The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s conversation with comedian Matt Rife. In this segment, they discuss the criticism over Matt’s Netflix special, how he responded, and the lack of consequences for leveling an accusation. You can listen to or watch the full podcast episode on DailyWire+.
Start time: 1:01:29
Jordan: One of the things that I have noticed repeatedly, because I have gone through repeated attempts of people trying to cancel me, is that it can be quite an intense experience when in the immediate aftermath of its occurrence and that is somewhat off-putting and destabilizing because you do not exactly know how far out it is going to spread or what the consequences could be. But if you did not do anything wrong and you do not apologize, or maybe you make light of it in some creative way, then the probability that it will turn around and flip in your direction, if you can tolerate the weight, is extremely high. Part of the reason I am bringing this up is because I do not think the people who are in the throes of being canceled understand this.
You can imagine historically, if an angry mob of 40 of your neighbors showed up on your doorstep with pitchforks and flames, it would probably be a good time to think, “These people would not have gone to all that time and effort, in all likelihood, had I not done something wrong.” But now you can whip up a Twitter mob in no time whatsoever, with no effort at no cost to yourself and probably some benefit. So your instinctual responses to being mobbed are wrong.
Matt: Yeah, it doesn’t translate to the real world. I just walked through two very packed airports and did nothing but take like 45 pictures. Nothing but a positive response.
Jordan: Have you had any negative responses? You said you had no negative responses to anything you have ever said so far at a live show and when you were actually on stage. What about out in the actual world?
Matt: Not once. Never once has somebody come up to me and said, “Hey, I didn’t like the thing you said.” That kind of — I don’t know if you want to call it — a mixture of social awareness and accountability doesn’t translate to the real world.
Jordan: It also takes a lot of gall to do that — to come up to someone and say, “You know that thing you said?” even though you don’t know who they are.
Matt: Imagine you see a street performer; they’re playing violin on a street corner, they’ve got their case out with cash. Say you f***ing hate violins. Violin drives you nuts. Maybe he’s not even good at playing violin. What do you do? You keep walking, right? No sane, decent human being stops and goes, “You’re f***ing awful dude. Kill yourself. What are you doing out here? You’re making my life miserable until I just look a different direction.” That’s an insane thing to do, and most people know not to do that. But obviously the internet creates this. This is what I would believe to be false confidence and believing that they’re safe behind this imaginary source of social media — that they don’t face any repercussions because their profile picture is an anime character and everything’s a private profile. There’s no consequence for saying what they say.
Jordan: There is no consequence for leveling an accusation. Yes, it is really bad.
Matt: Versus the real world. You come up to me; I can have an intellectual conversation with you as to why I disagree with you.
Jordan: Or make a joke.
Matt: Yes. Or I could smack the s*** out of you. That is also a consequence that is viable. And that doesn’t weigh on anybody on the internet, so it’s easier for people to talk s*** on there versus the real world where people actually aren’t even bothered. And also, I had to figure, most people who talk s*** on the internet and actively try to cancel people and have no life, they’re not out in the real world. They’re in their house doing absolutely nothing, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Jordan: Yes, and they definitely have the mentality of mean girl high school bullies: We are going to shame, we are going to reputation savage, we are going to exclude.
Matt: Go ahead. Put so much energy in your life into thinking about me and how much you don’t like me. What a waste of your life.
Jordan: Now, you said too that when you posted your response to the criticisms, you posted something — I think that is wildly funny, by the way — so maybe you could explain that to this particular crowd. But you also told me in the intervening time between the two podcasts that that was not a calculated response — that you relied on your instinct for what was funny. So explain what you did.
Matt: So funny, you sound like a principal, who my parents came here — “Tell them what you did.”
Jordan: Right? That’s right. Exactly. Lay it out, man.
Matt: Basically, this thing happened. There was outrage over a joke that was wildly misperceived, and that’s fine. You’re allowed to like or not like a joke. Totally ok. And in response to that, I posted. When you get canceled or somebody is upset about a joke, you’re supposed to apologize. People want you to back down and shame you and recognize what you’ve done wrong. And I don’t believe I did anything wrong whatsoever. So it made me really feel like the people who were offended by this were, for lack of better words and to be quite frank, weak-minded. So I posted a photo of me on stage — I thought it was a good photo — with a link at the bottom of it, and the caption was saying if I’ve ever offended you with a joke, I’ve told, here’s a link to my official apology. And the link description should have been a dead giveaway. It said to click to solve your issue, and when you click on the link, it redirected you to an online store front.
