On May 17, Jordan Peterson appeared on the BBC program Daily Politics. His treatment on that program proved to be better than we have seen over the last few months. Jo Coburn, the host, and Ayesha Hazarika, another guest, were rather charitable and nuanced overall, but there were still maybe a few moments that could raise an eyebrow. Let us analyze those.
The first one is clear from the start: the Stormy Daniels topic. It seems like a particularly irrelevant topic for Peterson to discuss. His expression indicated that he was not very interested in it, but when asked about what the scandal will say about Trump, he answered:
Well, I guess it’ll depend on to what degree it reveals his lying, so I can’t tell you yet. I mean, part of me thinks it might be better for the political system in general to leave their — the leaders alone.
Right of the bat, Peterson implies that he has no special favor for Trump, being open to his status as a liar, while also acknowledging that the focus on this scandal is not very productive, recalling some Democrats’ complaints about the Clinton and Lewinsky. After Hazarika weighed in, Coburn suddenly pivoted and asked Jordan if he would have voted for Trump in the 2016 Election (something he could not and cannot do as a Canadian citizen). Peterson appeared somewhat annoyed by this question and answered:
I don’t know. I mean, when I was watching the American election — I lived in the States for quite a long time, so I have a real affinity for the U.S. — and when I was watching the election, for me it was a foregone conclusion throughout the entire process that I would have voted for Clinton, because I thought she had the experience to handle the position, but the closer the election got, the more I could feel a part of me think, “Yeah, you know, if I walked into that voting booth, I could imagine, in a fit of pique, checking ‘Trump’ and saying, ‘To hell with it.’”
When asked to clarify on why that might be, he added that the embrace of identity politics by the Democrats had put him off. Coburn asked whether Trump’s embrace of identity politics (the white male variety) should put him off too, and Peterson answered:
Yeah, but I would say that the sort of identity politics that Clinton engaged in cut closer to the bone for me because of my position in academia and the overwhelming predominance of the radical left amongst the humanities and social sciences.
A statement by Trump about deporting illegal immigrants (where he called them “animals”) was raised. Coburn proposed this as an example of Trumpian identity politics. Peterson acknowledged that it was possible but also that it may be an appeal to general conservatives, who tend to have a preference for borders and boundaries. Coburn then asked, puzzlingly, if Peterson were saying that there is a “legitimate case” for calling these immigrants “animals.” He said that he would not justify Trump’s remarks but also said that it depends on if one were talking about a criminal who had committed a heinous act. I myself am inclined to believe that Trump was being racist and not making that distinction.
They then shifted to the issue of Bill C-16 and transgender issues. The conversation proceeded normally at that point for a few minutes, when Coburn suddenly asked, “Do you think a transwoman is a real woman?” Once more, Peterson seemed a bit annoyed by that question, a tonal break from the last few minutes. He contested the coherence of the question, and what “real woman” is supposed to mean. She asked him to go by what he thinks it means, and he answered flatly, “No,” but when asked to say more, he expanded and explained that being a woman was, in his view, a physiological matter pertaining to reproduction.
Now that she had her answer, Coburn pulled weirdest maneuver that I saw, and she asked if his view that transwomen are not women was the actual motivation behind his opposition to Bill C-16. Peterson was firm; he opposed the bill because he saw it as an attack of free speech and a reckless deviation from English common law, not because of his views on gender or any stealth prejudice.
From there, the following discussion about feminism featured no apparent media jibes. The three politely discussed what feminism is and the matter of equality of outcome. Eventually, Coburn decided to go for another “gotcha” moment. She alluded to his earlier comment that he does not think the political side of his work is the most important but rather the psychological, therapeutic side of it, in which he tries to help people develop morally. She posed him this challenge:
How do you square that with the behavior of, perhaps, arguably a prominent alpha-male President of the United States, Donald Trump, umm, when his behavior — I mean, he’s accused of having an affair with a porn star when his wife of was pregnant. How does that fit with morally reclaiming…
Peterson answered wryly:
I would say that was rather clearly immoral.
Then Coburn misremembered (probably by intent) his position on the 2016 Election, where she countered that he still would have voted for Trump over Clinton. Peterson corrected her by saying that he might voted for him, “on a whim.” He was clear about this when he first said it, where he even said he mostly sided with Clinton. There are not any good excuses for Coburn to have made this error. It was perhaps her clumsiest moment in the interview.
This is where the interview portion on Peterson ended. While more tame and generous than previous interviewers, Coburn nonetheless mined her guest for a few provocative soundbites. Ultimately, I would hesitate to call this interview a hit job, but undoubtedly it could have been handled much better. Coburn simply could not resist sensationalist interview practices.
The preceding portion of the episode also featured Peterson, but the focus was not on him and more on general British politics. As always, he provides an intelligent insight, especially on the psychological effects behind gambling and what that means for British law. Watch it yourself.