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