There’s a petition making the rounds to have Steven Pinker’s recognition by the Linguistic Society of America removed. I don’t expect a petition to accomplish much of anything, but this one is nicely written.
As we demonstrate below, Dr. Pinker’s behavior is systematically at odds with the LSA’s recently issued statement on racial justice, which argues that “listening to and respecting [the experience of students of color] is crucial, as is acknowledging and addressing rather than overlooking or denying the role of the discipline of linguistics in the reproduction of racism.” Instead, Dr. Pinker has a history of speaking over genuine grievances and downplaying injustices, frequently by misrepresenting facts, and at the exact moments when Black and Brown people are mobilizing against systemic racism and for crucial changes.
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”, his public support for David Brooks (who has been argued to be a proponent of “gender essentialism”), his expert testimonial in favor of Jeffrey Epstein (which Dr. Pinker now regrets), or his dubious past stances on rape and feminism. Nor are we concerned with Dr. Pinker’s academic contributions as a linguist, psychologist and cognitive scientist. Instead, we aim to show here Dr. Pinker as a public figure has a pattern of drowning out the voices of people suffering from racist and sexist violence, in particular in the immediate aftermath of violent acts and/or protests against the systems that created them.
It then proceeds to document instances where Pinker played fast and loose with the facts to advance his dogma of progress constantly marching forward, as long as we ignore the inconsequential suffering of poor minorities. It’ll be ignored, but maybe a few people will wake up to his dishonest messaging.