Prof. Jordan Peterson's recent interview with Cathy Newman of Britain's Channel 4 News has sparked amazing controversy and feedback, not because of what he said, but because of her deliberate, persistent, inflammatory misinterpretation of his views. From start to finish, she flat-out misstated his positions and tried to paint him into a corner. It's only because he's an accomplished debater and a very intelligent man, who could see what she was trying to do and counter it at every turn, that he wasn't intimidated or coerced into submission.
If you haven't watched it (which I highly recommend), here's the full interview. It's worth watching Cathy Newman's dishonesty as she continually tries to warp and twist what Prof. Peterson says into something he didn't say at all. It's a classic portrayal of what Vox Day identifies in his bestselling books, "SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police" and "SJWs Always Double Down: Anticipating the Thought Police" (both of which are very well worth reading). She's the personification of a so-called Social Justice Warrior (although I prefer a different, rather more pejorative term for the last word of that phrase - one of the possibilities is in the title of this post).
You can hear Prof. Peterson's own comments on that interview in a very lengthy discussion here. The cartoonist behind Dilbert and author of many books, Scott Adams, who's a shrewd observer of the business world and the interaction between people, says that Ms. Newman's reactions are a classic example of cognitive dissonance - a psychological condition that manifests itself in different ways, including "when confronted with new information that contradicts [one's] beliefs, ideals, and values". Here's what Mr. Adams, a shrewd observer, had to say.
Do please take the time to watch Scott Adams' analysis. It's worth it.
I thought National Review's perspective was particularly appropriate. Bold, underlined text in the final paragraph is my emphasis.
Any statement — any statement — must be gauged not only on the basis of its truth-value, according to the Left, but on the basis of whether such truth is likely to offend — or, at least, whether such truth is likely to offend groups the Left perceives as victimized. According to the Left, any and all truth must take a back seat to “your truth,” so long as you claim minority status in any way.
. . .
Of late, however, the Left has simply gone too far. No longer do they ask whether objectively offensive statements ought to be made; they now take each statement and ask whether it is subjectively offensive to anyone. First person to claim offense wins. Which is precisely why Peterson’s logic trips up Newman: He plays her own card against her. By demonstrating that anyone can be offended by anything, he returns the conversation from the vague recesses of subjective reaction to the hard and fast ground of objective truth.
This is the ground on which conservatives should fight, of course: acknowledgement that while manners matter, truth matters more ... Yes, let’s behave with manners. But let’s recognize that only a society that values truth can afford manners.
There's more at the link.
Finally, the Atlantic (hardly a conservative publication) identifies the core issue with Newman's flawed approach.
Peterson was pressed by the British journalist Cathy Newman to explain several of his controversial views. But what struck me, far more than any position he took, was the method his interviewer employed. It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication.
First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.
. . .
Newman relies on this technique to a remarkable extent, making it a useful illustration of a much broader pernicious trend. Peterson was not evasive or unwilling to be clear about his meaning. And Newman’s exaggerated restatements of his views mostly led viewers astray, not closer to the truth ... Peterson makes a statement. And then the interviewer interjects, “So you’re saying...” and fills in the rest with something that is less defensible, or less carefully qualified, or more extreme, or just totally unrelated to his point.
. . .
Lots of culture-war fights are unavoidable––that is, they are rooted in earnest, strongly felt disagreements over the best values or way forward or method of prioritizing goods. The best we can do is have those fights, with rules against eye-gouging.
But there is a way to reduce needless division over the countless disagreements that are inevitable in a pluralistic democracy: get better at accurately characterizing the views of folks with differing opinions, rather than egging them on to offer more extreme statements in interviews; or even worse, distorting their words so that existing divisions seem more intractable or impossible to tolerate than they are. That sort of exaggeration or hyperbolic misrepresentation is epidemic—and addressing it for everyone’s sake is long overdue.
Again, more at the link.
The Peterson-Newman interview is going to go down in social media history as a classic illustration of the deliberate misinterpretation, twisting and miscasting of one side's arguments by another. It's dishonesty in action, as far as interviewers are concerned. It's highly informative, and a warning to the rest of us not to bother debating such people unless we've got all our ducks in a row, as Prof. Peterson clearly has. He's an exceptional debater. Few of us are so talented - and we risk being manipulated or misrepresented by ruthless SJW's as a result.
(Readers will recall incidents like that during my call for a boycott of Tor Books a few years ago. I'm still rather unpopular in SJW circles as a result. You will doubtless have noted how terribly intimidated that made me feel.)