Now before the ladies out there get overly agitated, no, I am not a left-wing feminist activist. Nor do I believe that the pay gap is a good or a bad thing – it just is. I bring this up as a subject of much repute at the present, a fact of which we are constantly made aware and reminded. It is an important issue to be sure, and historic prejudices are of course prevalent across the UK. But the injustice is not quite as absolute as meets the eye.
For those of you who have yet to have the pleasure of encountering Dr. Jordan Peterson, please see the below video. There are many more just like it.
Since this interview between Cathy Newman and Dr. Peterson took place on Channel 4 last week, it has received over 3 million views and counting. There has been an article in pretty much every major paper regarding this interview, and the responses have been mixed.
The Times – “Defenders of free speech have a new prophet”
The reason I bring this up is the validity of all of the arguments in the above interview. Jordan Peterson answers every targeted question calmly and evenly, and from the interview opening with a quote from his book, Cathy Newman is drilling down to establish his “agenda”.
Newman: “Jordan Peterson, you’ve said that men need to ‘grow the hell up’. Tell me why.
Dr. Peterson: “Because there’s nothing uglier than an old infant. There’s nothing good about it. People who don’t grow up don’t find the sort of meaning in their life that sustains them through difficult times, and they are certain to encounter difficult times. And they are left bitter, and resentful, and without purpose, and adrift, and hostile, and resentful, and vengeful, and arrogant, and deceitful, and of no use to themselves, and of no use to anyone else, and no partner for a woman. There’s nothing in it that’s good.”
The interview begins as a discussion of his psychological assessment of the state of masculinity, which he suggests women should attempt to support men in establishing on the basis that they want competent partners. Not “power as in to exert tyrannical control over others; that’s not power, that’s just corruption.” By power he means competence. But the psychological nature of his word selections seemed lost on Mrs. Newman, and she is guilty throughout the interview of attempting to ascribe words to Dr. Peterson which he repeatedly reminds her is not what he said.
The headline given by Melanie Phillips in the Times column rings awfully true – “defenders of free speech have a new prophet”. Jordan Peterson speaks unequivocal and statistically-provable truth drawn from a lifetime of clinical study, and his views are presented in such a way that comprehension of his arguments leaves little room for disagreement. Regardless of this, his views are contrarian. Despite no overt intention to provoke except “occasionally for humour”, contrarian views are intrinsically provocative and this is evident in the demeanor of both how it drives the fire behind Cathy Newman’s interview technique and in the online/press support for her case as a victim of Jordan Peterson’s online following.
This is concisely summarised in one short section of the interview.
Newman: “But what gives you the right to say that, I mean maybe that’s how women want their relationships, I mean those women? You’re making these vast generalisations.”
Dr. Peterson: “I’m a clinical psychologist.”
Skip to 4:15 in the interview to see what I mean, the quizzical tone of his voice begs the question of who could be more qualified to comment on what people truly want?
Oftentimes people don’t know what they want. It’s a common state of being. And it takes psychological understanding to be able to look to one’s deep wants and needs, desires and hopes and see their construction and their underpinnings. These things are built on the platform developed by genetics, evolution, parents, formal education, environmental stimuli and a host of other variables. Hence the need for multivariate analysis to make a true estimation. It takes deep understanding of the building blocks of one’s own being to know what one truly wants, and hence why Dr. Peterson’s lifetime of study makes him arguably more qualified to comment on the gender pay gap than even a woman who the gender pay gap has a direct effect upon.
And according to Dr. Peterson, multivariate analysis indicates that the gender pay gap does not exist. His evidence is clearly presented, much as this simple statement incensed Cathy Newman. He suggests that there is a pay gap, and of course there is prejudice, but gender is just one influencing factor in a multivariate problem – he suggests that it accounts for perhaps 5% and that there may be 18-20 determining factors.
Newman: “… that 9 percent pay gap, that’s a gap between median hourly earnings between men and women. That exists.”
Dr. Peterson: “Yes. But there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender, but that’s not the only reason. If you’re a social scientist worth your salt, you never do a uni-variate analysis. You say women in aggregate are paid less than men. Okay. Well then we break its down by age; we break it down by occupation; we break it down by interest; we break it down by personality.”
If you are of a scientific mind, you cannot help but be impressed by Dr. Peterson’s stoic utterances of fact in the face of such directly confrontational questioning. When the subject changes to his stance on the transgender activist community in Canada and his disagreement with the law changes enforcing use of preferred personal pronouns, the conversation heats further. He believes that this directly contravenes his freedom of speech, and has been quoted as comparing the transgender activists to Maoist China, a suggestion that affronts the mind of Mrs. Newman.
He goes on to suggest that though indeed there has been no deaths as a result of transgender activism, “the philosophy that drives their utterances is the same”. He goes on to clarify this statement with the concept of group identity taking precedence over that of the individual. He even manages at this point to render Mrs. Newman speechless by commending her desire to dig deep in her questioning to pursue the truth despite the discomfort which it may cause to him – he suggests that this is the point of freedom of speech, and the true point that he stands so vehemently against in the law-changing in Canada. He suggests that he would happily respect the preferred personal pronouns of anyone at the individual level, but refuses to accept the ascribing of such speech restrictions to law.
Mrs. Newman is absolutely entitled to her strong views on the subject of the gender pay gap, and a so-dubbed “disagreeable” woman in her position of financial and professional success will of course have had to battle to have reached such a role. But her attempts to paint the seemingly-unbiased and empirical points raised by Dr. Peterson in a controversial light are evident throughout the interview. This raises the question of the damaging effects of political correctness, and an academic’s rise to the public limelight as a result of merely holding factually verifiable viewpoints that happen to incur controversy. As Dr. Peterson says at one point during the interview,
Dr. Peterson: “I never say anything to provoke. I’m only a provocateur in so far as when I say what I believe to be true it’s provocative. I don’t provoke. Well, maybe for humour!”
Is this the new norm? Where a strongly-held and evidence-backed view that takes some effort to comprehend and understand should be instantly vilified?