Letters to the Editor — Feb. 15, 2021

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NY Times spikes column that criticized paper’s handling of N-word controversy

The Issue: An op-ed by Bret Stephens on the ousting of a New York Times reporter for using a slur in 2019.

Bret Stephens’ defense of fellow New York Times journalist Donald McNeil should not have been printed, but not for the reason given by the Times’ editor. It simply misses the point (“Unfit to Print,” Feb. 12).

It’s more of an academic argument than a practical one. It draws on philosophical mumbo-jumbo, drilling into the importance of intent in law and in the press. It fails to hammer home the simple point that word meanings can be changed by context. Simple as that.

More importantly, it does not sufficiently address the malicious “intent” of the attackers who interpret words to suit their political agenda.

Richard Carhidi, Manhattan

I stopped reading The New York Times many years ago; however, I enjoyed reading Bret Stephens online.

I didn’t always agree with him, but he always set forth a cogent argument in an intelligent way. Will he go the way of Bari Weiss and Don McNeil?

There is a world of good journalism outside of Pravda — oops, I mean the Times. I hope he can find a place where he is not censored.

Judith Levine, Lawrence

In the column that the Times spiked, Stephens writes about the need to consider intent when weighing a person’s words.

As he put it, “Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.”

Unfortunately, we already live in such a world, at least as regards accusations of sexual harassment. There, intent is irrelevant: All that matters is the perception of the purported victim. This is the cornerstone of so-called “zero-tolerance” policies, which are now being extended to race.

Noted Never-Trumper Stephens has finally sat up and taken notice of the wokesters’ crusade now that it’s victimized someone he cares about.

To quote that well-known New Yorker, John McClane: “Welcome to the party, pal!”

Frederick Butzen, Kenosha, Wis.

I laud Stephens’ call for greater professionalism among journalists (less bias and less groupthink). An increase in objective, informed discourse would be welcomed by many readers.

However, it is interesting that in a basically nonpartisan discussion of “intent,” he gratuitously inserted a dig against former President Donald Trump. Was that a bone thrown to his peers? Talk about intent.

Coleman Paul, Great Neck

What a fabulous article! What is wrong with The New York Times? Has it fully swallowed this new culture — a culture that, as he says, is so sure it’s right and allows no other opinion?

And when did a fellow group of so-called journalists become a court, giving out decisions about what can or cannot be written?

These voices drown out all opinions but their own. It’s called “cancel culture” or “wokeism.” But it’s just plain disallowing of free speech.

Trump, in his way, tried to show us what was happening. Political correctness has gone way too far.

Theresa Rohr, Hamburg, NJ

The hypocrisy of The New York Times is astounding.

The “woke” paper of record censored a column by Stephens and forced another reporter to resign for use of the N-word in a context that clearly was not intended as a slur.

A Google search finds that the Times permitted the use of the anti-Semitic slur “k - - e” also in contexts not intended as a slur. Was the Times “asleep” then, or are its staffers just blatant cancel-culture hypocrites?

Robert Semel, Brooklyn

Stephens’ spiked column in The Post was an interesting read, especially his emphasis on the three words: “regardless of intent.”

Based on the logic and reasoning of the Times’ executive and managing editors and its ownership, the need to prove malice when suing the Times for libel is no longer needed because there is no need to take “intent” into any consideration.

Sam Birnbaum, Oceanside

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