Plus: Journalists stand up for journalism
Let’s start the new week with my absolutely favorite story from the depths of academic bureaucracy via Nellie Bowles:
After the tragic shooting at Michigan State University, Vanderbilt University’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion issued a touching statement of consolation and inclusivity.
“Another important aspect of creating an inclusive environment is to promote a culture of respect and understanding.” And: “[L]et us come together as a community to reaffirm our commitment to caring for one another and promoting a culture of inclusivity on our campus.” And: “Finally, we must recognize that creating a safe and inclusive environment is an ongoing process that requires ongoing effort and commitment.” It’s the same nonsensical but warm sentiment said over and over—inclusive (7 times), community (5 times), safe (3)—and it kinda worked!
There was, however, one problem: At the very bottom of the statement was this reveal: “Paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication, February 15, 2023.”
The humane bureaucrats cared deeply about the tragedy, but, apparently, not deeply enough to bother having an actual human being compose it. Writes Bowles:
People were upset. The university apologized. And yes, you could ask what exactly these bureaucrats are doing all day. But their laziness might also be their genius: replace all university bureaucrats with ChatGPT. Like the discovery of penicillin, sometimes accidents make genius.
Of course he did. “Musk defends ‘Dilbert’ creator, says media is ‘racist against whites’.”
ICYMI it over the weekend, Scott Adams, who has been decompensating in public for some time now, went off on a racist rant that resulted in his cartoons being dropped by newspapers across the country.
Musk came to his defense. Because “free speech” and because he kind of, sort of, seemed to agree with Adams.
The billionaire’s comments continue a pattern of Musk expressing more concern about the “free speech” of people who make racist or antisemitic comments than about the comments themselves. Musk’s views on race have been the subject of scrutiny both at Twitter, where he has reinstated far-right accounts, including those of neo-Nazis and others previously banned for hate speech, and at Tesla, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging a culture of rampant racism and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Via today’s Bulwark: “Five Ways to Help Ukraine Win.” Daniel Fata writes:
Here are five things that the administration could do to meet its minimum stated goal: the continued existence of Ukraine as an independent state. These measures would also be helpful if the administration wanted to pursue a more ambitious goal: helping Ukraine retake every inch of its sovereign territory within its internationally recognized borders so that it can survive as an economically viable country, and/or degrading Russian military power to the point that it can’t threaten any of its other neighbors.
David French writes in the NYT: “Why Fox News Lied to the Viewers It ‘Respects’.”
Fox isn’t just the news hub of right-wing America, it’s a cultural cornerstone, and its business model is so successful that it’s more accurate to think of the rest of the right-wing media universe not as a collection of competitors to Fox, but rather as imitators.
From television channels to news sites, right-wing personalities aren’t so much competing with Fox as auditioning for it.
They’re not wrong. Via National Review: “Wisconsin Republicans — Supreme Losers.”
The Wisconsin GOP has a problem — they’re losers. They lost a chance at the executive branch in November, and they’re fixing to lose their advantage in the judicial branch in April….
Panning DeSantis. The Florida governor is out with a new book, and the NYT review is less than enthusiastic.
For the most part, ‘The Courage to Be Free’ is courageously free of anything that resembles charisma, or a discernible sense of humor. While his first book was weird and esoteric enough to have obviously been written by a human, this one reads like a politician’s memoir churned out by ChatGPT.
Half a victory for common sense: “Puffin to publish original versions of Roald Dahl books after censorship spat.”
Penguin Random House has announced that it will publish the original versions of Roald Dahl’s books alongside updated editions following an outcry over changes to the celebrated stories that were branded “absurd censorship”.
The annual Star Wars bar scene of CPAC opens this weekend, but so does an alternative — the Principles First conference. (The Bulwark is a sponsor and will have a major presence, so we hope to see you there.)
Principles First founder Heath Mayo writes:
When CPAC convenes this weekend, you'll sooner find a golden statue of Trump than a conservative principle. Instead of rejecting the Nixonian corruption of our day, CPAC will hand Steve Bannon a microphone and Kari Lake an award. And if any ideas happen to find their way into the agenda, they won't be conservative or even American. They'll be the mindless musings of a rudderless illiberalism - like how the Constitution should be terminated, how we need a “national divorce,” how only lost elections are rigged, how our own law enforcement is a 'deep state' bent on destroying us, or how America really shouldn't care what happens in Ukraine.
