NYT Cooking Facebook Group Faces Backlash for Removing Pro-Voting Post
The New York Times Cooking Community is a private Facebook group where its 65,000 members can share everything from pictures of their focaccia bread art, to personal stories about recipes, to questions about whether or not anyone else changes their dish towels when they need a quick mood boost.
There are 10 rules posted in the sidebar, warning everyone that they could be kicked out if their comments "stray from a respectful tone" or if they post memes or infographics that include "false facts about food." The group is also supposed to remain apolitical, which is both a challenge and a big ask during this contentious election season. "There are many places to express your political views," the group's admins warn. "This is not one of them."
But earlier this week, at least two long-time members of the community were banned for breaking that rule—allegedly because their posts encouraged everyone to vote this year. The "offending" post (and the word "offending" is in the most sarcastic quotes this keyboard can generate) was also removed, but the mods' actions seem to have had the opposite effect. Instead of preventing others from sharing their own Get Out the Vote messages, it just made them find more creative ways to do it.
"A member posted about making sure to vote, and the moderators removed his post since the group is supposed to be a haven from politics, focused only on food," Community member Chaya Milchtein wrote in a Twitter thread. "The members, numbering over 62k, weren't having it and made it clear that food is undoubtedly political. They began to fashion food to spell VOTE, using captions only directly related to food."
Did they ever. There have been dozens of posts that feature assorted foods, spices, and ingredients arranged to spell out the word "VOTE." There are veggie assortments that encourage voting shared by first-generation Americans, hazelnut biscotti shaped into consonants, sunflower-seed bread vowels, and homemade Pop Tarts accompanied by a patriotic message.
Although it's understandable that the mods want to have a safe and inclusive place where people can talk about their favorite brands of mayonnaise without having to scroll through partisan posts, banning someone for encouraging Americans to vote this year seems a little heavy-handed.
"Bottom line: food is political," Milchtein continued. "Food can be used to build community, change lives, feed the hungry, inspire creativity, and it also could be easily squandered. Use your voice (and your food) to inspire change."
Another person added that it was "bizarre" that a pro-voting post would be controversial on its own. "It used to be when people said 'political' thet [sic] really meant 'partisan,'" they wrote. "Encouraging civic participation is political but not necessarily partisan, so all kinds of 'no politics' zones would actively embrace that."
In a response to Milchtein's thread, the @NYTFood account wrote that the original post had been removed because the author had expressed his support for a particular political candidate. "The vote photographs the members are posting are beautiful, though, and anyone can make a pro-voting post," it wrote.
Less than a week to go. Please vote.