Dr. Peterson and the Reporters

Peterson brings social science findings to bear on thorny matters of men and women.

What is one to say about a journalist who not only doesn’t bone up on the central subject of an interview, but also doesn’t realize that admitting this destroys his credibility? (Peterson has a rebuttal to the Vox interview here, where he points out the astonishing professional irresponsibility of the professor.)

 

One ingredient in the astounding fame of Jordan Peterson is his capacity to show just how lazy, obtuse, unprepared, smug, knee-jerk, and prejudiced are many journalists at leading publications.

In a tendentious New York Times profile, for example, Peterson is held up for ridicule when he cites “enforced monogamy” as a rational way of fixing wayward, sometimes violent men in our society. If men had wives, they’d behave better, Peterson implied, and they wouldn’t “fail” so much. The reporter, a twenty-something from the Bay Area, has a telling response to Peterson’s position: “I laugh, because it is absurd.”

Her condescension is unearned. With no background in social psychology or cultural anthropology, she doesn’t get the framework in which Peterson speaks. But that doesn’t blunt her confidence in setting Peterson’s remarks into the category of the ridiculous. And the category of the sexist, too, as the subtitle of the profile makes clear: “He says there’s a crisis in masculinity. Why won’t women—all these wives and witches—just behave?”

By “enforced monogamy,” though, all Peterson means is a society that prizes stable one-to-one relationships, not a society that forces women into domestic servitude. It’s a term drawn from sociology (hardly a right-wing, patriarchal zone). But the reporter, Nellie Bowles, casts it as pernicious nonetheless. She didn’t bother to do any homework in the fields in which Peterson works.

Another blatant case of ineptitude is an interview a Vox reporter did with a feminist philosopher, the subject being Peterson’s recent book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The reporter, Sean Illing, displays his integrity with one of his first questions.

Peterson has been called a “sexist” and a “misogynist.” To be honest, I’m not sure this is a fair characterization of his work, but I haven’t read his book and I haven’t listened to all his lectures. I’m curious what you think.

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