Unless he’s telling non-political jokes, Jim Jefferies drives me insane. But when he stays away from anything intellectual he’s very funny.
His political jokes are typically leftist propaganda based on either demonstrable lies or ridiculously confused ideas. His show generally seems to have followed suit. But we need to point out when someone we generally disagree with gets it right. In his own confused way, JJ got it fundamentally right when he had Jordan Peterson on his show.
Here are four key takeaways from the interview, regarding free speech and government coercion,
1. Jefferies Wants You To Think Peterson Is A Bumbling Alt-Righter
Whatever the alt-right used to be, it seems to have become the alt-white. It’s mired in identity politics and all manner of illiberal, anti-intellectual nonsense. Peterson is none of these things. Love him or hate him, you cannot say he’s bigoted. He’s some kind of non-progressive liberal who believes that the basic structures of the West are good for human flourishing.
Jefferies does not believe in those things. He’s extremely progressive and illiberal on pretty much every issue, except one (that’s next). So here he’s trying to make Peterson look unattractive, and whether he realizes it or not this characterization makes him look bad to conservatives as well.
It should be clear to anyone who has actually taken the time to hear Peterson’s views that this is a mischaracterization, but at this point Peterson’s audience is probably bigger than Jefferies’ ever was or could be. So it really isn’t that big a deal.
2. Jefferies Made A Strong Statement For Free Speech
There is absolutely no way to interpret what Jefferies did here as anything but a battle cry for free speech. Now, he didn’t do a great job of allowing Peterson to speak, but that’s okay. It’s Jefferies’ show, so he can do whatever he wants. When his audience goes to look at Peterson’s stuff, they can make up their own minds.
The fact that Jefferies wants you to think Peterson is a bad actor actually makes this free speech point stronger. That’s because he’s defending free speech in conjunction with someone he believes is peddling hate speech. Also, he cleverly and rudely put Christeen Elizabeth — the heckler’s veto bully who harasses Peterson publicly — in her place with an air horn. It’s hard to imagine his mostly woke audience being happy about that. But it was the right and smart thing to do.
Is it uncomfortable? Yes. She seems nice, but what she’s doing is wrong and hypocritical. Shouting people down and blowing air horns at them isn’t persuading anyone, only degrading the debate, and Jefferies emphatically showed her and everyone watching the reason why. He’ll probably get some backlash for being a mansplainer but it doesn’t matter, right is right. Good on ya, Jeff.
3. Peterson Is Humble Enough to Listen and Admit He Might Be Wrong
The logic of extending the civil rights movement to sex, gender, and sexuality has some serious problems. Race is not the same thing as sex. But if you grant that it is, the logic of applying them the same way legally is sound. If the government should prohibit private citizens from discriminating based on race, then it is hard to maintain that private citizens should be allowed to discriminate against anyone on the basis of almost anything (more on this next point).
In his interview with Jefferies, Peterson saw this logic clearly, I guess for the first time. Then he calmly admitted he may be wrong! So two amazing things happened in these six minutes: A leftist defended free speech, and a public intellectual admitted he might be wrong. That is pretty fantastic and a tiny glimmer of hope in these days of outrage and stupidity.
4. Peterson Must Decide Whether To Trust Government Solutions To Moral Problems
Now that Peterson has seen the logical legal connection between the U.S. civil rights movement and contemporary sexuality issues, he has a harsh reality to face. He seems to understand that forcing people to do things does not make for healthy public policy, but he also thinks that some civil rights legislation was a good thing. This is probably where most reasonable Americans are.
The truth is that big government solutions are never good for anyone in the long term. The reason that decisions like Brown v. Board of Education occurred at all is because segregation was (Democrat-enforced) law in the South. Economist Thomas Sowell, an African-American, has been pointing out for decades that southern racism was an act of big government. Civil rights laws merely replaced one type of government coercion with another, rather than ending the coercion so people could work out their problems socially, free of force.
“It was politics that segregated the races, because the incentives of the political process are different from the incentives of the economic process,” Sowell says. “Both blacks and whites spent money to ride the buses but, after the disenfranchisement of black voters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, only whites counted in the political process.”
Segregation was a coerced social system in the South, and the free market fought against it, Sowell points out:
The incentives of the economic system and the incentives of the political system were not only different, they clashed. Private owners of streetcar, bus, and railroad companies in the South lobbied against the Jim Crow laws while these laws were being written, challenged them in the courts after the laws were passed, and then dragged their feet in enforcing those laws after they were upheld by the courts. These tactics delayed the enforcement of Jim Crow seating laws for years in some places. Then company employees began to be arrested for not enforcing such laws and at least one president of a streetcar company was threatened with jail if he didn’t comply.
In other words, segregation was an act of tyranny foisted upon the South. The civil rights laws that came from Washington should have focused just on declaring that forced segregation was unconstitutional. But they did the opposite, and forced desegregation.
The exact same solution in the opposite direction is still the same solution with the same problems, just as laws and policies forcing bakers to bake cakes for weddings are. The best solution to problems of discrimination like this come from free markets, not laws that force people into economic transactions. And freedom of speech clearly contributes to this process.
People who decry the fact that businesses are in business ‘just to make money’ seldom understand the implications of what they are saying. You make money by doing what other people want, not what you want. Black people’s money was just as good as white people’s money, even though that was not the case when it came to votes. Initially, segregation meant that whites could not sit in the black section of a bus any more than blacks could sit in the white section. But whites who were forced to stand when there were still empty seats in the black section objected. That’s when the rule was imposed that blacks had to give up their seats to whites. Legal sophistries by judges ‘interpreted’ the 14th Amendment’s requirement of equal treatment out of existence. Judicial activism can go in any direction.
Big government is never a good solution. Civil rights laws have obviously had some extremely good effects, but better civil rights laws could produce racial justice without causing other negative unintended consequences, like introducing the precedent of government forcing people into private economic transactions. This would have had the added benefit of more quickly reducing, rather than inflaming, social discord.