Reading and Thinking

Cancel culture at the New York Times

“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent, (emphasis added)” Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn wrote to staffers Friday.


Elahe Izadi, “Two New York Times journalists at the center of separate controversies leave the company; Science reporter Donald McNeil Jr. leaves after revelations he repeated a racial slur, and audio producer Andy Mills resigns after ‘Caliphate’ fallout,” Washington Post, February 5, 2021 (5:36 p.m. EST).

Izadi writes:

High-profile science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr.’s departure comes after the Daily Beast reported that he had repeated a racial slur during a 2019 trip to Peru for high school students. The Times also confirmed that McNeil, who has been a key reporter covering the coronavirus pandemic, “had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language…

Friday’s staff news is the latest example of controversy within the Times newsroom spilling into public view, including the summer resignation of editorial page editor James Bennet — once considered a possible successor to Executive Editor Dean Baquet — after the publication of a controversial op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)…

This week, staffers sent a letter to management saying they were “outraged” that the company’s previous investigation into McNeil’s comments had not resulted in a more severe punishment and that the company needed to do more. Managers signaled agreement.
“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn wrote to staffers Friday.

See also the story in The Daily Beast:

Maxwell Tani andv Lachlan Cartwright,”The Star NY Times Reporter Accused of Using ‘N-Word,’ Making Other Racist Comments; The paper’s top COVID reporter joined a group of students on a trip to Peru in 2019. Participants alleged he repeatedly made racist comments,” The Daily Beast, January 28, 2021 (3:27 PM EY, Updated 8:48PM ET).

On the elimination of the NYT Public Editor position, see

1) Daniel Victor, “New York Times Will Offer Employee Buyouts and Eliminate Public Editor Role,” New York times, May 31, 2017.

2) Liz Spayd, “The Public Editor Signs Off,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

On the installation of surveillance cameras in the NYT newsroom, see,

“New York Times adds to apparatus of a totalitarian state,” The Trenchant Observer, June 1, 2019.

The Sulzberger family must replace Dean Bacquet, and root out the “Cancel Culture” in the NYT newsroom

Executive Editor Dean Baquet has allowed a cancel culture to develop in the New York Times newsroom.

He has been supine in surrendering to the “cancel culture” in that newsroom.

He has acquiesced in the installation of a totalitarian system of surveillance monitoring in the newsroom.

Baquet is also responsible for the New York Times lack of coverage and analysis of President Trump’s statement that Russia was right to have invaded Afghanistan.


“International Law after Trump,” The Trenchant Observer, January 10, 2019.

It is time for Executive Editor Dean Baquet to go.

It is time for the camera surveillance system in the newsroom to be removed.

It is time for the “cancel culture” in the newsroom and editorial positions to be rooted out.

Before anyone else is fired summarily, a new Public Editor representing the Readers should conduct a full investigation, and full due process guarantees should be afforded to anyone subject to potential dismissal.

No one should ever be removed for actions or statements made without regard to that person’s intent.

‘Intent” is a requirement for most serious crimes. ‘Strict liability crimes are rare, and usually limited to things like speeding tickets.

Loss of a job at the New York Times is a punishment more serious than those for many felonies. “Intent” should be a necessary element of any “firing offense” at the Times.

How can we trust the editorial judgment of the staff and editors at the New York Times when we know their editors are subject to the pressures of a “cancel culture” mob in the newsroom, and when they have exercised such atrocious judgment as that revealed in the cases cited above?

The Trenchant Observer

Reading and Thinking Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON

Deep Reading

Adam Garfinkle has published a thought-provoking article in National Affairs about how, with the introduction of Smartphones and the Internet, younger generations seem to have lost the ability to really engage with a book or a text, in a way Garfinkle refers to as “deep reading”.

George F. Will, in a column in the Washinton Post, summarizes Garfinkle’s argument. For those still capable of “deep reading”, the full article by Garfinkle is highly recommended.


Adam Garfinkle, “The Erosion of Deep Literacy,” National Affairs, No. 44 (Summer 2020).

George F. will, “What we lost when we stopped reading,” Washington Post, April 17, 2020 (7:00 a.m.)

Spirit of Voltaire

Cult Cult of Adolf Hitler Cult of Nazism Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON SEA OF UNREASON UNREASON

Navigating in a Sea of Irrationality

When we are surrounded by individuals swarming in a sea of irrationality, of UNREASON, how can we and others like ourselves with old-fashioned eighteenth-century minds navigate our way through this SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, in order to maintain our rational bearings and connect with other eighteenth-century minds?

The first step in this process is to study and understand the elements of UNREASON which surround us.

When we look at or engage with another human being we tend to assume that he or she is a rational human being, operating as it were more or less on the same planet as we are. This assumption has been pretty accurate in the past, with some notable exceptions.

One period of exception was in Europe in the 1930’s, most notably in Germany where the madness of UNREASON took hold in the form of Nazism and a blind cult of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Something similar happened in Italy, beginning in 1922, with Benito Mussolini. For keen insights into these phenomena, see the brilliant play by Eugene Ionesco entitled Rhinoceros.

If you lived in Nazi Germany, it became extraordinarily important to be able to quickly perceive whether you were talking to a dedicated member of the Nazi and Adolf Hitler cult. Indeed, such recognition could be or become a matter of life and death.

But not all encounters with UNREASON are fraught with such immediate potential consequences. The risk may simply be that you waste an inordinate amount of energy and emotional investment trying to persuade, with reason, someone who is in effect on another planet, swimming in a SEA OF UNREASON.

