Sam Harris does a two hour podcast with Jordan Peterson after getting a flood of requests for such a show from his listeners. In fact, Harris tells us
“I’d received more listener requests for him than for Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Edward Snowden—or, indeed, any other person on earth.”
This is understandable. Peterson has become something of a rock star because he is a very intelligent man who firmly stands his ground in his disputes with the PC police. I would imagine that many of Sam’s listeners thought it would be great to hear Harris and Peterson tag team on this whole issue of political correctness, an issue that is always in the news. Maybe the two them together, swapping war stories, will come up with some really stinging criticisms.
But what did they get? Harris begins the talk by making it clear he is not all that interested in talking about the PC issues. He claims they would be in agreement so there would not be much to say. Are you kidding me? The thing that has people excited about Peterson makes Sam yawn? I am under the impression that most of Harris’s podcasts that interview people involve lots and lots of agreements between Sam and his guest. Why is this so different? After letting Peterson do most of the talking in the first 10 minutes about the PC issues, Sam wants to talk about areas of disagreement. And from there, they spend a whole hour and fifty minutes debating……….the meaning of truth from a pragmatist vs. realist perspective.
You interview Peterson, whose YouTube videos about PC get over a million views, and instead of talking about the issues that have jettisoned him to prominence, the issues that probably got him recognized by most of Harris’ listeners, you decide to wander off into the weeds and get bogged down in esoteric talk about “truth?” What’s going on?
Let me play arm chair psychologist. I think something was bubbling below the surface. My guess is that since Peterson is on the ascendency and Harris is past his peak of popularity, Harris was experiencing some old fashioned jealousy. Lots of Harris’s fans wanted to hear Peterson (more than Dawkins or Pinker!!), a man whose opposition to the PC culture is eclipsing Sam. In fact, given that some of Sam’s income is wrapped up in the meditation culture, Harris has to be somewhat tight-lipped with this topic, as I would imagine the meditation crowd overlaps significantly with the Regressive Left crowd. So Harris thought it was time to show his listeners he was still the Alpha Dog. He was going to show his fans this up and coming newbie, who had sympathies for religion, wasn’t as deserving of all this newfound respect he was getting. Sam was still the Man. And if he had to stick with this topic of truth for one hour and fifty minutes to get this new face to submit to Harris Logic, well then, that’s what those listeners were going to get. And if he failed, well then, it was just another failed “experiment.”
Look at it this way. If Peterson decides to write a book about these PC issues in culture and academia, he probably has a best seller waiting for him. Harris, on the other hand, has pretty much said all he has to say. And I think that goes a long way explaining why that podcast was such a train wreck.