If Pinker is bad, I must be worse

The other day I posted Steve Pinker’s discussion of his connections with convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, now facing additional charges in New York that will likely put him away for the rest of his life. Pinker, who had been accused of consorting with Epstein—indeed, of being complicit in Epstein’s crimes by ignoring them or not publicly criticizing the man—dispelled this idea, saying that he finds Epstein’s behavior, as revealed by the media and court documents, reprehensible.

Pinker added that he never liked Epstein, never took money from him, but did do one small task interpreting a statute for Alan Dershowitz, who was defending Epstein in his first set of charges (a task that Pinker now says he regrets). And Pinker sometimes found himself at meetings with Epstein, like Lawrence Krauss’s Origins Project anniversary celebration.

Pinker’s explanation, of course, was deemed insufficient, and I should have predicted that. Those determined to dislike Pinker whatever he says—and they are unaccountably many—had additional questions and accusations.  Why did he fly on Epstein’s plane? Why didn’t he denounce the man publicly after his first conviction? Why hasn’t he pronounced the names of any of Epstein’s victims? (This last accusation baffles me.) And why, especially, did he help out Epstein by doing a legal task for his lawyer? (BuzzFeed, the intellectual’s National Enquirer, had a field day with that one.)

There were, of course, calls for Pinker to issue not just an explanation, but an apology. Shades of the Cultural Revolution! I think people wanted him to wear a cone-shaped paper hat and a sign around his neck confessing his crimes. But of course even that wouldn’t suffice.

Steve’s post also reanimated those who have gone after his conclusions about moral progress in his last two books, although the quality of Steve’s scholarship had nothing to do with this incident. Such are those who look for any opening to attack the man.

I’m not going to write back to Steve to pose these new questions, for it’s palpably clear that nothing he ever says will be good enough; nothing he says will ever free him, in the minds of the Offense Brigade, from the supposed taint of being associated with Jeffrey Epstein. This is often the case with such matters, and many have decided that responses to social-media mobs are useless and futile. When you’re demonized once, you become an Unperson forever. (Well, there’s not much chance of Pinker being an Unperson to the general public given his renown, but I’m making a general point here about social media mobs.)

The rancor also devolved on me.  I was accused on websites, Twitter feeds and other venues of shielding Pinker simply because he’s a friend, of not dealing with other people’s criticism of his work, and even of being complicit myself in protecting sexual predators—by not mentioning Lawrence Krauss. The last barb was sheer lunacy, for over a year ago I publicly disassociated myself from Krauss after my own investigations revealed instances of Kraussian sexual predation beyond those revealed by the media. After this pushback, I can only imagine how Steve feels, as he’s been subject to far more opprobrium than I. It’s remarkable that, in the face of such (unwarranted) criticism, he’s kept his cool.

Okay, well if Pinker is reprehensible for doing a small job for Alan Dershowitz, who was working on Epstein’s defense, then I must be far worse. For, as I’ve mentioned on this site several times, I was on O.J. Simpson’s defense team in his famous trial for killing Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. Yep, it’s all true: I was recruited to look at the prosecutors’ DNA evidence against Simpson—specifically, the calculated probabilities of a random person matching the DNA evidence taken from blood. (That’s a population-genetic matter that I can speak to.)

I didn’t do much for the defense team, I didn’t testify, and I refused a fee (I didn’t take money for any of my expert-witness help on DNA statistics). But I did do something—surely more than Pinker did for Dershowitz.

Why did I do it? Because, I thought, the government’s feet needed to be held to the fire to ensure that DNA evidence was used accurately and fairly. I had no love for Simpson, but the principles of judicial fairness were at stake. If DNA calculations were misused against Simpson, they could be misused against anybody.

Simpson, of course, was found not guilty, though I think that he was indeed culpable, as was determined in the subsequent civil trial. But my job was not to adjudicate his guilt, but to analyze the government’s statistics. And I do not regret helping with the defense.

That, I think, should make me worse than Pinker to the mob who went after him, for most people—and the law—regard a gruesome double murder as a more serious crime than sexual assault. Further, je ne regrette rien. But I helped out an accused murderer! I am complicit!

