Is This the End of American Intellectual Life?
A culture that demands purity of thought and offers no pardon for past errors either ends up in tyranny or ruin.
Alexi McCammond is a young, promising journalist who, aged 27 only, covered Joe Biden’s presidential campaign for Axios. She had been hired to serve as Teen Vogue top editor and was due to start in the coming weeks when tweets she had penned ten years ago resurfaced. They contained racist and homophobic words that McCammond had shared as a teenager and for which she had already publicly apologised in 2019. “Past tweets have overshadowed the work I’ve done to highlight the people and issues that I care about,” she shared in a statement; they have also overshadowed her act of contrition. She will never be Teen Vogue’s editor, and her career just got stopped as it was soaring.
In 2019, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to publicly apologise for dressing up as an Arab person in 2001. He had worn “black face” makeup at a school party. The University of Alabama assistant vice-president was forced to resign in 2019 for tweets he had posted two years earlier. The tweets argued that the American flag was a symbol of white supremacy and suggested the cops are racist. There are thousands of stories like these, where words and actions from the past come back to haunt people, forcing them to apologise, resign, and face public shame.
As the case of Ms McCammond demonstrates, public apologies aren’t enough. If you’ve ever stepped out-of-line, beware, and don’t count on a pardon for one isn’t coming. Americans love to posture and expose their Christian values; they routinely say stuff like “may God bless America,” “God be with you,” or “I pray for you.” It would behove them to remember Jesus’ words: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.
It is interesting to notice that, in both Ms McCammond’s and the University VP’s cases, past tweets and pictures were resurfaced by right-wing media. Did these right-wingers instrumentalise current sensibilities among the liberal crowd to ruin the careers of two people, both of them black? Maybe, maybe…