Minneapolis, MN – Canadian psychologist and celebrated right-wing author Jordan B. Peterson is set to be in Minneapolis speaking at the State Theatre on Feb. 7 and 8 for performances on a book tour. While his broader white male audience may call Peterson a motivational “cultural critic,” others view Peterson’s book tours as professionally disguised “hate rallies,” citing his belief in eugenics and likening gender-affirming care for transgender people to medical experimentation in the Nazi-era.
Peterson’s books have been banned in New Zealand following the 2019 Christchurch white supremacist terror attack and his occupational licensing recently came under threat after posting anti-trans tweets. Those tweets got him suspended before his account was reinstated by Elon Musk immediately after Musk acquired the company in November of last year.
To understand more about why people in Minneapolis are speaking out against Peterson, Unicorn Riot spoke with a trio of “impacted community members” who wished to remain anonymous for their security.
The push against Peterson’s visit to Minneapolis has been a multi-layered approach. Back in September 2022, a broad coalition of community groups along with liberal non-profits wrote to the Hennepin Theatre Trust (HTT), who runs the State Theatre where Peterson is booked, to “strongly urge the cancellation” of Peterson’s Minneapolis events. Some have been calling, others emailing, and others taking to social media for twitter storms and coordinated pushes for the event to be dropped from the venue.
In the September letter (below), the community noted specific concerns under sections such as: “Peterson’s views are in direct opposition to the mission/vision/values and DEI [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion] commitments of Hennepin Theatre Trust,” “Jordan Peterson’s supporters are violent,” “Peterson, like most white supremacists, is advocating for patriarchal authoritarianism,” and “Peterson and his supporters hurt trans people and people with disabilities, and hurt efforts to make significant transformation to the way that whiteness is placed as default of the dominant culture.” The letter gave ideas for how HTT “can transform this situation.” They included canceling “for the safety of Hennepin County residents” and making a statement about the booking policy and the rejection of Jordan Peterson.
In a written response, non-profit HTT maintained that they do not control who gets booked and that Live Nation booked Peterson with the management company Historic Theatre Group who they say “is required to allow any presenter access to open dates for the theatres.” HTT’s President and CEO Mark Nerenhausen, who’s retiring this September, was the signatory on HTT’s response letter. He stated that “Hennepin Theatre Trust does not agree with or support the views of all the uses of the theaters, certainly not those espoused by Jordan Peterson. When this show was booked by Live Nation and added to our calendars, it was met with distaste and deep concern from [HTT] staff.”
Fast forward to last Friday, a cleverly written press release trolled news organizations into thinking the event had been dropped. The presser sent by email from the “Hennepin Theatre Distrust” to media said the Peterson shows had “been canceled.” Though fake, the press release was run on Fox9 for a brief time before they took down the page with no explanation. The release mentioned a litany of points as to why people are against Peterson’s shows while using HTT’s language from their diversity, equity, and inclusion statement to signify why his show shouldn’t be held at the theater.
Read the letter to HTT, the response from HTT, and the fake press release that was sent out in the tabs below.
Peterson is a “skilled rhetorician” and a “secular fascist” who wields power through his “professional respectability” and his rise to prominence is something to pay attention to, say the anonymous community members we spoke with.
They liken that “respectability” to why Peterson can book shows in the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis with “a million-dollar state/county institution running his show.” Comparing that “respectability” to deeply entrenched “white supremacist ideology” that permeates within the heritage of many Minnesotans, they said this allows all parties involved to escape responsibility for the “hate speech” and “gender and race control” espoused at his shows.
Jordan Peterson is a “eugenicist” that “uses centrist perspectives and sensibilities to push the Overton window to the right,” with dangerous consequences, said one of the anonymous community members we spoke with. They said Peterson uses biology, psychology, anthropology and behavior economics to fill in the moral gaps of fascism to allow centrists the excuse or even the motivation to say it’s okay to have thought about exterminating certain groups of people like trans people or to have racist or derogatory ideals.
“It’s sad that it’s so easy for him to target trans people because so many don’t stand up for them … so many have turned their backs on the real and imminent danger trans people face and Jordan Peterson furthers that danger — the threat is here and having this here makes it worse. This also comes a week after Trump and DeSantis dropped videos about trans genocide.”
Peterson has helped those who stoke “fear of liberation” they said, by noting that “to be afraid of difference, of trans people in this case, is to be afraid of fluidity and change. He’ll say first its pronouns and purple hair and the next thing you know you don’t have control over your children and you can’t control your community and the police.”
This isn’t Peterson’s first visit to Minneapolis. Last year his book tour drew small crowds of protesters who were berated, threatened, and even doxxed by Peterson’s ticket buyers, who are predominantly white male suburbanites. It’s “not art, its pseudo-science” that connects suburbanites who have a ‘Minneapolis mythos’ that the city was burned down from the George Floyd Uprising and the police have been defunded and they come into the city as a playground, said the community members.
They noted that, on a larger scale, they see the Peterson show as just part of the “tipping point in Minnesota in the way that funding for arts and culture is used as a counter insurgency tactic.”
“He doesn’t have a right to hate speech” said one community member in response to Peterson and his supporters claiming his right to free speech is violated if he is canceled from any venue. “It needs to be said that he is no way entitled to a platform at this theater, there’s a world of difference in not having in the theater compared to being arrested … that’s a straw man argument.”
“Just because Jordan Peterson hasn’t said your identifier in one of his hate speeches, he is absolutely coming for you next, this man is a fascist… this isn’t towards the burnt out activists, moreso for those unaffected who are okay with him having a show.”
The community members we spoke with stated they are centering care in their community and that they weren’t particularly endorsing any counter protest as they felt safety is paramount. They stressed “being fluid” in the struggle against Peterson, which they called an “optics war” at this point and that they hoped the institutions would “take responsibility for its actions in having Jordan Peterson come here.”
A flyer is circulating on social media calling for a counter protest at Peterson’s shows on the 7th and 8th.
Unicorn Riot reached out to Hennepin Theatre Group and LiveNation and as of publication, we’ve yet to receive a response.
HTT’s Public Relations Manager Dale Stark reiterated that HTT “does not necessarily agree with, support or stand by the views of those who rent our theatres, and certainly not those espoused by Jordan Peterson.” The full response is below:
“Thanks for reaching out. It’s good to hear that you are reaching out to Live Nation to inquire about the show they are bringing to town.
As noted, this show was not booked by Hennepin Theatre Trust; it is a rental event booked by Live Nation. Per the City of Minneapolis’ requirement in accordance with the First Amendment, Hennepin Theatre Trust must maintain an open calendar for those wishing to rent the theaters. The Trust is not involved in, nor do we choose, events booked by outside promoters through our open calendar.
Hennepin Theatre Trust does not necessarily agree with, support or stand by the views of those who rent our theatres, and certainly not those espoused by Jordan Peterson.
Hennepin Theatre Trust’s values—and our use of grant dollars and donations—are represented in the events, shows and programming we present, promote and produce, as well as the more than 30 community partners we work with and support every year.”Dale B. Stark | Public Relations Manager