Was 2020 the year of the op-ed?

In December, Joseph Epstein said that Jill Biden should not use the title “Dr.” In June, Mike Pence said that we were winning the fight against COVID-19. In the same month, Tom Cotton said that the government should use the military to end racial unrest in American cities. Mitt Romney attacked Donald Trump’s character. We learned that Miles Taylor was “Anonymous.”

Op-eds played a significant role in 2020. Here is a taste of Paul Farhi’s piece at The Washington Post:

The outrage generated by op-eds may be greater now, but it’s debatable whether the range of published opinion is any more daring than when Oakes unveiled his innovation 50 years ago, said media historian Michael Socolow of the University of Maine.

Socolow cites several Times op-eds from the 1970s that would probably prompt an angry reaction, but passed without major controversy at the time. One was a 1971 piece composed of reconstructed quotes from the late Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who urged people to die in the “international proletarian revolutionary struggle,” effectively an argument for overthrowing the U.S. government. Another in 1978 defended the regime of Cambodian communist leader Pol Pot, and labeled the Times’s own reporting about genocide in the southeast Asian country “a lie,” “ludicrous” and a “myth.” It was written by the editor of a Marxist-Leninist newspaper.

“The acceptable boundaries of discourse have changed” at the Times, Socolow says — they have become narrower. (Times acting editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury did not respond to a request for comment).

Read the entire piece here.