At the New York Times, younger staffers are complaining of “microaggressions” and petitioning the paper to implement “implicit bias training” programs. Editors, in response, have taken to holding “office hours,” looking to quell upset (reportedly shared among the younger generation) over ideologically divergent opinion writers, in much the same way professors address complaints about harsh grading.
Writing in the Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti observed, “To read the complaints of New York Times staffers … is to be transported into a senior seminar on “(Re) Thinking Identity: Transvestitism and Pickled Herring in the Eighteenth Century Women’s Novel.”
Upon hiring Kevin Williamson, Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg felt compelled to issue a 600-plus-word memo to his staff explaining the decision, as though adding a smart (if provocative) conservative voice to the roster of a highbrow magazine demands extensive justification.
Compare these scenarios to a report out of Columbia University this week that a professor, described by his publisher Harper Collins as “a former leader of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) who stood at the forefront of the birth of the New Left and the student protests of the 1960s and ’70s,” upset a student by telling his class “negro” was an acceptable word to use when discussing race relations in the 1960s, as it was at the time the preferred term of African-Americans.
Column: The New York Times, Kevin Williamson, and the politics of the campus
Toward the end of Vanity Fair‘s story on the “woke civil war” at the New York Times came this revealing detail: To assuage employees concerned that the paper is not as progressive and socially conscious as it could or should be, publisher A.G. Sulzberger, opinion editor James Bennet, and others have been “holding office hours” where internal critics speak freely.
I cannot be the only reader for whom the mere mention of office hours evokes memories of college, of mid-afternoon visits to professors for inquiry, flattery, argument, and complaint. Professors and students, lecturers and auditors participate in “office hours.” Editors, reporters, private and public sector workers—all adults outside academia, really—do not. Instead we have these things called “meetings.” For the uninitiated, they are mandatory and take place at my convenience.
Here, then, is yet another example of how the politics and rhetoric of the university have slowly colonized America’s economic, cultural, and political institutions, how recent graduates are carrying with them into the workforce all the bad ideas they learned from their humanities courses, independent research, and campus programming. I am talking about the modes and categories of identity politics, of viewing all human phenomena through the prism of race and gender (and sometimes, though rarely, of class), of robbing individual human beings of their moral agency and reducing them to membership in a group, and of organizing these groups into a hierarchy of victimization and grievance.
In the world of the campus, one’s status and moral authority increases with the number of victim groups in which one claims membership. This is the postmodern dogma of “intersectionality” that promotes solipsism at the personal level and division at the social level, that forbids the “cultural appropriation” of one victim group’s tastes, symbols, language, and commodities by another group, and requires members of the victimizer group—cis-gendered white males—to recognize, confess, and atone for their “privilege.” (Full disclosure: This article is being written by an oppressor.)