Surprise! Pinker smeared again by those who distort his words

There is no end of the kind of cherry-picking people will go to if they want to smear New Atheists. This post gives a prime example, with the target being Steve Pinker. (It’s always either Pinker, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins.)

On November 6, Spiked Magazine held one of its “Unsafe Space” events at Harvard, called “Is political correctness why Trump won?

Here’s the event description, the participants, and, below that, an 8-minute clip of Pinker giving his take on the issue.

The shock election of Donald Trump has sent many looking for answers. Why didn’t his outlandish statements, his ‘locker-room talk’ and his out-there views sink his candidacy in the way it would have sunk others? While many have chalked his win up to racism, xenophobia and misogyny – others suggest it was a revolt precisely against those who so casually throw around those labels. In short, the election was a referendum on political correctness, a choice between the immaculately focus-grouped Clinton and the from-the-hip Trump. Did PC culture get Trump elected? Will his presidency serve as an antidote to offence culture? Or is the thin-skinned Trump, who rankles at any criticism, just a different kind of ‘snowflake’?


Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and social critic. She has written about law, liberty and feminism for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal. She is the author of eight books, including Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today.

Steven Pinker is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He has written for the New York Times, Time and The Atlantic, and is the author of 10 books, including The Better Angels of Our NatureHis forthcoming book, Enlightenment Now, will be published in February 2018. @sapinker

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and a regular columnist for Reason and the Spectator. He has also written for the LA Times, the Telegraph, the Australian, and more. This year, he was named best online columnist at the Maggie Awards. He is the author, most recently, of A Duty to Offend.

Robby Soave is associate editor at Reason and a columnist for the Daily Beast. He has also written for the New York TimesNew York Post, CNN,USA Today, and more. He is currently on sabbatical, writing a book on activism in the age of Trump.@robbysoave

Watch the first 8-minute video below (ignore the title, which is part of the smear), in which Pinker describes several “politically incorrect” assertions that, while true, may have driven people to the Right because those truths are denied or censored by the Authoritarian Left. These issues, which Pinker says are raised largely by the “often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right”, are those that appear in the conservative press but not in the Left-wing press. I’ve often mentioned how the political missteps of the Authoritarian Left are often ignored by the Leftist or mainstream media but highlighted by right-wing sites like The Daily Wire, Campus Reform, or The College Fix.

Here are the claims that Pinker says are true but unpalatable to many on the Left:

  1. Capitalist societies are better than Communist ones.
  2. Men and women are not identical in their life priorities, in their sexuality, in their tastes and interests. The Harvard person Pinker describes as having been excoriated for suggesting such a thing is ex-president Larry Summers (see here).  Note though, that Summers’s statement was about “intrinsic aptitude”, not interests, and Pinker doesn’t mention aptitude. Nevertheless, it’s likely that men and women differ in some average “aptitudes”. At any rate, any differences in aptitude are irrelevant to the moral claim that everyone should have equality of opportunity and be treated as equal under the law, which is Pinker’s point (see below).
  3. Different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates.
  4. The overwhelming majority of terrorist suicide acts are committed by Islamist extremist groups.

But here’s the important part. After reciting these Leftist taboos, Pinker, at 3:49, begins to explain how these that these facts do not license unequal treatment of women or ethnic groups—that opposition to racism and sexism is a political and moral commitment and does not rest on any observed differences between groups. This is a point I’ve made often: moral and political equality should not depend on observed group differences, be they be cultural or genetic. For if you rest your claim for moral equality on spurious claims that all groups are equal in every way, you make your moral claims vulnerable to future empirical observation of differences.

Pinker adds that the bulk of domestic terrorism (i.e., in the US) is committed by right-wing and not Islamist groups, and that every successful capitalist society has “socialistic” social safety nets.

At 6:28, he finally explains why if you’ve never heard these facts—i.e., if they’ve been “censored” because they’re considered politically incorrect—you’ll first feel that universities and mainstream media have withheld the truth from you, and that those venues simply can’t handle the truth. More important, you’ll suffer from not having had the facts put into context. That is, you won’t have heard the progressive argument that, “Yes, these may be true, but here are the reasons why these truths don’t constitute a defense of the right, the alt-right or of any bigotry.” As he says, “The politically correct left is doing itself an enormous disservice when it renders certain topics undiscussable, because then people don’t get the proper context in which they can fit into progressivism.”

In toto, then, Pinker’s statement is liberal and progressivist, and its tenor is that true progressives must deal with empirical truths rather than censor or dismiss them. If they don’t do so—and they often don’t—this just enables the alt-right or the right in general. This is Pinker’s answer to why “political correctness” may have contributed to Trump’s election. (I don’t know if he addressed that explicitly).

Now what have people done with this clearly progressive spiel? They’ve taken it out of context to make Pinker appear to be conservative or even alt-right!  The most odious: the Nazi publication The Daily Stormer ran this piece (click on screenshot to see it):

Then right-winger Alex Witoslawski posted a 55-second excerpt just using Pinker’s opening. It makes Pinker look like an alt-righter, for it omits his important take on why we have to absorb the truths into Progressivism without altering our moral commitments:

Finally, P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula has posted a 3-minute clip of Pinker’s words, totally omitting Pinker’s important conclusions and just taking issue with the four facts adduced at the beginning. That excerpt is below. Myers links to the whole clip later on in his post, but I believe he added that link later (I may be wrong). At any rate, the title of Myers’s post is “If you ever doubted that Pinker’s sympathies lie with the alt-Right.” I can’t believe that anyone could watch the full eight-minute clip and come to that conclusion. Pinker’s sympathies clearly do not lie with the alt-right, as is palpably evident from his conclusion.  He’s a classical liberal and progressive. He just doesn’t gloss over truths inconvenient to the Authoritarian Left, which is why people go after him. But inconvenient truths are not the same thing as truths that must create bigotry. It’s time that Authoritarian Leftists like Myers took this on board.

Here’s the truncated clip shown on Pharyngula:

One example of how Myers distorts Pinker’s words, and why I think he heard the full clip only later, is what P. Z. wrote on Pharyngula about capitalism vs. communism:

  • Capitalist societies are better than communist ones. How odd. I don’t see anyone insisting on that: instead, I see a lot of academics who point out the flaws in capitalism, which, apparently, are lies and don’t exist. Then he makes it worse by using as more specific examples the difference between North and South Korea (I’ve never met anyone who thinks North Korea is a better place to live than South Korea.) or between East and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall. You will rarely encounter a more pure and absolutely dishonest straw man.How about if the comparison is between, say, a ragingly capitalist country like the USA, and a socialist democracy like Sweden? It gets a bit less obvious.

But, as you see above, Pinker actually makes this point at 5:50 of the full video!

Nevertheless, Myers, like many others, ignores the inconvenient last half of the video, so determined is he to smear Pinker. This is from Myers’s public Facebook page,  touting his post and adding a few pungent (and false) words:

But one issue remains: Who are the “highly literate, highly intelligent” people who gravitate to the alt-right, as Pinker describes them? I know of none—at least not if you characterize the alt-right as those Rightists who are infused with white supremacy. I haven’t asked Pinker who he meant here, but I assume that, since the definition of “alt-right” is a bit nebulous, Pinker is using the conception of “alt-right” that I used to have: the extreme right. Under that notion, there are smart and literate people on the extreme right. I can’t think of many, because I don’t know many hyperconservatives, but Ben Shapiro comes to mind.

Since most people think “alt-right” means “white supremacists on the right”, Pinker may have made a tactical error here. But so what? The main point of his spiel is that there are facts about the world that are being censored or dismissed by the Authoritarian Left and many colleges; that those facts and their denial, if not properly put into context, could lead people toward the right or even the alt-right; and that progressives have to face those facts and show the world how they don’t erode progressive liberalism one bit. To concentrate on one awkward statement about the “alt right” is to deliberately ignore Pinker’s message in order to smear him. It’s no surprise that the clips used to tar him cut off after three minutes.

Here’s another take on Twitter:


UPDATE: Grania called my attention to a new article at Concrete Milkshake that analyzes misrepresentation of both Pinker’s and Sam Harris’s views, including the Harvard video: “Playing dumb: The masochism of misrepresentation.

