Former Vox writer Matthew Yglesias said Tuesday that he caused an uproar within the liberal site’s offices earlier this year by pitching a story about some good news: police killings of African Americans are on the decline.
In a post on his site Slow Boring, Yglesias criticized what he called a tendency by progressives to exaggerate problems for fear of appearing insufficiently committed to a cause.
“If you’re not saying the sky is falling, that shows you don’t really care. A true comrade in the struggle would deny that any progress has been made or insist that any good news is trivial,” he wrote.
As an example, he cited a story idea he suggested to Vox from late May — around the time of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody sparked protests and civil unrest — about how police killings of unarmed African Americans, and those of all races, had gone down significantly over the past six years. However, his idea sparked what he called an “intra-office controversy.”
“My thought was that this was good, it showed that political pressure for reform was delivering results,” he wrote. “But it was heard by many people as dismissing the problem, or ignoring the lived experiences of people who’ve suffered at the hands of the police.”
Yglesias wound up publishing the piece, headlined, “Black Lives Matter activism is working” and dotted with charts to bolster his case. He also noted, “Though this goes against much of the tenor of recent protests, hiring more police officers is another way to potentially reduce police violence.”
Yglesias’s revelation sparked criticism of Vox, which pitches itself as an “explainer” of the news but is often criticized for its left-leaning slant.
“A solid one-paragraph explanation for why Vox has failed in its effort to come across as a neutral explainer of data,” The Bulwark’s Sonny Bunch tweeted.
Journalist Jesse Singal also tweeted about Yglesias’ excerpt, writing, “Imagine what doesn’t get covered” if it was too offensive to write on a well-known statistic like declining police killings of African Americans.
Other journalists and analysts reported similar experiences with their colleagues, although Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum tweeted he published a similar story to Yglesais’ and received no pushback.
Yglesias left the site he co-founded in November, citing what he called an “inherent tension” between a desire to be independent and his job duties. In his new venture’s mission statement, he said he did not want to flatter people’s biases but rather offer meaningful, accurate information and analysis about politics.
Yglesias was among the signers of a Harper’s Weekly open letter in July chastising fellow liberals for the spread of censorship and intolerance in their ranks. Somewhat appropriately, the letter drew swift pushback from those it criticized, and some of its signatories backed off under public pressure.