Until last week, Dr. Edward Livingston was a celebrated academic, known for his compassion and for being a wise hand at difficult topics. He was the deputy editor of Journal of the American Medical Association- the AMA's scientific and scholarly arm and host of its successful JAMA Clinical Reviews podcast. Now, he is persona non grata.
Does anyone care about the truth when a juicy narrative is afoot? Will we burn everything down to get at the sin of racism, even when none occurred?
Livingston I Presume
If you google Livingston's name, you will find such damning headlines like "JAMA Posts Podcast On Structural Racism, Here Is The Backlash" (Forbes), "JAMA apologizes and deletes tweet that questioned racism in medicine" (Market Watch), "No Physician Is Racist? Twitter Calls Foul on JAMA Podcast" (MedPage Today), and dozens more just like it. In addition to the media pressure, there is a cadre of social justice grifters, with petitions on Change.org almost 3,000 signatures strong demanding JAMA and Livingston be held accountable for "perpetuating racism in medicine."
Facing such an impossibly overwhelming force, the panicking AMA fired Livingston, memory-holed the offending episode and announced a formal investigation. As the finishing touch, AMA CEO, Dr. James Madara, declared what amounts to the AMA pledging itself to anti-racism as popularized by Ibram X. Kendi.
Well, then, if all the important folks are now agreed, if the media says Dr. Livingston is racist, and the AMA says he is a racist, and the Twitter mob says he is a racist, then he must be a racist, right? That is how adults in 2021 decide such things these days.
Except, there is just one teensy problem, and that is the truth.
Facts are irrelevant at a witch trial
It is an objective fact that Dr. Livingston is innocent of racism and is himself an adherent of what the new-left calls anti-racism. I know this because I did what the media wouldn't, my homework. Whether it be out of laziness or purposeful manipulation, publications like Medscape, Business Insider, Forbes, The Hill, and The Root, all condemned Livingston. Not a one bothered to provide even a copy or transcript of the offending audio.
Livingston's detractors' so-called proof is a singular bad podcast alert tweet and some uncontextualized lines of dialogue. The declarative shout for racism is a tweet, the kind of which an intern might write or post as mangled copy from show notes, which was sent out from the JAMA Twitter handle.
It read: "No Physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care? An explanation of the idea by doctors for doctors in this user-friendly podcast from the great @DrKatzNYCHH and @ehlJAMA"
The odds that the deputy editor at one of the most influential journals of medicine in the world wrote his own podcast alert is an absurdity.
The other "evidence" against Livingston are quotes devoid of context from the podcast episode "Structural Racism for Doctors—What Is It?" This featured public health expert Dr. Mitch Katz, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, in what was the 4th part of a series dedicated to fighting racism in medicine, of which Livingston was a participant.
Here is the line shared by the media to justify indignation:
"Structural racism is an unfortunate term. Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many of us are offended by the concept that we are racist."
You do not need a degree from J-school to see that the media are cherry-picking this comment. According to anti-racists, structural Racism is what happens when parts of society get ordered in such a way that it disproportionately hurts minorities or folks like me, the disabled. The media wants you to believe that Dr. Livingston, a Jewish descendant of immigrants, is a closeted structural racism denier.
Nothing could be farther from reality.
"Structural racism is an unfortunate term to describe a very real problem," Livingston said. "There are structural problems in our society. As Dr. Katz pointed out, there are neighborhoods that are impoverished, the quality of life is poor in those areas because we may put factories in them or have major thoroughfares that travel through them.
"But we strive to have a society that's more equal, where everybody has the same opportunities so that hard working people can improve those neighborhoods and make them better for the people who live there. The racism part means that in those poor areas there tends to be a disproportionate share of certain kinds of races, such as blacks or Hispanics. They aren't there because they're not allowed to buy houses in better neighborhoods or they can't get a job because they're black or Hispanic. That would be illegal. But disproportionality does exist.
"And we as a society need to figure out why that occurs, and how to make conditions better for the people who live in structurally undesirable circumstances," Livingston continued. "Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation would help. Many people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist. When many of us grew up in an era where there had been racism and much progress had been made in ameliorating racism via dramatic legislation that was passed in the 1960s.
"I think the population at large would be more accepting of this general concept if we concentrated on the structural part of it and ensured that all people who lived in these disadvantaged circumstances have equal opportunities to become successful and have better qualities of life. The focus must be on equal opportunity and making sure that that exists."
As you can read from the transcript, Dr. Livingston never denies the existence of structural racism, only that he thinks the term, with the word "racism" in it, needlessly turns people off from considering the concept and its influence on society. For a progressive scholar, this is an entirely legitimate concern. Livingston wants to help the left more effectively spread their gospel of anti-racism. He is on their side. He is actively and intentionally anti-racist.
This character assassination from lazy media outlets would never have taken place if the reporters had listened to the first three minutes of the episode. In which Dr. Katz says:
"Yeah, I think it's a great question, Ed. I think actually acknowledging structural racism can be helpful to us. Because structural racism is not about whether someone is a racist or whether some individual person loves other people of a different ethnicity or doesn't like it. It's not about people's personal opinions. Structural racism refers to a system in which policies or practices or how we look at people perpetuates racial inequality."
To date, neither Katz or Livingston have apologized for being racist, despite the threats from the mob. Nor is JAMA recognizing the reality of podcast production, that the episode would have to have gone through several layers of professionals' approval before getting published.
All of this, start to finish is an absurd moral panic.
In a sane world, where the media did their homework and told the truth, where elite institutions stood by their employees, where reality meant something, Dr. Livingston would not have been punished for his podcast but rewarded, likely finding himself with a guest spot on CNN and MSNBC.
Nobody likes to harsh the mellow at a witch trial
Years ago, in a different life; back when I taught school, I remember discussing with my students the book the Scarlet Letter and the Salem witch trials that inspired it. An essential element of that story—and the lessons we sadly need to relearn—is that the trials were not just wrong because it is an evil thing to kill a witch; but that those murdered (I'm descended from several) were never witches in the first place.
As it was with the 25 innocent souls murdered by a mob incensed by the so-called righteous members of 17th century American elite—including medicine—as it is now. To the braying mob, it does not really matter who is guilty. All they ever really want is a scalp. And the sniveling cowards that control American institutions, like the AMA, will sell out a colleague for a whole lot less than 30 pieces of silver.
How can the disabled, or medical professionals rely on the AMA, if it cowers to media outrage storms? If they crash to Twitter, how will they stand up to the CDC and the Biden Administration?
It is unpopular these days in American media and elite society, especially in prestigious organizations like the AMA, to do the prudent and adult responsible thing, and tell the mob to calm the f*ck down.
However, for some of us, the truth still matters; and the objective reality is that Dr. Ed Livingston and his guest Dr. Mitch Katz are innocent of all charges of racist sentiment. Nevertheless, many journalists and the AMA have dealt a gross injustice to a decent man. Will any of them care that they got the story wrong? Will they care they ruined the life of someone on their side? If not now, they certainly will when they get a call from Dr. Edward Livingston’s lawyer.
I’d like to thank twitter user @AmandaLuvsRoses for bring this story to my attention. There are people out there willing to tell the truth, even when no one will listen anymore. She is one of them, and we need many more just like her.