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Cancel culture

Tweets that sank Teen Vogue’s editor

Michael S Schwartz/Getty Images

Pity poor Alexi McCammond, the unfortunate Teen Vogue editor crushed by her own staff at “the newly awokened home of the power heel”, says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. The 27-year-old woman of mixed heritage, an impressive Washington scoop-chaser at Axios, was about to be the magazine’s third non-white editor in a row. Then tweets that she’d posted as a 17-year-old resurfaced, 20 staffers complained – and no amount of grovelling could save her. It’s tempting to laugh at some “smug, spiky Manolo’d death eater” getting their comeuppance, but it could happen to you. Remember that murderers, and even young Prince Harry in his Nazi uniform, are given a chance to reform. But trial by social media is swift and merciless. 

Cancelling people for decade-old tweets comes “as involuntarily as breathing or sleeping” to today’s woke mobs, says Tiana Lowe in the Washington Examiner. But the whole affair smacks of faux outrage. Anna Wintour knew about the “old, bad tweets” – the silly teenage slur “you’re so gay”, the bizarre fear of developing “swollen, Asian eyes” when sleeping badly – before she hired McCammond, who had apologised and deleted the offending messages in 2019. The staff were apparently worried about their “woke credentials”: a bit rich for a magazine barely read by actual teenagers, and mainly perused by “bitter, unwed thirtysomethings living with two roommates and a cat in Bushwick”. 

Don’t play down this “unnerving” scandal, says Allegra Frank in Slate. The fact that she was “just a teenager” when she posted her tweets doesn’t fly as a defence for me. She was set to lead an outlet that argues for teenagers to be taken “more seriously than they often are”. And Condé Nast, Teen Vogue’s publisher, has to do better. We’re living through an increase in violence and attacks on Asians and Asian-Americans. Add that up and you get someone not “equipped to do this particular job” at this particular time.  

As someone whose “own half-swollen eyes widened at this news”, I’d have to disagree, says Graeme Wood in The Atlantic. Surely the point of being a teenager is “to make and correct the most mortifying errors of your life”. I also think it’s cheap to align a few childish tweets with our national reckoning on racism. Apologies matter – or should. It would be a tragedy if, in a diverse society, the highest aspiration of racial pride is “to slam the doors of repentance permanently in the faces of your enemies”. I hope this generation grows out of such “vindictive excesses” and gives itself a break. Otherwise I’ll have to consider myself hostage to the idiocy of my wayward teenage self “until I am safely dead”. And so will you.