EVEN free speech comes with a price and it’s somewhere between £41.65 and £70.15. That’s how much it will cost people to see the Canadian academic and writer Dr Jordan Peterson when he comes to the King’s Theatre in Glasgow later this year. On top of that, the audience will almost certainly have to face the wrath of demonstrators who object to Dr Peterson’s right to speak, and our right to hear him. The protesters’ war cry will be: this man’s views are hurtful and harmful so he must not be allowed to express them. In other words, we do not want your kind of free speech here.

Will Dr Peterson mind? Probably not. The professor of psychology at Toronto University is a massively influential and increasingly powerful man with a global platform for his views – mostly through his book 12 Rules for Life, but also through his online videos, and his many interviews with the media. It means he has the kind of opportunity to express his views that his detractors do not. They probably think that’s because Dr Peterson is a rich white man; his supporters will say it’s because he’s expressing original and controversial views in an engaging and intelligent way. Whatever the reason, we are where we are: Jordan Peterson is now one of the most influential academics in the world.

However – influential as he is – the reaction to Dr Peterson wherever he goes has been worrying. In the past, his voice has been drowned out by a white noise machine or shouting; an invitation to speak is also usually followed by a petition calling for him to be un-invited. Most of this is based on what some see as transphobic and misogynistic views – he believes, for instance, that some of the differences between men and women are unavoidable and that some of those differences explain the gender pay gap. He also asserts that inequality is built into the structure of existence and is dubious about our changing views on gender – he believes for example, that a transgender person saying she is a woman does not make her a woman.

We know that these views go down particularly badly in the arena Dr Peterson calls home – the university campus – but in the spirit of his 12 Rules for Life, I’d like to suggest four rules for those who seek to silence him. This isn’t an attempt to justify all of what he says (although most of it is nowhere near as controversial as you might think) it’s just an attempt to argue that his ability to say it is good for all of us.

Rule 1: Don’t try to suppress hateful opinions because you’ll never win. This is pretty simple when you think about it: horrible, hateful, socially unacceptable views are ubiquitous and possibly instinctual and they will never go away. Twitter proves it. As does Facebook. As does the fact that, in private, many nice middle class people are willing to express views they would never utter in public. This is not a right-wing or left-wing thing – in his book Ethics in the Real World, the Marxist philosopher Peter Singer says freedom of speech must include the right to say what everyone else believes to be false. But Jordan Peterson himself put it perfectly: “We are all monsters and if you don’t know that, then you are in danger of becoming the very monster that you deny.”

Rule 2: Suppressing an opinion will only make it more attractive. This is part of the explanation for Jordan Peterson’s popularity; it also helps explain why the Leave campaign won the EU referendum. The stronger a consensus seems – particularly a left-wing, liberal consensus – the more the instinct to rebel against it will grow. That notorious Channel 4 interview in which Cathy Newman attempted, clumsily and ineffectively, to attack Jordan Peterson with the liberal consensus on gender and equality will undoubtedly have recruited many more people to the professor’s views.

Rule 3: Remember that trying to limit free speech takes you to a ludicrous and dangerous place. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of state censorship of the theatre and absolutely no one would suggest ever going back. Before the change in the law, anything that was considered shocking could be struck from a play, whereas the reforms led to the freedom of expression in the theatre that we now take for granted.

Yes, the desire for censorship and control of the theatre may have come from conservative forces in society at the time, such as Mary Whitehouse, but it is exactly the same instinct that drives the left-wing forces fulminating against Jordan Peterson today. Both say: we are shocked by something , therefore that thing must be suppressed.

Rule 4: Accept the fact that life is sometimes uncomfortable. One of the most disturbing aspects of the furore surrounding Jordan Peterson is the idea that he should be censored or controlled or silenced on the basis that his views make other people uncomfortable. Toronto University, for example, has received complaints from students that his views are emotionally disturbing and painful and that he should therefore stop repeating them. Our reaction to that should be: too bad.

Undoubtedly, some of Dr Peterson’s views make me uncomfortable – particularly his dismissal of a person’s right to assert their gender – but the fact that I, or anyone else, is uncomfortable is irrelevant. Gender is a rapidly developing and controversial subject and in order to be able to think about it deeply, we have to run the risk of being offensive.

You will notice that none of these four rules really deals with the content of what Jordan Peterson says mainly because it doesn’t matter. Some of what he says is deeply reasonable, such as this: “men and women aren’t the same and they won’t be the same but that doesn’t mean they can’t be treated fairly”. Some of the other stuff he says is less reasonable, such as the idea that women’s studies courses could lead to the fall of western civilisation.

But we need to ask what the real threat to democracy is here. Is it Jordan Peterson and his controversial views, or is it the attempt to suppress them?