Vanderbilt students protest Steve Pinker’s appearance because of his “ties” to Jeffrey Epstein

December 3, 2019 • 10:45 am

From the Vanderbilt Hustler, the student newspaper of that Nashville, Tennessee university, we learn that the demonized people subject to being deplatformed by the Left is—you guessed it—Steve Pinker. Read the article below, which describes a petition the students are putting together demanding that Pinker get booted from an upcoming panel on global issues. The reason is given in the sub-headline: Pinker’s “history of ties to Jeffrey Epstein.”

To be sure, there are only about 120 signatures on the petition, and the chances that it will work seem quite low. What’s important is that Pinker is increasingly regarded by the woke as ideologically polluted, regardless of the value of his books and works, because he had a tangential connection with Epstein—a connection that doesn’t implicate Pinker in any misconduct, sexual or otherwise.

Here’s a small excerpt from the Vanderbilt piece:

Junior Edie Duncan started a petition Nov. 25 to protest the upcoming Chancellor’s Lectures Series event that hosts cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker for his ties to the late Jeffrey Epstein.

As of Sunday, Dec. 1, the petition had garnered around 120 signatures. Duncan said a faculty member approached her and suggested that she should spread the word because they thought Vanderbilt administration would listen to students more than a faculty member. [JAC: I wonder who that faculty member is, and why he/she remain anonymous.]

Pinker, a Harvard professor, is scheduled to be featured in a panel event Dec. 3 alongside journalist Carl Zimmer and Vanderbilt professor and author Amanda Little. The panel is set to be moderated by political science professor Jon Meacham. The topic of the panel is “2020 and Beyond: Tackling Global Issues in the Decades to Come.”

The petition goes on to indict Pinker for flying on Epstein’s plane and being photographed next to him, and mentions some construals of legal language that Pinker gave to his friend Alan Dershowitz, who was on Epstein’s defense team:

The petition against Pinker reads: “He has appeared in Epstein’s flight logs among other prominent figures, the same flight that would travel to places across the world, including the island where Epstein allegedly hosted a sex-trafficking ring involving minors. Pinker was also photographed with Epstein in 2014, well after Epstein received his sentence and became a notorious sex offender.”

It also discusses allegations that Pinker gave Epstein advice on how to manipulate the language of a law regarding usage of the internet to lure minors across state lines for sexual abuse, which Epstein was accused of violating in 2006.

The petition acknowledges that Pinker denies association with Epstein but states that the connection cannot be dismissed as a coincidence in good conscience.

“A truly upstanding individual would not agree to manipulate language to downplay the laws surrounding prostitution of minors, and would not casually end up in a photograph with a convicted sex offender years later,” the petition reads.

. . . “My main point is that these connections are too much to be coincidental,” Duncan said. “The theme of the lecture series is ‘caring and respect’ – someone that we look up to for those values would not have coincidentally been involved like this with such a notorious sex offender as Jeffrey Epstein. True role models needs to be intentional about their actions.”

Too much to be coincidental? Is Duncan then implying that Pinker somehow overlooks or excuses Epstein’s behavior, or is a raging misogynist? What we see here is a complete lack of understanding of, and forgiveness for, the only action of Pinker that could possibly be faulted: helping Dershowitz with Epstein’s defense.

But I too am guilty in that way, for I was on O. J. Simpson’s defense team when he was tried for murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. (I helped analyze the DNA evidence against Simpson.) In fact, I surely did at least as much for Simpson as Pinker did for Epstein.

Now Simpson was found not guilty, but I believe he was indeed the murderer. I helped because I wanted to ensure that the government could not use shoddy DNA evidence to convict somebody, even if that somebody was a famous person accused of an egregious crime. And of course Simpson later was found culpable in a civil trial, and, even later, went to jail for nine years for, among other crimes, armed robbery. Simpson is not someone you’d want to associate with.

But I did, in the same way Pinker did with Epstein, though I never met O. J. nor was photographed with him. I therefore tell people, “If you’re going to incriminate Pinker because he helped in a small way with Epstein’s defense, please incriminate and deplatform me as well because I helped in a larger way with O. J. Simpson’s defense.” Well, do it! I’m waiting for my first deplatforming!

