All posts filed under: Editorial

With a Star Science Reporter’s Purging, Mob Culture at The New York Times Enters a Strange New Phase

Speaking recently at a Quillette Free Thought Lives event, Columbia University professor John McWhorter expounded on his thesis that social justice comprises an ersatz religion, complete with rites of confession and penance. It’s a compelling metaphor, especially in the way it helps explain adherents’ overwrought professions of faith and demands for the persecution of heretics. But when it comes to the New York Times’ recent firing of reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., the metaphor falters. The Times management dismissed McNeil because he was caught instructing a student about racism in 2019; and, in so doing, said the N-word as an example of a gravely racist term. The Times management had initially concluded that McNeil showed “poor judgment” by uttering these two forbidden syllables, but also that he hadn’t harbored any “hateful or malicious” intent. That last part certainly seems sensible, given that McNeil wasn’t actually directing the N-word at another human being or using it to describe a third party. But since these same Times managers had already shown staff they can be bullied by …

Trump’s Exit: An Optimist’s Take on What Happens Next

When staunch Trump ally and FOX News host Laura Ingraham admitted to her viewers that Trump had not won the election in late November, she attempted to sweeten the bad news with the assurance that “on January 21st, [Trump] will remain the most important person in American politics, if he wants to be.” Ingraham said Trump still had “the most compelling voice in politics,” and that he was the key to the Republican party “attracting new voters.” “I personally cannot wait to see what President Trump does next,” she declared, and predicted that he’d remain a “GOP kingmaker” for years to come. This idea of Trump as post-presidential “kingmaker” in Republican politics was farfetched even before his legacy was disgraced by the mob that attacked the Capitol with his name on their lips. Many of Trump’s positions ran directly contrary to longstanding Republican policies. As veteran Republican strategist and media figure Cheri Jacobus recently told Quillette podcast listeners, he ruled his party largely through a cult of fear, keeping heretics in line not with the …

America Has Serious Problems. It’s Time to Stop Blaming Them on ‘Trumpism’

Donald Trump may have been defeated in his quest for re-election. But not so the shadowy ideology he supposedly champions. “Even in defeat, the embers of Trumpism still burn in the Republican Party,” declares the Washington Post. “Trumpism wasn’t repudiated,” warns a New York Times columnist. “Trump may be on his way out—but Trumpism marches on,” proclaims the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At the Guardian, it’s “Trump lives on.” At the Chicago Tribune, “Trumpism has been vindicated.” The Daily Beast ran a piece entitled “This Isn’t Enough—We Wanted a Repudiation of Trumpism,” and, to hammer home the point, added an unsettling graphics banner that reads, “Dark Victory.” And what is this “Trumpism” of which they speak? It’s hard to say, since Trump himself was always a recklessly unpredictable populist who changed tune unpredictably to suit his own ambitions and vanities. But in the way the term is used journalistically, “Trumpism” often serves as a stand-in for all that is malignant in the world—a sort of Voldemort-like spirit nourishing itself on unicorn blood within the souls of …

For Journalists, The New York Times’ Social-Justice Meltdown Is a Sign of Things to Come

On Sunday, two weeks following the shocking killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, the city’s leaders pledged to overhaul their entire municipal police department. The  move could mark the beginning of a law-enforcement reform movement across the whole United States. This is a welcome phenomenon. Even conservative public figures such as Mitt Romney and George W. Bush are telling America that it’s time for change. Yet it’s not just America’s police forces that have come under attack. One notable aspect of the response to Floyd’s death is that many of the institutions being assailed most scathingly are charities, media companies, museums, and arts organizations that have no direct connection to the issue of law enforcement. This includes the Poetry Foundation, a Chicago-based 501(c)(3) organization that was established two decades ago by a wealthy heiress to a pharmaceutical fortune. The Poetry Foundation and POETRY magazine stand in solidarity with the Black community, and denounce injustice and systemic racism. Read our full statement here: https://t.co/qqbiqEn9UZ — Poetry Foundation (@PoetryFound) June 3, 2020 While the …

Cancel Culture Comes for Woody Allen (Again)

