Psychology-professor-turned-right-wing-commentator Jordan B. Peterson teamed up with “classical liberal” BlazeTV host Dave Rubin and ditched the crowdfunding website Patreon last year after it cracked down on hate speech and wound up banning YouTube personality Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin. The duo vowed to create an alternative site and, nearly a year later, have launched an early version of their creation “Thinkspot”—an absolute mess that is ripe for disaster.
Peterson is a right-wing cult phenomenon, having risen to prominence for his vocal mischaracterization of and opposition to Canadian human rights legislation that forbids discrimination based on gender identity or expression. He made a media career out of expressing anger at the idea he would have to address students by their preferred pronouns, something he denounced as “cultural Marxism.” Rubin has made his living by claiming to be a “liberal” but saying, doing, and believing everything a Republican does; he currently works for Glenn Beck.
Late last year, the pair began soliciting money from their overlapping fan bases to build and develop the website that would come to be known as Thinkspot. After delays, the site is now in beta testing. Right Wing Watch obtained an invitation to Thinkspot, and for no reason at all I quickly seized the display name “Timcast”—which coincidently is also the Twitter handle of a beanie-wearing political entertainer on YouTube.
Users who get an invitation to beta-test the site are greeted with a paragraph above the site’s terms of service stating that Thinkspot is supposed to be “a place that fosters a free flow of ideas, unbound by censorship or ideology.” It directs users to a lengthy “Free Speech Statement” that promises the site “will advocate for these principles by protecting speech that falls within the protection of the First Amendment and by refusing to give into outside pressures that seek to limit free speech.”
After agreeing to the terms and conditions, users are prompted to select either a “platform” plan or a “contributor + platform plan.” To make posts on the website, you will need to pay—a quid pro post, if you will. Right Wing Watch elected to not spend money on this website. I passed one of my 10 available invitations to Gizmodo’s Tom McKay, who, for some reason, gave the website $10 and is now seeking a refund.
The suggested donation for the simple platform plan is $30 per year; the link for the contributor+ plan redirects to a page where users can opt to give money to specific creators in order to access special content. The creator subscriptions begin at a special introductory price of $30 per year, but if users want the big gun—Peterson’s exclusive content—that will set them back $120, which is allegedly half the price it will cost them when the unspecified introductory period concludes.
After selecting to proceed with or without a subscription, users are routed to their Thinkspot home page and fed a tutorial for using the website meant to instruct them on engaging in “the discourse.” It shows users how to insert hyperlink citations in their posts and then drops off users at an audio recording of a lecture Peterson gave on his book tour last year. Despite this audio page being a place where all new users presumably wind up, the top “User Q&A” submission reads: “test question @55, please do not answer except for more testing :-).”
The website by default signs up new users to non-paywalled content from Peterson’s daughter Mikhaila Peterson, who advocates a certainly unhealthy all-meat diet, and Heather Mac Donald, who has been on a multi-year crusade against diversity and inclusion efforts at universities, in addition to 18 other contributors. One portion of the website sells users e-books, however those books are only readable on the Thinkspot platform. “Books purchased on Thinkspot will only be functional on this site and are non transferable. Limited pages will be available for annotation without purchase,” reads a statement on the e-book retail page.
Peterson’s website, like much of the rest of his career, appears to be little more than smash-and-grab jockeying for his fans’ money. What’s more, the site has some design flaws. Twitter user @skeptical7th noted that Thinkspot’s allegedly “robust” password protection can be undermined by simply resetting one’s password.
Thinkspots FAQ calls their password protection “robust and immune to breaches.” Which is hilarious given that it’s absolutely not. They ask for a password with a capital letter, number & special symbol etc but don’t worry if you later reset the password “password” works fine.
— Seventh (@skeptical7th) November 27, 2019
Thinkspot also bans the use of memes and emojis. “In accordance with Thinkspot’s commitment to quality discourse and long-form discussion, we do not allow users to upload profile pictures and do not allow the use of emojis or memes,” the site’s FAQ states.
As Gizmodo’s McKay wrote:
The internet has no shortage of ill-fated platforms and bizarre grifts, ranging from useless fact-authentication site Verrit to Japanese crane game sites that idiots lose money on. Thinkspot may claim to have bigger ambitions, but it looks a hell of a lot like it’s nothing more than the defunct Jeremy Renner fan app with a thesaurus and a guy who thinks Frozen is sinister feminist propaganda at the helm.