Patterico's Pontifications


The Interesting Internal Squabble at Vox

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:15 pm

[guest post by JVW]

I know that so many of you hate Twitter. I kind of hate it too, though I confess that I just can’t quit it. While it is indeed chock-full of dumb, reactionary, mean-spirited ripostes — including 2,443 of them from yours truly — it does give us a voyeur’s window into the internal politics of certain media organizations which otherwise we would have to learn from the rumor mill.

Yesterday, Dana (with an addendum from Patterico) did a great job in outlining the curious dustup regarding the open letter supporting free speech and opposing cancel culture signed by many practicing leftists, which in turn led a Vox editor to decry the fact that fellow Voxxer Matt Yglesias had signed on to the letter, claiming that it makes her, as a trans-woman, “feel less safe.” This predictable contention, subject to ridicule though it was, seems to have laid bare some internal tensions within the Vox office (Voxxice? Voffice?). It began with Vox founder and head honcho Ezra Klein apparently asking Mr. Yglesias to avoid engaging this matter directly or with subtweets, which for the happily uninitiated are tweets that appear on their face to be generalized in nature but are in fact clearly intended for the attention of specific unnamed people. It started yesterday, when the Vox editor published her criticism of Mr. Yglesias and many voices on the right took to the his defense. This didn’t seem to sit well with our hero, who started digging up old tweets of some of the same defenders criticizing his past work:

Yglesias slagged

After settling those old scores in disdain of his newfound allies, he later pledged to change his strategy, perhaps after conferring with his friend Mr. Klein:

Yglesias promise

Then this morning Mr. Klein perhaps sent a message as to where Vox stands on free speech by retweeting Zach Beauchamp:

Klein retweets Beauchamp

He then followed it up with a tweet of his own, with a point regarding free speech and intersectionality that he claims wasn’t necessarily intended for Mr. Yglesias and the leftist signers of the open letter, but can hardly be read otherwise:

Klein tweets free speech and power

Mr. Yglesias clearly saw this as a subtweet to himself, and he responded somewhat caustically with a tweet that he appears to have then quickly deleted:

Yglesias responds to Klein

When Yascha Mounk of Persuasion called out Mr. Klein on the subtweet, the Vox founder was forced to begin backtracking:

Mounk and Klein

And ultimately realizing how dysfunctional this petty squabble was making his employer and his own brand appear, Mr. Yglesias sued for peace:

Yglesias surrenders

Thus ends the Battle of the Cancel Culture Open Letter at the Vox Offices, but the War for Free Speech rages on. Would you feel comfortable working for Ezra Klein, seeing his avowed commitment to the open exchange of ideas compromised by his insistence on paying homage to the more dopey notions of intersectionality and power structures? What if you weren’t Mr. Klein’s “co-founder and oldest friend in journalism,” but some lowly cub reporter?

Cheers to Matt Yglesias for taking a stand in favor of free speech, then not (thus far) backing down when the woke mob starting coming for him. Boos to Ezra Klein for being so wishy-washy on this issue which really ought to be central to his profession. He should take some time to work all of this out in his mind and come up with a principled and consistent position going forward, because one day the woke mob will almost certainly come for him.


46 Responses to “The Interesting Internal Squabble at Vox”

  1. I suppose at the end of all this we will hold on to and affirm the concept of free speech, but it seems like this battle is going to be fought more often from here on in.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  2. I think the request not to subtweet eachother is fair.

    I think Ezra subtweeted his thoughts on the situation, rather than on Matt per se. But it’s easy to see why people would see it as being directly at Matt. And he probably should have thought and rethought again about hitting the button, though there are some interesting non-Matt related thoughts in that thread.

    I suspect that the chick who made the first tweet will not go much further at Vox.

    The war for free speech is always going to rage on, because Ezra isn’t wrong, it is often about power.

    Nic (896fdf)

  3. Are these guys all gay, or what?

    nk (1d9030)

  4. The biggest thing I got from this post is that my avoidance of twitter is for the best. I had no idea what a subtweet was and I’m not sure I do now. People post a vague tweet that is intentionally indirect but is intended to be directed to a person? Am I understanding that right? How is that not pathetically passive aggressive?

    frosty (f27e97)

  5. Definitely crossing the streams

    Narciso (7404b5)

  6. @4 I am not a twitter aficionado either, but I brows sometimes. Yes, you are understanding that correctly, and it is often pathetically passive aggressive.

