Like 1,400 others, yesterday I schlepped out to a cul-de-sac shooting off from the corner of Don Mills and nowhere to attend a revival meeting. Kanada Khristian Kollege was packed – to my eyes beyond fire capacity – with acolytes of Gad Saad, Oren Amitay, and God-Emperor Jordan B. Peterson.

The ostensible topic was “The Stifling of Free Speech on College Campuses.” Precisely the only new “content” delivered that day was Amitay’s statement that he had served a deranged communist agitatrix with what I assume to be a demand for apology and retraction. (Amitay insists it is merely a “cease-and-desist letter.” I told him such things are staples of American TV shows and can be relied upon to accomplish nothing.)

Everything else we heard was a rerun.

The event was an atrocity from a production and audience standpoint. The only thing that did not go wrong was audio quality. (From the balcony front row, I could see the permanent professional sound board’s dancing VU meter. Sound was well handled.) Amitay and Saad used MacBooks to project illegible slides with all the acumen of a Windows user. You could barely read these things were they high-resolution printouts on your desk.

Slides were constantly referred to. But nobody could discern them. Neither presenter had any conception whatsoever that over a thousand people, many seated hundreds of feet away, would diligently strain to read their slides, then fail.

Far-distant screen shows illegible slide well past balcony railing

Amitay (a bit of a ringer) went severely overlong, and had to deal with what in retrospect was a highly welcome heckler. She told him to wrap it up (or was that the organizeuse?), then, 20-odd minutes later, that heckler asked Amitay how the cause of free speech was furthered by his griping about one woman on Twitter. (Indeed.) Amitay was scattered and hard to follow for an otherwise intelligent and articulate psychologist. To his credit, he looked great in the only tailored suit onstage. (And that stage was oddly appropriate to the ecclesiastic tone – its faux finish gave presenters the appearance of sermonizing from a rocky promontory.)

I am authorized to complain, and not just because I was a paying customer. Having given presentations since 1989, often under trying circumstances ranging from sign-language interpreters to a 20-minute speech given on zero notice, and having a linguistics degree, and having read Michael Erard’s Um, and having focussed on typography for 30 years (to the point where I barely use slides, though a nonblind person can read mine from nosebleed seats in the SkyDome), and having written a how-to manual on all that can and does go wrong during presentations, I can confidently say these presenters did not do the needed three practice runs of their presentations, nor was there adequate warning in advance of the conditions in the room, nor did Saad or Amitay have the awareness and experience to realize the conditions of the room made their slides moot.

When you make mistakes this big, they’re your fault, yet the cost is shifted to 1,400 spectators. Lousy public speaking produces externalities – and, in this case, a $21,000 gross haul for the organizeuse.

Spectators were further pummelled by a promised Q&A period that elicited 30-odd people lined up at a microphone… only to be told that we would first listen to a panel discussion for 45 more minutes. (So those kids had to stand in place for an hour? I bailed after ten minutes.)

Peterson was clearly unwell

A blue-haired genderqueer sniper in a Che Guevara T‑shirt could have taken out Amitay and Saad and the crowd would still have demanded that Jordan Peterson give his headliner performance. He was the draw.

And if Peterson wasn’t seriously ill yesterday, I’m a blue-haired genderqueer.

All he did was:

  • Fold and unfold a section of the Tubby, from which he read and commented on segments of an article by Crusty Blatchford. (He read and haltingly commented, not quite standing up straight the whole while.)

  • Hit the play button on the Betamax tape of his anecdote of how all this started that one time he decided on a lark to make a video about Bill C‑16. Perhaps realizing even this was a retread of a retread, he stopped partway through.

(Peterson seemed fine while seated. Lots of sick people do.)

I am sure I have listened to every Peterson recording readily available that could be classified as other than a lecture. Before I realized I was yet again being a chump, I maintained an archive and RSS feed of such recordings.

Hence something else I am authorized to do is state that Jordan B. Peterson has become an oldies act. Even with a book tour now discernibly underway, all Peterson’s got now is a Sedaris-like suite of anecdotes he trots out.

  • Nº 1 with a bullet: Cleaning up your room

  • Rats and Rat Park and cocaine

  • Feeding a recalcitrant neighbour’s child

  • Working as a dishwasher and, hey, bucko, you can get good at that, then all sorts of invisible doors open

  • The travails of his 83-IQ client

  • Patients facing malevolence for the first time

  • Graduated exposure to trauma

  • Archetypes and the shadow

  • Every little thing that happened at the speaking engagements that were meaningfully protested (few have been, despite the prominence of these anecdotes)

  • Solzhenitsyn

  • Crumb

  • His daughter’s health

  • His health, least of all in December 2016, where he ostensibly almost died, ostensibly due to a food interaction

  • Food interactions and depression

  • His colossally disagreeable son

There seems to be no end of audience hunger to hear the same stories all over again, indeed à la Sedaris. And like that cruel Greek homosexualist, reciting the same old stories has made Peterson rich – and has dug a wide gulf between the Peterson whom young men had a an unslaked thirst to hear and the gold-plated oldies act he has now become. “Play ‘Only the Good Die Young’!” cry his acolytes.

(To be scrupulously accurate, Sedaris’ act now consists of packing houses full of matrons who pay good money to hear about the foibles of his nouveau riche transnational lifestyle. Peterson hasn’t put the million bucks a year he gets in Patreon into anything visible. Further: Peterson chooses to hire or enlist only his family, and the colossally disagreeable Julian Peterson continues to steer the business into the ditch.)

What these 1,400 defenders of free speech are afraid to say

Yesterday’s revival meeting was a travesty and, to paraphrase John Lydon, every one of us got cheated.

Try saying that out loud and see how fast Peterson’s anti-Semitic, half-assedly libertarian, incipiently autistic male fanbase doxxes you.

Update: Amitay

(2017.12.10) I have listened to Oren Amitay at much greater length, and he sounds frankly nuts.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2017.11.12 15:11. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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