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Death of free speech in the US: How a terrifying revolution sweeping newsrooms sees journalists who deviate from the new liberal orthodoxy hounded out - while 62 per cent of ordinary Americans are too frightened to speak their mind

ou might never have come across Bon Appetit, a glossy monthly magazine which serves up a cosy mix of gourmet recipes, wine reviews and lifestyle tips to its 1.5 million readers. 
It is hard to imagine a less controversial publication, or one that's more quintessentially American with its aspirational blend of self-improvement and conspicuous consumption – and it has been attracting record digital subscriptions thanks to lockdown tips for banana bread and avocado toast.
But popularity counted for nothing when a picture appeared online showing its editor of ten years, Adam Rapoport, dressed as a Puerto Rican at a Halloween fancy dress party. At a stroke he was out, branded a racist. 
Then, in a grovelling mea culpa, he confessed: 'From an extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago to my blind spots as an editor, I've not championed an inclusive vision.' He added he was stepping down 'to reflect on the work that I need to do as a human being and to allow Bon Appetit to get to a better place.'
But popularity counted for nothing when a picture appeared online showing its editor of ten years, Adam Rapoport, dressed as a Puerto Rican at a Halloween fancy dress party. At a stroke he was out, branded a racist
But popularity counted for nothing when a picture appeared online showing its editor of ten years, Adam Rapoport, dressed as a Puerto Rican at a Halloween fancy dress party. At a stroke he was out, branded a racist
Never mind his successful record as an editor. Or that the picture was taken in 2004, a full six years before he joined the magazine. Or that Mr Rapoport denies applying make-up. Or that he is actually married to the Puerto Rican woman pictured alongside him in the photograph.
But nothing can be taken for granted amid the toxic maelstrom now sweeping through American journalism, from the lofty heights of the New York Times to the least consequential website. They're calling it The Great Awokening and it endangers not just thousands of experienced, hard-working reporters and editors but the future of the industry they work for. It even threatens American democracy itself.
This is a country where freedom of speech and religion are guaranteed under the First Amendment. But it is also a nation where the statues of Washington and Jefferson, the great architects of the Republic, the guarantors of the liberties that woke warriors take for granted, have been pulled to the ground and smeared with graffiti.
America brought popular journalism and the true scrutiny of power to the world, yet never have the country's newsrooms been so threatened – or so cowed – as today. So great is the pressure to conform to messages put forward by movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo that any deviation leads to instant vilification online. And, ultimately, the chopping block.
One exasperated newspaper editor told The Mail on Sunday: 'There is a revolution going on in newsrooms across the US and it goes against everything freedom of the press stands for.
'Surely the whole point is to tell both sides of a story, even if it means publishing the views of someone who doesn't believe the things you do? Well, in today's culture all that is out the window.'
The prevailing atmosphere is so toxic that white writers are now fearful of publishing anything controversial in case it kills their career. One long-time editor at a major East Coast publication said: 'No one is against change and everyone realises white middle-aged men have dominated editorial boardrooms for too long. But this 'Great Awokening' is causing irreparable damage.
'Newspapers such as the New York Times have always prided themselves on publishing 'All the news that's fit to print'. And that means telling both sides of a story in a fair and impartial way.
'The Times has always been liberal but now the woke brigade is eating its own. It's happening in publications large and small.'
The bodies are piling up. Stan Wischnowski, a Pulitzer-prize winning 20-year veteran of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was forced to quit as senior vice president and executive editor after publishing an article with the headline 'Buildings matter, too' about the effects of protests on the city's historic buildings.
Dozens of black and minority staff members walked out of the 191-year-old newspaper in disgust at the headline for playing on the rallying cry 'Black Lives Matter'. They signed 'an open letter from journalists of colour', which read: 'We're tired of shouldering the burden of dragging this 200-year-old institution kicking and screaming into a more equitable age.
'We're tired of being told of the progress the company has made and being served platitudes about 'diversity and inclusion' when we raise our concerns. We're tired of seeing our words and photos twisted to fit a narrative that does not reflect our reality. We're tired of being told to show both sides of issues there are no two sides of. Things need to change.'