If that weren’t bad enough, I was at several meetings with Lawrence Krauss, and sometimes hung out with him. I’d heard rumors that he pursued women, but didn’t know any details about that nor about any sexual malfeasance. Still, you could accuse me of being complicit because I was in his presence, talked to him, and even (horrors) was photographed with him. Should I have known what he was doing? I don’t see how I could have. After the accusations came out, I then did my own research. But that doesn’t matter: people can say that I should have made my inquiries much earlier.

Would I go to an event attended by Simpson now? (Remember, he was found not guilty.) I don’t know; it depends on the event. I certainly would have nothing to do with the man or be photographed with him.

Of course I reject all such innuendo about me, just as I reject suggestions that Ronald Sullivan at Harvard was coddling a sexual predator when signing on to help defend Harvey Weinstein. Everyone deserves a fair trial, even a rich person accused of heinous crimes.

I expect that people who like me on this site will find reasons why what I did was somehow different from what Pinker did vis-à-vis legal help. But that is a distinction without a difference. If Pinker is to be faulted for helping a lawyer defend an accused sexual predator, than I must also be faulted for helping a team of lawyers defend an accused double murderer.

If you want to point out any differences between Pinker’s legal help and my legal help, or accuse me of complicity in getting Simpson “off”, then do so in the comments. But I will not be kind to people who somehow find me guilty, and my tolerance for those who insist on using my site to unfairly tar Pinker is waning.

 

 

81 Comments

  1. Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    “I expect that people who like me on this site will find reasons why what I did was somehow different from what Pinker did vis-à-vis legal help.”

    Well, OJ is black whereas Epstein is white, and protecting a black man from a clearly White Supremicist justice system is obviously different from trying to get someone like Epstein off. So you’re excused. Is this the right answer?

    • wendell s read
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      No, I do not think it is the “right” answer. It completely misses the point Jerry has made so clearly!

      • yazikus
        Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        I think Coel was making a joke.

        • GBJames
          Posted July 14, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          On the Internet people often don’t recognize jokes.

          • Maurie Beck
            Posted July 14, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

            The problem with the criminal justice system is providing empirical evidence, for or against, which is open to interpretation.

            What we really need is some unambiguous test on guilt and innocence. Something like the swimming test for witchcraft, based on the witch refusing the sacrament and baptism. A bobbing witch reflects the water rejecting a non-baptized body, at which point the witch would be hauled from the water and dried off by burning at the stake. A Christian, in contrast, sinks like a stone and drowned, but would still be eligible for last rights and a straight shot to heaven.

          • Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

            +1

  2. Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Shades of Adams? ^_^

  3. yazikus
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Everyone deserves a fair trial, even a rich person accused of heinous crimes.

    That is is somehow up for debate if baffling to me. It serves all of us to have a tight ship when it comes to the defense of alleged criminals. If we are willing to let the rules slip because we can’t be bothered to dot i’s and cross t’s for some, why not all?

  4. Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    One glaring difference is that Steve regrets his assistance to Epstein’s defense but you do not regret your assistance to Simpson’s defense. FWIW, I don’t think either of you did anything wrong, so I wonder why Steve expresses regret. Perhaps it is because your task involved the greater good of keeping the government honest, but Steve’s task didn’t have a greater good rationale.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Yes, but that difference should make me WORSE than Pinker to the Offense Mongerers.

      And one could say that in both cases our assistance was meant to keep the prosecution honest: in my case statistically, in Steve’s case linguistically.

      • Daniel Weissman
        Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Sounds like your disagreement is with Pinker. You think he’s wrong to regret what he did.

        • Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          If you’re addressing me, no I don’t think Steve is wrong to regret what he did. I don’t think what he did was wrong, but personal regrets are his own issue, and I don’t judge those.

          • Daniel Weissman
            Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            Jerry: if Pinker thinks what he did was wrong, then would you say you disagree with him?

            • Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

              Has Pinker said that aiding Dershowitz on this was wrong? Saying he regrets getting involved is not the same thing.

