Letter to CBC Ombudsman: Invoking Godwin’s Law On Jordan Peterson Wasn’t Fair Play

Michael Serapio: Eyes wide-shut at the CBC

Michael Serapio: Eyes wide-shut at the CBC

Dear CBC Ombudsman,

I’m writing in response to the October 29 CBC News segment Heated debate on gender pronouns and free speech in Toronto, a debate between University of Toronto professors Jordan Peterson and AW Peet. More specifically, the short set of video clips from Peterson’s October 11 demonstration that Michael Serapio introduced at the beginning of the broadcast.

The first clip shows Peterson screaming at the crowd without any context as to why. This was followed by a clip from a different video filmed by Peterson’s opponents where they ambushed the professor with the accusation that there was a “presence of Nazis and white supremacists assaulting people” at his protest.

As a person who reported on and filmed the event, I was shocked and appalled at how these clips misrepresented the day’s events. I’ve documented what really happened below:

1.) The first clip portrays Peterson as an angry screaming maniac. The truth is that the professor’s opponents interrupted his speech by blasting white noise through their own PA system. They later unplugged his PA system forcing him to yell. There was no anger, as you can see in the original video [1] Peterson was exceptionally graceful when his opponents tried to curtail his right to express his views.

2.) The accusation there were white supremacists at the protest was an outright fabrication. I interviewed the couple who were accused of being supremacists and published the truth [2] six days before the CBC’s broadcast.

3.) The accusation there was a “Nazi presence” was also a fabrication. What really happened is that one of Peterson’s opponents mistook a Serbian symbol worn by one of his supporters for a Nazi Iron Cross. The campus newspaper Varsity published a correction [3] on their website seventeen days before the CBC’s broadcast.  B’nai Brith erroneously published a story on their website about the “Nazi presence”. They published an apology [4] a full ten days before the CBC’s broadcast after an outcry from several protest participants.

4.) The accusation of violence at the October 11 protest was partly true. Two people were arrested and charged with assault- but they weren’t Peterson’s supporters, they were his opponents [5].

I’ll reserve my final judgment until your response, but the selectively edited clips reeked of either a dirty trick or an example of gross incompetence. Uninformed viewers are likely to have seen Peterson as an angry tyrant who associates with Nazis. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Adding insult to injury, Michael Serapio’s debate completely neglected to give credit to the people whose videos were used to misrepresent what happened at the protest. Rex Murphy credited me when he used my video as background for his November 3 commentary on Jordan Peterson [6], I don’t understand why Serapio didn’t in this case. Viewers might at least had an opportunity to look up what really happened had Serapio’s segment bothered to credit the Youtube account of the person who filmed it.

As part of our state broadcaster, CBC News has a responsibility not only to always tell the truth- but to take extra care not to smear Canadians with innuendo and false allegations. They failed miserably in this case, not only misrepresenting Jordan Peterson but also the students and supporters who made the October 11 protest possible.

I’ve personally been interviewed by CBC News twice and my videos have been used across the country by your national and local bureaus. But after seeing how Peterson and supporters were misrepresented in Michael Serapio’s broadcast, I no longer feel safe accepting future invitations. My views on free speech and Bill C-16 are closely aligned with Peterson’s- will I too end up being framed as an angry tyrant who associates with Nazis?

The CBC has a responsibility to take action to remedy the impact of this broadcast. At the minimum, it’s time to make an apology- if Varsity and B’nai Brith can do so, there’s no reason CBC News can’t too.

Greg Renouf

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