Last week, the British news station Channel 4’s Cathy Newman conducted an interview with Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson.
In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf conducted a careful dissection of the aggressive interview.
He writes “It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication. First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.”
This interview style is very common on cable news shows and social media. It is debate driven. The danger of it, as Friedersdorf warns, is that it can lead viewers astray.
“But in the interview, Newman relies on this technique to a remarkable extent, making it a useful illustration of a much broader pernicious trend. Peterson was not evasive or unwilling to be clear about his meaning. And Newman’s exaggerated restatements of his views mostly led viewers astray, not closer to the truth.”
Yet, Channel 4’s misleading restatements of Peterson’s views do not stop with Newman’s style of questioning. Through their Facebook, Channel 4 published a highlight reel of the Peterson interview.
As a video editor, I was astounded at the lengths a major news outlet would go to edit out an interviewee’s views. At several points, the editor omits key context-providing statements made by Peterson. As a result, the remarks included are easy to misinterpret and Peterson’s views appear far more objectionable than they really are.
Using the full Channel 4 interview, FEE has made a highlight reel that includes key soundbites of Peterson’s perspective on the gender wage gap, equality, and professional success. Each clip is separated by a visual transition. We use no trick editing.
The differences between Channel 4’s reel and the FEE’s reel is startling. It seems to suggest that their interest isn’t to represent Peterson’s beliefs, but rather to obscure them. I myself don’t agree with all of Peterson’s views. And Channel 4 certainly has the right to oppose them. But that doesn’t make it right to mischaracterize them.
The skills of a video editor should be wielded for the cause of understanding, not the deliberate promotion of misunderstanding.