Over the weekend, a couple of prominent terminations took place in the media universe. A pair of writers from the New York Times each found their tenure at the venerated newspaper curtailed over two separate incidents of questionable decisions they made on social media. It is a ridiculous thing to consider, but what is more ridiculous are the reactions from other journalists who find these results outrageous. Considering that not only have these actions played out over the past calendar year but many in the press were either unconcerned or even supportive of these actions, and now they find this an unacceptable practice once applied to their ranks.
For a significant portion of 2020, when this nation took a break from the pandemic panic in order to wallow in the anxiety of our racial rancor, there was a string of reports from across the country about people becoming rendered in various ways due to social judgements. At the time when public monuments were targeted for historical insensitivities there was also a drive to tear down individuals or institutions over social justice. Cancel culture rose to become a disturbing trend, and one many on the right decried.
At the time I did a series on the examples of this militant drive to ruin people over innocuous actions. A professional athlete was cut from a team over things his wife posted online. One mega church in Alabama was evicted from its lease and the community lost a number of services it provided, all due to the pastor hitting the ‘’Like’’ button on a FaceBook post. As a warning to how far things could go, in one case a Democratic voting analyst came under fire for referencing a college study showing negative voter reactions to riots and looting. The outrage was such that he ended up being fired from his analytics firm -- for sharing what was accurate data.
Throughout this time most reasonable people were of the mind that these cases, and the many others which played out, were both unacceptable reactions and were likely to boomerang back and begin affecting those from the accusatory side of society. Many members of the media, and Democratic party politicians were either in denial of cancel culture or said it was merely a natural sign of social evolution. Then things became truly obtuse.
A large number of media elites -- 100 or so in total -- recognized cancel culture as a problem and signed a letter from Harper’s Magazine calling out in support of freedom of expression and decrying the attacks on those with particular views. Then an outcry erupted when some of the names who signed were deemed to be controversial, and others then went so far to remove their names from the letter -- they could not tolerate being included with certain people on a letter calling for tolerance. Yes, seriously.
All during this surge of idiocy, warnings were sent aloft from the right that this practice is a horrible decision, as soon these same standards would be trained on those from the left. Sure enough, this past week it happened, when writers became examples. Will Wilkenson, a Times contributor, delivered a tweet that was intended to be satirical regarding Joe Biden’s call for unity, and a backlash occurred. Less inciting was editor Lauren Wolfe.
Wolfe was extremely moved at the sight of Joe Biden’s flight arriving in D.C. on the day of his inaugural. Many reacted to her gushing report as a sign of journalistic favoritism, calling her alleged objectivity as questionable. Wolfe locked down her account for a time, and then as she returned she soon learned that The Times cancelled her contract. Wilkinson lost his job with The Niskanen Center over his ill-advised tweet.
Is it all stupid and needless overreaction?! Of course it is. But it is also predictable, and the reactions seen in the media are precious. Many are blaming the firings on ‘’right wing mobs’’ calling for their social scalps, but this is both foolish reporting and oblivious reactionary responses. For starters while these tweets garnered many responses there was not much seen in the way of calling for them to be fired. Mostly it was about the hypocrisy in either the views, or the standards that got others canceled.
The other issue is the blame that those on the right are ‘’weaponizing’’ cancel culture. This is a convenient accusation when the standard foisted on us for a year, or longer, is being applied equally. Many in the press wanted to pretend that conservatives complaining about the ruination of lives over social posts was a fabrication, that cancel culture was not actually an issue. Lauren Wolfe was herself one of those denying its existence.
Now suddenly it is seen as a problem, and the irony is that after those on the right were complaining about the practice and saying it would lead to this result it is the right being blamed over these two journalists losing work once the standard ricochets in this fashion. To look at the complete vacancy of their accusation, consider this -- when was the last time the New York Times cowered to any type of ‘’right wing’’ pushback on an issue?
Conservative complaints are always shrugged off or laughed at by The Paper; now we have to believe they are swayed on staff firings? Pure delusion. The permissiveness in the press is the problem, and it led to these results. Wanting to blame others for the problem they fostered means there is only more of it to come.