A weird thing that seems to keep happening lately is the tendency of center-right writers to misconstrue editing for censorship. The job of a columnist is not to simply yell their opinions in the hopes that they will rankle many, but instead to present an argument and back it up in good faith. If people–both inside the editing process and out–disagree with you, you’re not being silenced. You’re experiencing what it means to be a writer.
Such it is with Business Insider columnist Daniella Greenbaum, a writer whose work leans more toward the right and has been the center of a few controversies. Most recently, Greenbaum wrote a piece about Scarlett Johansson’s decision to play a transgender character. Her very simplistic argument was summed up in one sentence: “The job of an actor is to represent someone else.”
Which, okay fine, that is true. But when discussing communities that have historically been systematically erased and marginalized, there is much more to the story than that. So it would have behooved Greenbaum to perhaps discuss this issue with a trans person. Instead, she quoted one critical tweet and then railed on with her opinion about why it’s totally okay for mainstream cis people to play trans characters. Her op-ed schtick seems to be to state her opinion, pepper in a few straw-men arguments that she feels bolsters it, and then call it a day.
This didn’t sit well with Business Insider‘s staff, who reportedly complained about the post. And the website’s editor-in-chief, Nich Carlson, ultimately decided to take it down. Today, Greenbaum announced via a tweet that she was resigning from Business Insider as a result of that decision.
In her resignation letter to Carlson, which she included via screenshot, Greenbaum listed her many overly simplistic stances, which she felt were just too hot for the business website. “My judgment: Yes. A woman can play a man or a trans man,” she wrote. “I believe,” she continues, “‘safe spaces’ are an inane concept that belong nowhere near our institutions of higher learning. I believe that people should be admitted to universities on the basis of merit, not depending on the color of their skin.”
The list goes on, and it’s a doozy!
I believe female actors can play men and trans men. That is the apparently controversial view that inspired BI to take down my piece. I have resigned from @businessinsider and explain why in my letter to EIC @nichcarlson pic.twitter.com/5G2UZggXi9
— Daniella Greenbaum (@DGreenbaum) July 12, 2018
What is truly spectacular about this resignation letter is how she frames all these stances in such a way that shows zero interest in interrogating the other side–which is, well, her job. Greenbaum’s sweeping proclamations obfuscate nuanced debate in favor of tidy told-ya-so arguments. Most important, the statements come from a very hegemonic–dare I say privileged–mind-set, which explains why, when she’s presented with a differing opinion, she has either discounted it or claimed she was being silenced.
Which brings me back to her job title. The role of an opinion columnist is not to ruffle feathers, but to provide insight. It requires the very rare talent of writing with nuance, immense research, and intellectual integrity–three things that are hard to come by on opinion pages these days, as publications rush to hire Bari Weiss-type writers in the name of ideological diversity.
The glaring irony about Greenbaum’s resignation is that, although she considers herself a renegade railing against a liberal press that is too scared to publish her views, in reality, her opinions are both boring and extremely mainstream. Sure, some people on Twitter may be loud, but the topics she writes about all fit comfortably within the status quo. No one has a civil right to post opinions on Business Insider dotcom—and Greenbaum is not being arrested or jailed for her views, which is to say she is not being censored. She is being critiqued.
All the same, I have no doubt that the right and center-right will take up this saga as further proof of a widespread liberal media conspiracy. Tucker Carlson is surely already booking her for his show.
Disclaimer: I used to work for Business Insider.