Suppose you’re the editorial-page editor of a college newspaper, contemplating the big news on campus: protesters have silenced an invited speaker and gone on a violent rampage. Should you, as a journalist whose profession depends on the First Amendment, write an editorial reaffirming the right to free speech?
If that seems like a no-brainer, you’re behind the times. The question stumped the staff of the Middlebury Campus after protesters silenced conservative social thinker Charles Murray and injured the professor who’d invited him. The prospect of taking a stand on the First Amendment was so daunting that the paper dispensed with its usual weekly editorial, devoting the space instead to a range of opinions from others—most of whom defended the protesters. When a larger and more violent mob at the University of California at Berkeley prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus, students at the Daily Californian did write a forceful editorial—but not in favor of his right to speak. Instead, they reviled Yiannopoulos and denounced those who “invited chaos” by offering a platform to “someone who never belonged here.”
Free speech is no longer sacred among young journalists who have absorbed the campus lessons about “hate speech”—defined more and more broadly—and they’re breaking long-standing taboos as they bring “cancel culture” into professional newsrooms. They’re not yet in charge, but many of their editors are reacting like beleaguered college presidents, terrified of seeming insufficiently “woke.” Most professional journalists, young and old, still pay lip service to the First Amendment, and they certainly believe that it protects their work, but they’re increasingly eager for others to be “de-platformed” or “no-platformed,” as today’s censors like to put it—effectively silenced.
These mostly younger progressive journalists lead campaigns to get conservative journalists fired, banned from Twitter, and “de-monetized” on YouTube. They don’t burn books, but they’ve successfully pressured Amazon to stop selling titles that they deem offensive. They encourage advertising boycotts designed to put ideological rivals out of business. They’re loath to report forthrightly on left-wing censorship and violence, even when fellow journalists get attacked. They equate conservatives’ speech with violence and rationalize leftists’ actual violence as . . . speech.
It’s a strange new world for those who remember liberal journalists like Nat Hentoff, the Village Voice writer who stood with the ACLU in defending the free-speech rights of Nazis, Klansmen, and others whose views he deplored—or who recall the days when the Columbia Journalism Review stood as an unswerving advocate for press freedom. While America has seen its share of politicians eager to limit speech, from John Adams and Woodrow Wilson (who both had journalists prosecuted for “sedition”) to Donald Trump (who has made various unconstitutional threats), journalists on the left and the right have long shared a reverence for the First Amendment, if only out of self-interest. When liberals supported campaign-finance laws restricting corporations’ political messages during election campaigns, they insisted on exemptions for news organizations. One could fault them for being self-serving in this selective censorship, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in its Citizens United decision, but at least they stood up for their profession’s freedom.
Today, though, journalists are becoming zealous to silence their ideological rivals—and the fervor is mainly on the left. During the 1960s, the left-wing activists leading Berkeley’s Free Speech movement fought for the rights of conservatives to speak on campus, but today’s activists embrace the New Left’s intellectual rationalizations for censorship. To justify the protection of an ever-expanding array of victimized groups, theorists of intersectionality—the idea that subgroup identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, overlap to make people more oppressed—have adapted Herbert Marcuse’s neo-Marxist notion of “repressive tolerance.” Marcuse propounded that Orwellian oxymoron in the 1960s to justify government censorship of right-wing groups that were supposedly oppressing the powerless.
Greg Lukianoff, who has fought free-speech wars on campus for two decades as the head of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), dates the ascendancy of the new censors to 2013, when student protesters at Brown University forced the cancellation of a speech by Raymond Kelly, the New York City police commissioner. “For the first time, rather than being ashamed of this assault on free speech, most people on campus seemed to rally around the protesters,” says Lukianoff, coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind. “That’s when we started hearing the language of medicalization, that free speech would cause medical harm. Outsiders dismissed this as a college phenomenon and predicted that these intolerant fragile kids would have to change when they hit the real world. But instead, they’re changing the world.”
This change can be seen at the once-stalwart ACLU, which has retreated to a new policy of rejecting First Amendment cases when the speech in question “can inflict serious harms” on “marginalized communities.” That’s the paternalistic rationale for campus speech codes, which have repeatedly been declared unconstitutional but remain popular, especially among Democrats and young people. In a national survey in 2017 by the Cato Institute, a majority of Democrats (versus a quarter of Republicans) said that the government should prohibit hate speech, and 60 percent of respondents under age 30 agreed that hate speech constitutes an act of violence.
Even journalists are adopting these attitudes, as Robby Soave observed while reporting on young radicals in his book Panic Attack. A decade ago, when Soave was an undergraduate on the University of Michigan’s student paper, his fellow editors stood in the Hentoff tradition: devout leftists but also free-speech absolutists. Starting around 2013, though, Soave saw a change at Michigan and other schools. “The power dynamic switched on campus so that the anti-speech activists began dominating the discourse while those who believed in free speech became afraid to speak up,” says Soave, now a writer for Reason. “Campus newspapers, especially at elite institutions, have become increasingly sympathetic to the notion that speech isn’t protected if it makes students feel unsafe. And now you’re seeing these graduates going into professional journalism and demanding that their editors provide a safe workplace by not employing people whose views make them uncomfortable.”
The result is what Dean Baquet, the New York Times executive editor, recently called a “generational divide” in newsrooms. The progressive activism of younger journalists often leaves their older colleagues exasperated. “The paper is now written by 25-year-old gender studies majors,” said one Washington Post veteran. She wouldn’t speak for the record, though: as fragile and marginalized as these young progressives claim to be, they know how to make life miserable for unwoke colleagues.
If their publication is considering hiring a conservative, or if a colleague writes or tweets something that offends them, young progressives express their outrage on social media—sometimes publicly on Twitter, sometimes in internal chat rooms. The internal chat is supposed to be confidential, but comments often get leaked, stoking online outrage. It takes remarkably little to start the cycle, as Times opinion writer Bari Weiss discovered last year. Weiss, already in disfavor among progressives for criticizing aspects of the #MeToo movement, got into trouble for celebrating the Olympic performance of gymnast Mirai Nagasu, the American-born daughter of Japanese immigrants. Weiss adapted a line from the Hamilton musical to tweet: “Immigrants: They get the job done.” Weiss was promptly attacked for describing Nagasu as an immigrant, making her guilty of a progressive offense known as “othering.”
HuffPost’s Ashley Feinberg, who did her own version of othering by labeling Weiss a “feminist apostate” and “troll,” published the leaked transcript of an internal chat among Times staffers in which Weiss’s tweet was compared to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The staffers called for an expansion of the company’s program in implicit-bias training to combat the paper’s “microaggressions” and “hostile work environment.” Weiss tried explaining that she’d been aware of the gymnast’s family background and had been using poetic license, but eventually she tweeted her surrender: “I am being told that I am a racist, a ghoul and that I deserve to die. So I deleted the tweet. That’s where we are.”
Ian Buruma, the editor of The New York Review of Books, was fired for publishing an article by a man accused of sexual assault (a Canadian journalist who’d been acquitted of the charges in court but saw his career ruined). Buruma was doomed by online outrage, a staff revolt, and threats from university presses to withdraw advertising. Harper’s was similarly roiled by internal rebellion and online fury for publishing articles by John Hockenberry, the NPR host who lost his job over sexual harassment accusations, and by Katie Roiphe, whose criticism of #MeToo was controversial even before the magazine published it. Rumors about the pending article prompted Nicole Cliffe, a columnist at Slate, to call for freelance writers to boycott Harper’s unless it killed Roiphe’s piece; Cliffe even offered to compensate them for any money they lost by withdrawing their articles. Her preemptive strike didn’t stop publication of the Roiphe article, but it did inspire at least one company to withdraw an ad from Harper’s.
The Atlantic faced a campaign to fire Kevin Williamson shortly after he was hired away from National Review. Writers at theNew Republic, the New York Times, Slate, Vox, the Daily Beast, and other outlets called him unfit for the job. They were particularly appalled by an earlier podcast in which Williamson, in a spirit of provocation, said that women who have abortions deserved the same punishment as those who commit first-degree murder, even if that meant hanging. The Atlanticinitially stood by him, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of its star progressive writers, even praised Williamson’s work and said that he’d advised hiring him. But the online dragging and internal discontent soon led to his exit. At a staff meeting (a video of which was leaked to HuffPost) after Williamson’s firing, Coates apologized to his colleagues. “I feel like I kind of failed you guys,” he said.
