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Why the media just can’t handle Jordan Peterson

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Why the media just cant handle Jordan Peterson

Watching the mainstream press try to interview University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson, one thing becomes exceedingly clear: they literally can’t even.

While the above expression makes my inner grammar Nazi cry, it is possibly the best description of the predictable sequence of befuddled expressions, desperate strawmen, and whiffed shots fired at Peterson from a growing list of increasingly cautious media personalities.

Cathy Newman’s interrogation of the professor has garnered over five million views, and if one were to judge its contents solely on the consequent collection of memes, pundit reactions, and response/splice videos, one would conclude that Dr. Peterson spent 30 minutes deriding and verbally dominating his interviewer, banging his fists on the table and shouting like right-wing cherry bomb Alex Jones – but that’s not Dr. Peterson’s style.

Instead, the quiet Canadian spent a half-hour discussing free speech, the gender pay gap, and Pepe the frog in such a calm and reasonable manner that even his use of the occasional swear word sounded as though someone swapped “golly gee” out of his script at the last moment.

The interview became a sort of fulcrum for the broader media narrative surrounding Peterson: articles before the interview tried to cast him as a nerdier Milo Yiannopoulos; those since have been notably cautious about casting him as anything.

People familiar with the New Testament might recall a passage from the book of Matthew that details a series of exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees that concludes with this memorable phrase: “And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”

Peterson, fond of incorporating biblical themes into his teaching, has almost backed the media into such a corner. In fact, the most recent interviews and articles regard him with a strange blend of cautious hostility and grudging respect.

Their retreat from Peterson stands in stark contrast to their continued onslaught against President Donald Trump, whose inflammatory, braggadocious style has also befuddled – and enraged – the media ranks.

Of course, there’s no love lost between the media and the political right. A brutal Republican primary process established the popular tradition of attacking the media rather than the issue, which would have been difficult enough had the debates not featured Trump and fellow GOP finalist, college debate champ Ted Cruz.

But if mainstream journalists are confounded by Trump’s ability to sidestep policy questions and respond with memeworthy insults, Peterson offers them exactly the opposite problem: he doesn’t present a target at all, but a mirror.

There are several important – and characteristically understated – ways he accomplishes this, and in a nation where fisticuffs and tear gas set the tone of the last year, the political world would do well to learn from his example.

1. He’s intelligent AND humble.

Interviewers are used to handling intelligent people, which is why they go to great lengths to develop “gotcha” questions that force a great mind to remember – and defend – obscure details about things that happened a long time ago. In a more recent interview with CBC’s Wendy Mesley, Dr. Peterson was asked to explain a photo taken of him with a couple students behind a flag of alt-right icon Pepe the frog. The clear intent was to throw Peterson off his game and make him prove that he wasn’t a racist – currently the trendiest version of “do you still beat your wife?”

A quick review of American politics 2015-present will show that many prominent right-leaning voices have stumbled at such an accusation.  The urge to dissociate, obfuscate, and otherwise deflect is so strong that few can even bear the suggestion of the r-word without embarking on a tail-chasing episode of denials.

Peterson’s response showcased a mature brand of humility that’s almost impossible to attack.  He laughed it off in a way that made the audience uncomfortably aware of just how ridiculously serious the interviewer was taking the whole thing. He explained that the picture was one of thousands with students, many of whom brought props, and the whole thing took only seconds.

More profoundly gripping, though, was his later return to the issue when discussing his own future. Asked why he was afraid that things would go terribly wrong with his newfound activism and iconic stature, he responded that he was afraid of saying something inappropriate.  “Why would you say something inappropriate?” Wendy queried.

“Because people make mistakes.”

That simple phrase, and the discussion that followed, not only insulated Peterson against the attacks thrown his way but tapped into the natural empathy of his audience.  Everyone makes mistakes.  We know this.  But somehow our culture has embraced the idea that people on camera should never screw up.

Politicians, journalists, expert consultants, and issue advocates must never say something embarrassing, offensive, or factually incorrect, lest they be shamed forever.  But as Peterson pointed out, when one’s professional life consists of lectures, interviews, vlogging, and Twitter, it’s impossible not to make a mistake, and he knows that time is coming for him too, if it hasn’t already happened.

