The New York Times Firing of Don McNeil Shows How a Super Privileged Rich Kid Has More Influence There Than a Veteran Reporter

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File

A couple of weeks ago, the crap hit the fan at the New York Times.

Veteran science reporter Donald McNeil was squiring a bunch of 1-percenters on a “Times Journey” to Peru. If you aren’t familiar with them, Times Journeys are sort of like National Review or the much mourned Weekly Standard cruises where people with money spend a lot of it to rub shoulders with people most folks have never heard of. Apparently, the Times Journeys are focused on high school kids, which might be a good business idea for the Lincoln Project (you can see it, the visit to the Turkish prison led by John Weaver).


During the course of a discussion on race, McNeil used the “n-word.” This is how McNeil described the situation in an email to his colleagues shortly before his defenestration.

On a 2019 New York Times trip to Peru for high school students, I was asked at dinner by a student whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she had made as a 12-year-old in which she used a racial slur. To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself.

No one is alleging that McNeil directed the slur at anyone or much of anything about it other than he said it. McNeil is white. 100% of his young charges were equally white. Yet, a complaint was made, and after a fitful review process, McNeil was fired. This is New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet (who is Black) on the subject: “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” Think about that for a moment as the working philosophy inside of a newsroom. Bacquet later walked that comment back to something that could resemble sane if viewed in the right light after enough alcohol, but the impression one was left with is of a paper that is so woke and so captured by young SJWs that it doesn’t even know what its own rules are. Consider that a senior editor was ejected from the New York Times last year for green-lighting an op-ed by a sitting US Senator who said that if the Antifa/BLM riot-fest continued that the National Guard should be called out. As I reported in Panem Is Very Afraid and No One Knows Why, as many troops were sent to DC for Joe Biden’s installation than were sent to Iraq during The Surge. Nearly as many troops remain in DC as were in Baghdad at the height of The Surge. And the same douchenozzles who lit op-ed page editor James Bennett on fire and chased him across the Triboro Bridge have said nothing.


If you want to read more about the McNeil affair, check out Brad Slager’s New York Times Dismisses a Veteran Reporter Over Insane Identity Politics Standards and The Chaotic New York Times Embarrasses Itself While Making a Bigger Mess of the Don McNeil Firing.

Now we have some more insight courtesy of the New York Times. While they were unwilling to let Bret Stephens object to McNeil’s firing, they are quite capable of picking navel lint to try to make the action explainable.

In 2012, when The New York Times was panicked about its financial future, this newspaper went into the travel business. It began selling “Times Journeys,” on which an expert beat reporter would be your guide to Berlin or the Galápagos Islands.

The trips brought in some money, but were expensive to run and complicated to manage — particularly in the summer of 2019, after The Times began hosting teenagers. In Seoul, two were detained by the police at an arcade after they were accused of stealing, a Times spokeswoman said.

Nor were the reporters always ready for the confident, hothouse politics of elite American high school students. One reporter was chided by counselors on a trip to Israel for his tone in an exchange about the future of the oil industry.

And then there was the trip to Peru that summer. The parents of adventurous young meritocrats paid $5,490 (plus airfare) for two weeks studying “Public Health and Development in the Andes.” On that trip, the reporter, Donald G. McNeil Jr., got into a series of heated arguments with students, none of them Black, on the charged question of race. Their complaints would ultimately end his career as a high-profile public health reporter for The Times, and again put The Times at the center of the national argument over journalism and racism and labor.


“Elite American high school students”…” chided by counselors.”

There is so much good stuff in here that I’m afraid of quoting too much of it. It seems that it all started with a discussion of “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond.

If you haven’t read the book, you should consider doing so. It’s notable for three salient features. Diamond spends the first third of the book ensuring you understand that he is literally the only guy on earth who has the knowledge and expertise to write this book. It is an excellent discussion of how the outcome of contact between Europe and other cultures was decided long before the first actual meeting. The third feature, and the most hilarious one, is Diamond relentlessly chanting “all cultures are equal” when his book shows that some cultures are competent and some are inept or failed. (Don’t read his book, Collapse, even on a bet, it is horrible.) His book isn’t very popular in a lot of woke circles because he doesn’t find evil colonizers and virtuous indigenous people. He focuses on innate characteristics (like immunology) and technology.

“He got very defensive very quickly about it,” she recalled. “It’s just a book, it’s just making this point, it’s very simple, it’s not racist.”

She said she backed down, apologized and “felt terribly guilty — like I must have come off as a crazy liberal.”

At lunch that day, she said she sat down the table from Mr. McNeil at a cafe overlooking the town’s narrow streets, where he was talking to another student when he uttered the N-word, and used the word in the context of a discussion of racism. Some of the teenagers responded almost reflexively, she said, to object to his use of the word in any context.

“I’m very used to people — my grandparents or people’s parents — saying things they don’t mean that are insensitive,” another student, who was then 17 and is now attending an Ivy League college, told me. “You correct them, you tell them, ‘You’re not supposed to talk like that,’ and usually people are pretty apologetic and responsive to being corrected. And he was not.”


Hell, I don’t know what’s wrong with this McNeil guy. When some snot-nosed, privileged teenager corrects me, I always assume a fetal position and just wait for the pain to stop and for them to like me again.

The article goes onto describe McNeil as hard to manage and stops just short of calling him a dinosaur or throwback and makes it clear that there was a lot of history between McNeil and management. With the SJWs in the newsroom out for a scalp and no friends in management, McNeil was left with few good options.

The article ends this way:

The Times will have to navigate its identity in tandem with the next generation of its audience — people like Ms. Shepherd, who said that she was most surprised by the gap between Mr. McNeil’s views and what she’d read in her favorite news outlet.

“That’s not what I would have expected from The Times,” she said. “You have the 1619 Project. You guys do all this amazing reporting on this, and you can say something like that?”

Ms. Shepherd is Sophie Shepherd, the woman who made the complaint about McNeil. She is also a graduate of Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, a hyper-expensive boarding school that the New York Times describes as “sometimes rated America’s best.”


This is what is really driving the whole woke culture. You have hyperprivileged kids, in some cases they give a good imitation of being utter brats, ganging up on an outsider and driving them from their job and, in some cases, making them unemployable. One can’t read the story and get past the feeling that it was who made the complaint, not the actual complaint itself, that galvanized a hyper-politicized and extremely privileged newsroom to turn on an accomplished reporter. The “right kind” of person made the complaint so class loyalty demanded that the old guy who came up the hard way, not via an Ivy League journalism school with Mommy (because, honestly, in most of these households there is no Daddy and the anger over that absence is palpable in how these wealthy thugs operate) calling in favors to get him the job, be sacrificed so the “right people” would know that everyone was not like him.



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