• Charge: Vox Rejects Op-Ed For ‘Implying Opposition To Abortion’

    Editors at the news website Vox have been accused of soliciting an ethics piece from a Swedish philosophy professor, only to reject it after worrying the piece could be too easily used as an argument against abortion rights.

    The allegation comes from the blog of Brian Leiter, a University of Chicago law professor who also writes extensively on philosophical topics. Leiter shared the story of Stockholm University professor Torbjorn Tannsjo, who was solicited by Vox writer Dylan Matthews to write an article about the repugnant conclusion, a philosophical paradox involving the idea that a world with more people living lower-quality lives is preferable to a world with fewer people living higher-quality lives, as long as the overall amount of happiness is higher. Matthews asked Tannsjo to write, in an accessible format, a summary of his argument in favor of “accepting” the conclusion, which amounts to an argument that encourages people to have more children.

    Tannsjo complied, and produced a piece which argues that people have a “moral duty” to have more children for the purpose of increasing the amount of total happiness in the world.

    But instead of seeing his piece run by Vox, Tannsjo says he received the silent treatment, before finally reaching out to ask what had happened. In response, Tannsjo says he received the following reply from Matthews:

    Afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news, Torbjörn. I ran the piece by some other editors and they weren’t comfortable running it; I think the concern is that people will misinterpret it as implying opposition to abortion rights and birth control, which, while I know it’s not your intent, is a real concern.

    I’m sorry to waste your time; I really am a big fan of your work and appreciate your willingness to work with me.

    Ironically, Matthew’s original email soliciting Tannsjo’s piece said the website was seeking thinkers who would argue “for provocative and/or counterintuitive propositions that our readers might find intriguing.”

    Leiter, who is hardly conservative himself, quipped on his blog that the incident shows “how difficult it is to translate [abstract reasoning] for a mass audience which apparently is more concerned with taking the ‘correct’ view than with the reasoning.”

    Vox’s gunshy attitude certainly isn’t a product of being unwilling to wade into the abortion debate. Just days ago, it ran a lengthy piece by correspondent Amanda Taub arguing strongly against abortion restrictions.

    Vox defines itself as a general news source whose purpose is to “explain the news” without adhering to a particular strict ideological line.

    The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Matthews for comment and has not yet received a reply.


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