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Steven Pinker’s Anti-Enlightenment Attack On White Identitarians

Pinker “Loathes” White Identitarians

With the publication of Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker has decisively established himself as the foremost public intellectual in the United States. On the surface this book is a data-packed defense of the success of the Enlightenment project defined as a way of living that cherishes the use of reason against dogma; the promotion of healthy, happy, and stimulating lives against progressophobia and pessimism; scientific evidence against ideological deception; and empathy for the suffering of others against narrow self-interest. But for me, this book is a calculated attack against White “populists” who are sick of the suppression of facts, the fake news, the irrationalism, and the immoral misuse of Enlightenment ideals by a Left-Right globalist establishment hell-bent on ramming through immigrant diversity across the Western world without democratic consent.

Pinker identifies nationalists, populists, Trump supporters, and the Alt Right as the biggest “enemy” of the Enlightenment ideals of science, reason, and humanism. He does not view Islamic peoples and radical Leftists as intrinsic enemies. Islamic nations today are embracing a “new Enlightenment” in lineage with their own “more tolerant, cosmopolitan, and internally peaceful” history, as compared to that of the “Christian West,” which only started a liberal trajectory with the rise of modern science in the seventeenth century (p. 439). Pinker does not see Leftists as intrinsic enemies, either. Their problem is lack of appreciation for the progress the Enlightenment has brought to humanity. Leftists sometimes get out of hand in keeping conservative globalists out of universities, but we can only be thankful to “intellectual liberals” for being “at the forefront of many forms of progress . . . such as democracy, social insurance, religious tolerance, the abolition of slavery . . . the decline of war, and the expansion of human and civil rights” (p. 373).

It is the “resurgent” ideology of “authoritarian populism,” ethnic nationalism, and “political tribalism” among Whites that constitute “the most insidious form of irrationality today” (p. 383). I will show in this review, however, that it is Pinker who is the enemy of the ideals of the Enlightenment, misinterpreting these ideals as if they were projects for the creation of a race-mixed humanity on European lands. He complains that the “ideals of the Enlightenment are treated by today’s intellectuals with indifference, skepticism, and sometimes contempt” (p. 6). But it is he who extemporaneously alters the definition of cosmopolitanism to mean that all White nations must become “multicultural and multiethnic.” There is nothing in the Enlightenment requiring European nationalists (who believe in peaceful cultural exchanges among nations) to welcome immigration and diversity. Pinker’s claim that European national pride and ethnic identity led to parochialism and intellectual narrowness can be categorized as a form of irrational indoctrination obscuring the actual origins of Enlightenment ideals within ethnically homogeneous European nations.

Pinker compiles an incredible array of statistics and graphs showing that “the world is about a hundred times wealthier today than it was two centuries ago”; that “poverty among racial minorities has fallen”; that “Americans are half as likely to be murdered as they were two dozen years ago”; that “Americans became 96 percent less likely to be killed in a car accident . . . 99 percent less likely to die in a plane crash”; that 83 percent in the world can read and write today as compared to only 12 percent in the early in the nineteenth century; that Americans today work 22 fewer hours a week than they did a few decades ago; that as societies have become wealthier “they have emitted fewer pollutants, cleared fewer forests, spilled less oil, set aside more preserves, extinguished fewer species”; that the “world’s nuclear stockpiles have been reduced by 85 percent” — to list only some of the many numbers he collects from “data scientists.”

Enlightenment Now is mostly about demonstrating that “the world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being” (p. 52). Pinker is at his best in this effort. We identitarians, however, respect the standards of rationality too much to believe that this progress was an achievement “of all of humanity.” We disagree that it is “tribalist rather than cosmopolitan” to emphasize that Enlightenment ideas came uniquely from Europe. It is Pinker, not us, who can be legitimately accused of disrespect against the standing scholarship when he cavalierly writes that “Enlightenment ideals have been articulated in non-Western civilizations at many times in history” (p. 29).

