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Side Effect on the Web – What's Wrong with These People? [But It's Driving Interest in an Open Letter I Wrote to Steven Pinker About Literature and Literary Criticism]

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
So, yesterday afternoon I looked at my stats at and noticed there was a lot of interest in An Open Letter to Steven Pinker, which I thought was unusual. I mean, sure, I'm happy to have people looking at the document – which is based on a letter I'd originally posted to The Valve back in 2007 – but the level of interest did seem a bit unusual, for it was driving my daily stats higher than they'd been in awhile.
Take a look at this:

Side effect on the web – What's wrong with these people? [But it's driving interest in an open letter I wrote to Steven Pinker about literature and literary criticism]

The spike indicates interest driven by "An Open Letter to Steven Pinker"

The green line is the number of paper views (& the black is the number of downloads). I took that snapshot this morning. The number of views is way up on July 4 and 5. Much/most of that increase is due to interest in that open letter.
What's up? Possibly nothing, just a random coöincidence among unrelated events, in this case, people being curious about that open letter. However, I also discovered the mob is after Pinker. A letter is being circulated to the Linguistic Society of America asking for Pinker's removal from the LSA's list of academic fellows and list of media experts. Why? In effect, because Pinker is not Woke enough. If you're curious, you can track the letter through this tweet by John McWhorter:
An organization dedicated to linguistic analysis must punish a leading, brilliant scholar @sapinker because in the wake of George Floyd's murder, his politics aren't sufficiently leftist? Folks, it's time to stand this gospel down. — John McWhorter (@JohnHMcWhorter) July 4, 2020

This is, of course, silly and unfortunate. But I'm not particularly interested in inveighing against wokeness.
What interests me here is that this witch hunt provides a possible explanation for why there's a sudden rise in interest in my letter to Pinker – which, by the way, he answered. Perhaps people heard about the campaign to defenestrate Pinker, did a search, came up with the link to that open letter, and clicked on it thinking it was the call for defenestration. Others perhaps just went looking for anything Pinker. Whatever the reason, I'm glad they found my letter, though I fear that those looking for blood will be disappointed, as the letter is about the role of stories in society, evolutionary psychology, and about academic literary criticism since the 1960s. Interesting stuff, at least I thought so and so did Pinker, but it's not the sort of thing that either incites or satisfies blood lust.

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