We have been discussing efforts to fire professors who voice dissenting views on various issues including an effort to oust a leading economist from the University of Chicago as well as a leading linguistics professor at Harvard and a literature professor at Penn. The cancel culture has also extended to museums, book publishers, and other forums for intellectual exchanges. Now the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has fired podcast host and deputy editor Dr. Edward Livingston, who raised his own concerns and doubts in a podcast over claims of structural racism.
While JAMA is supposedly independent from the American Medical Association (AMA), the AMA wrote in a statement that it was “deeply disturbed” and “angered” by the podcast and declared that “this tweet and podcast are inconsistent with the policies and views of AMA.”
The conservative site The Daily Wire has a copy of the since-deleted podcast. During the episode, Livingston reportedly asked Dr. Mitchell Katz the following question: “Given that racism is illegal, how can it be so embedded in society that it’s considered structural?”
Katz then explained how structural racism can manifest itself. Livingston then followed up by noting
“I feel like I’m being told I’m a racist in the modern era because of this whole thing about structural racism, but what you’re talking about, it isn’t so much racism as much as that there are populations, it’s more of a socioeconomic phenomenon, that have a hard time getting out of their place because of their environment. And it isn’t their race; it isn’t their color; it’s their socioeconomic status. It’s where they are.”
Katz appeared to agree with the socio-economic point.
There is much there to unpack and people of good faith can disagree with the socio-economic perspective. That is the point of such forums to allowing different viewpoints and a debate on issues facing society. I disagree with the comments and I would be interested in an exchange on the issue. There was a time when such controversial discussions were welcomed as a platform for discussion. This is not that time.
The podcast triggered the usual demands for termination and condemnation. Rather than simply present arguments against the socio-economic point, critics wanted Livingston fired. What is most disconcerting is that the loudest celebrating the termination were professors who rejoiced in the notion that someone can be fired for expressing an opposing viewpoint.
As reported on Campus Reform, University of Minnesota Professor Betsy Hirsch“Glad to see some concrete steps here after the #racist physician tweet/podcast.” For his part, University of Southern California Michael Cosimini demanded to know how such viewpoints could ever have been allowed to be posted.
We previously discussed how commentators and corporations often call for a national dialogue on race. However, those with opposing views of underlying causes and controversies are subject to cancelling campaigns. The result is closer to a diatribe than a dialogue. If we are to have a meaningful discussion about race, we have to tolerate opposing views. Indeed, the statements made on the podcast would offer a great opportunity to confront such views directly and to challenge the socio-economic claims. Canceling Livingston only reinforces the already overwhelming pressures on faculty members and others not to voice such dissenting views.