The Enlightenment Is Uniquely European

The article Pinker cites in support of this claim is “Enlightenment in Global History: A Historiographical Critique” by Sebastian Conrad. I happen to have examined this article in great detail, as a very revealing sample of the way historians today are rewriting the history of the West to promote the idea that all cultures were more or less equal participants in the making of modernity in the context of multiracial classrooms requiring a “sensitive learning environment.” It is worth quoting a longish passage from this article, both for what it says about Pinker’s misinterpretation of the historical meaning of the Enlightenment and for what it says about his misleading employment of the ideal of cosmopolitanism.

Conrad’s arguments must be exposed: not only are they historically false, but they provide us with an opportunity to suggest that the values of the Enlightenment are peculiarly European, rooted in this continent’s history, and not universally true and applicable to humanity. For one thing, these values are inconsistent with Conrad’s style of research. Honest reflection based on reason and open inquiry shows that the Enlightenment was exclusively European. The great thinkers of the Enlightenment were aristocratic representatives of their people with a sense of rooted history and lineage. They did not believe (except for a rare few) that all the peoples of the Earth were members of a race-less humanity in equal possession of reason. When they wrote of “mankind,” they meant “European-kind.” When they said that “only a true cosmopolitan can be a good citizen,” they meant that European nationals should enlarge their focus and consider Europe “as a great republic.” [. . .] What concerns Conrad, however, is the promotion of a history in which the diverse cultures of the world can be seen as equal participants in the making of the Enlightenment. Conrad wants to carry to its logical conclusion the allegedly “universal” ideals of the Enlightenment, hoping to persuade Westerners that the equality and the brotherhood of mankind require the promotion of a Global Enlightenment. [. . .] Conrad’s historiographical study is a travesty intended to dissolve European specificity by way of a sophomoric use of sources.

In another article, “The Enlightenment from a New Right Perspective,” I explain at length that Enlightenment thinkers were the first to attempt a scientific conception of human nature structured by racial classifications culminating in Immanuel Kant’s anthropological justification of his “critical” argument that only European peoples were capable of becoming rational moral legislators of their actions and elevating themselves above the causality of nature and the unreflective customs of tribalist cultures. Kant’s cosmopolitan promotion of peaceful relations among nations and opposition to the slave trade can in no way be interpreted as a call for a globalist, race-mixed order in the West.

We all know that Western science spread outside the West and that some non-Western countries have successfully assimilated Western technologies in a self-sustaining manner. Pinker is correct that “any reasoning individual” can engage with Enlightenment ideals, but it is a stretch to infer from this that non-Western nations, large collectives of peoples outside the West, are equally creative in their inclination for Enlightenment and capacity for knowledge. Anyone who has walked inside university libraries, along the stacks, and examined the countless books written in the disciplines Europeans singularly originated, will know that Whites are responsible for almost all the high-quality scholarship produced in the world, at least 90 to 95 percent. One has to wonder why Pinker attacks with such vehemence White critics of immigrant diversification, singling them out as the most “insidious enemies” of the Enlightenment, at the same time that he insists that the Enlightenment is well-established in such countries as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, even though the enlightened elites of these nations cherish their own ethnic identity and reject immigrant multiculturalism.

Selective Demonization

Why does Pinker insist that European national identity must be civic, based on political values alone, without ever mentioning the ethnic state of Israel with its massive wall and regular deportation of non-Whites and non-Jewish immigrants? At the core of the Enlightenment ideal, he says, is the expectation that one should provide reasons for one’s beliefs. What are Pinker’s reasons for his selective demonization of European identitarians? There is a lot of psychological projection in Enlightenment Now. Pinker projects his own irrational feelings about protecting Jewish identity onto White identitarians, pretending he is the embodiment of Enlightenment ideals, while calling European populists “blatantly irrational” and “tribal,” but never caring to “adduce reasons” as to why populists may want to protect their culture. His portrayal of Nietzsche as a juvenile thinker who “argued that it’s good to be a callous, egoistic, megalomaniacal sociopath” (p. 444) can be categorized as a callous and egoistic treatment of the scholarship on Nietzsche. Why would books on Nietzsche occupy so many shelves across all Western universities, written mostly by academics who are liberal and embrace Enlightenment values, if he was just some guy calling for “heroic glory by exterminating some chattering dwarves”?

