How exciting! I am delighted to have been invited to be the MC for Jordan Peterson’s talk in Melbourne in March. That’s a real thrill for me because I have been following his work for a long time.
If you don’t know anything about him, a good place to start is to look at a recent interview he did with British television journalist Cathy Newman which is making a mighty splash and has been viewed by over 5 million people. Here’s what I wrote for The Spectator Australia soon after it happened:
British journalist Douglas Murray said he’d never seen a television interview more catastrophic for the interviewer. Others are naming TV journalist Cathy Newman’s grilling of Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson as a pivotal moment exposing modern feminism’s clay feet. Within three days of the 30 minute Channel 4 interview being posted on YouTube it had attracted over 2 million viewers and Newman’s performance was greeted by widespread hilarity on the twittersphere.
Channel 4 now seems to have woke up to the self-inflicted damage the interview is doing to one of the station’s stars and is in damage control with Newman playing the victim role claiming she’s receiving “vicious misogynistic abuse.” Station management is employing extra security to deal with what they claim are threats to Newman’s safety. Whilst there is no evidence the flood of online criticism of Newman constitutes any threat, Peterson has responded by telling his supporters to constrain their comments.
Ironically the major gotcha moment in the interview was all about freedom of speech. Newman decided to grill Peterson about the reason the Canadian psychology professor had first attracted international attention – namely his refusal to use manufactured gender pronouns now mandated under law in his country. After a series of ill-informed, aggressive attacks failed spectacularly to disconcert her calm, reasoned guest, Newman asked Peterson, “why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?”
The good professor responded: “Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that?” he said, acknowledging her attacks had made him rather uncomfortable but that was fine. “You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell is going on…But you’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me, and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.”
His answer left Newman totally floundering. The good-natured Peterson smiled sweetly and said: “Ha, gotcha!”
But it was on the classic feminist issues that Newman was exposed as a vapid ideologue incapable of defending her cherished beliefs. Peterson’s rational, fact-based responses to questions about women’s achievements in the workplace went totally over her head. Newman responded to evidence with anecdotes, claimed he’d made statements he hadn’t. Their discussion on the gender wag gap started like this:
Peterson: Multivariate analysis of the pay gap indicate that it doesn’t exist
Newman: But that’s just not true, is it. That nine per cent pay gap, that’s a gap between median hourly earnings between men and women. That exists.
P: Yeah but there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender but it’s not the only reason. If you’re a social scientist worth your salt you never do a uni-varied analysis. You say, well, women in aggregate are paid less than men, then we break it down by age, occupation, interest, personality.
N: But you’re saying basically it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top, because that’s skewing that gender pay gap, isn’t it. You’re saying that’s just a fact of life.
P: No, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it that aren’t being taken into account.
N: But why should women put up with those reasons? Why should women be content not to get to the top?
P: I’m not saying that they should put up with it, I’m saying that the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex is wrong, and it is wrong, there’s no doubt about that. The multivariate analyses have been done.” And so went on, with Newman incessantly straw-manning, niggling, attacking and wilfully refusing to listen to Peterson’s responses.
Many, like British sociologist Nicholas A Christakis, found themselves in awe of Peterson’s cheerful, reasoned responses. “This man Jordan Peterson is preternaturally calm and composed in the face of a hostile interviewer who also had simply not thought adequately about her ideas and approach. Facts and reason are powerful allies,” he tweeted.
But unfamiliar territory for feminists who are rarely confronted with this type of evidence, particularly in public. UK conservative politician Paul Weston points out that what’s so extraordinary about the Peterson interview is that it managed to refute the ideological claptrap which holds sway throughout much of the mainstream media. As he says in a YouTube video posted this week, the anointed liberal elite which controls the media knows it doesn’t represent popular opinion but “works tirelessly to make damn sure no one’s allowed anywhere near the media bubble to propose a learned valid legitimate opinion.”
Yet Peterson slipped through and Newton and her team were shown up for not doing their homework to discover why it is that this formidable man attracts literally millions of followers online. Journalist Tim Lott, writing last year in the Spectator UK, said that after listening to hours of Peterson’s videos, he concludes the man is “one of the most important thinkers to emerge on the world stage for many years.” As Newman discovered to her peril.