Business Insider deletes piece defending Scarlett Johansson in a trans role, then bans use of 'social justice warriors'

Business Insider pulled an opinion piece by a conservative writer after members of the staff objected. The piece, which is now available only on the Internet Archive was a reaction to the controversy over the casting of actress Scarlett Johansson as a transgender man for a forthcoming film. The article by Daniella Greenbaum argued that Johansson is an actress whose job is to make believe:


Scarlett Johansson is the latest target of the social-justice warrior mob. The actress is being chastised for, well, acting…

Johansson is set to play a transgender man in an upcoming film, “Rub and Tug,” a film based on the true story of transgender massage parlor owner Dante “Tex” Gill. The announcement quickly garnered a reaction.

Trace Lysette, a transgender actress who plays Shea on “Transparent” took to Twitter: “And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… so twisted. I’m so done.”

Her framing of the issue, which has been echoed by other actors and activists, is off base. “Stealing” narratives — or, more charitably, playing parts — is precisely what actors are hired to do. But that reality seems to have been forgotten. CNN wrote a story about the issue entitled, “These trans actors could have been cast instead of Scarlett Johansson in her new movie.”

This seems like a fairly reasonable argument. Acting is about pretending. It’s also a business in which investors want to know ahead of time that they have a bankable star in the leading role. There may be other actors or actresses who would suit this part better but I doubt many of them have had major roles in The Avengers films. Like it or not, that counts for something.


But apparently, that was too much for Greenbaum’s colleagues at Business Insider who demanded her piece be pulled down. At first, BI simply deleted it, but after CNN asked about its disappearance, BI put up a vague statement about editorial standards. In fact, the standards in question were announced after pulling down the article. From CNN Money:

Business Insider has established a new policy for opinion pieces covering “culturally sensitive topics, such as marginalized communities, race, or LGTBQ+ issues,” the result of a now-deleted column that defended the actress Scarlett Johannson for accepting a movie role as a transgender man.

The guidelines were outlined in a lengthy internal email, obtained by CNN, sent Monday from Business Insider’s global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson to other editors at the site. Going forward, Carlson said, “[c]ulturally sensitive columns, analysis, and opinion pieces” must be reviewed by both the writer’s editor and either one of the site’s executive editors or editors-in-chief…

Following CNN’s inquiry on Tuesday, Business Insider restored the column’s headline on the page and added a note explaining its removal.

“Business Insider removed the column because, upon further review, we decided it did not meet our editorial standards,” the note said.


BI itself says it may be hard to tell when an article is “culturally sensitive,” but it did draw a firm line on one issue:

“There should be no partisan name-calling, e.g. ‘social justice warriors,’ ‘libtards,’ or ‘rednecks,'” Carlson said. “Opinion and arguments should feel reported and researched, and not like quick reactions.”

One BI staffer said on Twitter that 11 courageous members of the staff had demanded the piece be pulled because its author didn’t have any “expertise” on the topic. That tweet has since been deleted, unfortunately, but it does raise an obvious question:

It seems pretty clear that “expertise” in this case means agreeing with the left. In fact, CNN published a news article (in the entertainment section, but still) on the same topic titled “These trans actors could have been cast instead of Scarlett Johansson in her new movie.” Is the author of the CNN piece trans? I have no idea, nor should it matter. Special expertise is not needed to offer an opinion about the casting of a film unless you disagree with the left.


So, to sum up, a group of BI social justice warriors were outraged over an opinion piece and got the piece pulled. Then BI faulted the piece for using the phrase “social justice warriors” as if the site’s own actions didn’t prove the author had a point that went well beyond name calling.

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