The third most widely read blog this year in our TCW Encore series yet again features Jordan Peterson – unsurprising, perhaps, given his status as the most influential public intellectual in the Western World right now.
His rise from Canadian near-obscurity to worldwide renown has been little short of meteoric. His refusal to back down over the compulsory use of alternative pronouns turned an unknown professor into a latter-day champion of freedom against coercion; of civilisation against barbarism.
Though the title of his most recent book, 12 Rules for Life, belies it, he is no mere self-help guru. With his defence of men as men, of the critical nature of motherhood and the realities of gender differences plus his re-articulation of Christian virtues, he’s succeeded in capturing a jaded public’s moral imagination. You might have expected the BBC’s Start the Week, when they finally invited him on, to explore this, rather than attack his ideas. But it was not to be, as you can read here.
The BBC has finally come round to acknowledging the Jordan Peterson phenomenon. He was invited on to Radio Four’s Start the Week yesterday to explain his 12 Rules for Life and, being the BBC, to confront his Leftist critics. They, presenter Tom Sutcliffe told his listeners by way of explanation, say his arguments about inequality, gender and social hierarchy simply endorse existing injustices.
Without doubt Sutcliffe has a more sophisticated intellect and as such was a worthier interviewer than the dire Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News. He did Peterson the courtesy of allowing him time to answer questions with only one Cathy style ‘you say’ interjection. Needless to say the stance he took (Start the Week is not usually known for being a confrontational programme) was more sceptical than enquiring. Thanks to his own skills, Peterson managed to explain his position (without going on the defensive) on the fundamental message of his 12 rules, which he said boils down to personal responsibility, and to elaborate on the meaning and use of the terms patriarchy and hierarchy. He also quashed the feminist theory of male suicide asserted by his co-guest Louise O’Neill: ‘You attribute the rates of mental illness amongst young men to their inability to express their sentimental emotions. I don’t think that there is a shred of clinical evidence for that.’
You can listen to the whole discussion here.
But please listen through to the end. The BBC, in the form of Mr Sutcliffe, just couldn’t help itself. It couldn’t allow programme to end without an attempt to smear the Peterson by association. In fact it was a lesson in how innuendo can be used to cast or paint an ‘opponent’ (for the BBC anyone who refuses to bow to the diktats of the Left) as dubious if not extreme; worthy of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. Sutcliffe’s gambit was to make unsubstantiated allegations about Peterson’s popularity and large following about which, curiously, he could not himself supply any evidence (despite a research team at his beck and call and a programme a week in the planning). In Professor Peterson he found a tougher nut to crack than perhaps he’d anticipated.
Here is how it went:
Tom Sutcliffe: I wanted to quickly before we run out of time, do you worry about any of your followers – you have very large numbers on YouTube . . .
Jordan Peterson: I worry about all my followers. That’s why I am doing what I am doing, trying to help people lead better individual lives . . .
TS: (interrupts) I wonder, you know what I am asking. I’m wondering whether the more extreme of them . . .
JP: (interrupts) Well, I don’t think there are any grounds for asking that. I think people have made an assumption that there’s disproportionate numbers of extremists among my followers. I don’t think there is a shred of evidence for that . . .
TS: (interrupts accusingly) You say, you protest quite a lot, you use this phrase ‘I don’t think there is a shred of evidence’. Of course I can’t supply the evidence . . .
TS: It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, you’ve that particular following . . .
JP: What’s the evidence it does exist?
Hashi Mohamed (a co-guest): Let me say the idea that Jordan’s followers are all angry white men, it’s just not true . . .
TS: No, no I know
HM: But equally do you not accept that there are people associated with your movement and your messages whom I, for example, find reprehensible?’
TS: You can answer that quickly because we are running out of time.
JP: Because I take a stand against the radical Left it’s convenient for an assortment of reprehensible right wingers to assume I am one of theirs but I am not. I have made many public statements that I am an absolute opponent of identity politics whether it is played on the left or on the right.
TS: You’ve said that before.
On those dismissive words he rounded up the programme
Discrediting Peterson by innuendo following on from an apparently rational and reasonable discussion makes Newman’s attempt to put Peterson down look positively amateur. That’s the BBC for you.