Editorial

From the Editor

Another week, another defenestration. This time it’s Ian Buruma, forced to resign his post as editor of the New York Review of Books after publishing an essay written by Jian Ghomeshi – a disgraced Canadian radio journalist who was acquitted on several charges of sexual assault back in 2016. Buruma said in Slate:

I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be? All I know is that in a court of law he was acquitted, and there is no proof he committed a crime. The exact nature of his behaviour — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern. My concern is what happens to somebody who has not been found guilty in any criminal sense but who perhaps deserves social opprobrium, but how long should that last, what form it should take, etc.

The rate at which such purges are happening now is disquieting. Ghomeshi’s piece was published online just last Friday and Buruma is out the door before the article hit the presses. Social media has sped time up. In the world of Twitter, outrage is instantaneous, and deliberation impossible. Skittish organisations and corporations seem genuinely unable to withstand the pressure of online warriors, putting everyone’s employment at even greater risk in already precarious industries.

Quillette has published similar stories about online ‘uproars’ that have led to swift and unmerciful action taken against people working in creative and intellectual fields. Last week we published a story in which comic Jamie Kilstein defends comedian Norm MacDonald, who was dumped from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon after expressing sympathy for Louis CK and Roseanne Barr while on a publicity tour for the debut of a Netflix show that’s not a week old. We published the touchstone piece about Steven Galloway, a Canadian author and former head of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia who was unfairly accused of sexual assault. And our associate editor, Toby Young, documented his own painful story of feeling obliged to resign his roles in various charities after a belligerent social media mob set to work on him.

Beyond these high profile examples, as politics become increasingly tribal and polarised, there are thousands of other people toiling in creative industries, academia and publishing feeling the pressure to conform to certain positions just to keep their jobs. Most often creatives and intellectuals are finding the riptide pulling them toward the hard left. Certain media organisations surely pull their staff to the hard right. Either way, the pressure builds as one’s integrity and freedom come into conflict with one’s instinct for self-preservation.

I want to reassure readers that Quillette will remain a Salon des Refusés for those who find themselves in this predicament. Although we cannot publish or employ everyone who is squeezed out of a job due to puritanical partisan hysteria, we remain committed to protecting the freedom of expression and conscience that allows imagination and fearless creativity to thrive.

Quillette’s structure makes us virtually immune to mobbing and boycotting. I currently write this from Los Angeles, but am based in Sydney, Australia. Jamie Palmer, our managing editor, and Toby Young, our associate editor, both work from London. Jonathan Kay, our Canadian editor works from Toronto. No physical office makes a staff insurrection a challenge.

Our business model is also boycott-proof. Because we rely on a growing legion of patrons scattered around the world to keep the wifi on, a social media campaign targeting them is not possible. Similarly, we do not rely on support from skittish corporations or government agencies that may disapprove of what we publish.

Our only loyalty is to our own consciences, and you, our readers. It’s proving to be a wonderful combination.

If you liked this article please consider becoming a patron of Quillette

42 Comments

    • No one is immune. Gab had the suppliers of some of the basic infrastructure of the internet cancel their supply agreement. Others have had financial payment services close their account.
      Your site depends on lots of underlying services from companies that could be ideologically driven or susceptible to pressure.

      • Larry says

        Correct. Even Patron has dumped people for political reasons.

    • Ms. Lehmann,

      I have enjoyed several columns on your site since discovering it last spring. The pieces about questionable epistemology, alternative facts, and campus lunacy have been particularly engaging.

      Yet, my friend, who reads the site based on my recommendation, and I both lamented a perceived editorial pigeonholing. We both feel that the site has begun to publish somewhat partisan material as of late.

      I realize it must be difficult to sort through your submissions to select quality material. Certain material garners more hits. It is a cruel game, which has already cemented the editorial bent of many a good site.

      Please keep up your work, but I believe your readers are intelligent and genuinely desire thorough and balanced work. Partisan material designed for IDW types, or simply to anger the diversity crowd is an insult to the intellect of your readership.

      All the best!
      James

      • DiamondLil says

        James, I share your concerns about creeping partisanship at Quillette. I’d like to make a modest suggestion: I’d like to see an ongoing feature of “steel manning” opposing arguments. More light and less heat could be shed on all sorts of contentious issues if two authors, holding opposing opinions on a topic, each make a sincere effort to articulate the arguments of their opponents. Good faith, fair-minded examinations of ideas without knee jerk reliance on applause lines for the converted.

        The last thing this world needs is a new, cozy bubble in which to confirm one’s own biases.

  1. Dark Matter says

    All I can say is thank you, Ms. Lehmann. I tremendously appreciate what you and your fellows have done with this website. I often agree wholeheartedly with the points written by your contributors – though just as often I don’t agree. In either case, I find myself challenged and exposed to a wider range of ideas and viewpoints, not only from your writers but from many of the commenters as well. I’m grateful to have found a place that has put big ideas and civil discourse at the forefront.

