If you act
As you think
The missing link
Synchronicity I, The Police
Back in the late-90s-to-early-aughts, David Frum could be counted on to rook me into purchasing the occasional National Post. The headlines assured me he was present to take on some lefty shibboleth I favoured -- gay marriage, for example. Alright then, I'd think -- persuade me.
Alas, persuasion was not his intent. He'd throw down a string of contentious ideological canards that led to a final put-down punchline mocking the opposition as moral and intellectual invalids. The ploy struck me as a youthful aping of William F. Buckley -- or Ann Coulter, talking in her sleep.
Don't waste time or intellectual energy on cogency of thought -- "defend" your ideological presumptions with a ceaseless barrage of invective against the opposition. To my dismay, this has become the default setting not just for Canada's Intellectual Left, but for aspiring advocates for the Disappearing Center as well.
Say what you will about Jordan Peterson (please), but cogency of thought is a big deal to him. When giving Peterson their consideration, however, this is precisely what our nation's last surviving prestige print platforms are having difficulties with. The less said about Tabitha Southey's "nyah-nyah-a-boo-boo" for Maclean's, the better. The Walrus parks itself left-of-centre, but should be intellectually robust enough to issue a vigorous critique. Ira Wells takes a crack at it, but good Lord, I hope he (or his TA) does a more careful job of grading his students' essays than his editor did fact-checking Wells' presumptive claims. Over at The Globe & Mail, Simona Chiose struggles mightily and spills a tonne of ink to reach a balanced POV on the controversial prof. Alas, the headline and sub-heading give away the game:
"Jordan Peterson and the trolls in the ivory tower: In the fight for 'free speech,' a university professor has found himself backed by the Internet's most ruthless denizens while students cry foul."If you need help parsing the rhetorical structure of those two sentences, let me know.
|This photo, OTOH, presents a challenge.|
Peterson leads with his chin, he's willing to engage seriously and respectfully with the dopiest of slavering acolytes that approach the mic with a question, and he will take care articulating his line of reasoning so as not to be misunderstood. Ironically enough, the person he most reminds me of is the late Christopher Hitchens. And as with Hitch, while I deeply admire Peterson's candour and rhetorical command, it is his temperament that occasionally chafes.
But I'm glad he's around. If his opponents took a proper stab at emulating his rhetorical method, the ensuing discussion could be enlightening and might actually get us somewhere.
Endnote: need help with that? Jay Heinrichs leans left and he's got a book for you (some tips contained therein (hm - "Heinrichs." There's just something about that name...).