Steven Pinker and the New York Times are making us dumber


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.

Comments

  1. chris61 says

    Personally my impression of that Pinker video was closer to Singal’s than to yours. But even assuming you are correct and he was implying that alt-right views are the ‘fault’ of the ‘PC left’ – he still calls those views despicable. Which leaves me to ask how do you justify saying that makes him sympathetic to the alt-right?

  2. says

    Because he clearly regards the left as the other, a group he opposes and to which he attaches all blame, to a greater degree than he does the members of the alt-right. He is, in fact, more sympathetic to the alt-right than he is to the left.

  3. gmacs says

    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?

    Yeah, this. This is the main thing that sticks out at me when I read about Pinker. A colleague recommended I check out his Twitter, because he’s got interesting points or some shit. Most of what I saw was thinly veiled endorsement of complacency. But there were occasional nuggets like blaming Ta-Nehisi Coates for being too mean to white people, and thus exacerbating racism. How the actual fuck is that kind of thinking supposed to be useful to anyone other than the comfortable, white, middle- and upper-class demographic?

  4. gmacs says

    The belief that a group of people are being driven to an ideology or movement because others are mean to them is inherently a sympathetic one.

  5. says

    Nope, that’s irrelevant. When someone states outright lies, it doesn’t matter if later they say something else.

    Another way to look at this may be to use an analogy that someone can’t start out painting with a broad brush and then come around with a fine brush and try to paint the same area. It’s too late for the fine brush as they got paint where it didn’t belong thanks to the use of the broad brush.

  6. waxwing5 says

    I would be even more scathing. Pinker consistently accuses anybody with progressive views of having an irredeemable bias that does not allow them to objectively assess their own scientific results (he has personally said this in committee meetings in the past as well). Yet, he has no problems palling around and collaborating with individuals like Marc Hauser that were fired for academic misconduct and falsifying data (See here: https://www.risk-eraser.com/ourteam). Who then is lacking integrity here? Also, when researchers, such as myself, have criticised Pinker’s interpretations of evolutionary and developmental processes we are almost always told by him that our criticism is invalid because we do not fully understand the message he is trying to convey. It does not matter how many times we read his books, dissect his findings and interpretations, we always simply won’t get it his eyes. It’s a particularly genius rhetorical method, as it absolves Pinker form having to go through the hard work of understanding and addressing criticism to his own ideas and actually addressing them, and instead allows him to spout off whatever comes to his mind and present it like a yet-unrecognized scientific consensus.

  7. waxwing5 says

    I would be even more scathing. Pinker consistently accuses anybody with progressive views of having an irredeemable bias that does not allow them to objectively assess their own scientific results (he has personally said this in committee meetings in the past as well). Yet, he has no problems palling around and collaborating with Marc Hauser who was fired for academic misconduct and falsifying data (See here: https://www.risk-eraser.com/ourteam). Who then is lacking integrity here? Also, when researchers have criticised Pinker’s interpretations of evolutionary and developmental processes we are almost always told that our criticism is invalid because we do not fully understand the message he is trying to convey. It does not matter how many times we read his books, dissect his findings and interpretations, we always simply won’t get it in his eyes. It’s a particularly genius rhetorical method, as it absolves Pinker form having to go through the hard work of understanding and addressing criticism of his own ideas, and instead allows him to spout off whatever comes to his mind and present it like a yet-unrecognized scientific consensus.

  8. anbheal says

    Yeah, this argument bugged the fuck out of me after Trump’s election. Decent tolerant people had caused it, because they didn’t like co-workers saying the N word or the C word, and Black Lives Matter caused it because, well, you know, BLACK, and DREAMers caused it because, well, you know, Mexican, and feminists caused it because, well, you know, women. Why, if those German Jews hadn’t been so Jewish……

  9. says

    PZ, you are spot on, just as you long have been vis-a-vis Sam Harris. Between the Harrises and Pinkers I’ve become reticent about self-describing as an atheist — there’s too much odious baggage now attendant to that label. My lack of a belief in god(s) is not my highest value; I have more in common with many theistic social justice activists, e.g., Shaun King or Linda Sarsour. Keep it up, PZ!

  10. deepak shetty says

    A long while ago , some people used to claim that the in your face, aggressive , condescending , philosophically naive arguments that “new atheists” make drive or will drive moderate religious folks to extremism. That the insistence that theistic evolution is all crap would make religious people embrace ID or creationism rather than evolution.
    No evidence was ever provided and Coyne,Dawkins et al chewed out the “accomodationists” and the “faitheists” over it.
    Now they support Pinker who is pretty much saying the same thing , but instead of new atheists we have those pesky liberals/sjw’s driving all those open minded, intelligent , men to the alt-right with their CENSORSHIP!.
    It’s funny , the same thought leaders also argue how skepticism is un-emotional , its logical and rational etc etc. Why then does it matter? Surely the same open minded , intelligent men would be putting on their skeptic hats and their Spock costumes and rejecting illogical positions of the alt-right, no ?

  11. nathanieltagg says

    Waxwing: that compares pretty well to what I made of him, when he visited our school for a lecture series.

    He’s been steeped in “reasonable middle” bullshit. Reasonable People In The Middle understand both the left and the right are crazy. Any statement on the left must be motivated politically; even if true. (The Reasonable Middle People are the only ones able to make this distinction – they believe in true things because they are Reasonable, but people on the left believe them because they are on the Left).

    He’s an asshole, by the way: demanded luxury accommodations and a stellar speaking fee (from a pretty small private liberal arts college), then dolled out the same cookie-cutter speech he’s given a hundred times. We could have saved a fortune by sending a you-tube link around instead of inviting the jerk.

  12. says

    #10, Deepak: that’s a good point, I should have made the comparison myself.

    #11: Nathaniel: you could have also saved a fortune by inviting me, I’m cheap! Wait, is that the argument I want to make for myself?

  13. abb3w says

    He clearly says that the alt-right’s beliefs are the fault of the “PC” Left

    He may be taken as implying this, but that’s not quite exactly what he clearly says — at least, not in the transcript I read that appeared to be of the same video segment. More exactly, he apparently says “political correctness has done an enormous amount of harm”, “is doing itself an enormous disservice” in terms of how people choose to affiliate.

    He suggests some opposition to the alt-right in saying “These are unwarranted conclusions because for each one of these facts there are very powerful counterarguments for why they don’t license racism and sexism and Anarcho-capitalism and so on” — and gives some of those counterarguments. He further seems to be suggesting that the problem derives from that students(?) are “never exposed to the ways of putting these facts into context” — implying that he thinks exposing students to these facts in context would help. Such thesis has the difficulty (as PZ noted) that university students are exposed to such ideas, but that seems a relatively small problem.

    The biggest problem with Pinker seems that he’s apparently ignoring some of the psychology research on confirmatory bias, and perhaps also Mencken’s old quip about “neat, plausible, and wrong” explanations. Introducing ideas like “per capita crime rates are higher among blacks than among whites in the US” seem likely to lead (to use an un-PC term) morons to infer simplistic conclusions like “blacks are inherently more criminally predisposed than whites” if not given context; but my impression (though I’m not sure if this has been particularly researched) is that even introducing the context, the “neat, plausible, and wrong” explanations seem likely to be more remembered/believed than the careful and correct ones.

