Opinion | Which Opinions Are Out of Bounds?

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In the era of “fake news,” Twitter cancellations, hot takes and hate-reads, which opinions are valid? If an idea is widely held but abhorrent, should it be amplified in the pages of The New York Times? This week, “The Argument” returns to debate the publishing of an Op-Ed by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, which called for a military response to civic unrest. Michelle Goldberg argues that there are opinions beyond the pale of consideration which should not be published on our Opinion page, and that includes ideas that legitimize physical threats against people of color. Frank Bruni explains why he wants to hear dissenting opinions — even if they make his pulse race — so he can learn what is at their foundation to better persuade against them. And Ross Douthat points out that what is in and out of bounds for public discourse evolves, often quickly, on both sides of the aisle.

Then, the columnists pull their gaze from The Times’s navel and direct it at the reckoning at the top of the media industry. As employees channel the momentum in the streets toward the inequities in their workplace, what can we take away from the flurry of resignations from executive editors and C.E.O.s.? And why hasn’t this happened sooner?

Background Reading:


I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist for The Times since 2011, but my career with the newspaper stretches back to 1995 and includes many twists and turns that reflect my embarrassingly scattered interests. I covered Congress, the White House and several political campaigns; I also spent five years in the role of chief restaurant critic. As the Rome bureau chief, I reported on the Vatican; as a staff writer for The Times’s Sunday magazine, I wrote many celebrity profiles. That jumble has informed my various books, which focus on the Roman Catholic Church, George W. Bush, my strange eating life, the college admissions process and meatloaf. Politically, I’m grief-stricken over the way President Trump has governed and I’m left of center, but I don’t think that the center is a bad place or “compromise” a dirty word. I’m Italian-American, I’m gay and I write a weekly Times newsletter in which you’ll occasionally encounter my dog, Regan, who has the run of our Manhattan apartment.

I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist since 2009, and I write about politics, religion, pop culture, sociology and the places where they all intersect. I’m a Catholic and a conservative, in that order, which means that I’m against abortion and critical of the sexual revolution, but I tend to agree with liberals that the Republican Party is too friendly to the rich. I was against Donald Trump in 2016 for reasons specific to Donald Trump, but in general I think the populist movements in Europe and America have legitimate grievances and I often prefer the populists to the “reasonable” elites. I’ve written books about Harvard, the G.O.P., American Christianity and Pope Francis, and decadence. Benedict XVI was my favorite pope. I review movies for National Review and have strong opinions about many prestige television shows. I have four small children, three girls and a boy, and I live in New Haven with my wife.

I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times since 2017, writing mainly about politics, ideology and gender. These days people on the right and the left both use “liberal” as an epithet, but that’s basically what I am, though the nightmare of Donald Trump’s presidency has radicalized me and pushed me leftward. I’ve written three books, including one, in 2006, about the danger of right-wing populism in its religious fundamentalist guise. (My other two were about the global battle over reproductive rights and, in a brief detour from politics, about an adventurous Russian émigré who helped bring yoga to the West.) I love to travel; a long time ago, after my husband and I eloped, we spent a year backpacking through Asia. Now we live in Brooklyn with our son and daughter.


Tune in on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts. Tell us what you think at [email protected] Follow Michelle Goldberg (@michelleinbklyn), Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) and David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) on Twitter.

This week’s show was produced by James T. Green for Transmitter Media and edited by Sara Nics. Our executive producer is Gretta Cohn. We had help from Phoebe Lett, Paula Szuchman and Michele Teodori. Our theme is composed by Allison Leyton-Brown.




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