Sorry state of discourse

I came across this interesting discussion today.

It’s gone viral. It’s long. But, it’s worth a watch.

A theme of this blog is how productive discourse is tough to come by. This is a good example of why. It reminds me of conversations I’ve tried to have with folks.

Cathy Newman asks Jordan Peterson a question.

He answers.

She tries to restate what he just said in a way that makes his answer sound divisive, explosive or dumb — but is also inaccurate.

It’s a good example of straw man fallacy.

Straw man fallacy is used to obstruct discourse. Instead of talking about the merits or demerits of an issue, it diverts the energy of the discussion to clarifying what is actually being said.

It’s also meant to frustrate folks and get them lose their cool. For many, the person who loses their cool, loses the exchange. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

The topic might be the sum of 1 + 1. Jordan Peterson says it’s 2. Newman asks, “Are you saying that people who think it’s 3 are idiots? That’s divisive.”

If Peterson loses his cool, in many people’s eyes he loses, even though 1+1 is actually 2.

From a young age, I noticed I was different than other folks in this regard.

I never cared much whether someone lost their cool or not. I cared what they actually had to say and the reasoning they used. I cared about their points.

I’ve seen people lose their cool, but still make points that I thought were worth considering. For me it’s been, It’s not how you say it, it’s what you say. 

I never understood what I had to gain from pretending that 1+1=3 simply because someone lost their cool trying to explain that it doesn’t.

For some, I think it’s the identifying with others. If believing 1+1=3 gets them affiliation with folks they want to be affiliated with, then it’s 3 all day long.

For others, it’s simply that they don’t have skin in the game. If it doesn’t really hurt them to believe that, then why spend too much time thinking about it?

Near the 25 minute mark, Newman uses a combo fallacy — red herring/ad hominem. See if you can spot it.

I’ve read comments from those on the right about the above exchange. They think Jordan did a masterful job of handling himself against the barrage of straw men and came out ahead.

I’d be interested to know what folks on the left thought. I’m guessing many might think Newman came out ahead and may feel like Peterson evaded her questioning (er…false accusations) rather than answered them.


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