On Friday, Andrew Sullivan wrote his last column at New York magazine. Apparently, his brand of heterodox conservatism was too much for fellow staffers at NY Mag and Vox to take. Even though Sullivan supported John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Joe Biden this year, his criticisms of the radical left were allegedly “physically harming” his Cancel Culture zealot co-workers. The woke inquisition has come for Sullivan, just as it came for Bari Weiss at The New York Times.
“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,” Sullivan explained in his final column. “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,” the writer added.
Sullivan hit on the increasingly stifling woke orthodoxy that prevails in academia and many other areas of American culture.
“Two years ago, I wrote that we all live on campus now. That is an understatement,” he argued. “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.”
Sullivan rightly noted that his brand of “conservative” is … rather left of center. “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.” Whew! I need a shot after that one.
“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,” the “conservative” wrote.
“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,” Sullivan quipped. Indeed, the orthodoxy is just that stifling. When Sullivan attempted to write a column condemning the violent George Floyd riots that have claimed the lives of at least 22 people (most of them black), the magazine censored him.
Over at The New York Times, opinion editor James Bennet faced accusations that he had put black staffers “in danger” by running Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) op-ed calling for federal troops to put down the violent George Floyd riots. Bennet resigned amid mounting pressure.
Bari Weiss, a centrist staff editor at the Times and a former editor at The Wall Street Journal, had joined America’s newspaper of record in 2017, as the managers of the Times aimed to address the blind spots revealed by Trump’s election in 2016. Yet Weiss, who is Jewish, faced harassment and accusations that she was a “Nazi” and a “racist” for daring to question the radical left’s orthodoxy. She resigned this week, following years of harassment.
“My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’ Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action,” Weiss wrote in her resignation letter this week.
Sullivan is no stranger to this cancel culture. In 2017, The Verge’s Sarah Jeong — now at The New York Times — demanded NY Mag fire Sullivan for an ostensibly “racist” column. Sullivan’s crime? In addressing reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, he had taken a detour into racial issues, suggesting that the relative success of Asian-Americans proves that the U.S. does not have overwhelming structural racism.
“Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the ‘social-justice’ brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society?” Sullivan asked in his column. “Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. … Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives?”
Sullivan concluded that Asian-Americans’ hard work and determination “turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones.”
Meanwhile, national institutions like the Smithsonian are spewing the same kind of leftist “critical theory” on race that Sullivan rightly condemns. A recent Smithsonian “teaching tool” argues that the nuclear family, science, capitalism, and the Western tradition are all aspects of an oppressive “whiteness.” The tool also claims that a work ethic, delayed gratification, being polite, and getting to meetings on time are aspects of the “whiteness” culture that must be deconstructed and rejected. Under President Obama, the Department of Defense drafted “training materials” that effectively indoctrinate troops to regard aspects of everyday life as racist.
Make no mistake, America is wrestling with a dangerous threat to its culture and heritage in the form of the critical theory that Sullivan rightly opposed. The woke inquisition will brook no dissent, however, and it wields the language of “safetyism” to silence its opponents.
Sullivan’s column did leave one reason for hope, however. He noted that freedom of association extends even to mainstream media outlets, which can exile “even moderate anti-Trump conservatives” if they so desire. However, he also noted that this kind of exile “is less of a systemic problem than in the past, because the web has massively eroded the power of gatekeepers to suppress and control speech.”
While the legacy media lies about President Donald Trump, about the “peaceful” riots that have killed at least 22 people, and about its own woke inquisition, outlets like PJ Media will continue to rebut its stifling orthodoxy.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.