Last week Channel 4 news carried an interview with Canadian professor and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson.
You may have seen it, and if you didn’t, you should join the 4m other people who have since watched the 30-minute exchange on YouTube. The interview generated an almighty online backlash, mostly against Cathy Newman, who was subjected to a torrent of misogynistic abuse from keyboard warriors who objected to her critique of Peterson’s theories.
The professor challenged a range of contemporary cultural sacred truths, touching on feminism and transgender activism. He’s no shock-jock, and drew on extensive research and clinical experience to question some issues which have become unquestionable. Much has been written dissecting this interview, and I won’t add my own analysis here other than to say that Newman (a fine journalist and broadcaster) did not cover herself in glory. As I said, watch the interview and draw your own conclusions.
Dwelling on the fallout, I was struck by just how rare it is to see an uninterrupted, 30 minute one-on-one interview these days. Credit to Channel 4 for releasing the full version, having simply clipped a shorter package for their programme.
Therein lies the problem: Newman’s overly combative style and unwillingness to engage may be down to the fact that the interview was always meant to run in an edited short form, which these days prioritises heat over light. Somewhere in recent years, it has been decided that there is no public appetite for an intelligent, long-form TV interview – and yet we need them now more than ever.
Away from two-minute Twitter videos and broadcasters looking for the “gotcha” moment, I’m willing to bet there’s an audience hungry for intelligent, conversational and forensic interviewing. Big, complex issues deserve thoughtful, illuminating interviews.
Look Up London
When I moved to London a decade ago I was quite unfamiliar with the capital. I don’t want to sound too parochial but the truth is I hadn’t spent much time here before coming up after university. I still retain something of the excitement that I first felt, not least walking home over London Bridge at night or strolling into the City on a bright, cold morning. It can be easy to keep your head down when walking about the city, either immersed in a phone screen or just as a consequence of familiarity and routine. Imagine my delight, therefore, to come across the website Look Up London – a wonderful blog that’s all about “discovering things you’ve never noticed before.” There’s plenty on the Square Mile, including guides to the many ancient churches that nestle between the skyscrapers, such as St Ethelburga’s on Liverpool St, which (like all the others) has a fascinating history. The site also highlights curiosities, relics and clues to the City’s past. Take a look – and look up, London.
Is Oxfam above criticism?
Former Bank of England MPC member Andrew Sentance suggested on Twitter that those who took issue with Oxfam’s latest intervention in the public debate on inequality “should be ashamed of themselves.” But is the charity really above criticism? Lately their public remarks echo Jeremy Corbyn’s critique of capitalism almost word for word. It’s perfectly possible to appreciate Oxfam’s global charitable activities and yet wish their campaigning work focused more on the plight of the poor and less on the wealth of the rich.
Not quite an AI revolution - yet
Yesterday we carried a debate about whether automation lies behind the wave of supermarket layoffs, but news from Scotland suggests the robots are a long way from replacing human staff. A supermarket took part in a university trial to ‘employ’ Fabio the robot to help customers. Alas, he was demoted after a few days, allowed only to offer free samples of pulled pork. Even this proved too much, and Fabio was fired after barely a week. His manager said “he just wasn’t helpful”.