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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam is part of the media gentlemen's agreement on the career of Steven Pinker

I wasn't surprised that Steven Pinker, in his latest media appearance, this time on a podcast with National Public Radio's 
social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, was not asked about his long-time and ongoing support for race science.

I was surprised that the interview wasn't about Pinker's free speech martyrdom, for a change, but rather focused on Pinker's Panglossian schtick, which, although full of his usual specious arguments is probably the least objectionable of all of Pinker's causes.

On top of all that, even his most devoted fan boy, Jerry Coyne, won't declare with absolute certainty that "Stephen," the bike-riding enthusiast Harvard professor who shows up in the testimony of Virginia Giuffre, one of Jeffrey Epstein's victims, is definitely not Pinker.

And Pinker is gob-smackingly, utterly shameless.

So why do men in the media work so hard to protect Steven Pinker from criticism while blowing sunshine up his ass? Why are they so invested in promoting Pinker as a celebrity intellectual?

You can understand why a Koch beneficiary like Conor Friedersdorf and Pinker's professional twin Freakonomics Steve D. Levitt would  be invested in promoting the celebrity intellectual career of Pinker, but I expect something better from the partially public-supported National Public Radio.

I suspect the primary reason Pinker shows up everywhere from the United Nations to Koch-funded events is pure laziness. Steven Pinker has an impressive PR machine and it is easy for media schedulers to say yes to another Pinker media inquiry, instead of making an effort to go out and find the less media-groomed, who actually know what they are talking about and are not part-time political operatives like nuclear energy lobbyist Pinker.

But as to why they refuse to bother him with questions on his activities in support of race science and even bona fide racists is still a mystery. The media has no problem asking Andrew Sullivan about his support for race science. Perhaps Pinker's PR team makes them agree in advance not to ask Pinker embarrassing questions? Or are people in the media so awed by Pinker's status as celebrity intellectual - a status that the media itself granted Pinker - that they dare not trouble him with questions on topics he'd rather not discuss?

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