The Quinn Norton Debacle Is Far From the Worst Thing the New York Times Has Done Recently

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Welcome to WHAT NOW, a morning round-up of the news/fresh horrors that await you today.

Last night, the New York Times opinion section, which has increasingly become a national joke, suffered its latest humiliation when it was forced to part company with technology writer Quinn Norton mere hours after announcing it had hired her to be a part of its editorial board.

The Times claimed it had not noticed Norton’s lengthy, public history of association with Nazis, or her use of racist and homophobic language online. This was weird, since Twitter noticed all of these things about 45 seconds after the news of Norton’s hiring broke.


The debacle prompts several obvious questions—“Did the Times seriously not know any of this stuff when it hired Norton” and “Are the computers at the New York Times hooked up to the internet” being merely two of them—though we will probably not get many answers because the Times adopts the pose of a silent monk whenever the topic turns to itself. Anyway, it’s done. “No harm, no foul,” Norton tweeted, perhaps optimistically, on Tuesday night.

To be clear, Norton’s tweets were very bad, associating with Nazis is also very bad, and she shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. But let’s remind ourselves of two things here.


The first thing is that Norton’s biggest crime was not associating with vile people or having bad opinions. It was doing that in a way that sat outside the confines of the “respectable” discourse the Times loves to pretend it’s committed to. The paper is filled with horrible people. They just express themselves in a way that wouldn’t get them kicked out of a Times dinner party. It’s all in the way you frame things. “Times writer cozies up to murderous totalitarian tyrant and makes disgusting comments about global slaughter” sounds bad. “Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman chats with the head of Saudi Arabia and discusses the Iraq War on PBS” sounds better.

The second point to remember is that this isn’t even the most damaging thing the Times opinion section has done to itself in the past year. Norton was here and gone in a day. What about Bret Stephens, the paper’s marquee conservative hire of 2017? Just last week he said that, even if Woody Allen had molested his daughter, he only seems to have done it once, so why are we hounding him? He didn’t say that in a bad tweet. He said it in the opinion pages of the New York Times! And he’ll probably be around for the next 30 years.


What about Frank Bruni, possibly the most pointless columnist in any newspaper in the country, and his relentless quest to attack random college students? What about Bari Weiss, a writer the Times has endlessly promoted despite her continual awfulness? What about giving Blackwater ghoul Erik Prince a giant platform, or letting a wholly discredited “researcher” on guns peddle his nonsense?

I could go on and on, but you get my drift. Long after the Norton affair dies down, the consequences of the paper’s more permanent decisions will linger on, and that’s what we should really focus on.