Such individuals usually, but not always, cannot be reached by reason. If it is important to reach this or that person, some other approach, some other means of communication, must be found.

One approach is through the use of PROPAGANDA, and all of the tools that it employs to persuade individuals by manipulating their emotions. Here, the science of mass psychology is brought directly to bear. This approach is problematic, however, for advocates of a return to REASON. What can be done is perhaps to learn effective techniques of communication, developing methods for piercing propaganda bubbles and inducing individuals to return to the SEA OF REASON.

To reach an individual lost in the SEA OF IRRATIONALITY, the first thing that should be understood is that the goal must not be to win a rational argument on this or that point, or this or that fact or policy.

Rather, two goals must be simultaneously pursued.

The first is to get the person to pay attention and to listen to what you are saying.

The second and main goal must be to free the individual from the grip of UNREASON, to somehow get him or her to return to the world of Reason, to swimming in the SEA OF REASON.

This is harder to accomplish than it may sound.

To recap:

  1. Don’t waste your energy or emotional engagement on someone who is captivated by a cult or otherwise swimming in the SEA OF UNREASON; and
  2. If you engage at all with this person, do not try to win a rational argument over a fact, a public action or a policy. Instead, focus your efforts on using other means to burst the bubble of irrationality in which they are living, and to bring them back into the SEA OF REASON.

Applying these points to engaging with a Trump believer, there is little to be gained, for example, by arguing about the facts of the coronavirus pandemic.

More promising, perhaps, would be a visit to a morgue with Covid-19 victims’ corpses, or failing that publishing a list of all the names of people who died in a given city, in a given state, and in the nation as a whole, on each day, in all the corresponding newspapers, in all the social media, and on all the websites which those who swim in the SEA OF UNREASON usually frequent.

A name, a picture of a corpse (with family permission), or a picture of a funeral may have a better chance of puncturing that bubble of UNREASON than all the rational arguments in the world.

Cults of personality are not the only phenomena that may be responsible for individuals not operating in the SEA OF RATIONALITY.

They may simply not be paying attention. They may be lost in one of the other psychological worlds which the Internet, Social Media, and modern technology have made available to them.

Indeed, it is conceivable that we may one day be living in a world where most individials are simply not paying sustained attention to actual reality (a redundant but necessary term), making them all the more vulnerable to manipulation by masters of mass psychology and propaganda.

See Ruchir Sharma, “People Aren’t Reading or Watching Movies, They’re Gaming; During the pandemic, digital three-dimensional environments are where much of life is taking place,” New York Times, August 15, 2020.

The first step for eighteenth-century minds to keep their bearings, therefore, is to understand what is going on in the consciousness of those we encounter, who may or may not be experiencing reality as if they were on the same planet.

Only after we understand the geography of the IRRATIONALITY that surrounds us will eighteenth-century minds be in a position to navigate through the SEA OF UNREASON, and to try to protect ourselves from the depredations which UNREASON may unleash around us, or even aim in our direction. Only then will we be able to link up and plan effective action.

Spirit of Voltaire

Epistemology of truth Reading and Thinking

About The Eighteenth Century Club: A Home for Eighteenth Century Minds

July 5, 2020

In the Eighteenth Century, the century of The Enlightenment in Europe and America, people read newspapers and read books.  Education was highly valued.  Knowledge was highly valued.  Many, including the Founders of the American Revolution and Constitution, were steeped in knowledge of the Classics, from Plato and Aristotle to Homer and Virgil, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and on up to Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot and the French Encyclopedists.

Knowledge of History was valued.  Reason and Science were the hallmarks of the age.

Now, in the Twenty-First Century, this rich heritage which some high schools, colleges, and universities still seek to instill in the minds of the best students, is under threat.

The threat comes from many sources.  The first has been the development of mass media, from television to social media, which as they have developed–particularly when under the direction of commercial imperatives–have led to an increasing focus on the present moment. This focus on the present entails or is accompanied by an increasing disregard for history and the broader context which the 18th Century mind would have taken for granted, but which today to increasing numbers of members of younger generations seems irrelevant.   Or to put it more precisely, out of the range of their consciousness.

The Eighteenth Century Club is meant to be a home for those Eighteenth Century Minds which remain.  These are the minds that largely run the world, though there is increasing evidence that their grip is slipping.  In America and other countries today, we see manifest evidence of a loss of belief in Science, Expertise, and their foundation, Reason. The Enlightenment, we may recall, was also called The Age of Reason.  Our 18th century democracies were founded on tenets such as Reason, Science, and Expertise. These assumptions appear to be increasingly called into question, or so the evidence seems to suggest.

We invite all those who were fortunate enough to be educated to have an Eighteenth Century Mind to join in our project to herald the virtues of the monumental achievements of the Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, which have lost none of their relevance or significance for today and the future.

Here we aim to celebrate the Eighteenth Century Mind as one of the crowning achievements of mankind’s long struggle to escape from despotism of all kinds, from tyranny and the absolutism of monarchs and other rulers to the despotism of the mind which held freedom and creativity captive for so many centuries, subjecting both to mind-numbing orthodoxies.

We invite your active collaboration.

Collaboration can take the form of making recommendations for articles appearing elsewhere which might be referenced for the benefit of our readers. It can take the form of submission of articles by participants/readers, to be published here.  It can take the form of recommending steps and taking actions to increase the reach of our articles, by expanding both readership and participation.