Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Quasi-factuality & Action Poetry

I have to say, I was quite impressed with the juxtaposition of academic discourse with gotcha journalism in the Jordan Peterson - Cathy Newman BBC Channel 4 Interview this week.

James Lindsay "live" tweet reaction to it got me thinking more about how well Peterson captures, cult like, the disaffection of modern men.  The first 5 minutes or so cover the content.  The eventual trump of rational academic discourse over accusatory social justice sin ensures this disaffected population will continue to rally around this new thought leader.  How many ideologically abused asperger / autistic boys are going to watch this and see Peterson as the ideal of what they would like to be?  A lot.  He is their image.  His turbulent early life captures what many of them have and will go through.

That notwithstanding, the most interesting point to me is the use of quasi-factuality and action poetry (Perkins 2003).  At the start, Peterson presents some obviously broad generalizations and erratically witches between individual level discussions and population level percentages.  There is a definite looseness here.  The practical effect of which is to provide just enough uncertainty and unbelievability so as to be fairly memorable.

Counters at this point of the conversation are the most salient. Listeners are either going to fully dismiss him as a loon (or lobster) or more fully embrace him.

Peterson's style is very much this way.  He takes a strong, seemingly outlandish position, and doesn't back down. He embraces the absurdity of things to an extent not many other pop-scientists do. I suspect this is his appeal. He continually sets up quasi-factuals and makes them seem as sensible as possible.  This is a very unique rhetorical space I've often seen used by popular religious preachers and high-end salesmen.  But, it becomes very interesting when backed by sufficient academic chomps and deliberate admissions about potential data over-extensions. It is a beautiful rhetorical space.

I also think it highlights the very real role quasi-factuality plays in motivation, group formation, group sustenance and discourse.

If you don't see what I mean, look at 3:00 at his use of the word "power"  at 3:25.

"Women want, deeply, men who are competent and powerful.  And I don't mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others.  That isn't power that is just corruption.  Power is competence. And, why in the world would you not want a competent partner?"

Classic quasi-factualism.  Religion has perfected this type of night language.  Peterson has as well. It works well for a reason.  (It also ticks off some rationalism for probably much the same reason...)

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