Infighting at Business Insider Over Pulled Column on Transgender Issues

On July 6, Business Insider took down a post by conservative columnist Daniella Greenbaum that said “Scarlett Johansson is being unfairly criticized for doing her job after being cast as a transgender man,” just hours after it went up.

Greenbaum’s column (which can be found cached, here) took issue with criticism Johansson and her colleagues faced after her casting as trans male in the soon-to-be-released film Rub and Tug. The reasoning given by BI was that the column violated the the publication’s editorial standards (which seem to have been established, or re-established, ex-post facto). How can someone who isn’t trans, portray a trans character, so goes the argument.

As reported earlier today by the Daily Beast, BI global editor-in-chief Nich Carlson, announced via email that henceforth all “‘culturally sensitive columns, analysis, and opinion pieces’ would now be reviewed by the company’s executive editors before publication.” So now Business Insider has editorial standards. Great. But how, exactly, does it plan to implement them?

A BI staffer told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that at a company-wide meeting on July 10, Carlson fielded questions on this new policy. One employee asked Carlson how the company’s executive editors planned to vet future “culturally sensitive” work, and, how, if the editors themselves weren’t from diverse backgrounds, they could rightfully do this. Carlson’s response, in one staffer’s telling, acknowledged the lack of “diversity” among the publication’s editors, but thought that it wouldn’t hurt them in analyzing what constitutes objectionable content.

But there’s an inescapable irony here: the initial column was deemed objectionable and removed, according to testimony gathered by the Daily Beast, because employees were offended by it and because it didn’t meet BI’s “editorial standards.” BI’s editors, though, in the view of the offended staff, don’t meet their own standards—they’re not diverse enough or from enough marginalized communities to make decisions about potentially sensitive content. The menace of identity politics appears to have claimed another newsroom.

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