Todd Smith: Culture canceled

By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record

Two weeks ago the New York Times published an op-ed — “Send in the Troops” — authored by Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas. Cotton pointed to lawlessness resulting from nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd.

“The rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd … nihilistic criminals are simply out for the loot and the thrill of the destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.”

Cotton called for “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.” He invoked the Insurrection Act that authorizes the President to deploy the military to restore order.

Todd Smith

Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record.

“The American people aren’t blind to injustices in our society, but they know that the most basic responsibility of government is to maintain public order and safety,” Cotton concludes.

The op-ed kicked up a hornet’s nest of howls and protests, including a revolt among New York Times news staffers who said publishing the opinion put their lives in danger. From there, dominoes fell quickly.

The next day, Publisher A.G. Sulzberger apologized for the piece and said it shouldn’t have run. Shortly thereafter Editorial Page Editor James Bennett resigned and one of his deputies was re-assigned. Sulzberger said the opinion “did not meet our standards,” and blamed a “rushed editorial process.” He said the Cotton flap was just the last straw for Bennett, whose high-profile missteps overshadowed an otherwise decent career.

This, of course, got conservatives all riled up. Trump supporters jumped on the developments as proof-positive that the New York Times wasn’t a band of professional journalists as much as they were social justice warriors, trying to lead the country straight to hell.

There’s nuance to the truth, of course. The biggest thing is that opinion editors and newsrooms have different missions and are firewalled to prevent cross-contamination. That’s true, and the decision to push out Bennett was unlikely to have been decided by upset staffers or irate readers.

But in today’s social media world, the truth doesn’t matter. Rabid liberals wanted Cotton’s voice silenced and they sort of claimed a victory. Conservatives wanted the New York Times silenced and they also sort of claimed a victory.

The big loser was a country that once-upon-a-time could handle opposing viewpoints. The aforementioned “cancel culture” is changing all that.

Consider things closer to home.

Two weeks ago we got a helpful letter from a reader who said if our editorial writers would just smarten up and support Trump, then the Caledonian-Record wouldn’t go out of business. That sentiment was echoed by a letter writer today who said she’s cancelling her subscription because of an anti-Trump cartoon. These letters are inversely proportional to similar missives we received when we (often) criticized the Obama Administration.

The Ithaca Journal, a daily newspaper in Ithaca, New York, has one person left in their newsroom. It’s an affluent college town with 32,000 people. The Caledonian-Record has a dozen journalists covering a much poorer, dramatically smaller area.

The “cancel” folks we mention apparently don’t value the journalists employed to objectively cover our region on a daily basis. Or at least those fact-based reports — which fill 95% of every edition — pale in comparison to the outrage of an opposing viewpoint. Spare them the lofty talk of a crumbling democracy, for them it all comes down to a cartoon with which they disagree.

And this poses two major problems for society.

First, there’s no room for opposing viewpoints. That means conversations can’t happen and middle ground becomes scorched earth.

Second, there can be no more financially sustainable, independent media committed to airing a wide range of opinions. That means quality, fact-based information can’t happen and our entire democracy becomes scorched earth.

Cancel culture is a tactic of tyrants, but is absolutely the right term for what we see happening before our eyes. Once a society censors all voices with controversial viewpoints, there can be no culture at all.

Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain and Todd Smith
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7 thoughts on “Todd Smith: Culture canceled

  1. FYI? If you are censored by Digger, say so! They are a PAC – not a non profit. Non profits avoid taxes. If Vt Digger is censoring others, as I believe, it proves they have a purely political agenda and are not ….non biased & non taxable.. It then become a Federal and State tax fraud case. Some of Digger’s largest donors are out of state….once you cross state lines, it becomes a Federal issue…tax evasion, wire fraud, mail fraud. My fondest wish is that others indeed are censored by Digger (???), and maybe Caledonian Record exposes that…and along the way they write a letter to the US Attorney in BTV….and VT Atty General Donovan…to notify them.. The Feds have subpoena power. Can you imagine some of the inter office communications & emails that is on their computers :)…OMG 🙂

  2. I’ve been “cancelled” and censored too, simply because I have a different opinion vs the accepted orthodoxy….by VT Digger.. I have been tagged. I am halted from reading comments as well as halted from making comments. Their stuff is SO biased. Often times I would get between 100 and 150 “likes” to what I said. No longer. It was too embarrassing for Digger to see such overwhelming negative response to their propanganda opinion. Why can’t people see the truth? VT Digger is a political action committee….a PAC. It is NOT a non biased & NON PROFIT! IMO, they skirt and cheat tax laws to not pay taxes, as non profit, while being nothing but a Progressive & Liberal PAC…..which IS TAXABLE! They get away with it – because they can. If any others here have also been censored by VT Digger, please post it….MAYBE Todd Smith of Caledonian Record would write it up. Digger would no doubt see it. VT Digger nees to be investigated by authorities!

  3. Todd, You’re right, the thought police have taken over. If a thought or idea in their view is politically incorrect it unacceptable. Look at the number of conservative commencement speakers who have been disinvited, the guest lecturers who have been literally attacked or banned because their views are out of sync with the thought police who know better. It’s getting scary.

  4. Suppression of ideas, of their free public expression, is Fascist. Or Progressive, take your pick. Note well what has happened to heretics or apostates of the AGW Climate dogma – despite the arrant hypocrisy of its untouchable jet setting elite members.

  5. Censorship is happening all around us– to keep us safe, of course, from misinformation or wrong opinions.

    We’re having a groupthink consensus on what constitutes right opinion. We’re having the media actively promote right opinion as information, and deciding for us how we should think about certain things.

    Worse, we’re having right opinion, groupthink science. Consider the two papers on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) that were retracted by The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. These two papers were egregious examples of outright junk science, as many readers understood quite quickly. Yet, both papers passed peer review. Why? Because they were published to discredit HCQ and promote right opinion, and as a result trials on this were halted (trials have since resumed after the retractions.)

    The NIH has recommended against the use of hydroxychloroquine.

    NY state outright banned the use of HCQ for doctors who weren’t part of clinical trials. Other state have as well.

    This is a truly bizarre situation, as a recent paper by Dr. Risch of the Yale School of Public Health has pointed out, because there’s simply no evidence of deaths or any significant harm at all from HCQ use, and significant evidence of benefits in fighting Covid-19. Yet, doctors are being forbidden to use it. https://academic.oup.com/aje/advance-article/doi/10.1093/aje/kwaa093/5847586#.Xs7tRjYTCgc.twitter

    Most of the papers that show “no benefit” from HCQ are using it in sick, hospitalized patients when the virus has already overwhelmed the immune system. But HCQ is most useful in outpatient treatment where it diminishes viral replication before the virus overwhelms the body; this has been confirmed in the laboratory. HCQ seems to work best in conjunction with azithromycin and zinc. One of the earliest statements of the efficacy of HCQ, azithromycin, and zinc was given by Dr. Zelenko on March 23, 2020. This was an outpatient treatment with nearly 100% effectiveness. For all of our lip service to “relying on the science” and for all of our supposed fervor to find a cure for Covid-19, this specific protocol has never been tested (two trials I know of are underway, but these don’t conclude until 2021; a bit late to do much good.) We’ve had plenty of trials, already concluded, testing HCQ in hospitalized patients. Why can’t we test it in outpatients in accordance with the Zelenko protocol?

    A considerable, even massive, effort is directed toward discrediting an effective treatment for early Covid-19 infection. Science cancel? Fighting against wrong opinion?

    Why is this happening?

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