Opinion

Dropping George Will Is A Bad Way To Arrest That Subscriber Decline, Post-Dispatch

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Patrick Maines
President, The Media Institute
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      Patrick Maines

      Patrick D. Maines has been president of The Media Institute since 1984. The Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, headquartered in Washington. Through publications, conferences, seminars, and legal filings, the Institute promotes a strong First Amendment and sound communications policy. The work of the Institute is supported by contributions from a wide range of media companies and foundations.

      During his tenure as president, Mr. Maines has designed and directed all of the Institute’s program activities. In addition, he has formulated the Institute’s policy positions on a wide array of issues including copyright, emerging technology, competition and concentration, and content and structural regulation of the electronic media.

      Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Maines had careers in corporate public affairs and publishing in New York City.

Even as such things are becoming commonplace, the sacking of George Will’s syndicated column by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sets a new low in mainstream journalism’s race to the bottom.

In case you’re you’re unfamiliar with the situation, Will wrote a piece (“Colleges become the victims of progressivism”), in which he ridiculed, in the context of a new Education Department mandate, some phony math and dubious cases being cited to demonstrate that America suffers from a rape epidemic, which the Obama administration has used to make the case for railroading due process rights of the accused.

Will’s larger point was that the DOE mandate threatens the loss of federal funding to colleges who do not institute a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating allegations of sexual assault. This, he wrote, would inevitably lead to costly litigation “against institutions that have denied due process to males they accuse of what society considers serious felonies.”

Elsewhere in his article, Will also points to the growth of campus speech codes and the idea, on some campuses, of the need for “trigger warnings” on college textbooks that feature language or concepts as might “victimize” unwary students. Will contrasts these developments — none of which are much resisted by college faculty and administrations — often they’re welcomed — with those same colleges’ anger at another prospective DOE program, a rating system that would compare schools on things like graduation rates, student debt, and earnings after graduation.

Will concludes his piece with this: “What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism.”

So that’s it. That’s what the piece is about. But not to one Tony Messenger, the editorial page editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. To Mr. Messenger, Will’s column “was offensive and inaccurate,” for which apologies were in order, and sufficient grounds for dropping his column from the paper permanently. And what, precisely, was the offensive and inaccurate thing to which Messenger objected?

Well, as reported by the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, it was: “Seeing the reaction and intensity of the hurt in some of the social media and the reaction of women I know and talking to people who really were offended by the thought that sexual assault victims would seek some special victimhood — it helped seeing that response and it informed my [Messenger’s] opinion.”

Against the slim chance that anyone wonders about it, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a long record of supporting liberal and Democratic priorities, which means that Tony Messenger fits right in. He routinely bashes the Missouri Republican party, often harshly, and champions every liberal cause that comes his way.