue is curative. That’s actually the fundamental proposition. The thing about having someone in therapy is that they are often bent out of shape badly. Sometimes homicidal, hurt and revengeful – and for good reason often. If you were in their shoes, you’d feel the same way, in all probability. You have to let those people talk. They don’t even know what they think until they talk. You think that you think and think and then you talk – no, you don’t.

Most people can’t think at all and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense – it’s very, very difficult to learn how to think, because to think, you need to hold an argument between two opposing positions in your own head. You have to delineate both positions and you have to avoid making a strawman out of either – you want to make, in Sam Harris’ terms, an ironman out of both and then you have to do that alone. Maybe you can do that if you’re Dostoyevsky, because he’s the only person I’ve seen who can really manage that consistently, but to expect anything other than an unbelievably well-trained mind to even step into that territory is naïve beyond belief.

Almost everyone thinks by talking. They don’t even know what they think until they speak. And so often if you let people speak, they’ll speak and then they’ll become aware of some internal contradictions or maybe they shock themselves – that happens a lot, like “oh, I can’t believe I said that” and they hear what they have to say. They reveal themselves to themselves – that’s just enough right there often to change them.

But even if it isn’t, let’s say that they’re particularly intransigent – and we’re not debating about whether hate speech exists, because bloody well right it exists, it can be unbelievably pathological and I think I’m actually quite familiar with that sort of thing, but – you want that out in the air, so that people can hear it.

Do you want to drag the people who hate underground? We know what happens psychologically when you do that. It’s a very bad idea. Anything you drive underground thrives – it thrives. It partly thrives because it isn’t even allowed to express itself. Then it festers and turns into hatred that far exceeds the original. The idea that you make society safe by not letting horrible people say terrible things is not a good proposition.

You want those people out in the open where they can say what they have to say. First of all, so they can see what they’re like. Second of all, so they can see how people respond, because you don’t even know what you should think, in some sense, until you watch how people respond.
Then there’s other questions like ‘who defines hate?’ – that’s a deadly one. It’s great if you’re on the left and the left is in power, because the left defines hate. But they aren’t going to be in power forever and as soon as the people who are on the opposite side come into power, they are going to use whatever arguments you had and their own. Whatever you think, is going to be hate speech right now. This is what the founders of the American constitution did: they always thought ‘how can an absolute, malevolent fool screw this up’ – they never thought ‘well, how can we establish the utopia’. That’s what you’re always thinking when you’re putting a limit on something, including someone else’s speech – ‘How could the most malevolent fool imaginable screw this up the worst possible way’, then presume that will happen and then take steps so that that isn’t how it turns out.

So, you ought to let the people who have horrifying viewpoints express them _____ to these limitations. Do you want to make them into martyrs? Because that’s what happened to Geert Wilders, the Dutch guy who is leading the polls, who has a pretty decent chance of winning the election. They nailed him for hate speech and his popularity went up like forty per cent. Doesn’t seem like a very smart move to me, but I’m sure he’s not too unhappy about it. And it might be that the fate of the EU rests on his shoulders and maybe not – maybe it’s Marine le Pen.”

Jordan Peterson, in Social Justice/Freedom of Speech: Bill C16 Debate Queen’s Law School (52:30-57:07)

The quote is not transcribed word for word, but adjusted from spoken language to written language.