Famed Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker is under fire from the Left for making some obvious statements regarding the nature of political correctness. On January 2, 2018, a conversation with Pinker was posted from Spiked Magazine’s “Unsafe Space Tour” panel at Harvard. During that panel, Pinker explained that attempts to quash statements of fact led people to embrace radical interpretations of those facts, leading to political extremism — political correctness, in other words, fueled the fire of the alt-right.
In relevant part, Pinker explains:
The other way in which I do agree with my fellow panelists that political correctness has done an enormous amount of harm in the sliver of the population that might be, I wouldn’t want to say persuadable, but certainly whose affiliation might be up for grabs, comes from the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right, internet savvy, media savvy, who often are radicalized in that way, who swallow the red pill, as the saying goes, the allusion from The Matrix. When they are exposed the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or in The New York Times or in respectable media, that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity, and they’re immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable, and no defense against taking them to what we might consider to be rather repellent conclusions.
Lest it be argued otherwise, Pinker is condemning the alt-right. He’s saying that if you refuse to allow people to speak facts, they will think that not only are the facts being censored, the truest explanations are being censored as well. He gives a few examples:
Here is a fact that’s gonna sound ragingly controversial but is not, and that is that capitalist societies are better than communist ones. If you doubt it, then just ask yourself the question, would I rather live in South Korea or North Korea. Would I rather live in West Germany in the 1970s or East Germany or in the 1960s? I submit that this is actually not a controversial statement, but in university campuses, it would be considered flamingly radical.
Here’s another one. Men and women are not identical in their life priorities, in their sexuality, in their tastes and interests. This is not controversial to anyone who has even glanced at the data. The kind of vocational interest tests of the kind that your high school guidance counselor gave you were given to millions of people, and men and women give different answers as to what they wanna do for a living and how much time they wanna allocate to family versus career and so on. But you can’t say it. A very famous person on this campus did say it, and we all know what happened to him. He’s no longer, well, he is on this campus, but no longer in the same office.
Here’s a third fact that is just not controversial, although it sounds controversial, and that is that different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates. You can go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Look it up on their website. The homicide rate among African Americans is about seven or eight times higher than it is among European Americans. And terrorism, go to the Global Terrorist Database, and you find that worldwide the overwhelming majority of suicide terrorist acts are committed by Islamist extremist groups.
If you’ve never heard these facts before and you stumble across them or someone mentions them, it is possible to come to some extreme conclusions, such as that women are inferior, that African Americans are naturally violent, that we all ought to be Anarcho-capitalists and do away with all regulation and social safety nets, that most terrorism in this country is the fault of Muslims. These are unwarranted conclusions because for each one of these facts there are very powerful counterarguments for why they don’t license racism and sexism and Anarcho-capitalism and so on. …
Now let’s say that you have never even heard anyone mention these facts. The first time you hear them, you’re apt to say, number one, the truth has been withheld from me by universities, by mainstream media, and, moreover, you will be vindicated when people who voice these truths are suppressed, shouted down, assaulted, all the more reason to believe that the Left, that the mainstream media, that universities can’t handle the truth. So, you get vindicated over and over again, but, worst of all, you’re never exposed to the ways of putting these facts into context so that they don’t lead to racism and sexism and extreme forms of Anarcho-Libertarianism. So, the politically correct Left is doing itself an enormous disservice when it renders certain topics undiscussable, especially when the facts are clearly behind them because they leave people defenseless the first time they hear them against the most extreme and indefensible conclusions possible. If they were exposed, then the rationale for putting them into proper political and moral context could also be articulated, and I don’t think you would have quite the extreme backlash.
The fact that Pinker had the guts to say this led the Left to attack him wholesale, proving his point. For example, PZ Myers of FreeThoughtBlogs.com wrote that Pinker’s sympathies “lie with the alt-right,” an absolute slander. He states, “I am shocked that a Harvard professor would promote such ignorance and falsehoods.” But, of course, none of the facts Pinker states are rebuttable, and Myers makes no attempt to do so — so he’s schoolmarming Pinker for repeating those facts and then distinguishing them from the opinions people wrongly draw from them. Professor Joshua Loftus of New York University said that Pinker’s ideas were “worse than the edited clip … just amazing.” Jamelle Bouie of Slate suggested that Pinker had claimed that “blacks cause crime … jews control the world.” Professor Jesse Daniels of Hunter College stated, “If one were, say, writing a book about the mainstreaming of white nationalism, one would certainly consider featuring this as supporting evidence for one’s main point.”