Jordan B. Peterson Vs. Decca Aitkenhead

Essay No.3 — “The Sharks Of Journalism”


I live in a constant state of wonder, because like most, I suffer from a severe lack of knowledge. I know nothing. This has instilled in me a burning desire for understanding of my surroundings. My ego refuses to settle for less.

We paint whatever picture of the world helps us rise at dawn. Each painting shares a common theme of lost individuals exploring earth’s terrain in search of anything. We crave meaning so we create grandiose ideas of what exactly we’re here for. X joined the Proud Boys, a far right extremist group, and Y became a priest. To my understanding, the motivation behind these contrasting lifestyles appear to be identical — self worth.

It’s the obsession with self that drives us. It’s this same obsession that makes us believe in anything. Whether it be a belief in a god, belief in capitalism, a flawed belief in nationalism or racial superiority, or belief in that rock over there. These beliefs are a symptom of confusion in the quest for meaning in an unsolvable environment. Each can be traced back to a part of self that we cannot touch; a part of self that we cannot fathom. It appears egocentric, but I’ve come to accept that it’s only natural. Succumbing to the idea that humans are innately self-absorbed can be a struggle. It stimulates distrust and paranoia, the gateway, in my opinion, to insanity. But I don’t shy away from that reality anymore. Oblivion has been of no service to me.

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The world of journalism is filled with sharks—individuals with a thirst for blood who will do or say anything in order to fulfill some self-serving prophecy of journalistic glory. Crabs in a bucket clawing and pulling in an attempt to advance, leaving carcasses of innocent victims along the way. This was reiterated in a recent article by UK news outlet Sunday Times about Dr. Jordan B. Peterson in which writer, Decca Aitkenhead, falsely claimed the toronto-based psychologist had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. This narrative was, without any research or journalism, further distributed by mainstream media outlets. I’ve read and watched everything I need to regarding the issue. I’ve read the initial interview invitation letter that was used to reel in their prey, the published article, and also the original audio of the interview (which I’m guessing Aitkenhead had no idea that Peterson’s daughter, Mikaila, was very wisely recording). Having absorbed the truth, as a journalism student, I can’t help but feel troubled about the front page article that was released following these interviews. It was riddled with misinformation, distorted versions of events and random claims of “toxic masculinity” that have virtually nothing to do with the three hour conversation that transpired. All this written without any form of consideration as to how this might affect the subject and his family who are recovering from trying times. Intuition tells me that most of this piece was pre-written in Aitkenhead’s mind prior to the interviews. Her position was predetermined, leaving the interview process to serve solely as a theatrical exhibition. Dr. Peterson wrote in a letter to the publication following the articles release:

I am frankly stunned by the degree of sheer cruelty and spite manifested by your journalist, Decca Aitkenhead and by the degree of misrepresentation (if that’s what it was) necessary to entice me into speaking as I did with her, with no intention on my part other than to answer the questions she put to me as clearly and honestly as my deeply flawed self could manage. Given the manner in which you crafted your invitation to me, I can’t understand how you can in good conscience accept what transpired.

This is a discussion on ethicsor lack thereof. A journalist, especially one tasked with depicting another human's story, must have acquired a certain level of understanding of people. A healthy amount of empathy running through the veins should be a prerequisite for such a story. Because, words are powerful. Critics of Jordan Peterson will tell you this. Frankly, Aitkenhead — until someone can change my mind — strikes me as a person who lacks this understanding. Anyone with a properly calibrated moral compass would avoid spewing the words “this is purely just about cracking under the pressure of life,” to a person who is trusting them with medical information about struggles with Akathisia, a vicious side effect of benzodiazepine. But who cares, right? Decca got her story. A story that suspiciously bashes Mikhaila Peterson for caring for her critically ill father and naturally doing everything in her power to protect him during a time in which her mother was also battling a life threatening, rare form of cancer. Unfortunately, to many journalists, people are just that — stories. It’s made me very pessimistic of my surroundings. I began studying journalism because of my eagerness to find out the truths of life. But nothing is more discouraging than watching the sharks of journalism exploit individuals who have gifted them their trust in a world that forces the opposite.

I live in a constant state of wonder. And today, I wonder how the topic of “toxic masculinity” was ever considered for Aitkenhead's article following the details given in the interviews. I’m astonished at the voice the story was told with. A much different one from the caring, compassionate, mother-like tone that was utilized by Aitkenhead during the interview process. The friendly cadence of the british accent has fooled me once again.

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We’re all searching for something. We all want to be something so we vigorously shake the tree of life and rummage in the fallen fruit for sustenance. But it is impossible to satisfy one’s self if we don’t know what we are searching for. And we don’t. Alas, we shake the tree more viciously. We lust and so we take; we ravage and then wait. Still nothing. We embark on missions to be the greatest journalist, lawyer, banker, etc. We hurt people on our ascent up career ladders for nothing. We are cursed with cognitive dissonance, acting against our morals in attempts at feeling enhanced emotions towards life. But as luck would have it, there is no "goal" in life except caring for the living and burying the dead. I can understand that this seems, in a way, too pessimistic of an ideology to be digested easily. It seems empty. Perhaps, I guess—depending on what lens you choose to peer through. To each his own. But personally, I don’t recognize the negative aspects of simply living without impairing the lives of my neighbours. In fact, there’s a certain freedom that emerges from it.