One does not have to be a blatant opponent of the Enlightenment to be doubtful of Pinker’s smug pretension he knows what the meaning of life is. I don’t deny the vast majority of humans superficially agree that leading a “long, healthy, happy, rich, and stimulating life” (p. 418) is most important. Refrigeration, electricity, toilets, vaccinations, computers, and air travel are all great achievements original to Europeans. It is hardly surprising that the spread of these European innovations has improved the lives of millions outside the West, and that Pinker was able to come up with statistics demonstrating this. Only the loony Left pretends the Third World has not benefited from Western knowledge. But one should not minimize the longing of aristocratic individuals throughout Western history for great deeds, what Spengler and Hegel called a drive for immaterial recognition, no matter the hardship and dangers involved, the pain and material sacrifices. This aristocratic spirit explains why Europeans have been responsible for almost all the greatest accomplishments in history.

Ordinary individuals also want something more than pleasure and longevity, though they may not always articulate this longing in the opinion surveys Pinker relies on for his “scientific” conclusions. Pinker has to admit that “more than two-thirds of Americans deny that they are very happy, around the same proportion as seventy years ago” (p. 325) — despite the fact that over these years, Americans experienced dramatic progress “in every single measurement.” He tries to downplay the surging American suicide rate over the last decades by averaging suicide rates across three countries in the West. But whichever way one cuts it, one would expect Americans (and Europeans) to be many times happier if it is really true that humans value increasing comfort and longevity absolutely. He really can’t explain why drug addiction has remained steadily high among Americans over the decades, and why the group with the highest rates of drug overdose is “middle-aged, less-educated, non-urban white Americans.” His only answer is that they are “globalization’s losers.”

Declining Psychological Well-Being

A lot of the measures of human well-being Pinker analyzes concern the obvious benefits modernization has brought to formerly pre-industrial, or pre-affluent societies: the spread of Westernization. The statistics on the state of psychological well-being in affluent societies with more comforts, a few extra months of life, increasing globalization, and more bathrooms are not very good, actually. Some of these trends were predicted by critics of the idea of progress, such as Nietzsche and Spengler. Here are some trends with links to sources:

Enlightenment Progress “Funeral by Funeral”

Enlightenment Now was written directly as a counter-weight to populism. Pinker identifies populism as an ideology that “looks backward to an age in which the nation was ethnically homogeneous” (p. 334). He groups together the ideas of Trump’s “uneducated voters” with the ideas of Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Schmitt in arguing that the “Counter-Enlightenment” is a movement that does not respect truth and science. Throughout the book, he takes shots at Trump for “demonizing immigrants” and Muslims and for employing a “tribalistic” discourse in his mobilization “of an aggrieved and shrinking demographic” (lower middle class and rural White Americans). But rather than offering any statistics on the supposed benefits diversity has brought to the “losers of globalization,” he tells his students that globalization requires immigration, and that globalization “is a tide that is impossible for any ruler to order back” (p. 337), as if the rest of the globalizing world was committed to racial diversification.

What is worse, he glowingly looks forward to the demographic decline of Whites across the West as the one trend that will eventually defeat populism and make the Enlightenment unstoppable. After noting that most of the Trump voters who singled out “immigration” and “terrorism” as the most important issues were “uneducated” and aging White males, and that support for Trump, Brexit, and European populist parties “falls off dramatically with year of birth” (because “education exposes people in young adulthood to other races and cultures”), Pinker disparagingly says, “Populism is an old [White] man’s movement [. . .] sometimes society advances funeral by funeral” (pp. 341-3). On the other hand, he looks forward to the mobilization of “African-American,” “Hispanics,” and immigrants in future elections to uphold the highest ideals of the Enlightenment, “respect for vetted fact and reasoned argument.” The Alt Right has a “youngish membership,” but in the face of these demographic trends, it will remain an “electoral nonentity.”

One would think that, in tying the Enlightenment project so closely with diversity, Pinker would bring up statistics addressing specifically the ways immigration has promoted science and humanism. But because he relies primarily on statistics measuring long-term trends, and because the arrival of Third World immigrants only started in earnest two to three decades ago, he averages out of existence many of the statistical maladies identitarians have noted about diversification in Europe. One needs shorter time series data to detect trends associated with immigration per se. One should also avoid statistics informing us about average national crime rates, welfare spending, and rapes, including general surveys about a nation’s “racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and authoritarian” attitudes. By his own Leftist criteria, one has to ask: Have Muslim and African immigrants really contributed to a “less racist, sexist, homophobic, and authoritarian” Europe?

