Posted 27 days ago
Several staffers at Vox have taken to Twitter after journalist Matthew Yglesias signed the open letter decrying "cancel culture."
Yglesias was one of 150 signatories including other liberal writers, professors and activists who came together to defend civil debate in the face of social media callouts that have become ubiquitous in recent years.
However, Vox critic at large Emily VanDerWerff released a letter of her own that she had written to Vox editors voicing her concerns of Yglesias' inclusion in the anti-cancel culture letter.
"As a trans woman who very much values her position at Vox and the support the publication has given her through the emotional and physical turmoil of transition, I was deeply saddened to see Matt Yglesias's signature on the Harper's Weekly letter," VanDerWerff began her letter to the editors. "Matt is, of course, entitled to his own opinion, and I know he is a more nuanced thinker than signing the letter would suggest. He has never been anything but kind to me and has often supported my work publicly, all of which I am extremely grateful for."
"But the letter, signed as it is by several prominent anti-trans voices and containing as many dog whistles towards anti-trans positions as it does, ideally would not have been signed by anybody at Vox, much less one of the most prominent people at our publication."
VanDerWeff told the editors that Yglesias' signature on the letter "makes me feel less safe at Vox" and claimed that it makes her job "slightly more difficult" as since, as she suggests, readers will "equate my positions with his."
"I don't want Matt to be reprimanded or fired or even asked to submit an apology. ... But I do want to make clear that those beliefs cost him nothing," she continued. "I am used to hearing them from people who believe my own lived experiences pale in comparison to their own momentary social media discomfort. I'm sorry to find Matt among those voices."
Another Vox staffer, Aja Romano, similarly condemned "everyone who signed" the letter though she did not name Yglesias by name.
"Today sucked. The Harper's letter is a dehumanizing transphobic whisper network masquerading as reasoned intellectual debate," Romano wrote. "Everyone who signed it has contributed to the real harm that its legion of transphobic signatories have brought to real trans people, especially teens."
She followed on Wednesday, "Yesterday 3 trans Vox writers spoke against the Harper's list, and all of us have now been directly targeted (and harassed as a result) by one of the writers on it. Just us, no other critics of the list. I want to be very clear about who benefits & who doesn't from this 'debate.'"
Vox senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams offered a more nuanced take of the incident.
"The Harper's letter is revealing a deeper issue: Do we judge opinions/arguments on their merits or on who makes them? Does signing a letter mean you endorse the letter? Yes. Does it mean you also endorse the opinions of those who also choose to sign it? That's the question here," Williams tweeted.
Williams later explained, "I thought signing a statement defending the principle of liberalism would be uncontroversial, particularly for journalists. But based on the reactions, that is not the case, hence my attempt to articulate what seems to be the core of the debate."
Ezra Klein Vox founder and editor-at-large appeared to allude to the open letter, saying "A lot of debates that sell themselves as being about free speech are actually about power. And there's *a lot* of power in being able to claim, and hold, the mantle... (Read more)
Yesterday 3 trans Vox writers spoke against the Harper's list, and all of us have now been directly targeted (and harassed as a result) by one of the writers on it. Just us, no other critics of the list. I want to be very clear about who benefits & who doesn't from this "debate." https://t.co/WNqAMjwCqx— Aja Romano (@ajaromano) July 8, 2020
The Harper's letter is revealing a deeper issue: Do we judge opinions/arguments on their merits or on who makes them? Does signing a letter mean you endorse the letter? Yes. Does it mean you also endorse the opinions of those who also choose to sign it? That's the question here.— Jenny from the Vox (@jenn_ruth) July 7, 2020
The idea that I would try to get Matt, literally my co-founder and oldest friend in journalism, fired over this letter is risible.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) July 8, 2020
I've asked Matt, and others at Vox, to not subtweet colleagues. My mistake here is this read like a subtweet of him, when it honestly wasn't. https://t.co/oEgNIzGxph
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