A Year Fighting against Cancel Culture, The New Republic and a self proclaimed journalist named Seth Simons.
About a year ago, Seth Simons — a failed comic turned cancel culture obsessed blogger — somehow convinced The New Republic to publish a story falsely claiming that I was the source of heinous comments and otherwise linking me, my partners, and our comedy club (The Stand) to a supposed “alt right” problem within the comedy industry. Simons knew his story was false because I told him so in advance. Yet, indifferent to, or potentially even motivated by, the inevitably damaging consequences of making such false accusations, he made them anyway. The result was a year of personal and professional pain and suffering. We lost business, relationships, and opportunities. But much worse, I lost friends. Even people who knew I would never say such things couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I did. Well I didn’t. And on February 7, 2022 — almost a year to the day after the article was first published — The New Republic acknowledged that I didn’t by publishing a heavily revised article preceded by the following statement:
“[W]e have updated the article to remove … all language suggesting that Mr. Italia might be ToxicCisWhiteMaleFat [i.e., the source of the comments] — the evidence for which, it is now clear, was bogus. To the extent that the article linked hateful speech to Mr. Italia, any such attribution was in error. This article did not meet TNR’s standards, and we apologize to Mr. Italia and our readers for not fact-checking it more thoroughly.”
To be sure, insofar as it still concerns me, my partners, and The Stand (which is all I can speak to), even the revised article is devoid of all merit. As a former journalist, I believe the revised article still lacks the requisite level of journalistic integrity because it takes true facts out of context to create a false narrative. Nonetheless, because The New Republic has corrected and apologized for its most egregious errors, I am sufficiently (albeit not fully) satisfied with the resolution.
As for the writer, we hope he’s learned a valuable lesson. We don’t know if Mr. Simons will ever again have the opportunity to publish in a publication as prestigious as The New Republic. (Presumably, having The New Republic state that his article failed to meet basic journalistic standards — “This article did not meet TNR’s standards, and we apologize to Mr. Italia and our readers for not fact-checking it more thoroughly.” — could and should cause other publications to think twice about using him.) But if Mr. Simons does get another such opportunity in the future, we hope he will meet the basic standards he failed to meet this time around.
My experience has caused me to reflect on today’s world. Cancel culture has become a dangerous tool used to upend, if not entirely destroy, people’s professional and/or personal lives. It seems only natural then that lies and misinformation would be used to cancel others. But I now remain optimistic about the power of truth. We are an example that if you hold fast to it, and fight for it, the truth really does prevail.
Thank you to everyone who supported us and encouraged us to insist on truth, including our attorney Jeremy Schachter of SeyFarth Shaw LLP (who happens to be as funny as any comic I’ve ever known) for providing leadership and guidance throughout this process
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If you are looking for more on this I spent an hour with my buddy Kieran McCann on his podcast lunaticradio.com. Feel free to check it out. http://www.lunaticradio.com/2021/lunaticradio-2-9-21-toxicciswhitemalefat/