It is revealingly odd that someone who claims to be deeply concerned with “humanity” and “truth” does not care to offer a single figure about the systematic raping of White girls by migrants, the massive costs immigrant integration has entailed, the continuously low educational attainments of certain ethnic groups, the incredibly deceptive efforts of “Enlightenment” historians to rewrite the histories of European nations as immigrant nations, the increasing reality of no-go zones across various European countries, and the number of papers and data-gathering academics in the mainstream that have shamefully remained silent over the prevalence of child grooming rape gangs across Britain.

Wilful Neglect Of Data

Pinker relies on a quantitative study by Ortiz-Ospina and Roser, Trust: Our World in Data (2016) to argue that increased education has made Westerners “more enlightened,” “more likely to vote, volunteer . . . belong to civic associations . . . and community organizations” (p. 235). This study informs us that in educated countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland, “more than 60% of respondents think that people can be trusted,” whereas in less educated countries “such as Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, less than 10% think that is the case.” It was likely on the basis of this one contrast that Pinker tried to portray Westerners today as more trusting and civic-minded. But when we look at trends inside Europe, this study actually says that “the percentage of the population in OECD countries (mostly Western countries) reporting confidence in the national government went down every year in the period 2009-2013.” When it comes to the United States, this study says that “today, trust in the government in the US is at historically low levels . . . people in the US seem to trust each other less today than 40 years ago.” Pinker wants us to believe that diversity is correlated with increases in trust and participation in community associations. But this study says that in the UK “associations with voluntary organisations declined significantly . . . the percentage of the UK population that is active with one or more organization fell from 52% in 1993 to 43% in 2012.”

Pinker says that his book is all about demonstrating through the sheer use of data that the “Enlightenment has worked.” Why does he overlook what the actual data says? I have no problem accepting generally the claim that the “Enlightenment has worked” — as long as we separate the Enlightenment from the emerging anti-Enlightenment statistical trends associated with immigrant diversification. This act of misinterpreting data about declining trust speaks loudly about the supreme aim of Enlightenment Now: promote the idea that diversification is founded on truth and science. Conversely, promote the idea that opposition to diversification is founded on irrationalism and Nietzschean sociopathology. Pinker really likes surveys; why did he ignore the most extensive survey yet on the effects of diversity on trust and civic participation, Robert Putnam’s 2007 “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century”? Was it because, after conducting thirty thousand interviews over a five-year period, Putnam concluded that the greater the diversity, the greater the distrust; the more diversity, the less civic engagement?

The Enlightenment defined as increased diversity is not working. This is no longer an isolated study. In “Diversity Is Destroying the Cohesion and Social Capital of Western Nations,” I assessed the merits of many studies coming after Putnam’s. A key point in this article was that the entire research establishment is dedicated to the “successful” completion of diversification and that the academics working on these studies are servants of the State, terrified at the thought of affirming their White identity; and yet the evidence coming out is not looking good for diversity hacks. I also observed in this article an inverted anti-White logic in the way the evidence is interpreted: negative reactions by Whites against the effects of diversity are not counted as negative evidence if the diversification is seen to benefit non-Whites. Rather, negative reactions by Whites count as evidence that Whites are not accepting diversity and that they need more education and more diversity against the perils of racism. Below I will offer a short, annotated bibliography of additional studies. Keep in mind that diversification is still a relatively new experiment; Europe only intensified mass immigration after 2000-2001; the studies coming out are still looking at diversification in its early stages; and yet the verdict emerging is that Pinker’s Enlightenment is not working, and increasing diversity in Europe (and America) is confirming Putnam’s conclusions.

