On the day of the inauguration, New York Times contributing writer Wil Wilkinson tweeted out this obvious joke: “If Biden really wanted unity, he’d lynch Mike Pence.”
Obviously, one has to be careful when posting what might appear to be a call for political violence (if you have the brains of a slow goat, that is), but this one seems pretty clear in its intentions. Wilkinson was referencing the fact that people in/outside the Capitol on January 6th were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and noting that both Trump supporters and Biden’s voters can unite in their dislike for the former Veep.
But in our Everything Is Terrible culture, Wilkinson was immediately fired from his position at a think tank and may very well be soon fired from his job at the Times. It’s not actually clear whether Wilkinson’s culture-critics are more upset about the taint of political violence in his tweet or the fact that he used the word “lynch,” which has become a no-no word among social justice warriors.
After getting called out on the joke by others on Twitter, Wilkinson did what it probably the worst thing you can do in this environment; he apologized.
“Last night I made an error of judgment and tweeted this,” he wrote. “It was sharp sarcasm, but looked like a call for violence. That’s always wrong, even as a joke. It was especially wrong at a moment when unity and peace are so critical. I’m deeply sorry and vow not to repeat the mistake. There was no excuse for putting the point the way I did. It was wrong, period.”
Responding to the controversy on his Substack, journalist Glenn Greenwald said it is beyond time that people begin standing up to censorship and cancel culture.
“So a completely ordinary and unassuming liberal commentator is in jeopardy of having his career destroyed because of a tweet that no person in good faith could possibly believe was actually advocating violence and which, at worst, could be said to be irresponsibly worded. And this is happening even though everyone knows it is all based on a totally fictitious understanding of what he said,” noted Greenwald.
Greenwald noted that it was particularly interesting for the Niskanen Center to fire Wilkinson over the joke, considering the think-tank’s founder’s history of violent speech:
Taylor took to Twitter over the summer to say that he wishes BLM and Antifa marchers had “rushed” the St. Louis couple which famously displayed guns outside their homes and “beat their brains in,” adding: “excuse me if I root for antifa to punch these idiots out.” So that’s the profound, pious believer in non-violence so deeply offended by Wilkinson’s tweet that he quickly fired him from his think tank.
It’s always tempting in these situations to jump into our usual partisan corners and take delight in a liberal commentator getting a dose of their own medicine, but cancel culture has become such a poison that it’s time to oppose it in all of its forms.
“Unleash this monster and one day it will come for you,” Greenwald wrote. “And you’ll have no principle to credibly invoke in protest when it does.”