The online outrage against Williamson was fanned by Media Matters for America, the nonprofit that employs dozens of researchers to dig up damaging material on conservatives—or, at least, material that will sound especially bad if it’s quoted without context. (Williamson, for instance, had also expressed reservations about imposing the death penalty for any crime.) One Media Matters researcher, heroically profiled in the Washington Post, spent ten hours a day listening to recordings from 2006 to 2011 of Tucker Carlson’s conversations with Bubba the Love Sponge, a shock-jock radio host. Media Matters published some of Carlson’s cruder comments and followed up with new ones on subsequent days to keep the story alive and provide ammunition for activists demanding that corporations stop advertising on Carlson’s Fox News show. The campaign succeeded in pressuring advertisers like Land Rover and IHOP to abandon the program, which runs fewer commercials than it did last year.
It’s easy to see why progressive activists have made advertising boycotts one of their chief weapons against Fox, Breitbart, and other conservative outlets. What’s harder to fathom is why so many journalists have cheered a tactic that’s bad for their profession. This kind of boycott is different from the traditional ones against companies accused of bad behavior like mistreating their workers or polluting the environment. In this case, companies are targeted not for the way they run their businesses but simply for advertising their wares. Jack Shafer, the longtime media critic, has been a lonely libertarian voice warning of the threat that this poses to journalism and public discourse. “I barely trust IHOP to make my breakfast,” he wrote in Politico. “Why would I expect it to vet my cable news content for me?”
Journalists have traditionally prided themselves on their independence from advertisers. Now the boycotters want to end that independence. If advertisers start being held accountable for content, their aversion to controversy will put pressure on media companies to churn out bland fare that won’t risk offending anyone. “It’s easy to imagine today’s boycotts turning into tomorrow’s blacklist,” wrote Shafer.
Instead of worrying about this threat to their autonomy, journalists at progressive and mainstream publications have promoted it. Activists announce boycotts regularly, but these rarely make an impact unless they get widespread public attention. Sleeping Giants, an activist group leading the boycotts, has gotten lots of publicity (and web traffic) from largely uncritical articles heralding its leaders’ pure motives. Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist, acknowledged that there might be a problem if boycotters aimed at a provocative outlet like Gawker—a left-leaning site that meets her approval—but she couldn’t bring herself to condemn the tactic. Quite the reverse: “To those who sympathize with Sleeping Giants’ objections to online racism, sexism and hate-mongering—count me in this number—their efforts seem worthwhile, sometimes even noble.”
Other journalists have explicitly endorsed the Carlson boycott, including Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, and Michelangelo Signorile of HuffPost. Some have even pitched in to pressure the advertisers directly. Jenna Amatulli, a reporter at HuffPost, published a list of the show’s advertisers, complete with links to their contact information, and wrote that she had “reached out” for statements from each company—meaning, in effect, that she had personally threatened them with bad publicity. No one wants to be named in a story accusing an advertiser of supporting “racism,” “white nationalism,” and “misogyny,” Carlson’s alleged sins, reported as established facts in HuffPost articles.
Other HuffPost reporters used similar tactics against Daryush Valizadeh, known as Roosh, a male critic of feminism who ran a website called Return of Kings. After the reporters “reached out” to Amazon, YouTube, and other companies that enabled Roosh to collect online revenue, Amazon removed some of his books, and YouTube banned him from livestreaming. HuffPost triumphantly reported the campaign’s outcome: “Rape Apologist ‘Roosh’ Shutting Down Website After Running Out of Money.”
How would the management of HuffPostreact if conservative journalists similarly “reached out” to its advertisers? I put that question to Lydia Polgreen, the editor-in-chief, noting that it would be easy to find articles (like one by Jesse Been defending violence against Trump supporters) that could scare off corporations. She dodged the question, referring me to a spokesperson’s bland statement about HuffPost being trusted by advertisers because of its “factual insights.”
A few conservatives have tried these censorious tactics against liberals, with little success. They’ve hired researchers to dig up damaging social-media posts by liberal reporters—a move that Polgreen called an “extremely alarming” threat to “independent journalism,” though it’s precisely what her HuffPost staff and Media Matters do to conservative journalists. Some conservatives responded to the Fox boycotts by announcing counter-boycotts against MSNBC, but these efforts got virtually no press coverage. Conservative journalists eagerly criticize the bias of their progressive colleagues, but they don’t have the same power to censor—or the same zeal.
To get an idea of the imbalance, consider the cases of Quinn Norton, a libertarian technology writer, and Sarah Jeong, a progressive technology writer. After the Times announced that it was hiring Norton for its editorial page, it took just seven hours for progressives to get her fired. On Twitter and in an internal Times chat room (as HuffPost reported), Norton was attacked for having tweeted that she was friends with a neo-Nazi hacker whom she had covered. She had always repudiated his ideology, calling him a “terrible person,” but that wasn’t enough to save her job. Six months later, in August 2018, when the Times hired Jeong for the editorial page, conservative activists unearthed tweets from Jeong, an Asian-American, denigrating white men as well as whites as a race. One used a hashtag “#CancelWhitePeople”; another predicted that whites would soon go extinct and said, “This was my plan all along.” The Times stuck with its decision to hire her. (The paper recently announced that Jeong would no longer be part of its editorial board, though she will continue as a contributing writer.)
Conservative journalists criticized the Times for its double standard, but they didn’t unite with the online activists demanding that Jeong be fired. The Times’s Bret Stephens wrote a column urging the paper to overlook the offensive tweets. In New York, Andrew Sullivan lambasted Jeong’s bigotry and the progressive dogma that it’s impossible to be racist against whites, but he, too, urged the Times not to fire her because media companies should not succumb to online mobs. You might think that Sullivan’s forbearance would win him some points with progressives, and perhaps even make them question their own enthusiasm for purges, but the column didn’t play well even with Sullivan’s colleagues at New York. Brian Feldman, an associate editor, tweeted: “Andrew Sullivan’s newest column is complete garbage and I’m embarrassed to be even tangentially associated with it.” Not exactly collegial, but again, that’s where we are.
Another thought experiment: suppose, after a small organization announces a march in support of abortion rights, that an alliance of antiabortion protesters vows to shut it down. As the marchers proceed, they’re confronted by a much larger group of counterprotesters wearing masks, carrying clubs, and chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” The counterprotesters block the marchers’ progress and throw eggs, milk shakes, and rocks at them. Fights break out, inspiring a news article: “Six people were injured today in clashes between anti-murder demonstrators and a far-left group linked to infanticide. Leaders of the anti-murder protesters blamed the left-wing group for provoking the violence and vowed to ‘continue defending ourselves and the most vulnerable members of our society.’ ”
Are there any right-wing journalists capable of misreporting a story so dishonestly? They haven’t had a chance to try. There’s no group of right-wing masked thugs who regularly try to stop left-wing speeches and marches. The “no-platforming” strategy is a specialty of Antifa, the left-wing network whose members have brawled at conservative and Republican events in Berkeley, San Jose, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., Boston, Portland, Vancouver, and other cities. They describe themselves as “anti-fascist,” a ludicrous term for a masked mob suppressing free speech, but journalists respectfully use it anyway.
Media coverage obscures Antifa’s aggression by vaguely reporting “clashes” between antifascists who claim to be acting in “self-defense” (though they typically outnumber their enemies by at least four to one) against the violence of “racists” and “white supremacists” of the “alt-right.” It doesn’t matter if the conservative group is rallying to support free speech—hardly a traditional priority for fascists—and has specifically banned white supremacists from participating. Enterprising journalists can always find someone at the rally somehow linked to what some left-wing organization has designated a dangerous “hate group.” And journalists can turn to the much-quoted Mark Bray, a historian at Dartmouth, to provide a rationale for the masked mob’s tactics. In his Anti-Fascist Handbook, Bray acknowledges that Antifa’s no-platforming strategy infringes on others’ free speech but maintains that it is “justified for its role in the political struggle against fascism” and approvingly describes violence as “a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.”
This coverage jibes with the media narrative that the great threat to civil liberties comes from the right, a rationale used for censoring conservatives. If a lone sociopath with right-wing leanings turns violent, commentators rush to blame it on the “climate” created by President Trump and Fox News, which makes no more sense than blaming Elizabeth Warren for the recent killing spree in Dayton by a supporter of hers, or blaming MSNBC for the Rachel Maddow fan who opened fire on Republican members of Congress in Alexandria, Virginia. Violent young men certainly exist on the right, but no conservative academic or journalist tries to rationalize their attacks as “self-defense.” They can post online threats and domination fantasies, but they don’t have the numbers or the institutional power to silence their opponents.
Yet most journalists obsess over right-wing dangers while ignoring or downplaying the actual violence on the left. There are exceptions, like Peter Beinart of TheAtlantic, who has warned about Antifa and criticized The Nation and Slate for celebrating one of its assaults (the punching of white nationalist Richard Spencer). But few others have paid much heed to Antifa. Some, like Carlos Maza and the New Republic’s Matt Ford, have praised its milk-shaking tactic. While working at Vox, Maza tweeted, “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.” He has also tweeted, “Deplatform the bigots,” and put that idea into practice with the outspoken support of Vox’s executives. His pressure on YouTube triggered the “Vox Adpocalypse,” in which YouTube cut off advertising revenue to Steven Crowder and other conservative commentators.
