What's Tony Thinking

Sullivan Signs Off


I titled one of my blogs last week, “Trump Could Still Win: Here’s Why.” I sincerely hope I was being unduly pessimistic in suggesting that possibility. It does appear that Trump is making all the wrong moves. Let us hope he keeps it up.

I focused in that piece on a string of recent developments in journalism that indicate an intolerance on the left, a reality that provides some basis for Trump’s otherwise extreme theme of “left-wing fascism.”

One of those developments I cited was Andrew Sullivan’s “resignation” from his position as a columnist with New York Magazine. I put resignation in quotes because it is pretty clear, in reading his final column, that Sullivan was told he was no longer a fit for that publication. He doesn’t question the right of a magazine or his editor to make such a decision. He accepts it, quite graciously, I’d say.

But he does explore why he is no longer a fit in a way that sheds further light on the issues raised in my “Trump Could Still Win,” blog. I encourage you to read that sign-off column. But for those who don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s an excerpt, that gets to the heart of it.

“What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative. They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. Actually attacking, and even mocking, critical theory’s ideas and methods, as I have done continually in this space, is therefore out of sync with the values of Vox Media. That, to the best of my understanding, is why I’m out of here.

“Two years ago, I wrote that we all live on campus now. That is an understatement. In academia, a tiny fraction of professors and administrators have not yet bent the knee to the woke program — and those few left are being purged. The latest study of Harvard University faculty, for example, finds that only 1.46 percent call themselves conservative. But that’s probably higher than the proportion of journalists who call themselves conservative at the New York Times or CNN or New York Magazine. And maybe it’s worth pointing out that ‘conservative’ in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November.

“It seems to me that if this conservatism is so foul that many of my peers are embarrassed to be working at the same magazine, then I have no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated.”

For those of you wishing extra credit, you will find a link in Sullivan’s column attached to the term “critical theory.” While it is as one of you wrote about the original blog, “deep stuff,” it is worth checking out. At the risk of over-simplification, “critical theory” scholars and those influenced by them prioritize ideology, in service of liberation movements, over truth (the existence of which they question). The cause is more important than accuracy or fairness. You might also wish to follow his link to a current project at the Smithsonian on “white culture.”

As a side note, that blog was carried at Post Alley, under the headline, “Left-Wing Fascism? Which Opinion Is Allowed?” There my piece created a little kerfuffle that you can follow in the comments thread. Post Alley is a Seattle-based aggregating site that usually publishes something from me each Friday.

I think of myself as a liberal, but in a more classical sense of that term, than is sometimes the case in common usage today. Like Sullivan, I prize truth, complexity and fairness over any cause or ideology. I cling to the belief that individuals are more, more interesting, complex and mysterious, than any group label or group identity. Yes, social location is important. We are all shaped and limited by our experience. But not all truth is relative.



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