After all, the wisest man ever to live penned the verse In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.”

Too many smart people on the right choose to craft immaculate images of themselves, continually raising expectations until the inevitable slip, from which they often don’t recover. Peterson presents an alternative: acknowledge – no, embrace – your humanity, and don’t build that glass house to start with.

 2. He asks them questions – and not just rhetorical ones.

In the above referenced battle between Jesus and the Pharisees, the eventual shutout came when Jesus turned the tables (pun intended) on his interrogators and threw a question they were unprepared for.  This, of course, was the tactic Peterson brought to bear on Newman during the now-famous “gotcha” exchange.

Interviewers are used to being in a position of power over the guest.  They spend hours preparing questions, looking for chinks in the armor that can be exploited for exclusive web hits.  I don’t mean to imply malicious intent – it’s just that media types know what sells, and that’s what they’re digging for.  There’s precious little market for two people having a nice cup of tea and waiting for all of this to blow over.

Interviewers become engaged, even invested, in analyzing the answers as they’re coming in, looking for inconsistencies or problematic wording – and this is why they’re so often unprepared for a question in response.  As it turns out, many of the people interviewing Dr. Peterson aren’t listening to what he’s actually saying, and as a result are totally unprepared to defend their own suppositions when the spotlight is shifted.  And since it alerts the interviewer to the fact that it’s a discussion and not an interrogation, it presents them with a wonderful opportunity to shift gears and join the guest in actually fleshing out the issue at hand.

Every interview has two sides, and if we want to move away from outrage culture and back to reasoned dialogue, then we need to get past the soundbytes and start asking questions to prompt dialogue again, both on and off stage.

3. He ties both the outrageous and the mundane to the eternal.

The “archetypal stories” to which Peterson attributes his popularity capture the imagination of a world bored with the controversy of the current, and provide a connection between our drifting generation and the whole of history.

Think I’m overstating?  Take a stroll down the average Peterson playlist on YouTube. He’s the kind of guy who can weave the story of Hector and Achilles into a discussion about the ethics of online dating without anyone batting an eye.

This ability is, of course, the trademark of a cohesive worldview, something postmodern westerners – and especially millennials – generally lack.

His big-picture application tends to stump people used to debating minutia, and that includes most in the media.  If you ask him whether the gender pay gap is fair, you’re likely to get a response about whether or not it’s good – and he’ll carefully and patiently explain the difference to you.

It’s the type of response that can perpetually frustrate a hostile media, because in raising the bigger questions, Peterson often exposes the shallow nature of such discussions, and the petty, often insincere nature of the questions being flung at him.

Elevating the conversation reminds the audience of something we often forget – that behind the newsfeed trifles that occupy our fancy lie really big, really important questions about meaning, truth, good, evil, wisdom, honor, and faith.  And so doing, it establishes a deeper connection with the audience than the interviewer is capable of duplicating.

In short, no matter what question Peterson is asked, he chooses to talk about things that matter.

Yet if his popularity is a rebuke to the mainstream media, it’s no less a challenge to conservative media to up its game.

While there remains a sizeable niche of people who prefer to watch the Tomi Lahrens of the world point at the camera and make angry faces, there’s a large – and growing – subset of intellectually-hungry millennials looking for something more substantial.

This explains not only the rise of Peterson, but also of thoughtful conservative stars like Ben Shapiro, Steve Deace, and Dinesh D’Souza.  These folks show that moderation does not equal centrism, and that thoughtful answers can disarm liberal rhetoric more effectively than MAGA chants.

And that’s something the media – and the rest of the American Left – just can’t handle.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Why the media just can't handle Jordan Peterson | The Liberty Conservative

  2. Kyle Schutter

    February 10, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Quite a good article actually. Much more than just sucking up or trying to refute JBP, Joel managed to unearth new information…turn the question back on the interviewer or answer a bigger, more important question.

