Oh no, not this issue again so soon.
Another prominent professional has been fired for breaching political correctness rules and annoying the totalitarian Left’s censors. His crime: speaking the taboo word “nigger” while referencing it in a discussion of racial slurs. Then, as we have seen over and over again, the exiled victim of this assault on free speech apologized. “Thank you sir, may I have another?” And, as we have also seen, it did no good.
The New York Times fired its #1 science and health reporter Donald McNeil Jr., after The Daily Beast reported that he had used racist language while on a 2019 trip with students to Peru. He did not use “racist language,” however, and there is no evidence at all that he displayed racist attitudes or opinions. What he did is to speak a word that speech censors have decided is itself forbidden, even if it is necessary in order to discuss the issue of racism, censorship or linguistics. This is, I note again, punishing or even criticizing such conduct is unethical, idiotic, juvenile, and sinister. Nonetheless, it is rapidly becoming the norm, and it is becoming the norm because so many individuals of power and influence lack the integrity and fortitude to oppose an indefensible position loudly and unequivocally.
(See the previous post. It is very relevant here.)
McNeil, formerly the Times’ top reporter on COVID-19,was fired because six students or their parents claimed he had made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip. An investigation inicated that none of his remarks were sexist or racist, but that he had used words employed by sexists or racists to talk about sexism or racism, rather than using the approved poopy/ pee-pee/woo-woo baby talk codes (n-word, b-word, c-word) demanded by language censors. Initially, the Times’ editor tried to be fair and to uphold what the Times is supposed to respect—the Bill of Rights—but eventually capitulated to his woke and anti-free speech staff, as he has before.
So here are the cowards in this nauseating drama:
Coward: Dean Baquet. The Times Executive Editor initially said McNeil should be “given another chance” (Chance to do what? Conform his speech to oppressive conformity with progressive dictates?).”I authorized an investigation and concluded his remarks were offensive and that he showed extremely poor judgment, but it did not appear to me that his intentions were hateful or malicious,” he said. But anti-white racist and liar (but Pulitzer Prize-winning racist and liar!) Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones threatened to call the parents and students on the trip to determine what McNeil had said and in what context (all of which would be hearsay, and thus unreliable except to an ideological hack like Hannah-Jones). Then a group of over a hundred staffers, mostly “of color” or female, signed a letter demanding serious sanctions.
“Our community is outraged and in pain,” the signees wrote. “Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”
Baquet, publisher A.G. Sulzberger, and Chief Executive Meredith Kopit Levien responded that they welcomed the letter, saying, “We appreciate the spirit in which it was offered and we largely agree with the message,” they wrote in masterpeice of weasel-wording. Then Baquet reversed himself and fired McNeil, saying, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” Really? So if a news story involves a racist or sexist statement, the Times can’t write about it and use the langauge that makes the episode a story? If the Supreme Court holds that “nigger” or other words are constitutionally protected (as indeed they are), the nation’s ‘paper of record’ won’t be able to quote the opinion?
Baquet had an opportunity to take a crucial stand for freedom of expression and against the criminalizing of language and the retreat to the primitive logic of taboos. He proved himself to be more interested in Leftist agendas and his job than the principles of democracy.
Coward: Donald McNeil Jr. He could have articulately objected to the warped logic of the Times mob, and explained, as he was equipped to do, why we must never cripple expression by banning words, legally or culturally, and why this episode is a perfect example why. Instead, he wimpered an illogical and craven apology, telling the staff in part,
Well hello Galileo! He went on to say, “I am sorry. I let you all down.” He let a newspaper down by using a word in a discussion with students in Peru to examine the use of the word. He let a newspaper down by being clear and describing the matter under discussion… because at the New York Times, progressive agendas trump the truth.
Well, I guess we knew that.
Since he was going to sacked anyway, was obligated as an American to go down fighting for free speech and against the censorship of expression. Nah. That might interfere with getting his next job with an ideological indoctrinating institution or publication.
