Students in Sydney are preparing to protest against Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson when he speaks at the Sydney Opera House on February 16. Peterson, employed by the University of Toronto and New York Times bestseller for his self-help book 12 Rules for Life, shot to fame by promoting deeply right-wing, pseudo-scientific ideas that provide a gateway into the growing alt-right movement.

 

Peterson is well known for denouncing a legal change in Canada that he believes will force the use of correct pronouns for trans people. In response to the ‘incel’ phenomenon, Peterson posed “enforced monogamy” for women as a solution and suggested that men are not to blame for violence against “crazy women”. He is an advocate for the supposed superiority of ‘Western civilisation’ and claims that racial inequality is a reflection of difference in IQ.

 

“In many ways, his views are straight out of the 1950s or the discredited eugenics movement that saw inequality as natural,” said National Union of Students Ethnocultural Officer Hersha Kadkol. “But worse, he has become a key ideologue for people radicalising to the right.”

 

Peterson repackages extreme conservatism as common sense, and labels his critics as unreasonable opponents of “free speech”. His appeal to people seeking direction from his guide to self-respect has gained Peterson a worldwide following.

 

Many students are concerned by his growing popularity, and some are organising to challenge his views. “We can’t afford to ignore Jordan Peterson,” said Kadkol. “He’s not just a professor and life coach. His ideas are political. They are waged against the gains hard-won by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTI communities and their supporters.

 

“By protesting, we want to expose the rotten core of his politics. I’m not calling for his visa to be revoked or his speech to be cancelled. That won’t stop the growth of these conservative ideas. We want to use our free speech to show that there are people who don’t stand for the normalisation of bigotry and want to challenge the far right movement Peterson feeds.”

 

Similar protests are planned at Peterson’s events in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Canberra.