And there’s a new short piece by Pinker in Time Magazine: “Harvard professor Steven Pinker on why we refuse to see the bright side, even though we should.” It’s his explanation about why people remain pessimistic in a world of progress. (h/t: Enrico)


  1. Saloni N. D.
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Not only did they take him out of context, but they deliberately misquoted what he said. He didn’t say that the alt-right are “highly literate, highly intelligent, media and internet savvy” people (as per Alex Witoslawski’s tweet), but that some “highly literate, highly intelligent, media and internet savvy” *gravitate* towards the alt-right, and then reach illogical conclusions afterwards. This could still mean that a large proportion of the alt-right is unintelligent (and I suspect they are), even though *some* intelligent people gravitate towards those beliefs. I think it’s pretty clear the alt-righers who posted that just wanted to congratulate themselves while the others (like Sacha Saeen) simply wanted to smear him.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Good point.

      • XCellKen
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink


    • Mark Reaume
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      I posted the full 8 minute video as a response to a tweet from Sacha Saeen, I was immediately blocked.

      Very thin skin, these people that smear others for a living.

      • AnnaBanana
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        I tweeted the following to Sacha Saeen and was blocked:

        “It seems to me that you are being unfair and maybe even deliberately misunderstanding the point Pinker was trying to make. Why such a cheap shot?”

        First time I’ve ever been blocked. I am kind of proud of being blocked by him.

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          I’ve been blocked by both P.Z. Myers and Resla Aslan, and I’ve never even tweeted at them! Go figure.

          But I’m proud of those two blocks!

          • Saloni N. D.
            Posted January 11, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

            I find the headline on that dailystormer article very worrying, given the way that some orgs like SPLC use its “endorsements” of people as evidence that people are racists. Do you think there’s a possibility of that happening? I really hope not.

        • Posted January 14, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          FYI, you are pre-blocked by Steve ‘Pillow Fort’ Shives.

          Everyone here is.

      • BJ
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        That’s because people like her know exactly what they’re doing. She’s intentionally misleading her follower and doesn’t want anyone pointing out her lies showing up in the threads on her tweets. If she blocks everyone who disagrees with her, their tweets don’t show up to her followers when they look at the responses.

        Same with people like PZ and Reza.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I made this exact point on PZ’s blog last night. No one had commented on it when I checked this morning.

      • Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        I just looked and I didn’t (after a very brief scan — ugh, the “quality” of the comments over there -sheesh!) see anyone replying to your comment.

        I was somewhat surprised by the low quality and self-referential nature of the comments at PZ’s site.

        So very different from what it was 8-10 years ago.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          I gave up reading PZ’s site some years ago when every comment thread rapidly deteriorated into a shitfight.

          And PZ, so it seemed to me, was capricious and erratic in who he banned.


    • Kirbmarc
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Yeah, it’s like wondering why some “highly literate, highly intelligent, media and internet savvy” people might be attracted by, say, Al Qaeda (which had its share of engineers, doctors and scientists in its ranks).

      When someone says that nobody thinks that Al Qaeda was an organization with highly intelligent goals, or even supported mostly by highly intelligent, literate people.

  2. Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Even after the developments of the last couple of years, I was astonished to find PZ Myers making such a hasty judgment.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Well, you know, Pinker is more influential and sells more books than PZ.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Nailed it. Myers is a self righteous, intolerant POS driven by jealousy and resentment.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Have you-all read PZ’s book? It’s just retreads of his Pharyngula blog posts.

        Pretty lame, considering the big build up he made about it and the sabbatical, etc. And pretty short. Pretty “Lite” in general. Nothing to compare with The God Delusion or The End of Faith (or even Sam Harris’s shorter books like Letter to a Christian Nation).

        If he wanted to swim with the big boys (and sell like them) he should have written a book in the same league with theirs.

        Seems that blog posting marks the extent of his abilities and aesthetics.

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          I read it. Bought the last copy at my local bookstore. Yeah, it appears to be a collection of re-worked blog posts. But I don’t understand the derision for that. Think of it as an anthology, if it bugs you that he is re-cycling old posts.

          It is regretful that he has become such a downright jackass and has eaten the SJW nonsense hook, line & sinker. But he is not a bad writer. Some of those blog posts are very good. The one about the Taung Boy fossil was very nice indeed.

          • Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            I used to read his blog with the same regularity that I read Jerry’s website. And I recognized the blog posts in the book.

            I reviewed the book on Amazon and I said: If you are looking for a nicely turned-out compilation of his blog posts, then this is a good book for you. But if you are looking for something beyond collected blog posts, you’ll be disappointed. I gave it 3/5 stars.

            I used to appreciate his writing, before he went off the rails.

            The verbal abuse and name-calling and shutting off of civil debate of issues is what drove me from his site. The substitution of either name-calling or: “F*ck you!, F*ck YOU! F*CK YOU! And your mother!” for civil debate/argument in his comments sections is what drove me away.

            I could easily handle his attitudes and the fact that I disagree with them — if he allowed civil and open debate of them and had rules similar to Jerry’s. But these he won’t do. Wonder why?

        • Posted January 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          The Happy Atheist was a last-minute fallback cobbled together to meet PZ’s book contract, after his draft of Natural Revolution, in which he put forth his anti-darwinian hogwash, was either never completed, or quickly rejected by his publisher.

          Apparently, PZ is working on a new book, exploring the intersection of Social Justice and science. Should be a hoot.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Not surprising as Myers has never actually written a book, only published a collection of old blog posts that all his potential readers would have already read.

      • josh
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        I feel like this is a distracting cheap shot at PZ. I don’t know the guy, so maybe it’s true, but I haven’t seen a lot of evidence that he’s motivated primarily by jealousy (or money from clicks as some allege).

        As far as I can see, Myers has thoroughly invested himself in the grievance culture promoted by Atheism Plus/SJWs/Control Leftists/PC-monitors/etc. It’s a tribal loyalty culture where one always defends the current in-group leaders and attacks all designated enemies. One becomes an enemy by criticizing anything in the in-group or sympathizing in any way with the out-group. Dawkins dared to poke fun at R. Watson after PZ had already picked a side. Harris has dared to consider non-approved positions on profiling and racial/gender differences. Pinker has now argued that the alt-right might make some legitimate criticisms of the left. Hence, all are now designated enemies.

        It’s sad that PZ has fallen to such a low state, but I don’t see any reason not to think it is sincere. I don’t want accurate gripes about his ugly behavior to be derailed by unprovable assertions about petty motivations. YMMV of course.

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

          One symptom is the regularity with which PZ refers to “self-appointed leaders” of the atheist “movement”.

          The irony there is that the “four horseman” didn’t really appoint themselves, but came to be referred to as such by others.

          Whereas the only person (as far as I know) who *did* try to appoint himself to such a position, saying that he’d be the fifth horseman, the horseman of the internet, was … can you guess …?

        • BJ
          Posted January 10, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

          I personally don’t know of any direct evidence that his idiocy and constant rage toward his betters is born of jealousy, but I think it’s notable that, when he drank the regressive Kool Aid, it was right at the beginning of the attempt to create Atheism+, and he seemed to be trying to appoint himself as the leader of the “movement.” I do think he’s a man who is desperate to be popular and revered, who feels like he doesn’t get the recognition he so deserves, and he thinks he’s just as smart and important as all the great thinkers he hates and berates.

        • Vaal
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink


          I completely agree and could have written your post myself.

          One of the problems in communication these days is the almost irresistible impulse to psychoanalyze the people you disagree with…and so often it’s bogus (as anyone who has been on the other side of such pop-psychology analysis can attest).

          It’s very hard to resist to be sure, because we can’t help but wonder why someone seems to be acting unreasonably. If it were just about reason, well then obviously they would agree with OUR reasonable position. But they don’t, so we attribute our position to reason, and the other side to psychology.

          It’s ultimately unhelpful at best, and wall building at worst.

          • Stephen Barnard
            Posted January 11, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

            PZ’s resentment, jealousy, and bitter rage are palpable. It baffles me that it isn’t obvious to everyone. This latest dishonest attack on Pinker is typical.

            • Vaal
              Posted January 11, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

              Sorry but I just don’t see that as a necessary inference from PZ’s criticism of people like Pinker, Harris etc.

              People take pot shots at famous people…because the views of famous people circulate more widely, have more influence etc. It doesn’t necessarily entail jealousy.

              Look at the comments that Sam Harris gets from anonymous internet users or twitter folks. They are filled with just the same type of spite and misrepresentation as you see in Myers posts. Are they “jealous” of Sam’s fame? I hardly think so. They simply have their own mental filter going through which they interpret Sam’s meaning in the worst way possible. It doesn’t have to be deliberate. Biases like those can arise from one’s own passion for one’s own position.

