FLASHBACK: Sarah Jeong Stoked Twitter Mob Against Andrew Sullivan for Alleged Racism
On Thursday, The New York Times came under fire for hiring The Verge's Sarah Jeong, due to her 4-year-old anti-white racist tweets. While Jeong explained these as "satire" and expressed her "deep regret" about them, she blamed her remarks on bullying from "trolls." Yet, last year she demanded outlets stop publishing New York magazine's Andrew Sullivan over his allegedly racist article.
"Welp I finally saw why people are mad at Andrew Sullivan and wow yes why is he still being published?" Jeong tweeted last April.
"Why is anyone paying Sullivan the big bucks when they could be getting this quality of racist rhetoric for free at the gas station," she added.
Jeong went on to shame everyone who would publish anything Sullivan writes. "Andrew Sullivan once, shame on him. Andrew Sullivan twice, shame on the fools who keep publishing him," she tweeted.
This kind of vitriol seems rather ironic, given Jeong's tweets about canceling "white people," taking "sick" pleasure out of being cruel to "old white men," and joking about white "extinction."
To be clear, I don't think The New York Times needs to fire Jeong. Twitter outrage mobs should not cost people their jobs. However, both Jeong and the Times should have been a bit more aggressive in denouncing these racist messages.
As Andrew Sullivan noted, "Jeong hasn't apologized to the white people she denigrated or conceded that her tweets were racist. Nor has she taken responsibility for them. Her statement actually blames her ugly tweets on trolls whose online harassment of her prompted her to respond in turn. She was merely 'counter-trolling.'... The New York Times also buys this argument."
Sullivan called this "the purest of bullsh*t." He noted that Jeong's tweets did not respond to her alleged trolls directly. "If you want to respond to trolls by trolling them, you respond to them directly. You don’t post slurs about an entire race of people (the overwhelming majority of whom are not trolls) on an open-forum website like Twitter."
He went on to reference a 2016 tweet from Jeong, in which she added the aside, "f*ck white women lol."
Equally notably, however, Sullivan emphatically did not call for Jeong's scalp. "None of this excuses the behavior of the online hordes that are seeking her head," the conservative wrote. "When media companies give in to those mobs, they are just feeding a voracious beast."
Sadly, The New York Times and Jeong's current employer, The Verge, "share her views on race, gender, and oppression." Sullivan rightly shot down the editors of The Verge, who had argued that Jeong's tweets weren't racist. This assertion is "a function of bad faith and an attack on journalism itself," but it echoes "the extent to which loathing of and contempt for 'white people' is now background noise on the left."
Excusing racist attacks against "white people" on the assumption that "we are all mere appendages of various groups of oppressors and oppressed, and ... the oppressed definitionally cannot be at fault," will only deepen the resentment that helped propel Donald Trump to the White House, Sullivan contended.
All this circles back to what Sullivan actually said to get Jeong to blast him as irredeemably racist and worth less than the bandwidth he's published on. Nathan J. Robinson explained it well in Current Affairs last April. In addressing the reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, Sullivan took a detour into racial issues, suggesting that the relative success of Asian-Americans proves that the U.S. does not have overwhelming structural racism.
"Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the 'social-justice' brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society?" Sullivan asked in his New York magazine column. "Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. ... Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives?"
Sullivan concluded that Asian-Americans' hard work and determination "turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones."
As Robinson pointed out, Sullivan effectively defended racial stereotypes — and Asian-Americans are an extremely diverse group. All the same, Sullivan's point is a fairly good one: the United States is a meritocracy, and while some racial stereotypes tragically still exist, it is possible for anyone to achieve the American dream.
Sullivan could have stated his point a bit more eloquently, and he arguably should have avoided stereotyping any race. Even so, his remarks pale in comparison to Jeong's direct attacks on people based on the color of their skin.
It is truly a reflection of both sides of American political discourse that Jeong's outright racism is defended, and conservatives like Sullivan — and Kevin Williamson, who was dropped by The Atlantic after his old remarks about abortion went public — insist that she should not be fired, while Jeong herself demanded Sullivan's scalp over much less offensive comments.
The unrepentant, demanding liberal is going to work on the editorial board of America's newspaper of record, while the conservatives who do not demand her firing stand on the outskirts of the media establishment. Meanwhile, liberals insist that racism is not racism, so long as it is articulated by a person of color. We have our work cut out for us.
Meanwhile, Sullivan's response has received yet another Twitter lynch mob.
Some called for a GoFundMe to keep Sullivan from writing.
His colleague Brian Feldman called the column "complete garbage" and said he was embarrassed "to be even tangentially associated with it."
A liberal columnist attacked Sullivan as "an ardent white supremacist," and argued that Jeong's tweets were "100% inoffensive."
LGBT activist Charlotte Clymer blamed Sullivan's article on the drug Ambien.