Because I exposed Steven Pinker’s atrociously bad arguments, I have now been accused of “smearing” and “distorting” Pinker’s words, and gotten all kinds of fun hate mail. Alas, nobody has been able to show where my arguments actually distort Pinker’s claims; he really does argue that “political correctness” is driving people to the alt-right, and that there are all these “facts” that Leftist Academics refuse to discuss on campus, which drives students further right when they discover that they’ve been lied to. It is a bullshit contrafactual, wrong and dishonest in every way, and the best people can do is say, “well, there’s some parts afterwards that are more nuanced, and you ignored those”. Nope, that’s irrelevant. When someone states outright lies, it doesn’t matter if later they say something else.
But that’s the fallback everyone is resorting to: it’s the logical equivalent of someone pointing out that Trump said something that was outright racist, while others refuse to acknowledge it and instead like to mention how he had a taco salad, so he’s not that bad. It’s not relevant. Quit dancing around the facts. I addressed Pinker’s lies, specifically. No one has refuted the fact that he did speak dishonestly.
If you want a perspective that’s less pissed-off than mine, I recommend Thomas Smith’s latest podcast. He thinks maybe I was a leetle too aggressively in-Pinker’s-face, to put it mildly, but then I think he’s a leetle too charitable, but then I also think maybe he’s new to Pinker’s history of making shitty arguments. Pinker is an advocate for evolutionary psychology, he criticized the March for Science as
anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric (gosh, how many dog-whistles can you pack in a phrase?), he invoked the second law of thermodynamics to explain poverty, he endorsed the absurdities of Gamergate and Christina Hoff Sommers, and wrote the most arrogant piece on scientism ever. I say this not as a rabid anti-Pinker zealot — you can also find articles praising bits and pieces of Pinker’s work in my archives — but as someone who doesn’t just assume that Harvard confers infallibility with tenure, and who actually suspects that many aspects of Harvard reinforce an ugly sense of entitlement. He’s just really bad at thinking about way too many things.
Smith does point out something I could have been clearer about. If you look at the kinds of arguments Pinker often makes, they reduce to blaming the Left/Progressives/Liberals for things that the Right/Republicans/racists do. Somehow it’s always possible to make the worst things the alt-right does entirely the fault of those who oppose them, and also, he never bothers to say what we’re supposed to do instead. Encourage racists? Say kind things about them? Compromise on fundamental issues: suggest that maybe black people are only a little bit inferior rather than a lot inferior?
Even when they vaguely puzzle out this point, Pinker supporters don’t understand it. What does Jesse Singal say in the New York Times?
The clip was deeply misleading. If you watch the whole eight-minute video from which it was culled, it’s clear that Mr. Pinker’s entire point is that the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical — but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.
No. He clearly says that the alt-right’s beliefs are the fault of the “PC” Left, which says nothing about making better arguments to oppose them, and is a falsehood. His talk was about doling out the blame to the Left, not about fighting the alt-right. If you listen to the whole 8-minute video, what you hear is Pinker first saying that you can’t voice certain facts on campus, then stating those facts (self-refutation, anyone?), then explaining that his facts are more complex than he let on,
which is what the college professors he’s blaming already do.
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.