The media is buzzing this week about a thirty-minute interview between Canadian psychologist/self-help guru Jordan Peterson and English “presenter” Cathy Newman. After seeing about fifty links to the interview, I resolved to suffer through a few minutes of it. I ended up watching the whole thing, with a growing sense of horror.
Mr. Peterson, a mild-mannered college professor in his mid-fifties with a gentle demeanor and a voice that makes the average Baruth sound like Barry White in comparison, has been alternately lionized and demonized lately as a symbol of the “alt-right”. The irony, of course, is that his views would only be considered “right-wing”, let alone “alt-right”, in a world where the mainstream discourse is now considerably to the left of Bill Clinton’s election platforms.
(Brief aside: if you think I’m kidding, take a look at Clinton’s 1992 positions on everything from gay marriage to immigration to “workfare” and then take a moment to consider how quickly we’ve moved the so-called Overton Window to the left.)
The media, of course, knows perfectly well that Peterson has nothing to do with the infamous “14 Words” or the fairly radical positions on racial purity and “the Jewish question” held by many alt-righters. Thus they were willing to have him appear for this BBC Channel 4 interview in much the same way that they would not be willing to host Vox Day or Heartiste or Baked Alaska.
(Brief aside, part two: Have you noticed that virtually every right-wing figure uses a pseudonym, at least to start their career? It’s because every right-wing figure who doesn’t use one finds himself in the unemployment line.)
The interview is worth watching because it demonstrates why people don’t trust the media, both in the UK and here. Vox Day has been very forthright on this subject. It’s obvious from the first minute that Peterson is going to be ambushed, harassed, and misrepresented. Yet he gets through it with a remarkable amount of grace and the general consensus of the Internet is that he came away looking significantly better than Mrs. Newman did.
It should be mentioned, as well, that the BBC showed some remarkable ethics in running the entire interview without edits, including Newman’s speechless reboot near the end. I don’t think Peterson would have gotten the same treatment on US media, which has proven willing time and again to edit for narrative regardless of whether it’s lies about WikiLeaks or fish feeding idiocy or removing a call to “burn the suburbs” down in order to portray a relative of a shooting victim as an “icon of peace”.
Can you imagine what 60 Minutes would have done with that footage? Peterson would have come out looking like a sexist, racist, science-denying mass murderer. Vox is right. Unless you have the collected, stutter-and-“um”-free demeanor of an experienced psychologist, and unless you can be sure that the interview will be shown in its entirety, you shouldn’t interact with the mainstream media. And if you are simply a citizen who consumes the news, you should be aware of how the sausage is made, both here and overseas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: at the moment, the game is heavily rigged against anybody who can’t align himself with the current narrative. Sure, Peter Thiel might be able to get away with being a moderate-politics gay billionaire, but the punishment for people below the C-suite is swift, brutal, and utterly certain.
What bothers me most about Peterson’s appearance on the program, if I am completely honest, is that I think they brought him on for a quick Two Minutes Hate. Mrs. Newman, displaying the staggering viciousness common to women who believe themselves to be on the winning side, had planned on simply steamrolling him. It made me think of Orwell, so I’ll close this post with a few appropriate paragraphs. It’s always worth thinking seriously about who we are supposed to hate, and why.
As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even — so it was occasionally rumoured — in some hiding-place in Oceania itself.
Winston’s diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Goldstein without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard — a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party — an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Brother, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying hysterically that the revolution had been betrayed — and all this in rapid polysyllabic speech which was a sort of parody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Goldstein’s specious claptrap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Eurasian army — row after row of solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers’ boots formed the background to Goldstein’s bleating voice.
Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army behind it, were too much to be borne: besides, the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these Powers it was generally at peace with the other. But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State. The Brotherhood, its name was supposed to be. There were also whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as the book. But one knew of such things only through vague rumours. Neither the Brotherhood nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a way of avoiding it.
In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. Thus, at one moment Winston’s hatred was not turned against Goldstein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, the Party, and the Thought Police; and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies. And yet the very next instant he was at one with the people about him, and all that was said of Goldstein seemed to him to be true. At those moments his secret loathing of Big Brother changed into adoration, and Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock against the hordes of Asia, and Goldstein, in spite of his isolation, his helplessness, and the doubt that hung about his very existence, seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilization.
Okay. I lied. I’m not going to end with a quote. I’m going to end with a quote, followed by a photo.