    This effect seems to be coming to bite him in the butt, in that particularly even if Pinker is not an alt-right sympathizer (which PZ’s full bill of particulars leaves a difficult charge to evade), that PZ is lambasting him would thus appear an example of how “neat, plausible, and wrong” explanations seem likely to be more remembered/believed than the careful and correct ones… which implies that Pinker’s prescriptive suggestion will not work.

    I’m also peeved with Pinker’s sloppiness in calling capitalism “better” than communism, but I see no point to ranting about Hume’s is-ought problem yet again.

  14. lotharloo says

    I just read PZ’s post (and the other link) about Pinker’s scientism article and it made me realize that I have been very very humble. I realize now as a computer scientist that everything in fact belongs to computer science. You see, you people from other disciplines, humans are nothing but Turing machines who do computations. So in fact, Kant was just a computer scientist! Same goes for Darwin. In fact, I humbly declare that all disciplines other than computer science are almost obsolete because we can just create a thinking super computer machine thingy with machine learning, neural nets, and AI and relieve the burden of thinking from your shoulders. Please, don’t be modest in praising computer science and our greatness and let us have all the funding now. Thank you.

  15. lotharloo says

    I had not thought about it but imagine how many more contributions Aristotle could have made to Computer Science only if he knew how to code in Python.

  16. daulnay says

    By the way, before you wholeheartedly embrace the Angry Chef (who has much good to say), be aware that he’s a fan of Stephen Pinker. I’m reading his book “Bad Science and the Truth….”, and he quotes Pinker approvingly numerous times.

  17. michaelwbusch says

    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.

    In addition to the outrageousness of Pinker pretending that many college professors don’t specifically discuss – and confront and dismantle – racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted ideas (many psychologists have spent a lot of time doing so, as Pinker well knows); I am struck by his outrageous hypocrisy.

    He asserts “college professors can’t say X, Y, & Z “, while saying X, Y, & Z and being a college professor himself.

  18. monad says

    @18: Yes, and look, people are here describing him as wrong. Surely as egregious example of how the PC left shuts people down as any!

  19. beingapznis21 says

    “When someone states outright lies, it doesn’t matter if later they say something else.” PZ Myers

    So then, after your outrageous title, that Pinker supports the Alt-Right, when you and everyone else KNOWS he does not and the full video shows: since you have stated an outright lie, nothing else you say matters.

    You are part of the problem. Your malice, envy, childishness, intellectual laziness, inability to correct mistakes or apologise, and bigotry is making people dumber. Just look at the trolls who make excuses for you.

    Pinker must be glad that you’ve proven his point for him.

  20. nomadiq says

    What I’ve found particularly annoying and TBH quite anti-intellectual of Pinker is his insistence that the ‘truth’ in politics is somewhere in the middle. He says this from time to time on twitter. That the far-right are bad but that they are somehow counter-balanced by the far-left. This is bullshit. There is no ‘conservation of political thought’ law in the universe. The ‘far-left’ in his measure are bad because the far-left like to point out things like ‘outcomes’ depend on many factors including environment. The far-right just say blacks, gays, women are less human. The correct position in this dichotomy is not in the middle. Pinker is happy to let Nazis decide where the ‘middle reasonable’ ground is. Fuck that.

  21. michaelwbusch says

    @20: If Pinker doesn’t support white supremacists & neo-Nazis (i.e. the “alt-right”), then he must tell white supremacists & neo-Nazis that – publicly, explicitly, and without any ambiguity. Many of them think he supports them, and are using his statements to promote white supremacist racism and other bigotry – as you can readily verify for yourself.

    And don’t engage in denialism of Pinker’s long history of harmful statements.

  22. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s getting harder and harder to talk about anything controversial online without every single utterance of an opinion

    Ah, now to the crux of the matter. If you are in a truly academic debate, it is expected that one would back up their opinion with hard evidence by showing the evidence with the opinion, or don’t voice the opinion.
    There is an old bromide. “That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. The alt-right has no evidence. Neither do those who attempt to defend them. I don’t believe Pinker’s “accepted facts” about the left. They are nonsense, as they are not backed up by what the evidence says.

  23. gmacs says

    I actually just read the article and there’s a rich line about how Pinker should be treated well because he’s been an “important public intellectual” for decades.

    Fuck. That. Noise.

    That is one of the main problems with science and academia today. Elevation of individuals, and the importance placed on prestige. That’s what Pinker has, and that seems to be his main asset. To hell with him and everyone like him. I long for a day when he goes the way of James Watson.

  24. Vivec says

    @20

    So then, after your outrageous title, that Pinker supports the Alt-Right, when you and everyone else KNOWS he does not and the full video shows: since you have stated an outright lie, nothing else you say matters.

    I don’t recall a title that said Pinker supports the alt-right. Mind showing me it?

    Perhaps you’re operating under the mistaken assumption that being sympathetic to a viewpoint necessarily entails consciously supporting it?

  25. Zeppelin says

    Kind of tangential, but since it’s one of his examples of a “fact” — Steven’s logic for why “capitalist societies are better than communist ones” (that you’d presumably rather live in South Korea than North Korea, and 1970s West than 1960s East Germany) is also bizarre.
    Firstly: people’s preferences in a hypothetical choice don’t constitute evidence of what they’d actually like more unless we presume that they have perfect information about these societies and perfect introspection. They could just be mistaken/misinformed. By his logic, the fact that Nazis would rather live in a fascist dictatorship than a liberal democracy is evidence for the superiority of fascism. Not what he indented, I’m pretty sure. So the structure of his “proof” is bollocks even if you agree with his choices (which I do).

    And secondly: North Korea isn’t communist, it’s a totalitarian military dictatorship run by hereditary god-kings. And East Germany didn’t even claim to be a communist society — like everyone in the Eastern Bloc (AFAIK) they called their system socialist, with communism being an eventual, utopian end goal.
    Like, I’m pretty sure most people would rather live in “communist” 1960s East Germany than in “capitalist” 1960s Guatemala, and this has nothing to do with their respective economic systems. He seems to be conflating “capitalist” and “liberal/democratic”. He also uses “Marxism” interchangeably with “communism” a few sentences later. These are both things “centrists” (and the right, of course) like to do, but which he should probably avoid if he wants to be taken seriously.

    “Capitalist societies are better than communist ones” isn’t seen as “flamingly radical” on college campuses, it’s seen as a tired, tiresome platitude trotted out in defense of the status quo by people who typically don’t even know what the terms they’re using mean and lack the knowledge to meaningfully debate the issue. Like Steven here.
    This guy seems like a font of superficial, threadbare justifications for “centrist” platitudes in general, not just when it comes to the “alt-right”.

  26. Dave Grain says

    PZ:
    “…there are all these “facts” that Leftist Academics refuse to discuss on campus…It is a bullshit contrafactual”.

    Melissa Click:
    “I need some muscle over here.”

  27. Dave Grain says

    Nerd of Redhead at 24:
    “The alt-right has no evidence.”

