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OPINION | Cancel culture journalism

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THE purge of senior editors at progressive newspapers is no cause for cheering.

Their resignations are another milestone in the march of identity politics and cancel culture through our liberal institutions, and American journalism and democracy will be worse for it.

The long-time editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who’d seen the publication through difficult times, was pushed out over a headline, “Buildings Matter, Too.” It was atop a piece by architecture critic Inga Saffron, who worried that buildings damaged by violence could “leave a gaping hole in the heart of Philadelphia.” Staff members deemed the headline an offense to Black Lives Matter. They protested, and no amount of apologizing or changes to the headline were enough. Editor Stan Wischnowski didn’t last the week.

At the New York Times, editorial page editor James Bennet resigned Sunday after a staff uproar over an op-ed by a U.S. senator. Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton wrote that military troops should be sent to restore public order in American cities when the police are overwhelmed. A staff revolt deemed the piece fascist, unconstitutional, and too offensive for adults to read and decide for themselves.

The Wall Street Journal’s recent editorial opposed deploying active-duty troops, but the idea is legal under the Insurrection Act. George H.W. Bush deployed troops in 1992 to quell riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict, and other Presidents have done it too.

Mr. Bennet defended the op-ed  as part of his attempt to broaden debate in his pages, and at first so did publisher A.G. Sulzberger. But Mr. Sulzberger changed his mind the same day, suddenly declaring that the op-ed he had defended had not received proper editing and should not have been published. The following day Mr. Bennet, as a progressive as you can find, was out the door. James Dao, the opinion editor who had signed off on the Cotton op-ed, was reassigned. An ostensibly independent opinion section was ransacked because the social-justice warriors in the newsroom opposed a single article espousing a view that polls show tens of millions of Americans support if the police can’t handle rioting and violence. The publisher failed to back up his editors, which means the editors no longer run the place. The struggle sessions on Twitter and Slack channels rule.

All of this shows the extent to which American journalism is now dominated by the same moral denunciation, “safe space” demands, and identity-politics dogmas that began in the universities. The agents of this politics now dominate nearly all of America’s leading cultural institutions — museums, philanthropy, Hollywood, book publishers, even late-night talk shows.

On matters deemed sacrosanct — and today that includes the view that America is root-and branch racist — there is no room for debate. You must admit your failure to appreciate this orthodoxy and do penance, or you will not survive in the job.

Some of our friends on the right are pleased because they say all of this merely exposes what has long been true. But this takeover of the Times and other liberal bastions means that there are ever fewer institutions that will defend free inquiry and the contest of ideas that once defined American liberalism.

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