I am not Jordan Peterson’s number one fan. I agree with some of what he says and disagree with some of it. That nuanced approach is not allowed and it seems that you either have to be an uncritical fan or a hater. Like the rest of us, Jordan is a complex flawed human being and he has never pretended to be anything other than that. His recent problems with addiction do not mean that we should dismiss everything he says.
Because of the dominance of feminists in the mainstream media, the haters seem to have a louder voice and some of the recent coverage following his recent illness is frankly appalling and would not be accepted if Jordan Peterson was Joanna Peterson.
A recent hit piece in the Sunday Times is all too typical of the genre of activism masquerading as journalism.
The interviewer, Decca Aitkenhead, used to write for the Guardian and that alone should have been a red-flag for Jordan. A part of the feminist project in the media has been the smearing of Jordan Peterson for daring to think differently. Think about the aftermath of his interview with Cathy Newman. Decca Aitkenhead described it as ‘explosive’ but it was anything but that. Cathy’s visceral dislike of him was certainly apparent but also striking was how calm and collected he remained and as a result, he finished the interview comfortably ahead. Ultimately, Cathy Newman was lost for words having backed herself into a logical trap. Don’t take my word for it, go and listen to the original interview which is still available on YouTube (26 million views and still rising). You can find it here. Cathy Newman and C4 News responded to the car crash interview by playing the victim and claiming abusive tweets. As always the reality was more nuanced both Jordan Peterson and Cathy Newman received abusive tweets and by some estimates Jordan Peterson received considerably more. Another difference was in what was acceptable. For example, freelance journalist Kate Bevan could tweet…
Unlike the abuse directed at Cathy Newman, this was retweeted and liked on numerous occasions. Also unlike Cathy Newman’s accusers, Kate Bevan could go on to appear on BBC Radio 4’s Sweet Reason without any apparent embarrassment.
The Guardian did little better. Instead of attacking Jordan Peterson’s arguments, journalists such as Hadley Freeman and Marina Hyde resorted to ad hominem attacks. Like Cathy Newman, both these Journalists come from a private school Oxford Eng Lit background. I do wonder why women from such privileged backgrounds hate him so much? Feminist fragility perhaps.
So where did the interview go wrong? The answer is in places too numerous to mention but the unifying theme is that the interview was an attempt to smear him rather than explore any of his ideas. Decca Aitkenhead, like Cathy Newman, appears to be lacking in intellectual curiosity and showed no interest in the open-ended exploration of ideas.
Decca Aitkenhead attempted to draw a line connecting Jordan and Mikhaila Peterson with Donald Trump. “Parallels with Donald Trump come to mind: another unhappy man closed off from his emotions, projecting a strong man mythology while hunkered down in a bunker” says Decca Aitkenhead. Elsewhere we are told that Mikhaila talks with the “spiky conviction of a President trump press spokeswoman“. There is no connection between Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump, indeed, elsewhere he has condemned him. However, Decca Aitkenhead would not care about that, she has planted the germ of an idea in the reader’s head that the two figures are in some way linked.
Decca Aitkenhead has no background in psychology or psychiatry, but despite this she is not afraid to launch in with her diagnostic opinions. First, she wrongly claimed that Jordan Peterson was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The actual diagnosis was akathisia which is an idiosyncratic reaction to benzodiazepines. The schizophrenia claim has now been withdrawn but the damage will stick. And that, I believe, was always the intention. Elsewhere, Decca goes on to link Jordan’s illness with that feminist cliche ‘toxic masculinity’. This is worth considering for a moment. Notwithstanding pretty massive overlap there are small differences on average between men and women. Women for example show higher levels of empathy and ruminative thinking while men show higher levels of stoicism and aggression. Virtues taken to excess can become vices so in a sense toxic masculinity could exist but so could toxic feminism. That said, I don’t think either is a particularly useful concept and only serves to polarise debate. The problem with Decca’s argument is that anxiety and depression are more prevalent among women which might suggest that masculine traits could be protective against some kinds of mental illness.
Finally Jordan Peterson says..
If you would have asked me to lay odds on the probability that I would live to finish the recording I would have bet you ten to one that I wouldn't have. But I did the recording. And it was the same with the book. Because not to would have been worse. So, to the degree that I can explain how was able to manage it, I'm not going to talk about willpower and courage, I'm going to talk about the lesser of two evils.
It should come as no surprise that Decca Aitkenhead responds with characteristic spite…
Except, of course, that he has ended up framing his story in terms of his willpower and courage.
That would not be any fair person’s interpretation of his words. It seems to me that, as many of us have done, he found solace in his work during difficult times and Decca lacks the humanity to acknowledge that. It is disappointing and surprising to hear this from a journalist who has herself known some hard times. From a feminist this also reeks of hypocrisy, even the most privileged feminists love to frame their life history in terms of willpower and courage in the face of an imaginary opponent- ‘the patriarchy’.