    What a silly statement. This loosely-defined “alt-right” has no evidence of what? What claims of theirs are you declaring to be unevidenced? Who is/are their spokesperson/people, declared by all to be responsible for issuing the “alt-right’s” claims?

    Stop copy-pasting your responses and try actually engaging with each discussion as it happens.

  28. Zeppelin says

    Oh, also: people might correctly predict that they’d prefer society A, because it’d be nicer for them, but that society could still be worse overall than society B because it’d be worse for most others. So even if they do have perfect information and perfect introspection, they might still choose an inferior society unless they also have perfect ethics.
    It really is a remarkably feeble non-argument, made more embarrassing by the way Steven seems to think it’s clever.

  29. says

    He’s saying that in normal campus discussions in classes, forums, etc that these are suppressed, hidden, people are shouted whatever.

    And that is NOT TRUE.

  30. says

    PZ:
    “…there are all these “facts” that Leftist Academics refuse to discuss on campus…It is a bullshit contrafactual”.

    Melissa Click:
    “I need some muscle over here.”

    Wrong.

    That sometimes we have to stop certain discussions does not mean we always do.

    If you barged into my biology class and told me we had to discuss capitalism vs. communism, I’d tell you that no we do not, and kick you out of the class if you persisted. There is a time and a place that is appropriate. It does not mean these issues have been silenced.

  31. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Stop copy-pasting your responses and try actually engaging with each discussion as it happens.

    Oh, with your first post, and without a citation?
    Sorry, you lose big time.
    Try again with evidence….

  32. Vivec says

    @33
    I am literally currently in a sociology class about race and crime, I’ve taken multiple courses about sex and gender – both from a sociological and biological view – and my economics class last quarter covered the history of both capitalism and communism. We literally have courses taught by a professor who was instrumental in the IOC’s policy on transgender participants /because/ of his views on the biological differences between men and women.

    In what way are these facts being “suppressed” by salacious college liberals? My college is not particularly conservative, so you’d think one of these angry bomb-throwing SJW’s would have shouted down these evil ~dangerous facts~

  33. says

    Unfortunately, it turns out that Mr Mills was here on false pretenses. He had been banned for obsessive, obnoxious behavior a year ago, and returned to argue about Sandusky’s innocence and Pinker’s liberalism just recently using a Yahoo account rather than his banned gmail account.

    When you are banned under one pseudonym or account, Mr Mills, you are banned under all of them. It’s amazing how often trolls pretend to be unable to understand that — or is it that trolls actually are too stupid to understand that? Don’t come back. You are not welcome no matter whether you put on a different clown nose or a different wig.

  34. says

    Man, I haven’t had to swing the banhammer in a long time — nice exercise even if it was on one of those pathetic guys who returns under a new pseudonym.

  35. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Haha! Nerd @36, I think you just provided my evidence for me!

    Haha!!! What a joke.

    Oh, and what a joke you showed me that you and Pinker are for PC, SWJ, Etc., with solid links to quotes showing you aren’t just somebody condemned by Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter “from Birmingham Jail” , where you don’t condemn those opposing progress, but rather try to hide behind “reasonableness” to stop progress from occurring? Where is your support for SJW?
    Anybody who won’t condemn the alt-right without pointing to other things is essentially supporting the alt-right according to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    The alt-right are bigots, period, end of story. My clear and unequivocal statement
    Your turn.

  36. chris61 says

    @42 Nerd

    Steven Pinker, in that video, refers to alt-right views as “rather repellent conclusions”. How is that not condemnation?

  37. emergence says

    @20

    “Sympathy” isn’t the same thing as “support” dumbshit. This isn’t difficult to grasp; no one is saying that Pinker is actively supporting the alt-right. Were saying he’s a useful idiot who’s enabling the alt-right by buying into stupid rhetoric about “political correctness”. Pinker has a history of supporting regressive ideas that are also common in alt-right circles. PZ gave a list of examples of how Pinker’s statements during that talk aren’t in a vacuum.

    “Malice, envy, childishness, inability to correct mistakes or apologize, intellectual laziness, and bigotry”?

    For fuck’s sake, that fits shitheels like you and Pinker to a T. You’re “centrist” apologists for the status quo who buy into watered down versions of the same regressive ideas pushed by the alt-right. You spend all of your time berating progressives and parroting far right rhetoric, but when we point out that you have more in common ideologically with the alt-right than you do with liberals, you start shrieking about your views being misrepresented. Except they’re not being misrepresented, you’re just looking for an out after saying something stupid or abhorrent.

    Here’s the thing, you’re the one that’s part of the problem. I’ll say it again; when shitheads like you buy into the rhetoric spewed by the alt-right about “political correctness” and blame progressives for the actions of the alt-right, you’re enabling and legitimizing the alt-right’s views. You’re the sort of mark that the alt-right loves, a nominal centrist/liberal who helps them by attacking their opponents for them.

    Also, nice job accusing others of malice and childishness when you decided to make your pseudonym an insult towards PZ.

  38. chris61 says

    @44 emergence

    This isn’t difficult to grasp; no one is saying that Pinker is actively supporting the alt-right.

    How would you interpret PZ’s tweet ” Steven Pinker is a lying right-wing shitweasel” as implying sympathy but not active support?

  39. Vivec says

    @45
    Right wing =/= Alt-right

    As loathe as I am to give Rethugs the benefit of the doubt, there is an ideological line between mainsteam conservatism and Alt-Right-ism.

  40. emergence says

    chris61 @43

    To put it simply, I think that Pinker is a right-leaning centrist whose views differ from those of the alt-right in degree rather than kind. Giving lip service condemnation to the alt-right’s conclusions doesn’t mean that he doesn’t agree with their ideas far more than he should.

  41. says

    Sub issue #538

    I stopped taking seriously Pinker seriously when he implied Hobbes thought of the state of nature as a historical account of how humans actually transitioned to the state/civilization. That’s such stupid fucking reading of chapter 13 of Leviathan I routinely pointed it out to people to not make mistakes.

    *Change topics*
    I use to teach ethics/politics at the community college level (yeah yeah I was terrible at it Nerd or whomever) and it tortured me to make sure I presented conservative and/or libertarian ideas fairly. I also had the displeasure of teaching political philosophy (to mostly students of color) during the 2016 election. I had multiple conversations and sleepless nights on how to balance my own views with the needs of the course and rebuking Trumpianism nonsense.

    I resent this notion that academics don’t struggle with these issues.

    I find the labor theory of value to be clearly fundamentally wrong. I still taught it.

  42. says

    The alt right is not Trumpianism which is not conservativism.

    Vox Day is significantly more loathsome (and his idea dangerous) than Tucker Carson who, in turn, is significantly more loathsome than George Will.

  43. chris61 says

    @47 emergence
    So in saying that the alt-right’s conclusions are “repellent”, Steve Pinker is paying lip-service to condemning them. How do you suppose someone who really found the alt-right’s conclusions would describe them?

  44. Vivec says

    @50
    Reread what emergence said. They’re saying that Pinker’s condemnation is not the thing at issue, it’s his support for things that are in line with the alt-right agenda that makes him sympathetic to them.

  45. Vivec says

    One can be sympathetic to the alt-right without supporting their specific aims.

