Well, it’s finally happened. After nearly a week of attention and hand-wringing, the “Old Gray Lady” known as The New York Times, on Friday, February 5, finally booted former science writer Donald McNeil Jr., a 45-year veteran in his field of so-called "journalism."
His transgression? According to McNeil, on a trip with students, he repeated "the N Word" when answering the question of a teen who asked him about the propriety of using “the n-word” in a video. Matt Welch reports for Reason:
…under public pressure from more than 150 employees, (the NYT) decided that when it comes to speaking certain radioactive words, not only does intent not matter, any utterance is potentially a one-strike offense.
‘We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,’ Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn explained bluntly in a memo Friday.
And so they’ve “canceled” McNeil.
Reports The Guardian:
Six students or parents complained to the paper following the trip, which was part of the Times’s ‘student journeys’ program, for which participation typically costs over $5,000.
Which begs the obvious question: who in the world would pay the New York Times five grand for anything, let alone traveling to a distant country in the company of some of its leftist staff members?
In a Feb 5 apology, reposted by NYT Media Reporter Marc Tracy, McNeil offers a farewell and his side of the story, which reads, in part:
On a 2019 New York Times trip to Peru for high school students, I was asked at dinner by a student whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she had made as a 12-year-old in which she used a racial slur. To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself.
Which shows that McNeil just isn’t hip to how the censorious American culture works nowadays. See, no one can utter that word, period, unless he or she is blessed with the protection of being a certain subset of the population granted permission due to…race. Others cannot mention it, or even repeat it, or even read books like “Huckleberry Finn,” which utilizes it in the context of showing a white boy and black boy becoming friends during a time when that term was in wider use and racism was much more rampant than today. (And yes, some leftist paintywaists are wondering if publishers should slice up Twain’s masterpiece to remove “THE WORD,” even though friendship across racial boundaries is one of the key themes of the book.)
Eventually, the politically-correct replacement for the word, currently the common-parlance term “N Word,” might also be used by wily racists, which will see hand-wringers banish it to the cornfield of lexicography as well, and some replacement for THAT will be used, and so on, and so on, until all options are spent, all words banished, and the world goes silent so as not to offend anyone over anything.
McNeil went on with his walk down the gauntlet of shame, writing:
I should not have done that. Originally, I thought the context in which I used the ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot. It is deeply offensive and hurtful. The fact that I even thought I could defend it itself showed extraordinarily bad judgment. For that I apologize.
And McNeil went on to direct his apology to the students, his colleagues, and the “institution” of the Times itself.
It took over a week to get to this self-loathing, butt-covering, censorious point.
Initially, as Breitbart’s John Nolte reported at the time, the Times issued an “apology," but, as Nolte noted, the Times’ report on its own apology was so opaque as to be vacant of any real information:
(T)he Times piece on the Times disciplining a Times reporter doesn’t even tell us what the Times reporter said. All we’re told is that it was a “racial slur,” but we’re not given the context of his use of the racial slur, other than ‘repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language.’
Painfully childish doesn’t begin to describe the depth to which the Gray Lady decision-makers, and many on-staff, are behaving. But it’s reflective of the greater part of the “identity politics left”, who use “cancel culture” as a weapon to shut down dissent from their “grow-the-state” mantra.
As Reason’s Welsh explains:
This week, the newsroom revolted via a remarkable group letter in which more than 150 staffers at one of the country's leading newspapers argued that word-choice intentions are ‘irrelevant,’ because ‘what matters is how an act makes the victims feel.’ Signees, declaring themselves ‘outraged and in pain’ and ‘disrespected,’ demanded a reinvestigation of the 2019 incident, an apology to the newsroom, and an organizational study into how racial biases affect editorial decisions.
And if “what matters is how an act makes ‘the victims feel,'" that assumes that repeating a word for intellectual purposes, as part of an investigation into the ethics of using said word, is a “violent act” – which it is not. It also tells us that in the Bizarro World of these staffers, no words can be used, because at any time, anyone could be “hurt” by any word.
Well, McNeil now is canceled, but, as I mentioned in a piece about how old guard leftists who promoted their own form of “cancel culture” for decades were being canceled by new “cancellers” – this kind of mindset leads to perpetual cancellation and a lingua nihilo, language made of nothing.
In fact, McNeil, himself, was guilty of engaging in his own molten call to cancel in May, last year, when he lashed out at Trump CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, and called for him to resign.
What’s curious is that McNeil’s actions at that time merely inspired the big-wigs at the Gray Lady to say he “went too far”, and had a talking-to.
They continued to allow him to be a “reporter”, and, from what can be gleaned from available info, that concerned gaggle of 150 of his cohorts at the paper didn’t call for him to be canceled.
It took McNeil evidently repeating that “word” after it was said to him in a conversation about what’s okay to say – THAT’s what got him.
This is becoming absurd, and Welsh puts it perfectly.
You can get suspended from university jobs for even saying words that sound like a racial slur, but are not. Placing that level of consequence-heavy fraughtness on speech does not encourage productive conversations about negative collective demonization of certain groups based on their immutable characteristics.
And that’s because the collectivists WANT to engage in collective demonization of any group or individual who might stand in their way of linguistic control.
Because linguistic control offers more leverage to gain political control over others.
It’s that simple.
(Cover Photo: Michal Osmenda)