But Pinker is not exactly reliable when it comes to the intellectuals and their ideas. He takes as his guide to intellectual pessimism a book titled The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman, a far-right author whose most well-known book is a rapturously favorable biography of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
As someone who works with books for a living and has read several of Herman’s in particular, I’m pretty sure that his “most well-known” and successful book is a little tale called How the Scots Invented the Modern World. His Hudson Institute profile mentions five of his other titles, but his biography of McCarthy isn’t one of them, which would seem like a curious oversight in the promotional blurb department. He’s certainly conservative, but “far-right”? No, I fear Bell is merely putting a rhetorical flashlight under his chin to scare the simple-minded children gathered around the Nation campfire. It’s a shame, because there are plenty of legitimate criticisms to be made of Pinker’s book without having to rely on gratuitously misleading guilt-by-dubious-association smears.