Fainting-couch conservatism strikes again: A University of Alabama dean of students is out of a job after conservative media dug up some of his old tweets.
Jamie Riley had dared to criticize the American flag and the police, writing in 2017 that they represent "a systemic history of racism for my people."
Breitbart decided that this and other tweets of Riley's merited an article. Reporter Kyle Morris wrote that "a series of resurfaced tweets from Dr. Jamie R. Riley, the University of Alabama's assistant vice president and dean of students, show he once believed the American flag and police in America are racist." But the tweets didn't just resurface on their own—they were publicized by the right-wing news site in order to send a social media mob after Riley.
Just 24 hours later, Riley lost his job. The Crimson White reports:
Jackson Fuentes, press secretary for the UA Student Government Association, confirmed at 4:15 p.m. that Riley is no longer working at the University.
"For us right now, basically all I can tell you is that the University and Dr. Riley have mutually agreed to part ways," Fuentes said. "So yeah, that's true, and we do wish him the best."
In an email at 5:03 p.m., assistant director of the Division of Strategic Communications Chris Bryant released an official statement on behalf of the University confirming Riley's resignation.
"Dr. Jamie Riley has resigned his position at The University of Alabama by mutual agreement," Bryant said in the email. "Neither party will have any further comments."
It seems clear that it was bad publicity from Breitbart that got Riley terminated. This was an entirely foreseeable consequence of writing such an article.
Many pundits on the right constantly inveigh against cancel culture: the drive to shame, punish, and ultimately destroy people for having said something trivially offensive at some point. Comedian Dave Chapelle torched cancel culture in his recent Netflix special, and conservatives applauded. The clip of Chapelle scornfully imitating cancellers has been all over right-leaning media for the last two weeks.
I very much agree that cancel culture is bad. (In fact, it's one of the main themes of my book.) But as long as the right is perfectly willing to enforce its own version of political correctness, it is difficult to to believe that they really agree in principle that you shouldn't do this kind of thing. If you only defend the cancelled when you agree with them, then you're not actually against cancelling. You're just protecting your tribe.
Conservatives, please condemn Breitbart for this hit job and demand the immediate reinstatement of James Riley.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.