Canadian author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson sparked debate on Twitter last night, criticising Australian flagship airline Qantas’ ‘welcome to country’ message.
Controversy follows Jordan Peterson wherever he goes. His fans claim it’s because he’s clear-headed and society has gone mad. His critics claim it’s because his views are outdated and offensive (but that’s a debate for another time).
We’re here today to discuss his critique of Qantas. Taking to Twitter last night, Peterson wrote: “I could really do without the land acknowledgment propaganda delivered to me by a corporate behemoth @Qantas. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Stick to (1) flying and (2) making money. I don’t want or need moral lessons from you or any other corporation.”
I could really do without the land acknowledgment propaganda delivered to me by a corporate behemoth @Qantas. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Stick to (1) flying and (2) making money. I don’t want or need moral lessons from you or any other corporation.
— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) November 28, 2022
One Twitter user agreed, writing: “Unless the land is being given back, ‘land acknowledgments’ always sound to me like taunts.” Peterson replied: “Precisely. Hypocritical to the ultimate degree ‘we’ll keep the land but please like us because we’re so nice.’”
Underneath Peterson’s thread, one Twitter user wrote: “With the greatest respect, this issue is way beyond your domain of competence. Recognition of Traditional Owners is a practice widely accepted across the Australian political spectrum. It is not propaganda. There are some issues you as a visitor should leave alone.”
Another, Sydney-based entrepreneur Matthew Browne, said: “Whilst I believe acknowledgments have become an overused / box ticking exercise for many organisations, I personally think a welcome to country when arriving in Australia from overseas is one of the most appropriate and respectful occasions for our national carrier to use one.”
Another social media user asked: “Can you explain this? I’m not for or against it, but it’s a acknowledgement of this country’s history and traditional owners. It respects history. Is there something inherently bad about that?”
A truly fascist vision: “everything will be integrated… governments, media and the general corporate world employing big data”: the ultimate vision of a top-down centralizer. Reject this “tsunami” of “progress.” https://t.co/bbtiBQfQRa
— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) November 28, 2022
Another said the acknowledgement is simply the first step to more substantial structural action, writing: “Acknowledgment could [be] step 1.”
Some Twitter accounts lent their support to Peterson, with one writing: “YES I’m so glad someone finally said it! I can’t stand it. I am paying you to fly me from Sydney to Brisbane, not push your PC nonsense.”
Others said things like “it started as something nice that was said on occasion… Now every peanut at every event fears repercussions if they don’t say it” and “It’s so tiresome. It’s become like a prayer at any remotely official event in Australia. But one that no-one either really believes or even knows the meaning of.”
Further comments on Twitter included: “If you like Australia, just wait until you go to New Zealand” and “Jordan… what have you become? Id [sic] haved followed you blindly 6 years ago. This stuff doesnt concern you. Youre becoming what ive been saying your not.”
Another few comments were: “It’s a part of efforts to speak the truth, seek justice & move forward” and “I see it as part of the reconciliation process that is ongoing and necessary – not propaganda.”
Peterson’s criticism of Qantas’ ‘welcome to country’ appears to stem from a broader (some would say conspiracy-adjacent) critique that “globalism” and “corporate overlords” are getting too powerful (a critique of society that you also hear from Peterson’s left-wing critics – maybe they just need to all go to Coachella or something and hash it all out?).
“A truly fascist vision: ‘everything will be integrated… governments, media and the general corporate world employing big data’: the ultimate vision of a top-down centralizer. Reject this ‘tsunami’ of ‘progress.’”
Jordan Peterson sounding remarkably like an anarchist…
Another recent Tweet from Peterson was: “I think it’s pretty much time to reject all this: removal of paper towels from public washrooms, ‘save the environment’ towel reuse messages in hotels, C02 footprint indications by airlines. Up yours, corporate overlords. Go away and leave us alone.”
Yet another was: “I preferred my multinationals simply greedy. Now they’re greedy and oh-so-better than their customers. It’s sickening.”
At the time of writing, Qantas has not directly responded to Peterson’s tweet.
During a conversation from earlier this year on the Uncomfortable Conversations podcast, host Josh Szeps also discussed ‘welcome to country’ statements. He explained that it is much more embedded in the Australian cultural ethos than the American one, adding: “I do it because one must and I do it not only because one must but because I hope that it actually achieves something.”
“Whether it does, I don’t know. Well, I do know, it achieves something. It telegraphs something to someone but whether it’s a game that non-indigenous people are playing with each other in order to avoid reckoning with the actual theft of the land that they would rather not reckon with in order to avoid dealing with the real disparities of income and wellbeing that they would rather not deal with.”
“Maybe it’s a precursor, maybe it’s a necessary step on the path towards true racial justice or maybe it’s a distraction. My conflictedness over that is something that is something that is very difficult to talk about in public because you risk coming off as seeming dismissive towards the overall concerns of Indigenous Australians.”
Guest at the time, Tyson Yunkaporta, a researcher, writer, and traditional wood carver who works as a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University, said of Peterson (when asked by Szeps about Peterson’s championing of grand narratives): “Your Petersons, they’ll take something that has a core of truth to it then they’ll wrap it up in several layers of bullshit and keep spinning it out.”
“Jordan’s right about ‘clean your room and be nice to people,’” Yunkaporta added. “He gives people that gift and young men are so overwhelmed with gratitude. Then they just swallow hook, line and sinker all the other bullshit.”
Yunkaporta also, during another moment in the podcast, told Szeps that there was a lot of “window dressing” in Australia “as though all problems in society are just formed from… ‘bad politics’ and bad opinions that your uncle expresses after a third beer on Australia day.”
They also talked about how the sanitisation and insincere box-ticking of modern society has made extreme ideas and conspiracy theories (on both the Byron Bay left and the Texas right) seem more attractive (as well as Viking fetishes and Echidna dicks).
Not sure how we got there from Jordan Peterson, but there you go.
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