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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Steven Pinker and his fan boys

Steven Pinker's right-wing, alt-right and hereditarian connections
Steven Pinker's right-wing, alt-right
and hereditarian connections
I am certainly not interested in saying anything untrue about Steven Pinker. I think his verifiable history of promoting race science and in the case of Steve Sailer, promoting the career of a bona fide racist, while at the same time swanning around the world, expressing his opinions on everything and anything in the role of - in the words of the recent NYTimes hagiography - "celebrity intellectual" is sufficiently ghastly sans embellishment.

And if Pinker's fan boys are to be believed, I haven't said anything untrue about Pinker. Because if I did say something untrue about their hero and sometime shoe model, wouldn't they tell me about it?

But all I can get out of them is content-free insults.

My article Steven Pinker's right-wing, alt-right and hereditarian connections, especially seems to enrage them to the point of inarticulation. Just the concept alone, a diagram containing information, short-circuits their brains.

It's annoying enough when Steve Sailer and other recipients of wingnut welfare, like Quillette staff members Colin Wright and Bo Winegard insult me personally without explaining what is wrong with the data presented -

- but even Pinker's college professor fan boys do it.

For instance, Lee Jussim a "distinguished professor" and chair of the department of psychology at Rutgers suggested that it was insane to present Pinker's connections in a diagram format.

Now Jussim is in deep with Quillette and uses segregationist terminology and his career seems to consist of saying over and over: "stereotypes are real" so I don't hold him in very high regard to begin with. But as wacky as I think he is, I still find it bizarre that he is so repulsed by information in pictorial form. It's all verifiable stuff. It's a fact that Steven Pinker chose to publish the work of Steve Sailer in the 2004 edition of "The Best of Science and Nature Writing." It's in the public record. Pinker even admits it on his web site.

So why is it so crazy that I drew a line between Pinker and Sailer, and Pinker and the book he edited? I explain why I did so in the text. Why does Lee Jussim consider this "nutso"?

And now another college professor has come at me over Pinker. My article Steven Pinker's right-wing, alt-right and hereditarian connections is posted at Academia and I occasionally get comments. This weekend I got a couple from Douglas Eckberg, retired professor of Sociology from Winthrop University.

He stopped by to suggest that my work is somehow tainted because I am a "left-wing partisan" (I've written about Steven Pinker's hypocrisy on this issue) and then suggested I don't understand Pinker's work (presumably he classifies me with Stephen Jay Gould as well as all those New Yorker and NYTimes reviewers who have panned Pinker's books, as just too stupid to comprehend Pinker's brilliance.) Naturally, he does not say what I got wrong about Pinker.

Steve Sailer marveled that unlike James Watson or Lawrence Summers, Pinker has received very little blow-back over his support for hereditarian hypotheses. Although like all "Summers was a martyr to political correctness" complainers, Sailer neglects to mention that Summers went to work at the Obama administration after stepping down as president of Harvard. Although since Sailer considers Obama his arch-enemy maybe Sailer considered that a demotion.

I suggested Pinker gets away with it because of Pinker's relentless self-promotion coupled with Pinker's lack of intellectual integrity. But another strong possibility is Pinker's fan boys in mainstream media.

This was first most glaringly obvious when Pinker, speaking at a Koch-funded event, claimed the New York Times among others radicalized the alt-right. He received some negative response for that so the New York Times got one of Pinker's fan boys Jesse Singal (also on the Koch payroll but best known for antagonizing the trans community) to defend Pinker. His piece was so dishonest PZ Myers responded:
But then this kind of disingenuous denial of reality, of focusing superficially on he said/she said note-taking, is exactly what the New York Times specializes in.
It certainly does when it comes to Pinker. Recently Pinker got to play free speech martyr because some linguists did not want him to represent them. He was defended everywhere from the National Review to Mother Jones. It was his dream come true I imagine - much like Christiana Hoff Sommer's response to someone yelling Black Lives Matter at her in front of a camera.

And the New York Times gave the martyr a big spread, How a Famous Harvard Professor Became a Target Over His Tweets.

One of the very few voices speaking for the linguists, Todd Synder, wrote a response to the deck-stacking by Michael Powell in the NYTimes:
Meanwhile, it is the public signatories of (the linguist letter) — especially early-career linguists like myself — who have already been met with threats of abuse and retaliation. Both from online trolls, fans of Pinker and the “Intellectual Dark Web” (unfortunately unsurprising, given the current state of the online world) and from some more senior voices in the field, enough so that some non-signatories of TOL felt the need to write a public letter condemning such reactions. If anyone in this story is in danger of suffering any actual consequences as a result of “fraught cultural battles”, it’s people like me whose careers are potentially jeopardized by willing to take a public stance which threatens to upset the status quo. And all the more so for my colleagues who are women, or who are non-binary, who are people of color, who already have a tougher time fighting for a career, and who attract an unequal amount of the harassment and abuse from Pinker supporters.  
Pinker sees himself as someone bravely standing against public opinion, but he represents the status quo, not its opposition. His is the voice that “carries power”, not the letter writers’. It would be nice if the Times would reflect that actuality, rather than making Pinker out to be the powerless victim.
Although I should say that I was not impressed by the linguist letter which deliberately put aside Pinker's support for race science:
Though no doubt related, we set aside questions of Dr. Pinker’s tendency to move in the proximity of what The Guardian called a revival of “scientific racism”,
The Letter was so weak and feeble a statement against Pinker I could easily believe it was written by friends of Pinker in order to give him a chance to play the free speech martyr. That has ended up being its main impact.

It's my impression that there is a kind of gentlemen's agreement among the mostly white men who run established media, to avoid embarrassing Steven Pinker, their celebrity intellectual, with questions about his support for race science.

But maybe that's why Pinker's fan boys get so tongue-tied with rage by my article with the diagram. It has an impact. The diagram makes it clear at a glance that Pinker has connections with the alt-right, conservatives and hereditarians. It may not be considered significant by Pinker or the media, since I'm a nobody and they are big on credentials, but people do look at it, and unlike most of the text-dense and often very badly written academic papers available online, people can understand the information easily and quickly. I have a background as a technical writer - helping people to absorb complex information quickly is my job. But it's not what you'd call a prestigious intellectual job, not like being an op-ed writer for the Times like David Brooks.

The fan boys hate the diagram, not because anything in it is incorrect, but because I have ignored the gentlemen's agreement and embarrassed, not Pinker himself (I believe he has no sense of shame) but rather the fan boys.

Meanwhile Pinker needs a safe space on Twitter so he has set his account so only those he follows or mentions can comment on his tweets.

In this tweet we see Pinker promoting two other race science proponents

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