    Most schools of conservative thought – even those that legitimately oppose racism – are still sympathetic to the alt-right because their goals enable the alt-right as well.

    For example, the “marketplace of ideas” concept creates a situation where fascism and racism can grow without opposition or condemnation. Conservatives and “centrists” that support such a system actively benefit the alt-right, regardless of whether they agree with the need for a white ethnostate.

  46. billyjoe says

    Things I can agree with, or partly agree with, PZ and other commenters here regarding Steven Pinker as seen in that 8 minute video:

    Transcript here: http://www.learnliberty.org/videos/steven-pinker-political-correctness-might-be-redpilling-america/#video-tab-transcript

    1) He exaggerates the degree of political correctness on university campuses. But it is also not true to say that it doesn’t exist at all in at least some campuses. You may disagree and I won’t argue the point. However, to say he was lying would mean that he knew this was not true but said it anyway.

    2) His examples of communist countries are incorrect. North Korea is not a communist country and East Germany was not a communist country. But this does not impact on the point he was making.

    3) He exaggerates the effect this has on people who have believed the politically correct version of the facts and who convert to the Alt Right’s interpretation of the actual facts (such as justifying sexism, racism, etc) once the actual facts are revealed to them. However, he does say they are a small group.

    In summary, then, he does not make much of a point worth attending to.

    On the other hand, the headline of PZ Myers blogpost suggesting that Steven Pinker sympathises with the Alt Right is also not correct. Pinker is a liberal (he donates to the Democrats). He is not a racist or sexist. And he speaks against the the Alt Right, exposing where they go wrong between the facts and their conclusions about those facts, including in the last 5 minutes of the 8 minute video.

    I am pretty sure PZ initially saw only the first 3 minutes of the video, which originated with Sacha Saeen. Kudos for him later posting a link to the full 8 minutes, but not for doubling down in his misrepresentation of where Pinker’s sympathies lie. His sympathies do not lie with the Alt Right and that is very clear from the video.

  47. chris61 says

    @ 52

    One can be sympathetic to the alt-right without supporting their specific aims.
    Most schools of conservative thought – even those that legitimately oppose racism – are still sympathetic to the alt-right because their goals enable the alt-right as well.

    So by opposing racism one is sympathetic to the alt-right? How do you figure that?

  48. emergence says

    chris61 @ 54

    My point when I said that his condemnation was lip service was that he’s put virtually no effort into opposing racists otherwise. Instead, he spends most of his time

    a) expressing less extreme versions of the sort of rhetoric that the alt-right does, like that crack about racial groups and crime rates

    and

    b) criticizing “politically-correct liberals” and blaming them for the existence of the alt-right

    I may be misjudging Pinker if he regularly takes time to deconstruct racist and sexist arguments the alt right makes rather than repeating right-wing talking points about black lives matter or feminists, but from what I’ve seen he comes across like another centrist enabler of the kind of people you claim he opposes.

  49. Vivec says

    @54

    How do you figure that?

    The answer to your question is literally in the passage you quoted.

    Most schools of conservative thought – even those that legitimately oppose racism – are still sympathetic to the alt-right because their goals enable the alt-right as well.

  50. emergence says

    I think PZ’s comparison to Trump claiming he’s not racist because he likes taco bowls was fairly on point here. Even more fitting would be Trump’s half-hearted condemnations of his racist followers that aren’t backed up by any action.

  51. Matt Cramp says

    I’m not surprised that Jesse Singal is peddling concern troll arguments; he’s got a particular fondness for writing about transgenderism with the same tone, regurgitating old transphobic slurs and presenting them as daring counter-intuitive arguments. The New York Times has form here: there’s Karen Roiphe, most recently famous for trying to out the creator of the Shitty Media Men list, but initially famous for writing first columns, and then a book that claimed date rape didn’t exist and anyone in the 90s who cared about it were distasteful culture warriors. Paul Krugman pooh-poohed the idea that the white working class were so racist they’d float over the the Republican party for years, only recently backflipping without ever acknowledging his previous position. (But then if we were going through bad NYT opinion columnists, we’d be here all day.)

  52. gmacs says

    Matt Cramp, oh but if you’re losing shitty NYT op ed columnists, there’s one center conservative coward who can’t be glossed over: David motherfucking Brooks. BTW, Pinker likes that idiot, too.

    Come to think of it, this Serious Thinker and professional editorialists seen to be in a mutually promoting circle jerk.

  53. militantagnostic says

    When the Overton Window has been shifted well to the right of Richard Nixon, the center is not a “reasonable” place to be..

  54. Vivec says

    @60
    Exactly. By its very definition, centrism necessarily entails tempering useful, beneficent ideas with oppressive, malevolent ones.

    Oh, yes, centrists like Pinker think that violence, the global extermination of the jews, and virulent racism is bad – but they also think that people with trauma should never have any form of accommodation, that all ideas (including said exterminations) deserve their plot in the marketplace of ideas, and that it’d be much easier to stop killing brown people if they just weren’t so damn uppity.

  55. davebot says

    For the dipshits that can’t figure out how you can be sympathetic to something you say you condemn, you do it like this (i.e how Pinker did it): “Racist ideas sure are bad, but not as bad as those tyrannical, uppity people who oppose racist ideas. Why are they so mean to the poor, misunderstood, white racists? Also, here’s a racist statement.”

  56. =8)-DX says

    @Billiejoe #53

    He exaggerates the degree of political correctness on university campuses. But it is also not true to say that it doesn’t exist at all in at least some campuses.

    The problem is not the idea that there are places at universities, where left-wing views are prevalent and some notions socially enforced. The problem is the whole notion of “political correctness”, relating exclusively to left-wing/progressive ideas and language. Large swathes of university campuses will be casually reinforcing status quo positions, such as heteronormativity, cisnormativity, patriarchy, white supremacy, but since these are the cultural default, any attempt to counteract them is portrayed as abnormal, as forcing “political correctness”.

    The point is that Pinker seems to object to the idea some people may come from default egalitarian positions “being black does not make one more likely to be a criminal”, that some people may dismiss racism, patriarchy or other forms of bigotry outright, as their default position without the need for endless debate on crime statistics. The fact that so many people already reject these bigotries so much so, that they need not always and everywhere be discussed and legitimised at a university seems to be what bothers him. It’s an attack on the integrity of anyone using that language: “you’re only saying and doing this because it’s PC” implies people haven’t thought about the issues, which while may apply to some, is wrong: surely the default position should be that even people ignorant of the underlying science/sociology, should default to not using bigoted language.

    So talking about “political correctness” conflates socio-linguistic norms: not using slurs or harmful and dehumanising language towards others, with one’s political positions or philosophical viewpoint, while positioning society’s most common bigotries as the norm and default, it’s a defence of the status quo.

    =8)-DX

  57. billyjoe says

    davebot,

    “(How Pinkerdid it) “Racist ideas sure are bad, but not as bad as those tyrannical, uppity people who oppose racist ideas. Why are they so mean to the poor, misunderstood, white racists? Also, here’s a racist statement.””

    Either that or a lack of comprehension on your part. ;)
    The transcript of the 8 minute video is now available so there really is no excuse anymore

    See post #53 for a link to the transcript.

