The editorial page of Sunday’s New York Times issued a 2,500-word defense of free expression, “Free Speech Is Under Threat.” Welcome, but overdue and also hypocritical, given the Times’ trend over the last few years of trying to shut down speech it dislikes and that it can’t monitor or control. And don’t wait for the paper to apologize for or acknowledge their role in the squelching of free expression, either.
Proving the left is no longer a friend of free speech, the paper was excoriated by the left when the editorial first appeared at nytimes.com. Many are complaining disingenuously that “cancel culture” -- when conservatives and others who don’t follow the liberal line are kicked off social media, and their bosses pressured to fire them -- is fine, because it’s not being done by the government, and even qualifies as its own form of protest speech.
The editorial began strongly:
For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.
Yet the Times managed to suggest the right was more to blame.
….Many on the right, for all their braying about cancel culture, have embraced an even more extreme version of censoriousness as a bulwark against a rapidly changing society, with laws that would ban books, stifle teachers and discourage open discussion in classrooms.
A casual perusal of the paper’s recent product proves that free speech was (until this morning, apparently) a major problem for the Times, at least when that speech was employed by people it disagreed with. Start with a shameful cover story in October 2020 for the New York Times Magazine by lawyer/professor Emily Bazelon: “...increasingly, scholars of constitutional law, as well as social scientists, are beginning to question the way we have come to think about the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech….”
Former Times reporter Taylor Lorenz spread misinformation as a censorious “hall monitor” for the Times, while others on the tech beat warned of the dangers of unmonitored chat room speech.
In June 2019 the paper ran an op-ed calling for the “doxxing” -- revealing personal information on private citizens for the purpose of targeted harassment -- of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents.
The Times again showed its true feelings for free speech when the paper’s resident “child mob” of woke staffers forced the resignation of then-opinion editor James Bennet in June 2020 for having the audacity to publish an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton, calling for deploying the military to quell rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
And remember the feverish lefty calls for investigating the fascism of the universal hand gesture known as the OK sign? The paper ran with that insanity as well.
Flashforward to 2022, and it’s warning of the dangers of forcing people out of their jobs for expressing certain views. Just a little too late.
The Christian satire site The Babylon Bee made humorless, censor-happy tech reporter Kevin Roose huff over how the Bee calling itself “a satire site” was some kind of dodge to avoid Facebook’s “fact-checking” program, accusing the Bee of “misinformation under the guise of comedy."
The list goes on.
One must read the Times’ new editorial closely to recognize that it’s the so-called liberal side most intolerant of free expression, while the conservative side is more hesitant about speaking its mind in public for fear of real-world backlash.
Those who identified themselves as Democrats and liberals showed a higher level of support for sometimes shutting down such speech.