Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Northwest
Report back from recent demonstration against far-Right guru Jordan Peterson in so-called Seattle, WA.
On February 16th and February 17th the Paramount Theater, one of several theaters owned and operated by the Seattle Theater Group (STG), played host to pseudo-scientist, transphobic, misogynist Jordan Peterson. This was a rescheduled engagement from Peterson’s tour in spring 2022, which was largely “cancelled” in many major cities due to backlash by queer communities calling out venues for promoting hate speech in the wake of their new diversity and inclusion policies.
This was true of Seattle Theater Group, who quietly rescheduled with Peterson for this tour, and strategically did not promote his event on their social media, their upcoming event pages, or in any public capacity. You had to be a previous ticket holder to get notified about how to use your tickets from May for February. You had to look deep into their calendar or search the right string of words online to find the direct link pages to venues with event information – they intentionally left it off their “Upcoming Events” pages to keep the public from seeing it so easily.
In April 2022, an STG spokesperson said anyone can book the venue “so long as the act does not promote hate speech, violence or criminal activity.” At that same time, STG said they would not cancel the shows due to “legal liability” with Live Nation and CAA. Effectively, they said that keeping their pockets lined and safe from a lawsuit was better than cancelling a hate speech tour they should never have booked in the first place. STG also said, “This engagement has failed to live up to our vision of equity and inclusion; rather than eliminating barriers for communities, it’s created barriers. We will be reexamining our rental policy to help prevent similar harm from happening in the future. We are grateful for members of the community who have reached out to us, particularly our transgender, nonbinary and Jewish community members who contacted us.”
In June 2022, STG tweeted: “The performing arts would not be what it is today without LGBTQIA2+ people onstage, in the audience, behind-the-scenes, and as leaders, creators, and storytellers. Their contributions must be celebrated and honored year-round.” A tweet that received immediate backlash for their hypocrisy in still hosting Jordan Peterson for his rescheduled tour dates. No responses, no replies – quietly focusing on their triple bottom lane with the most egregious display of rainbow capitalism.
And yet here we are in 2023, with the same event, the same hate speech, the same venue, the same sponsoring organization, and the same bullshit being fed to the community in the lead-up to the event. Anonymous comrades report sending emails to dozens of fiscal sponsors for STG, their board of directors, their community advisory group, and their box office in the lead up to the event. Few received responses. In an email response to a community member received on February 14th, an STG representative said, “After hearing concerns from members of the community around the Jordan Peterson bookings at The Paramount, we made an important change to our Programming Policy – going forward the policy seeks to avoid hate speech and uplift other definitions of equity and inclusion. We believe these changes will support our organization’s complex work in balancing freedom of speech and expression on our stages. We apologize for any harm that any of our productions may cause and always welcome conversation.”
Seattle Theater Group is not sorry for the ongoing harm they have caused. They have not reviewed their policies – they have simply removed their more controversial pieces from public view. They have not made any changes about platforming hate speech (in fact, they already have Bill Maher scheduled for April 1st at the Paramount). They are liars. The event went on, as scheduled. Two nights, allegedly sold out (with hundreds of tickets being scalped on StubHub and other sites for outrageous prices of $600+).
Flyers with calls to action for protest went up on social media on February 3, and were spread via multiple channels calling for a rally in opposition to Peterson and in support of trans people for both nights. These flyers were picked up by far-Right troll and conspiracy theories Andy Ngo and subsequently accounts became permanently suspended, limiting the reach for the call to action. Flyers still circulated in various spaces by comrades, including individual networks, Reddit, Instagram, and physically posted throughout the city in the days leading up to the event.
Roughly a dozen protesters were on the scene at 6:30pm on Feb 16th. Pride flags and signs were visible while protesters called out attendees on their fascist ideals. A large banner held by comrades read, “STG Presents: Transphobic Fascism 101.” There were approximately 40 bike cops staged across the street at the Seattle Convention Center, with additional foot soldiers on each corner holding positions. On the corner closest to the venue was Seattle Police Department’s POET team, whose primary objective was to shield Katie Daviscourt from protesters as she attempted to interview attendees.
Some comrades shouted questions at attendees: had they even read any of Peterson’s books (many admitted they did not), what do they think about women in the workplace (many women in attendance preened at this), What do you think of the Jewish question (very few responded to this one). Attendees were not afraid to admit they agreed with Peterson’s ideals, and to regurgitate his false definition of fascism at protesters. Several threatened protesters but few took antifascists up on offers to put their money where their mouths are and step over the stanchion, embracing their cowardice in full. Many took photos and selfies to proclaim their pro-fascist excitement. There were an alarming number of children in attendance, including infants and toddlers, and disabled folks — and perhaps 5 attendees out of 800 were wearing masks.
On the second night, protesters found out the venue had opened the doors much earlier than scheduled due to the various VIP packages available with meet and greet options. The lines of attendees were less dense and moved more quickly into the venue than before. At least one ticketed attendee came around the stanchion and put hands on an antifascist protester, who was immediately swarmed by a dozen cops for defending themselves. Seattle Police Department’s “POET” team targeted the antifascists for “blocking the sidewalk” despite fascists being the ones shoving protesters about and blocking accessible pathways. There were multiple incidences of fascist event attendees yelling queer/transphobic, misogynistic, and ableist commentary at antifascist protestors. One fascist in attendance wearing a Alpenjager cap was particularly offended when a comrade said he was wearing a Wehrmacht cover. A member of the armed forces wore their full regalia to the show, which seemed wildly inappropriate and exactly on brand for both Peterson’s audience-ship and the US military.
Known fascist ‘journalists’/streamers Katie Daviscourt and Jonathan Choe—both of whom regularly collude with other fascist media personalities including Andy Ngo and the Proud Boys—made appearances in an attempt to film and doxx antifascist protestors. These attempts were disrupted by antifascist protestors who played copyrighted music near and held pride flags in front of Daviscourt’s cameras.
Numerous community members expressed gratitude toward antifascist protestors for their presence outside the event venue, as did several STG employees who identified themselves as queer and/or trans. These employees reported feeling personally unsafe due to the number of fascists present for the Peterson “lecture” that night. It is clear from these statements that venues like STG choosing to continue platforming fascists makes our communities less safe.
STG’s Paramount Theater is slated to host Bill Maher on April 1st. Comrades plan to once again demonstrate to this community that people profiting off of hate speech are not welcome in Seattle.