In fact, Pinker explained his association with Epstein in a July 12 post on this website. Read it for yourself; here’s an excerpt:

The annoying irony is that I could never stand the guy, never took research funding from him, and always tried to keep my distance. Friends and colleagues described him to me as a quantitative genius and a scientific sophisticate, and they invited me to salons and coffee klatches at which he held court. But I found him to be a kibitzer and a dilettante — he would abruptly change the subject ADD style, dismiss an observation with an adolescent wisecrack, and privilege his own intuitions over systematic data. I think the dislike was mutual—according to a friend, he “voted me off the island,” presumably because he was sick of me trying to keep the conversation on track and correcting him when he shot off his mouth on topics he knew nothing about. But Epstein had insinuated himself with so many people I intersected with (Alan Dershowitz, Martin Nowak, John Brockman, Steve Kosslyn, Lawrence Krauss) and so many institutions he helped fund (Harvard’s Program in Evolutionary Dynamics, ASU’s Origins Project, even Harvard Hillel) that I often ended up at the same place with him. (Most of these gatherings were prior to the revelation of his sex crimes, such as the 2002 plane trip to TED with Dawkins, Dennett, the Brockmans, and others, but Krauss’s Origins Project Meeting came after he served his sentence.) Since I was often the most recognizable person in the room, someone would snap a picture; some of them resurfaced this past week, circulated by people who disagree with me on various topics and apparently believe that the photos are effective arguments.

(Here’s one of the photos, which is included in the Vanderbilt petition, designed to provoke a feeling of guilt by association. Pinker explained it above.

A bit more from Steve’s statement:

In the interests of full disclosure, there was another connection. Alan Dershowitz and I are friends and colleagues, and we taught a course together at Harvard. He often asks me questions about syntax and semantics of laws, most recently the impeachment statute. While he was representing Epstein, he asked me about the natural interpretation of one of the relevant laws, and I offered my opinion; this was cited in a court document. I did it as a favor to a friend and colleague, not as a paid expert witness, but I now regret that I did so. And needless to say I find Epstein’s behavior reprehensible.

So there’s an apology for helping in a small way with Epstein’s defense, and that’s hardly “manipulating the language of a law”—it’s interpreting the language of a law.

What we see here is a group of students so unforgiving, so bent on punishing those who have violated their impossibly difficult standards of purity, that they must deplatform someone who’s already satisfactorily (to me) explained his “association” with Epstein and who’s added he regrets helping Dershowitz.  The overweening message of the Vanderbilt action is that Social Justice Warriors—and I mean by that people who pretend to effect social justice but only pound a keyboard and flaunt their virtue—lack the nuance to discriminate between enablers of Epstein’s behavior and Pinker’s far more innocuous behavior. These people are authoritarians, and that’s why I call this the Authoritarian Left.

What do they hope to accomplish by keeping Pinker off the panel?

h/t: Michael

37 thoughts on “Vanderbilt students protest Steve Pinker’s appearance because of his “ties” to Jeffrey Epstein

  1. “A truly upstanding individual would not agree to manipulate language to downplay the laws surrounding prostitution of minors, and would not casually end up in a photograph with a convicted sex offender years later,” the petition reads.

    Yeah, well, a truly upstanding individual would not besmirch the liberty interests embodied in the US Bill of Rights by promoting guilt-by-association.

    1. A truly upstanding person would also understand that even the most wicked individuals are entitled to legal representation and their attorneys are not endorsing crime.

  2. I’d like to see these pure ones 50years from noe. Hey their outlook on life is a bit less sanctimonious. Fortunately that will be long past my time.

    1. I had the same thought. These actions are something they will come to regret as they gain some semblance of maturity.

      1. “Some semblance of maturity”? If they slip up, they’ve only got a few minutes before they will find themselves “cancelled”.

  3. I’m honestly not surprised at all. If the writings on a certain other site that I read but whose name I won’t mention are correct, Steven Pinker is well out of favour with the ctrl-left even without this. Epstein is just the excuse too cancel Pinker.

    1. The author of that “other site” was himself accused of raping a student….and only recently he wished that Steven Pinker was dead.

      I’m certain the fact that Pinker is Jewish is behind a lot of the obsessive hatred he gets from the Regressive Left and various #NewRacists. The same obsession gets aimed at Sam Harris.

  4. Outrageous smearing dirt on Pinker. Because three Jewish men know each other, doesn’t mean they’re brothers in crime. Evil smear!

  5. I think the people who smear Pinker are what we generally use to call shallow and would advise staying away from the type. They are not worth the print for me to tell them what I think of them. It is similar to the disgusting behavior of Trump going after FBI agents, ambassadors and other perfectly honest civil servants. We use to refer to this type as lower than whale shit. Sorry for going so low with the term.

  6. I wish I could see/hear Pinker speak at a global-issue panel; that would be a great privilege. I’m sure I’d learn a thing or three.

