NYT Editorial Board Sees a 'Cancel Culture' Problem

Blames the left and right on free-speech matters, while critics pile on the editorial itself
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2022 1:05 PM CDT
New York Times Editorial Board Sees a 'Free Speech Problem'
Stock photo.   (Getty/lolostock)

(Newser) – The editorial board of the New York Times generated a lot of conversation on Friday with a lengthy piece under the headline "America Has a Free Speech Problem." The editorial criticizes both the left and the right for being in "a destructive loop of condemnation and recrimination around cancel culture." A key point:

  • "Many on the left refuse to acknowledge that cancel culture exists at all, believing that those who complain about it are offering cover for bigots to peddle hate speech. 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."

The essay, based on a poll done for the paper by the Siena College Research Institute, notes that the editorial board plans to explore the issue over several months and offer solutions. In the meantime, the piece itself is drawing lots of criticism from, yes, the left and right, notes the Hill. Examples:

  • On the left: "This is appalling," tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the City University of New York. "The both-sidesism of The New York Times comes out in full force from its editorial board as it equates the left criticizing hate and the right burning books. Pure moral panic."
  • On the right: "This is rather rich coming from an outlet which has effectively promoted censorship of very legitimate views regarding the reaction to the pandemic," tweeted former radio host John Ziegler.

Some more reaction:

  • "(S)peaking freely, which the Times conflates with 'free speech,' has always been something subject to cultural standards," writes Philip Bump in the Washington Post. "Those standards are currently changing, as is the way in which speech is able to be heard. We're navigating that. The real threat, as always, isn't 20 people chiding someone in Twitter mentions but, instead, in passing laws to restrict what people do on Twitter in the first place."
  • "This editorial represents the perspective of well-off media people who still have no idea what life is like outside their floating world," writes Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing. "They find it incomprehensible that Americans hold their tongues at Thanksgiving. And yet a 93-year-old resident of Connecticut who claims to be left of Lenin but doesn't believe in cancel culture is right there in the rolodex." (The reference is to a woman quoted in the editorial who criticizes college students for shouting down speakers.)

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