Trolls Attack Cathy Newman – All White Men Blamed

The Independent has an article on Cathy Newman’s interview of fellow Canadian Jordan Peterson titled Misogynistic abuse against Cathy Newman is a symbol of the backlash against the MeToo movement. The subtitle of the article–“When white men feel they are losing power, any level of nastiness is possible”–is the kind of racist, sexist generalization that will lead to a backlash.

Before you read the Independent’s article, I highly recommend watching the interview:

 

The article immediately jumps into the internet reaction to the interview:

The Channel 4 News presenter has been the target of ‘vicious’ online abuse Jason Alden “What a terrible indictment of the times we live in.” Those are the words of Ben de Pear, the editor of Channel 4 News, relating to the stream of misogynist abuse levelled at presenter Cathy Newman after her interview with clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson.

Having watched the interview, I can understand why Newman’s constant attacks and misrepresentations of Peterson annoyed many, though personally, I found her fairly entertaining. The interview was posted on the internet; there are a lot of shitlords there. You can blame the internet (mostly) on white men, I suppose. Sorry about that.

Channel 4 News is hiring security experts to carry out an analysis of the incident and is considering police involvement.

Hopefully any actual threats that were made are not serious.

Peterson, the Canadian professor who compared gender-neutral pronouns to the likes of Chairman Mao’s Communist China, emerged from the interview, at least to his loyal YouTube following, victorious. Twitter erupted with commentary about his genius, his calm, his quick wit. Peterson’s followers were also quick to attack Newman in a way she has described as “vicious”.

Peterson did well. Just like Newman, the author of this article is misrepresenting what he said. He compared the progressive left to communists because they both engage in identity politics. Before spouting off, the author should actually watch the interview.

When white men feel they are losing power, any level of nastiness is possible, and much power has been ceded recently. Amid the steamrolling effect of the MeToo campaign, of the sudden dominance of gender equality in the news and amid the fall of many Great Men, here comes the whirling centre of the storm, when we have to fight harder than ever to be heard. We are in backlash season.

This is exactly the kind of racist, sexist comment that will lead to a backlash. When you call all white men nasty, it’s hardly reasonable to expect them to support you. The so called “Great Men” are by and large politicians and members of the film industry. Tarring all white men with the same brush as lying politicians and degenerate denizens of Hollywood is a foolish tactic.

For those angry at the recent resurgence of feminism, they have had to wait for their moment. It’s not easy to defend a serial rapist, or even a one-off rapist, although some people do – let’s not forget that 63 million people recently voted for an alleged offender as President. It’s not easy to defend a sexual harasser, either, although even more people do that. But it is very easy to attack Cathy Newman, the female journalist whose male editor thought it would be a good idea to interview Jordan Peterson.

63 million people voted for Trump because despite his offensive comments, they believed he was a better choice than Clinton. That says a lot about Trump’s populism and the desperation of people living in the rust belt, and Clinton’s divisiveness. Calling one quarter of voters deplorable was a foolish tactic.

When questioned by Newman if he believed that gender equality was a myth, Peterson said only if she meant “in terms of outcomes”. There is a reason women, who tend to be “compassionate and caring”, end up as nurses and physicians, he said, while men end up as engineers.

In other words, he said men and women are different, and so they won’t end up with the same outcomes. This is hard to disagree with.

If we men and women were to sort ourselves out equally, there would be a dangerous imbalance, he believed.

This is another misrepresentation. What he actually said was that men and women will never sort themselves out voluntarily, and would have to be forced to make the same choices. And I would have to agree that that would be dangerous.

Newman also asked why he had the right to air his controversial views. He replied, “I’m a clinical psychologist”, with the cool calm of a cartoon villain.

This is probably the most horrible thing that Newman said. The essence of free speech is that everyone has the right to air their views. Peterson’s are only controversial in the context of the University campus, where the Overton window has swung far to the left. Compared to Canadian Conservatives, who are barely right of center, he looks positively Liberal. I love the smear at the end. Peterson has been compared to Kermit the Frog too.

Are the media and its employees innocent in this gender equality debate? Certainly not. There has been much wrong with the way the media covered the MeToo campaign: tabloids pointing to the sleazy rather than the systemic; the routine pitting of feminists against anti-feminists, as if required to “balance out the interview”; gifting airtime to the likes of Peterson or, as Channel 4 News also did, to Milo Yiannopoulos. It will get clicks, after all.

The idea that giving airtime to people with opposing opinions somehow makes the media guilty is insane. If you suppress opinions, you will push more people into the arms of the alt-right and actual extremists. Jordan Peterson, an intellectual classical liberal, is hardly comparable to Milo Yiannopoulos, an admitted right wing provocateur. And Yiannopoulos should be heard. Otherwise, you will never counter his arguments.

The backlash against the MeToo movement has grown since day one, but it has also been precise in its timing. As soon as the conversation evolved this month from the binary “Yes means yes and no means no”, the calls of “witchhunts” and “McCarthyism” were becoming deafening. This month has been a lucrative time for columnists, who are picking the low-hanging fruit of controversy. And even Whoopi Goldberg’s comment – “What happened to ‘Stop, I’m going to knock you in the nuts’?” is illustrative of a widening chasm, a withering patience.

Indicating that the movement has gone from something that everyone agrees with (rape is wrong, sexual harassment is wrong) to something that they do not. When even Whoopi Goldberg thinks things have gone too far, there is cause to think they might have. The problem is, this is a populist movement, and keeping its message and goals clearly defined is therefore a Sisyphean task.

There was the woman who wrote the Shitty Media Men list, and was threatened to be outed.

Tit for tat. It’s a bit rich complaining that the outer was threatened with outing.

[Peterson] failed to mention social conditioning, whereby boys are encouraged at school to study STEM subjects and play with action men, and to not show emotion. He failed to mention that any profession dominated by women – except at the very senior levels – goes hand-in-hand with being underpaid and undervalued – ie nursing and teaching.

He clearly said that there were many factors involved. The fact that he didn’t mention them all in a 30 minute interview is hardly surprising. A lot of the things he brought up were in reaction to Newman’s incorrect assertions about his positions. He did mention the fact that women now dominate the medical profession. I’d hardly call doctors underpaid and undervalued.

He overexploited one aspect of the pay gap (there are five main ones, as noted by professor Tom Schuller’s Paula Principle theory) that some women prioritise work/life balance over difficult careers, and that is why they are paid less.

He gave this as an example of a factor other than sexual discrimination, which Newman had implied was the only reason for the difference in average salaries.

His answer as to why items marketed for women cost more than for men? “Men don’t put up with it”.

And he is absolutely correct. We don’t. If there was a men’s product that cost more than a functionally equivalent women’s product and the men’s product cost more, I would buy the women’s product, and the company that was pricing the men’s product higher would be forced to accept lower market share for that product or reduce its price to compete.

“Got ya,” Peterson said when Newman fell silent for a few seconds. Peterson laughed.

And he was good natured, not vindictive, despite the fact that Newman had been pressing him hard, and he had finally said something that she couldn’t immediately think of a way to attack. And Newman took it well.

The joke was on her, in a way. No matter what she would have asked, a woman daring to question his expertise was bound to have ramifications. Especially in 2018.

Peterson is intelligent, thoughtful, and has extensive experience dealing with people. He is, as he stated in the interview, a clinical psychologist as well as a university professor. The ramifications of the interview (as opposed to some of the comments posted on it) should be positive. Whether you agree with Peterson or not, understanding his arguments is useful.

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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