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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.

Joel Kurtinitis is co-founder of the US Federalist Party and a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Joel was a Regional Director for Ron Paul 2012 and served on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa. He co-founded Liberty Iowa in the wake of the Paul campaign, and organized the Free DC Project during the government shutdown of 2013. When not busy setting the virtual world aflame with controversy, Joel is actually an okay guy who enjoys reading, cooking, chess, bluegrass music, and an occasional foray into fiction writing. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, IA.

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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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Politics

Even though GOP held Arizona House seat, they still lost

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Ever since the November 2016 election, we have witnessed several special elections across America to fill vacancies—planned and unplanned—at the state and federal levels of government.

Beginning with the special election in Kansas early last year to fill the House seat vacated when Mike Pompeo went to work for Donald Trump—and continuing through a number of special and regular elections—the signs have been everywhere that Republicrats and Trumplicans are facing extinction in November as Washington is engulfed by a Blue Tsunami.

While there have been both victories and defeats for the GOP at the federal level, Ben Shapiro pointed out in March after the PA election where Dem. Connor Lamb beat Rep. Rick Siccone how the electorate is clearly moving in a Democrat direction and how it is most likely tied to Trump’s unpopularity.

Tuesday’s special election in AZ proved once again how the Democrats could be in control of the House and possibly the Senate in November. Though the GOP managed to keep the seat representing AZ’s 8th District, it was only by a 5-point margin in a district Trump won by 21 points in 2016—a district so “red” the Democrats didn’t bother to field a candidate in 2016.

In defense of the narrow victory by Republican Debbie Lesko, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters that the reason it was so close is because Lesko isn’t as great as Donald Trump, saying, “No offense to this candidate, (but) she’s no Donald Trump.” An ironic statement when you consider that Lesko got more votes than her opponent, unlike Trump against Hillary.

On the state level, Democrats managed to flip a seat on Tuesday in the NY Assembly when Democrat Steve Stern beat Republican Janet Smitelli in a district that had been held by Republicans since 1978.

This continues a very troubling trend where Democrats are dominating state races since Trump became president. This newfound power at the state level could pave the way for unbeatable Democrat majorities when redistricting takes place following the 2020 census.

According to Dave Wasserman, a House elections analyst for Cook Political Report, there are 147 GOP-held House seats in districts that are less Republican than AZ’s 8th District.

With Democrats only needing to over-perform by an average of 4 percent in November to retake the House, it could be that GOP concerns over who will replace Paul Ryan as Speaker becomes the ultimate exercise in futility.

If Republicans aren’t the majority, a Republican will not be the next Speaker of the House.


Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 

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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Democrats

Forget lowering unemployment, Bernie Sanders will eliminate it!

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During his 2016 Democrat primary campaign, Bernie Sanders was “absolutely sympathetic” to the idea of a universal basic income; however, he felt that his plans for a $15/hr. minimum wage, expanding Social Security to pay for guaranteed healthcare, and providing free college would do more than creating just another government handout.

But now Bernie has apparently found a way to accomplish his goals as well as the goals of the universal basic income crowd.
Yesterday, we learned that the self-proclaimed Democratic-Socialist is ready to announce a plan that will guarantee every American “who wants or needs one” a lifetime government job paying at least $15/hr. and proving paid family and medical leave plus retirement, health, and vacation benefits.

While the details are still being worked on, Bernie has admitted that he currently has no idea exactly how much his plan will cost or where the money to pay for it will come from. However, if his 2016 campaign is any indication, the cost will be irrelevant, and the money to pay for it will come from “the billionaires and oligarchs” he refers to as the “top one percent of income earners.”

While it would be tempting to shrug off Bernie’s plan as the rantings of a socialist loon living to the left of the left-wing, we should remember how his Marxist beliefs concerning income inequality caught fire with a generation of Constitutionally ignorant voters raised on the socialist ideology taught in today’s public schools indoctrination centers.

And a poll conducted during the 2016 primary season showed that a majority of millennials rejected capitalism.

Democrats would see a huge voter advantage by creating a new state-run workforce dependent upon them for their jobs. And politicians from both parties would have a new voter-bloc to advance their ideological and political agendas.

Bernie’s plan is being called a guaranteed-jobs program, but the only guarantee it gives us is the destruction of capitalism and Constitutional America.


Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 

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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Culture and Religion

In UK, Ancient Heathenism Reigns Supreme

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Several minutes had passed since the medical examination of the newborn had begun. They stood inspective over the infant, occasionally murmuring to one another in a hushed tone.  The babe’s father stood nearby, pacing: his eyes intractably fixed on the small group of elders in a desperate attempt to interpret each subtle lift of an eyebrow or pinch of the lips.

Then came that dreaded nod…

The tormented father wept as the judge read the decision aloud: “as thinking it neither good for the child itself…” the child must die.

The above description is not a reference to the United Kingdom’s government-ordered killing of little Alfie Evans, nor the United Kingdom’s government-ordered killing of little Charlie Gard.

