In an open letter , members of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) have demanded the removal of writer Steven Pinker , a Harvard experimental psychologist, from the list of distinguished scholars and media experts.
They argue that Pinker’s claims would promote racism and machismo, and are therefore unworthy and dangerous to society.
The culture of cancellation (from the original English cancel culture) refers to the widespread phenomenon of withdrawing moral, financial, digital and social support from people or media entities considered unacceptable, generally as a consequence of certain comments or actions. Lisa Nakamura , from the University of Michigan, describes this culture as "an agreement not to amplify, advertise or give money", and compares it to the attention economy, concluding that "when you deprive someone of your attention, you deprive them of their way of making a living. "
One of the most striking examples was the one suffered by the Yale psychology professor Nicholas A. Christakis , as you can see in this video:
One of the posts that Pinker was asked to rectify dates from 2015 and in it claimed that police officers in the United States do not shoot African-Americans disproportionately, according to statistics.
Data: Police don’t shoot blacks disproportionately. Problem: Not race, but too many police shootings. http://t.co/HDoLJ3hT3p via @UpshotNYT
– Steven Pinker (@sapinker) October 17, 2015
In 2017, Pinker said that mentioning that the police in the United States kill more African Americans than whites , distracts us from the green problem.
Police kill too many people, black & white. Focus on race distracts from solving problem, as we do w plane crashes. https://t.co/fUxJipp3Fr
– Steven Pinker (@sapinker) August 13, 2017
For the following tweet they accuse him of being macho and misogynistic:
The idea that the UCSB murders are part of a pattern of hatred against women is statistically obtuse | http://t.co/ZbWuSVLy6p
– Steven Pinker (@sapinker) June 1, 2014
Here’s the context : In 2014, a student murdered six women at UC Santa Barbara after posting an online video detailing his misogynistic reasons. He is accused that, ignoring the author’s own hate speech, Pinker called the idea that such a murder could be part of a sexist pattern as ‘statistically obtuse’.
First, a correction: the 2014 Isla Vista killings by Eliot Rodger involved four male victims and two female victims, not six women. But other than that, Rodger left behind a misogynistic manifesto and YouTube video that clearly stated that he wanted revenge on women for rejecting him, and who he hated for it. But Pinker did not mean to deny that this murder was motivated by hatred of women, but to question whether it was part of a general pattern of hatred of women. That is a different matter.
This example and many others are what we can find in the letter from the LSA that, in reality, misrepresents Pinker’s words for being an uncomfortable academic.
Steven Pinker is the author of some of the most important books I have ever read, such as The Blank Slate or In Defense of the Enlightenment . Pinker can make mistakes, like any researcher. What is entirely intolerable is that their statements are misrepresented or their opinion censored for the simple fact that we do not like it or consider it wrong. Opinions must fight in the arena of ideas, but it is wise to silence certain people before debating their ideas .
The culture of cancellation is dangerous, as we pointed out some time ago, because it shows that we consider that there are things that we already know with complete certainty and that we are not willing to listen to a single criticism about it; with the addition, not at all trivial, that woke is demagoguery doped with Judeo-Christian guilt, that the Social Justice Warriors are counterproductive despite their good intentions, and that freedom of expression is the sine qua non of civil society, without exceptions.