              I’ve surely been guilty of this sometimes. On some other sites in which I debate religion, free will etc my views have been routinely strawmanned and mischaracterized by some participants. Are they jealous of me? No. They just disagree and, I would argue, are doing so via a blinding level of personal bias.

              I see no particular reason to attribute PZ’s attacks simply to “jealousy” rather than to essentially the same reasons so many others on the internet misunderstand/misrepresent Harris. It seems easily explained as caused by a common form of bias.

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted January 11, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                Why else would he lie about Pinker’s politics?

              • Melanie
                Posted January 15, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

                To me, it looks like jealousy because: Myers did publicly announce himself as the “Fifth Horseman,” leader of “Internet Atheism.”

                When that failed to take off, he started railing against atheists having leaders at all. It’s nothing but projection when he complains of “self-appointed” leaders, since he’s the only one.

              • Posted January 15, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

                An a-theist is logically someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about theism. The idea of an atheist “movement” with “leaders” is a bit silly.

        • Posted January 14, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          I’ve detected immense jealousy in PZ’s comments over the years, as have many others. (Michael Nugent has compiled comprehensive lists of those comments.) In this latest screed, PZ sneers about Pinker’s Harvard position.

          • Stephen Barnard
            Posted January 14, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

            Myers is merely jealous of Dawkins, Harris, and Pinker. I believe he’s jealous of Darwin. On top of that, he’s the most prolific virtue signaler one can imagine.

            • Stephen Barnard
              Posted January 14, 2018 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

              “is” => “isn’t”

            • Posted January 15, 2018 at 1:19 am | Permalink

              That made me laugh. And I’m sure it’s true.

    • RPGNo1
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      One more reason to ignore PZ Myers blog. He evolved to an unbearable person in the last years.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      PZ’s comments about Pinker demonstrate that he is just like the propaganda artists on the right, for example Fox News. He uses all the same tactics. He lies, quotes out of context and denigrates.

      And his followers are just like Fox New believers. They don’t even bother to check the facts, they just gulp down whatever PZ says. If they checked the facts they might be able to see that he is egregiously misrepresenting reality. Though they might just as easily turn a blind eye to the facts due to ideological commitment.

      • BJ
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        People often point out facts to his followers. It doesn’t matter whether you point out facts and provide sources because they’ll just dismiss you as X-ist/phobic. They don’t want to hear they truth; they want to hear confirmation of what they already believe.

        • Kirbmarc
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 5:47 am | Permalink

          Also when you point out facts that contradict the general narrative on Pharyngula you’re routinely banned and your posts are deleted by PZ himself.

          Either that or you’re told that “your humanity is broken”.

    • Harrison
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t call it a “hasty” judgment at all. PZ’s resentment for any popular atheist or skeptical figure has grown over the decades as a result of his own failure to make it as a big name. He’s got enough sour grapes to open a third-rate winery.

  3. Tom
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Hardly a surprise, its Mr Trump’s anniversary with not a lot going for him, so Steven Pinkers support is vital if he is to run for for a second term.

  4. Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink


    Just another thing the likes of PZ Myers and the alt-right have in common.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I’ve known some literate super-conservatives, but there often seems something slightly pseudo-intellectual about them.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Furthermore, I believe such “literate super-conservatives” are simply selfish people (nature or nurture?) who happen to also be intelligent and educated. Their selfishness is so strong that they are willing to lie to get what they want or convince others of their positions, leading us to apply the “pseudo-intellectual” label.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        How would you characterize “literate super-liberals”?

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          Name a few and I might give it a shot.

          • Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

            I don’t understand. You didn’t require naming “literate super-conservatives” before characterizing them.

            • Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

              Those I know about. Don’t know any “literate super-liberals” and haven’t heard that term applied before. Just googled for that phrase in quotes and got zero hits! Perhaps you are the first to use it. If so, you get to define it.

              • Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                I guess I’m not being clear. Two things to wrap this up…..

                First, you did not identify any “literate super-conservatives”, yet you felt you could characterize the lot of them. Fair enough. That’s dangerous to do no matter who you are talking about, but fair enough.

                Second, since you characterized the lot of “literate super-conservatives” without identifying any, I was wondering if you could also characterize “literate super-liberals”.

                Or is this kind of broad brush analysis only something appropriate for “super-conservatives”?

              • BJ
                Posted January 10, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

                I just googled the phrase “literate super-conservative” and got no results.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      The most literate super-conservative I’ve read was Russell Kirk, the leading intellectual in the group William F. Buckley, Jr., assembled at National Review beginning in the Fifties. Of course, that was “old” Right, before the alt-right was a gleam in their reactionary daddies’ eyes.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        I am inclined to agree with that choice.

      • Posted January 12, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        Or how about that Nazi, Heidegger – he was supposedly a Greek scholar, etc. (I’ve been told that his etymologies are cranky, though, so take that with an “trained only” grain of salt if necessary). And yet he was a committed Nazi, even after the war.

        • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          And he somehow got away with this.

  6. rickflick
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    It’s a fairly complex issue and Pinker explanation is nuanced. I suspect the smearers find this situation irresistible. It’s so easy to cherry pick. I hope the general observer can stick with Pinker’s argument to the end and understand what he’s saying. I’m afraid though that folks tuned in to the alt-right will be looking for confirmation of their biases. No learning will take place.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Yes, unfortunately I have to agree with the blogger’s concern about a “tactical error”. It’s hard to stick “to the end” if you only see the first couple of minutes.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        It is advisable to guard against ones’ baser enemies these days by starting with a summary of your ending.

  7. Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m not surprised Pinker would call some on the alt-right literate and intelligent. After the Charlottesville rally I watched a clip of the march leader speaking. Up to that point I though it was mainly Civil War buffs marching but when this guy spoke I was blown away by the depth and intensity of his hatred. He lived in a complex alternative reality of hatred that his brain had clearly been marinating in for many years. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how fluent and articulate he was with his ramblings.

    I don’t think Shapiro counts as alt-right but Gavin McGinnes, Goad, Dalrymple?, Saylor? and others I’ve read certainly do. Many of them are lively, witty, well informed writers who will sound quite reasonable up to a certain point.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      How about Bannon and his followers and enablers?

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never actually heard Bannon speak and I don’t even know what his positions are but I suppose he counts as alt-right.

        Come to think of it alt-right seems to me a rather fluid concept. It all depends on the claimer and claimee. PCC I assume would be attacked by many alt-righters for merely being Jewish. On the other hand many college students wouldn’t hesitate to call PCC an alt-right white supremacist for refusing to denounce Bret Weinstein.

        • Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          I heard Bannon interviewed this morning. He sounded smart, confident, an able. (I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve heard him speak.)

          And he also sounded: Nationalist, divisive, self-centered, smug, authoritarian, elitist, and thoroughly uncaring.

          These are the kinds we need to keep an eye on: The capable, seemingly sane, right-wing-nuts.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      “Many of them are lively, witty, well informed writers who will sound quite reasonable up to a certain point.”

      Indeed, and those ones are, I strongly suspect, largely ignored by the pro-Trump crowd. (“You pointy-headed college boys think you’re so smart!”)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      By “Saylor” I’m guessing you might mean Steven Sailor (rather than Steven Saylor, the historical novelist)?

      Two or three times a year, I make a point of of spending a day (or, usually, a night, when the insomnia is on me) cruising the more “intellectual” niches of the far right — The Occidental Quarterly, or American Renaissance, or VDare, or one of the anarcho-libertarian spawn of Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell. I do it to get my blood up and be reminded of what I stand against — and to keep an eye on what the scoundrels are up to.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Sailor and I’ve actually read 2 of Saylors novels.

        I site I used to go to was Takimag. I realized after a while that I’d be pissed off for a whole day after reading it so I haven’t been there in years. There were some good posts though, and many didn’t touch on politics at all. You’d never even know the writer was alt-rightish

        • BJ
          Posted January 10, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          I was going to add Takimag to Ken’s list until I read your post. Yes, I first found that site when someone posted a link to a very well-written article that had nothing to do with politics. I was impressed with what I had just read, so I looked at the sidebar for other articles. The next thing I clicked on was was lengthy essay denying the Holocaust happened to any significant degree.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post Jerry! Pinker does a great job of explaining the issues. It’s disgusting people have attacked him in the way they have.

    As a regular viewer of Fox News, I come across a lot of otherwise intelligent etc people who have come to the wrong conclusions based on the facts because of the way the authoritarian left reacts to the facts. There are actually several I (probably arrogantly) think I could persuade to think differently if I had the chance to have a one on one conversation with them.

