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Read Jordan Peterson's tweets that prompted complaints to psychologists' college

National Post logo National Post 2023-01-06 Tyler Dawson
One of the tweets cited in complaints against Jordan Peterson to the Ontario College of Psychologists. © Provided by National Post One of the tweets cited in complaints against Jordan Peterson to the Ontario College of Psychologists.

Jordan Peterson is no stranger to controversy.

The Canadian psychologist and cultural commentator has waded into any number of battles since he first rose to fame several years ago.

But now, his incendiary remarks about climate change, whether or not overweight people are attractive and gender dysphoria, have landed him in trouble with the Ontario College of Psychologists — the professional body that regulates the behaviour of clinical psychologists.

This week, Peterson tweeted, and wrote in an exclusive column for the National Post, that he was being ordered to undergo “re-education” over his social media posts. The story sparked commentary and headlines around the world.

On Thursday evening, Peterson posted a document online that detailed a number of the complaints made against his conduct over the course of 2022. Here are the tweets and comments that make up the bulk of the complaints made to the college of psychologists, and some of Peterson’s initial responses.

Leave the planet

The first complaint of 2022 came on Jan. 5. Peterson had suggested that a world population of 9.5 billion was sustainable; a commenter on his post said that overpopulation was a threat to the ecosystem.

Peterson tweeted: “You’re free to leave at any point.”

The complainant, whose name and title are redacted — though by Peterson or the college is unclear — suggests that this was an inducement to suicide.

“It is against every ethical standard and best practice of the U.S. National Association of Social Worker’s Code of ethics to make light of, encourage, joke about, or reference the topic of suicide in a manner that is not grounded in safety, prevention and evidence-based therapeutic intervention,” the complaint notes.

When Peterson was notified of this complaint, his response was that he was “simply not going to spend the hours and days required to undergo the unbelievably stressful process necessary to respond to this formally.”

“So no, I am not going to defend myself. Do whatever you want.”

Children’s Aid Society and Freedom Convoy

During the convoy protests that rocked Ottawa in February 2022, the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa warned parents who might be arrested to make sure that they have proper care for their children, and Ottawa’s then chief of police said social services was looking to have children removed before any police action.

In response, Peterson, who was a vocal supporter of the Freedom Convoy, tweeted: “Why, exactly? By whom, exactly? Sent to where, exactly? And for how long, exactly?”

The complaint noted that, in some cases, psychologists have a mandatory duty to report child abuse or neglect to the authorities. Peterson’s remarks “undermine public trust in his judgement as a mandatory reporter,” the complainant said. “The professional maturity and willingness to act in the capacity of a mandatory reporter is an important ethical component of the psychology profession.”

The Joe Rogan Experience

In January 2022, Peterson appeared on the podcast hosted by Joe Rogan, a comedian and the former host of the reality show Fear Factor.

A few different complaints stemmed from this appearance.

“As a Psychologist, I am appalled by Dr. Peterson’s behaviour and the impunity with which he feels that he can pontificate on areas well outside of his areas of competence,” one complainant wrote.

The complainant cited Peterson’s comments about the environment and nuclear power, his views on ornithology, that “poor people have too much to eat,” that Japanese cars rust easily, and several other views on the use of monkeys in research, free trade agreements and capitalism.

“He is embarrassing to and undermining of the profession,” the complainant wrote, adding that Peterson’s appearance on the podcast also raises concerns about Peterson’s mental health.

“There is ample evidence — in the hour I reviewed — of his being disinhibited, tangential, circumlocutory, and grandiose,” the complaint said. “I have spent many an hour with unwell clients and if any of them had make these statements, I would have been speaking with their psychiatrist about their stability and need for potential admission.”

In his response, Peterson says, “I stand by what I said on the Rogan platform.”

Butts, Trudeau and Poilievre

In February 2022, Peterson had an acrimonious exchange with Gerald Butts, in which the psychologist called Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, a “stunningly corrupt and incendiary fool”; Butts responded with legal threats.

