Many people – myself included – predicted when college snowflakes got into the real world they would not be able to cry about being offended and then have diversity police show up to protect them and provide a “safe space.” As it turns out, those snowflakes have taken over institutions like the New York Times. This has serious negative implications for journalism, trust in our institutions, an informed population and a culture of free speech.
The idea that the mere act of publishing a guest editorial written by a United States senator about using the military to quell riots threatens the lives or physical safety of New York Times staffers is utterly absurd. There was not one single member of the military deployed by Senator Tom Cotton’s editorial, or even so much as a twitch of a finger of excess force employed by printing the editorial. Cotton laid out the legal and policy justification for deploying the military to save lives and protect property.
It is reasonable to disagree with Cotton’s argument, as this is a very hotly contested policy debate. It is not reasonable to squeal that ink on paper or pixels on a screen threatens anyone’s safety. It is absurd to equate physical safety with political disagreement or hurt feelings.
In publicly flogging itself about printing the editorial, the Times betrays the profession of journalism. Obviously the policy justification for deploying the military is newsworthy, and printing it makes NYT readers better informed. Refusing to print such editorials in the future is an act of self-censorship that is antithetical to the mission of informing the public. As a result, fewer people will understand the policy justifications for such things, and it is never good to have a public that is less informed.
Furthermore, the mainstream news media (especially major publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as CNN and network news) are already distrusted by a large portion of the population. Openly refusing to print an explanation of public policy by a sitting U.S. senator because it hurts the staff’s feelings will only erode that trust and reinforce conspiracy theories.
Finally, we should be very worried about the culture of free speech. We may not be censored by the government (not yet, anyway) but when perfectly reasonable decisions such as publishing a guest column that the editor disagrees with can result in careers destroyed, then we really do not have free speech. This will make some people walk on eggshells or not speak at all. If we are really concerned about the free exchange of ideas and an informed electorate, we should expect major corporations not to back down in the face of “woke” Leftist bullies.
But that will not be the only consequence. This type of “woke” corporate censorship will silence some, but it will actually encourage others to be intentionally offensive, with the justification of “[expletive] your feelings.” It will Balkanize news consumption, which is already problematic when a significant portion of the American people only follow news sources that they already agree with. None of these are good outcomes.
The news media has been very good at puffing up their chests and declaring that they will not be silenced or censored by a President that they hate, but as soon as they get real pressure from their own employees, they collapse like a house of cards. It is one thing to be “courageous” in the face of a President who mouths off a lot but has taken no real steps to curtail freedom of the press, but quite another thing to be courageous in the face of internal pressure and protest. The New York Times has failed a critical test here, and their cowardice will encourage more attacks from the “woke” mob, not less.