Don't Let The Bret Stephens Bite: NY Times' Hypocritical 'Free Speech' Columnist Flips Out After Being Called A Bedbug

from the a-streisanding-for-the-ages dept

I will admit being only marginally aware of Bret Stephens in the past — as someone the NY Times seems to employ to write really dumb opinion pieces that get people angry with how dumb they are. This latest bit of Bret Stephensisms isn’t going to improve that impression. One of Stephens’ big things, apparently, is whining about “the left” not believing in free speech any more, and complaining about things like “safe spaces on campus.” Here are two recent examples:

If you’re unable to see those, they’re two columns by Stephens, with the first one entitled “Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort,” and the second one entitled, “Leave Your Safe Spaces: The 2017 Commencement Address at Hampden-Sydney College.” No matter what your stance is on “the necessity of comfort” or “safe spaces,” once should at least conclude that Bret Stephens has positioned himself as one who believes that free speech is important, and people should chill out before getting offended.

Oh, and he sometimes tweets about free speech too, and has some more tweets that he’s likely to regret before all this is over:

In the first tweet, he’s quoting David French, saying “Our nation cannot maintain its culture of free speech if we continue to reward those who seek to destroy careers, rather than rebut ideas.” Remember that one. And the second is “The right to offend is the most precious right. Without it, free speech is meaningless. That’s what Charlie Hebdo was about.”

Okay. That’s a little background on Bret Stephens’ professional opinion on free speech and people being offended when he’s acting all intellectual-like. Now let’s take a look at Bret Stephens’ unprofessional opinion on free speech and people being offended, when someone calls him a bedbug.

On Monday morning, an assistant editor of the NY Times opinion section, Stuart Thompson, tweeted: “Breaking — There are bedbugs in the NYT newsroom.” Lots of people made jokes about this. My favorite, from Lindsey Barrett, mocked the NY Times’ unwillingness to call racism racism by rewriting it as: “I think you mean there’s an insect-tinged problem in the NYT newsroom.” She made some more jokes about bedbugs, including a fake headline by Bret Stephens: “‘There Are No Bedbugs and If There Were, The Caustic Twitter Socialists Put Them There and Bed Bugs Are Good, Actually’ –half a column by bret stephens, who was itching too vigorously to finish it” That one got lots of likes and retweets. But it’s not the tweet that exposed Bret Stephens as the free speech hypocrite many people seemed to always assume he was.

Instead, it was a not even that funny tweet from Dave Karpf, an Associate Professor at George Washington University:

Then, last evening, Karpf noted that while that original tweet (cue ominous music: at the time…) had only 9 likes and 0 retweets, and did not in any way tag Stephens himself, Stephens took it upon himself to not just complain about the tweet to Karpf, but to cc his university provost:

We’ll get to the contents of the letter in a moment. But, first, let’s revisit those tweets from Stephens about free speech. He talked about how the right to offend was so important. And also was apparently against “those who seek to destroy careers rather than rebut ideas.” Of course, there’s no good reason for Stephens to cc the GWU provost except in a weak, thin-skinned, hypocritical attempt to destroy Karpf’s career.

And let’s not avoid the contents of Stephens’ email. Because, it’s weird.

Dear. Dr. Karpf,

Someone just pointed out a tweet you wrote about me, calling me a “bedbug.” I’m often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they’ve never met — on Twitter. I think you’ve set a new standard.

I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a “bedbug” to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part. I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say.

Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself.

Please consider this a standing invitation. You are more than welcome to bring your significant other.


Bret Stephens

It certainly sounds like Stephens “took offense” to Karpf’s random joke. Perhaps he felt being a NY Times Opinion columnist gave him a “safe space” from criticism? It must be that, or otherwise, to think that calling him a “bedbug” is a “new standard” of Twitter-based discourse, suggests someone who is so shielded from the way Twitter arguments normally play out as to be a poor judge of what the “new standards” are of insults. And, yes, you could argue that Stephens’ creepy invite to come over to his house (with Karpf’s significant other) and insult him to his face, is a request for “more speech,” in response to “speech.” But, we should remind everyone that Stephens’ cc’d the George Washington University provost.

Anyway, if you couldn’t already guess what happened next, I should tell you that Merriam-Webster chose last evening to (not for the first time), tweet out their explanation of the Streisand Effect. Whenever the dictionary starts adding to my own mentions, you know something good is going down.

