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.

Cordially,

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.

Filed Under: bedbugs, bret stephens, david karpf, getting people fired, hypocrite, insults, offensive speech, safe spaces
Companies: george washington university, ny times


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Earth has NO ASTEROID DEFENSE - hasn't, EVER!, 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:03am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hephaestus, 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:07am

    Saw this and realized ...

    This seems familiar, oh yeah, I made fun of him on twitter also.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:07am

    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!”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:10am

      Okay, slight correction: He could’ve also seen the tweet if someone @’d him in the replies. But considering how little traffic the original tweet received before Stephens tried to end someone’s career, I have to assume no one did that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:37am

        Re:

        I believe there were no replies at the time Stephens emailed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 11:07am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JdL (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:18am

    Har!

    I haven't laughed this much in months.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:20am

    He seems a little touchy at the observation of the right winger's fundamentally parasitic nature - wanting to exploit the benefits of civilized society whilst contributing less than nothing back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:27am

      “Everything is a grift.” — the unspoken right wing ethos, probably

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 3:42pm

        Re:

        The grift, in this instance, is that right-wingers rant about how liberal the New York Times is, so that the New York Times fills its op/ed section with right-wingers ranting about how liberal it is, to balance out all that liberal-ness.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:25am

    In an era of thought control...

    Free Speech is criminalized. Yup, you will literally get called a nazi now for advocating for free speech.

    Yeah. That's how mental our Media have become. That's your world now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:29am

      Free Speech is criminalized.

      Pray tell, how did the government punish Bret Stephens for his dumbass decision to try destroying someone else’s career over a playground-level insult?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:47am

      Re: In an era of thought control...

      [Zof the Liar offers no facts in his complaint]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 11:04am

      Re: In an era of thought control...

      He needs to do better than just advocating for "free speech for me but not for thee". To have free speech you need the right to call out something offensive just as much as you need the right to say something offensive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:42pm

      Re: In an era of thought control...

      Zof shows up to take a metaphorical shit in the corner.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 1 Sep 2019 @ 10:49pm

      Re: In an era of thought control...

      Considering what has happened since in this debacle, I think this post is a bit ironic in hindsight.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:28am

    He says he's leaving but experts say you have to go three weeks without seeing one before you know they're gone for good

    Well done, @MattNegrin. Most of the other jokes were amusing, but that one genuinely landed. Kudos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:28am

    Oh and, the NYT doesn't care about free speech

    They care about Yellow Journalism, and selling war.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:46am

      Re: Oh and, the NYT doesn't care about free speech

      Yes, I too learned about the Spanish American War in checks transcript US History 101.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:05pm

      Re: Oh and, the NYT doesn't care...

      They care about

      They have editorial control over what the publish, and it's their job to pick the news people are going to find most interesting.

      Unlike Cadet Bonespurs, who outright lies every time...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:39am

    'Insults are only acceptable when I sling them!'

    Ah good old free speech hypocrites, touting how people need to grow thicker skins and insults are just part of life right until someone uses their free speech to insult them, at which point it's nothing less than totalitarian oppression in action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 10:48am

    My right to offend is the most precious right.

    Is what Stephens was really saying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 11:21am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    allengarvin (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:13pm

    The saddest part about this

    I'm mainly disappointed only Stephens is being made fun of. Where's the well-warranted disdain for David Brooks??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 11:25pm

      Re: The saddest part about this

      David Brooks wasn't dumb enough to hand a megaphone to an unknown tweet.

      This time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bhull242 (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:15pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:20pm

      Re: The most surprising thing about this…

      It’s the fact that, of all the tweets to be offended over, this was the one he couldn’t take?

      Well the bed bugs had to come from somewhere, and maybe he was the source, so perhaps the tweet was a bit too close to the truth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2019 @ 11:07am

      Re: The most surprising thing about this…

      To be fair, a good journalist should always have a search alert out for his own name, which he probably did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:15pm

    I'm tired of these so-called free speech advocates who confuse freedom of speech with right to audience, right to platform access, freedom from criticism, and freedom from consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 27 Aug 2019 @ 3:18pm

    “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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 3:41pm

      Re: “Worst Totalitarian Regimes”?

      Is there a term for the logical fallacy of saying “A is no better than B”?

      In this instance, it's not a logical fallacy, it's just hyperbole. Stupid, stupid hyperbole.

      This is a law that needs its own name.

      Stop that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 27 Aug 2019 @ 7:22pm

    Looks like it's gonna stick

    Bret "The Bedbug" Stephens

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 7:52pm

    Insulted

    Stephens is right. His being called a bedbug is a horrible insult, as he is a much higher order of vermin. Now, of course, this "free speech advocate" might try to sue me for defamation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 12:07am

    "Please bear in mind that Brett Stephens, who thought this would turn out well, was hired by the New York Times to explain society to us."
    hits best!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2019 @ 3:29am

    What Stephens should have done is trademark the term "Bretbug", then sue everyone who uses the term "bedbug".

    Given the climate of trademark and IP law he'd have a far better chance of getting away with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DNY, 28 Aug 2019 @ 6:15am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 9:11am

      Ah yes, the old “social experiment” excuse — the fallback for bad trolls and assholes of all types. “I wasn’t trying to get him fired for insulting me! It was a social experiment!”

      GTFO with that shit, son.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2019 @ 11:05am

    Thin skinned

    Maybe calling him a bedbug was a reference to how thin the outer covering on his body... and based on the reaction, I'd say it was generous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 10:40pm

    Thanks to this story, when the national news radio channel said "The Washington Post HQ has a cockroach infestation" my first thought was: "The cockroaches are a metaphor. The cockroaches are the right-wing commentators."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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