  5. James
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Imagine for a moment that I’m your defense attorney before a trial, trying to explain to you what a jury will see when looking at the situation (which is not always the “facts and logic” approach). I would say that the idea we’re dealing with is this:

    People are worried that a powerful man can abuse women and other powerful men will jump to his defense. These other men won’t need to know him, or think he’s innocent, or have any conscious feelings of “class solidarity.” But that’s what they’re doing.

    Your pointing out the OJ Simpson example only reinforces this fear. And when people react badly to it, they’re not reacting badly to your individual psychology or intentions, but rather the overall effect. And they’re right to feel that way: the next time a rich/educated/famous man is accused of harassing/raping/killing women, there is a 100% chance that other such men will leap to his defense. WHY they’re leaping to his defense matter a lot less than THAT he can count on their support. Surely you can imagine how that looks from the outside.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but I did not “leap to Simpson’s defense”, I leapt to the defense of science used properly in the courtroom. If it looks as if I’m trying to exculpate him, well, that’s just a misconception on the part of those who think that (in fact, I think Simpson was guilty). If we all worried about “how it looks from the outside”, then no man would ever try to defend someone accused of rape, regardless of their fame. Surely you’re not saying I should not have participated in that trial because of how it LOOKS TO OTHERS? That’s palpably ridiculous.

      And, for your information, the first public defender I worked with on DNA cases (the first one was aggravated rape), was a woman. How does THAT look?

  6. C.
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    You and Pinker are guilty. Guilty of ensuring that our legal system functions as fairly and equally as possible for the prosecution and the defense. It’s a fairly simple idea but one that seems lost on so many, especially those who have already tried the defendant in the court of public opinion, that the defendants deserve a fair trial before the law, including legal counsel and expert witnesses. I, for one, appreciate this little constitutional nicety.

    As for the blame being laid at the feet of Pinker who, since he knew the accused must have also known he was raping teen girls I ask, how many of you know even your best, closest, life-long friend’s sexual interests, kinks, or proclivities? Never mind someone whom you’ve met a few times at parties or functions and don’t like very much, seriously, who knows what their closest friends and associates get up to in the bedroom or behind closed doors? I seriously doubt Epstein would share this sort of information with just anyone. Now I can’t speak to how one might engage with him after the initial conviction when finding him at a party. People in polite society don’t tend to act as they do on tw@tter, screaming curses and threats to the faces of people they find repugnant, but I suppose Pinker was supposed to do so, according to the illiberal leftists. All I can say is that unless Pinker himself had engaged in immoral acts with the underage, I cannot condemn him for occasional encounters with one who did. Call me old fashioned (or more likely call me a nazi fascist misogynist racist alt-right etc ad nauseam) but I won’t convict him unless Pinker actually committed a crime. And of course I reserve the right to change my mind as the facts change, as I did with Krauss. It’s all I expect of anyone else and I hope anyone would expect of me. C’est juste, non?

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I hope my comments do not get me thrown off but will do my best. There is nothing wrong with Steve Picker and the people going after him are just shallow and pathetic. If you have some real evidence then lets see it or shut up. But some of the problem here is what we are listening to or reading on line. I do not do Facebook or Twitter or any of those big time platforms because I refuse to give them any information. Also, every nut job is living on those things.

    Pinker is the flavor of the day and if you are a friend of his, well, that is all the proof the idiots on line need. I do not think, however, you will see any reputable journalists at good papers doing this. You will not see CNN or MSNBC putting out anything about Pinker. But the way I have to look at is, this will pass and Pinker will survive. My concern and everyone’s concern eventually has to be for all the girls and women who were molested and assaulted by this Epstein. Hopefully he rots in prison.

  8. Charles Sawicki
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you should be proud that you support the fair use of DNA evidence in trials. The prosecution lawyers certainly would rarely do that. Yup! Damn you for trying to make the science honest and independent of the nature of the accused.

