Conversations are interesting when there's more than one view. Why is this so hard?


National Post, 17 May 2017

The debate over what — and who — is included in the conversation strikes me as unremarkable

I am not sure what to think about the resignation of Jonathan Kay as editor of the The Walrus. He was my editor for many years here at the National Post, and it was a most happy experience. While his resignation came in the midst of a public controversy about the resignation of another editor of another magazine over cultural appropriation, Kay himself has said that was not the key factor. It was apparently time to leave and the events of last week were perhaps only the final tweet that broke the walrus’ back.

The debate over cultural appropriation is a debate over who is welcome in the conversation on various topics. For a long time, the progressive view that dominates places like The Walrus was that the conversation had to be diverse in terms of the people participating in it. The more conservative view, which formed Kay at the National Post, was that the diversity that mattered was that of the ideas advanced, not those advancing them. The discussion about cultural appropriation is merging the two. It matters what is said, but also who is saying it, and some things can only be said by some people. It’s a bit complicated and maybe Kay just got tired of working all that out with his colleagues at The Walrus.

Given our professional history, the news prompted me to poke around online to see what more I could discover. And two items from Jon himself emphasized that the question of who gets admitted to the conversation is about much more than culture and identity.

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