The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.
Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
“An earlier version of this essay rendered Leonard Cohen’s Hebrew name incorrectly. It is Eliezer ben Nisan ha’Cohen, not Eliezer ben Natan ha’Cohen. …”—New York Times, Nov. 14
Hypothesis and Disproof
News of the Tautological
“New Zealand Earthquake Rattles Experts”—headline, ScienceMag .org, Nov. 14
Trump vs. Political Correctness
Donald Trump won, Reason’s Robby Soave observed the morning after, “because he convinced a great number of Americans that he would destroy political correctness. . . . There is a cost to depriving people of the freedom (in both the legal and social senses) to speak their mind. The presidency just went to the guy whose main qualification, according to his supporters, is that he isn’t afraid to speak his.”
Readers who’ve been with us throughout the campaign will recall that was the argument we heard from the first Trump supporter we encountered, back in August 2015 when we did not yet know enough to take Trump’s candidacy seriously.
At the time we were skeptical: Sure, we thought, Trump was politically incorrect, but he was also a rude jerk who often said things that are objectionable even if you’re not a member of the crazed alt-left that runs America’s higher-education system and is influential in the Democratic Party and the current administration.
Cathy Young, for one, remains committed to that counterargument, but we have found it increasingly difficult to stay persuaded by it. We prize civility and reason, but they are insufficient to combat political correctness, which is uncivil and unreasonable and weaponizes its enemies’ adherence to etiquette.
When your humble columnist confronted political correctness during our college days, we prevailed not because our position was so compellingly reasonable (although it was), but because we had very good lawyers who were willing to work gratis. Confronted by political correctness, not everyone has the wherewithal, or even the standing, to sue. But there are other ways of fighting back, including, as it turns out, by voting for Donald Trump.
All this, of course, begs the question whether Trump has the capacity to “destroy political correctness.” Probably not, and total destruction is an awfully greedy demand anyhow. But if you think of it, in “Art of the Deal” terms, as an opening bid, an entirely satisfactory compromise can be envisioned. It would be quite enough to deprive political correctness of the domination it currently enjoys over most cultural institutions, especially academia and media.
Less than a week after Trump’s election, there are already some encouraging signs. At ZeroHedge.com, Mark Glennon notes what happened to Grubhub, a tech company that provides a service similar to Uber, only for food delivery, when CEO Matt Maloney sent this email to his employees:
I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can. As we all try to understand what this vote means to us, I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone else here at Grubhub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family here in the United States. If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.
Glennon: “A boycott against GrubHub [was] organized which is on Twitter’s trending list at #boycottgrubhub. Upon regaining composure after reading the email today, I tried to short the stock. Too late. It had already dropped by over 4%—$120 million of shareholder value already incinerated.” The stock has since recovered some of the lost ground, but it is satisfying to watch the market deliver a well-deserved punishment.
There are bits of good news even on campus. Last month the New York Post reported New York University had forced Michael Rectenwald, a liberal studies professor, “to go on paid leave for the rest of the semester” in retaliation for having “launched an undercover Twitter account called Deplorable NYU Prof . . . to argue against campus trends like ‘safe spaces,’ ‘trigger warnings,’ policing Halloween costumes and other aspects of academia’s growing PC culture.”
Here’s the Post, post-Trump:
The politically incorrect professor on leave since his NYU colleagues griped about his “incivility” has been promoted—and his fellow liberal-studies profs were lectured about their conduct.
Michael Rectenwald, 57, was bumped from assistant professor to full professor on Monday, just days after he was placed on paid leave. The promotion comes with an 18 percent raise to $80,000, a source said.
The Detroit News reports on the emboldenment of Trump supporters at the flagship university of a state Trump carried narrowly:
Hundreds of students at the University of Michigan have signed a #NotMyCampus petition condemning university president Mark Schlissel for comments he made at a somber vigil last week following President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory.
“Your voices worked out to be a 90/10 decision in favor of the unsuccessful candidate yesterday,” Schlissel said in footage posted to Youtube by The Michigan Daily, the campus newspaper. “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday that was expressed during (Trump’s) campaign.” . . .
More than 320 students signed a petition by Monday afternoon and submitted nearly 50 pages of personal statements, many calling out Schlissel for his comments.
“It is extraordinarily arrogant to assume that those who backed Trump are unequivocally supporting racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of hatred, yet that is exactly what Presidential Schlissel did,” said Reebehl El-Hage, a senior in the college of engineering. “Instead of being introspective and asking why people voted for Trump, President Schlissel denounced them.”
A few left-wing Yale students are showing signs of self-awareness, the Washington Post reports:
Some [Hillary] Clinton supporters here said the election exposed a blind spot at Yale. As an elite institution, they said, it is not sufficiently attuned to the concerns of the massive bloc of white, working-class voters in small towns and rural areas who powered Trump’s election.
“A lot of people here are out of touch with what’s going on in communities that don’t look like their communities,” said Isis Davis-Marks, 19, a sophomore from New York City.
“This election made me realize how much of a liberal bubble Yale students live in,” said Zachary Cohen, 20, a junior from New York City who edits a political journal here. That isolation left the campus largely unaware of anger and resentment elsewhere, he said. “I definitely had to come terms with the fact that there was this other half of America I had hardly seen.”
Even the New York Times . . . well, let’s not overstate this, but the paper’s publisher, Pinch Sulzberger, and top news editor, Dean Baquet, put out a letter to readers promising to cover the new administration fairly:
As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you. It is also to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly. You can rely on The New York Times to bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team.
We don’t think they’ll live up to the promise either, but it is a dramatic change in policy from a paper that in August vowed to ditch objectivity and fairness for the sake of keeping Trump out of the White House. Ha, how’d that work out?
Sulzberger and Baquet don’t expressly acknowledge the change in policy; in fact, in the version of the letter that went to readers—but not the one published on the paper’s website—they assert: “We believe we reported on both candidates fairly during the presidential campaign.” The attempt to memory-hole the August policy change, although galling, does illustrate just how embarrassed they are to have abandoned even the pretense of journalistic standards.
For sure, political correctness is far from dead. Just this week the Cavalier Daily reported that professors at the University of Virginia demanded their institution’s president, Teresa Sullivan, declare Thomas Jefferson, who founded UVa, corpus non grata and never quote him again.
Sullivan responded by affirming the Jefferson-haters’ “right to speak out on issues that matter to all of us”—as if their right were ever in question—though she was careful to distance herself from the third president: “Quoting Jefferson (or any historical figure) does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time.”
This sort of nonsense will probably still be with us when President Trump wraps up his first term. But we can hope there will be much less of it. Imagine if Mrs. Clinton had won. New York Times executives would be patting themselves on the back for their groundbreaking new approach to journalism; Yale students would be as smug and sheltered as ever; Prof. Rectenwald would be looking for a new career at age 57; University of Michigan Trump supporters would still be in the shadows; and so would those at Grubhub.
For those who care about the freedom of thought and speech, Trump’s big victory has already yielded a series of little ones.
For more “Best of the Web” from The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto click here.