Washington Post columnist knocks cancel culture, calls for 'more forgiving public discourse' in farewell piece

Drezner wrote the “Spoiler Alerts” column for the Post for the past eight years, which he described as a form of “‘contingent writing’ – speculations about the state of the world that might or might not turn out to have legs.” 

A series of recent controversies have plagued the Post, but Drezner assured readers that his departure is not borne out of a conspiracy. His contract was simply up, he wrote.

“My contract was up, and management wanted to go in a different direction,” he said.


A general view of the exterior of The Washington Post Company headquarters in Washington, March 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

A general view of the exterior of The Washington Post Company headquarters in Washington, March 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo)

In his farewell essay, Drezner lamented how society had appeared to become so unapologetic since he began writing for the Post in 2014, making what appeared to be a reference to the Dave Weigel drama that embroiled the newspaper earlier this month. 

“We live in an age in which retweeting a tasteless joke and then apologizing and deleting it 10 minutes later still winds up being on your permanent record,” he wrote. “Not all infractions are equal, and in some cases such behavior merits serious sanctions. There is something bizarre, however, about the capricious nature of reactions and overreactions to acts that less than a decade ago would barely have merited a shrug.” 


Prominent media pundits and celebrities have been “canceled” or severely punished in recent years for the supposed infractions Drezner described, among them Weigel. 

Weigel shared a joke in early June by YouTube host Cam Harless, who said, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.” The reporter apologized for the retweet, yet Post suspended Weigel for a month without pay after he was called out by fellow Post reporter Felicia Sonmez. In a display that stunned the media industry, Sonmez continued to publicly blast her newspaper and attack colleagues over the workplace’s online and internal culture before being fired the following week.

A public discourse that is “implacably hostile to only a particular slice of norm infractions is not fertile ground for the contingent writing that inspired Spoiler Alerts,” Drezner mused in his parting piece.

“We need a more forgiving public discourse, one in which it is possible for mistakes to be made, apologies to be sincere, criticism to be tolerated, and respect to be preserved across genuine ideological disagreements,” he said.

The Washington Post has been embroiled in constant workplace drama over the past month.

The Washington Post has been embroiled in constant workplace drama over the past month. (ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

In addition to the Weigel dustup, the Washington Post has also been fielding controversy over left-wing journalist Taylor Lorenz. Earlier this month the “internet culture” writer penned a piece about the content creators who benefited from the explosive Johnny Depp-Amber Heard civil trial. In her original report, Lorenz had cited two YouTubers who allegedly profited from their coverage of the trial, saying in the piece that they did not respond to requests for comment. However, the YouTubers responded and said that she had never reached out to them before the story was published. 


Washington Post writer Taylor Lorenz.

Washington Post writer Taylor Lorenz. (MSNBC)

Following an outcry from the pair of internet influencers, the erroneous statement was removed from Lorenz’s report without any acknowledgment. The Post later issued two corrections, the first admitting its characterization of Lorenz’s communications with the YouTubers was inaccurate and the second acknowledging it wrongly removed the false statement without an editor’s note.

Lorenz later addressed the controversy, citing “miscommunication” and blaming her editor all while suggesting any scrutiny of her reporting is a “bad faith campaign” against her and the Washington Post. 

The Post appeared to be more forgiving to her than to Weigel, Substack journalist Glenn Greenwald noted.

“Taylor Lorenz just got caught repeatedly lying in her article such that WP had to revise it 3 times as an ‘Editor’s Note,’ and it still contains a lie: nothing happened. Dave Weigel immediately apologized for RT’ing a joke and is suspended without pay,” Greenwald reacted.

Last week, the Post announced that Lorenz has moved from “the features staff to the technology team,” according to a report in the New York Times. 

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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