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Friday, November 15, 2019

Steven Pinker's PR Machine

It seems as though Steven Pinker is everywhere these days.

Pinkerite hasn't tracked every single thing that Pinker has done in the past year, in spite of this blog being dedicated to critiquing Pinker as the most respectable member of the Intellectual Dark Web, but Pinker has shown up at the UN, appeared in a discussion at Brown University with Paul Krugman, gave a speech at the Peace Research Institute at Oslo, and everywhere in-between.

And all this even though this might be the first time in his career in which he is being loudly criticized (outside of his books' reviews.)

This year alone these articles have been published about him:
Plus the articles, this year, about his connection to Jeffrey Epstein.

And (ahem) this blog which is coming up on its one-year anniversary.

In spite of all this publicity, there are many people who have never heard of Steven Pinker. When I tell people about this Pinkerite project, often smart people who have good general knowledge and are up on current events, I usually have to explain to them who Steven Pinker is.

Pinker is doing his best to remedy that, I believe. He announced in a tweet on November 10 that NOVA is doing a program called "The Violence Paradox" based on "The Better Angels of Our Nature."

Bad, bad move, NOVA/PBS - Better Angels is crap.

It's gotten bad reviews, like the one by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker. Pinker was so annoyed by it that not only did he call on race science proponent Razib Khan to defend him, he was still mad about it years later.

And as I have discussed, he claimed that the reason for violence in the 1960s was dirty hippies and blacks not getting married, although he reverted to weak pinkerism when he met up for a discussion with Paul Krugman and declined to correct Krugman when he said we don't know the reason for 1960s violence.

I have further thoughts on the Pinker-Krugman discussion which I will talk about in an upcoming post.

Perhaps the worst aspect of "Better Angels" was Pinker misrepresenting the archaeological record by counting individual incidents of apparent prehistorical violence more than once - an error he has never admitted to, as far as I know, although he must be aware of anthropologist Brian Ferguson's critique in his "Pinker's List" article. And I spoke with Ferguson about it in this audio interview.

Also the book is eight years old. I don't think there's a huge clamoring for a television program based on the seriously flawed "Better Angles of Our Nature" book. So why is there a program coming up on NOVA/PBS?

I think it's because Pinker's PR people pitched it to PBS.

A friend of mine recently mentioned to me that her daughter, who is very wealthy in part through her marriage, paid a PR firm to promote her latest book, the result of which was that her book was reviewed in prominent media outlets; she was the subject of articles in respected publications; and she gave interviews on well-known radio programs, including public-funded ones.

This gave me insight into the way books are promoted, which I had not had before. I think Pinker pays a PR firm to market the holy living shit out of his work and to be vigilant about Pinker's public image. I had already been thinking about the possibility of Pinker having a PR machine when I happened to look at the Talk section of his Wikipedia entry. This is what I found:
Request to change Steven Pinker's Photo on Wikipedia[edit] 
An edit request by an editor with a conflict of interest has now been answered. 
Hello fellow Wikipedians, 
On behalf of Steven Pinker, I have 3 requested changes, 1. Change picture from current photo to 102111_Pinker_344.jpg 2. Change photo title to "Steven Pinker by Rose Lincoln/Harvard University" 3. Change photo caption to "This photograph is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license by Harvard University." 
Steven Pinker has disclosed to me that he would like his Wikipedia picture changed. I attempted to make this edit earlier this year on Steven's behalf, but it looks like the change was reversed. 
Because this request was sent to me through email, I do not have a URL to post supporting the requested changes. However, I am happy to send a transcript of the email to a private party or engage in other forms of necessary verification. Aufstrich (talk) 23:26, 14 November 2018 (UTC) 
How do we know he has requested this? And if he has, then he has a WP:COI. Also, we don't normally show attribution for photos in captions, unless the photographer is notable. Sorry. In any case, you should upload the image first either here or at Commons and provide a link to it, so we can see what it's like. Martinevans123 (talk) 23:50, 14 November 2018 (UTC)
So someone with the Wikipedia username of Aufstrich (text in blue above) had been emailed by Steven Pinker with a request to change his Wikipedia photo. Aufstrich then went on Wikipedia and made the change, which was then reverted. I do have some sympathy there, Wikipedia editors are ridiculous.

Aufstrich received a response from Martinevans123 (in dark red above) who appears to patrol the Pinker entry regularly.

Aufstrich doesn't appear to have a lot of experience with Wikipedia editing and received a list of rules they broke, seen here.

Clearly Pinker is very particular about his public image, going so far as to email someone - probably his PR firm - to tell them to change his Wikipedia page photo and they likely then handed off the job to one of their low-level PR flunkies.

Pinker has indisputably used a PR firm - Meryl Zegarek Public Relations (MZPR) admits to promoting "The Language Instinct" which was published in 1994 - although I suppose it could have been the book's publisher, rather than Pinker himself who had direct dealings with MZPR. And based on Zegarek's LinkedIn profile, she handled the Pinker publicity campaign while she was Associate Director of Publicity at William Morrow and Company.

And let's not forget Jerry Coyne, who I hope Pinker is paying for Coyne's constant defenses of Pinker.

It appears to me that Pinker uses the wealth accumulated from his crap books to continue to promote his crap books in an effort to achieve Great Man of Science fame.

Which would of course not only feed the Pinker ego and increase his wealth further, it would aid with one of his apparent side projects, mainstreaming race science.