  9. Jon Gallant
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    PZ Myers’ dishonest editing of Pinker’s comments is just like Chris Hedges’ dishonest partial quoting of Sam Harris. The method of partial quotation is a time-honored technique in a segment of the Left.

    It was pioneered in the motherland of the workers in the 1930s, in polemics against anti-people wreckers in Biology like Nikolai Vavilov, among others. Their defense of Mendelism-Morganism clearly connected them to the alt-Right of the time, and they were duly convicted of the equivalent, in today’s language, of making Biology an unsafe space.
    Several were executed for this offense, and
    Vavilov was sent to the Gulag, where he died.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      “PZ Myers’ dishonest editing”

      This is nothing new.

      • Richard Sanderson
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure I remember PZ Liars telling atheists and skeptics to look out the “ellipses” when a creationist or religious person “quotes” something.

        Well, everybody should use the same advice with regard to PZ.

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          To be fair, we should always be wary of those ellipsis marks. Even without them, we should go to an original and/or reliable source. Can’t trust anyone out there these days and one’s credibility can take a big ding if one passes on bad information.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 10, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

            Ah yes. “Pinker … is … a … Nazi”.
            Quoted from Jerry’s post above.

            (I suppose – lest someone quote this out of context! – I do have to mention the few hundred words in between that I conveniently left out…)


        • BJ
          Posted January 10, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          Of course, if you read the article in question, Myers doesn’t even use ellipses, instead opting for quoting a word or two, followed by his own description of what Pinker is supposedly saying, followed by another quote of a word or three. He doesn’t quote even a full sentence, with or without ellipses, at any point.

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    In a highly qualified way, we do see people from the political middle and left taking sides with the right, and that is where they agree that openness and free speech for even repellent views are critical for the operations of a thriving democracy. Perhaps that is what he meant.

  11. Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    “…at least not if you characterize the alt-right as those Rightists who are infused with white supremacy.”

    This reflects a commonly-believed but false notion among liberals. In fact, excepting a few rare kooks, there are NO “white supremacists” in the American right or alt-right. There ARE white and/or Western European culture nationalists (separatists).

    Nobody on the right argues that whites are “supreme” in every way over all other races. It is more a matter of believing that culture, like everything else, comes out of biology and white (or Western European) culture cannot be preserved if inundated by other races and cultures. And personal feelings on the part of many whites that they do not want to integrate with disparate races and cultures. They like their own people, their own ways. “Like attracts like,” is the saying.

    So, hate it if you must, but call it by its right name: white nationalism or separatism.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. In my experience there are plenty of racists on the right who clearly think that white people are superior to others. They cover a wide range from “high functioning” to rabid. I see people like this every damn day. People who take it for granted that they are better than black people, for one common example that I see every damn day.

      I seriously doubt that the average person you describe as simply wanting to preserve white culture doesn’t think that, whatever their conception of white culture is, it is superior. And that whites are better than whatever others they are opposed to. Actually instantiating such fine and noble distinctions in actual thoughts and actions, as you describe these people doing, is extremely rare among humans in my experience. We just aren’t built that way.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        There are two things working against good racial harmony. One is humanities built-in xenophobic tendency which I think has evolutionary and genetic roots. The other is that politicians enhance instinctive racial intolerance for political gain. They keep the pot boiling. It is probably possible to ameliorate instinctive xenophobia by educating bigotry away. But, the roadblock of politics is a tough challenge working against any solution.

      • Kirbmarc
        Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:27 am | Permalink

        In reality, strictly speaking, there is no unitary “white culture”, certainly not in Europe, and very likely not even in the US.

        This of course doesn’t mean that “white people have no culture”, that’s a stupid idea to have (and, I’d add, a stupid message to spread, since the alt-right uses it as fodder for its conspiracy theories=

        There are many different cultures among people of European ancestry, Irish Americans don’t belong to the exact same cultural background of Italian Americans or Polish Americans or, say, Greek Americans.

        To say nothing of the differences between New England societal values or the ideas about society more popular in Alabama. Or of the religious differences between Mormons and Evangelicals. Etc.

        Black culture is more unitary (in the US, there MANY cultural differences in Sub-Saharan Africa) because there are less link to different African cultures due to the cultural erasure caused by slavery, but it’s no monolith, either.

        Black New Orleans culture isn’t the same as the black culture in New York (due, for example, to the larger number of Black Caribbeans immigrants in NY).

        “Preserving white culture” is an empty slogan, especially because no authority in the US that is suppressing cultural celebrations of European ancestry.

        But it works as a recruiting tool for the alt-right because, among many things, of some strident and counterproductive messages among the SocJus, like the stupid meme about how “whites have no culture”.

        The problems, as Pinker points out, come from the simplifications and cognitive distortions that the alt-right has and which are sometimes fueled by bad, overly simplified ideas which are sometimes spread by some leftist outlets.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink

          ““Preserving white culture” is an empty slogan.”

          Perhaps, but you should note that some people are terrified by demographic changes.
          If for example, 3 million chinese settle in Zimbabwe, you might get a movement to preserve black culture.
          “White people” are as tribal as any tribe throughout human history.

          I do not understand why some people find it so incomprehensible that tribalism increases when there is mass movement of people and unstable demographics.

          • Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:08 am | Permalink

            Indeed, humans are very tribal monkeys.

            Pretty much everywhere, at all times.

          • Kirbmarc
            Posted January 11, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

            It’s true that tribalism increases in presence of what is perceived to be a threat to the “tribe”, like a sudden demographic change.

            The alt-right is ultimately fueled by tribalism, and it’s true that part of its rise can be explained by demographic changes in the US.

            The solution, however, is to improve integration along shared rules, laws and social principles (liberal democracy sounds fine), not to give into tribalism.

            The problem is that in order to have shared rules and principles you need a widespread political support of these rules and principles.

            The alt-right is of course all too happy to discard shared rules, but so is the SocJus left, in its own misguided attempts to create social harmony and justice by ditching or undermining freedom of speech or cultural contact (through the absurd meme of “cultural appropriation”) or the justice system or color-blind laws and institutions, instead of reforming institutions to reduce violations of the rights of all citizens and poverty/lack of access to social networks of assistance/healthcare depending more on income than on identity.

            The SocJus hasn’t started the fire of the alt-right, but they’re trying to put it down with gasoline.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted January 11, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

              “The solution, however, is to improve integration along shared rules, laws and social principles (liberal democracy sounds fine), not to give into tribalism.”

              I agree completely.
              However the rise of identity politics from academia and the extreme left is also a form of tribalism. You want your citizens to indentify with shared civic values rather than focusing on being gay, male, female, white, black, first nation etc.
              For example, by pushing for more non-white oscar nominiees in a very emotional manner, the media inadvertently erode a society where indentity matters more than character.

          • Posted January 12, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

            There’s a book, now about 10 years old, called _China’s Second Continent_, which is a journalistic look at Chinese immigration, etc. to Africa. Addressed is racism, in both directions.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:38 am | Permalink

          “… there is no unitary “white culture” … not even in the US.”

          Make that especially in the US. We are, after all, the world’s great melting pot. Waive after waive of immigrants have made it in this nation. It sometimes takes a generation or two to assimilate, and the hardcore nativists bitch and moan about it no end, but assimilate they do, and it is a never-ending source of this nation’s strength. (Of course, assimilation is smoother when groups aren’t immediately segregable by the color of their skin, and especially if their ancestors weren’t dragged over here in chains in the hold of a ship.)

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 11, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

            “Wave after wave …”

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:43 am | Permalink

        There is a big diffrence between the notion that “Western Culture” is superior vs that the “White race” is superior.

        Another issue is that bigoted unsophisticated people see the world in black and white.

        I am quite happy to say “Western Culture” has been the most dynamic and creative the last 1000 years while appreciating many aspects of other cultures and lamenting the shitty aspects of Western History/culture.

        I get the impression you reject any sentiment of a “superior western culture”?

        • darrelle
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          Actually no. Why would anything I wrote have suggested that? I think you have moved the goal posts a long ways. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other categories in the US and Western Europe are part of Western Culture. But I don’t see how they can be part of White Culture, whatever one’s concept of White Culture might be.

          Note that I am not the one who introduced White Culture. It isn’t a phrase that I’ve ever used. But when I hear of self identified white supremacists / white nationalists / white separatists saying they are just trying to preserve White Culture and that they aren’t racist? That sounds exactly like bullshit to me.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

            “white separatists saying they are just trying to preserve White Culture and that they aren’t racist”
            I agree they are.

            However on the other extreme the radical left also use terms like “white culture”, “white privilege”, “white science” etc. thus it has become part of the toxic discourse.

