Monday, August 26, 2019


Conservatives don't like cancel culture -- the process of drawing attention to objectionable words and deeds in order to shame the perpetrators and sometimes drive them from public life. Or I should say that conservatives don't like cancel culture unless they're the ones demanding the cancellations:
A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists....

Operatives have closely examined more than a decade’s worth of public posts and statements by journalists, the people familiar with the operation said. Only a fraction of what the network claims to have uncovered has been made public, the people said, with more to be disclosed as the 2020 election heats up. The research is said to extend to members of journalists’ families who are active in politics, as well as liberal activists and other political opponents of the president....

It is clear from the cases to date that among the central players in the operation is Arthur Schwartz, a combative 47-year-old conservative consultant who is a friend and informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.
The story is from The New York Times, which is so angry about the campaign that it's released a letter from publisher A.G. Sulzberger denouncing it. Sulzberger says this is an attempt to "harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with independent news organizations that have asked tough questions and brought uncomfortable truths to light."

You'll probably disagree, but I think conservatives have every right to do this. I think they have every right to do this because I think we have every right to do this -- I think it's appropriate to judge people on their words and deeds. War, climate change, children in concentration camps, an unhinged president of the United States -- cancel culture doesn't upset me nearly as much.

Also, this effort hasn't been terribly successful so far.

As New York magazine's Matt Stieb notes,
Shortly after the New York Times published an editorial condemning Trump’s anti-Semitic language and a profile of the new White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, Breitbart News published an article featuring anti-Semitic and racist tweets from Times political editor Tom Wright-Piersanti, who was in college at the time of his bigoted posts. (The paper stated that the tweets were “a clear violation of our standards” and that it is reviewing the issue.) ... Wright-Piersanti apologized....

In recent months, Schwartz has dredged up tweets from a CNN reporter using a gay slur in 2011 and a CNN photojournalist’s anti-Semitic tweets from the same year.
So that's the body count:

* A Times senior editor embarrassed but, so far, not fired or demoted for moderately offensive tweets.

* A CNN White House correspondent (and former correspondent for the conservative Daily Caller) still on the job after she apologized for a couple of college-age tweets offensive to LGBT people.

* a CNN photo editor out of a job after his anti-Semitic tweets were discovered.

I don't have a problem with holding these people accountable for what they've posted -- and, with the exception of Elshamy, they still have their jobs. Schwartz et al. would like us to believe that they're saving the real bombshells for a more opportune moment, but after watching folks like James O'Keefe for years, I think I know the right's M.O. -- they've led off with the best they've got, and the material they haven't released is no more earth-shattering than this, and probably less so.

What's hilarious is that the right is now experiencing what left-wing critics of The New York Times in particular regularly experience when we criticize the paper -- a haughty self-righteousness and a closing of ranks. The peasants are getting uppity! How dare they second-guess the way we go about our business!

But ultimately this won't amount to much. It reminds me of the way the Trump campaign regularly plants stories (mostly at Politico) about how relentlessly it will fight for the votes of non-white voters or suburban women in 2020. The campaign won't really win over alienated voter groups, and this opposition-research crew won't really bring down or discredit the MSM. It's empty boasting.

But please note that this campaign involves allies of Donald Trump Junior. I'll keep saying it: He's not going away anytime soon. He won't leave the scene when his father does. I don't believe any Trump will ever spend a night in prison, so get used to having Junior around.

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