Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Hand-to-hand combat with Jordan Peterson


After a remarkable two years of global fame, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson has once again found himself the talk of the Twitterati after GQ’s interview with him by feminist writer Helen Lewis, one hour and 42 minutes in length.

It is a fascinating watch, and the intimacy of the setting, facing each other other almost knee to knee, lends the discussion a satisfying level of intensity. Lewis, writing after the interview, described it as ‘intense hand-to-hand combat’.

The interview ranges over many big issues of the day, including the patriarchy, transgenderism and the impact Twitter has on social discourse. Their only point of agreement is that Twitter has a divisive, deleterious effect on politics, an exchange I listened to smugly having deleted all of my social media.

A point that Peterson makes well is that ‘men and women, throughout history, have fundamentally cooperated to push against the catastrophe of existence’. Lewis argues that this is the same as saying slavery was a co-operation.

The truth that men and women are complementary, that we bring the best out of each other when we work together, seems to have been lost. Instead, there is a relentless war of the sexes being stoked, with many women permanently aggrieved, and a growing subset of men deciding to turn their back on women, full stop.

Lewis conducts herself politely, and the smart members of the Left will come to realise that ‘you are an x-phobe’ simply doesn’t work. Indeed, Barack Obama said in July this year you can’t change people’s views ‘if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start’.

He added: ‘And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you, because they’re white or because they’re male, that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack the standing to speak on certain matters.’

The identity politics experiment has been disastrous for the Left, and as I watched the interview I couldn’t help but think that Jordan Peterson’s arguments had ultimately won. There will be a time lag, and the universities will need readjustment, but he has won.

His book 12 Rules for Life has sold more than two million copies, he has appeared on TV, radio and his YouTube videos online have millions and millions of views. When was the last time a feminist had anything like that level of genuine popularity?

A recent report by an organisation called More in Common found that 80 per cent of the American population believes ‘political correctness is a problem in our country’. According to Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape, 74 per cent of those aged 24 to 29 and 79 per cent of under-24s are tired of the woke, SJW shtick in general. It is even mocked by Saturday Night Live.

These demonstrably unpopular ideas have been shoved down our throats by an influential media packed with the type of people who Jordan Peterson worries about dominating the universities. Although they are a tiny minority, they have managed to hijack the social discourse so that the politically correct, identity politics view of the world has seeped into every aspect of our culture, against the wishes of the majority.

Peterson’s interview with Helen Lewis is a microcosm for the great debates of the day. It is encouraging, broadly, but the fact that the editor of the New York Review of Books was forced out by the mob due to publishing an essay on Jian Ghomeshi (a Canadian former radio host who was acquitted of sexual assault after claiming the encounters were consensual ‘rough sex’) means optimism must be tempered.

They won’t give up their power without a fight.

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Fionn Shiner
Fionn Shiner
Fionn Shiner is a London-based writer who has written for the Spectator, the Daily Mirror, Private Eye and more. His day job is Press and Parliamentary Officer for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

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