    He is not making any apologies whatsoever for racists. He is not saying they are misunderstood. He is saying that the racist themselves misunderstand and misinterpret the statistics regarding race and crime and come to false conclusions from them. And the explains their error and puts the correct interpretation to invalidate their argument.

    He does naysay the left for what he believes to be their political correctness, which he believes helps to promote the influence of the Alt Right. Here you are on more solid ground because his point about political correctness is overplayed and the argument that there is a connection between political correctness by certain sections on the left and increasing recruitment of fence sitters to the Alt Right is specious.

    But this does not erase the erroneous conclusion of many on the internet that Steven Pinker is sympathetic to the Alt Right. The accusation is, frankly, ludicrous and was based on a truncated 3 minute version of the 8 minute video.

  58. Saad says

    chris61, #43

    Steven Pinker, in that video, refers to alt-right views as “rather repellent conclusions”. How is that not condemnation?

    Just like saying “rape is a horrible and wrong thing and if women would dress modestly and not drink at parties it wouldn’t happen as much” is condemnation of rape while also shifting blame.

  59. Zeppelin says

    @billyjoe:

    2) His examples of communist countries are incorrect. North Korea is not a communist country and East Germany was not a communist country. But this does not impact on the point he was making.

    I mean…

    –The examples he uses are inappropriate

    –The logical structure of the argument would be invalid even if they were appropriate (so does nothing to demonstrate that “capitalism is better than communism” is a “fact” which should be uncontroversially accepted as true)

    –The claim that this “fact” is a “flamingly radical” idea on college campuses is false, independently of the (in)validity of the above claims (as you say, he exaggerates the degree of “PC” on college campuses)

    I don’t see how the point he was trying to make could possibly be any more impacted. Everything he says on this subject is either fallacious or a lie.

  60. billyjoe says

    Zeppelin,

    You have lost track of the question.

    The question is not: is his argument about political correctness of the left and its affect on pushing the fence sitters towards the Alt Right valid?
    The question is: does he sympathise with the Alt Right?

    The answer is clearly: no he does not.

  61. Vivec says

    @69
    You’re the one that lost track of the argument.

    The point everyone is making here is that his criticism of the left is what makes him sympathetic to the alt-right.

  62. Zeppelin says

    @billyjoe: I haven’t “lost track”, I was always discussing question one. I don’t see how we could meaningfully resolve the second without figuring out the first.

    And so I addressed one specific claim Steven advances in support of his overarching argument — the claim that “capitalism is better than communism” is a “fact” (and secondarily, that this “fact” is unjustly suppressed on college campuses).

    I don’t particularly care if this guy “sympathises with the alt-right” (that would depend entirely on our definition of “sympathy”) or if he’s just a useful idiot. I only note that he seems to make poorly though-out, tediously unoriginal “centrist” arguments from a position of ignorance.
    The follow-up question is whether this brand of “centrism” is justified (i.e. whether someone who isn’t biased could have reasonably arrived at it). But to decide this we first need to look at his arguments.

  63. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Pinker has always seemed to me to be, not a centrist, but a status quo warrior. Which, considering that the status quo is racist and sexist, means that he does, while offering lip-service condemnation of the political right and its subset the alt-right. Even his evolutionary psychology seems to support today’s reality as the way it has always been (I’m an historian and no it is not) and the way it should be.

    I’m a middle-aged white man, a veteran, a professional with a college education, and am about as privileged as they come (well, I’m not rich or Christian, so those privileges are denied me). I benefit from the status quo. Yet I fight to change it. Pinker also benefits from the status quo and, by simultaneously offering up mild reprimands to the right while at the same time blaming the left (what there is left of it), he supports that status quo. And the status quo is what the alt-right wants to preserve — a world in which people like me hold the power, the jobs, the education, the reins.

    To me, status quo warriors support, enable, and normalize the radical racial religious right.

  64. logicalcat says

    Again it must be said. Lieing about the left, IS absolutely sympathizing with teh alt-right. If he wasnt sympathetic to the alt-right he wouldnt have lied on their behalf. End of the discussion. Everybody is just beating around the bush trying to squeze anything they can out of an unwinnable position.

  65. Danny Husar says

    PZ, you stated outright that Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-right. That kind of statement just ends the entire conversation. Would you invite anyone over for dinner if their sympathies are with a neo-Nazi movement? So why even bother dissecting your counter-arguments when you did not provide Pinker one iota of charity in interpretation and outright labeled him a bigot (sorry ‘sympathetic to bigotry’)?

    And this kind of talk does reinforce Pinker’s point in that any sensible person could see that he is neither a racist, nor a nazi, nor a bigot, nor misogynist. He is an articulate, intelligent, and likable man. So when you attack him as a bigot (sorry ‘sympathetic to bigotry’) an outsider listening to this argument would experience a level of cognitive dissonance that is resolved by either labeling you as hyperbolic or untruthful or thinking that Pinker is part of this alt-right thing. And if a guy like Pinker is now part of the alt-right (sorry ‘sympathetic to the alt-right’) – then who isn’t? In another thread you labeled me a bigot, am I part of alt-right too now? I certainly don’t want to be associated with those dumb-ass racists but you put me there.

  66. Vivec says

    @76

    And this kind of talk does reinforce Pinker’s point in that any sensible person could see that he is neither a racist, nor a nazi, nor a bigot, nor misogynist.

    Even were all of these true – which they aren’t – they wouldn’t disprove that he’s a sympathetic useful idiot for the alt-right due to his centrist opposition to leftist beliefs.

    And if a guy like Pinker is now part of the alt-right (sorry ‘sympathetic to the alt-right’) – then who isn’t?

    Well, people who actually oppose the alt-right, without tacitly supporting it through centrist nonsense like “the marketplace of ideas” or opposing ~social justice culture~, for a start.

  67. Danny Husar says

    @logicalcat

    >Again it must be said. Lieing about the left, IS absolutely sympathizing with teh alt-right.

    I think the problem with your statement is that the conclusion you derived is so obviously wrong. Pinker is not sympathetic to the alt-right. Full stop. This is a Canadian-Jewish Harvard professor who is articulate, intelligent, affable, and with decades of published work behind him – it makes no sense that all this time he was a secret neo-Nazi sympathizer. So however way you got to that conclusion, whatever chain of reasoning you employed is simply wrong because you arrived at this clearly wrong conclusion.

  68. Danny Husar says

    >Well, people who actually oppose the alt-right, without tacitly supporting it through centrist nonsense like “the marketplace of ideas” or opposing ~social justice culture~, for a start.

    So we live in a binary world where either everyone agrees with you 100% or is a neo-Nazi or a neo-Nazi sympathizer/enabler?

  69. Vivec says

    @78

    This is a Canadian-Jewish Harvard professor who is articulate, intelligent, affable, and with decades of published work behind him – it makes no sense that all this time he was a secret neo-Nazi sympathizer.

    As has been said repeatedly here, one doesn’t need to explicitly support the alt-right to be a sympathetic useful idiot for them. Everything you listed is completely irrelevant to the matter – the fact that he’s a raging centrist whose beliefs tacitly support the alt-right’s goals is what makes him sympathetic to them.