  9. Roo
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t even try to make sense of what is going on, I think we are entering the “wild accusations” phase now and logic does not apply to such things. To be fair, at least in this case a terrible crime actually did take place (as opposed to say, wild accusations of satanist cults that popped up in the 80s). But last I checked Pinker’s Twitter feed, people were outright saying he must have been directly involved in Epstein’s crimes, based on absolutely nothing. Being on the receiving end of a baseless accusation – be it driven by panic, ill will, or anything else – is kind of like being mugged, I think. You can reflect on the state of the world and try to make your peace with the state of humankind one way or another, but odds are very low reason will apply in that situation. To say “sometimes people behave cruelly” is a simple descriptive statement with little room left for analysis, unfortunately.

    • Harrison
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      A better comparison would be the Comet Pizza/Pizzagate faux scandal. As you said, the critical difference is that this time there is a real crime at the heart of the it all, but the same behavior is on display of the internet calling out anyone even vaguely connected as being in on the conspiracy. Either knowing what was going on and keeping silent or being an active participant. And it’s both the left and right taking part in the feeding frenzy this time.

  10. BJ
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    It really isn’t about anything they’re accusing Pinker of doing or about any principles, but just that they don’t like Pinker. Many of the same people who will go after Pinker for — horrors! — being present in the same place as Epstein and interpreting a statute for a defense team (because, if I remember correctly, people are innocent until proven guilty, right?) are the same people who will defend to the death someone like Sarah Nyberg, who repeatedly and openly admitted to pedophilia and said that, if the cops ever came for her, she would need to dispose of her computer quickly before they got a hold of it.

    It’s not about what you do, but who you are and whether or not these jerks like your politics. It’s just power games and nothing more. And this is what I hate about the fringes and the media and some political power players on both sides. As I’ve said before, I respect the truth and the people who show regard to it above all.

    And I agree that you should be proud of your work regarding the use of DNA in trials.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Hey, I saw Midsommer today, a new joint US-Swedish released by A24, a company that seems to have a nose for interesting indie pictures. It’s about a group of American grad students who go to Sweden to attend a summer-solstice festival (think Burning Man under the Midnight Sun 🙂 ). It’s told in a fairly straightforward, conventional manner — indeed, the director and DP (neither of whom I’d heard of before) demonstrate great mastery of their art — but it’s a story unlike anything else you’re likely to see this summer.

      Here’s the trailer, though I suggest you see it cold, the way I did.

  11. FB
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    The difference is that Epstein was using his money to influence people with prestige or power, but I suppose that that wasn’t obvious at that time, even for very smart people.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, he used money to buy his way into a social structure at Harvard. And this is a guy who never went to Harvard or graduated from any college. Also, one of the problems is that some people continued to be around him after his time in jail back in 2008 or so. Those are the ones who are now regretting association with this guy. Money can create just about any phony reputation you want. Hell, look at Trump.

  12. Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    The one thing that rubs me the wrong way is that a rich person has all these connections and can even count on a famed Harvard linguist reading. However, I don’t blame Steven Pinker (or our esteemed host) in particular. It’s just something that more generally rubs me the wrong way.

    People of lesser fame or income appear to be locked up quickly for minor offenses, and disappear forever into the entrusted care of America’s for-profit prisons, while the rich seemingly can shoot someone in daylight on 5th avenue, and get away with it.

    • Kirbmarc
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      To be fair, that’s how it works everywhere in the world. The rich and the well-connected will have better defenses at trial than the poor and disenfranchised.

      Public defenders won’t have access to the best resources, paying fines is harder for poor people, the best lawyers demand high fees, etc.

      Overall, I think it’s more productive working on improving the level of the defense of poor, disconnected people than to be outraged that the rich and powerful try to cover their ss with their money and connection.

      • Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        I‘m wasn’t exactly “outraged” though. The US legal system is pretty extreme in it’s inequality, even the types of crime are custom cut to more harshly come down on small people. Steal pocket change, go to jail, defraud millions in some insurance scheme, get a promotion. Polemical, but not far from truth.. Eventually, the rich may also get caught, but it seems like they have it a lot easier on every step, from committing crime, benefiting big time from crimes, getting better defense, getting more lenient sentences, better treatment in jail, and easier rehabilitation.

        • Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          it’s —> its (dumb mistake, yes).

  13. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    It isn’t about truth and fairness, It’s about scoring points, and the bigger the target you take down the more points you score. It’s to your advantage that Pinker is a bigger, more famous target.

  14. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Mea Culpa. I have to confess that I not only post occasionally on this website, but I am friendly with people who in turn know Prof. JAC who in turn defended Steve Pinker who in turn did something minor for Dershowitz’s legal defense of whoever it was.
    These offenses would undoubtedly call for the tar and feather treatment on Twitter and FB, were I known to these entities, whatever they are. Fortunately, I am saved by obscurity.

  15. RPGNo1
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “If you want to point out any differences between Pinker’s legal help and my legal help, or accuse me of complicity in getting Simpson “off”, then do so in the comments.”

    I have one hypothesis:

    Steven Pinker is a science superstar. He plays in the National League, while you are in the 2nd division (no offense please). People love it much more that a successful person (apparently) stumbles than someone from the second row.

  16. Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I am sorry that both Steve Pinker and you are having mud slung at you in re Epstein. Neither of you deserve it. All of us most likely have had to associate in workplaces, schools, organizations, etc., to a lesser or greater degree with someone(s) who turned out not to be good people. We may, or may not, have known this at the time. Sometimes, there are situations in which we have little or no choice about such associations. It is not up to us to impose our moral standards on such people and, effectively, to convict them without knowledge of the facts and without benefit of trial. However heinous the crime such a one is accused of, judgment should await the results of a legal trial, even though justice may not always be the
    outcome (as with whatever caused Acosta to treat Epstein as he did in Florida).

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      What caused Acosta to do what he did regarding Epstein, in Florida, will probably all come out in the NY investigation but it seems pretty likely that Acosta broke the law by withholding the deal they made from the defendants. He also lied when he tried to shift blame on the state of Florida. His own office had 50 plus page indictment on the guy and he blew it all off and made a great deal for Epstein. He even tried to protect anyone else who might have been involved. The fact they he was admitted to the job of sec. of labor only shows how corrupt Trump and the United States Senate is. We do not need to wait for further proof of this.

      • Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        I haven’t read all the details, if they’ve been provided, about the evidence in the case Acosta had or why the Sweetheart Deal was offered. It seems to me that more and more DAs are making deals rather than taking the cases to court. Supposedly to save time and money?! Perhaps, Acosta knew or suspected that all the witnesses were compromised.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted July 14, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          You say – Perhaps ,Acosta knew or suspected all the witnesses were compromised. Where did this come from? I never hear this and did not even hear it from him. Now he did refer to 14 year old girls who were preyed upon by Epstein as prostitutes. How does an district attorney of the U.S. call 14 year old girls prostitutes? How does he allow a guy who molested and assaulted these girls to essentially get a free pass? And by the way, that free pass is now over because other U.S. attorneys are cleaning up after the mess that Acosta made.

          • Posted July 14, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

            I have read in several sources that Epstein is alleged to have paid $350,000 to two potential witnesses. If there are more, I haven’t read about them yet.

            I think it is disgusting that Acosta called the girls “prostitutes”. If Epstein and his cohorts had sex with any girl under age 18 in Florida, a crime was committed and Acosta knows it. The age of consent in Nevada is 16, in New York is 17 and in France is 15. Since Epstein’s Little Saint James Island was privately owned, who knows if there was such a law? However, the age of consent in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago was changed from 16 to 18 in 2015. I don’t know about the rest of the Caribbean Islands.

            One article indicates that in addition to some of the other famous people who associated with Epstein through scientific conferences, philanthropy, plane rides, etc., Stephen Hawking, Prince Andrew and Hillary Clinton (think she was there with Bill?) were at Epstein’s island various times before he was convicted. (See Wikipedia.)

            Supposedly, his mansion on the island burned down after an earthquake in 2018. If so, strange coincidence.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted July 14, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

              Yes, the $350,000 was wired money that was done more recently by him. Would not have anything to do with the stuff in Florida years ago. I did not know about the place burning down. He apparently has a place in New Mexico, the Mansion in New York ($77 million) something in Florida and the Islands he owns. He would like to be release on bail to the Mansion in New York but I do not think that will happen.

