Steven Pinker’s alt-right apologia

Blaming radicalization on “suffocating” political correctness, Pinker mimics the movement’s own narratives

Justin Ward

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Official faculty portrait. ( Rose Lincoln / Harvard University )

Steven Pinker knows what’s causing so many young men to transform into violent misogynistic racists: political correctness run amok.

Earlier today he tweeted:

Of course, this isn’t the first time that the Harvard professor has advanced this particular theory. At Davos last year, he blamed “left-wing orthodoxy” in academia for “stok[ing]” radicalization by declaring certain topics taboo, giving the alt-right “the sense that there were truths the academic establishment could not face up to.”

His prescription is for far-right beliefs to be openly debated and “countered by arguments that put them in perspective.”

Let’s call this what it is: a naive fantasy.

Pinker accepts as dogma Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ famous doctrine that the “solution to bad speech is more speech” despite all evidence to the contrary.

In the 21st Century, there is more speech than ever before. Not only has bad speech failed to disappear—it has proliferated on an unprecedented scale in the form of flat earth, anti-vaxx, QAnon, resurgent anti-semitism and any number of other conspiracies.

It’s painfully obvious that Pinker has never actually tried to put his theory into practice himself. Only a person who hasn’t ever interacted with a white nationalist for any amount of time would think that their beliefs could ever be “reasoned” away in open debate.

How would Pinker counter the often-made white nationalist meme that more than half of Africa is “retarded?” What’s his plan for “putting into perspective” the claim that “white men never rape black women.”

In fact both of these pieces of propaganda have been painstakingly refuted at every level by journalists, activists and academics. Dutch statistician Jelte Wicherts…

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Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD