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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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Immigration

As predicted, Trump offers DACA amnesty in exchange for border wall

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As predicted Trump offers DACA amnesty in exchange for border wall

Throughout Trump’s first two years in office, I’ve been one of only a handful of conservative voices shouting from the rooftops that the New York liberal’s promise to fix America’s out-of-control illegal immigration problem was nothing but a lie.

As a candidate, Trump promised to build a “big beautiful powerful wall” on our southern border at Mexico’s expense, and he promised to overturn Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order that allowed illegals to stay in America indefinitely. Unfortunately, the “wall” has become an “artistically designed” barrier of some sort funded by the U.S. taxpayer, and DACA is not only still in effect, it’s on its way to becoming permanent.

While the reality of Trump’s broken promises dealing with illegal immigration have been crystal clear to those not drinking the orange Kool-Aid, his inevitable betrayal on the issue has been brought sharply into focus since last summer.

In May 2018, as Trump and the GOP were looking for ways to save their jobs ahead of the midterms, the House Freedom Caucus joined hands with Democrats to push for a “fix” to DACA.

In June 2018, Paul Ryan proposed a plan that would allow DREAMers to legally stay in the country and be put on the pathway to citizenship in exchange for $23 billion for building a border wall.

Following their September 2018 budget betraying funding everything from Planned Parenthood to DACA and sanctuary cities, rumors began spreading around Washington that Trump was ready to cut an immigration deal with Democrats in light of the reality that the Democrats were about to retake the House in the midterms.

The Democrats did retake the House, and in the days since their victory, Trump and the GOP have been laying the foundation for their inevitable immigration betrayal. With the help of Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, trading DACA amnesty for a border wall is now the official position of the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Senate.

So, it came as no surprise when Trump proposed a deal over the weekend to end to his manufactured government shutdown by offering Democrats a three-year extension of DACA in exchange for $5 billion for border security funding — an idea originally conceived by Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Three years? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but that’s just enough time to kick the can down the road until after his 2020 election … assuming there is one. And just in case there are any doubts about the motivation behind this three-year timeframe, consider this: Mitch McConnell, who has refused to let the Senate vote on the shutdown, has endorsed Trump’s offer and will hold vote on it this week.

Mickey is also up for re-election in 2020.

For now, Democrats are rejecting Trump’s offer, but it’s only a matter of time before they get what they want. After all, Trump and the GOP want the same thing.

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.

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Foreign Affairs

Is Israel on the brink of war?

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Is Israel on the brink of war

Israel and Iran continue to trade threats and missile attacks over Syria as the latest round targeted Iranian Quds forces near Damascus. The IDF, which has confirmed attacks recently, went so far as to announce the attacks on Twitter.

This attack was in response to a missile launched from Syria by Iranian Quds Forces into the Golan Heights. The missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome, which was captured on camera by skiers on Mt. Hermon.

The overnight attacks on Syria resulted in many missiles and guided bombs being shot down, but enough made it through to damage Quds training grounds, weapons depots, and kill at least 11 people. There are no reports of how many of Iran’s elite forces were killed, though British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said only two of the dead were Syrians.

Israel, in rare move, announces attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, delivers warning

https://www.foxnews.com/world/israel-attacks-iran-forces-in-syria-military-confirmsIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently confirmed that Israel had struck hundreds of targets in Syria linked to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, including a weapons facility two weeks ago.

Iran and Hezbollah are allied with the Syrian government in the civil war.

Iran has begun its loudest saber-rattling in some time as they send clear threats of war and the destruction of Israel through state television.

“The young people in the air force are fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth,” IRIAF Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh said following the strike.

Iran says ready for war with Israel that will ‘lead to its destruction’

https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Iran-We-are-ready-for-a-war-that-will-lead-to-the-destruction-of-Israel-578108The commander of the Iranian Air Force warned on Monday that Iran was prepared for a decisive war with Israel, “which will bring an end to the IDF’s attacks on Syria.” “Our armed forces are prepared for a war that will bring the crushing destruction of Israel,” he said, according to media reports.

“We are ready for the day when we will see the end of Israel.”

My Take

Americans are often unaware of the importance of Syria to Iran. For years, it’s been assumed the only reason Iran hasn’t attacked Israel, especially when they were at the height of their power during the latter years of President Obama’s administration, is they have no clear path to reach Israel. Iraq, Syria, and Jordan are between Iran and the tiny Jewish state, making it nearly impossible for them to have any real reach into the heart of Israel.

This is why they are so intent on having an embedded military presence in Syria. It’s why Israel is doing everything in its power to prevent them from getting a serious foothold there.

Iran’s military is strong and somewhat sophisticated, but it’s still no match for Israel. However, Iran could take advantage of Israel’s small size if they can get enough missiles and launchers into Syria. Doing so would allow them to use Syrians as cover, a strategy currently in use by anti-Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

As long as Iran continues to pursue entrenchment in Syria, war is on the near horizon. Israeli strikes may be a catalyst for war, but they’re necessary if they have any hopes of preventing Iran from taking over their Syrian neighbors wholesale.


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Entertainment and Sports

What really separates Tom Brady from every other player on the field

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What really separates Tom Brady from every other player on the field

Every season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gains more people who believe he’s the greatest of all time. It has been a long road for him because he didn’t have the pedigree that other potential GOATs had. He wasn’t the #1 pick in the NFL draft like John Elway or Terry Bradshaw. He was drafted in the 6th round. He didn’t come in with lots of fanfare. His first starting job came as a result of Drew Bledsoe’s injury. He doesn’t have a flashy style like Brett Favre, a complex system like Peyton Manning, or a cannon for an arm like Aaron Rodgers.

He just wins.

The key to his winning ways may have nothing to do with his strong skills, good supporting cast, or excellent game plans. It may just come down to hard work and good ol’ fashioned competitiveness. His mental toughness has been likened to Larry Bird’s or Evander Holyfield’s, two greats in their sports who made up for physical deficiencies by constantly improving mentally even when they weren’t at the top physically.

“Every quarterback can throw a ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but that mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness.”

Football is more than just a physical sport. As Tom Brady has demonstrated, mental toughness may be even more important than 40-yard-dash times or arm strength.


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