July 8, 2020 - 5:44pm

Steven Pinker – world famous linguist, evolutionary psychologist and Harvard professor — is in the middle of a ‘cancellation’ attempt. It looks like he will survive it unscathed, but a group within the Linguistics Society of America have written an open letter detailing various transgressions on Twitter and elsewhere in which he was deemed to be insufficiently robust on race and gender issues.

He told me about it, the open letter he has signed to Harper’s magazine in defence of free speech, and the way in which ‘crazies’ from his university days went on to get tenure and have been indoctrinating students in extreme ideas ever since.

Have a watch above, key quotes below:

  • “The suppression of free speech on intellectual and artistic life has created a chilling effect and I fear for the republic of ideas”
  • “I hope the [Harper’s Letter] will contribute to a return to sanity, similar to that of the late 1960’s and early 70s”
  • “Nourishing the soul isn’t high on the agenda of enlightenment goals compared to reducing poverty, illiteracy and violence etc”
  • “There are some cosmically ironic similarities between Right-wing authoritarianism and the illiberal Left because they both adhere to racial identity politics”
  • “Bad ideas that could be refuted get a second wind precisely because they are being repressed rather than refuted”
  • “There are no more easy targets, which might explain the cultivation of finer and finer forms of offence like the ‘dog whistles’ that trigger the ire of the Left”

Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.