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Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) council voted to bar Jordan Peterson from ever being featured at any of their events, indefinitely

Over 60 participants attended the council meeting that voted to bar the controversial Canadian intellectual.

Did you hear that rumour during the winter break that the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) was planning on inviting Jordan Peterson to speak at an event?

It caused quite a stir: hundreds of students spoke out in different ways for, and against, the famed and controversial Canadian clinical psychologist being featured at the university.

But the story of Peterson taking the spotlight at ASFA came to a close at the association’s Dec. 16 regular council meeting, when a majority of the council voted against platforming Peterson, in-person or in any medium, forever.

Minutes of the ASFA executive meeting on Nov. 25 reveal that the initial idea, proposed by Student Life Coordinator Natalie Jabbour, was to invite Peterson as a speaker on mental health during the winter semester.

“One of my ideas was to invite Jordan Peterson as a speaker. I know he’s a controversial speaker but I think he has brilliant ideas on psychology. I messaged his manager yesterday,” stated Jabbour at the meeting.

Curiously, Jabbour later told The Concordian she did not intend on organizing an event that featured Peterson, despite contacting his manager. Her intention was solely to discuss her event ideas during the winter semester, which also included suggesting another enterprise called “The School of Life,” an educational company that gives life advice.

Following the meeting, several executives shared news of Jabbour’s proposal through personal messages, emails to the student media, and posts on social media.  The news spread like wildfire.

Various posts, hundreds of emails and signatures on a petition were shared online to support both opinions.

However, Peterson is not available for any guest speaking engagements at the moment, according to his public speaking and engagements contact.

Since he is unavailable, Jabbour decided to change the event from being about mental health support for students featuring Peterson, to an event solely about Peterson and freedom of speech.

The new event discussed at the council was called “Diversity of Views in Academics at Concordia University.” Organized by ASFA’s Student Life Committee, the event would have been moderated by a Concordia professor, who would help guide the discussion as students watched, and then critiqued, the subject matter.

It would have showcased Peterson in some format, either through a speech, lecture, or written material.

Before the deciding vote to bar Peterson, the council debated for over three hours whether the association should even consider hosting Peterson. ASFA executives and councillors, several students and alumni, participated in the over-attended meeting to speak on the rumoured event.

Opinions were divided between people who thought Peterson’s rhetoric should be protected by freedom of speech ideals and the need to hear different opinions on campus, versus those that thought the responsible course of action is to ban the speaker, citing his rhetoric as harmful and discriminatory.

This reflected the same debate — and backlash — which the University of Toronto professor became internationally known for in the first place. Back in 2016, he refused to use non-gendered pronouns and spoke out against Canada’s Bill C-16, which was only at it’s proposal stage at the time, to add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

He feared that refusing to use someone else’s preferred pronouns would be classified as hate speech under the new amendment, and this would infringe on the freedom of Canadians.

Those who spoke in favour of Peterson at the meeting did not address his controversial statements. Instead, they pointed to the importance of having a civil discussion.

According to an ASFA executive who requested to remain anonymous, while these events would feature Peterson, they weren’t about him, they were about freedom of expression on campus.

They told The Concordian they have noticed an increasingly hostile environment at Concordia, particularly in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with certain groups of students feeling “disenfranchised.” This individual is “concerned over legitimately not being able to say what’s on their mind.”

According to the source, this has become a widespread issue at the university, manifesting as “hostility towards certain ideas … that’s aimed at censoring and blocking people.”

When asked to provide an example of this hostility, or an even example of the types of ideas being ostracized, the source refused.

The purpose of the events, according to the source, would be to encourage ideas, not censoring or suppressing information over people’s feelings – no “cancelling,” with the hope of improving critical thinking and discourse on campus.

The idea of freedom of speech on campus and fighting against the cancelling of other opinions is not new, and Peterson is largely to thank for that.

A large part of Peterson’s platform was about freedom of speech, the end of political correctness, and the attempt to end or discourage Marxist/radical left ideology on campus.

Several gendered-non-conforming people who spoke at the council meeting said their identity was not up for debate.

Many described the harassment they’ve received over their choice of pronouns and lifestyle, and pointed out that rhetoric like Peterson’s had only helped to inflame the discrimination they’ve faced.

In a statement to the The Concordian, ASFA Communications Coordinator Carmen Levy-Milne said showcasing Peterson’s views would contradict the organization’s anti-discrimination regulations.

“It is morally inappropriate to suggest that a speaker who is openly sexist, islamophobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, and transphobic speak at our university … The suggestion to openly platform a speaker contradicts our Policy against Harassment, Discrimination, and Violence,” said Levy-Milne.

The motion to bar Peterson from being featured at the association followed this reasoning.

Proposed by Payton Mitchell, ASFA’s Mobilization Coordinator, the motion outlines that “Allowing Jordan Peterson to have this space would mean ASFA is directly facilitating an environment in which stochastic terrorism may be fostered here at Concordia.”

Peterson may no longer be platformed at ASFA or any of its member associations.