  3. Ramon Leon

    February 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Great article until the end; Peterson has as many fans on the left as he does on the right, your final sentence is just absurd. The left loves Peterson as much as the right does, they can handle him just fine. You’re conflating journalists with the left, that’s simply wrong, breathtakingly wrong.

    • Bonnie O'Connor

      February 10, 2018 at 11:39 pm

      Here here!
      Agreed!

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Opinions

Trump, GOP will work with Dems to add global warming legislation to infrastructure spending

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Trump GOP will work with Dems to add global warming legislation to infrastructure spending

As 2018 winds to a close and the failed two-year experiment giving Trump, McConnell, and Ryan complete control of Washington breathes its last, Democrats have been busy charting a course correction after having their agenda temporarily knocked off course in 2016.

I wrote last week about how Democrats would be placing a new focus on their Democratic Socialist-inspired agenda in a host of areas from gun control to global warming. In that piece, I introduced you to the Green New Deal, a plan being promoted by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist from New York.

The goal of the Green New Deal is to pass laws in Washington forcing the United States to become 100 percent dependent on so-called green energy. And while it’s tempting to write-off Ocasio-Cortez’s plan to create an environmental Xanadu as nothing more than the naïve rantings of a textbook left-wing loon — which she is, by the way — the reality is that Al Gore’s Church of Global Warming is about to experience a revival.

Since the Democrats will control the House, it’s a given that the global warming agenda will be advanced under Nancy Pelosi’s “leadership.” But what about the Senate?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in an open letter to Donald Trump on Friday that the United States’ transition to renewable energy “must” be included in the infrastructure spending debate expected to take place in 2019.

“It is crucial that we immediately enact legislation to combat climate change and create millions of jobs. Therefore, any clean infrastructure package considered in 2019 must include policies and funding to transition to a clean energy economy and mitigate risks that the United States is already facing due to climate change.”

So, who cares? Right? After all, the Senate is still under GOP control and Trump could always veto the bill even if it makes it through the Senate.

Well, besides the fact that Trump has NEVER used his veto pen — probably because he’s been busy using his executive order pen to destroy the Second Amendment — he and the GOP love big-government spending as much as the Democrats.

You may recall that Trump announced in his first State of the Union address — and repeated in his second — plans to spend $1 trillion or more on infrastructure. On top of that, Republicans in the House released an infrastructure-spending plan back in July when they were busy trying to buy votes in the hope that it would save their majority.

By the way, the GOP would pay for their Obama-esque infrastructure plan by raising gasoline taxes by 15-cents-a-gallon and diesel taxes by 20-cents-a-gallon. It would also raise taxes on a host of “green transportation” alternatives, such as: bikes, bicycle tires, and car batteries. All of these tax increases are supported by Trump.

I can hear the cult now; “Trump said last week that he doesn’t believe in global warming, and he called on the world to end the ‘ridiculous‘ Paris climate agreement that he withdrew the U.S. from last summer.”

As is usually the case when it comes to Donald Trump, nothing he says can be counted on.

First, Trump has pretty much made Ivanka his climate czar and she’s a devotee to Al Gore’s global warming religion. Second, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement was in-name-only. In the same speech where he announced the withdrawal, Trump made a commitment to negotiate a way to get back in it. Third, to borrow a phrase from Al Gore, we have the “inconvenient truth” that only days after his 2016 victory, Trump said in an interview that he believes there is “some connectivity” between humans and climate change.

The Democrats will control the agenda in 2019. And when you add Trump’s lack of any firm convictions, his past commitment to work with “Chuck and Nancy,” his 2020 aspirations, and his love of big government, then a budget-busting infrastructure bill that includes some or all of the Green New Deal is pretty much a done deal.

Originally posted on StridentConservative.com.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and Facebook.

Subscribe to receive podcasts of radio commentaries: iTunes | Stitcher | Tune In | RSS

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Entertainment and Sports

Binge-worthy show: The Night Manager shows why Tom Hiddleston should be the next James Bond

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Binge-worthy show The Night Manager shows why Tom Hiddleston should be the next James Bond

He’s too posh. He’s too pretty. He isn’t intimidating. He’s too big as a Marvel character. There are many reasons people have dismissed the notion of Tom Hiddleston playing the role of James Bond in the famed series. All of these reasons can be dismissed by watching The Night Manager.

