The “woke” meltdown at the New York Times continues apace. Bret Stephens, one of the few right-leaning columnists at the paper, is the latest victim of “cancellation,” or at least his latest column was.
As first reported by NBC’s Dylan Byers, Stephens’ latest column was rejected by higher-ups at the paper. In it, Stephens excoriated his bosses and in particular Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger for the brouhaha around the forced resignation of New York Times science writer (importantly, the paper’s coronavirus specialist) Donald McNeil for repeating the N-word.
The McNeil incident happened during a Times-organized “Student Journey” to Peru in 2019. Complaints filtered back afterward from students of McNeil’s supposed racial insensitivity on the trip. During a discussion with students about whether another student should have been suspended from school for using the so-called N-word, McNeil apparently repeated the N-word.
McNeil was initially let off with reprimands. But a Daily Beast article resulted in the incident being relitigated. Sulzberger received a letter signed by more than 150 “outraged” Times staffers demanding further investigation, and also insisting McNeil apologize. McNeil initially refused to do so, and was pressured to resign. His 45-year history at the paper cut no ice with the young and woke crew at the paper, where it's clear the children are in charge.
Byers quoted from Stephens' unpublished piece, which faulted the paper for forcing McNeil out when it was clear his use of the racial slur wasn’t directed at anyone in particular but was simply repeated for discussion purposes:
Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.
Although Stevens blamed Sulzberger for spiking it, Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury claimed responsibility in a statement to Byers.
Editor-in-chief Dean Baquet, who accepted McNeil’s resignation gracelessly, said “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” But he now apparently agrees with Stephens’ point about intent. Byers quoted a clarification Baquet made during a Times staff meeting where he admitted his initial response had been “ham-handed.”: “Of course intent matters when we are talking about language in journalism.”
Indeed, the Times itself has run the full N-word slur in its paper on several occasions, including in the magazine this month.
Additional reporting from the Washington Post (cited by the Daily Beast) hint why McNeil might have been such an inviting target by the students in Peru, who seem to be early masters of the left-wing bullying game:
Additionally, the participants alleged, the reporter was dismissive of the existence of concepts like cultural appropriation and white supremacy; and suggested the high incarceration rate for Black Americans is the responsibility of those who commit the crimes and not the result of a racist criminal-justice system.
The whole sorry scenario is reminiscent of how the paper disappeared columns by staffers who criticized editorial decisions under the despotic thumb of former Executive Editor Howell Raines. In 2002 Raines spiked columns by sports columnists Dave Anderson and Harvey Araton for taking issue with the paper's embarrassing editorial suggesting Tiger Woods should boycott the Masters golf tournament in the name of solidarity with women.
That was bad enough, but at the Times things only get worse.