    Nic (896fdf)

  7. I barely wade into Twitter, but Yglesias won, and that VanDerWerff chick (or guy?) came across like the speech-suppression harpie he/she is.
    Speaking of Twitter, David French decided to confront one of his bigger slanderers, and I hope she pays a price, along with the hacks who are hawking her book.

    Paul Montagu (c9d3c1)

  8. Its an amusing kerfuffle, but nobody at Vox is a serious person.

    rcocean (fcc23e)

  9. I’m not sure what put my comment into moderation. Was it h*rpie? It’s the only word that was remotely saucy.

    [Yeah, I don’t know either, but I fished it out. – JVW]

    Paul Montagu (c9d3c1)

  10. Narciso, ever since sports shut down, sportswriters and sports commentators have had nothing better to do than to treat us to their shallow and incomplete political thoughts. It’s enough to make you want to smack your own head.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  11. And kapernick will make it extra brawndo.

    Narciso (7404b5)

  12. JVW (ee64e4) — 7/8/2020 @ 8:08 pm

    Well, not my own head. Let’s just say someone’s head.

    frosty (f27e97)

  13. Which of these guys were a part of Journolist again to shape the agenda and control the public airwaves?

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  14. Klein was the honcho, yglesias was the lieutenant,

    Narciso (7404b5)

  15. Jonathan chait was another who was part of the narrowing circle.

    Narciso (7404b5)

  16. Dear anyone: If this comment makes you feel less safe then maybe you need to do more work with your therapist.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  17. I should think that Matt Yglesias should tweet that he feels more safe now that he’s been so astutely corrected.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  18. Freedom of speech is not now and never has been free in fact it is the most expensive thing their is! The first amendment does not protect you from being fired from your job.

    asset (bdfbf5)

  19. get woke
    go broke

    mg (8cbc69)

  20. Kneel before me! Smell the glove!

    Bugg (47841b)

  21. Or loki was ultimately right.

    Narciso (7404b5)

  22. JVW, I enjoyed your essay. But Matt Yglesias only cares about freedom of expression when it applies to him. Which is the point of this—the Twitter Mobs will not respect anyone, not even themselves.

    It’s all outrage, all the time. The good news is that, after one outburst, the mob quickly moves on to something/someone else.

    Simon Jester (8378a9)

  23. Bugg (47841b) — 7/9/2020 @ 7:15 am

    Big promises but all we ended up with was a plain black cover.

    frosty (f27e97)

  24. One recalls syme in 1984, in the end even he was liquidated.

    Narciso (7404b5)

  25. “ Which of these guys were a part of Journolist again to shape the agenda and control the public airwaves?”

    Ah, for the days when liberal ‘journalists’ caught scheming in private to take down political opponents actually backed off.

    I would say less than 5% of the Twitter audience is aware of Journolist.
    One of the better responses came from letter signee M Gladwell:

    Malcolm Gladwell
    I signed the Harpers letter because there were lots of people who also signed the Harpers letter whose views I disagreed with. I thought that was the point of the Harpers letter.


    It’s interesting that Gladwell’s reason for signing appears to be the same reason that two signees later withdrew their endorsement, one claiming she never agreed and the other making a pathetic kowtowing show of contrition.

    As I said in a previous thread, the main thing I’m taking away from this is that more than a few of these signees were happy to take part in less-than-honest shaming and smearing political opponents in the past but now see that friends and colleagues they approve of can also be taken out.

    To them I say ‘welcome to the party!’

    harkin (5af287)

  26. That argument doesnt make any sense, you believe in a principle thats why you signed right?

    Narciso (7404b5)

  27. So christopher steele the basis for this sham was laughed out of court

    Narciso (7404b5)

  28. Also, a point that not enough people are making and IMO the main thing the Cancel Culture Crew don’t want to be even discussed:

    Colleen Blick
    Don’t have to be sympathetic to her to recognize we are all better off if the response to her post is people encouraging Vox not to punish Yglesias because he did not do anything to make her “less safe at work”. Support employers ignoring that silly language. Don’t harass her.

