Recently one or two people in the comments have directed me towards a Jordan Peterson interview at the hands of Helen Lewis on behalf of GQ magazine. Joe Rogan, who’s podcast I listen to, believes Lewis does a good job of it, far better than the hapless Cathy Newman managed in her interview with Peterson. This weekend I decided to watch it, and although Lewis did indeed do a lot better than Newman, it’s still a woeful performance on her part. Here is the interview:
Something Peterson says around the halfway mark sums Lewis up. He says that when she speaks, he doesn’t learn anything about her, he just hears unoriginal, utterly predictable mantra she’s been taught to say. It’s painful to watch in places, what passes for a journalist reciting feminist dogma as if it’s incontrovertible truth. You get the impression you’re watching a spoiled, middle-class brat who thinks she has the right to reshape the world in the image of the bubble she’s been raised in.
Now Lewis is undoubtedly one of the best and brightest in her contemporary field. Like Cathy Newman, she’s a graduate of Oxford University (where else?) so on some measures she’s not thick, but I think her interview with Peterson shows being brightest in the field of modern journalism isn’t saying very much. In terms of observable intellect, the interview is like watching a pub footballer turn out in an El Clasico match. This is not necessarily a problem: Joe Rogan isn’t the brightest either, but he acknowledges it and allows his far brighter guests to speak, which is partly what makes him an excellent podcast host if not a good judge of intelligence in other people. But Lewis clearly believes she’s on an equal footing with Peterson. At around the 40:50 minute mark she confidently states the rationale behind Peterson’s remarks on behaviour in lobsters is “scientifically bollocks”. This from someone who studied English at university. The clearly irritated Peterson, a clinical psychologist, explains to her it is neuroscience 101.
Lewis, being a feminist, believes modern-day societies are organised in patriarchal hierarchies of power, whereas Petersen believes they are more akin to hierarchies of competence. It’s easy to see why the two differ so wildly in their views. In Peterson’s field you need to be competent to rise to the top, whereas in Lewis’ you don’t need to be competent at all. Lewis has looked at her own career path, and those of her peers, and assumed the whole world works like that.
She’s not the only one. James D. Watson, one of the biologists who won a Nobel prize for discovering DNA, uttered wrongthink in 2007 by suggesting ethnic groups differ in IQ levels. His subsequent ostracism forced him to sell his Nobel medal to eat, and for some reason he’s been in the news again recently. This has given progressive journalists an opportunity to condemn him all over again. Steve Sailer summed up one such attempt nicely in the tweet below:
Do you ever worry that you might not actually be smart enough to be wholly confident that you are right about complex scientific issues, so maybe it’s not really a good idea for you to be encouraging hate mobs against scientists like James D. Watson? https://t.co/I3Mt7S4J7b
— Steve Sailer (@Steve_Sailer) January 13, 2019
The trouble with modern journalism, as with modern politics, is the brightest people don’t go into it any more. Unfortunately, those who do think they’re the smartest people on the planet, capable of taking on clinical psychologists and offering critiques of the scientific opinions of Nobel prize winners. And they wonder why nobody wants to pay for their output any more.