  70. Vivec says

    @79

    So we live in a binary world where either everyone agrees with you 100% or is a neo-Nazi or a neo-Nazi sympathizer/enabler?

    No, we live in a world where actions and beliefs have consequences, and concepts like the “marketplace of ideas” have the consequence of giving support and a platform to alt-right ideology.

  71. Danny Husar says

    I’m sorry Vivec. You lose me when you try to paint Pinker as a sympathetic to neo-Nazism or somehow supporting or enabling neo-Nazism. I simply can’t get there. Even when I try to see things from your perspective – I just can’t bridge that gap. I’m sorry.

  72. Vivec says

    @82
    Good for you. Not my problem that the concept of actions having consequences irrespective of one’s actual intent is too hard for you to grasp.

  73. chris61 says

    @83 Vivec
    You (and PZ and others) are in effect making the same argument as Pinker (and others) are. Both groups oppose the alt-right (and Trump) but disagree on the best tactics for doing so and in disagreeing each brands the other as contributing to the rise of a common enemy.

  74. Vivec says

    @84
    Yeah, but one half of this equation is correct, and one half is supporting the alt-right through centrist nonsense.

  75. chris61 says

    @85
    Substituting “leftist nonsense” for “centrist nonsense”, the statement is equally valid. That’s the point.

  76. logicalcat says

    @chris61

    Thats all well and good, except he lied. Like I said everyone is beating around the bush to ignore the fact that he flat out lied to everyone.

    You lie for the alt-right, you help the alt-right. You help the alt-right, you are sympathetic to them. Otherwise you wouldnt be helping them. Full stop.

    @Danny Hussar

    You can give me his entire resume and list of achievments, and it doesnt matter. Its a defrection. At the end of the day, regardless of how intelligent or articulate he is, he lied to everyone in order to shift the blame of the alt-right onto “PC culture”.

  77. Vivec says

    @86
    Indeed, and that’s why soundness comes in :)

    One of us is, as a matter of fact, allowing alt-right ideas to get a platform and propagate. One of us is explicitly advocating that they be allowed to have a platform to “air their grievances.”

  78. chris61 says

    @86

    One of us is, as a matter of fact, allowing alt-right ideas to get a platform and propagate. One of us is explicitly advocating that they be allowed to have a platform to “air their grievances.”

    And one of us is deluding themselves that by refusing to acknowledges facts that are readily available to anyone with the ability to read, that will halt the propagation of alt-right ideas.

    We agree that one of us is unsound.

  79. vucodlak says

    @ Danny Husar, #78-79

    This is a Canadian-Jewish Harvard professor who is articulate, intelligent, affable, and with decades of published work behind him

    Every single one of the descriptors in this sentence is true. Every single one of the descriptors is also entirely irrelevant to the question of whether or not Pinker is an alt-right sympathizer.

    All that’s relevant to the question is whether or not Pinker’s words or actions give any kind of aid to the causes of the alt-right. Do any of the arguments Pinker has made support the ideologies of alt-right? Yes- “PC” run amok is a major alt-right talking point. Is this argument true? No- there are no “PC-police” shutting down all discussions of controversial topics, nor, as he has suggested, are huge swaths of vital discourse forbidden and un-discussed on college campuses.

    Pinker has therefore been making false arguments that support the causes of the alt-right. That he may disagree vehemently with most of what the alt-right looks to do is irrelevant, because he’s helping them just the same. This is what makes him a “sympathizer/enabler.”

  80. billyjoe says

    To all PZ apologists:

    You should know that you’ve lost an argument when you start redefining words.

    There is no way that Pinker is sympathetic to the Alt Right. I don’t know why it is so hard to admit that PZ watched a 3 minute truncated version of an 8 minute video and jumped to an unwarranted conclusion which is directly contradicted by watching the full 8 minute version.

    I know you love the guy but PZ made a mistake, pure and simple. He should have simply owned up to having been sucked in by Sasha Saeed who published the truncated version. It would have saved all of you from having to torture the meaning of words until they lied.

  81. Vivec says

    @90

    And one of us is deluding themselves that by refusing to acknowledges facts that are readily available to anyone with the ability to read, that will halt the propagation of alt-right ideas.

    Facts such as?

  82. Danny Husar says

    @91 / Vucodlak

    >Every single one of the descriptors is also entirely irrelevant to the question of whether or not Pinker is an alt-right sympathizer.

    That statement was made in exasperation in an attempt to demonstrate that this is a man that no sane individual would label as any kind of Nazi sympathizer. And yet, this blog is full of people that basically put him into the ‘alt-right’ bucket. And if he’s alt-right than 95% of the population is alt-right. Like I said to Vivec, I cannot bridge that conceptual gap. I cannot see him as a Nazi sympathizer or enabler. You live in a separate universe as far as I’m concerned.

    It reminds me of arguments I had with my anarcho-capitalist friend who took as his core moral assumption that taxation (even voting for taxes) was equivalent to violence. If I argued for taxes for any kind of service, he could rephrase it as advocating violence against him personally. There was no nuance in his view of the world – either you were on his side or you were on the side advocating for violence against innocent people. I’m getting exact vibes from commentators here – ‘either you’re on my side, or you’re on the side of the alt-right’. NO! You don’t get to split the world into that binary and then be the judge of who goes into which box. The world is more nuanced than your straw man. Feel free to disagree with Pinker but you don’t get to label a good human being as immoral because you disagree with him. In the worst scenario all he did was do what all of us were doing all last year, trying to make sense of how a doofus like Trump got elected.

  83. Vivec says

    @89

    You should know that you’ve lost an argument when you start redefining words.
    What a silly argument. Words have whatever meaning is assigned to them by the context they’re being used. As long as one’s definition is stated outright, it is no less valid than any other definition

    The heuristic you’re proposing would declare a large amount of science invalid, as “re-defining words” is a fairly common phenomena.

    The scientific definition of “theory” or of “evolution” are different from the colloqual definitions.

    Look up the phrase “term of art”, for starters.

  84. Vivec says

    @94

    Feel free to disagree with Pinker but you don’t get to label a good human being as immoral because you disagree with him.

    I’ve yet to see anyone do so solely because they disagree with Pinker. Seems to me that most people are doing it because the consequences of many of his beliefs empower the alt-right.

    If you can’t see why explicitly arguing in favor of giving the alt-right a platform enables them, I question if you know what those words mean.

  85. Danny Husar says

    @94/Vivce
    >Seems to me that most people are doing it because the consequences of many of his beliefs empower the alt-right.

    That is a strange way of looking at things Vivec and certainly a big part of our disagreement. I do not grant this conclusion.

    Besides, if the all alt-right was was a bunch of people who disagree with progressivism, social justice or feminism then they would simply be a bunch of normal people because plenty of normal people disagree with those ideas. Having said that plenty of people agree with them, and plenty of people agree with some parts of those ideas and disagree with other parts. My boss, a woman, refuses to identify herself as feminist because she doesn’t like to be associated with some extreme views of that ideology but if you ask her for her specific beliefs you’ll find you’re in 90% agreement. Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t like to identify himself as an atheist because he doesn’t want to be associated with militant atheism of Dawkins and PZ but there would be a general agreement about existence of God.