  2. Anthony says

    I–and many others–are indeed immensely grateful for you and for Quillette. I am a longtime subscriber to NYRB. But like other former subscriptions–to the NY Times and The New Yorker–I am highly unlikely to renew as a result of this nonsense.

  3. I personally am repelled by Ian Buruma’s politics, based on his scurrilous attacks on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and on his patronizing contemptuous dismissal of her experiences, as well as his NYT letter some years back in which he asserts that there are some kinds of speech that no civilized person would use….a dishonest fence sitting assertion in which he refuses to come out in favor of OR opposed to free speech. He is a confused thinker at best. But I do not understand the furor over his publishing an article by a possible sex offender. Publishing it in no way exonerates the author nor does it
    bestow the blessing of the publication. However, I thought he just had very bad judgment and that there was really no good reason to publish the piece in the first place. But it isnt the first time that the NYRB has published some dreary or objectionable articles. And it won’t be the last. Overall the publication is wishy washy and often completely out to lunch when it comes to science and environmental issues….their big blind spots (as they are for many other publications, liberal or left).
    Now NYRB needs an editor with a bigger mind and scope than Buruma. Let’s see if it follows through.

    • Lorna: so you are repelled by his politics and your perception of what he is like.ie “I thought he just had very bad judgment and that there was really no good reason to publish the piece in the first place.

      I am sure that the attitudes you carry are similar or though not so well expressed”, as all the SJW’s who got him sacked.

    • As a historian of science I’m less appalled by the NYRB’s coverage than other reputable papers. One example, which doesn’t make the case obviously, but illustrates the point … the report on epigenetics in NYRB 7 June 2018 is short but accurate and interesting. The ‘Long Read’ on unlocking the genome in a recent Guardian is typical science puffery.

    • Don’t forget for your judgement his regular attacks of Jordan Peterson

    • DiamondLil says

      Maybe there was no “good reason” to publish Ghomeshi’s piece, but I have read a couple of very articulate, thought-provoking arguments from both sides in that issue. Can we not have that conversation? Must the reading public be ever protected from uncomfortable notions or ideas? The women who have vociferously criticized Ghomeshi and Buruma express themselves very well and make some excellent points. Why must the “poor dears” be prevented from the opportunity to do so? Why could not the next issue of the Review have featured their responses in counterpoint to his?

      When words or ideas become “too dangerous” to be expressed, they gain power, glamour, even magic. “He who must not be named” was not so labeled because he was weak but because he was too powerful and mustn’t be summoned. To paraphrase someone else’s quote from another article, if you are so sure someone is wrong, why do you think the only effective response is to silence them?

  4. Anthony says

    Buruma did not engage in scurrilous attacks on Ayaan Hirsi Ali. That is a lie. He reviewed a book of hers in which he criticized her idealized portrayal of the west. This critique was intellectually honest and reasonable, and also included a lot of praise for her. The other nonsense about Buruma–that he is a fence sitter on free speech–is really a way of saying that Buruma thinks in nuanced ways, which is more than can be said about the writer of this comment.

  5. Aaron Garrad says

    Hear, hear. It is for those reasons that I choose to sponsor your site. Keep up the good work.

  6. Mark Konstas says

    Hallelujah to that. Keep up the great work. Love my daily Quillette read.
    PS Hope everyone is planning to read ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ by Haidt and Lukianoff.
    Great youtube vid about it with JBP this week.

  7. Buruma told in a dutch journal (Vrij Nederland) that fear for missing advertisement income of university presses might have played a big role in his forced resignation , he saw it as a capitulation for intimidation in the social media. Besides, the digital storm and hysteria as symptomatic for the general hysteria on universities. In short: der Untergang des Abendlandes at work.

    • Could Quilette be the next to be afflicted (see a later comment by Filius Roma).

  8. Jim Tierney says

    Thanks.

    As a child reared in rural 1950s America, I remember the social and political aftermath of Joe McCarthy, even though I was too young to remember his downfall. We were all told about The Bomb and Commie spies. I used to whack the Russians and Commies down with my scythe when cutting the weeds out back.

    The shoe is now on the other political foot but this feels like the same self-satisfied certainty and self-righteous priggishness I was fed back in the bad old days.

  9. I’m finding outcast writers to be far more interesting. Agree or disagree, the freedom to write without fear of who knows what is liberating.

  10. Mike van Lammeren says

    Thank you so much, Claire! I urge everyone reading to sign up as a Patreon sponsor and donate at least $1 per month.

  11. Aaron Garrad says

    I’d be interested in hearing about the failed attempts by the SJWs to bring these journal to heel.