Outside of conservative and libertarian outlets, Antifa hasn’t attracted much scrutiny, even as its followers have assaulted journalists. (They also stood outside Carlson’s home, chanting, “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!”) The latest victim is Andy Ngo, a writer for Quillette, City Journal, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications, whose coverage of Antifa’s violence led to threats and harassment from the group’s members over the last two years. In June, Ngo was attacked at a rally in Portland for men’s rights that attracted two dozen supporters. They were opposed by 400 protesters who blocked streets and threw milk shakes handed out by organizers. As Ngo was reporting, masked Antifa protesters rushed him, stole his camera, showered him with milk shakes and eggs, kicked him, and pummeled his head, cutting his face and tearing his earlobe. He was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage.
Any attack on a journalist for reporting usually inspires displays of professional solidarity, but the Wall Street Journal was the only major newspaper to editorialize in support of Ngo. The Committee to Protect Journalists, which issues frequent news bulletins on threats to the press, published nothing on the assault. Last year, the committee ran a detailed report on American journalists who felt threatened by the far right (none of whom had been physically injured), but it seems uninterested in Antifa.
Some progressive journalists condemned the assault on Ngo but faulted him and the conservative organizers of the rally for inviting violence, as in a HuffPost article headlined “Far-Right Extremists Wanted Blood in Portland’s Streets. Once Again, They Got It.” Aymann Ismail, a staff writer at Slate, tweeted, “This is bad, but Ngo has done worse.” The Portland Mercury tried discrediting Ngo by claiming that he previously had been complicit in an attack by right-wingers on Antifa—a baseless claim debunked by Reason’s Soave but nonetheless repeated by the Daily Beast, Vice, and Rolling Stone. Zack Beauchamp of Vox condemned the physical assault on Ngo but offered excruciating rationalizations for Antifa’s rage. “The mere fact that Ngo was assaulted doesn’t say what the meaning of that assault is, or what the broader context is that’s necessary to understand it,” he wrote, explaining that the controversy “isn’t really a debate about press freedoms” but rather about “two divergent visions of where American politics is.” One of those visions just happens to require silencing the other side.
Free speech should be of special interest to the Columbia Journalism Review, which calls itself “the leading global voice on journalism news and commentary.” But CJR sees the issue through a progressive filter. It not only criticized The New York Review of Books and Harper’s for publishing articles by journalists fired for sexual harassment but also essentially advocated a blacklist: “The men who feel they have been unfairly treated following accusations of harassment or abuse are entitled to their perspective, but nothing demands that editors turn over the pages of their publications to these figures.” CJRapplauded Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for “stemming the flow of toxic ideas” by banning “hate-mongers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones.” After the violence at Berkeley and Middlebury, CJRurged reporters covering campus unrest to “be wary of amplifying flashpoints that match Trump’s own ‘intolerant left’ narrative,” and it has been following its own advice.
CJR showed little interest in Antifa’s censorious tactics until prompted recently by Quillette, the online magazine devoted to “dangerous ideas,” which has run articles by journalists and academics on the culture wars over free speech. Eoin Lenihan, a researcher in online extremism, reported in May on an analysis of the Twitter users who interact most heavily with Antifa sites. Most turned out to be journalists, including writers for the Guardian, the New Republic, and HuffPostas well for pro-Antifa publications. Following a group closely on Twitter, of course, doesn’t mean that one endorses its activity; journalists do need to track the subjects they cover. But these journalists seemed more devoted to promoting the cause than covering it impartially. “Of all 15 verified national-level journalists in our subset, we couldn’t find a single article, by any of them, that was markedly critical of Antifa in any way,” Lenihan wrote. “In all cases, their work in this area consisted primarily of downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts.”
CJR responded to Lenihan’s article—but not by analyzing the press coverage of Antifa. Instead, it ran an article, “Right-Wing Publications Launder an Anti-Journalist Smear Campaign,” by Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch, a project of the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way. Holt’s article was a mix of ad hominem attacks, irrelevancies, and inaccuracies. Cathy Young, who wrote about the controversy for Arc Digital, concluded that every key point in his argument was wrong. Even worse was what Holt omitted. He didn’t even address Lenihan’s main conclusion: that press coverage of Antifa was biased—the issue that should have been most relevant to a journalism review.
Yet CJR remained uninterested in Antifa even after the subsequent assault on Andy Ngo. This past summer, it ran an article about rightists attacking journalists in Greece, but Ngo’s assault didn’t even rate a mention in CJR’s daily digest of journalism news. The only reference to the Portland melee was a summary of a Media Matters article criticizing Fox News for its coverage. Fox, like other outlets, had quoted a report from the Portland police that some of the milk shakes handed out by Antifa contained quick-drying cement, but no other evidence existed that this was true. To the nation’s leading journalism review, that was apparently the most important lesson of the episode for reporters: be careful not to exaggerate the violence of leftists opposed to free speech. And never mind that a journalist is in the hospital as a result of that violence.
Is there any hope of reviving the spirit of Nat Hentoff on the left? The zeal for banning “hate speech” doesn’t seem to be abating, though some progressives are developing a new appreciation for the First Amendment, thanks to Trump’s incoherent comments about it, like his offhand remark that “bad” speech is not “free speech” because it is “dangerous.” While the dangers of Trump’s “war on the press” have been exaggerated—no matter how much he’d like to silence “fake news CNN” or the “failing New York Times,” the courts won’t suspend the First Amendment to please him—there is a danger of the federal government stifling speech on social media.
There’s some bipartisan support in Congress and even among journalists for removing what’s been called the Internet’s First Amendment: the exemption that allows social media platforms to publish controversial material without being held legally liable for it. Removing the exemption appeals to some Democrats who want to restrict “hate speech,” and to some Republicans, too, angry at the platforms for censoring right-wing voices. This censorship is often blamed on social media companies’ progressive bias, which may well exist, but it’s due at least in part simply to the greater external pressure from progressive activists and journalists. If progressives keep trying to de-platform their opponents—and if Twitter and Facebook and YouTube keep caving to the pressure—there’ll be more bipartisan enthusiasm to restrict all speech on social media.
A more immediate danger is self-censorship by writers fearful of being fired or blacklisted and by editors fearful of online rage, staff revolts, and advertising boycotts. After the firing of Williamson, The Atlantic (to its credit) published a dissent from that decision by Conor Friedersdorf, in which he worried about the chilling effect it would have on the magazine’s writers and editors, and how their fear of taking chances would ultimately hurt readers. That’s the danger at every publication that bows to the new censors. Resisting them won’t be easy if journalism keeps going the way of academia.
But all editors and publishers can take a couple of basic steps. One is to concentrate on hiring journalists committed to the most important kind of diversity: a wide range of ideas open for vigorous debate. The other step is even simpler: stop capitulating. Ignore the online speech police, and don’t reward the staff censors, either. Instead of feeling their pain or acceding to their demands, give them a copy of Nat Hentoff’s Free Speech for Me—but Not for Thee. If they still don’t get it—if they still don’t see that free speech is their profession’s paramount principle—tactfully suggest that their talents would be better suited to another line of work.
Category: US politics
The NY Times’ 1619 Project was a sprawling effort earlier this year to convince Americans that slavery was part of the DNA of America. Made up of various pieces by different authors, the 1619 Project seemed to promote an idea that matched current far left sentiment about the importance of identity with an underlying anti-capitalism. The Times is now promoting the Project for inclusion in high school curricula, so it’s likely it will be with us for some time. But where did all of this material come from?
One site has done some important work looking into the Times’ Project by simply asking top scholars what they though of it and whether or not they were consulted. In published interviews, three of those scholars have said they were not consulted and that the Project seems to be based as much on a biased an narrow ideology as history. But there is one twist in this story that you probably won’t see coming. The site which has done these interviews is the World Socialist Website. Take that for what it’s worth but I think the work speaks for itself in this case.
Earlier this month the site interviewed James McPherson on his reaction to the Times’ Project. McPhereson is a Princeton history professor who specializes in the history of the Civil War including a Pulitzer Prize winning history on the topic. Here’s a sample of what McPhereson had to say about 1619:
Q. What was your initial reaction to the 1619 Project?
A. Well, I didn’t know anything about it until I got my Sunday paper, with the magazine section entirely devoted to the 1619 Project. Because this is a subject I’ve long been interested in I sat down and started to read some of the essays. I’d say that, almost from the outset, I was disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history. And slavery in the United States was only a small part of a larger world process that unfolded over many centuries. And in the United States, too, there was not only slavery but also an antislavery movement. So I thought the account, which emphasized American racism—which is obviously a major part of the history, no question about it—but it focused so narrowly on that part of the story that it left most of the history out.
