Fan Base vs Actually Listening to Content

Fascinating responses to this Grauniad CiF piece on Jordan Peterson – introducing him to new people who’ve maybe heard he has a fan base as well as vocal detractors. The kind of controversy that sells tickets.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do do obsessive fandom of humans I love from afar, but I’m no “fan” of Peterson. I scarcely know him. It’s barely a month since I clicked on any link to listen to or read anything by or about him – I’m a “post Cathy Newman” interested party and I like what I hear. I’m over-60 – male obvs (!) – and he’s talking about stuff I’ve been researching for 20 years. I’m not some snotty teanager looking for a psychological crutch.

The comments of interest are below the line in the CiF piece as well as on social media, like this thread for example:

It’s actually quite a balanced piece, properly sceptical but fair. Yet ironically, Peterson can’t even accept the possibility of error. I guess when you feel besieged even tiny attacks must be repelled:

Maybe some of his generalisation are “kooky” – his anecdotal examples are a bit off the wall, that’s part of his attraction for sure – but generally he seems to talk sense (content) and more importantly seems to talk sensibly in proper dialogue (process) avoiding gratuitous attack and defence straw-men and resisting gratuitous reactions to those that wield them against him. But nobody’s perfect I guess.

Being “based on scientific research” is a ubiquitous claim but only as good – and as relevant – as the science itself and, further, “as solid as it gets in social science” tells its own story. [Invoking the scientific defence is unnecessary and unhelpfully scientistic in my book.] As defence against (enemy) attack, maybe fair enough, but it’s not the proper (mutual) dialogue I’ve already come to expect. It’s what set the Cathy Newman exchange apart.

Still, I should worry! The slings and arrows in the threads are classic examples of the genre, and I realise many people from science and/or the humanities see being smart-ass as part of the game (see court-jester). But if people believed 1% of the reactions to Peterson – and to Gareth Hutchens and the Grauniad for daring to give him a fair hearing – then we are in trouble.

Is there any tiny chance anyone might actually -memetically, naturally, unintentionally – believe Peterson believes anything remotely like:

“that lobsters prove
that women should be
subservient to men” ?!?

Self-selecting fan-base and rubber-necking audiences pay the bills, but no wonder we have the intellectual dark web for proper constructive discourse. Talk about fake-news in mainstream social-media.

The “Guardian Pick” of the positive comments restores your faith (but even that draws the mean-spirited smart-ass crap responses):

“Whether or not everything Peterson says is “defensible” (You would need to establish by whose criteria it was to be so considered), at the very least it is always arguable. The reason is that, unlike so many of those who are prone to mindlessly parroting their own received memes, and which Peterson so rightly excoriates, he virtually never puts forward any argument which he has not thought through from first principles. That is the mark of a genuine intellectual.”
by Tim Cape.

As I say, even when content is imperfect, as it always must be, the process of aiming to talk sense, with mutual respect and good faith is the true mark of quality.

STFU and listen, I say. Talk is cheap and comment is free.


[Post Note: And another Grauniad CiF piece sparking further threads:


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