Once again: Did Andrew Sullivan’s column get censored by New York Magazine?

Just a quick update on a recent post of mine. The other day, after a strange tweet from Andrew Sullivan about his Friday column not appearing, speculation began that his column had been censored, presumably because he was going to write about the George Floyd protests, and, I suspect, about the difference between violent and nonviolent protest.

This is, of course, all speculation; the only “confirmation” came from an article by “Cockburn” in The Spectator, which claimed to know the truth, and a piece in The Daily Fail that simply parasitized what Cockburn said.  So we don’t know for sure. However, behind-the-scenes whisperings, combined with Sullivan’s recent spate of tweets about the demonstrations and riots, lead me to believe that yes, he was censored by New York Magazine. And so I’ll bet the first reader who wants in a $20 bill that he wasn’t allowed to put up his column. If we don’t get a definitive answer, the bet is off.

Given that Sullivan does not publish thoughtless or incendiary stuff, if his column was pulled it would be a case of censorship—or rather prior restraint. Of course New York Magazine has the right to do that, I suppose, but what’s “allowable” and what is ethical are two different things. I’d love to see the column that they killed. In the meantime, here are a few of his recent tweets indicating that he’s enraged and upset by censorship in general, including at the New York Times, where the paper’s treatment of Tom Cotton’s column, while not censorship, was pretty shoddy.

This refers to yesterday’s “resignation” of the NYT Editorial page editor:

Katie King is the new Deputy Editor of the NYT’s editorial page. We all know what “true believer” means to Andrew.

And this. Sullivan is pissed off!

What we’re seeing, as I mentioned before, is the results of an influx of woke college students into positions in the media. Wokeness goes along, in general, with a suspicion of the First Amendment, and a penchant for censorship of ideas that one finds uncomfortable. And that is what happened to Cotton’s editorial, it’s what happened at the New Yorker when its invertebrate editor David Remnick canceled Steve Bannon’s scheduled appearance at the New Yorker Festival and it’s probably what happened to Sullivan’s Friday column.

As Bari Weiss pointed out, while “older” (40+) journalists are liberals of the classical stripe, staunch defenders of the First Amendment, the younger ones not far removed from college aren’t particularly bothered by censorship—as long as it’s of speech they don’t like.






  1. Gregg Collins
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I agree that Andrew Sullivan is generally thoughtful and intelligent, and if the story is true I am sorry his piece did not get published. However, I really hate seeing you contribute to the seemingly rampant confusion of first amendment rights with editorial decisions and speaker invitations (among other things). It’s fine to lament those decisions when they silence voices you think should be heard. But it has nothing to do with the first amendment, and it is not censorship or prior restraint in the way those terns are normally understood–as actions imposed by government authority.

    • Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but yes, it has to do with the PRINCIPLES of the First Amendment, which are designed to foster free discussion, under which the truth is supposed to come out. As I said in my piece, NY Magazine has the right to censor Sullivan’s column, but it was wrong to do so. The reason it was wrong is the same reason why the First Amendment prohibits government censorship.

      I’ve made this distinction many times before, and I can only presume that you haven’t been here before.

      • eric
        Posted June 8, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Doesn’t the principles of the first amendment support the notion that the private actor New York Times can say whatever the heck it wants to say?

        • Lee
          Posted June 28, 2020 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          The Times has spent many decades building a reputation for good journalism, which a parasitic class of ideologues is now using to promote their anti-liberal theories. Yes, the Times has a right to do whatever it wants to do as long as it’s legal. It’s just a shame in an age when objective truth is under attack, and an insult to those who went before.

          And it’s a double shame when some of them are bad enough that they make Trumpism seem almost reasonable by comparison. They may just succeed against all odds in getting that vile man reelected.

    • Ben Curtis
      Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink


      • Vaal
        Posted June 8, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        “As I said in my piece, NY Magazine has the right to censor Sullivan’s column, but it was wrong to do so.”

        It’s just amazing how common it is among “woke” to not recognize that distinction.

        Whenever a free speech advocate argues it is good to allow opposing points of view, the wokist replies “But X publication/university doesn’t HAVE to give them a platform, they have a RIGHT not to do so.” Which just misses the whole point, the distinction you just raised.

    • Posted June 9, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      “Censorship” does not mean “transgresses the first amendment of the US Constitution”, it just means redacting or preventing a message from getting transmitted.

      Censorship does not have to be illegal to be censorship. As a non USian, I have always understood censorship in that way and it perplexes me to hear Americans arguing that censorship is only when it breaks a US law or that the US constitution is the final arbiter in whether it is morally right for a particular piece of censorship to occur.

  2. Historian
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Sullivan seems to think the new op-editor at the NYT, Kathleen Kingsbury, is some type of “true believer,” whatever that means. I looked at her tweets and found nothing particularly radical. She seems to be a typical liberal, aghast at recent events.

    I do not know if Sullivan was censored or not. If he was, it was a big mistake by New York Magazine. It is certainly a blow to the integrity of the magazine if it cannot tolerate publishing the views of its house conservative. However, Sullivan should not be portrayed as a fount of wisdom, at least by liberals. More often than not I disagreed with him on political issues.

    • Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      I too recall occasions where I would disagree here and there with something that he writes. But even when that happens it is clear to me that here is a worthy opponent. One who can articulate their views through evidence based reasoning. I want to learn what he has to say.

