Pinker: Cancel Culture Is Orwellian

Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychology professor and bestselling author, who was one of the signatories of the letter to Harper’s protesting against a climate of intolerance, has claimed he is the target of an “Orwellian” attack on his reputation.

… “It’s utterly ludicrous, it’s Orwellian and reveals the mindset that there has to be utter conformity and unanimity, and that even broaching a difference of opinion is treated as ‘drowning out’,” he tells me by telephone. “This is one of the examples of the kind of Orwellian language that has infused the cancel culture where disagreeing is called punching down or silencing or drowning out. It’s a warped mindset, but it’s becoming common.”

…“No one’s [been] murdered yet, or burned at the stake, so I wouldn’t go too far in tasteless comparisons to the Chinese cultural revolution or the European witch hunts, but in terms of the psychology and social dynamics that arise from the psychology, there are parallels. Societies can get locked into a circle of mutual, pre-emptive denunciation: you denounce lest you be denounced. You prove your bona fides, that you’re on the right side of the moral crusade, by denouncing those on the wrong side before you yourself get denounced. I don’t want to say that the criticism of journalists and academics is the same as burning a real witch, [but] some of the underlying dynamics overlap.”

Damian WhitworthSteven Pinker: I had to speak out. Cancel culture is Orwellian,” The Sunday Times, July 9, 2020.

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