On Thursday, brand new New York Times editorial board hire Sarah Jeong came under fire for three-year-old racist tweets. Here are just a few of them:
Should she have been fired? Nope. We’re living in an age of social media mobbing, and it’s got to stop if we’re ever going to have any semblance of a social fabric left – or if we’re ever going to engage in conversation like normal people without fear of firing every minute. Private corporations obviously have a right to fire employees; there are indeed cases where the toxicity of a person’s current statements or the revelation of past statements about which an employer was ignorant endangers the status of the employer. But this is not one of those cases: The New York Times knew what it was getting when it hired Jeong, and firing her would only encourage the kind of behavior we saw with regard to Kevin Williamson and James Gunn, among others.
But were her comments racist? Of course. Treating white people as a discrete group for purposes of slandering them is textbook racism. Simply replacing every instance of “white” with “black” in her tweets demonstrates that.
But according to some on the Left, members of minority groups can’t be racist:
This is absurd nonsense. Racism from the powerful is more dangerous than racism from those who aren’t powerful. But racism can exist in any context. Using paternalistic euphemisms about “the expressive way anti-racists and minorities talk about ‘white people’” is sophistry so strong it ought to qualify you for the Alliance Of Magicians. Beauchamp simply doesn’t mind anti-white racism, so he’s making patting minorities on the head for it: “isn’t it cute when powerless minorities say garbage things about white people?” Treating morality as a power struggle is a typically Marxist approach to life – all interactions can be judged by the amount of power wielded by participants, rather than the decency of those interactions.
David French of National Review gets it exactly right:
A healthy society urges people to reject unhealthy temptations to generalize, and instead urges that we treat our fellow citizens with a degree of grace and to judge them based on their individual actions. Any categorical hatred or disgust stands directly against this virtue. So, yes, anti-white racism is real, and Americans can and should reject it while still keeping in mind matters of gravity and proportion.
Now, it’s rather telling that many of the same people defending Jeong have been quick to grab pitchforks and torches when it comes to others. Case in point #1: Jeong herself:
Beauchamp wrote a piece last week explaining why director Mark Duplass was right to delete a tweet recommending that people follow me on Twitter – and adding that polite society should also reject Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens of the same New York Times Jeong just joined, among others. Here’s what Beauchamp – remember, a defender of Jeong – wrote:
He’s arguing that the real Ben isn’t the sum total of his work, but rather the nice things he says to his liberal friends. We should try to reason away his beyond-the-pale opinions, when in fact they’re evidence he might not be a reasonable person.
You see a similar effect whenever one of the New York Times’ op-ed pages recent hires — I’m thinking of Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens specifically — writes something offensive or poorly thought out. You’re asked to look past the offensive work in question, like Stephens’s pieces denying climate change science, and try to have a reasonable conversation. The problem is that the so-called indiscretions are as characteristic of their work and worldview as their more reasonable sounding output — but pointing that out can be portrayed, by people like Weinstein, as evidence of intolerance, of refusing to listen to the other side.
In other words, boycott and trash the people I don’t like, but protect the people I do. This sort of idiocy drives exactly the social media mobs that go after Jeong and Gunn, among others. Beauchamp and his ilk are the problem. And they’re going to keep incentivizing a war of all-against-all so long as they refuse to acknowledge the possibility of grace or intellectual honesty for anyone with whom they disagree.