              • Posted July 14, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

                I think the payment of the $350,000 did pertain to the stuff in Florida years ago. Apparently, Epstein not only tried to prevent potential witnesses from witnessing, he hired detectives who followed the girls and their families around, harassing and threatening them.

                A time line is provided in the following British newspaper article:

                https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7242817/Jeffrey-Epstein-paid-350-000-silence-two-conspirators-hired-three-private-investigators.html

                The crimes go back to at least 1999. The police launched a probe in 2005. On June 30, 2008 Epstein pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 18 months in jail, of which he served 13 and was released on July 22, 2009. He, of course, claims to have been a good boy ever since.

              • Posted July 14, 2019 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

                You probably already have read that Epstein paid $0.00 for his $$77 million New York mansion.

          • A C Harper
            Posted July 15, 2019 at 3:07 am | Permalink

            From what I have read(!) the Acosta thing is still playing out. Allegedly he decided that many of the underage witnesses had posted about drink and drug consumption on social sites and would therefore be unreliable witnesses (too open to attack by defence lawyers), so he went with what he could get in a plea bargain.

            An interesting question is why Acosta (a Federal Employee) who did prosecute gets all the blame when the state did not choose to prosecute (despite gathering most of the evidence) but to hand it off.

  17. ladyatheist
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    How big is this mob going after Pinker? I personally wouldn’t hold it against someone that they’d had some contact with a schmoozing millionaire. At the elite level, everyone gets photographed with everyone. Nobody can foresee that a random person in your outer circle could be outed for horrendous crimes decades later.

  18. Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    A question — when did the dislike of Pinker start? With The Blank Slate, or is it only because of his promotion of all the “rich white childless males” of the Enlightenment?

    • A C Harper
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      There’s a theme…

      E O Wilson “Sociobiology” 1975
      Herrnstein and Murray “The Bell Curve” 1994
      Steve Pinker “The Blank Slate” 2002

      There are other books that assert that both nature *and* nurture affect people’s behaviour.

      Each attracted criticism at the time. Criticism of the science is, of course, a valid reason for criticism. Political criticism because of reopening the nature/nurture debate is another less valid reason.

  19. Historian
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I read the Buzzfeed article on Pinker and did not construe it as an attack on him. Rather, I view it as pointless. The author simply states that Pinker helped his friend and colleague, Alan Dershowitz, on a legal point. He goes on to mention that Pinker did not know the details of the case and regrets getting involved in it. Perhaps some will conclude that the article is an implicit criticism of Pinker by just bringing up his involvement, but I don’t think most readers will concur. Indeed, I think most would conclude that it is a defense of Pinker.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Why would they even publish it, then? “Let’s call attention to this slur before we rebut it.” I’d think it would be better not to bring up the issue in the first place. Besides, we all know where BuzzFeeds’ sentiments lie.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:39 am | Permalink

        “Why would they even publish it, then?”

        For clicks. That’s what they do.

        Not absolving Buzzfeed of malicious intent, just pointing out there is another possible reason.

        cr

  20. rickflick
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    What-about DT? Wasn’t he a friend of same Epstein?

    “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

    Seem like some of those cooties should be rubbing off on him. Oh, wait. I guess not. He’s president of the Red States. We won’t go down that rabbit hole.

    • Hunt
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      As you’ve already guessed in your last sentences, DT has been given immunity to all things sexual malfeasance, as showed by the media yawn after the latest book revelation. The MAGA right all think it’s a leftist plot; the left all think he’s a rapist, which is precisely where we stood when he was elected PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

      So Trump has achieved this kind of equilibrium state of invulnerability. Remember that joke about him being able to shoot someone and still get elected. I’m starting to think it’s true.

      • Posted July 14, 2019 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        “…being able to shoot someone and still get elected.”?

        Yeah, but now I think he could toss a baby down on hard concrete and kick it, as long as he had a good reason to satisfy his base, such as it wet on him or pulled his hair.

