The NYT and Sarah Jeong’s Racist Tweets: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist about The New York Times hiring of Sarah Jeong, asking: “Why wouldn’t the Times hire someone with an antipathy to white people?”  It makes two basic points.  First, progressives care so little about “rules” that they redefine racism to exclude themselves from responsibility.  Second, a common progressive view of race — exemplified by the veneration of Ta-Nehisi Coates — explains why the NYT would not have any problem other than style to hiring someone with a long trail of public statements comparing whites to dogs and goblins.

What got left out?  I forgot to expressly mention that I generally oppose the practice of social media mobs trying to collect scalps and ruin careers.  My regular readers know this, but I should have explicitly included it for casual readers.

I also forgot to mention that before hiring Jeong, the NYT hired and quickly fired Quinn Norton for a tech writing job.  Norton’s case was complicated and similar to Jeong’s situation.  But Norton slurred blacks and gays, while Jeong attacked white people.  Again, as I note in the column, it would be tempting to view this through the lens of hypocrisy or double-standards, when the reality is that progressives like those running the NYT play Calvinball.  There are no rules, including for the definition of racism.

Given space limitations, I also omitted contrasts with other commentary on this story that would have illustrated my argument.  For example, I agree with much of what Robby Soave wrote on this subject, but disagree with the suggestion that this is a story about Jeong experiencing any sort of personal growth.

Similarly, I agree with much of what Kevin Williamson wrote about it, but not with the assumption that this was an institution “taking a stand” against social media mobs.  My column argues that the progressive march through the institutions explains why they do not take principled stands in general.  The NYT’s “stand’ here is situational and serves its politics, as the Norton firing illuminates.  They have the right to do that, but we should not fall into the trap of thinking the NYT is being heroic.

Lastly and relatedly, I am reminded of one of progressives’ favored historical riffs.  Progressives like to claim that in the early 20th century, they saved capitalism from communism.  In reality, many progressives were mightily impressed with the Soviet system and thought it was the wave of the future.  The threat of communist revolution was in part a version of the classic “good cop, bad cop” tactic, which successfully cowed the business class into submission.  The nature of the implied threat of mob action may have evolved over time, but the left still finds it useful.

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