Peterson’s media representative at Penguin Random House Canada told The Concordian they had no comment.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

 

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The role of the audience in comedy

In 2019, people claim comedy is “under attack.” Is this true?

The short answer is no, but I seem to be writing an article here, so let me explain.

Comedians such as Bill Maher, Louis CK, Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle are experiencing a change in their careers. This most definitely does not mean that their careers are over, so, let’s take a closer look. Chapelle fans – stay with me.

I’m assuming that you have heard this argument being circulated for quite some time and although this might feel frustrating, I don’t think it’s necessarily negative.

Comedy and comedians represent laughter, happiness and, more importantly, growth and learning. There’s a reason why people look at political memes more than political policies: humour can be accessible, clever, and most of all, it has an impact.

Comedy is changing. People are no longer laughing at things that make them feel small. Social media and other large platforms are giving previously silenced communities a voice in the comedic world. We are speaking truth to power and this all feeds into one thing: the evolving role of the audience.

Yes – that’s us, the audience!

We have more control than ever before. It’s exciting, but naturally quite unnerving for comedians that have spent most of their lives writing jokes and not thinking about how they could offend people.

Despite acting like they don’t care, we have seen evidence that the opposite is true. Let’s take a look at Chappelle for a moment. He’s undoubtedly a very successful comedian who has been called out for his tone deaf demeanour for the past two years. He’s a powerful figure, re-emerging as a comedian in a world very different than the one he’s used to.

Jenna Wortham and Welsey Morris, New York Times writers and hosts of the podcast  Still Processing, highlight that in his newest standup, Chappelle is just plain lashing out at the audience.

He says,“If you do anything wrong in your life, and I find out about it, I’m going to try and take everything away from you and I don’t care when I find out… Who’s that? That’s you!”

The shift here is obvious. The audience is clearly impacting the way Chappelle normally functions. He is making a joke out of his fear for his career.

Listen, I am aware that I’m yet another chia seed eating, avocado spreading, social media savvy, left-wing millennial preaching about why Chappelle is a sore loser, but hear me out.

I’m not trying to promote cancel culture or tell you what you should or shouldn’t watch. I understand that in this social climate things often sway to an extreme. This being said, I think it’s important to understand the reality of where comedy is going.

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is another public figure who has voiced his frustration with the audience.

He said in an interview, “I don’t understand why there’s a push to destroy what you just don’t have to support or like.”

Even though he is using oversimplified vernacular to describe backlash he received about homophobic comments, I think the important thing to note in this comment is the word “destroy.” Comedians are fearful that the audience can control their careers and instead of adapting, they don’t know how to handle it.

Nazeem Hussain, an Australian comedian speaks openly about understanding the audience’s fluid role.

In an interview with Eureka Street, he said, “’the audience doesn’t buy that homophobic, racist and sexist stuff anymore. It’s lazy comedy, they should find new jokes and get a laugh.”

Hannah Gadsby, a writer and comedian also from Australia spoke very eloquently about the dissonance certain comedians won’t stop complaining about, in an interview with Esquire.

“So many comedians expect control of the room when they’re onstage, because they’ve got the magic stick that amplifies their voice, and everyone has to listen,” she said. “Comedy no longer exists in a vacuum. To be relevant, you have to speak with your audience. You don’t get to just tell them how it is.”

People are not standing for harmful jokes anymore. This does not mean vulgarity is dead and that audiences can’t handle explicit or shocking material.

It means the role of the audience has changed – and that’s not a bad thing.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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I watched Dave Chappelle’s new comedy special so you don’t have to

I love dark humour. I live in a generation raised by memes and shaped by absurd, Dadaist comedy. I also live in a more open-minded, progressive, and inclusive generation than anyone before mine. How do I reconcile the two?

It’s not that complicated. If you make a joke that’s funny, I’ll laugh. Just don’t be a complete asshole while you do it. I’m looking at you, Dave Chappelle.

While having been in the business for over 35 years, Chappelle still finished as the third highest-paid comic last year, according to recent Forbes statistics. His new stand-up special, Sticks and Stones, was marketed as this sort of celebration of all that is politically incorrect and supposedly funny. In reality, it’s closer to a fading comedian who operates in the same capacity as a Reddit troll.

He opens the show complaining about cancel culture and shows a remarkable lack of understanding of the very industry he thrives in. By mocking the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, (because apparently rich people can’t struggle from anything), Chappelle not only completely misinterpreted some of the harsh realities surrounding suicide, but belittled everything Bourdain went through.

He then moved on to practically brag about being a victim blamer and did his best impression of the shrug emoji when entertaining the fact that the allegations made against Michael Jackson might hold some truth.

“Even if he did do it *shrugs*,” said Chappelle. And then went on to explain why it should be an honour and an incredible sexual achievement to be assaulted by someone that famous. He seemed to not notice the blatant irony as he had the audacity to criticize the #MeToo movement and defend Louis C.K.’s actions.