            • darrelle
              Posted January 11, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

              It has. And whenever you come across such terms these days the chances are very good that some flavor of racism is on display.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted January 11, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

                “good that some flavor of racism is on display.”
                How would you characterise the use of these terms from the left?

              • darrelle
                Posted January 11, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

                Particularly these days, mostly bullshit.

  12. Jake Sevins
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Milo Yiannopoulos is virtually synonymous with “alt right” and he claims the label for himself gladly. He is quite literate and intelligent as well. However, he spends most of his time spinning up college students and attempting to upset people than trying to really promote a serious political agenda. Nonetheless, Pinker may have had him in mind.

  13. Zach
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    But one issue remains: Who are the “highly literate, highly intelligent” people who gravitate to the alt-right, as Pinker describes them? I know of none—at least not if you characterize the alt-right as those Rightists who are infused with white supremacy. I haven’t asked Pinker who he meant here, but I assume that, since the definition of “alt-right” is a bit nebulous, Pinker is using the conception of “alt-right” that I used to have: the extreme right. Under that notion, there are smart and literate people on the extreme right. I can’t think of many, because I don’t know many hyperconservatives, but Ben Shapiro comes to mind.

    The term “alt-right” is indeed nebulous. Many people take it to include white supremacy (e.g. readers of The Daily Stormer), while others use it merely to differentiate themselves from the “conventional right.”

    I personally find the latter distinction more useful, or at least more interesting, since it points to a sizable shift in American politics. Thus, I sometimes think of the alt-right as the “new right” or the “young right.” Pinker appears to as well to some degree, referencing as he did a potential alt-righter being someone fresh out of college and still trying to figure things out. So what are some of the differences between the alt-right and the conventional right?

    1. They’re more isolationist. Like virtually all other Americans, they think our 2003 intervention in Iraq was a mistake, and they’re extremely weary of future foreign entanglements. They don’t really care about NATO, and they resent our support of Israel and our apparent obeisance to its “Jewish lobby” (anti-Semitism alert!).

    2. They’re less religious. They don’t generally have a problem with evolution being taught in schools, and while many are pro-life (or anti-choice, if you will), abortion doesn’t seem to be a sticking point with them like it is with the evangelical, Christian right.

    3. They’re less apologetic about racial politics. This is where they bleed into legit white supremacy, although many don’t strike me as nascent Nazis. Simply, they don’t have a problem pointing out that African-Americans commit violent crime at higher rates than other groups, and they think this has more to do with the African-Americans themselves than with the broader “culture of oppression” which pundits like Ta-Nehisi Coates like to reference. They’re also serious about immigration. (Some indeed are seriously racist about it.)

    4. They’re fully on board with Trump.

    DISCLAIMER: the opinions above do not necessarily represent mine. I just summarized them from my impressions of articles at I find much of the writing there odious, but I also find it well-written (who doesn’t like good prose?), and occasionally (Ceiling Cat help me) funny.

  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The entire example is a perfect look at what is wrong with many on the left and the leaders of this regressive left think. These people are doomed politically because they cannot even address the common, reasonable and clear thinking of Pinker. If they expect the rest of the main stream democratic party to survive, which I assume they belong to, they need a big reprogramming.

    Bannon is out over at Alt-right as of yesterday so there is an opening for Trump if he finds himself looking for a new position soon.

  15. Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    My take: frankly, many people are incapable of processing anything beyond “my team believes X and if you cannot believe X you must be with the other team”.

    This is why I use the “block” function so liberally on social media, and most of my “blocks” are used on fellow leftists.

  16. Historian
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Of course, Pinker was taken out of context by some on the left and the right. But, I think Pinker did a disservice to himself by his examples. If he had cited some polling data that indicates his assertions are not common beliefs on the left I would have felt more comfortable with them. In particular, his examples 1, 3, and 4 do not strike me as what the left has been denying (I admit the possibility of being wrong). Example 2, about women’s priorities, is something I think some on the left would deny. Here’s what I think the left would say regarding the other examples. Whether these assertions by some on the left are true is quite another matter.

    1. Capitalist societies repress women and minorities because they are run by a white, male patriarchy. Democratic socialism is better than capitalism.
    3. Certain ethnic groups commit more crimes than others because it is the only way for them to strike back at their white, racist overlords.
    4. Islamic suicide bombers sacrifice themselves as a means of fighting against western imperialism.

    I think Pinker allowed himself to be an easy target for the likes of Myers. His examples opened himself up for attack, particularly the charge that he set up strawmen. I don’t think many on the left pine away for Soviet Union style communism. A form of democratic socialism as Bernie Sanders espouses is an idea gaining popularity. But, communism and social democracy are quite two different things. Again, reliable polling data would obviate the need for guesswork.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      If your examples 1,3 and 4 are what the left would say, then Pinker is exactly correct in his samples. Number 3 and 4 are so easily shown as nonsense, we don’t need any degrees for that. 3. We are killing each other to get back at the white racist. 4. We are killing each other to show those western imperialists.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Hmmmm. Not sure I agree with you here, Historian.

      For example in ref to #3, could you imagine anywhere in the American left where you could even ask this question; “Apart from systemic racism, are there any other explanations for why black Americans commit more violent crime than any other group?”

      On the left today, many questions are not even allowed to be asked. If one can’t ask those questions there is no way to know the answers. This is (partly) what Pinker was getting at (IMO)

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      3 and 4 are obviously horseshit since the majority of the victims in both cases belong to the same ethnicity as the perpetrators.

      As to the first point, I stopped participating in political protests because on every bloody occasion there would be dozens of arseholes waving Soviet flags. I won’t march alongside anyone nostalgic for a creed that killed more people in the 20th century than the Nazis.

      Bernie Saunders might be a democrat but here in the U.K. the main left wing party is headed by an old school communist.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      “I admit the possibility of being wrong”

      You’ll never make it in politics! 🙂

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      I found it humorous how PZ whined about Pinker setting up straw men while pivoting from “Capitalist states are better than communist states” to “capitalist democracies with strong social supports [Sweden] are better than Capitalist states”.

      Well, PZ, Pinker wasn’t arguing the other side of that. [Assuming PPC(E) has correctly characterized what Pinker said — I trust him; I haven’t listened to the video yet.]

      And lest anyone think that no one pines for “good old-fashioned” communism, on my local NPR station, they’ve been having serious discussions about gummint providing people with minimum incomes and our newly elected mayor of Minneapolis has publicly stated a goal of [I only very slightly paraphrase], “anyone being able to afford to live in any neighborhood in the metro area, regardless of income.”

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Let me clarify that I am fine with helping people be housed (e.g. Section 8) and helping people have health care (e.g. CHIP) and helping people have food (e.g. food stamps and similar).

        Heck, I volunteer at a food shelf and donate there and many other places.

        I am in favor of a robust social safety net.

        But a guaranteed income?

        Ain’t no guarantees in this life.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          The guaranteed income idea is surprising, but I think the idea has merit. I think Ontario, or some municipality therein is doing an experiment along these lines. What strikes me as ironic is that conservatives who probably aught to hate the idea might go along on the grounds that it gets the government “off our backs” in the sense that a cash payment leaves it up to the individual how to make use of the money instead of the government deciding what is worthy and what isn’t.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        “Capitalist states are better than communist states”

        Listened to the video and confirmed this.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t think many on the left pine away for Soviet Union style communism.”

      What else other than “Soviet Union style communism” is exemplified in Castro’s Cuba, for which the pop-Left retains an obsessive adoration? For that matter, Historian, take a look at Counterpunch, which bills itself as “the fearless voice of the American Left”. In its archives, you will find jaw-droppingly favorable nostalgia for the old USSR by a writer named Andre Vltchek.

      At this site, you will also find paeans in praise of Vladimir Putin, formerly Lt. Colonel in the peoples’ KGB of the USSR. Counterpunch and its like have never quite assimilated the fact that the USSR is gone—and given the background of Russia’s current President and its siloviki ruling elite, it isn’t quite gone.

      • Historian
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        I have looked at the Counterpunch site many times. They have many contributors, most of whom appear to be a dying breed of old leftists, who were in their prime before the end of the Cold War. I suspect that very few of the “regressive left,” based on college campuses, even know such a site exists or care about the Soviet Union. Perhaps in Europe (particularly Russia) there is nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Not so much in the United States.