Coward: Ann Althouse. This is disappointing. She says the right things in her post on this fiasco:
In the old days, a big deal was made of the “use/mention” distinction. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Even McNeil, defendinghimself, asserts that he “used” the word.
I understand wanting to say that “intent” shouldn’t be decisive, because it presents evidentiary problems. What went on in a person’s head? Did he somehow mean well? But the “use/mention” distinction doesn’t require a trip into someone’s mind. If you have the outward statement, you can know whether the speaker/writer used the word as his own word or was referring to the word as a word.
You don’t need to know whether I think Dean Baquet is a coward to distinguish the statement “Dean Baquet is a coward” from “I can imagine someone saying ‘Dean Baquet is a coward.'”
But there’s something oddly missing from her post. As one commenter coyly asks (and to her credit, Ann allowed it to be posted): “What word are you talking about?”
In this case, Althouse is a hypocrite as well as a coward. I can expect her to be on the sidelines with the mob when they haul me off to in the tumbrils because I write the word “nigger” when the topic is using the word “nigger.” Such reticence—I guess she’s worried her University of Wisconsin law school pals will shun her–does not help the cause of freedom of expression, which Ann knows damn well is under attack
12 thoughts on “Why Freedom Of Speech In America Is Threatened: Too Many Cowards”
Colleges and universities and now newspapers seem to be held hostage by young black kids. What a mess. What an intoxicating power trip this must be.
Young, idealistic people that suddenly have the ear of the elite could never abuse their power, right?
There’s way too much persecution against anyone that strays from the will of the hive mind.
Our culture has been brainwashed by all the persecution.
This is the big lie in all of these incidents. They’re not “in pain” at all. They are filled with joy and blood lust, like vampires who have found another victim to feed on.
That’s what I was thinking, too. They’re not in pain. They’ve found another victim and are gaslighting us to make it seem like they’re the victims.
All the kids in college are not in pain, they’re on scholarship! And the kids in jobs are there to primp up the “diversity” numbers of their employers. They’re not in pain, they’re on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.
It’s interesting, isn’t it?
Back when progressives would deign to chat outside their bubbles, a recurring theme in our discussions would be the intent/harm distinction;
“Johnny said a thing and it caused Timmy distress, so Tommy is a jerk and/or should apologize”.
“Did Johnny intend to cause distress?”
“What’s important is that he did.”
I understand where the thought process comes from; I’ve often said in terms of physical violence or harm that the intent of the perpetrator is cold comfort to the dead. And if you ascribe to the ideology that emotional harm or stress is violence then this is a logical stepping stone down the path. I disagree with this, but typing out my disagreement isn’t important; I doubt very much that I’m going to change the minds of people who think like that.
No, in fact, we’ve moved on past there. The situation is now:
“Johnny said a thing and it caused Timmy distress, so Tommy is a jerk and/or should apologize”.
“Was Timmy actually distressed?”
“No, but he could have been.”
We’re past the point where a demonstration of harm is necessary. We’re not even talking about false accusations of harm where the “victim” is lying to get someone fired, we’re talking about someone taking offense on behalf of someone else, someone who might not even exist, to get someone fired. There’s no reason behind this except control.
If there’s a silver lining behind this, I think that as feminism before it, progressivism is getting more and more extreme and absurd which is going to force a reconciliation of some of their views, and I think that is where the control-left finally go and jump the shark, and lose the audience. The alternative is that this movement gains traction, and while that would be bad, like…. culture changing, disastrously, bad… I don’t think that’s feasible… There are too many progressives stepping on their own landmines.
On feminism; Feminism is a big tent, and as with so many things on the left, their assertion that conservatism is so big an umbrella it more resembled a clown tent is, was, and always was projection. With feminism, there are the pro-sex feminists, the anti-sex feminists, the coffee-house feminists, the feminists who were really a woman’s lobby more than an equality movement, and the list goes on and on, all of these groups had disagreements on the fringes, but I think that the groups that actually broke feminism were the TERFs and the Control-Left fakers masquerading as Feminists.
