Pinker, a big donor to Democrats, is alt-right?

January 11, 2018 • 8:30 am

Just a short note re yesterday’s post about accusations that Steve Pinker is a member of the alt-right simply because he called some alt-righters literate and intelligent in a discussion of how to keep people from becoming right-wing. I found on the Internet a list and discussion about Harvard donors to the Democratic Party, which apparently comes from “public filings” accessed by the Harvard Crimson. Among members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Pinker was the third largest donor to the Democratic Party (my emphasis below):

Harvard’s flagship faculty, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, manages instruction at the undergraduate College and in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. FAS is also one of Harvard’s most left-leaning faculties or schools, according to the data set. From 2011 through October of 2014, the 183 FAS affiliates included in the Crimson analysis contributed $486,452 to federal campaigns and candidates, representing 17 percent of the University’s total.

Of the FAS total, $465,652, or 96 percent, went to Democratic efforts.

“I am amazed at how high that number is,” FAS Dean Michael D. Smith said.

FAS faculty, instructors, and researchers included in the analysis donated $18,200 to Republican campaigns and candidates.

Within FAS, the Physics department included the most donors in the data set, at 21, followed by the History department with 12, and the Economic and Government departments with 10 each.

The top 10 donors in the data set within FAS together donated $217,708, or 45 percent of all contributions by faculty with primary appointments at the school. The largest FAS donors in the data set include Chemistry professor emeritus and Nobel laureate Martin Karplus ’51, University professor and former University President Lawrence H. Summers, and Psychology professor Steven Pinker.

Those who have characterized Pinker as “alt-right” or as a “lying right-wing shitweasel” (see original post) owe him and their readers an apology. Would an alt-righter contribute to the Dems? What would be the point?

81 thoughts on “Pinker, a big donor to Democrats, is alt-right?

  1. Alas, Jerry, the kind of demented shitweasel who would call Pinker a “lying right-wing shitweasel” is perfectly capable of taking his contributions to Democrats as evidence that he is, you know, a “right-wing shitweasel”.

      1. Apparently, cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff wrote that American progressives suffer from a “massive hypocognition”.

        I haven’t read his book on framing debates for progressives, but I readily believe the thesis. American Democrats are rather centre, or even right-leaning overall, compared to the European political landscape. Clinton would be a tad right of Merkel on most issues (who is actually a Conservative). Sanders is an outlier who would be at home in a centre-left Social Democratic party, but he would probably not count as particularly left. Real left politics are practically missing in the US, and the Republicans are “just off the spectrum of not only international opinion, but even relative sanity.” as Chomsky put it, shading into theocracy, corpocracy, oligarchy, and white supremacism.

        This makes it possible, that the Democrats occupy everything else, a relative broad spectrum into which an entire European political landscape from moderate left, to liberalism to right wing would fit.

        Since American progressives are hypocognitive, their idea of what‘s progressive is rocking and sliding around, and that appears to have made it possible that mutated offshoots of Critical Race Theory or “Critical Gender Theory” could take hold. This ideology, which is related, but different in some key aspects to the academic original, still has no name, which allowed it to spread as “generic” blue tribe religion. 4th Wave Feminism, Woke Culture, Regressive Left, social justice warriorism, or intersectionality are terms that describe each some aspects of this ideology.

        The “naming problem” is one of the main issues that also characterize the situation in atheism. Many still use Atheism Plus to bolt the “thing” into place, and use it in an unmarked sense to stand in for some kind of Woke Atheism, or Intersectional Atheism. And interestingly, PZ Myers et al — the whole merry gang on FTB, Orbit and Patheos — mock that usage by going with the narrow meaning, and of course offer no proper term. Atheism Plus (woke, intersectionality*) in a narrow sense of course withered away long ago.

        Sometimes the heavy resistance, obscurantism, deliberate obtuseness when it comes to even naming the intersectional* (*it’s not the original idea!) looks like a postmodernist tactic.

        I think this “naming problem”, in atheism, and overall in the American landscape greatly contributes to the inability of many to recognize different flavours of left, progressive, and liberal politics. Because American politics are either Red or Blue, it means that hypocognitive people like Myers think that if it isn’t the way think, it must be the “other”. But he cannot recognize it as standard Republican either, so he might then just go with “Alt Right”.

        The full picture is even more complicated, because a shift has occured, in reaction to the unnamed woke ideology, and what is exactly Alt-Right also slides and rocks around. On one day, clear Far Right identitarian ideas are declared merely “Alt-Lite” (Lauren Southern etc); on another day, Alt-Right includes “classic liberals”.

