This story is not directly climate-related, but it illustrates the familiar authoritarian behaviour of the thought police within academia and the attempts to promote an agenda and suppress all dissenting views.
At a third-rate Canadian university near Toronto called Wilfred Laurier, a graduate student and teaching assistant, Lindsay Shepherd, was teaching a course on grammar. She discussed the use of pronouns and whether it was appropriate to use “they” as a singular pronoun. As part of the class she showed a short clip from a programme on TVO – a public TV channel – featuring a discussion on this question involving two academics, Nicholas Matte and Jordan Peterson.
A few days later, Shepherd was hauled in for an interrogation with the class professor, Nathan Rambukkana, another professor, Herbert Pimlott, and the university’s “manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support”, Adria Joel. But unknown to the inquisitors, smart cookie Shepherd recorded the interview. Some excerpts from the interview are transcribed here, but it really is worth listening to the original recording either from that link or the CBC one.
Please do listen to the recording. It really is straight of Kafka, as Jonathan Haidt says. She asks what the complaint was. She asks how many people complained. Neither of these questions are answered.
What is interesting is that despite being outnumbered 3 to 1, and being reduced to tears at several points by the bullying (which gets no sympathy whatsoever from her inquisitors), she exposes the shallowness of the arguments of her interrogators, who have nothing to say beyond regurgitating words like “problematic” and “unsafe”, and bringing up completely irrelevant claims about “white supremacists” and Nazis.
Rather than engaging in any discussion of the issues, the interrogation starts with an attack on Peterson, which evolves into saying that showing a TV clip featuring him is “like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler”.
At 15:20 in the interview, Pimlott says “it’s like some of the climate change deniers that are given a 50-50 chance with meteorologists”. He then also goes on to talk about “the Nazis”.
The female interrogator Adria Joel brings up the university’s “Gendered and sexual violence” policy. At 22 minutes, when Shepherd asks what she violated in that policy, Joel claims that Shepherd is guilty of “Um… So… gender-based violence, transphobia, causing harm to trans students by …err…”. So apparently showing a clip from public TV is committing violence.
After the grilling, Shepherd released the recording to the press and the story blew up.
The two academics, Rambukkana and Pimlott, are supposedly professors of “Communication Studies”. Until recently they both had twitter accounts, but since the recording was made public, Rambukkana has deleted his, while Pimlott’s still exists but is ‘protected’, so only his friends can see it. So the two “communicators” seem remarkably reluctant to communicate – does that sound familiar?
Lindsay Shepherd, on the other hand, who was not on social media, has set up a twitter account in the last few days and already has over 10,000 followers. Rambukkana has made an apology in which he admits that he “didn’t do enough to try to support you in this meeting”, which is a rather Orwellian way of saying that he relentlessly criticised her, and he also regrets comparing Peterson with Hitler. The president of the university has also written an apology.
Lindsay Shepherd has recorded a youtube video in which she says she’s happy that they apologised, and that she does not think that Rambukkana should be fired.
There is also a video by Peterson talking about the incident, preceded by an introduction with a clip from the film of 1984.