And, so, yes, within just a few hours, Karpf’s tweet mocking Stephens, that had just 9 likes and 0 retweets, has many thousands of retweets and tens of thousands of likes. And, tons and tons of people are now associating Bret Stephens with bedbugs. Here’s just a few fun tweets.

Like bedbugs, those tweets just keep on coming. On my Twitter account, at least, Bret Stephens, was the top “trending” topic for many hours last night. Note how many likes and retweets all of those tweets have. Bret Stephens has taken a throwaway line that most people ignored and ensured that, for years, people will associate him with bedbugs.

Incredibly, overnight, rather than realizing that he’d fucked up, Stephens apparently decided to dig deeper and make it worse. First, he shut down his Twitter account, laughably claiming that Twitter “is a sewer” that “brings out the worst in humanity.” He then went on MSNBC and compared being called a “bedbug” to the worst “totalitarian regimes,” while also (laughably, ridiculously) trying to argue that cc’ing the GWU provost wasn’t about trying to get Karpf fired. He claims he just wanted the provost to know what his staff was doing. Which… come on. No one believes that.

Of course, like bedbugs, I’m guessing that the NY Times won’t get rid of Bret Stephens either.

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Comments on “Don't Let The Bret Stephens Bite: NY Times' Hypocritical 'Free Speech' Columnist Flips Out After Being Called A Bedbug”

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Earth has NO ASTEROID DEFENSE - hasn't, EVER! says:

Yeah, I was startled to learn NYT has a "conservative"!

someone the NY Times seems to employ to write really dumb opinion pieces that get people angry with how dumb they are.

But I think with this outed himself as just another loony "left-liberal-libertarian". You can be certain that at most he’s a NEO-con rather than even vaguely near a "paleo-conservative".

Say. Any hope of an even vaguely important topic this week? I’d settle for your opining on Google’s laughable assertion that disallowing all cookies will worse privacy. Want to see you try to handle that one, so PLEASE?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

The amazing thing about all this is how the “offending” tweet in question didn’t even tag Stephens’s account. The only way he could’ve seen the tweet (if you assume he wasn’t following that user, which I do) was to search for his own name on Twitter. Not only did he prove himself a hypocrite, he also outed his own vanity. In the words of Slappy Squirrel: “Now that’s comedy!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There’s something else being overlooked here too: Kampf never called Stephens a bedbug.

In the context of NYT staff talking about bedbugs and insinuating it had to do with Stephens, Kampf said:

The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.

This isn’t Kampf calling Stephens a bedbug; it’s Kampf explaining that when NYT staffers were talking about bedbugs, they were doing so as a metaphor for Stephens.

At least in any coherent interpretation of events.

ECA (profile) says:

Love the Filler.

I love a person standing infront of a crowd Berating NONE OF THEM, and Some Oddball becomes offended. Then another, and another…

THINKING in their own little minds, that what that person said, relates TO THEM..

Go look up R/slash and RSLASH on YT…get a huge Laugh over much of it.
Try not to be offended..

Just to let you folks know.. I had to learn to Hold my emotions ling ago, because of Epilepsy. ITS NOT easy. but you also learn something with it. Learning to LISTEN, before you open your mouth.

bhull242 (profile) says:

The most surprising thing about this…

…isn’t that he took offense, or that he is a free-speech hypocrite, or that this backfired horribly, or that he doubled down, or that he decided to shut down his Twitter account.

It’s the fact that, of all the tweets to be offended over, this was the one he couldn’t take? Seriously? It was a minor insult that few people saw, few people Liked, no one retweeted, and hadn’t been directly sent to him. And it’s not like he was following the guy who posted it. It had to take some effort to find the thing. And why was this so offensive? Knowing Twitter, there had to be better insults than that to get worked up about.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

“Worst Totalitarian Regimes”?

Is there a term for the logical fallacy of saying “A is no better than B”? Because the flip side of that is the inevitable implication that “B is no worse than A”. In this case, saying that being called a “bedbug” is comparable to what is done in “totalitarian regimes” is also saying that what they do in “totalitarian regimes” is merely comparable to calling someone a “bedbug”.

This is a law that needs its own name.

DNY (profile) says:

Hypocrisy, or experiment to prove a point?

Cc-ing Kampf’s provost can only be seen as hypocritical if one thinks Stephens believes, contrary to all evidence, that an American university administrator would discipline a faculty member for insulting a public figure on the political right. Maybe it was an experiment to confirm what the evidence suggests.

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