So I read a few of the essays and skimmed the rest, but didn’t pursue much more about it because it seemed to me that I wasn’t learning very much new. And I was a little bit unhappy with the idea that people who did not have a good knowledge of the subject would be influenced by this and would then have a biased or narrow view…
Q. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead writer and leader of the 1619 Project, includes a statement in her essay—and I would say that this is the thesis of the project—that “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.”
A. Yes, I saw that too. It does not make very much sense to me. I suppose she’s using DNA metaphorically. She argues that racism is the central theme of American history. It is certainly part of the history. But again, I think it lacks context, lacks perspective on the entire course of slavery and how slavery began and how slavery in the United States was hardly unique. And racial convictions, or “anti-other” convictions, have been central to many societies.
But the idea that racism is a permanent condition, well that’s just not true. And it also doesn’t account for the countervailing tendencies in American history as well. Because opposition to slavery, and opposition to racism, has also been an important theme in American history.
The WSWS also interviewed James Oakes, “Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.” Oakes has written several award-winning books about slavery and anti-slavery in America. In this interview, Oakes was asked directly about the attempt by one of the 1619 authors to connect slavery to capitalism:
Q. Can you discuss some of the recent literature on slavery and capitalism, which argues that chattel slavery was, and is, the decisive feature of capitalism, especially American capitalism? I am thinking in particular of the recent books by Sven Beckert, Ed Baptist and Walter Johnson. This seems to inform the contribution to the 1619 Project by Matthew Desmond.
A. Collectively their work has prompted some very strong criticism from scholars in the field. My concern is that by avoiding some of the basic analytical questions, most of the scholars have backed into a neo-liberal economic interpretation of slavery, though I think I’d exempt Sven Beckert somewhat from that, because I think he’s come to do something somewhat different theoretically.
What you really have with this literature is a marriage of neo-liberalism and liberal guilt. When you marry those two things, neo-liberal politics and liberal guilt, this is what you get. You get the New York Times, you get the literature on slavery and capitalism…
Q. And a point we made in our response to the 1619 Project, is that it dovetails also with the major political thrust of the Democratic Party, identity politics. And the claim that is made, and I think it’s almost become a commonplace, is that slavery is the uniquely American “original sin.”
A. Yes. “Original sin,” that’s one of them. The other is that slavery or racism is built into the DNA of America. These are really dangerous tropes. They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical. The function of those tropes is to deny change over time. It goes back to those analogies. They say, “look at how terribly black people were treated under slavery. And look at the incarceration rate for black people today. It’s the same thing.” Nothing changes. There has been no industrialization. There has been no Great Migration. We’re all in the same boat we were back then. And that’s what original sin is. It’s passed down. Every single generation is born with the same original sin. And the worst thing about it is that it leads to political paralysis. It’s always been here. There’s nothing we can do to get out of it. If it’s the DNA, there’s nothing you can do. What do you do? Alter your DNA?
Finally, just this week the site published an interview with Gordon Wood, professor emeritus at Brown University. Wood is author of a Pulitzer Prize winning book on the Revolutionary War. Like the others, he was not contacted by the NY Times for the 1619 Project and doesn’t know any of his fellow expert historians who were either. Wood tells the WSWS, “I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways.”
The entire interview is worth reading but some of the highlights are contained in the video clip below. The conclusion of any one of these scholars would be a problem for the NY Times’ 1619 Project, but the fact that all three of them see it as fundamentally wrong, anti-historical, and lacking perspective ought to lead schools around the country to reconsider its value.
University of Maryland Prof. Peter Morici:
My grandfather, a buttonhole maker, had three loyalties — family, his union and the Democratic Party. He believed a man’s first calling is to be a provider, his union enabled that role and the party of Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt was the workingman’s champion.
He could not give great thought to New Deal policies — the efficacy of Fair Trade Laws that made his appliances more expensive or Secretary of State Hull’s freer trade agenda that ultimately decimated his apparel industry. The details were beyond the grasp of someone with a grade-school education.
His politics were tribal, and he embraced politicians who often worked against his interests.
My father, a high school graduate who spent most of his career on the first rung of management supervising salesmen in the now-defunct door-to-door life insurance business — put first family, his company and the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, because he wanted to identify with the class of his superiors at corporate headquarters.
He was anti-union, for low taxes and strict curbs on government spending, because that was in line with the views of the managerial class and GOP agenda.
Ironically, three of his children owe their educations and considerable prosperity to progressive institutions and policies — the State University of New York and generously subsidized tuition.
These days, we like to think a better-educated citizenry weighs policy prescription and the performance of incumbents on everything from trade and immigration to health care and education, and aligns with candidates and parties based on an earnest appraisal of what they offer. And the combined wisdom of an engaged electorate will prudently steer our government.
In A Democracy for Realists, political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels offer significant evidence that thinking is wrongheaded. Instead, voters choose political parties and candidates based on social identities and partisan loyalties and then adjust perceptions of facts on the ground and views on public policy to match party loyalties.
Nearly 90 percent of Republicans are happy with the economy as it is now performing but fewer than 40 percent of Democrats do, and presidential approval ratings through both the Obama and Trump years have been little correlated with fluctuations with broader perceptions of economic conditions.
This is hardly surprising. Few voters have time to understand the machinations of economics and government policy and rely on leaders who share their values to be their guide.
The trick to winning elections consistently is to build a big tribe and then win enough of the 15 million swing voters with very expensive high-tech marketing that profiles individuals through surveys, purchases and web-surfing habits, and then bombard them with surgically targeted social media messaging, videos, direct mail and walk and phone contact for registration, persuasion and turnout.
The really interesting elections occur when presidential candidates steal major segments of the other party’s tribe — Reagan garnering blue collar union votes, Bill Clinton’s inroads with women and Barack Obama’s outsized success with younger voters and college grads — and sometimes keep them for their party permanently.
To build a tribe in an ethnically diverse, gender role-evolving, post-industrial America, parties can’t clutch to binary divisions like workers vs. management but instead pick big villains that can unite fragmented elements of the electorate.
Mr. Trump characterized undocumented immigrants — most recently the DACAs — as criminals, but the statistical evidence indicates they are not more inclined toward crime. The Obama-Clinton-Warren et al. axis practices identity politics and harpoons white male culture for inequality and injustice.
Candidates and public officials can advocate the most irresponsible policies. For example, failing to accept millions more immigrants will smother our economy. The birth rate of native-born Americans is too low to sustain our labor force and support the elderly.
The Green New Deal would make U.S. cities and homes uninhabitable. By 2030 or even 2040, does anyone honestly believe electric vehicles could be competent and plentiful enough to replace all the petroleum-powered trucks that supply Manhattan and other cities with daily necessities or every gas furnace in America could be replaced by heat pumps?
In the absence of reason, voter frustration encourages new demagogues to oust incumbents.
Virtually all Elizabeth Warren’s “plans” are premised on scapegoats — big banks, business and billionaires.
It’s Latin America with ballots for rifles but self-destructive just the same.
If you don’t like Mr. Trump, wait and see what the next man — or woman — on a white horse does.
This is pretty self-evident, isn’t it? Republicans are circling the wagons around Donald Trump for things for which they would seek impeachment of a Democratic president … just as Democrats did for Barack Obama … and Republicans did for George W. Bush … and Democrats did for Bill Clinton … you get the picture.
One of the features of our body politic is the increasingly hysterical predictions that second-term Donald Trump will cause the earth to boil over and/or lock up everyone in government concentration camps, or something like that.
The funny part for those of us who were paying attention is when your favorite leftist compares Trump unfavorably to a previous Republican president — for instance, either George Bush or Ronald Reagan.
About the latter, Ira Stoll remembers:
Bigotry. Fascism. A threat to women’s rights. Alliances with foreign dictators. A president as entertainer, trampling labor and the environment.
It sounds like the contemporary complaints against President Trump.
Actually, it’s a 1984 newspaper advertisement from “Scholars Against the Escalating Danger of the Far Right.”
“With Ronald Reagan as its performing star in the White House, the Far Right is attempting to take over the Republican Party,” says the ad, published in the November 2, 1984, New York Times and signed by, among others, Carl Sagan, Linus Pauling, Corliss Lamont, Stephen Jay Gould, John Hope Franklin, Gloria Steinem, and Frances Fox Piven.
“Four more years of Reaganism…would see a sweeping attack on civil liberties. Four more years of Reaganism would also bring us closer to a nuclear Holocaust. Unlawful intervention in Central America threatens us with a new Vietnam,” the ad claims.