    So unless an individual actually argues for the core ideas of alt-right, like Nazism or White supremacy, then they are in no way empowering the alt-right. And that’s why your binary characterization is so insidious. You’re trying to argue that disagreeing with you must automatically place you in the alt-right because only the alt-right could disagree with you.

  86. logicalcat says

    PinkerBros…no one here is saying he is exactly like the alt right. No one here, that i can see at least, is saying pinker all of a sudden joined the alt right. Stop being disingenuous. The point ultimately is that he lied about the fact that colleges suppress information. That is not true. And his lie helps the alt right. It IS a common alt right talking point.

    For those if you saying that pz misinterpreted pinker…he did, which is why he added the full length video afterwards in tue original post. Regardless, his point still stands. Pinker lied, and his lie is a common excuse for the alt right. Why would soneone lie if they are not sympathetic to that group. Again i am not saying he believes in the alt right 100%. No. So everyone, become aware of your hypocrisy please in condemning us for misinterpretation while doing it yourselves against us.

  87. logicalcat says

    @danny husar

    Centrist empower the alt right by acting as defenses for them. Whether knowingly or not. Read mlk’s letters from a bermingham prison, and watch contrapoints video entitled “decrypting the alt right” for more examples of how centrists help the alt right even while disagreeing or even condemning them.

    No one is saying everyone who disagrees with us is alt right. But if you willingly lie to people for the alt right, it is reasonable to assume that there is on some level, even small, sympathy. This is mild criticism.

    You know what? I sympathize with Spencer because no one likes getting sucker punched. I guess accirding to the strawmen version of our commentaryiat im in the alt right now.

  88. Danny Husar says

    @logicalcat

    > No one here, that i can see at least, is saying pinker all of a sudden joined the alt right. Stop being disingenuous.

    The original blog post was literally titled: “If you ever doubted that Steven Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-right”. What nuance did all those ‘Pinkerbros’ miss – it’s looks pretty clear to me?

    >And his lie helps the alt right. It IS a common alt right talking point.

    If communists espouse atheism, and I espouse atheism, my support of atheism may very well help communists even though I vehemently disagree with communism … but so what? Alt-right core ideology is white supremacy I vehemently disagree with that. If I and the alt-right agree that controversial university speakers should not be subject to violence, so what?

  89. Vivec says

    @98
    I couldn’t give a less of a shit if your boss identifies as a feminist or if Tyson identifies as an atheist. What I care about are the beliefs they support.

    In Pinker’s case, those beliefs are centrist drivel.

  90. KG says

    If I and the alt-right agree that controversial university speakers should not be subject to violence, so what? – Danny Husar@101

    That depends on whether you use “controversial” when the correct terms would be “racist”, “misogynist”, “homophobic”, or “Nazi”.

  91. Crys T says

    I can’t help but notice that none of the Pinkerbros seem to have addressed the fact that Pinker flat-out lies when he claims certain topics are taboo on university campuses. Ironic, as this is the key point. But then again, if they engage with that, they’ll either have to do the legwork to prove he’s right (which I believe they know they won’t as it doesn’t exist), or they’ll have to admit he lies.

    Also, bros, while you’re frothing on about how much you hate it when people redefine words, how about you stop doing the same? “Rightwing,” and even “far-rightwing,” do not always equal nazi. As I suspect you are well aware, rightwingers come in a variety of flavours.

    Finally, just as a reminder, Pinker supported the gamergaters, who were nothing more than a gang of misogynist, racist bullyboys who turned out to be the breeding ground for today’s far-right AND nazi movements. Did Pinker know GG would play out that way? I don’t know, but if he was unaware of their nazi/authoritarian leanings, he was​ stupid as fuck for not looking into the people he was supporting. Even a small amount of research would have told him exactly who he was dealing with.

    So, he’s either a full-on far-right supporter, or he’s a lazy, rather stupid charlatan who automatically believes bad things he’s told about people he doesn’t like, and doesn’t bother investigating either the claims or the source.

  92. billyjoe says

    Vivec,

    I’m not making an argument. I’m exposing your bad argument.

    When you say that Pinker is LYING and accuse him of SYMPATHISING with the Alt Right, all the while having a rather quaint or extreme or false definition of what these two words actually mean, then you have a bad argument.

    He is LYING only if he KNOWS that what he is saying is FALSE.

    You are surely not going to open yourself up to libel by claiming that he knows that what he is saying is false. In my opinion, there is evidence of political correctness suppressing free speech on some campuses. Pinker exaggerates the extent of it in my opinion. But I would not say he does this deliberately. He has also exaggerated the effect this has had on pushing people towards the Alt Right but, again, I would not accuse him of doing this deliberately. He is not lying.He is saying this believing it to be true.

    And he has no SYMPHATHY for the Alt Right.

    He makes this very clear in the last 5 minutes of the video – which is why only the first 3 minutes was posted originally and why it went viral on the Internet, sucking in people like PZ Myers. In those 5 minutes, he explains how the Alt Right have come to the wrong conclusion based on the true statistics and explains why the statistics do not support racism etc. He demolishes the Alt Right’s argument. How this can be interpreted as “sympathy” is, quite frankly, bizarre.

    In other words, you don’t only have a bad argument, you don’t have an argument, period

  93. gmcard says

    Pinker’s not stupid, and does know what college campuses are like. So when he makes false claims about so-called political correctness, he is lying. He knows the statements are untrue and has decided to make them anyway. Lying. No question.

    And whatever you want to call his attitude regarding the alt-right, he’s clearly willing to lie in a way that furthers the interests of the alt-right at the expense, tautologically, of the left. Seems fair to say he has more sympathy for the alt-right than he does for the left.

  94. billyjoe says

    gmcard,

    “Pinker’s not stupid, and does know what college campuses are like. So when he makes false claims about so-called political correctness, he is lying. He knows the statements are untrue and has decided to make them anyway. Lying. No question”

    Well, I’m not going to get into the gutter with you.
    Or, as Christopher Hitchens said:
    “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”
    Thanks for playing.

  95. vucodlak says

    @ billyjoe, #107

    In my comment @ 91, I pointed out an example of a false argument that Pinker has made. Now, I’m willing to admit that it’s possible that he’s simply a fool who knows not of what he speaks, but the fact remains that he says these things, things which we know are untrue (even if Pinker doesn’t), and which, when spoken by someone like Pinker, provide cover and aid to the alt-right. In such a case, Pinker would not be a liar, but a tool.

    And I have, by the way, watched the whole video. He does not discard or discredit the falsehood I use as an example, but rather doubles down on it. It is this falsehood with which he begins, and this falsehood with which he ends this part of the debate: “PC-leftists are destroying the free exchange of ideas and creating the alt-right!”

    That argument is false- as has been discussed here in great detail, all those topics which he claims are unmentionable are routinely taught and studied at universities. The (again, false) argument that they are not “because PC-police!!!” is a major claim of the alt-right, who position themselves as brave truth-tellers in a world that teaches children only lies.

    So whether Pinker is a liar or merely an uncomprehending tool, he is aiding the alt-right.

