05 Mar 2018

An Ironic Slip of the Tongue for Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson 8 Comments

You guys think you’ve got me allll figured out. I’ve been pumping up Jordan Peterson, saying how great he is, and then his interview with Cathy Newman goes viral. You would expect me to share it with enthusiasm, yet I actually was underwhelmed by it (as I think I’ve said before on the blog).

Anyway, David R. Henderson and I were discussing it over email. (BTW, David has a nice post about JP at EconLog.) I said that even though Newman was obviously being combative, there were a few key parts where I thought JP was not trying to get his point across to someone who disagreed with him. Even though it was perhaps hopeless to try to persuade Newman herself, there could be sincere feminists watching who honestly would not have gotten his points.

David encouraged me to re-watch the video, and every time Newman said something, I should stop the video, and then jot down what I wished JP had said in response. Then, play the video to see how he did.

It was an instructive exercise, and David was right, JP did better than I remembered. It was actually only in two or three exchanges where I thought he missed an opportunity, and there were other places where he was amazing. So overall, he did fine. (And of course the “ha–gotcha” near the end will go down in Hostile Interview history.)

But, the one major goof I noticed: Start at 5:40 and JP clearly says, “…multivariate analysis of the pay gap indicate that it doesn’t exist.”

OK, we all know what he means by that. He takes “pay gap” to mean “a disparity in pay that can only be explained by irrational sexism.”

Yet later on, starting at 8:07, Newman says, “OK so rather than denying that the pay gap exists, which is what you did at the beginning of this conversation, shouldn’t you say to women…” and then she followed up on his nuanced position about being assertive.

At this point JP goofs. He says at 8:20–while he literally points his finger at her–“But I also didn’t deny that the pay gap existed. I denied that it existed because of gender.”

No, that’s not correct. He literally said the multivariate analysis indicated that it didn’t exist.

And then, to compound the problem, he then went on to lecture her about how he’s “very very very” careful with his words.

Anyway, we all get what he meant, and he had a very defensible, correct position on the substance. But this is a good example of what I mean, when I say that I actually don’t think he demolished her as much as some of his fans believe. And if someone went into this interview thinking he was slippery, they would see “confirmation” of that (incorrectly, in my mind, to be sure).

As I’ve said before, I think JP’s Biblical lectures are absolutely amazing; I can’t believe a thinker like him exists. I personally know people who have benefited from his work, as in, it’s helped them in their personal lives. So I’m mostly just posting this because it’s ironic.

8 Responses to “An Ironic Slip of the Tongue for Jordan Peterson”

  1. Tel says:

    I found it too tedious to watch right to the end. Cathy Newman is obviously trying to catch him out in a long interview so they can extract a 30 second “gottcha!” moment and Peterson spends the whole time trying to be as defensive as possible. Nothing useful comes out of these things.

    This whole business that some largely arbitrary statistical aggregate must add up to another largely arbitrary statistical aggregate is ridiculous. The purpose is simple political divide and conquer… nurture every grievance and promise one group that you intend to solve it at the expense of the other group, then demand they all vote for you.

  2. trent steele says:

    Hi Bob,

    I re-listened and, though you are *technically* correct (the best kind of correct), I am not sure it’s a slam dunk.

    She introduces it as the “gender pay gap,” and he replies back that the “pay gap” doesn’t exist. He truncates her term for convenience, sure, but shows that he’s referring to the “‘gender’ pay gap” by proving that “pay gaps” do exist, just that they are not because of “gender.” Thus: “multivariate analysis of the (gender) pay gap shows that it doesn’t exist.”

    He at no point defends any position saying that there is no pay gap at all between anyone (which is so absurd on it’s face), so how could an honest interviewer make that mistake? Hint: she didn’t.

    Perhaps he could have been more “careful” with his words; but if you think she should have understood what he was referring to, it would have just been “more laborious.” And she spent the whole studiously misinterpreting every point he made…

    As to: “I also didn’t deny it existed; I denied it existed because of gender.” Saying he is incorrect here is like saying that, e.g., if you were talking about the Auburn Department of Transportation, and at one point he referred to “the Department of Transportation,” you would then be justified thinking he is now referring to all things that could be labeled Departments of Transportation. But you would not be so justified.