It says Reagan sought “to stifle women’s rights, including the right to legal abortion.” The ad says that under Reagan, “The Civil Rights Commission is anti-civil rights, the NLRB is anti-labor, the EPA is anti-environment. The Administration champions special privileges for the elite while life for the working people, the poor and minorities deteriorates.”
“There is a scent of fascism in the air,” the ad pronounces, warning that a second Reagan term would unleash “more bigots and chauvinists.”
As we now know, Reagan’s second term led not to either a “nuclear Holocaust” or “a new Vietnam.” It was followed shortly, rather, under the presidency of Reagan’s vice president, by the defeat of the Soviet Union and the freeing of the captive nations, a point that was marked earlier this month by the unveiling in Berlin of a statue of Ronald Reagan at the American embassy in Berlin.
In unveiling the statue, the Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, quoted Reagan: “Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few. It is the universal right of all of God’s children.”
Mr. Pompeo went on, “Everyone, everywhere is entitled to that freedom. It’s a bold claim, and it’s an idea that our nation was founded on, and one that we work at tirelessly.”
The other predictions and warnings about the supposed dangers of a second Reagan term proved similarly alarmist and unfounded. Abortion remained legal. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for black Americans declined to 11.8% in January 1989, when Reagan left office, from the roughly 15% it had been at when he was elected in November 1980 and when the New York Times ad appeared in November 1984. It’s not that Reagan was perfect; no human is, especially humans of the variety known as politicians. The claims of fascism and impending nuclear holocaust, though, were so overwrought as to be discrediting.
I have no problem remembering this, because I witnessed it firsthand as a UW–(People’s Republic of) Madison student. The Daily Communist — I mean Daily Cardinal — ran increasingly unhinged opinions, some of which were actually on the opinion pages, suggesting all manner of bad things, man, should “Ronnie Raygun” get reelected, culminating with some wit thinking he was clever by borrowing Bob Dylan’s song title, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”
Readers recall the interruptions of the National Anthem before 1984 UW football games against Ohio State and Purdue by the “anti-nuclear dance group” Nu Parable, which staged “die-ins” miming the effects of a nuclear attack. (The second time they did their thing away from the Band, learning hard lessons after a few Nu Parable body parts crashed into a few band members’ fists, and at least one dancer got punted several yards downfield.)
Voters are now faced with a replay when it comes to President Trump. The New York Observer quoted Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and thus a key player in the Trump impeachment inquiry, as saying, “Donald Trump is the first major candidate in American politics, in recent decades, that I think really deserves to be called a fascist.”
Now, just because Democrats falsely warned that a previous Republican president was a fascist doesn’t necessarily mean that the Democrats are wrong when they call the current Republican president a fascist. The risks of having a fascist president are formidable enough that perhaps a few false alarms are a price worth paying for prevention.
It is an encouraging sign about how far America is from fascism that calling a politician a fascist is an insult, not a compliment. That is something that applies widely, across the political spectrum, and seems to be as true today as it was during the Reagan administration.
Vice President Biden is going around flogging the idea that America and its institutions won’t be able to survive another four years of President Trump. The Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post is selling Trump-era subscriptions on the idea that “Democracy dies in darkness.”
The reason they are putting up statues of Reagan is that rather than curtailing freedom and prosperity, his leadership vastly expanded it. If a second Trump term yields similar outcomes, it may not entirely eliminate future warnings of fascism, but it will further erode their credibility.
The New York Times ad was so effective that four days later …
… Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, and it seemed as though every left-wing college newspaper (but I repeat myself) used the same headline, “There he goes again.” Fortunately for the ad’s signers, none of them appear to have suffered negative career consequences for their non-credible hysterics.
In 1989, as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders praised the Cuban revolution in a public statement. “For better or for worse, the Cuban revolution is a very profound and very deep revolution. Much deeper than I had understood,” Sanders wrote. “More interesting than their providing their people with free health care, free education, free housing … is that they are in fact creating a very different value system than the one we are familiar with.”
After a trip to the Soviet Union in 1988, Sanders also praised many aspects of the Russian socialist system. But today he stresses that when he talks about “socialism,” he isn’t referring to a system like in the Soviet Union.
Democrats like Bernie Sanders tend to hold up Scandinavian countries as their dream examples of “socialism.” Either socialists like Sanders don’t know enough about Scandinavian countries’ economies or they hope that huge swathes of the American public know too little about them. That’s why it’s so informative to take a look at economic developments in Scandinavia. For a long time, Sweden was regarded as a model of “democratic socialism” and the perfect example of a counter-model to American capitalism.
Spoiler alert: Modern Sweden is not a socialist country. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom ranking, Sweden is among the 20 most market-oriented economies in the world. With an “Economic Freedom Score” of 75.2, Sweden has a similar level of economic freedom to the United States (76.8) and ranks ahead of South Korea and Germany.
The image of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries as strongholds of socialism harks back to the 1970s and 1980s. During the period of socialist welfare-state expansion from 1970 to 1991, Sweden dropped far behind many of its European competitors. Sweden’s economic growth rate was lower than in a number of other countries, including Italy, France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. From fourth place in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) per-capita GDP ranking in 1970, socialist-era Sweden had dropped to 16th place by 1995.
In the decade from 1965 to 1975, the number of civil servants swelled from 700,000 to 1.2 million, a rise that was accompanied by increasing government intervention in economic affairs and the creation of a number of new regulatory authorities. Between 1970 and 1984, the public sector absorbed the entire growth of the Swedish workforce, with the largest number of new jobs created in the social services sector.
In order to understand the full extent of Sweden’s disastrous flirtation with socialism, it is well worth taking a closer look at the development of two key groups: In 1960, for every 100 “market-financed” Swedes (i.e. those who derived their income predominantly from private enterprise), there were 38 who were “tax-financed” (i.e. dependent on the public sector for their income, whether as civil servants or as welfare recipients). Thirty years later, that number had risen to 151. During the same period, the total number of employed or self-employed in the market-financed sector fell from just under 3 million to just under 2.6 million, while the total number of tax-financed Swedes grew from 1.1 million to 3.9 million. These figures reflect Sweden’s move away from a capitalist free-market economy to a socialist model during that period.
Politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who call for drastic tax increases on the rich, would be well advised to take a closer look at how such policies played out in Sweden. The socialist agenda damaged the Swedish economy and resulted in prominent entrepreneurs leaving the country in frustration. Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was one of them. The marginal income tax rate of 85% was supplemented by a wealth tax on his personal assets, which forced him to borrow money from his own company in order to pay his taxes.
To pay back his debts to Ikea, Kamprad planned to sell one of the small companies he owned to Ikea at a profit. At the time this was a common practice among Swedish entrepreneurs as they attempted to reduce their wealth tax burden. As Kamprad was preparing the sale, the government made changes to tax legislation. And they did so retroactively. He was stuck with the costs and furious at his country’s unfair treatment of entrepreneurs. In 1974, he moved to Denmark and later to Switzerland, where he spent the next few decades—for a time as the wealthiest man in Europe. Kamprad didn’t return to Sweden to live and pay taxes until 2013—a textbook example of how countries cut their own throats by imposing excessive taxes on the rich.
Many excesses of the welfare state were equally absurd, including the generous sick pay. As well as statutory payments, most employees in Sweden received additional sickness benefit under company agreements and their collective agreements, which meant that those who took sick leave ended up with a larger paycheck than a healthy person who came to work every day. Unsurprisingly, Sweden held the OECD record for the highest rate of non-working adults in the labor force for several decades. Equally unsurprisingly, spikes in the rate of absence due to sickness frequently coincided with major sporting events. Even during the 2002 soccer World Cup—by which time reforms had already reversed the very worst excesses—the number of sick days increased by 41% among male workers.
From the 1990s, however, a counter-movement emerged in Sweden to push back against the clearly catastrophic effects of “democratic socialism.” There was a major tax reform in Sweden in 1990/91:
– corporate taxes were slashed almost in half;
– the tax on share dividends was abolished;
– capital gains from shares were taxed at a greatly reduced rate, which was later eliminated completely; and
– the top marginal income tax rate was cut by a third.
While income tax rates have come down considerably from their peak in the 1970s and 1980, they are still higher than in many other countries. However, what many don’t realize is that other taxes have been completely abolished in Sweden, including:
– wealth taxes; and
– inheritance and gift taxes.
In stark contrast, socialists of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s ilk want to drastically increase wealth and inheritance taxes in the United States.
The Swedish population willingly accepted that stripping back the welfare system would result in a more drastic decline in equality than almost anywhere else in the world. The Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of income distribution, grew by around 30% between the mid-1980s and the late 2000s. Only New Zealand recorded a similar growth in inequality during the same period. As a result, Sweden lost its ranking as the world’s most egalitarian country. But this did not seem to bother the Swedes all that much. After all, despite the significant decline in equality compared with Sweden’s socialist phase, prosperity increased for the vast majority.
