Make fun of, or vent rage and prejudice against? That’s a distinction that the Washington Post’s Eli Rosenberg and Erin Logan miss, claiming that the New York Times’ most recent hire, Sarah Jeong, spent years on Twitter writing “sarcastically” about Caucasians. Instead focusing on the years-long pattern of hostility from Jeong or even honestly deconstructing the question the headline poses, the Post turns its analysis into yet another “conservatives seized” story.
This time, though, it’s with a twist. Note well the “conservatives” they cite:
At right-leaning outlets such as Fox News, the Daily Caller, the Gateway Pundit, Breitbart and Infowars, Jeong’s tweets were skewered as “racist,” “offensive” and “anti-white.”
“NYTIMES’ NEWEST HIRE SENT TONS OF ANTI-WHITE RACIST TWEETS,” The Daily Caller chimed in.
“Jeong was not hired despite her racist tweets, she was hired because of them,” wrote the right-wing site Infowars, known for its vigorous promotion of conspiracy theories.
To some conservatives, her hiring, and the subsequent defense issued by the Times, was an example of how liberals get away with their own brand of racism — against white people.
“Sarah Jeong not being fired by the New York Times for her racist and hateful tweets is example 93,687,887,482 of liberal hypocrisy,” conservative commentator and occasional conspiracy theorist Mark Dice wrote on Twitter.
So we only get a headline from the legit Daily Caller, and two quotes from … offended conspiracy theorists. Suddenly the Post considers Infowars and Dice as reliable political analysts? That’s certainly news. The only inclusion of rational argument from conservatives comes from the very rational David French at NRO, who rightly points out that race-based invective harms society no matter how it’s framed. It perpetuates the notion that human beings should be judged for their immutable characteristics rather than their character and actions:
The threat of anti-white racism (except in rare cases) isn’t violence. It’s not systematic oppression. There’s no realistic scenario where ‘the tables are turned’ and black Americans visit on white Americans a reverse version of the worst aspects of American history. The problem with anti-white racism is that it runs directly counter to efforts to unify in spite of that history. It runs counter to efforts to elevate American culture. And, yes, it can and does create individual injustice in those instances where anti-white racism manifests itself in more than just tweets and academic journals.
In comparison, the Post’s article quotes three institutional sources sympathetic to Jeong, offers them much more space for their arguments, and without the anthropological tone of their reference to conservatives. In fact, it becomes quite clear that Rosenberg and Logan actually interacted and interviewed these sympathetic sources while just scouring the Internet for conservative reaction that would fit their paradigm. As analysis, it’s unworthy, and even as opinion it’s contrived and biased.
Count me among the people who think the New York Times should stick with Jeong, however. Jeong took the job in good faith, and the Times should honor that — just as the Atlantic should have honored their commitment to Kevin Williamson. (Worth noting: the NYT’s stable wasn’t very sympathetic to that argument when it came to Williamson.) Why not wait to see what she writes at the Times, and then respond to it, rather than gather the pitchforks and torches before Jeong writes a single word? Good, bad, or indifferent, Jeong undoubtedly has something more to offer than Twitter epigrams, which can be challenged and debated as they come.
If anyone should be fired, it’s the editor who made the decision to hire Jeong with that record of on-line vitriol, especially while the news media (including the Times) spend much of their time lecturing everyone else about incivility in the Age Of Trump. It’s not “pouncing” to point out the towering hypocrisy of lecturing conservatives about civility while hiring people who have modeled public incivility for years.
Giving in to a weaponized social-media mob is a far greater danger to the cause of robust public debate than an arguably bad hire by a newspaper. We can debate Jeong in the public square, but it’s tough to have a rational debate when competing mobs are frantically culling social-media output to rack up rolling heads in some kind of National Robespierre League. Every rolled head provides new momentum to both sides, which is why demanding the Times cut Jeong loose is more dangerous than just letting her write. That’s even more true when the social-media platforms themselves go out of their way to enable that weaponized mob mentality, as Twitter has been and is doing presently, with their algorithms calculated to enable heckler’s vetoes and their star chamber to impose “conversational health” on their customers.
We are all much more than our skin color. And dear Lord, we are all much more than our tweets. Shouldn’t we all know that?