Available on Amazon, the AMC-BBC collaboration is six episodes long. There are reports that it could be brought back for another series, but if it never comes back, rest assured the single series is still worth a watch. The funny part is that Hiddleston might be the main draw, but he’s not even the best overall performance. That honor goes to Hugh Laurie, the well-mannered villain of the show.

As usual, no spoilers.

Much effort is put into making the beautiful people look as beautiful as possible in lovely settings even when things get crazy. It opens with Hiddleston cutting through a crowd of protesters just prior to the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He’s on his way to work to engage in his craft as a manager at a high-end hotel in Cairo. Even through the chaos, Hiddleston holds an air of separation from both the protesters and the military holding them back. And he does all this while wearing cargo pants and an untucked linen dress shirt.

This is where the presence of Hiddleston comes into play and demonstrates why he would be able to play James Bond. His sharp eyes announce he’s not to be reckoned with while simultaneously charming the observer. As one character later notes, “Everybody is attracted to you.”

The men want to be on his side and the women (and one man) want him to be by their side.

His impish grin may have been perfect for playing Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it takes a more menacing turn in The Night Manager. We realize there’s grit behind his boyish looks that betrays two tours in Iraq and a personal grudge he’s held with him for years. If Daniel Craig brought emotionless chills to the Bond character, Hiddleston would bring an emotional fortitude. He’s only truly happy when he’s doing the right thing, which may go against the stereotypes associated with a world-class assassin, but luckily we’re in a world where stereotypes are being broken.

There’s another reason Hiddleston would be the right person for the role. Unfortunately, it’s a political one. Some are pushing for a minority or a woman to take the role to the next level. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it’s done with the most qualified person in mind and not just to make a political statement about inclusion. With Hiddleston, it’s an opportunity to use the same formula while mitigating the damage that is sure to come if they don’t select a minority or a woman. Everyone likes Hiddleston. He’ll make the passing on a controversial choice easier to swallow.

There’s even a scene when he orders a vodka martini at a bar in Cairo. It was the most obvious nod to the Bond franchise they could have made without asking for the drink to be shaken.

If you only watch The Night Manager to verify my Bond assertions, so be it. If you watch it for its great acting, engaging espionage, and brilliant storyline, well that’s even better. Either way, get your six-hour binging snacks ready.

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Quotes

Jonah Goldberg throws water on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Green New Deal

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Jonah Goldberg throws water on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Green New Deal

In a thought-provoking piece on National Review, senior editor Jonah Goldberg took a sober look at the ever-growing fire that drives the climate change debate. In the process, he threw water on their fire, particular the one being fanned right now but incoming-Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Green New Deal.

While acknowledging the science seems to support substance to the climate change debate, Goldberg points out the overstated ways in which the debate is being framed. People like Ocasio-Cortez tend to blow the alarms harder and louder than necessary and the policies that arise from their klaxon calls are usually overkill.

Climate Change Frenzy Clouds Our Judgment

https://www.nationalreview.com/g-file/climate-change-frenzy-clouds-our-judgment/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing a “Green New Deal.” As I’ve written 7 trillion times (give or take), progressives have wanted a “new New Deal” even before the first New Deal was over. Painting an age-old progressive idol green has nothing to do with science and everything to do with marketing.

As I suggested in the bit about the science-fiction story, I don’t think there is very much to do right now. Oh, I am very much in favor of R&D for all sorts of things. Cold fusion would be the equivalent of discovering faster-than-light travel. Personally, I am very interested in geoengineering — the science of actually fixing the problem. I am convinced the world has a low-grade fever that could get dangerously high in the future. That fever isn’t all bad by the way: E.g., it extends growing seasons and accelerates tree growth.

Whether climate change skeptics are right or not, there’s definitely reason to question the ways in which environmentalists are pushing their agenda. There’s a difference between having the debate and trying to quash it before it starts.

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