    The context shows he couldn’t have been “more careful,” just “more laborious.” The most you could argue is that he should have been “more careful” in the sense that she was dishonest, and so you’ve got to be more “careful” dishonest interviewers; but it was early in the interview so he probably didn’t realize how dishonest she was going to be.

  3. Dan says:

    I think you’re missing what people loved so much about the interview. It wasn’t that he was just crushing it with brilliant free market responses to her questions. It was that she came in hostile and he remained calm throughout and pushed her into coming up with progressively more absurd strawman arguments. It was more about how he got her to look rather than how he looked. There is a reason the memes are all about making fun of her and not praising him. It was a masterclass in how to conduct yourself in an enterview with someone who has an agenda against you. Reminded me of Neo in the Matrix fighting Agent Smith at the end just calmly pushing aside all his wild attacks and then calmly kicking him across the room.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Dan wrote: There is a reason the memes are all about making fun of her and not praising him.

      Right, so I am surprised you think I’m missing something. I totally understand why people liked it. And I’m saying, people had been hyping it up for a few days, I finally got time to look at it, and I was let down. If you want to know why, just re-read your sentence that I quoted.

      • Dan says:

        Hmm… Then I’m not sure why you were let down. When I got around to watching it, I thought it was being too hyped for the first 5-10 minutes, but as it went on and she kept going to the “So what you’re saying” over and over and over, and the strawman arguments kept getting progressively more absurd I was cringing for her. From her getting stumped as she desperately tried to find a way to spin his words against him to her lobster strawman, it was brutal to watch. I looked at it like if Cathy was a friend of mine, I’d have been extremely embarrassed for her.

        Have you seen her interview with Milo from a few years ago? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdeUlJq9HYg I think that interview compared to her interview with JP is why it’s so great. That is what she was looking for and JP wouldn’t play ball. I honestly can’t think of an interview where someone got embarrassed so bad while simply asking questions. It reminded me of when Ron Paul went on Bill Maher back in 2006 and Bill thought he was going to make him look like a fool by pointing out how he wanted to abolish the CIA and thought the Civil War was unnecessary, and Ron just calmly explained his positions and was getting cheered by the end of the interview. Difference is that Maher came off as smug and arrogant rather than a cartoon. Same phenomena to me on why that video got so much hype and why Ron Paul at his best got so much hype.

        • Dan says:

          I also don’t think you’re looking at it from the same angle of people who don’t pay much attention to him. If you had only heard of him from the news you’d think he was a pretty radical guy. Same thing with Ron Paul back in the day. So when Peterson goes on and is clearly being interviewed by someone very hostile towards him, or Ron Paul is being interviewed by someone who clearly thinks he is a crank, and they don’t play along, don’t get defensive, but just calmly give their rationale for their beliefs which turn out to be well thought out ideas, then it flips the script. People start immediately going “So why the hell is the media painting this guy in such a negative light. Seems like a nice, genuine person with reasonable views to me.”

          I see a lot of similarities behind the rise of JP and RP. You had the Rudy moment for RP that kind of put him on the map, and you had the college campus video that put JP on the map, and then the way they handle being ridiculed and maligned in the media is very similar. It’s admirable – Whereas the Milo’s of the world make it easier for the interviewer to paint them as a crank because they come off as so arrogant – Then once people start digging into to their philosophies they find that these are men that have dedicated their lives to ideas and philosophy and aren’t just winging it from the hip. They inspire people to read the great economists, philosophers, etc.

          Anyways, check out the Ron Paul vs Bill Maher interview, and see if it doesn’t strike a similar cord. Difference being Bill Maher didn’t come off as bad as she did. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQxkB8i4OJs

  4. Harold says:

    I am pretty sure he got the lobster thing wrong as well. He said antidepressants work on lobsters. Not correct. previously he has been very careful in his claims about lobsters and antidepressants – that they act on the same receptors in lobsters as they do in humans. He has been careful not to say they “work” on lobsters as antidepressants. I think he gets that wrong in this interview. Maybe he was more rattled than he appears.

    Overall he came across as very in control and she appeared under-prepared as his answers seemed a surprise to her, even though he has made these points often. I suppose this will often be the case for news presenters who have several people each week to interview.

    • Harold says:

      It is at 26:58 “…antidepressants work on lobsters…”

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