The Associated Press compares and contrasts Recallarama and Donald Trump’s impeachment:
A divisive leader drove the opposition to extreme measures. The political climate was toxic — with little civil debate or middle ground. The clash ended in a high-risk political showdown that captured the nation’s attention and shaped the next election.
This was the 2012 battle to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, not the 2019 fight to impeach President Donald Trump. But for some who lived through the former, the episodes have clear similarities and a warning for Democrats about overreach and distraction.
“In both cases, they thought just as they were upset about something, everyone was,” Walker said, describing one of his takeaways from the campaign that failed to remove him from office. “Just because your base feels strongly about something doesn’t mean that the majority of other voters do.”
Although moderates declined to join liberals back then in voting to eject Walker, Democrats warn against presuming they’ll break the same way for Trump next year in Wisconsin, a state seen as pivotal in 2020. Voters who were likely wary of undoing Walker’s election via a rare recall face a simpler choice in whether to hand Trump a second term, they say.
“People may not like impeachment, simply because it adds to the drama of his presidency, but that doesn’t mean they are on the fence or sympathetic to Trump,” said Jon Erpenbach, a Democratic Wisconsin state senator.
The Walker recall sprang from a law he signed just months into his first term that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. Walker didn’t reveal his plan until after he was elected in 2010, and the move sparked massive protests that made Wisconsin the center of a growing national fight over union rights.
Angry activists gathered nearly a million signatures to force the recall. Although Democrats had fought hard against the bill, with some state senators even fleeing the state at one point to avoid a vote, they were initially reluctant to embrace the recall for fear it would hurt then-President Barack Obama’s reelection hopes in 2012.
The recall became a proxy battle ahead of the presidential election, with Democrats arguing that Walker unfairly targeted teachers, nurses and other public employees to weaken the unions that traditionally supported Democratic candidates. Walker argued that his proposal shouldn’t have been a surprise since he campaigned on forcing public employees to pay more for their benefits while capping how much they could bargain for in raises. He also argued that it wasn’t proper to use the extraordinary option of recall over a policy dispute.
Walker ultimately won the recall election in June 2012, becoming a conservative hero on his way to a short-lived run for president in 2015. In a testament to Wisconsin’s political division, just five months after Walker won the recall vote, Obama cruised to victory in Wisconsin on his way to reelection.
Trump is accused of improperly withholding U.S. military aid that Ukraine needed to resist Russian aggression in exchange for Ukraine’s new president investigating Trump political rival Joe Biden and his son. Trump has argued that he was within his rights to ask Ukraine to look into corruption and that impeachment is just an attempt by Democrats to remove him from office.
Both impeachment and attempting to recall governors from office are exceedingly rare. Impeachment has only been leveled by the House against two presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton 130 years later. Richard Nixon was on the brink of it in 1974 before he resigned. Walker was only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall election and the first to survive it.
The rarity of the remedy may help explain why voters are reluctant to do either one, said Charles Franklin, who has regularly surveyed voter attitudes in Wisconsin for Marquette University.
A Marquette University Law School poll conducted just as public impeachment hearings were beginning earlier this month showed 53% of voters in Wisconsin were against removing Trump for office, with just 40% in support. National polls have shown a more even divide.
Even more troubling for Wisconsin Democrats was that while 78% of Democrats supported removing Trump through impeachment, 93% of Republicans were against it. That stronger rallying behind the incumbent, with the other side not as unified, parallels what was seen during the Walker recall, Franklin said.
Walker saw his support among independent voters go from about even six months before the recall election to positive 16 points just before the election. The latest Marquette poll also shows independents currently breaking against impeachment, with 47% against and 36% in favor.
Mike Tate, who was chairman of the state Democratic Party during the recall and continues to work in the state as a consultant, cautioned against making too much of where independents are on impeachment — and where they may be next November. After the impeachment process runs its course, Democrats will move on to talk about many other issues throughout the presidential campaign, Tate said.
“Impeachment will be in the rearview mirror,” he said.
But Stephan Thompson, who led the state GOP during the recalls and went on to manage Walker’s successful 2014 reelection campaign, said impeachment is “such a monumental event in history and politics” that it will hang over Democrats the rest of the cycle and make it difficult for them to bring moderate voters back to their side.
“When the left pushes this hard and overreaches, it helps you band together with people because you’re all in the foxhole together,” Thompson said. “I think that’s something they don’t realize.”
Erpenbach, the state senator, was among those who fled to Illinois for two weeks to try to kill the anti-union bill. He argues that unlike the recall, which was motivated by a policy disagreement, Congress was forced to hold impeachment hearings because Trump is alleged to have violated the Constitution.
Democrats are taking a political chance, Erpenbach said, but they’re doing what the Constitution requires, a key distinction from the recall.
“It worries me that it could backfire,” Erpenbach said, “but that’s not the point.”
Oh, yes, that is the point, Jon. The attempted coup d’état Erpenbach’s party spearheaded (against the advice of national Democrats, by the way) and the attempted coup d’état House Democrats are spearheading are indeed mostly comparable.
It is, however, interesting that Erpenbach now admits that Recallarama was all about a policy disagreement and nothing else. The B.S. about workers’ rights and whatever other crap Democrats dragged up was about nothing more than the fact they couldn’t stop Act 10 and wanted to do anything shy of assassinating Walker to stop Act 10. (Maybe I should rethink that last phrase.)
One difference is that there is a bigger group of Republicans opposed to Trump than the group opposed to Act 10. Other than former Sen. Dale Schultz, who I’m convinced only voted for Democrats after Gov. Tommy Thompson left office, there were a handful of Republicans who voted against Act 10, though they were not anti-Walker. There were no conservative radio talkers who spoke out against Walker or Act 10, in contrast to Trump.
The other, much bigger difference is that Walker did nothing to warrant the vitriol union thugs and other Democrats vomited at him. Trump, as we all know by now, has been his own worst enemy, unless that’s his intent.
Oh, by the way, where was that Walker indictment predicted by MSNBC’s John Nichols the night they lost the recall election? Probably the same place as Hillary Clinton’s election as president.
Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.” Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.” Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.”
Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”
Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.”
Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change. In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters. And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.
Climate change is an issue I care passionately about and have dedicated a significant portion of my life to addressing. I have been politically active on the issue for over 20 years and have researched and written about it for 17 years. Over the last four years, my organization, Environmental Progress, has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists to prevent carbon emissions from rising. So far, we’ve helped prevent emissions increasing the equivalent of adding 24 million cars to the road.
I also care about getting the facts and science right and have in recent months corrected inaccurate and apocalyptic news media coverage of fires in the Amazon and fires in California, both of which have been improperly presented as resulting primarily from climate change.
Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public. There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people. And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over.
I feel the need to say this up-front because I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration.
With that out of the way, let’s look whether the science supports what’s being said.
First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. “‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” BBC’s Andrew Neil asked a visibly uncomfortable XR spokesperson last month.
“These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” she said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying it’s not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.”
“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” said Neil. “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”
“Mass migration around the world already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia. There are wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Arctic,” she said.
But in saying so, the XR spokesperson had grossly misrepresented the science. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide,” notes IPCC, “but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause”
What about “mass migration”? “The majority of resultant population movements tend to occur within the borders of affected countries,” says IPCC.
It’s not like climate doesn’t matter. It’s that climate change is outweighed by other factors. Earlier this year, researchers found that climate “has affected organized armed conflict within countries. However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential.”
Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” He added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.”
That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931.
In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did. And that decline occurred over a period when the global population quadrupled.
What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even “unmanageable”?
Consider that one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and some areas are seven meters below sea level. You might object that Netherlands is rich while Bangladesh is poor. But the Netherlands adapted to living below sea level 400 years ago. Technology has improved a bit since then.
What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts crop yields increasing 30% by 2050. And the poorest parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, are expected to see increases of 80 to 90%.
Nobody is suggesting climate change won’t negatively impact crop yields. It could. But such declines should be put in perspective. Wheat yields increased 100 to 300% around the world since the 1960s, while a study of 30 models found that yields would decline by 6% for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.
Rates of future yield growth depend far more on whether poor nations get access to tractors, irrigation, and fertilizer than on climate change, says FAO.
All of this helps explain why IPCC anticipates climate change will have a modest impact on economic growth. By 2100, IPCC projects the global economy will be 300 to 500% larger than it is today. Both IPCC and the Nobel-winning Yale economist, William Nordhaus, predict that warming of 2.5°C and 4°C would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and 5% over that same period.
Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about climate change? Not at all.
One of the reasons I work on climate change is because I worry about the impact it could have on endangered species. Climate change may threaten one million species globally and half of all mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in diverse places like the Albertine Rift in central Africa, home to the endangered mountain gorilla.
