by Alex Witoslawski
Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said that members of the Alt Right are “highly literate, highly intelligent” and “internet savvy, media savvy” during a recent panel discussion hosted by Spiked Magazine at Harvard University.
The topic of the panel discussion was “Is Political Correctness Why Trump Won?” Dr. Steven Pinker’s point was that the overbearing politically correct culture on campus prevents certain basic facts from being discussed, which in turn has caused a backlash among highly literate and intelligent individuals who realized that they have been lied to by academia and the mainstream media their entire lives.
“Highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the Alt Right–internet savvy, media savvy–who often are radicalized that way, ‘swallow the red pill’ as the saying goes… when they are exposed for the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses, or in the New York Times, or in respectable media… they are immediately infected with both a feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable and no defense against them, taking them to what we may consider rather repellent conclusions,” Pinker said.
The facts that Pinker alluded to were the superiority of capitalism over communism, biological and psychological differences between the sexes, differences in crime rates between the races, and the highly disproportionate amount of terrorist attacks committed by radical Muslims.
Pinker claimed that purposefully ignoring or obfuscating these facts sometimes causes individuals to take rather extreme moral and political stances once they realize the truth.
According to Pinker’s argument, this is the case presumably because individuals are never taught how to reconcile these facts with the neoliberal establishment and their own left-wing worldview.
In the case of capitalism vs. communism, some may adopt anarcho-capitalism once they realize that capitalism is the superior economic system because they have never been taught the more moderate position that regulated capitalism is superior.
In the latter three cases – biological and psychological differences between the sexes, different crime rates among different races, and the problem of terrorism emanating from the Muslim community – Pinker argued that some may become sexist, racist, or Islamophobic once they realize these differences exist unless they are “immunized” by learning to treat all people as individuals.
In the last two cases, Pinker also stated that differences in crime statistics could disappear within a few generations and that more terror attacks are committed in the United States by right-wing White men than by any other group.
There are several problems with Pinker’s proposed solution to pre-emptively dealing with the Alt Right.
First and foremost is the fact that he does not propose that academia and the mainstream media give individuals the straight facts, and he certainly does not argue that the educational system should teach individuals how to think critically–instead, he suggests that academia and the media should indoctrinate individuals with a certain ideological system of thought that would “immunize” people against far-right thinking. This, however, cannot possibly accomplish much, precisely because Pinker’s proposal doesn’t increase freedom of thought, rather it swaps the current ideological hegemony for a similar but slightly different hegemony.
Either way, individuals who will feel oppressed by this hegemony will tend to revolt. But in Pinker’s world individuals who choose to reject the Pinkerite hegemony foisted upon them will do so while knowing that free markets are superior, the sexes are different, that race is real, and that Islam is a threat to Western Civilization. This certainly isn’t a better position for the elites to be in than their current position.
The second problem with Pinker’s proposed solution is that it isn’t all that different than what exists today, so there’s no reason to believe that it would work any better. Sure one is not allowed to even consider certain facts–such as differences between the sexes and the races–but the overall ideological framework that individuals are currently taught by academia and indoctrinated to believe in by the mainstream media is not any different from what Pinker proposes. The current system is neoliberal–to take the first example he used, the current system does favor regulated capitalism–the vast majority of economics professors don’t like either unregulated free markets or full-blown communism. Likewise, individuals overall are taught to favor a kind of left-wing consequence-free individualism that preaches tolerance of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, etc., which doesn’t seem any different from what Pinker proposes. If the current system has failed to stem the rise of anarcho-capitalists and the Alt Right, then why should Pinker’s system succeed?
The third problem is that the specific arguments that Pinker used against free market capitalism, understanding racial differences in crime rates as largely genetic, and viewing Islam as an alien threat weren’t all that good either.
The first point–the superiority of regulated capitalism to unregulated free market capitalism–was something that Pinker made blithely, without evidence or argument.
The second point–that differences in racial crime statistics could simply go away in a few generations–is one that has no supporting evidence. But even more importantly in this case, research shows that more Blacks carry genes associated with violent crime than people of other races. Pinker apparently would rather ignore his own advice by burying these types of facts in ideologically left-wing individualist mumbo-jumbo.
The third point–that right-wing White men commit more terrorist attacks than Muslims in America–omitted the fact that there are far more right-wing White men in America than there are Muslims, so when we look at the problem on a per capita basis the average Muslim is far more likely to commit acts of terrorism in America than the average right-wing White male.
The point being, while Pinker deserves to be praised for attempting to fix the biases in academia and the mainstream media, his solutions absolutely fall flat. Even if implemented, they would all fail because of Pinker’s own biases and ideological agenda.
The problem in a certain sense is due to how Pinker approached the problem. He approached it as a political problem, as a problem of “how do we get rid of the Alt Right and anarcho-capitalism,” not a problem of “how do we get rid of gross biases in the establishment in order to make it friendly to an ideologically diverse set of individuals.” This may be because Pinker himself is from a liberal Jewish background, so naturally he’ll come into this debate hating the Alt Right and thinking of ways to subvert this discussion about the failings of political correctness to include ways of destroying the Alt Right.
Regardless, the true solution to the problem of political correctness is not to replace one cultural-political-ideological hegemony with another, as Pinker proposes, but rather to encourage two things: adherence to facts and critical thinking. Given these skill sets, the public will be much better able to debate the critical topics that Pinker mentioned, among other important issues. Since we do have a democratic system of government, equipping the public with the critical thinking abilities they need to make good decisions in the voting booth is much more important than any attempt to subvert them with one or another hegemonic system. So this, ultimately, is what we should strive for.