Jordan: That is funny. “Click to solve your issue.” That’s funny. Because it is a little ambiguous.
Matt: Of course. And then you click on the link and it redirects you to an online storefront for special needs helmets. I thought this was very funny and again, instinctually, people get triggered by a subject matter rather than what the joke actually is. Everybody took that as I was making fun of special needs people. No, I don’t have anything to say about special needs people.
Jordan: Well, you are making fun of people claiming special needs for their emotional fragility inappropriately.
Jordan: And quite nicely.
Matt: I’m saying, you need this way more than they do. And the best part is that you clicked on it.
Jordan: That is right. They could have special needs earplugs that they could wear to comedy shows where you actually could not hear the comedian.
Matt: They filter out all the words. It AI-generates what they want to hear. Oh, that’s so genius.
Jordan: That will happen soon enough. That is right. You will be able to get an AI sensor.
Matt: But that’s technically what your algorithm is. It shows you what you want to see. It tells you what you want to hear. The night that I was like the number one trending thing on Twitter, I texted my friend and I was like, “Yeesh.” And he sent me a screenshot of his; I wasn’t even top 25. He goes, “Nobody cares, dude. It’s in your circle because it’s your profile. You’re going to hear about it, obviously, but it’s not to the extent people think.”
So, yes, I posted this misdirect of an apology, and it couldn’t have went better. I was literally just sitting passenger seat in a car ride with my friend, and I just thought it would be a funny thing to do. It took me no more than 45 seconds to think of doing that. I go, “Hey, is this funny?” And he cracked up laughing, and I went, huh, f*** it. I also thought that most of the outrage was happening just on Twitter and TikTok. Like, Instagram’s a far more personal app I think. And so the fact that people even saw that and took it to other platforms I thought was insane, but also proved my point even more that people who don’t even like my comedy or have never even heard of me, saw the outrage and my response to it and went, oh, that’s actually funny. It actually gained me a lot of fans because most of the world, I would feel confident in saying, the majority of people are sick of this s***.
Jordan: Well, most people are actually hoping that a comedian will be funny rather than politically correct. Right. Well, this is the problem. I think this is the misapprehension of people who apologize when they are accused because your case is, well, perhaps you irritated some people by not apologizing. But, first of all, there are people that you really don’t mind irritating, and they weren’t really irritated to begin with. So it is all a lie anyway.
Matt: Nor were they fans in the first place.
Jordan: Right. Exactly. So when you apologize, in principle, you signal to those people that you have kowtowed and bowed down. But you forgo the opportunity to appeal to a much broader realm of people, which you think would be more sensible if you were trying to protect or develop your career — the people who look at what you’ve done and think, oh, well, that is funny enough, so maybe I will go check out this guy who I have never heard of. I am sure you attracted like 10,000 fans for every person you turned off.
Matt: Oh, yeah. Analytically, I have gained more fans than I have lost across all platforms. The extremities of everybody involved in this “outrage” has been nothing but beneficial because, even if you didn’t like that — the domestic violence joke that I got in trouble for — which is fair, even I think it’s not the best joke I’ve ever written at all. It’s not. It’s probably the worst joke in the special, and that’s fine. I do other things. I have plenty other jokes that are for other people — the response being a perfect example of that. Even if people go, well, that’s not funny but that joke of his is, the extremities are so loud, so against each other, that once one group of people, whatever you want to call them — people love to make it about the Left or the Right; I’m a very unpolitical person; I don’t really use those terms, so they might not be correctly used here — but say the Left is so outraged about something, the Right instinctually goes, “You’re being so ridiculous about this. If you hate this, I’m going to support this because I see nothing wrong with it.” So in doing that, they’ve completely balanced each other out.
Jordan: Well, right. And you probably brought work to the attention of a whole demographic that would not have necessarily known who you were.
Matt: So many people commenting, “I didn’t know who this kid was. I actually didn’t like him before. But I like this joke that he told,” or “I dislike you so much that the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.” So it’s just an ever evolving process. People going back and forth: I love you, I hate you. And it’s going to be this way for the rest of my career and the rest of my life and I’m totally fine with that.
Jordan: Probably, if you are lucky.
Matt: I hope so.
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To hear all of the rest of the discussion, continue by listening or watching this episode on DailyWire+.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.