Matt Yglesias Has Finally Learned to Love Big Brother

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Three days ago, 150 or so academics, writers, journalists, and celebrities, nearly 100% of whom are very left in their politics, wrote a letter in Harpers decrying the cancel culture. As they see it, the leftwing fad of shutting down debate and free speech by doxing people and attempting to get them fired from their jobs is an invention of the political right and that the left needs to stand up to the meanies on the right and ensure that a robust political and cultural debate is possible.

The premise is at once false and self-serving. It is false because it is not the right who are trying to get a disabled veteran fired for having a tattoo that a profoundly stupid lefty with a large Twitter following (see how those things go together, this is not a coincidence) thought (I use that word cautiously and advisedly) was a Nazi symbol. It is self-serving because the entire purpose of the letter was to give cover to novelist J. K. Rowling who committed the thought crime of claiming that sex is real and, as several of the signatories have been major players in attempts to ‘cancel’ people, you know they do not intend to apply these principles to people on the right.

See my take on that letter in That Harpers Letter Signed by All Those Famous Lefties Decrying the Cancel Culture Is a Joke. Brandon has a different take in J.K. Rowling Is Valiantly Defending the Hill of Free Speech and She Needs Reinforcements.

Also read:

Seeking Redemption After Being Canceled? The Church of Woke Offers You a Fake Path to Penance
Cancel Culture Is Just a Way to Avoid Defending Your Ideas
The Morse Code Ep. 20: Cancel Cancel


Despite the left claiming that there is actually no such thing as the ‘cancel culture,’ what happened next was exceedingly strange. Ezra Klein who bills himself as the ‘founder and editor-at-large’ at, was obviously not pleased that one of his powerhouse writers, Matt Yglesias, signed the letter.

See Brandon’s commentary on this Ezra Klein’s Bizarre View On Free Speech Gives Us Frightening Insight to the Left.

What brought about Yglesias’s public chastizement was this from Todd…I mean Emily…VanDerWerff. ‘Emily’ is a ‘critic’ at

The letter is sad and hilarious. It shows what kind of an utter sh**show and it also shows the degree to which the left media are totally subservient to the shutting down any discussion that calls into question any of the multitudes of deviant behaviors worshipped by the left. VanDerWerff’s magnanimous refusal to demand Yglesias’s firing for support free speech demonstrates as nothing else can that degree to which free speech is the enemy of the left:


I don’t want Matt to be reprimanded or fired or even asked to submit an apology.

That was followed up by this pathetic, whining, sniveling Twitter thread:

…uhhh…do you own a freakin mirror? More to the point, being ‘swarmed’ is not the same as a coordinated campaign to get you fired. There isn’t such a campaign because, generally, that’s not how folks on the right operate and we all know that a member of a fetishized class is impervious to professional injury.


Two key points. Note that absolutely no one has asked for VanDerWerff to be fired, in fact, VanDerWerff is sufficiently secure in ‘her’ position at that she felt she could pick a fight with one of the biggest names that and that VanDerWerff is trying to have other people, like Jesse Singal, silenced for having taken part in this debate.

But back to Yglesias. The whole kerfuffle prompted the editors at National Review to write It’s Come to This — We Must Defend Matt Yglesias. The idea being that as noxious as Yglesias can be, that he was in danger of being ‘canceled’ because he signed a letter that put him in conflict with the transgender nutbaggery.


We can think of a dozen reasons to criticize Yglesias, but the Vox writer currently is under fire for signing a letter critical of “cancel culture.” For criticizing cancel culture, Yglesias might very well end up being canceled.

It begins, as these things do, with a tiny little voice squeaking about being made unsafe by the expression of contrary opinions. Emily (formerly Todd) VanDerWerff, a critic at Vox, is incensed that Yglesias would sign his name alongside that of such great monsters of our time as Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and other “prominent anti-trans voices,” a letter that allegedly contains “many dog whistles towards anti-trans positions.” Such an outrage, VanDerWerff wrote, “makes me feel less safe at Vox.” What else? “I don’t want Matt to be reprimanded or fired” — Mr. Chekhov gently lays down his revolver — but “I do want to make clear that those beliefs cost him nothing.”

This is, of course, dishonest drivel. VanDerWerff no more felt threatened by Yglesias’s name on a letter than Amy Cooper felt threatened by that Ivy League bird-watcher in Central Park. This is simply the weaponization of victim status by vindictive, sophomoric busybodies who cannot bear the fact that someone else sees the world in a different way.

The predictable backlash is having a predictable effect. Historian Kerri Greenidge of Tufts denied endorsing the letter in spite of her signature being on it. Others have gone into intellectual hiding. From the New York Times: “Another person who signed, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in an effort to stay out of the growing storm, said she did not know who all the other signatories were when she agreed to participate, and if she had, she may not have signed.” The terror of being seen alongside J. K. Rowling is now up there with being the first one to stop applauding after Stalin’s speech.

These are dark times. More important, these are stupid times, and Matt Yglesias has contributed more than his share to that. But to treat his signature on a letter endorsing an open culture as a threat is, incredibly enough, more absurd than anything we can remember Yglesias himself having written.

Some trick, that.


Some were less panicked…like my colleague Bonchie

and so it was:

This is like the Stalinist show trials where the defendants professed their undying love for Stalin and the Party as they were led away to some cellar to be shot in the head. It is the most abject abrogation of the closest thing Yglesias has ever taken as a principled stand and demonstrates how tribal identity trumps all. It laid bare the falsity of a letter that was written to give cover to a select handful of big-name lefties who haven’t yet bought into the transgender bullsh**. It shows with grim finality that we are not in this together with the left, we are in this struggle for intellectual freedom by ourselves.


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