The TERFs broke feminism because they pulled, screaming, into the sunlight the uncomfortable truth that some progressive issues are irreconcilable: If trans women are women, they should be allowed into women only shelters, right? But if the women in women only shelters are made uncomfortable by men, and those trans women are close enough to trigger them, what do you do? Well… Call them bigots and eject them from the shelter, of course. This wasn’t the TERF’s only issue, but I think it was one of the more reasonable ones: Progressives are ejecting beaten women from women’s shelters for suggesting that women-only spaces exclude people with penises.
The Control-Left fakers broke feminism because they never really cared. Mainstream feminism was, in large part, the pet project of disproportionately powerful men and women. They didn’t live the experiences they were talking about, they had no skin in the game, and if they failed, they were still disproportionately powerful men and women. More, they weren’t concerned so much about women as they were about their policies, but were fully willing to leverage women to enact their policies. As they tied more things to feminism, and feminism picked up baggage, feminism lost the power to leverage their policies with, so they discarded feminism in favor of their next cause du vivre; Anti-Semitism.
But Anti-Semitism didn’t last nearly as long as feminism, mostly owing to their abject hypocrisy on the topic. Then they moved on to their visceral hatred of Trump, which was probably enough at the time, with undertones of “white supremacy”. Now that their boogeyman is gone (please let him be gone) I think they’re going to eat their own. Might cost them an election or two.
I can imagine that there would be some people who, at least momentarily, would be upset at just hearing the word “nigger” used, no matter the context. I can imagine that this would be more likely amongst a group of high school students. A sensitive reporter would see this as a possibility and use the euphemism “n-word” in that situation, and, since these are high school kids, provide an explanation of why the euphemism is being used. Maybe throw in a mini-lesson on the difference between using words as an illustration or for clarity, versus using them as a slur. Failing to do that, however, should not be considered a firing offense.
But, as always, we need Paul Harvey or someone to tell us the rest of the story.
There are allegations that he “made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip”. As is all too common in the reporting on these kinds of allegations, we are not given the specifics, leaving us in a poor position to judge. What were the actual racist remarks made throughout the trip? What were the actual sexist remarks made throughout the trip? Who knows? We sure don’t.
Had they provided the details and the wording, the media reporting on this story could have shown that, either The Times was way out of line in firing McNeil, or that McNeil was way out of line with racist and sexist behavior.
Sadly, we do not have the rest of the story, and we probably never will, so we are supposed to trust that the right thing is being done by a news medium which has shown it is not deserving of that trust.
It seems pretty clear that what the students called racist and sexist remarks were not remarks, but the use of words that were also used by others in a racist and sexist context. That seems clear from teh fact that the Times investigated and didn’t fire him for case straight off, as they would have if he had actually engaged in racism
Baquet’s statement and some of the reporting make it look like virtue signaling by The Times in the face of increased publicity and staff demands, more than a year after the field trip. But, we still don’t know what McNeill actually said, aside from the word “nigger”, that students found to be racist or sexist. Neither The Times nor McNeill have shown interest in having the full story come out.
Let’s face it. The likelihood of a guy working for the Times calling a student or staffer “nigger” are less than zero. This is absurdity on steroids. Kids throwing a fit because they can. Sticking it to the man for fun and profit. Pathetic.
The reports I’ve seen make it clear that he did not use that term as an epithet, but to seek clarification. They also indicate there were other comments by McNeill that were racist and sexist. If there were such comments, then both The Times and McNeill might find it in their interest not to go into specifics, The Times because they are more than a year late in firing, and McNeill because of what they would reveal of his character. If there are not such statements, just groundless accusations, then both the firing and Mc Neill’s apparent acquiescence are wrong.