Some Vox employees appear to be angry that their co-workers support free speech, with infighting spilling out onto social media Tuesday and Wednesday.
Multiple Vox employees claimed that the letter, published in Harper’s Magazine and titled “A Letter on Open Justice and Debate,” was “anti-trans.” Vox’s critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff wrote a letter to Vox editors – and subsequently posted a version of the letter on Twitter Tuesday – complaining that Yglesias’ decision to sign it made her feel “less safe.”
I sent a version of this to the editors of Vox. (I have redacted some bits that are internal to Vox and shouldn’t be aired publicly.) pic.twitter.com/splNNSMivd
— Emily VanDerWerff ???? (@emilyvdw) July 7, 2020
VanDerWerff continued to explain her view on the letter in a lengthy Twitter thread. She tried to explain why she reads “the letter as containing anti-trans dogwhistles” and linked to another tweet where various phrases regarding transgenders were inserted into the actual letter.
I absolutely see why that does not read as particularly anti-trans to a cis person! It just seems like vague support of free speech and a vigorous exchange of ideas, right?
Believe me, I get it! (continued)
— Emily VanDerWerff ???? (@emilyvdw) July 8, 2020
Vox’s political reporter Katelyn Burns and its engagement editor Nisha Chittal both backed VanDerWerff’s claims, according to the Free Beacon. Burns wrote that “the sheer number of signatories who have waded into the transgender debate on the anti-trans side is astounding. I read many of the references to specific gripes in the letter’s text as specifically directed at trans critics.”
“It’s a bunch of mostly white people with platforms at prestigious media outlets complaining that minorities are silencing them….” Chittal tweeted.
The public backlash among co-workers continued Wednesday. Vox’s founder and editor-at-large Ezra Klein tweeted about free speech, later saying it was not directed at Yglesias.
“A lot of debates that sell themselves as being about free speech are actually about power,” Klein tweeted. “And there’s *a lot* of power in being able to claim, and hold, the mantle of free speech defender.” (RELATED: Vox Writer Mad That ‘Ellen’ Producer Had A Reasonable Conversation About Guns With Dana Loesch)
Yglesias responded by asking “should I reply to this with a concrete example or stick to my commitments to you?”
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) July 8, 2020
“The idea that I would try to get Matt, literally my co-founder and oldest friend in journalism, fired over this letter is risible,” Klein tweeted Wednesday after his original comment appeared to be directed at his co-worker. “I’ve asked Matt, and others at Vox, to not subtweet colleagues. My mistake here is this read like a subtweet of him, when it honestly wasn’t.”
Aja Romano, a culture staff writer at Vox, also expressed her anger over the letter, calling it “a dehumanizing transphobic whisper network masquerading as reasoned intellectual debate.” She then publicly claimed that “3 trans Vox writers” who spoke out against “the Harper’s list” were “directly targeted (and harassed as a result) by one of the writers on it.”
Journalist Jesse Singal, who also signed the letter, replied to Romano’s claims. He said that he asked her to “provide evidence that ‘many’ writers on the list are against affirming gender care.”
Aja, I simply asked that you provide evidence that ‘many’ writers on the list are against affirming gender care, as you claimed. You are a professional journalist. You can’t just keep making stuff up and not expect the people you are lying about to remain unbothered. https://t.co/pGndxJvjhf
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) July 8, 2020
The infighting was not all negatively directed towards Yglesias’s decision to sign the letter, which condemned the media’s “intolerant climate.” Harper’s letter also discussed having “the possibility of good-faith disagreement” and was signed by numerous left-wing figures, the Free Beacon pointed out.
“The reaction to the letter is literally proving the point of the letter,” Vox’s senior correspondent German Lopez noted.
Vox’s senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams also backed what Harper’s letter was expressing, despite some of her employees’ comments about it.
+1 to everything in this. https://t.co/LrKEw4JoGG
— Jenny from the Vox (@jenn_ruth) July 7, 2020
I’m not a media historian or a historian of any kind
nor will I speak for the signatories to this letter beyond what the words themselves say. Speaking for myself, I support the views in this letter because of what I personally see happening in the media and public discourse.
— Jenny from the Vox (@jenn_ruth) July 7, 2020