The New York Times and college student Emma Camp are both under fire over her opinion piece published in the newspaper of record lamenting what she claims is an increase in “self-censorship” on college campuses.
“Even as a liberal who has attended abortion rights protests and written about standing up to racism, I sometimes feel afraid to fully speak my mind,” Camp says.
But Emma Camp isn’t just any University of Virginia senior. Despite claiming to be “a liberal,” she’s a writer at the libertarian outlet Reason and a former intern at the right-leaning Koch-funded Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE’s latest tweet is apparently a defense of right-wing activist Andy Ngo, who the Columbia Journalism Review describes as a “discredited provocateur.”
“I Came to College Eager to Debate. I Found Self-Censorship Instead,” is the title of Camp’s opinion piece – quite a coup for an oppressed college senior to be handed such a huge platform.
“Each week, I seek out the office hours of a philosophy department professor willing to discuss with me complex ethical questions raised by her course on gender and sexuality. We keep our voices lowered, as if someone might overhear us,” Camp’s op-ed begins.
“A friend lowers her voice to lament the ostracizing of a student who said something well-meaning but mildly offensive during a student club’s diversity training. Another friend shuts his bedroom door when I mention a lecture defending Thomas Jefferson from contemporary criticism. His roommate might hear us, he explains,” she writes.
By the way, the link embedded in “a lecture” that Camp includes in her piece is to a far right-wing organization, Young America’s Foundation. It is considered among the preeminent groups for conservative American youth and teens, and if you want to know the state of American conservatism you should know that two of YAF’s board members also sit on a conservative PAC that gave thousands of dollars to a white nationalist organization, according to a Mother Jones report from 2013. YAF is currently headed by former GOP governor Scott Walker and was the second organization former Vice President Mike Pence joined upon leaving the White House.
The essence of Camp’s opinion piece is that students on America’s college campuses are oppressed victims of forced liberal conformity necessitating them to self-censor. And yet nearly everything Camp mentions or links to is clearly right-wing activism: writing at Reason, linking to right-wing sites, pointing to a lecture featuring conservative speakers, interning at a right-wing free speech organization. Even the one professor she names is a right-wing anti-LGBTQ activist.
As to Camp’s complaints, none of this is new. People, at least wise ones, have been self-censoring since the dawn of time. Not every thought we think needs to be given voice, not every “hot take” truly is one, and timing indeed is everything.
Tech Dirt editor Mike Masnick responds to Camp’s op-ed, saying, “I am… confused about this article. (1) Publishing your thoughts in the NYT suggests you’re not being canceled (2) Am I missing it or does she not discuss any actual attempts to silence her, just vague feelings that people disagree with her?”
Slate’s Dana Stevens points to this episode:
Imagine writing “I have been brave” about yourself, this week of all weeks, for all the world to see, because you hung an extra-big sign on your dorm-room door. https://t.co/GX0tnFk1aD pic.twitter.com/7GvBBljiDF
— Dana Stevens (@thehighsign) March 7, 2022
Last year Camp posted evidence of the challenges at UVA she has endured:
Okay this is the second time my signs have had coffee(?) splattered on them. I have a hard time viewing this as vandalism because it’s so bizarre (like if you hate free speech that much just tear my signs down like a real tankie.) But also it seems too weird to not be intentional pic.twitter.com/aq9o9x9qFH
— Emma Camp✒️ (@emmma_camp_) October 7, 2021
Political theorist Patrick Giamario insightfully observes:
For all its cringiness, today’s cancel-culture freakout in NYT inadvertently does a great job highlighting how what’s at stake in these ‘debates’ is precisely NOT the ability to express unpopular views, but to guarantee they remain entirely uncontested.
Senior NBC News reporter Ben Collins, who calls what he writes about the “dystopia beat,” says, “who’s really at fault here? The paper,” meaning The New York Times. “Nobody should expect their popularity at college to be acceptable grist for the op-ed mill. Everyone says and does stupid things in college. It’s the place to do that! You grow there. The paper should not be capitalizing on that.”
Collins also offers up this alternate headline:
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) March 7, 2022
Adam Kotsko, a political theologian and author of the 2012 book “Why We Love Sociopaths,” notes that Camp is “so intimidated to express her true views that she’s broadcasting them in the nation’s leading newspaper.”
Press Watch editor Dan Froomkin apparently did not self-censor when he commented: “Is there any other way for a college student to break into the NYT op-ed pages than to write woke-panic claptrap like this? Complete with citation to bogus far-right-funded poll. And hello, this is UVA we’re talking about, I call bs.”
Technologist, Activist, and Writer Emilite Gorcenski was a counter-protestor (anti-neo-Nazi) at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right neo-Nazi and “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville. She has a lot to offer:
It does not escape my notice that the backdrop for this photo is the site of the infamous neo-Nazi tiki torch rally on August 11, 2017, and it should not escape your notice, either.https://t.co/bIYEbOcFFQ
— Emilite Gorcenski (@EmilyGorcenski) March 7, 2022
“In any piece about white grievance—and this piece is about white grievance—the decision to frame a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the shot is a capital C Choice,” she adds. “But to choose *this particular* statue of TJ in a white grievance piece is absolutely beyond benefit of the doubt.”
Dave Karpf, an Associate Professor at George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs sums up: “In a free society, ‘self-censorship’ is the price we pay for other people not thinking of us as tedious assholes.”
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