Well, this just made my morning: Nathan Robinson shreds the most annoying man in the world, Steven Pinker. I thought I’d pull out one brief quote to illustrate, but it was nearly impossible — I just wanted to pull out the entire dang thing and frame it and hang it on my wall.
But OK, one tiny bit:
I do not mean to dwell too much on the tone of Pinker’s writing, but it’s important to see how dishonest centrist critics of social justice rhetoric can be. Pinker treats the left as hysterically overstating its case, of calling everybody racists and despoilers, even as he brands them Nazis and Stalinists. One of the common themes I see in critics of social justice politics is engaging in the very thing they’re accusing the left of doing. There are countless examples of this in Pinker’s work. For example, in The Blank Slate, which is strongly critical of mainstream feminism, he cites Gloria Steinem saying: “What you need is people who see through literature like Andrea Dworkin, who see through law like me, to see through art and create the uncompromised woman’s visual vocabulary.” Pinker concludes from this quote that Steinem is “oblivious to the danger inherent in a few intellectuals’ arrogating the role of deciding which art and literature the rest of society will enjoy.” This is an incredibly audacious remark for a book with entire sections on which art is the Good Art and which art is “ugly, baffling, and insulting art”:
“In this chapter I will diagnose the malaise of the arts and humanities and offer some suggestions for revitalizing them… Once we recognize what modernism and postmodernism have done to the elite arts and humanities, the reasons for their decline and fall become all too obvious.”
When you say it, it’s dangerous elitism. When I say it, it’s Science!
The Blank Slate was the book that ended my interest in paying attention to what Pinker was saying. Even the title was a gigantic straw man, and the internal contradictions were overwhelming. Robinson goes on to point out something I’ve seen repeatedly in the atheist community:
Hypocrisy doesn’t make the underlying arguments untrue, but I think it’s critical to explaining why the left can end up with an unwarranted reputation for being unreasonable and emotional: Our critics operate just as much from “feeling” and instinct, but insist that they’re just being Objective. My colleague Aisling McCrea has written about how mere invocation of the word “logic” is used as proof that one is being logical. “Reason” becomes a brand rather than a description of an actual process by which the other side’s arguments are carefully analyzed and responded to fairly. (I’ve shown how both Sam Harris and Ben Shapiro mangle basic reasoning.)
The path to popularity always seems to be tag your identity with a lot of buzzwords, even if you don’t actually implement them. It was a gigantic tactical error on my part not to call this site “The Amazing Logical Reasonable Rational Skeptical Atheist White Man” instead of boring ol’ “Pharyngula”. I’d be rich and popular today! There sure are a lot of successful atheists who parade their virtuous identity politics in the name of their channel.
At least Pinker doesn’t do that. He doesn’t have to — his name has become synonymous with Calmly Misleading Apologist for the Status Quo.
Go read it. It’s a work of art.