Syracuse Student Newspaper Sacks Columnist After Questioning “Institutional Racism”

downloadWe recently discussed the apology of the New York Times for publishing a column from a leading United States Senator on the possible use of troops to quell rioting after the death of George Floyd.  That decision, and the sacking of the opinion page editor, represented one of the lowest moments in American journalism.  It made echo journalism the official policy of one of the oldest news organizations in the United States.  The lesson was not, it appears, lost on young college journalists at Syracuse University who sacked a columnist because she questioned claims of “institutional racism.” Adrianna San Marco notably did not write her opinion in The Daily Orange but she was canned for challenging this widely held view.  My greatest concern is the lack of specificity from the editors on the objections to her column beyond “reinforcing stereotypes.”  Such actions demand a clarity in the standard being applied to writers.

As will come as no surprise to most on this blog, my interest in the controversy at Syracuse is not the merits of the underlying column or its research but the implications for free speech and the free press. In her piece published by LifeZette, she argued that institutional racism is a “myth” and that claimed statistics indicate that police do not target African-Americans.  She discussed the findings of a study by the National Academy of Sciences that in late 2019 found “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities” across police shootings.

There are ample arguments against such claims, including some referenced by San Marco in her column.  It is the type of argument that once defined the intellectual discourse of higher education.  Indeed, such topics were often raised precisely because they generated passionate and probing analysis.

This is not those times.  Now, the New York Times apologizes for publishing opposing views and young journalists fire colleagues because they hold opposing views. Daily Orange editor-in-chief Casey Darnell seemed to rip a page out of the “new” New York Times:

“Dismissing the existence of racism, whether institutional or otherwise, dismisses the lived experiences of people of color, especially our black community members. San Marco’s article reinforces false and dangerous stereotypes of Black people as criminals, and dismisses that police officers kill black people at disproportionately higher rates than white people.”

Darnell insisted “[w]e aren’t afraid of controversial views, but we have a responsibility to avoid promoting harmful ones. We don’t censor conservative columnists. In fact, we have already hired a conservative columnist to replace San Marco.”

While I applaud the editors for their sensitivity to these issues, I respectfully believe that Darnell misses the point.  The concern is the San Marco was sacked because she held an opposing view on “institutional racism.”  The challenge is not to select a “conservative” but support writers in holding opposing views, including those expressed in other publications.  The decision appears to be based entirely on this one column and San Marco contesting the widely held view of systemic and institutionalized racism.  Rather than sack the writer, the question is whether a newspaper can still publish opposing and even upsetting columns as part of its contribution to the national debate.  Otherwise, we are enforcing orthodox views or stipulating that only a narrow range of opinions will be tolerated.

I thought that the statement of the editors constitute an excellent and powerful rebuttal.  They could go further in specifically addressing San Marco’s statistical arguments.  That would make for an important and substantive exchange.

Again, I return to my admittedly fading “old school” view of free speech that, rather than silencing a columnist, a newspaper can be a forum for a variety of views, including those at the extremes of the debate. In the past, I have defended academics accused of anti-white or intolerant views from the left.  I would rather have such views freely expressed than engage in selective censorship to silence those with whom we disagree.

225px-BrandeislStudent journalists must decide how to meet the challenge of free speech and free press in an age of rage.  They can either yield to calls for censorship (like the New York Times) or they can stand on the defining principle that the solution for anything deemed bad speech is more and better speech.  Once again, they would be wise to heed the words of Louis Brandeis in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California (1927) when he declared “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”


360 thoughts on “Syracuse Student Newspaper Sacks Columnist After Questioning “Institutional Racism””

  1. Development Could Be Related To Bolton’s Book

    Mr. Barr’s move to dismiss Mr. Berman came just days after Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, alleged in a new book that Mr. Trump sought to interfere in an investigation by Mr. Berman’s office into a Turkish bank, in a bid to cut deals with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Edited from: “Clash Over U.S. Attorney Who Investigated Trump Associates Sets Off Crisis”

    The New York Times, 6/19/20

  2. Paul C Schulte, look to your own repetitive patterns. Your rigid compulsion that I owe you anything.

  3. I have no idea what “cementia” is supposed to signify. However Portland cement is a powder. It reacts with water then being a binder for sand and aggregate. Without the later two materials it is not a suitable construction material.

    But in Never-never land, who knows…

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. and is suffering from cementia – David, you are the one with cementia, not me. You ever consider having someone look at you for OCD, you have repetitive patterns?

  4. absurd x22 — That 1–2–3 is amusing as completely wrong, as already noted. You are simply Making Stuff Up.

    Tch, tch.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. and is suffering from cementia – David, because of your cementia, I am going to have to side with DSS.

  5. OK, so Allan said, ”

    The Zogby Poll®: A majority of voters believe Biden is in the early stages of dementia;

    and then This is absurd says:

    And half of them will vote for him anyway.
    Sooo, I want to share a new word I dreamed of last nite which describes the Democrat Left –


    For when someone’s head is filled with cement, and they can not let any new thoughts in, or think in any meaningful way!

