People need to be less afraid of presenting views opposed to the 'mainstream' - editorial

While it's important to create safe environments, it's also important not to make people suffer for their views opposed to mainstream opinion.

Today’s youths prefer to share their feelings and emotions through texts and online, in social media, in chat platforms while gaming and in other similar settings (photo credit: SNAPPY GOAT)
Today’s youths prefer to share their feelings and emotions through texts and online, in social media, in chat platforms while gaming and in other similar settings
(photo credit: SNAPPY GOAT)

The Washington Post seems to be in a meltdown state in recent weeks since the outbreak of a Twitter scandal involving two of its top reporters.

The affair began when the Post decided to suspend political reporter David Weigel for a month without pay for retweeting a sexist joke.

But then, Felicia Sonmez, another reporter at the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper, took to the social media platform and reportedly blasted reporters who sent out tweets praising the paper as a “collegial” workplace and “downplaying the Post’s workplace issues.”

Sonmez was subsequently fired according to multiple media reports. Vanity Fair quoted one staffer at the paper who said that Sonmez was “essentially pouring gasoline on every fire and inviting people to watch.”

While this might be entertaining for some people, it is also disturbing to watch this play out. It is just the latest in a series of incidents in which people put their foot in their mouths on social media.

The Washington Post (credit: REUTERS)The Washington Post (credit: REUTERS)

We won’t repeat here what Weigel retweeted but it is clear to us that the tweet was inappropriate. Did it warrant a month’s suspension? Possibly. Sexist comments – even if funny to some people – should not have a place in our public discourse by writers whom the public look up to.

On the other hand, what is happening at one of America’s storied news organizations is not isolated. People live in fear today that whatever they say can be used against them and manipulated by proponents of woke culture to even end their careers.

Punished for disagreeing with popular opinion?

Take the case, for example, of what happened recently to Ilya Shapiro, a law professor at Georgetown. After President Joe Biden said that he would nominate a black woman to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Shapiro tweeted that Sri Srinivasan, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, appointed by Barack Obama, would be a better pick.

He wrote that Srinivasan was a “solid progressive.” He then added: “But alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get a lesser, black woman.”

Shapiro recognized the potential problem with the tweet, deleted it and immediately apologized. Nevertheless, Georgetown put him on leave from his role as executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution.

Last week, he was reinstated by the Georgetown dean on the grounds that he wasn’t a university employee at the time of the tweet. Easy.

Nevertheless, Shapiro decided to quit. He wasn’t a racist – if so, why would he have argued to appoint Srinivasan, an Indian-born American who has long been considered a candidate for the Supreme Court? But he feared that there was no chance for him to succeed in his role.

“When the Supreme Court hears the Harvard and University of North Carolina affirmative-action cases this fall, I opine that the Constitution bans racial preferences,” he wrote last week in the Wall Street Journal. “Hundreds of Georgetown stakeholders [could] sign a letter asserting that my comments ‘are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity.'”

“Hundreds of Georgetown stakeholders [could] sign a letter asserting that my comments ‘are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity’.”

Professor Ilya Shapiro

Under these circumstances, Shapiro said, he would not be able to fulfill his role as a law professor and educator.

This is unfortunate but also understandable. And there are countless other examples. On the one hand, extra caution is important. People should not tweet sexist comments as happened at The Washington Post and should not tweet comments that could contribute to creating a hostile environment in a workplace.

On the other hand, where does this end, and at what point do we say as a society that even ideas we disagree with are legitimate? What happened is that people – like Shapiro and others in Georgetown – are afraid to have to consider an alternative idea to the one being pushed by the progressive masses.

What this will ultimately do is bury what we know today as conversations and debates. People are afraid of being challenged with ideas that make them have to think about their existing beliefs and opinions.

Safety is paramount and sexism needs to be condemned, but don’t use those principles as a dustbin to categorize everything we don’t like or that makes us squirm a bit because we are not sure about our pre-accepted notions.

That is not just undemocratic. It’s not smart.