In one tweet, which has since been deleted, Peterson writes “Your also a prik.” This prompted a Twitter user to tag the psychologists’ college in Ontario wondering whether Peterson’s tweets comply with professional conduct standards.

Another complaint, this one made over the telephone, and summarized in notes from Feb. 9, noted that Peterson had spoken of Trudeau and Butts in “unprofessional, embarrassing, threatening, abusive and harassing” language.

The caller is “embarrassed to be in the same college,” and “concerned about clients under his treatment and also in the public domain that he is feeding misinformation in general,” the summarized notes indicate.

“If I did one tenth of the stuff he is doing people would be all over me,” the caller said.

In his response to the college, Peterson said he and Butts have since been in touch and “have come to an amicable and mutually agreed upon settlement with regard to consequences and further actions.” Peterson said he deleted his comments and the two will not comment on each other’s posts “for a number of years.”

He also said he believes Butts’s “political comments are fair game.”

The document Peterson posted also includes other tweets that are implied to have been of concern to complainants. Among them, his declaration that Trudeau is a “puppet” and a retweet of Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, in which Poilievre demands the reopening of businesses, and Peterson says “drop the damn masks and the idiot rules and get on with life.”


A Sports Illustrated plus-size model

In May, Yumi Nu graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition.

Peterson weighed in: “Sorry. Not beautiful,” and argued that “such images” are “cynical manipulation by the oh-so virtuous politically correct,” and attempted to argue that there was a “conscious progressive attempt to manipulate & retool the notion of beauty, reliant on the idiot philosophy that such preferences are learned.”

“Why is he still registered with you. He is hateful, racist and and a misogynistic bully,” said one complaint.

Another said that “Jordan Peterson used his ‘doctoral’ position to attack a woman in the public sphere.”

“This is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible behaviour. You, more than I, would have documentation on eating disorders, self harm etc. among Canadian youth.”

Elliot Page

In June 2022, Peterson was suspended from Twitter for violating the social media site’s rules against hate speech. In a tweet, that has since been deleted, Peterson said Elliot Page “just had her breasts removed by a criminal physician.”

This prompted complaints about his conduct.

“His views are antithetical to what is currently accepted regarding gender studies and the treatment of gender dysphoria,” says one complaint. “He has failed to advocate for the autonomy and dignity of transgendered persons, does not meet his responsibility to the public to teach according to evidence-based practice, and promoted the idea of allowing patients to suffer with dysphoria rather than treating them with the accepted methods of treatment.”

Another complainant said, “(Peterson’s) flagrant disregard for the welfare of individuals or his community is a stain on psychology in Canada.” Such comments, the complaint said, would “trigger disciplinary actions in other roles in the medical community.”

“As such, he is alienating members of the public who may require services from other psychologists or physicians,” the complaint notes.

Peterson responded by saying his view is “first do no harm,” and that he believes the doctor in Page’s case — and “perhaps in most such cases” — violated this principle.

“I would like to point out that this objection on the part of the ICRC veers dangerously and precipitously close to the precipice of political, rather than ethical or professional objection.”

Peterson’s response

In two lengthy responses to the college, contained in the document Peterson posted online Thursday evening, Peterson said he takes his “ethical obligations on the social media communication front — and, indeed, on the public communication front — with great seriousness,” and he has already changed his social media strategy in a way that’s “very similar” to what the college proposes.

“I have consciously and carefully surrounded myself with people who have helped me monitor what I am doing and who provide me with continual feedback as to the appropriateness of the tone and the content of what I am purveying,” he said.

He noted that in a YouTube video, he enlisted Gregg Hurwitz and Jonathan Pageau to interrogate his behaviour on YouTube, and debated his approach “with a number of Canada’s foremost journalists.”

He said he has since modified the “tone of my approach.”

In a separate response, Peterson, referring to himself in the third person, said he is “ not in the least convinced that the actions of the College are anything other than self-serving, instrumental, injudicious, prejudicial and politically motivated.”

“Dr. Peterson is not going to agree that he has in fact done something inappropriate, or that the manner in which he governs his social media operations and corrects whatever errors might be made in the pursuit therefore is inadequate or insufficient.”


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