        He might even go *up* in the polls.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      It’s not that they are giving him a pass. But rather that he is so beyond the ambit of the Ctrl-Left, that they are just not triggered by him.
      It is the appearance of wrong within the left that a-wokens the Ctrl-Left.

  21. EdwardM
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I believe a great many of us have had it up to here with this kind of nonsense. The coming pendulum swing will be hard on these social media pustules.

  22. Pelmon
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    The shame and the guilt go far, far beyond just Pinker. I hear that a nurse swabbed Epstein’s arm to prevent infection. A grocer sold him lettuce. Two mechanics in Jersey serviced his car when it broke down. A dentist in Jersey fixed the teeth of those two mechanics. A waiter served that dentist. The taint is ineradicable. I’d suggest jail time for all of them, but then some prison cook would have to feed them and the taint would spread.

    • A C Harper
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      The logic is inescapable. Everybody in the USA is guilty by association, after all Epstein is an American.

      • chrism
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:55 am | Permalink

        I can see some similarities to the flagellant orders that sprang up in Europe in response to the Black Death, but there is one rather large difference: those making the accusations are showing they are without sin simply by making as many accusations as possible. Each one separates them a little more from the sinners. They are like the Spanish Inquisition; self-appointed cleansers of the social body. And nobody was expecting them!

  23. Steve Gerrard
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    From BuzzFeed:

    “An obscure document from Epstein’s legal defense shows that Pinker weighed in on the precise meaning of a federal law about using the internet to entice minors into prostitution or other illegal sex acts.”

    Good grief. It’s a matter of courtesy for professional and academic colleagues to respond to requests such as this one. It would have been rude for Pinker to have turned down such a request from Dershowitz.

    In matters of law, getting it right is paramount. That is the role professors Coyne and Pinker played. End of story.

    • Pelmon
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Pinker is attacked for trying to be accurate.
      I see that sort of thing all over the web, and here too btw, for example commenters accused of supporting Trump simply because they criticize a bad argument.

      • chrism
        Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:57 am | Permalink

        Some facts must be sacrificed for the greater good. “In time of [culture] war, the first casualty is the truth.”

        • A C Harper
          Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:40 am | Permalink

          Wikipedia has an article about the ‘Noble Lie’.

  24. Sian Evans
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Extremely even-handed as usual and yes, you will incur the wrath of those that don’t hold a candle to your intellectual rigor.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      It is their lack of intellectual rigor that places the Ctrl-Left in their position which is entirely based on emotion, one-uppery, and innuendo. Unfortunately it is also their lack of rigor that means they will not likely see their own error.

  25. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Okay, well if Pinker is reprehensible for doing a small job for Alan Dershowitz, who was working on Epstein’s defense, then I must be far worse.

    I’ve represented some of the most vilified people ever to be hauled into court, and I’ve hired any number of experts to help me prepare their defenses. I never asked any of of those experts to vouch in any way for the defendant’s character or innocence, only to share their specialized knowledge so that I might better prepare or present the defense. In most of those case (excepting those that involved psyche examinations of the client) the expert witness never had any interaction with defendant personally or any knowledge of the facts of the case other than as needed to render their expertise.

    I would not have hesitated to ask an acquaintance with some academic expertise for an informal opinion on a technical matter that might inform the defense, and would never imagine that doing so would be a source of criticism for anyone involved.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:54 am | Permalink

      You have just admitted to being associated with numerous people accused of heinous crimes, and they wouldn’t have been charged if they weren’t guilty, would they?

      Further, I expect you got some of them off. You are guilty of enabling criminals to walk the streets!

      Ohmigods, I’ve just been talking to you. That makes me as guilty as all your monstrous clients. Where will my depravity end?

      8-(

      cr
      My only consolation is that I’m dragging many of the commenters here down with me…

  26. Cate Plys
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Kudos to Jerry for taking the heat to stand up to Pinker’s accusers. I think Pinker would have been within his rights to decline assistance to Dershowitz had he known what it was for–he says he did not. But simultaneously, as awful as Epstein is, Epstein had/has a right to a fair trial, and so Pinker would not have been wrong to knowingly assist either, as awful as it sounds, for that purpose.

