On targeting a university president for the thoughtcrime of questioning how well mRNA shots work
Leftists academics and journalists no longer even pretend to believe in freedom of speech or debate; when and how will they come to their senses?
Before a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer decided to ruin his life, Dr. Mark Tykocinski wasn’t exactly controversial.
Tykocinski, 70, has spent his life in academic medicine as a pathologist and cancer researcher. Last year, Philadelphia’s 8,400-student Thomas Jefferson University named him its president, capping his career - which included a short stint with Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health in the 1980s.
(IF THIS STORY DOESN’T CONVINCE YOU WHY PAYING FOR INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM IS IMPORTANT, I’M NOT SURE WHAT WILL…)
Then Susan Snyder arrived, looking for blood.
Snyder covers higher education for the Philadelphia Inquirer, once a highly regarded newspaper. In 2012, she led a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, journalism’s highest honor, for covering violence in Philadelphia schools.
These days, Snyder uses her talents differently.
Tykocinski has a personal Twitter account. It’s not exactly Elon Musk’s. Thomas Jefferson University is hardly a household name outside Pennsylvania, and Tykocinski’s account had about 100 followers as of last week. (It’s now up to almost 400.)
He also followed 130 people. I was one.
(Grandfather to 10 AND cyclist? Wow, somebody’s pretty full of himself! Time to take him down a notch.)
For whatever reason - I hope it was a tip, I hope she wasn’t doing this on her own - Snyder sifted through Tykocinski’s tweets. She found a bunch she found objectionable.
Actually, these weren’t Tykocinski’s tweets, or even retweets. They were “likes.”
For people who don’t use Twitter, a “like” is weakest form of endorsement. A “retweet” means a user sends someone else’s tweet to his followers. A like does not. It’s effectively the equivalent of saying, huh, that’s interesting, maybe check it out for yourself.
To anger a veteran reporter like Snyder, the statements Tykocinski liked must have been horrible, right? Racist, anti-Semitic, maybe pornographic? Inciting criminal behavior?
Turns out Tykocinski had liked a bunch of tweets I’d written about the failure of the mRNA jabs. Including this one, from December:
(See if you can find the inaccuracy! Oh, wait, there isn’t one.)
If anything, this take is milquetoast.
I didn’t write the jabs were part of a depopulation conspiracy (they aren’t) or cause half of pregnancies to miscarry (they don’t, though the fertility decline in countries like Germany is real and worrisome).
I didn’t even mention the very real increase in excess deaths that mRNA countries have seen for over a year.
But Susan Snyder was not amused. She didn’t think Tykocinski should have liked that tweet, or any of my others. For last Saturday’s Inquirer, she wrote a 1,600-word article - by modern newspaper standards, that’s a massive investigation - headlined:
Thomas Jefferson president has ‘liked’ tweets critical of COVID-19 vaccines, among other controversial topics
“Controversial topics.” Oh, the humanity.
Snyder was openly headhunting Tykocinski in the article, with no pretense of neutrality.
She didn’t contact me to ask how I might defend the accuracy of my tweets. Instead, she brought the tweets to a predictable list of academics and received predictable oh the horror responses. (The biggest surprise was Dr. Paul Offit, who told Snyder, “Vaccines do work to keep people out of the hospital.” Offit must have forgotten that in March he told the New York Times no one should get more mRNA shots.)
Of course, the article included the usual throat-clearing from anonymous Thomas Jefferson employees about how Tykocinski’s likes “call into question the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
Snyder even quoted a University of Pennsylvania professor named Jonathan Zimmerman who has “ardently defended free speech rights” and is “generally not in favor of scrutinizing academics’ digital footprint.” But not in this case, in this case doing so is fine, because reasons! (Zimmerman’s actual excuse was that Tykocinski could be viewed as speaking for the entire university. You know, to his 100 followers.)
The piece didn’t quote me. It did quote Tykocinski, apologizing for liking the tweets and explaining that he hadn’t understood that a “like” could be seen as an endorsement. As defenses go, this one was weak - they’re called likes.
Tykocinski almost surely would have been better off not apologizing, but I doubt he had ever faced a situation like this before. After a long career in academia, his instinct was to defuse the situation, not realizing that an apology would only fuel Snyder.
Indeed, Snyder ended the piece essentially calling for Tykocinski to lose his job:
Liking tweets that contradict an employer’s values also has been reason for termination…
Employees can be fired for conduct that harms a company’s reputation, wrote Lluc Cerda, an employment lawyer and partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, a Canadian law firm, in a 2021 piece for Global News… “The more senior the employee, the higher the standard of conduct that’s usually expected.”
(A hero for our time:)
By Monday, Snyder had succeeded.
Despite a humiliating “letter of apology” in which Tykocinski “noted that he and all members of his family received the COVID-19 vaccine,” Tykocinski’s job was in jeopardy.
His boss, chief executive officer Joseph G. Cacchione, had written an open letter saying he was “disappointed” in Tykocinski, Snyder reported in a follow-up article. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson’s board expressed its “complete confidence” in Cacchione - but none in Tykocinski.
Not one person, including Tykocinski himself, suggested that Tykocinski had the right to have his own views on Covid vaccines or “gender-affirming” surgery for children or any other issue. Not one person suggested that freedom of speech and debate might be important values in academia - or in the United States generally.
I found out what was happening Monday, when a reader emailed, "They are probably about to fire the President of Jefferson University, because he "liked" your posts on Twitter.”
Fortunately, freedom of speech is not quite dead. I tweeted about the situation Monday night (and sent a Substack asking you to amplify the tweet).
And - as he has before - Elon Musk rose to the moment, commenting on the situation and ensuring that Thomas Jefferson’s board would know that firing Tykocinski would not be the easy way out. For all the strangeness of the way he has run Twitter in the last six months, Elon has the right instincts on free speech.
(3.4 million views. Feels like 2021.)
Tycokinski’s job is probably safe. Meanwhile, Susan Snyder has gone very quiet since Monday. But the whole shameful episode shows, yet again, that the left - including nearly all of academia and journalism - has forgotten the first principles of free speech.
The good news is that newspapers like the Inquirer have so completely squandered their credibility and audiences that they no longer have the power they once did.
Unreported Truths has more readers - and far more passionate readers. (Thank you!)
Let’s hope Snyder remembers that reality the next time she wants to use her newspaper to smear me - or target someone for the thoughtcrime of questioning the mRNAs.