America, writes Mayo, deserves something better.
That’s what we’ve built at the Principles First Summit - which will be held during the same dates as CPAC at the Conrad Hotel in DC starting this Friday, March 3 to Sunday, March 5. We’ll focus on America’s institutions - why they matter, why they are fraying, and how they can be preserved and strengthened. We’ll convene governors and state election officials from around the country who defeated election deniers and spoke truth about the vote. Former generals and ambassadors will discuss our foreign policy institutions and Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine. Party leaders and former candidates will look at our parties as institutions - and ask whether innovation is possible. We’ll also tackle other of America’s institutions - Congress, the courts, the Constitution, the presidency, the cable news media and free press, and churches. The full agenda is available on our website.
You might recognize some of these folks:
Give us a listen
On Friday’s podcast: Tim Miller and I talk about the Georgia jury forewoman, disagree on Roald Dahl, (and are joined by a special guest) and discuss the DeSantis lecture to New Yorkers on law & order.
You can listen to the whole thing here.
Journalists stand up for journalism
ICYMI: This story may sound like inside baseball. But it’s actually a BFD.
Dozens of high-profile New York Times journalists signed onto a private letter defending the paper’s coverage of transgender issues and firing back against their own union leadership in what has become a deepening internal row over the paper’s transgender coverage.
Vanity Fair had the letter… and the backstory:
Tuesday’s staff letter is the latest in a series of exchanges, the first being one signed by hundreds of Times contributors and several current staffers last week. That letter criticized the paper’s coverage of transgender issues, citing specific stories and who wrote them. Executive editor Joe Kahn and Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury addressed that letter internally, in an email to staff taking issue with staffers who joined the effort. “We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums,” they wrote, noting that “participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy.” This letter came out the same day that the Opinion section published a column defending J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author who has been repeatedly criticized for comments seen as transphobic.
The staff letter was sent to Susan DeCarava, the president of the NewsGuild of New York, challenging her for “suggesting that the paper’s coverage of transgender issues — including the adverse effects of hormonal and surgical intervention and the recent dramatic increase in gender dysphoria in girls — might have created a ‘hostile’ workplace.
Drafted by reporter Jeremy Peters, the letter was signed by more than 100 journalists, including White House correspondent Peter Baker; Washington correspondent Charlie Savage; media correspondent Michael Grynbaum and national correspondent Kate Zernike. They wrote:
Like you, we support the right to a non-hostile workplace where everyone is respected and supported. We believe The New York Times should never engage in biased or discriminatory practices of any kind. We all strive to be part of a truly diverse news organization where everyone is treated fairly. We welcome robust and respectful critical feedback from colleagues, either in direct conversation or through internal Times channels.
But your letter appears to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of our responsibilities as journalists.
Regretfully, our own union leadership now seems determined to undermine the ethical and professional protections that we depend on to guard the independence and integrity of our journalism.
Factual, accurate journalism that is written, edited, and published in accordance with Times standards does not create a hostile workplace.
Every day, partisan actors seek to influence, attack, or discredit our work. We accept that. But what we don’t accept is what the Guild appears to be endorsing: A workplace in which any opinion or disagreement about Times coverage can be recast as a matter of “workplace conditions.”
Our duty is to be independent. We pursue the facts wherever they may lead. We are journalists, not activists. That line should be clear.
Debates over fairness and accuracy are perfectly reasonable. We understand and respect that the Guild has an absolute duty to offer representation to members when they are subject to discipline by management. But we do not think it is the role of our union to be engaged in – and taking sides in – public debates over internal editorial decisions.
Our hope is that the coming days will bring more constructive internal dialogue among Times employees and with Guild leadership that can help unify and improve our news organization. And we ask that our union work to advance, not erode, our journalistic independence.
Elon Musk seems to be going out of his way to remind us that he spent the first 18 years of his life as a white South African.
The rhetorical trick Tucker and others play is failing to acknowledge that they are the reason why "...many Americans don't believe it (the election) was real".