There are many additional studies showing that greater diversity increases mistrust and reduces social cohesion. It should not be surprising that some studies challenge Putnam’s hypothesis. Yet, as I argued in “Diversity Is Destroying the Cohesion and Social Capital of Western Nations,” none of these studies have demonstrated that diversity increases social cohesion. At most, they have produced some evidence that ethnic diversity “does not, with any certainty, erode social capital.” This is a rather lame conclusion considering the endless paeans to multiculturalism and the masses of resources dedicated to diversification. It bears repeating that one of Pinker’s central claims is that diversity is essential to the successful completion of the ideals of the Enlightenment. He says that “the claim that ethnic uniformity leads to cultural excellence is as wrong as an idea can be” (p. 450). How about the claim that the Enlightenment was singularly the product of White males in European nations with zero diversification programs?

Exploiting European Sympathies To Promote Out-Groups

Pinker employs the Enlightenment idea that humans have a natural inclination for social sympathy for the misfortune of others as a moral weapon to persuade Whites that they have an obligation (in this age of affluence and education when this inclination can flourish) to “consider humanity as a whole” and welcome millions of immigrants into their nations. Pinker does not mention this book, but Gertrude Himmelfarb argues in The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (2004) that “the distinctive feature of the British Enlightenment” was the idea that humans have a “moral sense” rooted in their nature “derived neither from self-interest nor from reason . . . a moral sense that inspired sympathy, benevolence and compassion for others” (p. 31). This idea underpins Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011). This book argues that violent behaviors gradually declined over the centuries, with the post-Second World War era being the most peaceful time ever, because the spread of the Enlightenment nurtured this moral sense and promoted empathy in combination with human reason. Clearly, however, it is one thing to say that our sense of sympathy, our circle of compassion, has expanded with our global awareness of people in faraway lands; it is another to say that we have nurtured an innate capacity to spread our sympathy equally across the world. This is an argument Pinker has formulated specifically for Whites. He even says that Westerners, “as citizens of the world,” should be prepared to make sacrifices in their own interests for the sake of a wider humanity outside their homelands. He admits that “the world’s poor have gotten richer in part at the expense of the American lower middle class,” and he is aware that this class of rural Whites has lost against the importation of cheap immigrant laborers, and that this group has the highest drug addiction rates. But he does not seem to have much empathy for these Whites. Instead, he says that sacrificing rural Whites should be seen as an enlightened “trade-off” by those who are reasonable, urbane, and truthful: “As citizens of the world considering humanity as a whole, we have to say that the trade-off [getting the world’s poor and immigrants richer] is worth it” (p. 113).

It is indeed strange that someone widely-known as a critic of the Leftist academic establishment, principally for his “subversive Darwinian claims” in The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002) that human behavior is substantially shaped by evolutionary psychological adaptations, is now so strongly against any form of “tribalist” in-group behavior in favor of a cosmopolitan ethic. It is worth quoting this passage:

Given that we are equipped with the capacity to sympathize with others, nothing can prevent the circle of sympathy from expanding from the family and tribe to embrace all of humankind, particularly as reason goads us into realizing that there can be nothing uniquely deserving about ourselves or any of the groups to which we belong. We are forced into cosmopolitanism: accepting our citizenship in the world (p. 11).

He wants us to believe he is not suggesting we should change human nature to overcome in-group tribalism, but only that we can “expand” our naturally-based circle of sympathy from the tribe to the globe. He dismisses as a “crude version of evolutionary psychology” the idea that individual humans have been selected “to sacrifice their interests for the supremacy of their group” (p. 448). He identifies the idea of in-group preferences with “neo-Nazi parties,” “Romantic nationalism,” and “survival of the fittest group.” This is possibly the most questionable claim of Enlightenment Now. First, as should already be clear to readers of this review, Pinker is not merely saying that we should sympathize with the suffering of others, in the way the already enlightened and urbane Japanese and Israelites presumably do. He is saying that Europeans should expand their circle of fellow-feeling from their nations to the world to “embrace” millions of immigrants. We need to be aware that he is holding Whites, and only Whites, to this moral standard.

The Science of Eurocentrism

Secondly, Pinker is wrong that the science of in-group preferences and out-group derogation is without merit. We all know that Europeans tend to be more individualistic, less collective in their ethnic awareness, and that they have a unique capacity to think in universal moral terms, which is why they originated the Enlightenment, a rational system of law, and the method of modern science. Non-Europeans are more collective and racially aware and more inclined to practice ethnic nepotism. Pinker is clearly making the most of this European inclination.