        • Jon Gallant
          Posted January 10, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          Quite right, many of the Counterpunch contributors seem to be very old Leftists, in both senses. In fact, their rhetorical style sometimes eeriely resembles the Daily Worker of about 70 years ago. But they can’t be THAT old, can they? The rhetorical similarity therefore suggests that one generation’s mannerisms influences those of later generations; and/or that a particular kind of mentality expresses itself in similar language in every generation. Either theory explains the language similarities between the old Daily Worker, the Counterpunch website—-and the campus “regressives” today or tomorrow.

          As for their pining for Soviet-style communism, let me repeat one word: Cuba.

    • Posted January 15, 2018 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      I’ve encountered people who’ve expressed those views more or less as you’ve articulated them, and they’re full of crap.

  17. Davide Spinello
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    P. Z. Myers has earned a special place among the pioneers and leaders of the New Creationism. Not surprisingly, the more irrelevant he becomes the more he is hysterical and envious of true intellectuals like Pinker.

  18. Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    At this point one can only pity Myers.

    Imagine the utter horror of waking every morning and remembering you are him.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Who are the “highly literate, highly intelligent” people who gravitate to the alt-right, as Pinker describes them?

    My guess would be maybe someone like “Mencius Moldbug” (real name Curtis Yarvin), one of the leading figures of the so-called “Dark Enlightenment.” I’ve read his stuff and, while he’s full of shit, he’s reasonably erudite and entertaining (even if he does tend to ramble on, and on, and on).

    • Benjamin
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I’d also argue that Sam Harris often has guests who could be described as “Right Wing” on his podcast and whether or not you agree with them you usually can’t call them unintelligent…

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted January 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        I assume you refer to Charles Murray, someone I have great respect for.
        His views on IQ is obviously unpopular but he has some serious commentary on the demise of the middle class and the disconnect between the elites and the rest of society. He explained for example that during the 50’s rich and poor had a shared lived experience and similar values, whereas today America has become balkanised.

    • Benjamin
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I’d also argue that Sam Harris often has guests who could be described as “Right Wing” on his podcast and whether or not you agree with them you usually can’t call them unintelligent…

    • Benjamin
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I’d also argue that Sam Harris often has guests who could be described as “Right Wing” on his podcast and whether or not you agree with them you usually can’t call them unintelligent…

  20. Sam
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I would rather live in the US than Venezuela, is that a fair comparison? You could try to honestly discuss this on PZ’s site, but he and his commenters would respond with boiling point aggression and abuse, shunning and dogpiling.

    Notice that a dispassionate discussion of the issues, even to acknowledge that there are facts about the world that Pinker mentions, is all that’s needed to be smeared as alt-right.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Your posts would either be deleted or edited to make you look like an idiot.

      Myers does not ‘debate’, he just rants. He’s not smart enough for a proper debate and he has the people skills of the Unabomber.

  21. nicky
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The cutting off after the first half reminds me of ‘Darwin quote mining’:
    “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” and then Darwin goes on to explain in detail that nevertheless, it is so (near the end of the passage):
    “then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.”
    Darwin’s opening gambit is a rhetorical device, and so is Steve Pinker’s.
    What I found most stunning is that on Mr Meyer’s site it is contended by many commenters that on campuses, and by the ‘left’ in general, these things are discussed continually. Would they really never have heard about, say, ‘de-platforming’?

    • Paul S
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure it’s being discussed on campuses, but only by the right, that would be authoritarian left, people with the proper views.

  22. J
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Since you will be branded alt right if you believe that we should exempt at least one West European country from the mass immigration experiment in case it goes wrong in all the others, is it really surprising that some intelligent people are alt right? And since the only “counterarguments” those people receive are attempts to ruin their life, is it surprising that some go cuckoo?

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Oh good lord. What nonsense.

      • J
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        A bit unfortunate that you attempt to prove me right by not including any arguments.

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          “….we should exempt at least one West European country from the mass immigration experiment in case it goes wrong in all the others…”

          This comment isn’t worthy of a response other than the one I made.

          • J
            Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

            How so? It doesn’t seem to be going that well at the moment. The French strong Laïcité model and the Swedish be-as-nice-as-possible model and everything in between did not work. Let’s say that the probability that we find the magic fix is 99%. Would you pull the trigger if I gave you a gun that has a 1% probability to fire? Why does this calculus change if an entire continent is involved?

            Pinker correctly identified that the strategy you’re employing is starting to lose its effectiveness. I’m not saying that it’s a bad strategy. Attempting to engage in debate might indeed be even worse. This certainly applies to the far progressive left: it is almost unimaginable that they’d have gotten to where they are by engaging in debate rather than the tactics they employ. Smearing Pinker is the rational strategy.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted January 11, 2018 at 5:31 am | Permalink

        “Oh good lord. What nonsense.”
        Do you just dismiss any concerns people have regarding mass immigration into Europe?

    • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      + 1

  23. Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Myers and co have taken, if i can be so outrageous and on a musical note, a Nina Mouskouri LP turned up the volume to the max and classified it as PUNK!
    WTF are they on.

    • Servatius
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      That was really funny but you got here name wrong. It is Nana.

  24. Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Quaerere Propter Vērum.

  25. Curt Nelson
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    What a great post.

    I don’t understand arguments based on purposeful misrepresentations. Wouldn’t one’s conscious mind be aware of the dishonesty so search harder for true reasons to disagree?

    “In short, the election was a referendum on political correctness, a choice between the immaculately focus-grouped Clinton and the from-the-hip Trump.” — Definitely.

  26. Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Pinker is correct. He only made a tactical mistake in the sense that he underestimated that he’s up against The Intersectionalists, who suffer from what has been dubbed “Myers’ Law” in 2011, named after PZ Myers — the same.

    In its simplest form Myers’ Law states a baboon has no capacity to either receive or transmit information without corrupting that information. — Source: Greylining

    Baboon is an opaque reference to “horde”, which is how PZ Myers’ community called itself, i.e. people who are stereotypically “woke” or otherwise afflicted by this identitarian postmodern condition, associated with “intersectionality” (ironically adhering to a complete perversion of the original concept).

    I still see no evidence why these types are considered “left wing” especially now that class, poverty, income equality, unions etc are nowhere to be found and it’s all about race and gender with supremacist features.

    • Posted January 15, 2018 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      And yet the rabid response to what Pinker said eminently confirms what he said.

  27. Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  28. Richard Sanderson
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, well, well. Can anybody be really surprised that PZ Myers was taken in by serial fraud “Sacha Saeen”?

    What an odious little toad and fraud PZ Myers is!

    There are a number of “skeptics”, who resemble far left authoritarian fascists these days, who happily retweet Saeen’s lies.

    Time these creeps were called out.

  29. Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    With the public sphere dominated by the hyper-speed of today’s information industry, images, symbols and appeals to identity replace rigorous political and intellectual debate.

    And anyway, this very modern ideal, rational and informed public debate, was perhaps always an illusion to begin with.

    How many members of the public actually decide how they will vote only after actively and carefully considering, with an open mind and without bias, all relevant information on parties, policies and candidates? (And, if they did do this, isn’t it possible the most rational choice for them would be to vote along the lines of identity anyway? )

    If you look at liberal democracies that are dominated by two major political parties like US, UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, etc., (I am not as familiar with European politics) there are very rarely major fluctuations in elections–for example, 70/30 splits. Instead, they are usually much more likely to fall somewhere in the range of a 60/40 – 50/50 split. Nor do you see one party, like in Japan for example, governing for decades at a time. Party A gets a couple of terms, then Party B gets in, then back and forth and back and forth. It’s all very stable, producing a certain sense of “equilibrium”.

    And what this suggests is that the majority of people vote for the same party, and what they believe it represents, no matter what specific policies or candidates are being offered in any given election. It’s the swinging voters, undecideds, often people who take no interest in politics, and those in marginal seats/districts that seem to have a disproportionate amount of electoral power.

    Anyway, in this situation “narratives”, “messages” and “slogans”, along with “personality”, just as in slickly run advertising campaigns, are what the pollsters focus on because these are what have an instantly measurable impact on the broader public. (Rather than the enlightenment ideal of a public that is intelligent and informed, the post-structuralists actually seem to be right on this one: its all about language and affect.) It’s a toxic situation.

    Bracketing accepted (ideological) wisdoms with the aim of rational, empirically based, debate to guide policy driven politics for the best possible outcomes for the greater good would be inimical to established parties and right/left identities. That is why people like Pinker must be misunderstood, lest they unsettle distinct political identities.

