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Felicia Sonmez has received an outpouring of support from colleagues who were aghast at her suspension from the Washington Post. She was suspended after tweets reflecting mixed emotions over Kobe Bryant’s death, and while the media fusses and fumes over whether or not the suspension was justified, this is a classic case study in contemporary cancel culture. Sonmez took the reins on calling people out for alleged misdeeds, and now she’s being called out for her own.
It goes without saying that Sonmez should not have received death threats on Twitter about her mixed emotions about basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. She shouldn’t have had to live in such fear that she retreated from her home to a hotel. All that is unacceptable, but in our age of cancellations and persistent moralistic vitriol, it’s what a person can expect when they befoul the Twitter stream. Sonmez probably should have known all this. She has been vocal about the necessity of removing men and women from their positions without the benefit of due process. This turn of events, where the social media verse turns on her for a couple of tweets wherein she expressed her personal view, should not come as a surprise.
Sonmez is one of the architects of the cancel culture that currently plagues us. She was one of the first accusers of former LA Times foreign correspondent Jonathan Kaiman, sending a letter to the LA Times in which she described him as exhibiting “problematic behaviour.” While they were both heavily intoxicated, by Sonmez’s own admission, she writes: “Even though parts of the evening were consensual, while on the way, Jon escalated things in a way that crossed a line.” She noted that the alcohol made it hard for her to remember, and Kaiman has stated that he remembers it differently. Though he refuted the story, he lost his job, and like Sonmez, he was afforded no due process.
Sonmez is also the person behind two mobbings of women writers. She tried to get Caitlin Flanagan and Emily Yoffe fired from their positions (at The Atlantic and Reason respectively) for the high crime of criticizing her.
Brett Kavanaugh was shamed by Sonmez for his lighthearted speech to The Federalist Society in 2014, which she published along with excoriations against him and his college behaviours. She called him out for comments such as “Always act as if your actions are public,” and “You will make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Admit it, resolve not to do it again, and make sure you don’t do it again.” Apparently that’s no good when you’re going to end up in confirmation hearings before the Senate and a woman who you don’t even remember ever meeting accuses you of raping her at a party you’re pretty sure you didn’t attend.
Now it’s Sonmez’s job on the chopping block. Maybe she’s looking for a way to apologize and keep her career intact, or maybe she’s going to double down. Neither, as we have seen, is likely to lead to success. There’s no due process for stupid tweets, and we know from years of this nonsense that apologies only lead to further public abrasions. Probably, she won’t lose her friends, so that’s lucky. Lots of her friends and colleagues don’t understand what the big deal is, or why so many in the media are out for her job. Hundreds of her colleagues have signed a letter to Marty Baron and Tracy Grant stating that they don’t think it’s fair that she should have been suspended. The Washington Post’s union has condemned the actions of management.
What they don’t seem to understand is that the plight of Felicia Sonmez is an object and abject lesson about cancel culture. She has done this to others. She has called for the suspension of due process and the termination, of her own peers. Her voice has loudly denounced those who have been hit with allegations without evidence. Sonmez has helped us get used to the idea that accusations are enough to take you down. It’s a commonplace idea, now, thanks to her and her peers in thought crime. Once we are so long immersed in the sludge of it, turnabout seems like fair play.
It isn’t, of course. Everyone deserves a second chance (or a proper first chance)—an opportunity to clear their name, to shake off wrongful incriminations and proceed with life and livelihood. It’s better when we do away with game theory and start treating each other like human beings. After all, life is not a game and the people we love are not players. Sonmez foolishly thought she would always thrive in a world without due process. She thought that due process was irrelevant when we could all discern the truth based on platitudes and hashtag callouts. But her situation is illustrative of the truth that no one survives in such a world. That’s the nature of this beast. The accuser will always become the accused.
Don’t believe us? Just wait.