Harsanyi: The Left's Reaction to Whoopi Goldberg Instantly Proved a Double Standard Exists


Whoopi Goldberg, suspended for two weeks by ABC for her comments about the Holocaust, had an opinion.

She, like many people these days, is unable to properly contextualize history or see it outside her own contemporary leftist worldview. But Goldberg is a talk show host with no power. No one is really hurt by her words. She should be able to express herself without fear of losing her job. As should Joe Rogan and Ilya Shapiro.

That said, the slap on the wrist, probably intended to keep Goldberg out of the public eye to weather the storm, is also performative. No one really believes Goldberg’s career is in danger. And everyone knows that if Goldberg were a conservative, her career in mainstream entertainment would be over, and the nation would have been plunged into another insufferable “conversation” about the right-wing menace and the dangers of unfettered speech.

Yet when Goldberg gets suspended, people like Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are suddenly troubled about cancel culture.

Disney and ABC are owned by the same company. We should recall that Gina Carano, formerly an actress on Disney’s “The Mandalorian,” wasn’t placed on a two-week leave. She was fired for “social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities.” Carano hadn’t belittled anyone in the way Goldberg or even Ana Navarro did on Monday when characterizing the Nazis’ attempted extermination of Jews as an act of “white supremacy” or white-on-white “inhumanity.”

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Carano used Nazis to make a reductive, misplaced point about how dangerous it can be when the state singles out certain classes of people. The double standard was obvious immediately, as we learned that actor Pedro Pascal, who plays the titular Mandalorian on the show, had compared Trump-era border apprehensions to Auschwitz. This is the kind of thing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and scores of liberals (and some conservatives) engage in.

Or take Stephen Colbert, who had Goldberg on his show to explain her comments, resulting in one of the most painfully stupid conversations about the Holocaust I’ve ever witnessed. Still, the late-night host let Goldberg have her say rather than merely accepting the least generous interpretation of her words. The next day, Colbert was on television insinuating that Ron DeSantis, governor of the state with the third-highest number of Jews in the nation, has Nazi sympathies because he didn’t take the time to condemn a few publicity-seeking nuts in Orlando.

For Colbert, who gives people such as Jew-baiter Ilhan Omar softball interviews, anti-Semitism is mostly a useful cudgel with which to attack conservatives.

Though I haven’t seen any prominent conservative call for Goldberg’s firing, these double standards will almost surely harden conservative views on open speech. There will be tit for tat, pearl-clutching and pressure campaigns, but mostly, there will be calls for revenge. You can only expect people to live under two sets of rules and standards for so long.

Is there a double standard of acceptable speech?

A large chunk of the left’s time these days is taken up with attempts to undercut open discourse. And it’s not just the bunch of crybabies at Georgetown Law trying to get Shapiro fired for clumsily expressing the view of 76 percent of Americans, or “media reporters” at CNN, or musicians trying to get Spotify to deplatform Rogan — it’s the president and politicians who pressure companies to shut down speech they disapprove of.

Nor is it only well-known apostates who live in fear of committing speech crimes. A recent Manhattan Institute study found that 45 percent of employees under 30 are scared of losing their jobs because “someone misunderstands something you have said or done, takes it out of context, or posts something from your past online.” This kind of noxious anxiety should not exist in a liberal nation.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be critical of things people say, or that every nut has a God-given right to a television show. It does mean that those trying to cancel or chill speech are acting in illiberal ways.

Either you believe in free expression as a neutral principle, or you don’t. Those who don’t are usually authoritarian. Though, like most authoritarians, they don’t even know they’re the bad guys.


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