  30. Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Okay, but the problem with inconvenient truths for progressives is that they invalidate core progressive policies on affirmative action, diversity, and immigration. Sure, facts about HBD shouldn’t license bigotry or mistreatment of anyone, but they should inform policy. And they are going to inform it in ways progressives won’t like.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      I think Pinker’s point is that these “truths” inform rather than invalidate. Or, if truth goes against the progressive agenda in some way, that’s a good thing.

      One problem I have with the terms like progressive, right-wing, liberal, conservative, etc. is that they imply to many a built-in agenda. If you call yourself progressive then you buy into all the tenets of some platform with religious conviction. Unfortunately, “truth-seeker” doesn’t really work either.

      • Posted January 10, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        In some cases, it’s hard to see how truths can inform policy without invalidating it. For example, how does the reality of human biological differences in average IQ not invalidate the whole concept of adverse impact (four-fifths rule)?

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:11 am | Permalink

          Pinker gave an interesting talk on Ashkenazi intelligence.

          If you have a state with a population of Ashkenazi Jews and Kalahari Bushmen it would be difficult to achieve equality of outcome in my opinion.

          However, I think these facts should not be discussed openly in public, it is difficult for children (and adults) to understand that average group differences do not apply to every individual.

          However, you would expect that professional bureaucrats in Germany would realize than low IQ immigration will cause unemployment and frustration among immigrants in an advanced hi-tech economy.

          The Germans, they go from one extreme to another.

          • Posted January 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

            Also, one shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Suppose X can achieve only 10% of what Y can, however understood. (These can be groups or individuals.) Then X is given help and we realize we cannot help him more than getting to 30% of Y. Should we thereby not do it because we can’t *completely* equalize them?

            Any finding about human nature broadly construed creates *at least two policy possibilities*.

        • Posted January 11, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          It is not an all-or-nothing thing. Truth can inform policy without 100% invalidating it, to name one example. Truth can also fill in details that support a policy or give a more factual basis for a policy. Truth can invalidate a policy but it doesn’t have to.

      • Posted January 15, 2018 at 1:30 am | Permalink

        If you call yourself progressive then you buy into all the tenets of some platform with religious conviction.

        The regressive left has become dangerously dogmatic in just that way.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      “Sure, facts about HBD shouldn’t license bigotry or mistreatment of anyone, but they should inform policy”
      If what you mean is for example IQ differences between groups I agree with you but I think we are in a very small minority.

      The problem is that it is difficult to have these discussions in the public space. It is like sex, not a subject for children.

    • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I think that these progressive policies have already been invalidated by their results.

  31. Richard Sanderson
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Has anybody taken a look at the comments at the Pharyngula article?

    To think some of these fascist scumbags were once part of the “skeptic” and “atheist” communities.

    PZ’s site really is the Tartarus of the web, these days.

    No actual skeptic would EVER be taken in by a video edited by Sacha Saeen, the close friend of ** ********.

  32. Lucrece
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Pinker is not only not sympathetic to the alt right, but he actively used his Twitter account to advocate for Hillary Clinton. Myers is an utter shit heap. It’s such a rude awakening to see how despite copious university education some people can developmentally arrest at the high school mean girl stage of their lives.

    These are people in charge of young professionals’ budding careers and leaders of industry, and they are total brats nonetheless.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      To paraphrase someone: I’d really like a bit of clarification regarding the beginning of your comment.

      • Rich Sanderson
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Looks like sarcasm, to me.

        • Posted January 10, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I was attempting a bit of subtle sarcasm myself.

      • Posted January 11, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        « Pinker is not only [anti alt-right] but he is also [explicitly pro Democrat]. »

        That seems clear to me.


  33. EliHershkovitz
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Ben Shapiro has been and continues to be the *target* of the alt-right. I would slot him in the right-wing moderate category.

  34. Harrison
    Posted January 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Hemant Mehta has retweeted about this, so I’m hoping an article is forthcoming.

  35. Posted January 10, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    There’s probably a moral in there somewhere about truths and lies.

  36. Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    PZ Myers strawmanning someone? And water’s wet!

  37. Travis
    Posted January 11, 2018 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I’m not going to pretend this is a common view but I met someone who was openly, unironically pro-north korea. Want to guess where?

    You’re correct, a university communist club in Ontario, Canada. (there are 2 at my school)

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Interesting, what are their arguments?

    • Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      They must be stunningly uninformed.

      The suffering in NK is immense.

  38. Jose
    Posted January 11, 2018 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    I agree with the four Pinker points, but #1.

    I’ve been in Cuba. It was on holidays, but it was not holidays. I stayed with a cuban family, ate like the cubans, traveled like the cubans. It’s true there are shortages on many things, they complain (¡openly!) about their government (and not that much about their system per se); but I can’t imagine a happier place to live and a happier people to live with. I won’t describe one by one the benefits, they are easily countered without a debate based on facts, which is not my intention, but to just give my view on the matter.

    If I could, I would just move there. And I am pretty sure that when I retire I will try.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      Modern capitalism is far too materialistic and gadgetly for my taste.

    • Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      You may want to try it on for 6-12 months before committing.

      I had some friends that went to live in Norway for a couple of years, on similar grounds. (And I have been to Norway a lot, I have cousins there that I am close to.)

      They returned after those couple of years. They felt like, “no matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t getting ahead. I was paying >50% of my income in taxes.”

      Now, maybe if you’re retired, this won’t be an issue. (In Norway, the benefits for the retired are broad and deep.) But I suspect that long term exposure won’t be as glowing as a short holiday.

      I think (I think) I could enjoy living under the Norwegian system. If we could suddenly switch to it. But it’s not communist of course. And it won;t happen in my lifetime, that’s for sure.

      For me, the acid test is: Are people fleeing from the USA to Cuba, or the other way around?

      Cuba is still a short-term experiment (only ~59 years so far). We’ll see if it has a life-span longer than the USSR (~69 years). Will it still be around in this form in 10 years, after Raúl dies? I doubt it.

      So far, every communist system has failed in the long run. It’s also telling that they all have permanent authoritarian governments.

      I hope it works out for you if you go for it.

      • Posted January 11, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        My own theory, which is mine, is that after Raul dies Cuba is going to become like every other Caribbean island: full of tourists. I would mourn its distinctive culture but it might help out some of the poor.

        • Jose
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          Actually it could help it’s distinctive culture, as it is an atractive and so, as an asset, makes interesting it’s conservation.

          And anyway, tourism it’s the main industry in Cuba already, and It’s creating some problems. The people with direct access to tourist have direct access to foreing currency and greather wealth, which is creating inequalities based on the possibilities of access to that currency.

          I doubt change in Cuba depends on Raul being there or not. Politically, the regime is built on more than it’s visible head, and if it didn’t happen after Fidel retired and later died, it won’t happen just by Raul retiring.

          • Posted January 12, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

            Jose, I want some of your rose-colored glasses!

            You seem to think Cuba is nothing but sunshine, butterflies, daisies, and ponies! Everyone is perfectly happy! They love those old cars: Everyone in Cuba is a classic car buff!

            Raul is promising a wall to keep out those USian and European immigrants who keep pouring onto the beaches! And he’s going to make the US pay for it!

            tourism it’s the main industry in Cuba already, and It’s creating some problems. The people with direct access to tourist have direct access to for[eign] currency and great[]er wealth

            Next time you’re in Cuba, tell those people in tourist industry that you want them to lose those jobs. Ask their opinion on that.

            Of course it won’t fall immediately on Raul’s death or retirement! It’s an authoritarian regime that holds all power in the country! (Seriously?) No other political parties are permitted. There are no (real) elections.

            Have you considered what would happen if other political parties were allowed and there were real elections in Cuba?

        • Posted January 15, 2018 at 1:36 am | Permalink

          I always thought that Cuba should turn itself into one giant theme park. Keep the old autos, everyone in period costume, party like it’s 1958!

        • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          I think that Cuban culture will be better off after opening to the world.

      • Posted January 11, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        I don’t think that actual communism has ever been implemented on a national scale. What has happened, from Cuba to the old Soviet Union, is that the capitalist apparatus was torn down and the society entered what was supposed to be an intermediary phase (the Socialist stage). In this intermediary phase, virtually all means of production was transferred from individuals to the state, which was supposed to shepherd the transition into a true communist society. In such a society, there would be no individual ownership of the means of production (including one’s own labor) and the producers of goods and services would more or less share equally in the output.

        The problem is, in each and every case, the massive concentration of power for the state in this intermediary phase became in reality the last stop on the train. Instead of acting as a steward and facilitator, this Leviathan State became ever more focused on the consolidation of its power. Oppression and suppression followed as night follows day, and some of the worst societies in human history were created.

