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Yappy Apparatchiks and the Lobster Prof.


YOU WOULD HAVE thought that after eighteen months the EU referendum vote the reactionary establishment would have come to terms with it and accepted the Great Unlettered of the British public no longer want to be a part of the European utopia, but that does not appear to be the case.

Various members of the political system are so obsessed with the business that they are still trying to pin the blame on those damn Russians. The UK Electoral Commission has sent Facebook back to do more digital digging on the matter — to see if they can unearth more than the measly 70p of subversion they uncovered on their first investigation. Maybe this time they can make it up to a full English pound.

It is not as if the yappy apparatchiks in the media weren’t as obsessed on their own account. They’re constantly giving airtime to popinjays and political has-beens such as Lord Adonis, whose parliamentary experience and academic background have done nothing to acquaint him with the reality of popular sentiment. Hence his repetition of the hackneyed mantra about people voting against the EU for feeling “left behind”:

As the son of a poor Cypriot immigrant into Britain, I understand this profound sense of alienation. Having become a parliamentarian, and therefore part of the “establishment”, I admit our collective failure to understand the plight of those in this country who didn’t go to university and get well-paid jobs, and whose children are faced with declining living standards. We have let them bear the brunt of the rebalancing act between the west and China and the developing world which we call “globalisation”. It is a big mistake to patronise those who voted for Brexit as if they were ignorant or misinformed. Today’s social crisis is ours to own, with humility.

Oh, bring on the violins, Andrew, we need a musical accompaniment! People didn’t vote because of “globalisation” or feeling left behind: they voted because they wanted national sovereignty back. Irrespective of the economic consequences. It was that simple. If they feel alienated from anyone, it’s from the whole political establishment.

It’s typical of the arrogance of the class to which Adonis belongs that he can so seamlessly squeeze out these fake tears at his own collective guilt, misread the reality, patronise the voters by pretending to do the opposite and then propose the solution is to let him and his comrades (in all humility, of course) plunge us back into the centralised statism of seventy years ago. It bears repeating – there’s no one more stuck in the past than a progressive.

That arrogance of the progressive establishment found itself thoroughly thrashed — unexpectedly — in an interview Cathy Newman of Channel 4 had with Jordan Peterson, the Toronto professor of psychology who has been promoting his new book, 12 Rules For Life, in London. Peterson has generated a huge following on YouTube and elsewhere for his lectures and talks, covering everything from Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Jungian archetypes, Biblical stories, and the pervasive influence of cultural Marxism and postmodernism in universities and society at large.

Perhaps if Cathy Newman had spent some time watching Peterson’s videos and thinking about what he says she wouldn’t have launched what she thought was going to be a doddle of a demolition of a supposed alt-right bigot turn into a 30-minute spectacle of reputational self-harm.

Newman should have understood immediately she was out of her depth and altered her approach accordingly.

She found that flinging at the professor one feminist cliche after another about the gender pay gap and the unfairness of society’s (ie, men’s) treatment of women didn’t work. Instead he soundly and politely smacked everything back at her, using facts and charm to leave her shaking with anger at some points and speechless at others. Early on, after discussing male-female relationships and how it’s not good for women to settle for male partners who are weak and ineffectual Newman rather snootily asked, “What gives you the right to say that?…You’re making these vast generalisations,” to which Peterson replied, “I’m a clinical psychologist.” Not so much a reply as a rebuke. Newman should have understood immediately she was out of her depth and altered her approach accordingly. Who are you going to trust: a clinical psychologist with years of teaching, research and clinical practice, or a journalist? Exactly.

Fortunately for us Newman didn’t learn but turned the entertainment dial up to 11 by flinging more feminist, anti-male rhetoric at him in an increasingly vain attempt to score a hit. In doing so she revealed the utter vacuousness of her intellectual position. She got so desperate towards the end that she resorted to the cheap tabloid trick of mockery. Peterson had talked in a lecture about how similar hierarchies exist in animals and humans and that the neurochemical set-up that regulates how lobsters judge where they are in the hierarchy is almost the same as in humans because it depends on serotonin (that’s one of the amazing things about the Peterson phenomenon – you find yourself talking about the most unexpected matters) and has nothing to do with socio-political constructs. Socio-political constructs to Newman and her ilk are sacred. No doubt she thought she could use the lobster reference as a smear, asking, “So you’re saying that we should organise our societies along the lines of the lobsters?”

That’s the kind of ridiculous garbage you hear fall out of someone’s mouth and you think, were they really dumb enough to ask that? Or what’s worse, was I actually dumb enough to ask that? I suspect by this time Newman was also wondering what on earth she had got herself into and why she was asking such patently idiotic questions.

Because, of course, Peterson made no such statement about lobsters and the organisation of human society, and he batted the misrepresentation away with ease. By this time, though, the self-demolition was over. Peterson had got the measure of Newman from the start (he’s had plenty of experience with such types after all) and had relaxed enough to be laughing at various times. The high point was when he literally reduced her to nonplussed silence after she challenged him with the corny “what right do you have to exercise free speech if it offends someone” question. When he simply reversed that and said what right did she have to offend him by challenging his statements she had no answer. “Hah!” he exclaimed, “Gotcha!” And he had.

As with most things to do with Peterson these days, the video has gone viral. Just as predictably, Channel 4, true to its bully-whining leftwing ethos, has claimed that Cathy Newman is now a victim because of critical comments made about her on social media. I wonder what that has done to her serotonin levels.

suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.


More on Newman v. Peterson and the modern fashion of interviewing by restatement, from The Atlantic. From the Guardian, here.

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