For some mysterious reason, my name keeps coming up in connection with that of Sarah Jeong, a writer recently hired by the New York Times editorial board. I am not familiar with her work, but there is a social-media campaign currently under way, sometimes using my name, seeking to have her fired from the position in response to some odious and boneheaded tweets that might be summarized as “Derka derka white people.”
I am agnostic on the question of whom the New York Times hires and why. They employ some excellent reporters, a couple of very good columnists (Hey, Ross!), a fair number of mediocrities, and Paul Krugman.
I assume that the editors of the Times knew exactly who and what Jeong was when they hired her. If not, then it isn’t Jeong who needs to be fired — it’s the negligent people who hired her.
If, on the other hand, the Times is more or less satisfied with Jeong, then it should resist the social-media mob campaign to have her dismissed. It is up to institutions to hold the line against mass hysteria and the mob mentality of social media. I don’t know much of anything about James Gunn, the director fired from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise for making a bunch of ghastly jokes, but I do know that Marvel Studios can and should say: “We’ll hire who we want.” Marvel and the New York Times have the resources and the standing to stand up to this kind of social-media scalp collecting: All they need is the guts. I hope the Times has enough. Berkeley didn’t. ABC didn’t. Google didn’t. A few book publishers I can think of haven’t.
I’ve heard some people on the right say, “If Kevin Williamson has to get fired by the Atlantic, then Sarah Jeong has to get fired by the New York Times.” The Times can hire and fire whomever it likes — but not in my name. I’m sure that many of the people invoking my experience are well-meaning friends, but I’ll thank them to leave me out of this.