Whether you agree with him or not, Andrew Sullivan is surely one of American journalism’s most influential voices.
Like a Rorschach test, he has provided both sides reasons to alternatively cheer and jeer at points over his long public career.
But now he is making a statement that will likely garner Sullivan more cheers from the right.
He recently announced that he was leaving New York magazine to restart his personal blog. Sullivan maintained that he was leaving of his own accord, not being “canceled,” and that he had a good working relationship with other staffers, to whom he was “deeply grateful for their extraordinary talent, skill, and compassion.”
But Sullivan made clear that the current climate is insufferable.
“A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me,” he wrote in his farewell column on July 17. “They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space.”
“Actually attacking, and even mocking, critical theory’s ideas and methods, as I have done continually in this space, is therefore out of sync with the values of Vox Media. That, to the best of my understanding, is why I’m out of here.”
Sullivan said he understood it was time to go when recognizing that his brand of “conservatism” — featuring opposition to President Trump and, among other things, support for same-sex marriage, legalized drugs, police reform, “aggressive” action on climate change and laws to protect transgender people — was no longer welcome at New York magazine.
But in language that expresses the concerns of the Trumpian conservatives he disagrees with, Sullivan longed for “writing freely without being in a defensive crouch.”
He added that he missed “substantive” engagement that gave way to “Twitter madness,” and the lack of “truly free intellectual space where anything, yes anything, can be debated without personal abuse or questioning of motives.”
“I miss just the sheer fun that used to be a part of being a hack before all these dreadfully earnest, humor-free puritans took over the press,” he added.
Sullivan suggested breaking with the current mainstream media structure may be the only way to restore discourse that’s been chilled by new wave political correctness.
“If we want to defend what’s left of liberal democracy, it’s not enough to expose and criticize the current model. We just need to model and practice liberal democracy better,” he wrote. “If the mainstream media will not host a diversity of opinion, or puts the ‘moral clarity’ of some self-appointed saints before the goal of objectivity in reporting if it treats writers as mere avatars for their race and gender or gender identity, rather than as unique individuals whose identity is largely irrelevant, then the nonmainstream needs to pick up the slack.”
“Instead of merely diagnosing the problem of illiberalism,” he concluded, “I want to try to be part of the solution.”
That solution, it seems, would be to chart a new course, leaving the mainstream media to devour its own.