    Remember, CEMENTIA!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky – we need to use cementia as often as possible. I am sure it adequately describe Benson. We need to send this to the OED so they can start tracking it.

      Good job on literally dreaming up the word of the week. 😉

    2. Cementia is now on my forehead – until it rubs off that is. Thanks Squeeky, what a great new word!

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – you could lead the way by being the first to change your mind and start fulfilling your obligation to me of citations. 🙂

        1. delmaracer – if David Benson is a black female, he could be in the running for Biden’s VP. I did see Candace Owen tweet out that she was in serious talks with the Biden people about the VP spot.

  6. Ok, using Chrome as the browser the reply is placed properly as a reply. However, Chrome does not appear to have multiple tabs. I require multiple tabs.

  7. Looks like my earlier comment didn’t post.

    OT, but significant news re: the Mueller Report…
    BuzzFeed/EPIC won a major battle in their FOIA lawsuit, and the DOJ has released a less-redacted version of the Mueller Report, revealing new info about Roger Stone and Wikileaks.

    Docs here, at the bottom (Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Appendices files for #122):
    BuzzFeed article on the newly-revealed info, “Roger Stone Told Trump Wikileaks Was Releasing Clinton Documents” –

    1. Looks like my earlier comment didn’t post.

      You and your colleagues at George Soros Inc post using VPN and TOR Browsers, while employing the disabling of scripts so that JT’s WordPress server does not track you.

      If you used a standard browser, and a fixed IP address, you would not have these “problems” nor would you be spamming this site with repeat postings. But you know this. Why else do your people comment on this forum from sunrise to midnight?

      Dishonest authorship is a tell for dishonest discussions

      1. You claim that I’m associated with “George Soros Inc” made me laugh. Both that claim and your claim that I “post using VPN and TOR Browsers, while employing the disabling of scripts so that JT’s WordPress server does not track you” are false. Not that you care. You’re happy to pretend that your conjectures are facts, when they aren’t, and when an honest person wouldn’t pretend that in the first place.

        I edited my comment so it would post the second time. The first time I linked to the less-redacted Mueller Report files directly instead of linking to the Court Listener’s main docket page for the suit. I think the system didn’t like the appearance of the links (I’ll edit off the “https://www” here):

        Feel free to ask Darren whether I’m using a fixed IP. Presumably he and Turley have access to the metadata for my comments here.

        And how sad that you focus on me instead of the real news. Your priorities are a bit off.

      2. BTW, it turns out that the problem was that I’d mistakenly included three links, when this site doesn’t allow comments with more than two links (I usually remember this, but forgot this time). Darren fixed it and approved it later:

        No mention from Darren of any evidence of your bizarre conjecture.

  8. Rhodes — Never been to Memphis or Atlanta. As for New Orleans, apparently things have changed in the quarter of a century since I visited several times.

      1. “If all earthly power were given me,” said Lincoln in a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, “I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” After acknowledging that this plan’s “sudden execution is impossible,” he asked whether freed blacks should be made “politically and socially our equals?” “My own feelings will not admit of this,” he said, “and [even] if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not … We can not, then, make them equals.”5

        One of Lincoln’s most representative public statements on the question of racial relations was given in a speech at Springfield, Illinois, on June 26, 1857.6 In this address, he explained why he opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have admitted Kansas into the Union as a slave state:

        There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas …

        Racial separation, Lincoln went on to say, “must be effected by colonization” of the country’s blacks to a foreign land. “The enterprise is a difficult one,” he acknowledged,

        but “where there is a will there is a way,” and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be.

      2. 1. It looks drab more than anything else.

        2. You see a few derelict properties here and there. Surprisingly few. In my younger days, I could have taken you through small towns in Upstate New York in worse shape in that respect.

        3. There’s some trash in the streets and on the grass, but intermittently. The only gross pile you see about 15 seconds before the end.

        4. What hits you is the suburban morphology: the deficit of commercial agriculture, the wide spaces between properties, the one story properties, &c.

        What it suggests is that blacks in Memphis are a passably prosperous population when measured in reference to previous era and measured in reference to foreign countries. Passably prosperous as far as traded goods and services go. (Real income levels for blacks today are similar to those of whites in 1995; life expectancy for blacks today is similar to that for whites in 1990).

        Where you see the deficits in the public spaces and in the common life. There are ways to ameliorate these problems, but, by and large, these are things to which gentry liberals and black chauvinists object.

  9. OT, but significant news:

    Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold):
    “BREAKING: After a year of legal battles, @BuzzFeedNews news and I and @EPICprivacy have scored a MAJOR #FOIA victory: the Justice Department has unredacted portions of the Mueller report pertaining to Roger Stone and Wikileaks and more.”

    Updated Mueller Report volumes: (Vol. 1) (Vol. 2)

    Jason Leopold has done phenomenal work with a wide variety of FOIA requests. Good for him.

    1. CommitToHonestDiscussion,

      You might not be aware but this web blog only permits two hyperlinks per comment. I delinked the last one so that you comment would show. If you would like for the readership to review more than two links, this can be accomplished in using multiple comments with two links each.

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