But it’s not the case that “we’re putting our own survival in danger” through extinctions, as Elizabeth Kolbert claimed in her book, Sixth Extinction. As tragic as animal extinctions are, they do not threaten human civilization. If we want to save endangered species, we need to do so because we care about wildlife for spiritual, ethical, or aesthetic reasons, not survival ones.
And exaggerating the risk, and suggesting climate change is more important than things like habitat destruction, are counterproductive.
For example, Australia’s fires are not driving koalas extinct, as Bill McKibben suggested. The main scientific body that tracks the species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, labels the koala “vulnerable,” which is one level less threatened than “endangered,” two levels less than “critically endangered,” and three less than “extinct” in the wild.
Should we worry about koalas? Absolutely! They are amazing animals and their numbers have declined to around 300,000. But they face far bigger threats such as the destruction of habitat, disease, bushfires, and invasive species.
Think of it this way. The climate could change dramatically — and we could still save koalas. Conversely, the climate could change only modestly — and koalas could still go extinct.
The monomaniacal focus on climate distracts our attention from other threats to koalas and opportunities for protecting them, like protecting and expanding their habitat.
As for fire, one of Australia’s leading scientists on the issue says, “Bushfire losses can be explained by the increasing exposure of dwellings to fire-prone bushlands. No other influences need be invoked. So even if climate change had played some small role in modulating recent bushfires, and we cannot rule this out, any such effects on risk to property are clearly swamped by the changes in exposure.”
Nor are the fires solely due to drought, which is common in Australia, and exceptional this year. “Climate change is playing its role here,” said Richard Thornton of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre in Australia, “but it’s not the cause of these fires.”
The same is true for fires in the United States. In 2017, scientists modeled 37 different regions and found “humans may not only influence fire regimes but their presence can actually override, or swamp out, the effects of climate.” Of the 10 variables that influence fire, “none were as significant… as the anthropogenic variables,” such as building homes near, and managing fires and wood fuel growth within, forests.
Climate scientists are starting to push back against exaggerations by activists, journalists, and other scientists.
“While many species are threatened with extinction,” said Stanford’s Ken Caldeira, “climate change does not threaten human extinction… I would not like to see us motivating people to do the right thing by making them believe something that is false.”
I asked the Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley what he thought of the claim that climate change threatens civilization. “It really does bother me because it’s wrong,” he said. “All these young people have been misinformed. And partly it’s Greta Thunberg’s fault. Not deliberately. But she’s wrong.”
But don’t scientists and activists need to exaggerate in order to get the public’s attention?
“I’m reminded of what [late Stanford University climate scientist] Steve Schneider used to say,” Wigley replied. “He used to say that as a scientist, we shouldn’t really be concerned about the way we slant things in communicating with people out on the street who might need a little push in a certain direction to realize that this is a serious problem. Steve didn’t have any qualms about speaking in that biased way. I don’t quite agree with that.”
Wigley started working on climate science full-time in 1975 and created one of the first climate models (MAGICC) in 1987. It remains one of the main climate models in use today.
“When I talk to the general public,” he said, “I point out some of the things that might make projections of warming less and the things that might make them more. I always try to present both sides.”
Part of what bothers me about the apocalyptic rhetoric by climate activists is that it is often accompanied by demands that poor nations be denied the cheap sources of energy they need to develop. I have found that many scientists share my concerns.
“If you want to minimize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2070 you might want to accelerate the burning of coal in India today,” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said.
“It doesn’t sound like it makes sense. Coal is terrible for carbon. But it’s by burning a lot of coal that they make themselves wealthier, and by making themselves wealthier they have fewer children, and you don’t have as many people burning carbon, you might be better off in 2070.”
Emanuel and Wigley say the extreme rhetoric is making political agreement on climate change harder.
“You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient,” said Emanuel. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate.”
Happily, there is a plenty of middle ground between climate apocalypse and climate denial.
Heather Mac Donald, author of The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture:
Few things upset American college students more than being told they aren’t oppressed. I recently spoke at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. I argued that American undergraduates are among the most privileged individuals in history by virtue of their unfettered access to knowledge. Far from being discriminated against, students are surrounded by well-meaning faculty who want all of them to succeed.
About 15 minutes into my talk, as I was discussing Renaissance humanism, a majority of the audience in the packed auditorium stood up and started chanting: “My oppression is not a delusion!” The chanters then declared that my sexism, racism and homophobia weren’t welcome on campus. “>You are not welcome,” they added, as if I didn’t know.
The protesters drowned out my response before filing slowly out of the room, still loudly announcing their victimhood and leaving dozens of seats empty that could have been filled by students who had been turned away for lack of space. (The protesters had hoped to occupy the entire auditorium before vacating it, so no one else could hear me speak.)
In a subsequent open letter, a senior claimed that I came to Holy Cross to “discredit, humiliate, and deny the existence of minority students.” In fact, I came to urge the entire student body to seize their boundless opportunities for learning with joy and gratitude.
The maudlin self-pity on display at Holy Cross doesn’t arise spontaneously. It is actively cultivated by adults on campus. A few days before the Holy Cross protest, faculty and administrators at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., convened a therapeutic “scholars” panel to take place during another talk of mine. The goal was to inoculate the university against the violence that I allegedly represented.
Bucknell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator; the director of its Women’s Resource Center; the interim associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion; a women’s and gender studies professor; and an economics professor discussed rape culture, trauma and racism. Students and faculty were then invited to join in painting “self-care” rocks.
This craft activity, in which participants write feel-good messages on stones, was originally designed for K-5 classrooms. It may not be what parents paying Bucknell’s $72,000 annual tuition and fees had in mind. No matter. According to Bucknell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, it was “especially important” for students who had attended my talk to come to the scholars “space” afterward and practice self-care. The interim associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion said that the administration’s willingness to let my talk proceed shows that it values free speech more than the community’s trauma.
In anticipation of my Bucknell talk, student journalists had claimed that “‘free speech’” merely amplifies “hate speech,” and that hate speech such as mine was intended to “attack students of color” and “survivors of sexual assault.” An English professor cheered them on. The Bucknell Faculty and Staff of Color Working Group urged colleagues to support those whose “first-hand experiences with injustice” at Bucknell were “invalidated and perpetuated” by my arguments.
Bucknell’s Democratic Socialists of America organized a protest at which participants—in between chants of “Hey hey! Ho Ho! Heather Mac has got to go!” and “No justice! No peace!”—were encouraged to share their personal experiences of injustice at Bucknell. Sadly, there is no available record of what the protesters came up with.
Students who can be persuaded to see oppression on an American college campus—where traits that still lead to ostracism and even death outside the West are not just tolerated but celebrated—can be persuaded to see oppression anywhere. The claim that American universities, and the U.S. in general, are defined by white supremacy is the one unifying idea on college campuses today, in the absence of a shared curriculum dedicated to civilization’s greatest works. And that idea is spreading. School systems across the country are training teachers and administrators that colorblind standards and the work ethic are instruments of white privilege. Any private institution without proportional representation of minorities and females is vulnerable to attack, since bigotry is the only allowable explanation for the lack of sex and race “diversity.”
The promiscuous labeling of disagreement as hate speech and the equation of such speech with violence will gain traction in the public arena, as college graduates take more positions of power. The former managing editor of Time has already advocated in the Washington Post for allowing states to define and penalize hate speech; potential censors wait in the wings.
Certain ideas are now taboo in the academy—above all, the idea that behavior and culture better explain socioeconomic disparities in the U.S. than bigotry. A Bucknell student protester claimed that my sin is to force “this elementary conversation about whether structural racism even exists.”
Most Americans are eager and ready for a post-racial country. The perpetual invocation of racial oppression on college campuses and beyond, however, keeps race relations fraught.
After the Holy Cross protest, the co-president of the Black Student Union, which organized the walkout with an assist from the student government, told the campus newspaper: “The fact that we pulled this off is actually amazing. I feel so empowered now, and this is just the beginning. This is the start of something more.”
About that, she is undoubtedly right.
Imagine you’ve just sat down to Thanksgiving dinner and your cousin Mildred says, “Before we begin, I’d like to start a conversation.” She then takes out an index card and reads from it:
SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as “an intersectional analysis defined by the human rights framework applicable to everyone, and based on concepts of intersectionality and the practice of self-help. It is also a base-building strategy for our movement that requires multi-issue, cross-sector collaborations. It also offers a different perspective on human rights violations that challenge us in controlling our bodies and determine the destiny of our families and communities.” What is your understanding of Reproductive Justice?
I can think of any number of reasonable responses.
“How many Bloody Marys did you have?”
“Mildred, the gravy is already starting to congeal.”
I have an active imagination—just ask my Couch—but I am at a loss to come up with a plausible scenario in which any remotely normal person would slap the table and say, “Yes! It’s about time we introduced concepts of intersectional analysis into Thanksgiving!”