Next up came the same old, overused, and painfully unfunny joke about trans athletes. He continued to go on about how Lebron James could just announce that he identified as a woman and score as much as he wanted. Chappelle—who is widely regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time—is now stuck rehashing the same level of comedy as idiots who yell out “bUt WhAt If i IdEnTiFy aS An ApAcHe HeLiCoPtEr.” That was just the tip of the transphobic iceberg.

Oh, by the way, this was all within the first twenty minutes. Now, I could end up writing a doctoral thesis on everything wrong with the following 40-minute shitshow, like his complaining about not being able to use homophobic slurs in his skits or referring to the LGBTQ+ community as “the letter people,” but my blood pressure can only take so much.

What Chappelle is doing right now is clinging to the last bit of clout he has in a changing world of comedy. More and more TV shows, skits, and comics are realizing that you can be open-minded and progressive and still be absolutely hilarious, all while pushing the envelope and tackling dark humour.

Dave Chappelle is one of the people that stands to suffer from that shift in comedy. He appears so dead-set on shaming you for enjoying an inclusive comedy experience that people like Hasan Minhaj or John Oliver can provide.

Chappelle tried so hard to sound edgy but he just ended up coming off as an ugly, asinine mix between your annoying, boomer uncle’s Facebook feed and an 11-year-old that just discovered what the word “dank” means.

Dave Chappelle will always go down as one of the greatest pioneers of comedy and one of the first from that field to become an international mega-star. That’s why it pains me so much to see him so unapologetically insufferable.

Did I crack a smile once or twice while watching? Sure. But it’s disheartening to see such a funny human stoop so low that they would appeal to the lowest common denominator of an audience. Instead of changing with the times and showing some range, he’s doubled down on being as unabashedly insulting to as many people and communities as possible.

 

Graphic by Victoria Blair

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PC culture: An evolution of politeness

Weighing in on political correctness and how it can be benefit our evolving society

Growing up as a brown Muslim girl, I wish I’d had a shield to protect myself from racism. I wish I could have been invisible when kids at the back of the class would hurl expletive insults at me, screaming “Allahu-Akbar!” as I entered the room.

I wish political correctness had been around when I was in elementary and high school. It would have saved me from a lot of self-confidence issues. Whenever I hear criticism of political correctness (PC) culture—in the media or even during class discussions—I can’t help but feel upset. People don’t understand that PC culture is a form of protection for minorities.

According to The Huffington Post, the Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey in August 2016 that showed 76 per cent of Canadians believe political correctness has gone “too far.” A lot of people share this sentiment and feel they cannot express their opinions about issues affecting marginalized people—but what they don’t understand is those comments are hurtful and unnecessary.

In my opinion, political correctness is a way for minorities—whether they’re people of colour or members of the LGBTQ+ community—to have a justification for being offended when someone says an insensitive thing about who they are.

We’re living in a time when minorities have the chance to feel empowered in our society. In the past, non-whites and other marginalized groups had no voice. They were not accepted as equals and, therefore, didn’t deserve the chance to defend themselves against dangerous expressions.

In a way though, political correctness has existed for a long time—hosts at dinner parties didn’t expect their guests to insult their food, for example. It’s something you just don’t do. It’s considered common courtesy.

Today, PC culture has just expanded on the idea of common courtesy. Now, the gesture extends to minority groups who have the right to not feel insulted for being who they are.

Recently, a CBC article featured Concordia marketing professor Gad Saad, who explained his views regarding political correctness. He stated that it is “limiting the free exchange of ideas on university campuses across the continent.”

In that same article, I read more about Saad’s stance on political correctness, how it is negative and limits free speech. Then, I came across the professor’s satirical argument against condemning cultural appropriation, in the same article. He said: “Our African ancestors were the first to engage in breathing…By that logic I think by breathing today, we are engaging in cultural appropriation of the first Homo sapiens. And so the only way I will ask you to stop being racist is to suffocate—to stop breathing.”

That’s when I realized, like most people who argue against PC culture and think it has gone “too far,” Saad doesn’t understand its importance—or if he does, he doesn’t care.

PC culture is understanding and being sensitive to issues that don’t directly involve you. It’s understanding that cultural appropriation genuinely offends some people—even if it doesn’t offend you.

Freedom of speech means you have the right to say whatever you want. It means you can argue that cultural appropriation is fine and so are other issues that affect minorities. But it also means that you can be challenged for your views and called out for promoting ignorance. While I do believe freedom of speech is a necessity, I also believe minorities must be protected from ignorant stereotypes.

PC culture frustrates some people, sure. But it also protects a lot of other, more marginalized people from offensive comments and dangerous ideas. I don’t believe PC culture should censor people from discussing controversial things—it’s important to have a dialogue between people from different communities, even if the person expressing their views might be a bit ignorant when it comes to their choice of words.

PC culture is correcting those negative and uninformed ideas. It’s pushing people to understand that the world no longer revolves around straight white guys—it’s now about a world where politeness takes precedence over out-dated, harmful ideas.

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