    • Ben Curtis
      Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink


  3. Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    There is an aspect of the Woke’s position that is more important than their support for critical race theory and such and their apparent lack of interest in freedom of speech. They realize that, in the modern world, access to a platform is beating good ideas.

    Us old guys and gals think that good ideas will compete favorably with bad ideas and, though not every battle will be won, good ideas will win the war. The young folk see that this is perhaps not so true any more. There are many good ideas, talented people, etc. in the world but very few get noticed. Access to an audience has become the more important key to success.

    The Woke at the NYT may just be saying that denying bad ideas access to an audience trumps the battle of ideas. Or, to put it another way, the battle is over access to audience and not so much between ideas. Anyway, just a thought.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 8, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      People have no doubt been making similar arguments since Gutenberg invented the printing press, or Marconi the wireless, or RCA began the first national radio broadcasts, or NBC the first national television broadcasting.

      The quote that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” long predates the internet.

      The theory of free speech is that the truth will out; it mirrors the lesson of in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not to the swift[.]”

    • Ben Curtis
      Posted June 8, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Re: Paul Topping – If I understand you, I think you are making a good point. As another old guy, I feel like its about time that some are more able to be heard than previously.

      • Posted June 8, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        I probably should have mentioned that I still believe in free speech, that good ideas should be allowed to do battle with bad ideas, and that preventing bad ideas from having a platform is not generally the way to go. I do think the world needs to make good ideas much more easy to identify than bad ideas. Right now, we have a President who is a huge source of bad ideas and lies, and a lot of followers who are only too willing to pass them on. It is not at all surprising that many people have a hard time knowing what’s true and what has the backing of scientists, trusted leaders, etc. Although it is only one small step, I think Twitter’s new policy of tagging lies and bad ideas is a good general direction.

      • Posted June 8, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        “The race is not only to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” Ring Lardner, I believe.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 8, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          I’d always heard Damon Runyon as the source for that one.

          • Posted June 8, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. Momentary amnesia.

  4. Steve Gerrard
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Maybe people think that if you vote a certain way for president, that will change how the NYT gets run, or that it should. There is a frequent notion, it seems, that bad choices at the NYT will cause voters to vote a different way, which makes no real sense. That’s a level of totalitarianism that has not been reached in any country I know of.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    According to the embeds above, Sullivan retweeted Chuck Ross’s comment that “True courage right now would be those NYT journos who know the paper was wrong to cave in to the mob (and no doubt there are many) coming forward to say so.”

    If Sullivan’s “Intelligencer” column was spiked by New York Magazine last week, he should follow this advice himself by coming out and saying so expressly, rather than playing coy (or by leaking it to “Cockburn” of The Spectator).

    It’s not like Sullivan is generally shy about such matters.

  6. Roo
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Looks to me like the Left wants the unity of message that is more commonly associated with the Right. Instead of ‘sin’ they have ‘offense’. And now the Right is going all “Don’t tell me what to do!” libertarian. The pendulum has swung so they are almost reversing stances and taking up the opposite sides.

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve been encountering a phenomenon on some Woke websites and in their online magazines that relates to the spirit of this post: some folks in news and political publishing, including copyeditors and proofreaders, conflate “conscience” with “conscious” and subsume the first to the second, so “conscience” becomes “conscious” not only in the body of an article or notice but in the headline and link so the error then appears in the Google search pages, thus spreading the corruption.

    This conflation isn’t a simple misspelling but a kind of Freudian slip, something more revealing than it seems at first blush (at least in my estimation), especially since ‘conscious’ correlates with a state of wakefulness; and to the Woke, one lacks a (moral) conscience if one isn’t Woke; i.e., one is morally unconscious, and therefore must be censored.

    It’s also curious that these Woke folk are not conscious of the difference. Did they have lousy English teachers or, better yet, perhaps their brains have been addled, I mean politicized, by sociocultural epigenetics (just joking)? Whatever the reason this conflation does seem to be in the zeitgeist and it’s painfully obvious that to the Woke folk Andrew Sullivan has no conscious.

    Another point is that this isn’t just a battle between age groups because plenty of old and old line progressives and lefties are for censorship — probably where this Woke phenomenon comes from.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 8, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Conscience/conscious looks like a metaphor that Freudian slipped of the deep end. Good point.

  8. Ray Little
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    It’s not like there is a shortage of experienced journalists now out of work. Maybe the woke folk need to be taught this.

  9. Curtis
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    It seems like the NYT may be committing financial suicide. Its readership (especially print readership) is likely to be on the older side. Someone like Jerry is much more likely to pay for content than a woke 20 year old who gets their content via social media.

    If you piss of your paying customers, how do you survive?

  10. Mark R.
    Posted June 8, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    If Sullivan was censored, wouldn’t he just come out and say it?

    And I wonder why he thinks there is any connection or similarity between the 60’s protests and today. The civil unrest in the 60’s that led to LBJ’s demise lasted 4 years, hundreds died, riots erupted, fires everywhere, total freakin’ sustained chaos. The 1967 Detroit riot (considered the largest riot in US history) led to 43 deaths and 1,400 buildings burned…and that was just one 5-day “protest”. Sullivan lacks perspective on what’s going on today. Also, Trump’s poll numbers are tanking and a majority think he’s doing a horrible job with both the pandemic and the protests. I can’t see how any of this adds up to helping him in November.

    • Posted June 9, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      If Sullivan was censored, wouldn’t he just come out and say it?

      His contract with the New York Magazine may prevent him from doing that. Even if it doesn’t, he might want to keep the pay cheque.

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