The infant’s death-order, described above, was merely the price of societal perfection for his father, living in the Statist abyss of Ancient Sparta.

In Lives: Lycurgus 16, Greek historian Plutarch (48-122 A.D.) wrote of the medical inspections of infants by “elders,” and of the state-ordered murder of infants in Ancient Sparta under the rule Lycurgus, a tyrannical central-planner:

“Nor was it in the power of the father to dispose of the child as he saw fit (as was his right in most heathen societies). He was obliged to carry (the newborn) child before certain men at a place called Lesche; these men were some of the elders of the tribe to which the child belonged; their business was to carefully view the infant, and, if they found it stout and well made, they gave order for its rearing and allotted to it one of the nine thousand shares of land above mentioned for its maintenance, but, if they found it puny and ill-shaped, ordered it to be taken to what was called the Apothetae (“depository”), a (large cave) under Mt. Taygetus (in the Peloponnese); as thinking it neither for the good of the child itself, nor for the public interest, that it should be brought up, if it did not, from the very outset, appear to be healthy and vigorous.” (emphasis mine)

Undesirable Infants – those either deemed unfit in some way, were conceived through rape, were unwanted, or were female – were often exposed, meaning that these infants were tossed into pits or over cliffs, or were abandoned in the wilderness and then left to starve or to be eaten by wild animals.

Such was life in the pagan purgatories of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

Such has life begun to be again, today, in the United Kingdom.

As I type, a toddler lies in the hospital, a prisoner, detained by the pagan pride of evil monsters, by his own Statist government.

The “elders” in the UK have sentenced little Alfie Evans to die, “as thinking it neither for the good of the child itself. Alfie may not be alone in the wilderness, but he is being exposed by the sword of starvation.

Right now, a tormented father weeps for his child.

The cruel winds of an evil-ridden history are circling ’round again.

 

Once Christianity came upon the scene, Christians began to regularly rescue exposed infants.

As Tertullian stated, “Christians sought out the tiny bodies of newborn babies from the refuse and dung heaps and raised them as their own or tended to them before they died or gave them a decent burial” (Early Church History).

“The Christian idea that each individual person has worth because they were created by God was foreign to the lies of pagan society where the State, the tribe, the collective was the only value they knew” (Early Church History).

One can even visit these once abandoned babes at the Catacomb of Praetextatus. “The catacombs are filled with very tiny graves with the epitaph ‘adopted daughter of…’ or ‘adopted son of…’ inscribed on them. These inscriptions refer to the many babies and young children Christians rescued from the trash over the centuries” (Early Church History).

Unlike during the times of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, however, today’s United Kingdom prevents Christians from aiding Britain’s exposed children.

Christians from across the globe have offered aid and open arms to little Alfie Evans. Pope Francis has faithfully attempted to save the ailing child, arranging medical transportation for Alfie so that he might fly via air ambulance to the Vatican’s hospital.

Still, the prideful “elders” cling mercilessly to their pagan heathenism, determined to deny any and all Christian charity for little Alfie.

 

Alas! One thing is now crystal clear: in the United Kingdom, ancient heathenism reigns supreme.

For a glimpse of the future, listen to these famous voices from the past:

In On the Laws 3.8, Cicero (106-43 BC) states:

“Deformed infants shall be killed.”

Posidippus, a Greek poet, wrote:

“Everybody raises a son even if he is poor, but exposes a daughter even if he is rich.”

In On Anger 1.15, Seneca (4 BC-65 AD) wrote:

“…mad dogs we knock on the head…unnatural progeny we destroy; we drown even children at birth who are weakly and abnormal.”

In Politics 7.1335b, Aristotle (364 BC-322 BC) wrote:

“As to exposing or rearing the children born, let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared;  but on the ground of number of children, if the regular customs hinder any of those born being exposed, there must be a limit fixed to the procreation of offspring, and if any people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention of these regulations, abortion must be practiced on it (the child).”

In Theaetetus, the Greek philosopher Plato (quoting Socrates) wrote of the important societal task of killing infirm infants:

“For we must take care that we don’t overlook some defect in this thing that is entering into life; it may be something not worth bringing up, a wind-egg, a falsehood. What do you say? Is it your opinion that your child ought in any case to be brought up and not exposed to die? Can you bear to see it found fault with and not get into a rage if your first-born is stolen away from you?”

In Ad Nationes, Tertullian (155-220 A.D.) recorded the frequency of pagan infanticide in the Roman Empire during the late 100’s and early 200’s A.D.:

“…because, although you are forbidden by the laws to slay new-born infants, it so happens that no laws are evaded with more impunity or greater safety, with the deliberate knowledge of the public, and the suffrages of this entire age…But then you make away with them in a more cruel manner, because you expose them to the cold and hunger, and to wild beasts, or else you get rid of them by the slower death of drowning.”

In Book 3 of Instructor, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.) wrote of Roman women caring more for animals than for children:

“And though maintaining parrots and curlews, they do not receive the orphan child; but they expose children that are born at home, and take up the young of birds, and prefer irrational to rational creatures.”

 

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