July 15, 2020


The Self-Cancelation of Bari Weiss: Like much of her writing, the former New York Times editor's resignation letter is long on accusation and thin on evidence. (Alex Shephard, July 15, 2020, New Republic)

At an all-staff meeting following the Times's publication of the Cotton op-ed in June, Weiss tweeted that a "civil war" was raging inside the paper: on one side, the paper's besieged over-40 staffers, who believe in free inquiry and free speech; on the other, under-40 staffers who believe in "safetyism," a creed "in which the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech." It was a bold accusation and a self-serving one. For most of her career, Weiss has warned about the politically correct masses streaming out of college campuses every year. Now those masses had breached the walls of the most important journalistic organization in the country.

But there was one problem: A large number of Times staffers tweeted back that Weiss was mischaracterizing both the meeting they were attending and their workplace. There was no "civil war," nor a generational conflict. What was happening was, instead, was very normal, even banal: "an editorial conversation." But Weiss's resignation letter triples down on her narrative. She appears to reference pushback against her "civil war" characterization when she laments being publicly called a "liar" by other Times employees. [...]

Weiss is convinced she was targeted for her "centrist" beliefs, but a great deal of the criticism she has received has been about specific flaws with her writing. She has been critiqued for her uncritical glamorizing of right-wing YouTube celebrities, for citing a fake Twitter account as evidence of the illiberalism on college campuses, and for her hypocrisy on the subject. (As an undergraduate at Columbia, Weiss targeted Muslim professors, claiming that they were anti-Semitic. Shortly after Weiss was hired by the Times, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald wrote: "It's truly amazing: Weiss now postures as some sort of champion of free thought on college campuses. Yet her whole career was literally built on ugly campaigns to attack, stigmatize, and punish Arab professors who criticize Israel.")

Far from displaying a commitment to free inquiry or open-mindedness, much of Weiss's work displays a knack for taking thin, anecdotal evidence and framing it in grandiose culture-war terms. Mistakes are an inevitable part of opinion journalism, but Weiss has routinely turned any criticism of her work into proof that her critics are illiberal and out to silence her. (Appearing on Bill Maher in the wake of making a series of errors, Weiss suggested that she was being targeted by the "mob" for her beliefs. After incorrectly calling an Asian-American figure skater an "immigrant" on Twitter, Weiss said she was using "poetic license" and lashed out at her critics.) You see this tendency in her claims of a "civil war" at the Times and again in the letter itself, in which little distinction is made between social media abuse and criticisms of her work. Weiss's critics never have a valid point; they're only trying to silence her.

Posted by at July 15, 2020 9:42 PM