No doubt, Donald McNeil saw himself as one of the “good white people.” Every white liberal does.
In his 45 years as a reporter, McNeil said his proudest accomplishment was covering the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and pressuring pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of their drugs. In 2002, one of his AIDS articles won him a prize from the National Association of Black Journalists.
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For 67 years, while attending UC-Berkeley, teaching at Columbia, and working at The New York Times, McNeil built a sterling set of liberal credentials. 2020 was the capstone. From the earliest days of coronavirus, McNeil appeared on MSNBC to support the mass lockdowns strategy for fighting the virus. He blamed the Trump administration for the entire outbreak. He warned that lockdowns would have to continue at least until a vaccine was developed, a process he said would take 18 months at minimum (it took less than half that).
Like so many white liberals, McNeil likely thought he was protected by a lifetime of achievement and good works for the liberal faith. He likely believed accomplishments like saving the lives of actual black people with his journalism shielded him from hysterical claims of racism. He likely was confident that, while there were likely racists in America, it was obvious he wasn’t one of them, and he could be judged by his obvious good, liberal intentions. In short, he believed that liberalism was a humane ideology.
Now, McNeil’s foolishness has cost him everything. McNeil was cynically cut loose by the New York Times on Friday in response to a rebellion by more than 150 lower-level news staff who demanded his firing. McNeil’s sin: Using the n-word while traveling in Peru with young aspiring journalists in 2019. McNeil did not use the word as a slur. Instead, he simply declined to censor himself while discussing the word neutrally.
It did not matter. Nor did it matter that McNeil had already been disciplined for the word ages ago. When word of his blasphemy spread via The Daily Beast, staffers signed a letter effectively demanding his termination. The letter announced that McNeil’s intent was “irrelevant.” His crime was making his racial betters “feel disrespected,” and like a spat in gangland disrespect required maximum retaliation. Within a few days, the Times caved completely. In its statement announcing McNeil’s firing, the Times endorsed the radicals’ position that “intent” was completely irrelevant. McNeil simply said a magic bad word so he had to be fired, no matter what.
Donald McNeil has left the company, say Dean and Joe. pic.twitter.com/sgTD52Bdit
— marc tracy (@marcatracy) February 5, 2021
To cap off the humiliation, McNeil was stripped of every scrap of dignity as he departed. Had he refused to apologize, and instead denounced his persecutors as the evil, psychopathic harpies they are, he would have been genuinely heroic. Had he simply remained silent through the end of his ordeal, he may at least have enjoyed some grudging respect. But instead, McNeil went out as pathetically as possible. Like Lev Kemenev praising Stalin before his execution in a show trial, McNeil issued a statement thanking his attackers for exposing the error of his ways:
This reads like a confession procured by the Khmer Rouge. It’s both ridiculous and terrifying. https://t.co/1wHoX4vw00
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) February 5, 2021
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“The fact that I even thought I could defend [myself] showed extraordinarily bad judgement.” With his last words as a public figure, McNeil endorses the maximalist ideology of the new Terror. Intent is irrelevant. When one is accused of crimes by one’s racial betters, it is immoral to even defend oneself. That principle will be invoked again and again, to destroy many more people like McNeil.
Perhaps McNeil believed that with this abject apology, he will finally win forgiveness. This is a common delusion among older white liberals, who fail to see the ideological monstrosity they have given life to. Forgiveness is a wholly alien concept for the modern left. The new left believes in power, and ruthlessly exercising it against its chosen enemies. That’s why Kyle Rittenhouse faces life in prison for defending himself from Antifa attackers. That’s why a mob stormed onto the McCloskey’s lawn, yet it’s the McCloskeys who face time in prison for nonviolently protecting themselves. It’s why the left takes gleeful joy in destroying monuments and defacing graves, frenzied in the knowledge that they can destroy with impunity. The mob will soon grow bored with McNeil and move on to another victim. But it won’t forgive him.
McNeil’s feeble display means that conservatives should hardly feel bad for him. “Good white liberals” are happy to watch conservatives destroyed by these same forces, smugly confident that the machine will never turn on them. When it finally does, there is always an element of poetic justice, not to mention schadenfreude.
Instead of feeling sorry for McNeil, conservatives should use this example to understand what they are up against: A steadily-hardening racial caste system. In modern leftism, a person’s moral worth is increasingly dictated by where they sit on the progressive stack. McNeil just learned that, being white and male and old and heterosexual, he was at the bottom of that stack. That doesn’t just mean he was automatically assumed to be in the wrong when accused of wrongdoing by non-white staffers at the times. It also means he shed other components of moral worth – the right, for instance, to be judged by his own intentions rather than the malice of others.
Conservatives must understand this, because it will make the actions of the left more predictable. The left will not consistently apply rules based on moral principles, but purely based on what groups benefit, with blacks the most favored and whites the least. Plenty of white liberals will go along with it. For some, it will be a Machiavellian means to accrue power and destroy rivals. But for most, they will simply be like Donald McNeil – Clueless white liberals who know they’re one of the Good People and can’t imagine become the target themselves.
The game has changed. And poor stupid patsy dupes like Donald McNeil are expendable.