The New York Times has released a statement in response to the wave of right-wing trolls that has sprung up after the paper announced its editorial board’s latest hire: celebrated technology writer Sarah Jeong.
The trolls have largely concerned themselves with Jeong’s fairly innocuous tweets about white people, pointing to them as examples of Jeong’s racism and grounds for her dismissal from the Times’ opinion board.
They’ve dug up tweets like this:
And even, wow, this:
Said trolls are arguing that these tweets are expressions of racism Jeong harbors towards white people. But in a statement published on Twitter, Jeong says they were meant to be satirical, a thin defense against the torrent of abuse she experienced and witnessed as an Asian-American woman writing online.
The Times released its own statement about Jeong, stating the paper has no plans to fire her and that it understands the abundantly obvious—which is that Jeong was tweeting these things to defend herself. (It also adds that these kind of tweets are not tolerated from its employees.)
The Times stands by Jeong, explaining that her tweets were a form of self-defense: “For a period of time, she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.” However, the paper seems to throw Jeong’s trolls a bone by saying: “She regrets it and the Times does not condone it [...] She understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at the Times.”
Which is all pretty standard for the Times, considering its notoriously extreme social media guidelines, but saying so in response to another wave of attacks on Jeong gives the paper the appearance of even-handedness and, more so, almost gives the appearance that the Times is disciplining Jeong before she’s even started her job. The question now is how the paper will handle the next time racist trolls come for her, and the next time, and the time after that.
In her statement, Jeong reveals the central fallacy with her trolls’ argument that she is attacking the mainstream white American audience:
“[My tweets] were not aimed at a general audience, because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns.”