Nevertheless, numerous scientific studies have been coming out in recent years supporting the view that humans generally have a preference for their ethnic in-group, and that such altruistic dispositions as sharing, loyalty, caring, and even motherly love, are exhibited primarily and intensively within in-groups rather than toward a universal “we” in disregard for one’s community.

It is not that in-groups needlessly seek to attack out-groups; it is neither that in-groups have an inborn disposition to hate others. In-group members concentrate on the performance of altruism within the group rather than aggression towards outsiders unless the competing out-group comes to be seen as a threat.

The research also shows that conflict escalation between ethnic groups is lower when physical barriers exist between them, and much higher when different groups inhabit the same national territory. As Carsten de Dreu et al., observe in the widely-cited article, “Oxytocin Promotes Human Ethnocentrism,” the tendency for in-group members is to favor their own rather than to hate outsiders:

[T]here is good reason to believe that the in-group prejudice effect is far more basic to human life than is the out-group hate prejudice effect, and research on human ethnocentrism supported this positive-negative asymmetry of social discrimination . . . showing that oxytocin creates intergroup bias primarily because it motivates in-group favoritism and not because it motivates out-group derogation.

Pinker demonizes Europeans who show loyalty to their in-group, but the cross-cultural data collected by Elizabeth Cashdan “provide no support for the proposition that out-group hostility is a necessary concomitant of in-group loyalty.” Favoring one’s own ethnic group at the expense of other groups finds expression in a wide variety of human behaviors, from voting patterns to school choice, from marriage partners to choice of neighborhoods. There is also extensive evidence that ethnocentrism is common throughout the animal world, including plants. Humans favor their own ethnic group because this attitude enhances their adaptive capacity. This behavior is rooted in biological evolution and is not a pathology, a behavior that should be re-engineered out of human nature.

Pinker’s argument carries little appeal among non-Whites, including Jews. Non-Whites enjoy promoting universalism among Whites while following their own in-group interests. We have in the Western world a situation in which millions of immigrants from collectivist cultures are arriving to compete with a native White population that is less collectivist and that is continually under intense pressure by a Left-Right globalist establishment to avoid any signs of “xenophobic” in-group preferences. Whites, rather, are expected to encourage non-Whites to affirm their particular ethnic identity under the benevolence of multicultural humanitarianism. This asymmetrical scenario is leading to the ethnocide of Whites. There is scientific evidence showing, on the basis of “recent agent-based computer simulations,” that in a social setting consisting of in-groups and out-groups, the ethnocentric strategy of favoring one’s group at the expense of other groups “dominate” the “selfish strategy of constant defections,” the “traitorous strategy of cooperation with out-group, but not in-group, agents,” and the “humanitarian strategy of indiscriminate cooperation.”

This article, based on computer simulations, shows that ethnocentrics dominate humanitarians with a wide circle of sympathy “by virtue of directly exploiting” the humanitarian inclination “to cooperate across group boundaries.” The humanitarians are easy to exploit by ethnocentrics because humanitarians are willing to provide benefits to out-group agents at a cost to their own in-group agents. This study shows, actually, that European humanitarians can “thrive in the absence of ethnocentrism” — that is, in the absence of ethnocentric out-groups inside their homelands.

Whites were uniquely responsible for the Enlightenment. It was a strategy they developed for themselves in order to overcome the extremely violent age of religious wars between 1560 and 1715, during which Europe witnessed only thirty years of international peace. Without the ethnocentric collectivism of non-White groups, the humanitarian idea of enlarging one’s sympathy for Europeans at large was quite successful in minimizing conflicts, both between European nations and among different ethnic European groups in America, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

But the Enlightenment was infiltrated by alien Cultural Marxist principles after the Second World War, though its origins can be traced back to before this war. Pinker’s Enlightenment Now may be seen as an ethnocentric strategy to use the Enlightenment against the humanitarian tendencies of Whites, a strategy now employed by multiple immigrant out-groups to “receive the benefit of humanitarian cooperation while donating nothing across” their own in-group lines.

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