Hell froze over this week. President Trump’s Department of Labor rehired a staffer who was forced to resign over a media witch hunt.
DOL staffer Leif Olson resigned from his job on Tuesday after Bloomberg Law claimed he made anti-Semitic comments in old Facebook posts. The post in question was not anti-Semitic. In fact, it mocked the alleged anti-Semitism of the alt-right. The Facebook post sarcastically celebrated Paul Ryan’s win over Paul Nehlen in a 2016 primary race. He joked about “Upper East Side Zionists” and mocked claims Jews run the media in subsequent comments. [Labor Department To Reinstate Aide Wrongfully Accused Of Anti-Semitism, by Luke Rosiak, The Daily Caller, September 4, 2019]
The posts indicate Olson is a standard Conservative Inc. type who despises populist nationalism. Hilariously, they were used to force him out of his job after only 18 days of work. Plenty of Trump administration staffers have had to leave their jobs over media hit jobs, such as Darren Beattie, who was fired for speaking at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Conference.
But, unlike those departed staffers, Olson received an outpouring of support from Conservative Inc. and the mainstream media. Conservatives went into outrage mob mode and flooded the Bloomberg Law reporter with a bevy of negative tweets. The Washington Examiner called it “one of the most shameful, egregious media failures of the year.” [Shameful: Trump Labor appointee forced to resign after Bloomberg portrays sarcastic Facebook post as anti-Semitic, by Philip Klein, Washington Examiner, September 3, 2019] Left-wing outlets agreed.
The Washington Post, Vox, Media Matters, CNN, and the Anti-Defamation League all said Bloomberg got it wrong and that Olson was unfairly smeared.
When WaPo, the ADL, CNN, Media Matters, and Vox all defend a Trump appointee, it’s clear he shouldn’t have been hired in the first place pic.twitter.com/7INi10LaXw— Scott Greer (@ScottMGreer) September 4, 2019
That’s a strange occurrence. These outlets have been at the forefront of getting conservatives fired for politically incorrect statements and associations. CNN led the charge against Beattie.
Vox writer Dylan Matthews (who is responsible for the initial attack that got Jason Richwine fired over his dissertation) explained why Olson is a special case who requires vigorous defense. [How mocking anti-Semitism got a Trump official falsely accused of actual anti-Semitism, by Dylan Matthews, Vox, September 3, 2019]
I think it’s important to defend Olson because I believe in cancel culture. Societal norms against explicit bigotry — anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and so forth — are important, and indeed the primary means through which marginalized groups obtain a higher status and more equal treatment. Government policy can help, but fundamentally what (insufficient) progress we’ve had against anti-black racism and homophobia in the past 50 years has been driven by the attitudes of individual people in response to societal pressure and changing norms.
But precisely because accusations that a person violated those norms cannot be adjudicated in a court, the only way to provide some kind of protection against false claims is for those of us in the “discourse” to police ourselves, and call out allegations when they go too far.
The Left supported Olson in order to buttress “cancel culture” and strengthen their ability to target actual dissidents.
Olson’s rehiring is nice, but it’s not a good sign for the Dissident Right. His forced resignation shows the cowardice of the Trump administration in the face of media attacks. The massive Conservative Inc. support and his posts indicate he is not a Trumpist and shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. And the Left’s defense of him fortifies their own power to police dissident views.
This wasn’t a win for anybody besides the media and Olson himself.