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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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Guns and Crime

Will school shootings be the next step toward a nationalized police force?

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The recent shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston, TX, that resulted in ten dead and thirteen wounded is fueling another round of demands by liberals in Congress to pass more anti-gun laws “to protect our kids” with some blaming the NRA for preventing such laws from being passed.

While conservatives and those who claim to be conservative willingly point fingers at the Democrat side of the aisle, the sad fact is that many Republicans agree with Democrats on the issue of gun control.

For example, after blaming local police for the Parkland, FL. high school shooting in February, Trump held a bipartisan meeting with members of congress where he openly supported the idea of seizing guns from Americans who committed no crime, even if it violated their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.

Weeks later, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos wrote an opinion piece praising Trump for signing the disastrous Omnibus bill because it contained over $700 million to fund the STOP School Violence Act to pay for so-called mental health services designed to prevent school shootings. DeVos’ rhetoric aside, Rep. Thomas Massey (R-KY) stated in an interview with Conservative Review at the time that the STOP SVA essentially nationalized public-school safety.

I think that nationalizing public-school safety is the ultimate goal of big-government progressives. It’s been building for quite some time now, and I think the hype over recent school shootings will be the thing that puts it over the top.

The desire to create a nationalized police force began gaining traction under the Obama administration. Consider the actions of the Congressional Black Caucus following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. In a letter to then-president Obama, the CBC demanded the appointment of a Police Czar to give the feds control over the local police. Not long afterward, Al Sharpton called for a march on Washington to demand the DOJ to take control of the police nationwide.

Though neither of these efforts came to fruition, Obama succeeded in laying the groundwork for a nationalized police force by leveraging a series of tragedies into policies giving the DOJ control over local police forces in several communities across America.

Trump has bought into the idea of federal control of local police since becoming president, threatening to “send in the feds” in January, 2017 to clean up Chicago after a FOX News report about gun violence in the Windy City.

Shortly after the Santa Fe tragedy, Trump demanded action “at every level of government” which is exactly what he said following the FL shooting. This led to the creation of a host of anti-Second Amendment proposals by Republicans and Democrats designed to disarm Americans and place armed security in every public school.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with working to make schools safer, but with Washington working 24/7 to limit our Constitutional rights, should we give the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security that power?

Before you answer, do you remember how George Bush and a fully compliant Congress federalized airport security and created The Transportation Security Administration in the name of “safety” following 9/11? Besides creating tens of thousands of lifetime unionized government jobs, and the likely violation of our Fourth Amendment rights, these “transportation security officers” have been an abysmal failure.

Federal control of school security essentially creates a type of nationalized police force. Doing it “for the children” doesn’t change that.

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

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Opinions

Conservative Picks for the Kentucky Primary

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Kentucky is the state that gave us Rand Paul. He is the biggest highlight, however he is not alone like Ben Sasse in Nebraska. Thomas Massie is also a strong Conservative. This primary has a chance to unseat a major swamp creature. Aside from this one race, there wasn’t much action to be had. Mitch McConnell shows that Kentucky does not have a rich history in holding bad politicians accountable. So if there are any Conservative victories in Kentucky, they should be celebrated vocally.

Best Pick: Geraldo Serrano
Worst Picks: Harold Rogers, Chuck Eddy, Andy Barr
Best Race: District 5
Worst Race: District 6

District 1

James Comer is more fiscally responsible than most RINOs, but he still voted for Omnibus. He is unopposed.

District 2

Bill Gutherie is an unopposed RINO.

District 3

Three Republicans look to win Louisville. The first is Vicky Glisson. She is running a limited issues campaign focused on drugs, healthcare, and a hint of fiscal responsibility. Next is Rhonda Palazzo, the most upfront Conservative in the race. She is a real estate agent and devout Christian. Her stance is overly simplistic, to a fault. Lastly is Mike Craven. His platform is also too simplistic. This race is a three way crapshoot in terms of determining the best candidate.

Conservative Pick: Rhonda Palazzo

District 4

Since 2012, Thomas Massie has been a solid Conservative. He is unopposed.

District 5

Harold Rogers is a decades experienced swamp creature, 33 years in the making. Gerardo Serrano is his challenger. Serrano has Rand Paul potential in both foreign and domestic policy, such as FISA. His website features a unique story of him and a county sheriff, where he held a sheriff accountable when the 2nd amendment was in danger. (The sheriff wasn’t a villain in the story).

I especially like his twitter handle. Geraldo Serrano is a strong candidate, and we desperately as a nation need to unseat swamp monsters such as Harold Rogers.

Conservative Pick: Geraldo Serrano

District 6

Andy Barr is another RINO with a horrendous spending record. He is being challenged by Chuck Eddy. This was a huge disappointment.

