The weaponization of liberal outrage was unavoidable. Still, it’s surprising to see how quickly the world’s dumbest people have realized taking old tweets out of context is an effective way to pressure the newly-woke megacorps into firing people they disagree with.
Using the language of progressive fury (without any regard for nuance, context, or the passage of time), the alt-right scored a major coup recently when they forced Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn out of Marvel by resurfacing regrettable Tweets from, in some cases, a decade ago. Last week, the dummy horde rallied against Sarah Jeong, a newly-hired New York Times op-ed columnist. Her crime? A lot of tweets bemoaning white people in both broad and specific terms, a reflection of the “lol white people suck” humor that you often see on progressive minority Twitter circles. This was framed as an example of Jeong’s anti-white racism, discourse unbecoming of an institution like the New York Times. Except joking about white men’s mediocrity does not equal racism. Of course, this fact barely matters. Her alt-right critics are wrong, but they know that. That isn’t the point.
It’s another dumb situation in a very dumb time, and the half-hearted cowardice of the Time’s statement in defense of Jeong gives the numbskulls all the more leverage in their future disingenuous campaigns of harassment. But there’s something unique in Jeong’s situation—that her Bad Tweets are mostly fuck white people jokes brought on by the terror and constant harassment tied to being a woman of color writer on the internet—that is making some “sensible” commentators slip up and reveal how bad they are at this whole social analysis thing. In other words, the Bald Conservative Men are at it again.
Take, for example, the Weekly Standard’s own Beautiful Bald Boy Damon Linker:
Linker is taking the unspoken Respectable Conservative position of “white racism is real and a problem” and taking it further: Sarah Jeong is a racist Spencer-ite because she tweets angrily about white people. Except: Richard Spencer’s work revolves around building a white ethnostate. Even giving Linker the (massive and unearned) benefit of the doubt and taking Jeong’s obviously tongue-in-cheek tweets at face level, the boldest world she argues for is one where white people are, uh, canceled?
In equating the words of an avowed ethnic cleanser to someone who thinks there should be a Wikipedia page for ideas white people have claimed credit for, Linker is saying more about his prosecution complex and analytical simple mindedness than Jeong’s supposed racism. He is not alone among his conservative media peers. Which, I suppose, should tell you a lot about how seriously you should take those conservative author’s ruminations on racism and how deep systems of oppression can affect a population.
A less egregious but still ultimately silly response to the new problem of Bad Tweets: how do we deal with them? If you are Commentary’s Big Editor Boy John Podhoretz, your answer is as nebulous as the value of Commentary Magazine in 2018, but you are apt to point out how this might just be another liberal media thing:
Ahhh, among the many fuckups of Jeffery Goldberg’s Atlantic, maybe the worst was making Kevin Williamson—a Bad Writer and Dumb Human—the hired-then-fired martyr that these people will call back to until the end of time.
Let’s point-by-point this: Kevin Williamson has his share of ill-advised Twitter posts, but he also had a long history of grotesque beliefs including his infamous assertion that women who have abortions should receive the death penalty. He made that comment in 2014 on a podcast by the world’s most influential conservative magazine, a place where you would go to say serious things. (He was literally fired when Goldberg realized this view was not, in fact, a joke-y Tweet!) In comparison, Sarah Jeong expressed frustration about white people on Twitter years ago, back in the by-gone era of Twitter as a place where you could make dumb statements with the assumption they wouldn’t follow you until the end of time. Maybe the best comparison is the substance of anti-Williamson and anti-Jeong campaigns: the former consisting of article links, quotes, and years of actual policy proposals, and the latter exclusively consisting of Twitter screencaps from years ago. White people are bullshit, women who exercise control over their bodies should be hung. In other words, two completely incomparable beliefs and situations. It’s just very lazy argumentation!
Andrew Sullivan, the original Bald Conservative Man, encapsulated his brethren’s incompetency in a dreadfully tedious screed against Jeong published by New York Magazine. In the span of a few hundred words, the Man Who Made the New Republic More Racist manages to compare Jeong to her online harassers, uses the word “neo-Marxist” repeatedly, and unironically writes the sentence “we all live on campus now.” Sullivan’s article is the greatest hits of the Bald Conservative Man social commentary take: distrustful of the youth, equalizing of systemic racism with insults on the internet, and oozing overwhelming anger that white racism is not treated as legitimate. Fear is the biggest throughline; Sullivan is afraid; afraid that his skin color makes him defacto horrible to the eyes of the multicultural youth; but even more afraid that his skin color will make his opinions increasingly marginalized. The fact that his drivel is published in New York Magazine tells me he currently has very little to worry about.
In lieu of a condemnation of Jeong for old tweets, I propose we instead take this moment to revisit a dependable truth: conservative pundits have absolutely no idea about the nuances of racism. They see a vast power structure created to uphold white supremacy and a person on Twitter tweeting about old white men being boring and legitimately think these two things are equivalent! To them, the principle difference between advocating for the removal of a man who proposes death to women who receive abortions and a woman who tweets angrily about “white women being bullshit lol” is that the man has fewer friends in media.
And yet, countless people in that same media will still give these men a platform for their milquetoast “BLM college kids are snowflakes” takes, even after demonstrating yet again that they sincerely believe that seeing an insulting tweet is somehow akin to living in a society that consistently values you differently because of your skin color. Why do we live in a world where we must be inflicted to Damon Linker’s Society Takes when he is by any objective measure terrible at having them? Why is Andrew Sullivan’s Racial Grievance Hour given front billing on the New York Magazine website? We would not tolerate this incompetence in any other industry. We shouldn’t tolerate it in the media.