Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson has been in New Zealand this week, attracting large crowds to his public talks and much frenzied attention on social media.

I interviewed him on Tuesday morning, and ahead of that asked Twitter what I should ask him. Then we posted a short clip from the interview. The responses to both have been fascinating.

Many opponents of Peterson suggested I grill him on statements they thought he'd made, which he actually hadn't. That was remarkably common.

Many of his supporters decided I would be misquoting him, or taking his statements out of context. But Peterson himself did not take that line. He accepted that every quote I asked him about was accurate and not distorted by lack of context. But he did disagree with some of my interpretations of what he meant.


No problem there, I would have thought. That's what interviews are for: you ask people what they think, point out what it sounds like, and give them the chance to explain. I don't think anyone is going to say Peterson didn't get every chance to explain himself. And he took every chance well, I thought.

The other curious response has been an assumption that my interview would be either an unfair hatchet job, or an occasion in which I got "owned" by the interviewee. Or possibly even both. It seems, for some people, there is no other possible outcome for such an interview.

I guess people, on all sides, hear and see what they want to hear and see.

There is also the bile. This email, not untypical of its type, came in after the short clip was published on Tuesday.

"Your interview and newspaper article on Jordan Peterson was truly awful. It was the worst case of smear I have ever read. You are either a evil person or you suffer from early onset dementia. It is time to retire. Posterity will remember you as a demented liar."

I can't help thinking, what would Jordan Peterson do? The author of 12 Rules for Life advises (rule 1) that we "stand up straight with our shoulders back", which is a way of saying behave with dignity. And there's rule 6: "Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world."

Still, bring it on. We're all talking to each other and that's something, I guess.

The interview clip attached to this story is from the full interview. In it, we talk about violence, but we're also talking about Peterson's rule 10: "Be precise in your speech."


Simon Wilson's full interview with Jordan Peterson will be online on Saturday morning, and his feature article on Peterson's town hall meeting this week will be in the Weekend Herald that same day.