    Re O.J. Simpson, that was a devastating look at the state of relations between U.S. police and the African-American community. It was sad to see so many people happy that Simpson got off, when he was obviously guilty of brutally murdering two people. That said, Simpson also deserved a fair trial–because the principle simply does not change according to how we feel about the defendant or their crime. And in addition to ensuring a fair trial, Jerry was trying to make sure scientific evidence was used correctly by the state. How could that possibly ever be wrong?

    • Hunt
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      It quite clear he was guilty…to you. To African Americans in LA, who had lived under the oppression of a brutal police force for their entire lives, it was totally clear that the police (including a detective shown to use the N word) had framed him.

      • Posted July 15, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

        I wouldn’t be so sure about that. After all, I had access to all the evidence.

        • Hunt
          Posted July 15, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          I amend my comment so that it doesn’t sound like I’m sure he was innocent: the jury, mostly black, was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt due to the discrepancies the defense revealed. Many local African Americans, who had lived under the corrupt Daryl Gates PD, were convinced he was framed by Fuhrman and other in the PD.

          I myself thought he was very probably guilty, and still do.

  27. Posted July 14, 2019 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I don’t think you give your readers enough credit. I’m a sick old man in a nursing home and I simply don’t have the energy to argue my case today, so I’m just going to state simply that I am proud of both you and Pinker and not afraid to say so anywhere or to anybody. As far as I can see now, neither of you has anything to be ashamed of and much of which to be proud.

  28. Caldwell
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Why hasn’t he pronounced the names of any of Epstein’s victims? (This last accusation baffles me.)

    That might be because the only place that accusation shows up is this blog.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Okay, you’ve gone over the line here. First of all, you could have asked and I’d have given you a link—this one:

      I’m going to break my own Roolz here and call you an arrant jackass before I ban you.

      God, I’m sick of people like this. .

      p.s. Listen up, mein Esel: This is not a blog.

      • Pelmon
        Posted July 14, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        That tweet is a stark endorsement of guilt by association. Actually it’s even worse than that: it’s guilt by association to the merely accused. This makes the Inquisition look fair-minded!

        • Posted July 14, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

          I’m a pretty ordinary person, but I can think of seven things, right off the bat, where I would have been pilloried for, had I done them in today’s finger-pointing mob mentality.

          The anonymity provided by the internet-less world I grew up in was a blessing.

    • Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:37 am | Permalink

      Oh no, how dare he paraphrase the accusation?

      -Ryan

  29. Beth Purkhiser
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I do not get the Pinker kerfuffle. Do the people who vilify him actually read his books? I don’t see how they can. I like Sam Harris too. I get no end of grief if I try to defend him by people who are clearly much less familiar with his work.

    • Beth Purkhiser
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      I always feel smarter after reading a Pinker book. Much more intelligenter.

  30. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 15, 2019 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Yeah, but OJ was black, so defending him is not nearly so bad a crime.

    “most people—and the law—regard a gruesome double murder as a more serious crime than sexual assault.”

    You would think so, wouldn’t you? But these days I wonder.

    What, me, cynical?

    cr

  31. Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t mind me asking, Jerry, but how *does* one get involved in a case like the OJ Simpson thing? (I.e., why you specifically?)

    • GBJames
      Posted July 15, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Jerry talked about this in some depth back in 2011. (such a long time ago!)

      • Posted July 17, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the link! Was from before my time, so not surprising I didn’t know.

  32. Posted July 15, 2019 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Just wondering – Was it kosher for Dershowitz to have cited Pinker as a source for clarification of some statute without informing him what the case was all about? In any case, wasn’t Epstein found guilty? Justice was better served as it was also seen to be done, with the accused rigorously defended under the law, and still lost fair and square, BUT I’m utterly against the infamous sweetheart deal cut to shorten the pedo’s incarceration. He needs to be back in the slammer.

    I trust Pinker and Jerry.


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