In 2003, a 19-year-old worker at a Colorado resort accused NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant of raping her in his hotel room. Bryant’s endorsement deals were canceled, and it looked like this might be the end of his career. But prosecutors dropped the case when the alleged victim decided not to testify. Bryant, who admitted that he had engaged in adulterous sex with his accuser, argued that the liaison had been consensual, apologized publicly, and settled a subsequent civil suit on undisclosed terms. By the time Bryant died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, his public image had been restored, and Bryant received the NBA’s equivalent of a state funeral. When Washington Post writer Felicia Sonmez tweeted out a reference to the sexual-assault allegation amidst the grieving, she was suspended from work, and chastised by the Post’s executive editor, who told her, “A real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution.” In the summer of 1992, actress Mia Farrow found out that her adopted daughter Soon-Yi was still romantically …

Dealing With a Once-In-A-Century Pathogen

Back in 2015, Bill Gates published an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) warning that the world would likely see a pandemic in the next 20 years. He was writing in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and argued that while the world had an effective system for containing Ebola, it did not have adequate preparation for dealing with a disease with a substantially higher transmission rate. “[O]f all the things that could kill more than 10 million people around the world, the most likely is an epidemic stemming from either natural causes or bioterrorism.” Gates likened preparation for dealing with epidemics to preparation for another global threat—war: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a mobile unit that is ready to deploy quickly. Although the system is not perfect, NATO countries participate in joint exercises in which they work out logistics such as how fuel and food will be provided, what language they will speak, and what radio frequencies will be used. Few, if any, …

Join Us in 2020

What do you do when you want to speak about an issue in the workplace but find that ill-informed policies penalise you for doing so? What do you say when your son or daughter comes home from school and tells you that “capitalism is racist?” What course of action do you take when your friend or colleague is presumed guilty for a transgression they never committed? We’ve covered these types of situations extensively at Quillette since our inception. And we’re proud of doing so. Not just because these are important issues of justice and fairness, but because many of these stories would never have reached a wider audience without our platform. Who else would have published the story of a mathematician having his paper “disappeared” because of its politically incorrect hypothesis? Or the plight of a young anthropology journal founder who was ousted by a mob led by a famous author? When an individual has had their professional reputation unfairly tarnished, or is hounded by a social media mob — or has their right to due …

Retraction notice

An author by the purported name of Archie Carter sent us an article that appeared on our web site under the title “DSA is Doomed” for several hours today. After it appeared, we got a tip that it contained false information. When the author couldn’t supply answers to our follow-up questions in timely fashion, we pulled the article after notifying the author of our concerns. We retract the article and apologise for the error. 

After Christchurch, Remember the Victims, But Resist the Urge to Blame

The terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand—the largest terror event in Australasian history—carried out against a migrant community in a place of worship has left us all in shock. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, has described this attack as an attack on all New Zealanders. Part of the shock comes from the feeling that these types of events don’t happen here. Not in Australia, not in New Zealand. We are small, quiet countries, where people feel safe. Random violence is not a feature of everyday life, let alone on this scale. People deal with shock and grief in different ways. Some people mourn. Others get angry. Many of the early reactions to the event have expressed legitimate anger about the lack of action taken over violent, right-wing extremism. Observers have been warning about the toxicity of online echo-chambers and their potential to foment hatred and motivate people to commit violence for some time now. Much of the anger is directed at big tech companies who are seen as making a profit via …

We Must Defend Free Thought

You probably have felt afraid to speak your mind freely at some point. Whether it is in a university class, a meeting at work, or amongst friends online, it’s likely that you have remained silent when you have had ideas or opinions that haven’t conformed to received wisdom. This is not an unusual or maladaptive response. In fact, knowing when to stay quiet and knowing how to avoid conflict is a necessary and important part of being an adult. Most arguments are pointless and there is no reason to get into fights with people whom we otherwise want to cooperate with and build mutually beneficial relationships. Nevertheless, I worry that intellectual self-policing is happening more and more often, particularly for those living in tight-knit and politically homogenous communities. In such environments, challenging the prevailing ideological orthodoxy—even if it’s only to plead for more tolerance of diverse viewpoints—can lead to reputational damage, harassment, and, in some cases, career suicide. Today, these strictly enforced thought codes are pervading spaces where naturally open-minded and liberal people work, such …