If you like these cartoons, you can support them with a long, complicated ritual that involves watching every episode of Buffy several times (remembering always that a show like Buffy has hundreds of creators, not just the asshole showrunner) followed by late-night discussions of if hot dogs on buns are sandwiches or not, and then maybe also support the Patreon.
On March 7 2022, the New York Times gave the royal treatment (including two large photos) to a piece by college senior (and soon to be Reason staff writer) Emma Camp about the problem of self-censorship on college campuses. Camp described her experience speaking in class:
This idea seems acceptable for academic discussion, but to many of my classmates, it was objectionable.
The room felt tense. I saw people shift in their seats. Someone got angry, and then everyone seemed to get angry. After the professor tried to move the discussion along, I still felt uneasy. I became a little less likely to speak up again and a little less trusting of my own thoughts.
I’m sympathetic to Camp’s view – it can be scary and uncomfortable speaking out in class when we know our classmates might disagree. But is this anything that requires a New York Times op-ed piece?
Ten days later, the Times editorial board published another op-ed on the same subject, writing:
For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.
Of course, there is no right to speak “without fear of being shamed or shunned.” That would amount to a right to freedom from criticism, and no one has or should have that right.
Both of those quotes are referred to in this cartoon.
It should be surprising the “paper of record” published two extremely similar cancel-culture-panic pieces in two weeks. But it’s not. I used the New York Times‘ site search function to count up how many opinion page pieces referred to terms like “cancel culture” and “CRT.”
In the last year, the NYTimes opinion pages printed 71 pieces including the phrase “cancel culture,” 28 pieces including “C.R.T.,” and 9 including “book bans.”
Some of the “cancel culture” pieces even concede – in “to be sure” asides buried in the middle – that right wing legal bans are much more dangerous. So why are they objected to so much less?
Arguably, the three most censored groups in the U.S. are prisoners, sex workers, and undocumented migrants. As far as I can find, the Times opinion page didn’t run a single piece about censorship of any of these groups in the last year.
In fact, the Times ran more more opinion page pieces about “cancel culture” than about all other free-speech issues combined. Even if “cancel culture” is a real problem, that’s ridiculous. The Times‘ coverage is wildly disproportionate, in a way that strongly favors right-wing narratives and gives many instances of right-wing censorship a free pass. And as far as I can tell, the Times‘ disproportionate coverage is typical of the media as a whole.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has five panels.
This panel shows two news anchors sitting in a TV studio facing the camera. The angle is from the camera’s perspective, as if we were watching them on TV. A circular logo superimposed on the image says “5” (as in channel 5) and a chyron runs across the bottom of the image.
(Chyron this panel says: “Free Speech in Peril! Young people are frightening. They’re coming after you.”)
The anchors are a man and a woman. They are both well-dressed and have professionally styled hair. Both speak to the camera with very serious expressions.
MALE ANCHOR: Tonight on WMSM: the first of our seventeen part series on the horrors of cancel culture!
FEMALE ANCHOR: America has a free speech problem! We’ve lost our long established right to speak without fear of being shamed.
A close-up on the male anchor. He looks genuinely angry.
(Chyron this panel says: “Prison Censorship is an issue we’re not going to be covering whatsoever.”)
MALE ANCHOR: Especially on college campuses! Surveys show that students sometimes self-censor because they’re afraid of criticism! Something that has never before happened in all of history!
This panel shows a hand holding a smartphone. On the smartphone screen, we can see the female anchor talking. She also looks angry and intense.
FEMALE ANCHOR: Next up: a college student “saw people shift in their seats” when they disagreed with her! Will left wing assaults on free speech never end?
This is an unusually narrow panel, less than a third as wide as other panels. The panel shows the male anchor, still talking to the camera, but the figure is tiny. He’s smiling and raising a finger in a “just making a point” manner.
(Chyron this panel: “Tiny Type is rarely re (the word is cut off by the panel edge). Tiny type tiny type tiny type tiny type”)
MALE ANCHOR (small print): To show we’re unbiased, I will briefly mention that the right is writing laws to ban books, stifle teachers and even legalize running over protesters, and those things are also bad. Now back to our story.
A new scene. Two people are standing; the second of them is holding a tablet, which they’re frantically tapping (sound effect: tap tap tap tap tap tap).
The first person is a black woman wearing what looks like a bowling shirt (meaning I drew a shirt with vertical stripes and it accidently came out as a bowling shirt) and carryign a purse. She has short curly hair. She looks a little concerned as she speaks to the second person.
The second person has long hair, in an unnatural red color, in long spikes and with an undercut. Their left arm is covered with tattoos. They’re frantically tapping the tablet they’re holding (sound effect: tap tap tap tap tap tap), have a panicked expression, and they’re talking loudly.
ANCHOR PERSON (voice coming from tablet): This is what the illiberal left has wrought! we won’t truly have free speech until those on the intolerant left who criticize other’s speech shut up!
FIRST PERSON: Would you mind turning that off?
SECOND PERSON: IT WON’T STOP!