A George Washington sculpture in Portland, Ore., is pictured with an American flag face mask on April 11, 2020
A George Washington sculpture in Portland, Ore., is pictured with an American flag face mask on April 11, 2020
British-born anti-Trump conservative Andrew Sullivan is another casualty. He resigned from New York magazine last month after four years. In his final column he explained he was leaving to start his own online blog because he misses writing freely 'without being in a defensive crouch'. He lambasted America's mainstream media for its lack of contrary opinion and revealed that a 'critical mass' of staff at the magazine refused to work with him because of his critiques of 'woke' culture.
Mr Sullivan, 56, said: 'This is increasingly the orthodoxy in the 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. 'I miss just the sheer fun that used to be part of being a hack before all these dreadfully earnest, humour-free puritans took over the press.'
He accused US media of putting 'the moral clarity of some self-appointed saints before the goal of objectivity in reporting'. And he cited George Orwell who said: 'If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.'
No one, it seems, is safe. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and long considered the most powerful female figure in US publishing, was forced to issue an extraordinary statement taking 'personal responsibility' for not encouraging more diversity at the fashion bible. 'I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators,' confessed London-born Wintour, the model for the icy, stiletto-sharp editrix in The Devil Wears Prada.
'We have made mistakes, too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility.'
Wintour insists that she is going nowhere. But rumours of her imminent demise continue to swirl, with the editor of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, hotly tipped to replace her.
Nothing perhaps sums up the mood of ugly intolerance so well as the plight of the New York Times. Founded in 1851, the Times is an American cultural institution, nicknamed 'The Gray Lady' for its reputation as a sober and impartial paper of record.
But when it hired Bari Weiss to give an opposing view to the newspaper's Left-of-centre politics, she was bullied by colleagues who branded her a 'Nazi and a racist' on social media.
'The lessons that ought to have followed the election [of Donald Trump in 2016] – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society – have not been learned,' she said.
'Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.
'My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide [message boards] where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some co-workers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be truly 'inclusive', while others post axe emojis next to my name.'
Her resignation came on the same day as James Bennett quit as opinion editor after publishing a piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton which urged President Trump to send in troops to quell continuing Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.
A source said: 'This was something being widely discussed in Washington but it was deemed a subject too dangerous for the opinion pages of the New York Times.'
Times workers threatened a walkout with employees mass-tweeting the sentence: 'Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.'
Publisher AG Sulzberger initially defended Bennett saying 'I believe in the principle of openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with,' but, within 24 hours, he bowed to the mob, issuing a grovelling apology saying 'the essay fell short of our standards.'
Katie Kingsbury, the acting head of the opinion pages, told staff: 'Anyone who sees any piece of opinion journalism, headlines, social posts, photos – you name it – that gives you the slightest pause, please call or text me immediately. That's right, all Times employees are now empowered to report on those who deviate from the new moral mission.' A former New York Times journalist told The Mail on Sunday: 'The irony is the Times was enjoying a renaissance after President Trump got elected. Circulation figures were rising and online readership boomed. In Trump they had an easy target and one their readership enjoyed reading about.
'But their wokeness and desire to be painfully politically correct has misfired. The idea that the Times is on a 'new moral mission' is insulting to those of us who devoted years of our lives to the pursuit of excellence, to accurately reporting stories, all sides of them. You can't censure opposing opinion just because you don't agree with it.
'The worst thing now is that wokeness is creeping into the news agenda. There are no stories criticising the BLM movement because writers and editors live in fear of losing their livelihood if the mob comes after them. How can you run a newspaper that way? The answer is, you can't.'
What, then, of Bon Appetit, the cookery magazine that found itself in such hot water? The publication has now apologised to its readers for publishing recipes from a 'white-centric viewpoint' and promised to hire more BIPOC staff, meaning Black, Indigenous and People Of Colour.
Today the lead item on the website features a place called Riot Ribs, a 'mutual aid kitchen' at the centre of the continuing Black Lives Matter unrest in Portland.
Perhaps the final word should go to Barack Obama, America's first black President, who has warned: 'One of the things I do worry about among progressives in the United States is a certain kind of rigidity where we say 'Uh, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be' and then we start sometimes creating what's called a 'circular firing squad', where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity.
'Change is complex and the world is messy. People who do really good stuff have flaws.

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