    1. Pinker votes Dem only because like other alt-righters, he’s still mad about the Republicans being the party of the Emancipator.

  2. “FAS faculty, instructors, and researchers included in the analysis donated $18,200 to Republican campaigns and candidates.”

    Where’s my pitchfork when I need it? Tar and feather the heathens and float ’em down the Charles on a log as a lesson to the others.

  3. The Democrats are a ultra right-wing party by any reasonable definition from a global and historic perspective.

    It’s just that the Republicans are completely off the charts so the Democrats look “left” in comparison.

    So yes, someone with right-wing views can contribute to Democrats, and in fact most people who contribute a lot of money to Democrats are ultra right-wingers. Which is why the Democrat party is just the more moderate wing of the single corporatist party that rules the country.

    That is not to say that Pinker himself is right-wing, far from it, but the constant conflation of “democrat” and “left” has to stop.

        1. Bernie Sanders was not even a member of the democratic party; he represented Vermont as an independent. Trump on the other hand has been allied with the Reform Party (2000), Democrat (2004), Republican (2009), Independent (2011), Republican again (2012).
          Chameleons abound.

    1. I suspect your global and historical perspective is a bit off. And besides, what is the point of dragging history or the globe into the definition of a democrat. Can you not just look at what they mostly stand for at present and get yourself out of the weeds. To call the average democrat ultra right wing you have a long way to go to come up with that. Most democrats are in favor of health care for U.S. citizens and they favor a reasonable immigration policy. They also favor women’s rights and choice. They favor higher minimum wage and redistribution of wealth to achieve some faint idea of equality. Please give me a break.

      1. Can you not just look at what they mostly stand for at present and get yourself out of the weeds

        Yes, I do look at what they stand for.

        Do I need to list what exactly the last two Democrat presidents did, what they did not do, and what the high-ranking party officials stand for today?

        Maybe I do have to, but I doubt it will make any difference, blinkered tribalism is too strong to be overcome so easily.

        Most democrats are in favor of health care for U.S. citizens

        Which is why they gave it to people when they had the chance, right? SMH…

        I will leave this here:

        and they favor a reasonable immigration policy

        Which is one of the many reasons they are a right-wing party.

        Being pro-immigration means that you are against the interests of the workers in your country. Which is exactly the opposite of what a party on the left should stand for.

        But we need not be concerned with historical perspectives, right?

        1. “Being pro-immigration means that you are against the interests of the workers in your country”

          Now THAT is risable

        2. Your comments are upside down or backwards. I have no time for educating you in your incorrect understandings or definitions. What one particular politician is in favor of or not does not define the party. If you use this as your compass you are lost before you start.

          You may think letting reasonable immigration take place is taking jobs away from current citizens and we all know that is crap. It is also exactly where the republicans stand.

          Pointing out what a past president did or did not get past through congress does not define what the party stands for. If you do not get that, there is no point me having a conversation with you.

          1. I have no time for educating you in your incorrect understandings or definitions.

            Neither do I

            Propaganda works. It’s an unfortunate fact of life

            Lying by omission works too.

            You have extensively demonstrated it, as have others in this thread.

            1. Your come back statement, lying by omission just shows you are either lost or paranoid. If you can call someone a liar by omission you are a troubled person at minimum. Let us just say, if you see the democratic party as ultra right-wing you have a definition that is also off the charts. Did I leave anything out for you?

            2. Did you really just call some of the posters here liars? Is that really what you meant? If so, I think you owe those people an apology.

              1. I don’t own anyone an apology, much less people who lack basic reading comprehension — that sentence did no concern anyone in this thread, it referred to the way their views and (mis)understandings have been formed.

        3. Yes, all immigrants take away jobs from Americans. All except those smart ones that start a company and employ Americans. And those smart ones that join a company and make it more successful so it can employ more Americans.

          In the field of public policy, simplistic answers are usually wrong or at least incomplete.

          1. Straw man, several hundred meters tall.

            This kind of immigration is not what that discussion is about.

            I was talking about the working class

      2. Yes, to call the Democrats ultra right-wing party is an absurdity, even by world standards. Most of the Democratic Party is center-left, which is too far left for about half the American population. Such nonsense must be rebutted at every turn.

    2. The Democratic Party might qualify as “center right” by the standards of some European social democracies, but is hardly “ultra right-wing” by any reasonable measure.

      My theory (which is my own) is that GM here has drunk too deeply at the well of Aleksandr Dugin’s “Eurasian ideology.”

    3. Regardless of PCC’s opinion on the matter, I don’t think noting Pinker’s donations necessarily implies that Democrat = left. It’s still worth noting because what it does do is show that PZ’s epithet is, at the very least, not on the mark. They support the same party.