  12. Skallagrimsen says

    I fear it’s naïve to suppose you’re immune. Big Tech is an Intersectionalist cult and they’re coming for everyone who doesn’t bow down to its dubious version of reality. They’re not going to rest until they’ve purged the internet of dissent.

  13. Garry Thomas says

    Thank you. And for this post alone I will up my ‘support’ that few more GBP.

  14. Greg Lorriman says

    It’s not just a matter of how an acquitted person may still be unable to work but that the whole area is ripe for blackmail on the basis of false accusation by people with a grudge or looking for money.

    #believeher is a charter for pathological liars and scamsters.

  15. Filius Roma says

    Kind of weird that she thinks Quillette’s business model is immune to mob justice. They’re still at the whim of a third party for their income. Patreon could kick them off their platform if they ever wanted to.

  16. Why should they do so Filius, for what reason? Not because Quilette is too anti feminist, trans, identity, intersectional or SJW, because that’s their life blood for over 1 year now.

  17. And don’t make the same mistakes as Ian Buruma (hahaha!). Or, better even, make them, challenge them, and fight back!

  18. Circuses and Bread says

    First off,I want to thank you for this website and the great conversations and articles.

    I also wanted to address what I thought were some naive comments regarding Quillette being able to resist mobbing and boycotting. Sadly, I doubt that will prove true. Understand that when you’re dealing with politics, what you’re dealing with is cults. In the end, cults can’t tolerate any diversion from their orthodoxy. All must be brought to heel and profess the True Political Faith.

    That Quillette hasn’t been seriously attacked is probably more a function of there being larger and more attractive targets elsewhere. But in the end, all must be brought to heel. And Quillette will eventually find itself in the crosshairs. The comment sections will be mobbed by paid trolls and True Believers. And if that doesn’t result in the desired end result, I would expect pressure will be put on Patreon and those who provide web servers (Amazon?) to de-platform Quillette because of the shocking ____ ism that goes on here. In the end, Quillette’s current business model relies on the good will of Patreon and its web server providers.

    The good news is that Quillette has time to prepare its fall back strategy or monetize the site.

  19. Luke Pletz says

    Thank you for your hard work and integrity. Quilette has been one of the first organizations that I have supported on Patreon as I feel these stories need to have a home.

    Also I am enjoying your appearance on the Rubin Report, you are professional and well spoken and I thank you for taking the time to appear on Dave’s show.

  20. After reading Claire and these comments, an Orwellian doom pops up before my eyes. I’ll explain.
    In the NL. we have a Quillette like blog -Geenstijl- (Nostyle), also against feminism and rather sexist and racist, but more by young males with lots of adrenaline and rather rude, fuck, this, fuck that, we don’t like immigrants and stuff like that. The blog is in big troubles now, after a sexist post (-Who wants to -do- that and such lady?-) , followed by a letter in the nation’s newspapers of 100 influential females, protesting against so much sexist rudeness, and asking the advertisers to stop advertising on the blog (the Ministry of Defense and the Beer Industry and others stopped advertising) so the blog tried crowd funding, all paying members now got a tag (a crown) on their fancy names, but funding was not enough, and the blog is now in serious trouble due to this unsure funding and new ownership (the old publisher wants to get rid of the naughty boy).

    What does this mean for the future, of Geenstijl and others?
    – Crowd funding means looking for funds, means preaching and insulting among equals, the end of a diverse discussion
    – What about the role of the moderators, where paying commenters comment? Any preference of the one above the other?
    – Where do the real independent intellectuals and thinkers stay in these scenarios? Looks like they have no more stage!

  21. Peter from Oz says

    The blog should send a letter signed by its supporters attacking the 100 females for being uptight prudish twits who need to be sacked from their jobs and shunned for trying to take away others’ free speech.

    • Maybe they did Peter. This case, the translation of Mein Kampf and the comics on Muhammed again was oil on the fire of the discussion on the limits of free speech. I understand, Europe is somewhat more prudish than e.g. the US, where everybody is free to shout Heil Hitler. What about Oz? I also think, etiquette (not very popular in the US, too aristocratic?) should honour limits.

      • Circuses and Bread says

        @dirk

        I wish the future of free speech were as bright as it was in the novel “1984”. At least in Orwell’s dystopia, the Party had to put forth some labor and effort to stamp out thoughtcrime.

        In our upcoming dystopia, AI will do the work, and online thoughtcrime will be efficiently stamped out where and when it crops up. Social media companies are already screening content using AI. We can expect that other tech oligarchs will pick up the baton and ensure that any offensive content is thoroughly scrubbed from view,
        .

        But it gets better, especially in those countries that are working hard to eliminate cash. Who is to say that banks won’t take it upon themselves to close the accounts of dangerous thoughtcriminals? We are already seeing banks in the US closing the accounts for legal businesses in industries the bank doesn’t like such as firearms manufacturers and pornographers. What a convenient and effective way to render thoughtcriminals as unpersons.

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