Douglas Andrews / Jun. 8, 2020

Cotton Gins Up Cancel Culture

Fallout continues — Tom Cotton's op-ed results in firings and "reassignments."

A.G. Sulzberger: “James, our entire newsroom is revolting.”

James Bennet: “You can say that again.”

That’s not exactly how it went down, of course — but the thought must’ve crossed Bennet’s mind.

Yesterday, in the wake of the New York Times’s publication last week of an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton — an op-ed advocating a position supported by fully 58% of the American people — the Times cleaned its editorial house.

The housecleaning neatly captured the once-proud Gray Lady’s continued abasement at the feet of the cancel culture, and it resulted in three casualties: the aforementioned Editorial Page Editor James Bennet, who resigned; Deputy Editorial Page Editor James Dao, who was reassigned; and the Times’s dubious claim that it is “committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor,” which died of a thousandth cut.

The Times, for its part, bravely threw Bennet under the bus, claiming that this sin was just the latest of “several missteps” by the man who many felt was being groomed to one day lead its newsroom. “Senator Cotton’s Op-Ed,” said the Times, “prompted criticism on social media from many Times employees from different departments, an online protest that was led by African-American staff members.” This included tweets claiming that Cotton’s opinion “puts Black NYTimes staff in danger.” (Exactly what kind of exclusive danger our military poses to black Times staffers was never spelled out.)

Former Times reporter Alex Berenson fundamentally disagrees with Cotton’s opinion that the Insurrection Act of 1807 can be an effective tool for restoring order to our nation’s riot-stricken streets, but he nonetheless called yesterday “a terrible day for the New York Times.”

“At a time when social media giants like Facebook and powerful technology companies like Amazon are openly censoring views they do not like,” said Berenson, “the fact that the Times — and other newspapers too — have also backed away from free speech is troubling and dangerous. For democracy to flourish, we all need to be willing to hear each other. But if the most powerful platforms in American media are afraid to run voices that might make people uncomfortable, how can we?”

“This is a dark, dark day for the NYTimes,” tweeted former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent, echoing Berenson’s sentiment. “I know no finer journalist than James Bennet.”

Let’s not get carried away about Bennet’s journalistic chops. This is the same journalist, after all, who allowed a grotesquely anti-Semitic cartoon into the Opinion pages of the Times’s international edition last year, and the same journalist who gave the thumbs up to an editorial that linked former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin to the shooting of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Moreover, Bennet is also the brother of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, the Democrat from Colorado, which is just one more example of the nepotistic network that infects the Media-Democrat Complex.

Yesterday may well have been a dark day for the Times, but it was an even darker day for American journalism. As such, it was also another incremental win for those in the cancel culture who fear free expression and loathe the marketplace of ideas.


Update June 10: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hilariously unloaded on the Times, saying from the Senate floor, “One of our nation’s most storied newspapers just had its intellectual independence challenged by an angry mob, and they folded like a house of cards. A jury of people on Twitter indicted them as accessories to a thought crime, and instead of telling them to go take a hike, the paper pleaded guilty and begged for mercy.”

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