    4. If I’d to place the Dems and Reps somewhere in the Dutch political spectrum, both would be at the far right. With the PVV between them.

      1. Exactly, and the Democrats today are much to the right of the Republicans when Eisenhower was president.

        Which is why I mentioned keeping a proper global and historic perspective as so crucial in these discussions.

        1. “the Democrats today are much to the right of the Republicans when Eisenhower was president.”

          What specific issues do you consider the Democrats today to be “much to the right of the Republicans when Eisenhower was president?” Here’s the Republican platform of 1956, the one that begins, “America’s trust is in the merciful providence of God, in whose image every man is created…” I don’t see anything in there that the Democrats today are far to the right of. Republicans, yes, not Democrats.

          I see a lot of State’s Rights language, “needless Federal meddlings and domination,” “faithful adherence to our 1952 pledge to reverse a 20-year Democratic philosophy calling for more and more power in Washington,” and such, but as far as policies, I don’t see anything the Democrats wouldn’t support today. So I wonder what you base your claim on, that the Democrats are much to the right of Republicans of that era.

            1. In other words, you have nothing specific, just bullshit generalizations. Even ignoring the hardline opposition to healthcare, culminating in their predictions of disaster in 1965 when it passed, none of the Republican positions on “Taxes, entitlements, workers rights” were anywhere near to the left of today’s Democrats. Read some history and quit making stuff up.

    5. +1 on the general thrust. Though, “ultra right wing” is too extreme. They occupy a spectrum from right to moderate left. See reply to 1 above.

      Two other notes: first, the critics are themselves Democrats. Woke Culture people were quite strongly aligned with Clinton, i.e. rather right wingish themselves. They often attacked the Sanders faction as “Bernie Bros” or “Brogressive”, so their argument cannot be about casting doubt on Democrats to cast doubt on Pinker.

      Secondly, Steven Pinkers views don’t have to be derived from a Democrat label that is very broad. He wrote many books, and articles where he tells you what he believes. I have the impression he’s an Atlantic moderate liberal-progressive.

      He argued against some radicals, and he wrote somewhere that a police strike cured him of anarchism in his youth. He also favours reform and tinkering over revolution.

      1. Well sure, in the US much of the left are right of the left in other countries*.

        But G_M’s claims (he makes no arguments) about the left that he says make them “ultra-right” are ridiculous and inconsistent.

        *if you subsume into them the Democratic party, only some of whom could be called “leftist”, even by American standards.

  4. Why would any intelligent person donate money to either of the US’ two major parties (as monolithic entities, that is, as opposed to say a specific candidate’s campaign = Bernie, obviously)? The figures quoted are close enough to half a milli–just from FAS at Harvard!! Imagine what the total sum of all contributions from all “stakeholders” is?
    Is it any wonder there are major problems in politics? What chance is there for rational argumentation and debate?

    1. When you’ve only got two viable choices, what else can you do, especially since the wrong choice has grown so repugnant?

      (That said, I’ve not supported a national party since John Edwards let me down–bigtime!)

      1. I think the idea is you’d rather give the money to specific Dems you like or think need it rather than trust the Party heads to manage it.

        1. Doh! Of course. If I’d stopped to think, I wouldn’t have conceived of anyone sending $$ to the party, per se. (Nor have I ever, just for the record…)

          Though the choice of candidates is still often woefully wanting. Nonetheless it’s generally best that they beat their GOP opponents.

  5. “lying right-wing shitweasel” . Incredible. What an amazing use of the English language. A great new argument to use in the ongoing discussion of ideas.
    You are a lrwsw.

  6. “Pinker, a big donor to Democrats,…”.
    No surprise. Calling him Alt-Right is mainly attention getting and clearly a political ploy.

    1. Although, if the ctrl-left rhetoric and behavior at venues under their control is any indication, they are sometimes prone to a binary view of good think/bad think.

  7. The left cannot afford to continue to eat its own members. Here is an erudite, rational left-of-center professor making cogent arguments on how to combat racism and sexism and he is immediately flamed as a shitbag. Democrats within a whisper of a centrist position are thinking maybe these alt right guys are correct. Maybe Ben Shapiro is on to something because the left has gone bat-shit crazy if they’re calling out Steve Pinker. I mean who is pinker than Steve Pinker?

  8. Here is the thing: The left has largely been infiltrated by the far right.

    Or more precisely, the left is host to a large contingent of people who use rightwing arguments, but are too damn stupid or insulated to recognise that is what they’re doing.

