Monday, January 14, 2019

Publishers, Not Trump, Endanger Free Speech

I won’t bore you by recounting all the times The New Yorker and Vanity Fair have railed against the president for supposedly endangering the freedom of people like its staffers to speak their minds. Now, the owner of these magazines is demanding that its own writers censor themselves, if they know what’s good for them. This is not just a stain on some of a free press’s loudest defenders, it promises to narrow and diminish the range of ideas they publish. If you know a field is mined, but have not been furnished with a map of each explosive’s location, why would you stray into that area at all? The New Yorker might as well place a sign above its office doors saying, “Warning: Do not be interesting.” (“Isn’t it there already?” I hear some wags replying, but The New Yorker remains replete with interesting material.) 
As for Vanity Fair, for many years it published the musings of one Christopher Hitchens. Remember him? He said Michelle Obama’s undergraduate thesis wasn’t written in any known language. He said, about the Iraq War, that “the death toll is not nearly high enough.” He called Mother Teresa “a fanatic, a fundamentalist and a fraud.” Most unforgivable of all, he said women aren’t funny. Any guesses on whether, in today’s social-media atmosphere, one or two of his columns might cause a little light apoplexy on Twitbook or Facer? (I can report from personal experience that merely quoting what Hitchens said about Mrs. Obama predictably and boringly gets you tagged as racist.(Read more.)

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