There’s been a big controversy over the publication of an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton, most notably among the Times staff–so much so that the op-ed managing editor and deputy managing editor have stepped down. This incident is part of a bigger, complex issue that doesn’t have any clear and easy solutions. I want to put in my two cents. I’ll do that in the first comments section. (I should say that I consider this post closely related to the thread, The Challenge of Covering Trump.)
One thought on “The Tom Cotton Op-Ed Controversy at the New York Times; Or, the Challenge of Covering Trump, Part 2”
I want to start by saying what isn’t the main issue. Some pundits think of this primarily as a battle between those with classical liberal view of airing out all ideas, and letting the best ideas win, versus a view, most vigorously championed by younger people–namely, that protecting some groups from harm is more important than airing out all ideas. Bari Weiss lays this out fairly well in a recent twitter thread:
This dynamic may be playing out, but I don’t think framing the debate this way is complete–specifically, it doesn’t get to the biggest issue in my view. To me, the biggest issue isn’t free speech versus social justice, but free speech and the limits of free speech on the op-ed page of one of the most prestigious newspapers. I think Michelle Goldberg, an op-ed columnist at The Times touches on this well in her response to the controversy (a piece worth reading):
To me, the question is really important, and should be the one at the beginning of the debate. Another crucial point is the authority and reach of the New York Times. No one is stopping Senator Cotton from expressing his views. The question is, should his views be given the imprimatur and megaphone of the NYT?