        For all of his insight into the flaws of capitalism (some of them still very relevant today), Karl Marx was pretty vague on what was supposed to replace it and how exactly it would function. For me, the “true” communist society as I described above seems pretty untenable for anything more than small and simple communities. That, coupled with the fact that no overthrow of the capitalist system has ever really made it beyond the Socialist stage, indicates to me that Communism is just a non-starter.

        Far better to retain the underlying structure of capitalism and the fundamental notion of private property while striving to curb its excesses and inequalities that such a system produces. Not a perfect solution, but much like democracy, the best among imperfect alternatives.

      • Jose
        Posted January 11, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        I Know it’s possible I Couldn’t adapt. I may be to “spoiled”.

        It may be moving the goal posts, but in what sense have communist system failed, as oposed to capitalist ones? or the other way around, in what sense have capitalist systems have won? Well, in perpetuating themselves yes, sure. But the cuban regime, against all odds, have perpetuated itself too. And if it didn’t fall in the 90’s, with the “periodo especial”, It’s hard to imagine how could it.

        In short, I think capitalist system have failed, to provide happiness to the people and the world, capitalism roots itself in the personal amassing of wealth, and so comfort, and so happiness. Maybe some countries have, in themselves, a happy and comforted people, but no doubt at the expense of others. The two world wars were a direct consequence of market competition. And nowadays in europe we live comfortably while we close our doors to people from poor countries, but we don’t care in what conditions these same peoples work making our clotues or appliances.

        • Posted January 12, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          Well, since almost all communists countries have collapsed in relatively short order, and all have had to utilize authoritarian regimes to suppress dissent, have all utilized political suppression (and imprisonment/execution), and have had to wall their people in to prevent them from fleeing, I’d say: On what grounds do you claim they are more successful or conform better to human happiness and human nature?

          I’m not claiming all capitalist countries are perfect or that the system is perfect or that social supports within them aren’t the right way to go (I strongly favor a single-payer model for health care in the US along the UK NH or Canada Medicare lines, for instance).

          But to claim that communist regimes have done better is, to me at least, patently ridiculous.

          Seriously, people are fleeing Cuba to the USA (10s of thousands every year, despite the high barriers to doing so and this has accelerated dramatically since the Cuban government lowered their preventive measures in 2014), not the other way around. And after they get here, they don’t go back. I think you are pretty firmly outvoted on this issue.

          I traveled, at ground level, by bicycle, across all of the former East Germany (DDR) in 1992, shortly after the wall came down. The place was empty. Empty of people. Everyone who could had fled to western Europe. Why would this be, if the communist system had done better by them? Why had East Germany, as far as I could, not advanced at all since 1945 (it seemed like a time capsule!)? Because it had a great and successful system?

          Capitalist systems with a strong social support system (e.g. much of Europe, especially Scandinavia) seems like the best path to me.

          • Jose
            Posted January 12, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            I don’t even know where to start… how about the misrepresentation of my words? I won’t even point which ones. If you are honest enough, you will know. If not I am not interested. It’s a shame because apart from that, you make some interesting (although wrong) points.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 12, 2018 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

            Cuba has managed to survive, despite decades of attempts to undermine it politically and cripple it economically by the most powerful and wealthy country in the world right on its doorstep. And its people may be poor but they’re not, apparently, destitute. The ones leaving are economic refugees, just like all the Mexicans the Drumpf wants to keep out.

            Maybe a fairer comparison would be the standard of living of Cubans with that of their nearest Caribbean neighbours in Haiti or Dominica…? Well, maybe not. 😉

            A better comparison might be with Jamaica or eastern Mexico and I don’t know how that would come out.

            “Capitalist systems with a strong social support system (e.g. much of Europe, especially Scandinavia) seems like the best path to me.”
            Yes, though if you listed all their policies and showed it to a Rethuglican the screams of “communism” would still be echoing…


            • Jose
              Posted January 13, 2018 at 4:22 am | Permalink

              That’s right on the spot. The brutal siege that Cuba, somehow, has managed to overcome has no comparison.

              I Think, anyway, that Cuba can be compared to The Hispaniola’s countries. Never been to that island, but specially with Haiti, you can compare the damages in lifes and infrastructure, and the don’t stand against Cubas.

              Cuba is the safest Country I have been. I would dare to go out anywhere anytime of day or night. You would only have to worry about hustlers, and even that, some people (not me)would consider it as one of the charms.

              • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

                All totalitarian countries I know are “safe”. But the price of this “safety” is sky high.

      • Posted January 14, 2018 at 1:24 am | Permalink

        “no matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t getting ahead”: is that a worthwhile goal for anyone? Take the arch-exponent of that ideal, Donald Trump. Is he happy, despite having won the biggest prize of his life and getting ahead of his hated opponents?

        Perhaps many Norwegians know something your friends don’t.

        • Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          No, they just have other preferences.

  39. Posted January 11, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Not withstanding that nitwit PZ Myers, there are probably some highly intelligent educated people on the Regressive Left.

  40. Kyuss
    Posted January 11, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Why are you surprised? PZ Myers is a habitual liar.

  41. Thanny
    Posted January 11, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The term “alt-right” was very nebulous until quite recently. Now, most people associate it with white nationalists (which intersects with, but is not identical to, the set of white supremacists, incidentally).

    But even less than a year ago, it was a term no one could quite define. In the non-white-nationalist sense, it never meant extreme right or far right, but alternate right. As in, an alternative to the establishment right wing. I’m going to assume that’s how Pinker is using the term.

    In any case, it’d be a big mistake to equate alt-right and Trump voters. The number of people who identify as alt-right, regardless of definition, is tiny in comparison. It’s even a mistake to equate right-wing with Trump voters at all. There are people who voted for Obama twice and then Trump.

    It’s not so much that the excesses of political correctness are pushing people to the right, as it’s pushing them further from the far left, and in particular away from the Democrats who embrace authoritarian leftist policies (as Clinton did many times over, to her shame).

    I still question the intelligence and sanity of anyone who voted for Trump (I’m with Sam Harris in that regard – I’d vote for a random unknown person over Trump), but there’s no question that the cries of racism and misogyny are complete bunk.

  42. Posted January 11, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Pharyngula is a lunatic asylum where the inmates are in charge.

    In the comments to that post, Myers and one commenter assure that:


    His lie is that the Left denies his “facts”. They don’t.


    No one here is saying they are not facts.

    All the while, Myers hordelings do exactly that:

    Marcus Ranum

    “Different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates.”
    That’s a full-blown eugenicist’s argument, right there. It’s a form of post hoc reasoning that can only be engaged if you ignore the potential other causes of an effect….


    I would assume the shallow thinking comes in when one equates “X group is more frequently arrested per capita” with “X group actually commits more crimes per capita”.
    One can make a solid argument for the former – but the latter is both unjustified and fails to take into account the role of societal prejudice in law enforcement.

    My contention is that its not justifiable to assume that the entirety of the figures are actual crimes committed by people of color. It could, for example (and this what i believe to be the case) that it is a proportion of legitimate crimes and a proportion of false arrests.


    As much as you want to believe it, but “31% of murders committed by blacks” isn’t a plain and simple fact…. First of all, “murder” is not a very clear cut definition.


    … taking your word for it that the 31% figure is accurate….


    Facts by themselves are not very useful…. The reason Alt-right likes to present facts such as “black people commit more crimes”… is to propose a theory of racial … superiority.

  43. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted January 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, it is not always Pinker, Dawkins, or Harris who are subjected to this kind of dishonest quote-mining. Pretty much anyone with a public profile who disagrees with the ctrl-left on even just once iota of their counter-factual dogma can expect this treatment. Even some not so famous podcasters like Stephen Knight, The Godless Spellchecker have been targeted.

  44. Fabio
    Posted February 8, 2018 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    I think it is always dangerous to attribute motives like “jealousy” to someone. But the fact is that regardless of motivation, PZ has invested heavily for years in pandering to the regressive left and in making freethoughtblogs a “safe space” for SJWism to speak without challenge – any disagreement and you`re banished. This strategy alienates a lot of people, but gets you a loyal following (of dubious quality, of course).

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] left leaning people smearing Steve Pinker as a supporter the alt-right. Jerry Coyne has two posts (here and here) summarizing the smear job. Jesse Singal uses the Pinker controversy as an example of […]

  2. […] creepy American leftists cut his explanation out when they edited a video of his talk to present him as a fascist. They […]

  3. […] a post by Jerry Coyne, I learned of an egregious smear by PZ Myers of Steven Pinker. PZ posted the following on his […]

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