I don’t believe he realizes how much a massive walking contradiction he is.

Conservative Pick: None, Barr will undoubtedly win

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Opinions

Conservative Picks for the Georgia Primary

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Georgia is another state in the deep South that does very little to advance Conservatism in the country. Conservative Picks has thus far shown that the South is not as Conservative as stereotyped. Arkansas sends a bunch of RINOs and so too does Georgia. However, what is remarkable about Georgia is that none of the Republicans except for the awful Senator Iksakson are career politicians. He’s the only one exceeding 12 years other than Democrats, of which, he might as well be. Still, that is something to say about Georgia. The state has a lot of newer faces and most are sycophantic to Trump’s reckless spending agenda. Georgia has some strong Conservatives running to unseat incumbents. The Governor’s race was an additional focus of the Georgia addition because of previous coverage of the candidates involved.

Best Picks: Jody Hice, Shane Hazel, Philip Singelton, Hunter Hill
Worst Picks: Drew Ferguson, Rob Woodall, Rick Allen
Best Race: District 10
Worst Race: District 12

Governor

In the past NOQ Report has interviewed Hunter Hill. He is a strong candidate, with a goal to eliminate the income tax of the state, after fixing the budget. While Casey Cagle, the Lt. Governor is a favorite, forcing a runoff election is best for Conservatism in the state.

Conservative Pick: Hunter Hill

District 1

Earl “Buddy” Carter has been in the seat for three years and has proven to be a RINO with a Liberty Score of 48. He is unopposed.

District 2

This is a blue district. Herman West Jr. is unopposed in this primary.

District 3

After one year in office, Drew Ferguson has proven to be sycophantic to Trump’s reckless spending. The incumbent RINO has shown itself. However, he is being challenged by Philip Singleton. Singleton is campaigning on the exact shortcomings of Ferguson previously described. Fiscal responsibility is a pillar of his campaign as is not funding Planned Parenthood, something the incumbent has failed miserably at. The decorated veteran is also strong on immigration and for free trade.

Conservative Pick: Philip Singleton

District 4

This is another blue district and Joe Profit is unopposed.

District 5

There is no GOP contender.

District 6

Karen Handel is cut from the same cloth as Ferguson. She is unopposed.

District 7

Rob Woodall is yet another RINO. Challenging him is Shane HazelNOQ Report has actually been covering this primary for a while now. You can read his interview with editor Benjamin Wilhelm. Hazel is a strong Conservative and picked up a key endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus.

Conservative Pick: Shane Hazel

District 8

Adam Scott is another sycophantic RINO. He is unopposed.

District 9

Doug Collins has been in the game for seven years and is mediocre at best. He’s a spender. He is unopposed.

District 10

Jody Hice is a Freedom Caucus member and has only held the seat since 2014. His Liberty Score of 91 is the highest in Georgia. He has two opponents looking to force him into the runoff election. Bradley Griffin is the first opponent. He has one of the worst websites I’ve seen, functionally speaking. His platform is strong. In fact, it doesn’t seem as though he opposes Hice on any issue. The second opponent is Joe Hunt. The probably RINO warning is sounded at his campaign motto “Traditional Values and Sensible Politics.” It’s far too easy to find a social conservative but a real Conservative is more difficult. All signs point to Hunt running from the left such as his support for Net Neutrality.

Hice and Griffin are strong Conservatives, but Griffin lacks a record of action, of which Jody Hice is exceptionally strong. Because of that, voting for him is too great a risk. It would have been ideal for Griffin to have been in another District.

Conservative Pick: Jody Hice

District 11

Barry Loudermilk is like milk. He will only get worse over time. (This pun was unplanned.) He is unopposed.

District 12

Omnibus was one of a few times where Rick Allen remained fiscally Conservative. Eugene Yu looks to unseat him for the third time. Unsurprisingly, as a legal immigrant, his stance is strong. He also running as a fiscal hawk. We’ve seen this plenty of times before, but he doesn’t have any contradicting campaign talk on these matters. Rick Allen may have voted against Omnibus, but his record isn’t strong enough.

Conservative Pick: Eugene Yu

District 13

There is a race to turn the district red between Femi Akinkugbe and David Callahan. This was relatively easy to decide. Akinkugbe is for raising gun rights from 18 to 21. Callahan is a much stronger pick, having been involved with CPAC and a stronger stance on other issues. Interestingly enough, neither voted for Trump in the primaries. Akinkugbe voted for Rubio and Callahan for Fiorina. Either way, Akinkugbe isn’t a Conservative.

 Conservative Pick: David Callahan

District 14

Tom Graves is an incumbent RINO. He is unopposed.

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