  7. Do you think that the Left’s general disdain for Pinker’s optimistic works plays any role in using his weak association with Jeffrey Epstein to deplatform him? Would they feel the same way if he was a writer of woke works?

    1. You may have hit upon something here. Pinker’s thesis has been debated many times at this site and I don’t wish to regurgitate my views except to say that his optimism and his contention that the world has never been better off is due to the workings of a capitalist system. Those on the far left accept as a matter of faith that capitalism as an economic system is inherently exploitative except for a small sliver of the elite. I think this is at the core of many of the critiques of Pinker’s thesis.

    2. I wonder if Hillary Clinton would be protested considering she had much more substantial associations with Epstein. Not to mention her husband’s.

      1. I suspect that either / both Hillary and / or Bill would be more vigorously protested than Pinker. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a couple more hated by both right and left.

      2. I doubt any but the most hardened Hillary haters would push the story that she was involved in getting young women for Epstein. Of course, after Pizzagate anything’s possible.

  8. Does Pinker regret offering an interpretation of a law because it’s now causing him grief, or because he doesn’t want to support an alleged criminal, or because…?

    In offering an interpretation, he is potentially improving a law by clarifying its meaning, not something for which he should apologise, IMO.

    1. Yes, regret. Pinker gave his detractors an easy path to vilify his best of intentions. It was very easy to take said photographs and connect them to Epstein and his defence.
      Interpretations indeed, vague as it all seems emotive brains can make a strong bond where there is none.
      I don’t really give a rats whether your left or right because that means nothing if the target is Pinker. Both sides use the guy. Fuck it, where is left or right of good or bad behaviour?
      The truth is, it is only behaviour that matters and if your brain is stink the smell (actions) will give it away, eventually. If it doesn’t, good for you and your self control, no one was hurt.

  9. The student’s use of the word ‘coincidence’ here is odd. Since she obviously doesn’t mean it in the most traditional sense (i.e., that Pinker and Epstein happened to be on the same plane by coincidence,) it sounds as if she’s implying some kind of underlying scheme or conspiracy. In essence saying that Pinker’s association with Epstein was not a random or unrelated series of events – but if it wasn’t random, the implication is that it was – what? (For my part, I do believe Pinker’s contact with Epstein was largely an unrelated series of happenings that weren’t connected in any particular way, other than that they were in similar social orbits.)

    Also wonder how much this actually came from the students. A faculty member ‘suggested’ this petition? Why was the faculty member making recommendations like this to students in the first place, and how much did the student implicitly feel like it would be in her best interests to do what a faculty member wanted?

  10. What do they hope to accomplish by keeping Pinker off the panel?

    Possession means the power to exclude.

    Excluding people demonstrates your power, and presumably is intended to intimidate would be critics.

    At the end of the day, this has everything to do with Pinker’s work as a public intellectual and zero to do with Epstein. In other words, its a political power play, so the weaker the intellectual justification, the more it demonstrates political power.

    After all, no one is going after the Clintons, despite significant Epstein and Weinstein ties.

    1. It is interesting.

      The regressive left are very quiet about the extensive links between Epstein/Weinstein and Democrats, but are happy to obsess about a tenuous association between Pinker and Epstein. Bill and Hillary are not Jewish, of course. Pinker is. The regressive left to seem to zero in on Jews far more than most.

      The Far Right, on the other hand, are obsessed with the Clinton’s and Epstein/Weinstein.

      A plague on both their houses.

  11. Rethinks all conversations after reading “ ”…he would abruptly change the subject ADD style, dismiss an observation with an adolescent wisecrack”

    Damn. Am I a ”kibitzer and a dilettante”?

    On a serious note, I am so tired of purity tests and sanctimony.

  12. The children doing the condemning simply aren’t old enough yet to have any past connections they wish (or can be made to wish) they hadn’t. All that requires is the passage of time …

  13. “And of course Simpson later was found culpable in a civil trial,”

    I’d point out that the standard of proof in a civil trial is far less stringent than a criminal trial, and such lawsuits are notoriously subject to the emotional ‘sympathy’ element of a jury.

    I think such suits amount to double jeopardy, and should be disallowed; it amounts to the aggrieved family being deprived of their prey and wanting to (mis)use the law to have another go.


  14. It makes me sad to see Pinker being vilified for an association with Epstein that was not a friendship, but more associated with university matters and legal advice to his friend, Dershowitz.

    It appalls me that a university professor would use students to create this petition rather than doing it himself. Chicken!

    May these young students (and their professors) live long enough to learn that all humans are proportions of both good and bad. May they never have to learn of terrible behavior on the part of a dearly loved one they thought was the epitome of goodness. It can be a terrible shock.

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