The Case for Consistency: My Take on the Sarah Jeong Dilemma

Part of "For a Civil Society", a special summer series by Samuel Kim

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Samuel Kim, Public Relations Manager

I was peacefully sleeping when my phone started to buzz out of control. I opened my Twitter account and found out that the snowflakes have woken up. Their target: Sarah Jeong.

In early August, Sarah Jeong, a technology writer for The Verge, became the newest addition to the New York Times editorial board. A Harvard Law School graduate, a member of the Forbes “30 Under 30” list, and a Forbes reporter during the “Silk Road Trials,” Jeong had more than enough credentials to join the Times’ leadership team. But as soon as the New York Times announced their decision to add Jeong, her old tweets resurfaced. Many contained profane language used in a racially insensitive manner and were directed towards white males. This prompted criticism, mostly from conservative public figures.

Jeong shortly released a statement, claiming that she “mimicked the language” of her harassers. However, new tweets emerged from further investigations by other news outlets. Some contained similarly charged language aimed at law enforcement. Since the controversy erupted, the New York Times released a statement saying that it did not tolerate such behavior but would keep Jeong on the editorial board, despite conservative outrage.

The media often face the issue of consistency. For example, the Times previously fired Quinn Norton for a satirical retweet of a post containing the n-word. For the newspaper to fire one tech writer for such an attempt at satire while keeping another editorial writer who attempts to satirize white people would further confirm the media’s inconsistency to ordinary people. For white supremacist leaders, this is another tool that may be used to showcase the liberal “hostility” against Caucasian people, thus causing more division and animosity towards the media. In simpler terms, this is bad business.

News organizations, such as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, will often defend their sweetheart stars with all their might, but vehemently condemn those who apply similar tactics. You might see Tucker Carlson defend provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, but condemn the tweets of Colin Kaepernick. You may see Wolf Blitzer do just the opposite.

For me, sitting in front of the TV or the newspaper is a daily game of hypocrisy. A game that has grown too old to enjoy. I believe in the Constitution’s right to association, but I also believe that people should stick to their promises and goals. If the media wants to be the beacon of truth, let’s see them hold everyone, whether white or a minority, conservative or liberal to the same standard. By applying this move, not only will the media repair its own image, maybe politics can be repaired too.