    (EG: “Smash the system” – is essentially what Trump is doing right now. Getting rid of the police is simply the same deregulatory system that the Republicans favour – extended to private individuals rather than just corporations. It is simply a more extreme version of what the Republicans are already doing).

    As they are in fact far right, they aren’t interested in seeing leftwing causes succeed, so mostly they spend their time hunting for reasons to declare anybody, everybody and their dog “alt right”.

    If they can successfully exile everybody from every cause for being “problematic”, and not “intersectional” enough, they can effectively stop any action from getting anywhere, because nobody can even honestly discuss the problems that those causes are supposed to address without being declared ideologically impure, and thus alt-right.

    1. Sokal & Bricmont make the argument that postmodernism means the death of activism. Chomsky echoed this, too. If you were a Koch brother and wanted to distract the 99% you’d invent woke culture.

      The nameless woke faction that now dominate the (social) media mainstream sound right wing to me, too, as I argued many times here (incl. on the previous Pinker post).

      1) they are concerned with policing spaces to make them “safe”, which is indistinguishable from 1950 comics code conservatism, or “law and order”.

      2) they are very concerned with the “correct” views on gender, sexuality, and race. Though they seem diametrically opposed to race realism, or gender-binary, they at once have just as rigid ideas, just explained as social constructs, which postmodernists regard just as real as biology.

      3) just like evangelicals, they belive sexuality needs to follow ideology. They don’t say you cannot pray the gay away, but here Zinnia Jones, Riley Dennis etc (also associated with PZ’s blog) argued that heterosexuals must accept trans people just as if they were biologically male or female, otherwise that’s “transphobic” (i.e. feel attraction to the same biological sex).

      4) Woke culture ignores class, income equality, unions, poverty etc almost entirely. Only when poked, and when they must show their left creds, it’s mentioned (in the same way feminists are concerned with male suicide, homelessness etc for a brief second when accused of ignoring such matters).

      5) See the similarities between “woke” and taking the “red pill”. See the Stormfront vs SJW quizes. Supremacist forms of identitarianism, segregation (cultural appropriation, safe spaces) and a language that demonizes whole groups are examples of deep structural similarities between fascists and the “woke”.

      Also note my reply to comment 1, hypocognition that allows such label-swaps go undetected.

  9. To Professor Coyne and readers,
    See also P.Z. Myers’s splenetic criticisms of Steven Pinker, whom he seems to greatly dislike.

  10. So, maybe “alt” stands for “alternating.” One day he is a rightist, the next day he is a leftist. On average, his is a middle-of-the-road kind of person. 🙂

  11. Numbers 2 and 3 in that list are well known Nazis (number 2 as indeed mentioned by number 3 in his speech discussed yesterday).

    Thanks to P.Z. Myers for being such a leader. The Democratic party is obviously a ultra-right-wing party supported by Nazis that deny the “scientifically proven” (using other ways of knowing – aka PoMo) blank slateism about humans.

    P.S.: unlike at least one contributor above, I am being ironic.

  12. A very small, pedantic point: neither the quoted passage nor the linked article (from my very quick skim reading) explicitly says that Pinker was the third largest Faculty of Arts and Sciences donor; rather he is one of three who are identified (perhaps because they are well known outside their university) as large donors.

  13. The little man from Morris owes a lot of people an apology.

    What really boils the blood is that while he gaily passes around the edited video, when confronted, he claims “no I totally watched the whole thing.” Pardon me if I don’t believe a word that comes out of that oafish mouth, but if that’s true, if the full context is just as damning as the snippet, why not post the full thing and make your case that much stronger? Because you are lying, Paul.

    1. It think it reflects much worse on him if he has watched the whole video. That’s admitting that he is a liar. Stupid of him.

  14. PZ Myers retweeting Sacha Saeen apprivingly, is like someone retweeting Richard Spencer approvingly.

    He is a lying POS.

  15. I was never a big fan of the Alt-Right, but now that Professor Myers has confirmed that no less a hero of mine than Steven Pinker is part of the Alt-Right, I will have to seriously reconsider my position on them.

    It shows that the Alt-Right are now attracting serious intellectual heavyweights.

    And I had dismissed them as cranks!

  16. Pinker is from the same place I am originally – Montreal, but of course a fair bit older. He’s always struck me as a bit unusually right wing for a Canadian. Which makes him just fine for a rank-and-file Democrat.

    The slanders are absurd – he’s not “alt-right”. To me he’s in that spectrum of “I think he’s wrong and we’d likely vote differently because of it, but I can imagine debating with him” (like, say, Jean Chretien or Adam Smith).

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