    @ Chuck Stanley, #109

    Aw. Don’t forget to wash your hands.

  96. gmcard says

    Out of curiosity, billy, what part of my statement is lacking evidence? That Pinker, a professor and traveling lecturer with a distinguished career in academia, does in fact know what college campuses are like? Or that he’s not stupid? You’ve already admitted that his talking points about a political correctness mania are false, so what’s left?

  97. billyjoe says

    gmcard,

    “what part of my statement is lacking evidence?”

    That Steven Piinker was LYING.

    You need to provide evidence that he KNOWS that what he says is FALSE.
    And speculation is not evidence.

    In my opinion, political correctness is stifling free speech on some campuses. In my opinion, Steven Pinker is exaggerating the extent of this. In my opinion, he is not doing this deliberately. I think he really does believe what he is saying.

  98. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    There is no way that Pinker is sympathetic to the Alt Right.

    The follow-up provided (tepid) support for the claim that Pinker is not completely uncritically supportive of the alt-right.

    “Sympathetic” doesn’t mean “completely uncritically supportive.”

    You should know that you’ve lost an argument when you start redefining words.

    Exactly.

  99. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    In my opinion, political correctness is stifling free speech on some campuses.

    Sweetie, “political correctness” isn’t a thing. It’s just a snarlword used to demonize basic human courtesy by those who don’t think they should have to consider everyone who demonstrably is a human to in fact be human or deserving of courtesy.

    I promise there’s none of it lurking under your bed or in the closet.

  100. billyjoe says

    Askyroth,

    “Sweetie”….really? Are you sure you can’t do better than that?….“political correctness isn’t a thing”…it’ not a teapot, I get that…”It’s just a snarlword used to demonize basic human courtesy”…oh yeah? Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking maybe you can’t count to two? Spoon fed version: there are two words in political correctness!….

    “by those who don’t think they should have to consider everyone who demonstrably is a human to in fact be human”…like linking to some male atheist and getting a female journalist? (I know, wrong thread!)…”or deserving of courtesy”….hmmm, got it Sweetie ;)

    “I promise there’s none of it lurking under your bed or in the closet”…well, I don’t think I’m going to trust some random person on the Internet called AzkyrothB*Cos[F(U)]==Y, 4Fsake. I’m definitely looking under the bed and definitely definitely definitely checking out the closet.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FPyTgmC3nQQ

  101. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    After all these years (am I old enough to start sentences like that yet?) I’m still really not sure what political correctness actually means. Whenever I see people invoking it, it’s usually been either to rail against factual correctness when they want to pretend that some aspect or another of one group makes them superior to another group, or against the fact that some people aren’t bigots and don’t like bigots, but there’s absolutely no consistency to it. You couldn’t even say it’s consistent in that it’s railing against basic decency, since I’ve seen far right extremists use it against other far right extremists for having marginally different ideas of which shadowy and nefarious shadow government is responsible for the imaginary things they’re angry about.
    It seems like it’s just a nonsense term that means, “hi, ignore me, I’m an ignorant arsehole who is at least partially divorced from reality.”
    Kind of like identity politics, I guess. I recently saw someone say that they can’t stand identity politics, then immediately afterwards – maybe two sentences later – used gay people as a tool in an incoherent argument against trans people. I have to admit, I laughed at the absurdity of that.

  102. KG says

    Pinker is an intelligent person, and a cognitive scientist. He must therefore be presumed to know that trotting out bald statements such as “black people have a higher crime rate than white people”, and then some time later providing explanations that go against the racist narrative, is going to reinforce the racist narrative in any listeners open to it – not the later “corrections”. Even an outright refutation of a lie can make that lie more believable unless the presentation is done very carefully. See for example here, and here. So Pinker must, at the least, be assumed not to care that he is actually reinforcing that racist narrative – while, of course, providing himself with plausible deniability.

  103. chris61 says

    @121 KG
    One of, if not the, strongest belief of alt-right is that the Left lies. So when accuse Pinker of lying, you reinforce that belief. You may attempt to circumvent that effect by declaring that Pinker (and those who support him) are themselves alt-righters or alt-right sympathizers but that doesn’t solve the problem because no matter how you label him, Pinker (and his supporters) share a lot of leftist beliefs. So you are in effect saying that leftist beliefs are lies.

  104. says

    #122:

    Some people on the Left do lie. We are not going to claim that adherence to any ideology suddenly makes one infallible or unfailingly honest.

    I criticize Pinker, not the left here.

    I am criticizing Pinker not for leftist views, but for a series of purported ‘facts’ that align with right-wing biases, and for lying about academia, which the alt-right do find to be a sympathetic lie.

  105. logicalcat says

    @Danny Husar

    The original blog post was literally titled: “If you ever doubted that Steven Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-right”. What nuance did all those ‘Pinkerbros’ miss – it’s looks pretty clear to me?

    How about teh fact that having sympathies with an organization is not the same thing as saying they flat out joined it. Which is something I point out in the very same post you quoted me from.

  106. logicalcat says

    @Billyjoe

    You need to provide evidence that he KNOWS that what he says is FALSE.
    And speculation is not evidence.

    Its not mere speculation. We know how universities are run. We know he is an academic with a long career. We know that he is lieing. Because he is in the exact position to know what really goes on. As do many of us here as well. Maybe you don’t because you are not an academic or a student, but as a student I know we talk about these things because Ive seen it. It may not be pretty. It may involve a lot of emotions tossed into the air. Sure. But it gets discussed, until it gets discussed to death and everyone just want to move on because the debates end eventually. At least they are suppose to but the alt-right keep it alive by playing the freeze peach angle and lies like the one Pinker told reinforces it.

    @Danny Hussar

    If communists espouse atheism, and I espouse atheism, my support of atheism may very well help communists even though I vehemently disagree with communism … but so what?

    So what? It matters if one of those parties lie. If you dont care, fine. Leave.

  107. tiredtexan says

    You know what? Blacks would improve their lot if they’d just stop complaining so much about racism and be nicer to whites. Women would stop being beaten and killed by men if they’d do as they’re told, and stop being shrill and demanding. Rape wouldn’t happen if women dressed appropriately and didn’t go out at night. Nazis wouldn’t advocate for genocide if Jews hadn’t taken over the media and weren’t so greedy.

    And, the alt-right wouldn’t be angry, racist, misogynistic and genocidal if the left hadn’t made them that way through political correctness.

    Pretty neat trick. My violence and abuse of you is your fault, AND, you should shut up about it or you’ll just get what you deserve, more violence and hate.

  108. KG says

    One of, if not the, strongest belief of alt-right is that the Left lies. So when accuse Pinker of lying, you reinforce that belief. – chris61@122

    That’s utter garbage, because the alt right, correctly, do not see Pinker as belonging to the left. But even if it wasn’t, I say Pinker is lying because he’s lying – I don’t give a shit whether telling the truth reinforces some belief of alt right scumbags.

  109. KG says

    chris61@122,

    Yourt post @122 is particularly daft because the alt right have been eagerly repeating Pinker’s characterisation of them – just google “Pinker alt right” for numerous examples. They know his activities help them, and it must be assumed that he does too.

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