It has been pretty obvious for a while now that a group of woke staffers in the NY Times newsroom are employing cancel culture tactics against anyone who offends them. But it’s one thing to see what is happening and connect the dots from the outside. It’s something else when people inside the newsroom confirm it.
Today, CNN’s Oliver Darcy published a story in which unnamed staffers say the ongoing clashes at the NY Times, which have recently been focused on the departure of two journalists, are exactly what they appear to be, i.e. a woke mob collecting scalps:
“It’s a real f**king disaster,” one Times employee remarked to CNN Business…
One group of journalists inside The Times believes that the departures are emblematic of a so-called “cancel culture” at the newspaper, with management catering to what they describe as a vocal minority of “woke” staffers who raised concerns about McNeil and Mills. These staffers point to a letter that 150 of their colleagues reportedly signed asking top management to reassess McNeil’s behavior…
“I hate to say this, but inside The Times there is a ‘cancel culture,'” one staffer at The Times commented to CNN Business. The staffer, echoing what several other Times journalists told CNN Business in separate conversations, described a dynamic where “there is not much infighting, but there is a small group of people who are very vocal” and who, this staffer said, do not appear to be satisfied until “heads roll.”
Naturally, the woke contingent doesn’t see itself this way. In their view, they are just seeking “accountability.” And if you’ve read anything about woke mobs before today you already know that describing cancel culture as “accountability culture” is the far left’s way of dodging this criticism. There’s a clear difference between public accountability and cancel culture. Yascha Mounk described it pretty well yesterday:
“If people say, ‘Hey, I personally don’t like this person, so I’m not going to buy the products,’ that’s one thing,” said Yascha Mounk, a political scientist and creator of the newsletter Persuasion, which has decried so-called “cancel culture.”
“But a lot of it is concerted efforts to force institutions to de-platform people,” he said. “It’s firing people for imagined or very minor offenses because of sort of online media mobs and so on.”
What’s happening at the Times is cancel culture. One staffer who signed the letter sent to the executive editor claimed it “didn’t say anywhere” that the reporter in question should be fired. But here’s a sample of the letter they sent to his boss:
Staffers at The Times signed a letter addressed to Sulzberger which said, “Our community is outraged and in pain. 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 newsrooms standards.”
Notice the complaint immediately brings up the “prominent platform” given to someone who used “unacceptable” language. The part about “the Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion” is key. The letter is saying that if the Times were really committed to diversity, this bad person wouldn’t have the platform they have. It’s not an outright call to fire him but that’s the gist.
The letter went on to demand an apology, a renewed investigation and new policies for when employees use “hate speech.” Keep in mind this incident had already been investigated two years earlier. The executive editor (who is black) determined there was no hate speech involved. The reporter had been asked by a student if another student should have been suspended for using the n-word. The reporter asked about the context and used the n-word in his question. It wasn’t hate speech and the employee in question was disciplined for his behavior. The end.
At least that should have been the end. Instead we get a mob demanding an apology be given to people who weren’t present and who don’t seem interested in the context. They also want the investigation restarted after strongly hinting their target should be deplatformed.
There is a wrinkle here which CNN suggests is significant. The decision about the reporter’s departure had already been made by the time the letter signed by 150 woke staffers was sent.
If Baquet and McNeil (the reporter) reached an agreement a day or so before the letter was crafted and sent that changes nothing about what motivated McNeil’s departure. It suggests it wasn’t the letter but the furor that preceded it that caused Baquet to reverse course. All it proves is that the woke mob has so much influence at the Times they don’t even need a formal letter to get their way. Their vocal displeasure is enough.
The NY Times’ race reporter claimed there were other “legit concerns” raised by black employees.
You often wonder what your white colleagues who are lovely to your face are actually thinking or saying about you — or people like you — behind your back.
— John Eligon (@jeligon) February 7, 2021
Okay, so what are those other concerns? I mean, if the reporter has been dropping the n-word routinely in conversation, you could win me over. But it’s pretty odd to be complaining about a lack of “full transparency” while simultaneously throwing out vague accusations in public that aren’t backed up by anything.
To be clear, I’ve never argued for Don to be fired — nor have many of my colleagues who’ve raised concerns about this. I’ve argued for full transparency. It is impossible to judge the situation w/out knowing all that was said. Sadly, we haven’t gotten that transparency.
— John Eligon (@jeligon) February 7, 2021
Again, the letter clearly suggested McNeil shouldn’t have the “prominent platform” he had. Maybe that meant moving him to another job at the Times rather than firing him but it didn’t mean nothing. At a minimum they were looking for a demotion.
The real problem here is that the woke staffers shouldn’t be deciding whether or not anyone should be fired or investigated, etc. They are employees hired to work in the newsroom, not to serve as a shadow HR department at the NY Times. If Dean Baquet had any backbone he’d tell them that.