What We Are Reading:
The Outrage Mob
Pamela Paresky, Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen, and Steven Pinker write about the outrage mob that has forced institutions like the New York Times to run scared and censor the newspaper in response to public pressure.
On December 27, 2019, the Times published a column by their opinion journalist Bret Stephens, “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” and the ensuing controversy led to an extraordinary response by the editors.
Nonetheless, the column incited a furious and ad hominem response. Detractors discovered that one of the authors of the paper Stephens had cited went on to express racist views, and falsely claimed that Stephens himself had advanced ideas that were “genetic” (he did not), “racist” (he made no remarks about any race) and “eugenicist” (alluding to the discredited political movement to improve the human species by selective breeding, which was not remotely related to anything Stephens wrote).
It would have been appropriate for the New York Times to acknowledge the controversy, to publish one or more replies, and to allow Stephens and his critics to clarify the issues. Instead, the editors deleted parts of the column—not because anything in it had been shown to be factually incorrect but because it had become controversial.