To be fair, Mildred—bless her heart and her many, many, cats—might have the situational awareness to bring this up before dinner was served. In which case, the most common response would probably be, “C’mon! The game is on! Get out of the way of the TV!”
That’s the world I want to live in.
But not the good people at the National Network of Abortion Funds, who want everyone to talk about abortion this Thanksgiving.
To that end, they provide a useful and printable compendium of “conversation starters” printed on “holiday cards” and—I defecate you negatory—the above passage is suggestion numero uno.
I like the idea that they thought this was the icebreaker most likely to help people ease into a conversation about abortion with people they acknowledge probably have absolutely no desire to discuss abortion.
I don’t want to talk about abortion either, by the way. I did that on Friday and hit my quota for a while.
But I do want to talk about talking about stuff like abortion over Thanksgiving.
Thanks But No Thanksgiving
I might not make fun of people who take the other side of the issue the same way. But I would be equally opposed to an effort by pro-life groups eager to turn Thanksgiving into a seminar about the unborn. Partial birth abortion is a horror in my book, but I can do without analogies to it during the carving of turkey.
I caught this tweet the other day:
People who refuse to let their politics infringe on their personal lives are the apex of privilege. It means that their politics don’t actually influence their personal lives – so they can afford to do whatever they want. They don’t have skin in the game.
I think this is almost exactly wrong.
Think of it this way, on progressive terms, the people who are most in need of help from our political system are minorities, immigrants, et al. I haven’t conducted a methodologically rigorous survey, but I suspect that most African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, etc., would be even less likely to want to talk at length about SisterSong’s views of reproductive justice than your typical white family of privilege with a smattering of bachelor’s or graduate degrees around the table. A poor or lower-middle class white family has more need of help from our political system—again on progressive terms—than prosperous families (of any race). But, my hunch is they aren’t particularly inclined to turn Thanksgiving into a political meet-up either.
Allow me to pick on George Clooney for no other reason than it is convenient to do so. He’s rich, he’s attractive, he’s wildly famous and accomplished. He was born attractive and prosperous to be sure, but his success nonetheless was made possible by the very political system he’s often quite critical of. He has lots of skin in the game and, going by crude Marxist analysis, as I am wont to do, he should be interested in defending the system that helped him get where he is. And yet, he goes the other way.
Don’t get me wrong. That’s fine. We live in a democracy and people can disagree about how to make this a better country or world and, sometimes, Clooney is on the right side of the argument.
My only point is that politics is often most attractive and all-consuming precisely to the people who are immune to its consequences in their personal lives. Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg are pretty damned privileged. They could be off on private islands, hunting humans for support or paying people generously to be human Stratego pieces. But for reasons that run the gamut from personal vanity to deep principle, they are very involved in politics.
From the French Revolution to the Russian and American radicals of the 1960s, political obsession has always been a popular pastime of the bourgeoisie, for good and bad. The kinds of people who would leap at the chance to debate different interpretations of intersectionality and reproductive justice aren’t members of the economic, gender, or racial lumpenproletariat, they’re people who’ve chosen to make politics their issue of ultimate concern.
I don’t begrudge them for it.
I do begrudge them their insistence that I must be just like them.
Politics as Identity
On the latest episode of The Remnant podcast, I talked to Yuval Levin about the problem of politics seeping into every aspect of our lives. I strained to make the point I wanted to make the way I wanted to make it, so let me try here.
A healthy society is a diverse society. I am not using diversity in the way many progressives do, though I am happy to do so to some extent (more on that in a minute). Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you and I can agree that dogs are awesome and that owning dogs is the best thing you can do. That belief may be right or wrong—for us. But it is obviously wrong for other people. And that’s fine.
What would be wrong is to create a culture or political system that enforces our point of view on people who disagree with it. It would be bad for people unsuited for dog ownership to be shamed or forced into owning dogs. It would also be bad for dogs. Likewise, it would be bad—for humans and dogs alike—if the anti-dog people tried to force everyone into cat ownership.
Normally, when I talk about this, I talk about a diversity of institutions. What I mean by that is a diversity of places that people can draw meaning from. The Marines is a glorious institution and some people literally give their lives to it. I don’t just mean they die in its service, but they dedicate huge swaths of their waking hours to it over a career. That’s a good thing. But someone else might find everything about that life to be a source of oppression and misery. These people should not be Marines. But just because the Marine Corps isn’t right for some people doesn’t mean it should be available to others. The same principle applies to churches, clubs, sports, hobbies, careers, etc.
As Yuval noted, you run into trouble when every institution is expected to bend to one worldview, one way of thinking about the world. You may have a great definition of social justice, though I’ve never heard one. But I can be sure that even if I agreed with your definition, I would still think it’s wrong for some institutions, by which I mean it’s wrong for some people.
One needn’t be an extremist on this point. I’m not in favor—as a matter of philosophy or law—letting a thousand Nazi flowers bloom. I might argue that Nazi bowling leagues are legal, but I’d have no problem with other bowling organizations refusing to countenance them. And I’d certainly have no objection to the Pentagon banning soldiers from having Nazi meetings in the barracks.
In other words serious people can debate where to draw lines, but it is remarkably unserious to believe there should be no lines at all.
My problem with the Progressive approach to politics—increasingly mirrored on parts of the right—is the belief that there should be no lines. In total war, everyone is supposed to be part of the war effort at all times. Every institution isn’t supposed to be separate and apart, but a cell of the larger body politic. Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be about giving thanks to God or country or the universe (but mostly God) for the things you should be thankful about, is now an opportunity for political organizing and shaping minds toward commitment to the war effort—whether that effort is climate change or reproductive justice or even MAGA.
This reduces a precious institution to the—probably apocryphal—Willie Sutton quote about why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”
If gatherings of humans are just an opportunity for campaigning, then those gatherings of humans lose that special meaning that brought people together in the first place. A woman tweeted the other day—and has since deleted—that her Thanksgiving rule is that everyone must first explain what they did to help Democrats win before they can come to her home. This is putting politics above not just faith but family and love. If everybody followed this rule, Thanksgiving would lose all that makes it special and society would be worse for it.
Most reasonable people understand that when Marines muster in the yard they do so because it is necessary in some way for their mission. If you busted out your “conversation cards” to discuss reproductive justice and intersectionality every time Marines gathered, you’d likely be escorted to the brig. But even the first time, someone would tell you, “This is not why we are here.” IImagine if a President Marianne Williamson or President Bernie Sanders said this sort of thing was no longer inappropriate but required. The Marines would no longer be an institution designed to create Marines, but just another opportunity to inject politics where it doesn’t belong. And very quickly people would stop joining the Marines.
Colonizing every school of thought and every institution to a single idea of the Highest Good—however defined—flattens society and destroys the kind of diversity we need.
This points to the problem of talking about institutions as safe harbors. They’re really portals, portals to paths that give individuals their own sense of meaning and belonging. That’s what the pursuit of happiness means. For some people that’s college. For others that’s the military. For some its parenthood or sports or plumbing school. And for most of us, it’s a whole bunch of portals because we don’t all have to be just one thing. When we say that everything has to be political we say we have to be political about everything. Politics itself becomes a form of identity politics.
Saying every portal should lead not just to politics, but one narrow vision of it, is like saying not only that everyone should go to plumbing school, but everyone should love plumbing and condemn others who don’t.
And that’s gross.
Especially among conservatives, who, pre-Trump, are supposed to believe that government, and therefore politics, should have a much smaller role in our lives than today.
David French suggests a different theme:
Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said in a staff memo obtained by multiple media outlets that the news division would refrain from digging into Mr. Bloomberg, describing that policy as part of its journalism “tradition.”
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries,” the memo said. “We cannot treat Mike’s democratic competitors differently from him.”
In addition, he said at least two members of the editorial board — Tim O’Brien and David Shipley — will take a “leave of absence to join Mike’s campaign,” which suggests they will return to the media outlet after the 2020 election.
“For the moment, our [political] team will continue to investigate the Trump administration as the government of the day,” Mr. Micklethwait said. “If Mike is chosen as the Democratic presidential candidate (and Donald Trump emerges as the Republican one), we will reassess how we do that.”
The billionaire Bloomberg announced Sunday that he had entered the primary contest “to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America.”
Journalists on social media decried the moves. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi called the statement “extraordinary,” while Ohio State media ethicist Kevin Z. Smith said it was “outlandish.”
“This is so outlandish it has to be recognized as a historical collapse of ethical standards,” tweeted Mr. Smith, executive director of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. “This isn’t just worthy of a future textbook case study, it needs immediate condemnation by the profession.”
I wouldn’t be voting for Bloomberg anyway thanks to this …
… and his belief, like other Democrats, that we are too stupid to make our own decisions (see “soda tax”).