|Eric Zorn, a firebrand considered too dangerous by the sprites at DePaul's newspaper to be allowed |
on campus, at the finest radio station to ever grace the airwaves of Chicago, WBEZ.
So it's Thursday morning, which means the Picayune Sentinel arrives in my inbox. The PS is Eric Zorn's newsletter, begun after the Chicago Tribune columnist sewed his salary into the lining of his coat and quietly slipped across the border into Substack, just as Alden Capital tightened its grip the Trib and started requiring that columnists show their papers.
In it, once you get past the jokey stuff at the top, Zorn calls out the DePaul student publication, the DePaulia, for thundering against his planned inclusion in Wednesday's panel discussion, “Tough Times for Local Journalism.” They denounce Zorn for his "racist views" over Adam Toledo, the 13-year-old shot and killed by a police officer in an alley last March, and insist that such a person not be allowed to soil the campus with his presence.
Eric's column, if you recall, basically said, "Let's wait until the video comes out before we form judgments as to what happened." That is not racism in the usual meaning of the word, a term which gets expanded by some people, particularly the young, to include, well, just about anything they don't like. What the column did do, I felt at the time, was lack the necessary head-ducking, ass-covering, self-protective, read-the-room gear that columnists sadly must shift into to avoid such accusations. It wasn't timid enough—a frequent problem of Zorn's, I must add. The worst that could be said was it lacked the cooing bear hug sympathy that the precise moment called for. It was as if his neighbor's house were burning down, and Eric sidled over to the family, wrapped in blankets, numbly watching the flames, and wondered aloud, "Did ya have working smoke detectors? Were the batteries fresh?" Which is an excellent point—smoke detectors are so important. Perhaps not the moment to bring it up, though I don't believe that doing so should make a man a pariah, like Lord Jim, moving from port to port to escape his shame.
I admire Eric for expending the mental energy on DePaul's craven retreat from everything an institution of higher learning is supposed to represent, using their supposed sensitivity to the downtrodden as an excuse to tread down on people like Eric Zorn, a writer who was fighting vigorously and eloquently for a wide range of social justice issues long before the staff of the DePaulia were being toweled off in a delivery room and piercing the air with their first cries of aggrieved arrival.
Me, I wouldn't bother. I'd just shrug—whaddaya expect from a bunch of babies?—and invoke the truism, "The reason debates in academia are so bitter is because the stakes are so low" then move on. As with ignorance proudly displayed on Facebook, if I responded to shameful self-own cancellations at colleges and universities, it's all I'd ever do. But that feels irresponsible in this situation, as it will be a sad day when the fingers-in-your-ears, I-can't-hear-you-you're-not-there self-imposed purdah of the Right becomes equally common on the Left. Assuming we aren't at that moment already. If Eric Zorn is too toxic a voice to be heard at DePaul, then they truly have retreated into the nursery, and welcome only those who tiptoe in, tickle their tummies—whoops, ask permission to tickle their tummies, certify consent, and only then do so, murmuring soothing words—before tiptoeing out again.
Anyway, I know I already posted something today—a two-decade old piece of self-indulgence that barely held my own interest, and it's about me. But I've been meaning to draw attention to Eric's welcome emerging from the ashes of the Tribune to spread his crystalline wings and fly off into the heady stratosphere of independent commentary, and today seemed as good a time as any. Make sure to subscribe to the Picayune Sentinel so you get it every Thursday morning, as I do.