    __ _

    Accusations of someone’s speech making others ‘less safe’ is one of the main weapons currently being used to police speech and even get people fired (see the Cotton opinion piece at the NYTtimes).

    harkin (5af287)

  29. They are expert at missing the point

    Narciso (7404b5)

  30. Another thing lost in all this (and which I didn’t see mentioned in either this post concerning ‘The Letter’ or the previous one here) is many were outraged by the letter because included among the signees was author JK Rowling, who recently made a statement that in place of the term ‘people who menstruate’ one could have just said ‘women’.

    Lots of trans people and their sympathizers declared this as an attack on their humanity or an attempt to make them disappear from the population (I kid you not).

    While perusing reactions to the letter yesterday I checked twitter IDs of some of the more overwrought/hateful reactions to the letter itself and there was a very high percentage of people declaring themselves as transsexual, as is the employee at Vox who sent a copy to Vox, declaring the workplace ‘less safe’ because an editor had dared to sign it.

    I’d guess that Rowling being part of the letter has a lot to do with this whole Vox logic meltdown.

    harkin (5af287)

  31. Should have been:

    ‘ employee at Vox who sent a copy to the management there’

    harkin (5af287)

  32. Who came from the av club, turtles all the way down.

    Narciso (7404b5)

  33. Also also, there’s the peripheral issue I saw a few times yesterday:

    Sean McGinnis
    · Why Harper’s?

    Genuine question. I’m curious.
    __ _

    Jesse Singal
    1/Most mainstream left of center outlets probably wouldn’t publish a letter like this today — would be likely to inspire an angry revolt among younger staff

    2/ If Vox, for example, pubbed this letter today, especially with Rowling’s name on it, I think it would cause a weeklong sh**storm for a lot of the managers as the internal slack rooms blew up, people turned away from doing their jobs to organize their outrage and response, etc.
    __ _

    This echoes my comparison to the Cotton piece at the NYT.

    Imagine having as part of your editorial process the consideration on whether a subset of your employees were going to form a disruptive mob merely for publishing.

    The reaction by way too many to the letter seems to reinforce the reason for writing and signing it in the first place. It also highlights the trend by the Woke Brigades to abstain from making intelligent, reasoned counterargument and instead seeking to silence and banish.

    harkin (5af287)

  34. If free speech is “about power”, who has the power here? When the boss says “STFU or else” it’s pretty clear.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  35. Even more clear – Actual NYTimes headline yesterday:

    The Cafe Has Black Lives Matter Signs. The Owner Voted for Trump.


    harkin (5af287)

  36. not if the underlings can cancel you for being insufficiently woke,

    narciso (7404b5)

  37. “ever since sports shut down, sportswriters and sports commentators have had nothing better to do than to treat us to their shallow and incomplete political thoughts”

    Ain’t this the truth. Add in the athletes as well. The public shaming of Drew Brees was excruciating to watch. I cringe to think about what is coming after (if?) sports start back up…..with one gratuitous Anthem demonstration trying to upstage the last. And we will be treated to the commentators who will have to applaud it all and tell us how brave, inspiring, and meaningful it all is…..even while the death tolls in inner city Chicago inconveniently mount….and receive not a hint of public objection. I know….I know….everything misses the point…distracts…minimizes the message. Political correctness is the only genuine currency… I expect Drew to be down on both knees….maybe even with a little tear in his eye….

    AJ_Liberty (0f85ca)

  38. Mao’s Red Guard. Castro’s revolutionaries, Hitler Youth; all examples of radical indoctrination that turned a society’s children against their own nation and destroyed it. Will we allow ourselves to be next?

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  39. Why Harper’s? Genuine question. I’m curious.

    Poor Richard’s Almanack is OOP.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  40. Yes indeed. To some people freedom of speech archaic.

    harkin (5af287)

  41. NJRob (eb56c3) — 7/9/2020 @ 10:10 am

    there’s a meme for that.

    First panel shows Two buttons and a hand with extended index finger*.

    First button labeled: Resume indoctrination of children at schools
    Second button: Keep schools locked down because Trump!

    Second panel: conflicted liberal voter

    * A conservative voter would extend a middle finger.

    Yeah, this is why I do not write memes.

    felipe (023cc9)

  42. I know the meme you’re referencing felipe. Sad that we are in these times.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

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