Since the 2016 election, many media outlets have been thirsty for conservative clicks. Over at the New York Times, this deep well of thirst has led to the hiring of climate-change denier and Woody Allen apologist Bret Stephens and victim-blamer extraordinaire Bari Weiss.
Last year, Times executive editor Dean Baquet defended the paper’s hiring of Stephens by rhetorically chiding critics: “Didn’t we learn from this past election that our goal should be to understand different views?” and “Don’t we want to surface all ideas?”
Actually, Dean, no. We don’t want to “surface” all ideas.
Weiss has been on a nonstop streak of problematic, alarmist, and victim-blaming columns since she was hired at the Times in 2017. She’s both a writer and editor at the Times, so presumably she’s assigned and edited a fair share of problematic takes, as well. Weiss has used her platform in the Times to shed some tears over Minnesota Public Radio’s decision to stop rebroadcasting Garrison Keillor episodes of A Prairie Home Companion and students protesting conservative speakers on college campuses. She accused three of the four Women’s March co-chairs of “embracing hate” in her first piece for the Times and wasted all of our time defending a Nikki Haley tweet. Weiss has also written a very obtuse and troll-y piece titled “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation,” complaining about the “online hordes that will string you up” for the “unintentional sin” of appropriation. These are bad ideas.
Weiss is part of the #MeToo backlash and misquoted “believe women” as “believe all women,” and then got into an argument with herself over why that was bad. She wrote one of the worst takes on Aziz Ansari, titled “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader,” arguing that the #MeToo movement has turned “women’s empowerment into an emblem for female helplessness.” When Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik wrote that bad piece victim-blaming survivors of sexual harassment, Weiss was her editor and later hosted an interview segment with Bialik to give her the opportunity to attempt to exculpate herself. These are also bad ideas.
This week, Weiss had another stunningly bad idea: She tweeted a video of figure skater Mirai Nagasu landing the first triple axel by an American woman at the Olympics with the words “Immigrants: They get the job done.” The line is tweaked from Hamilton, where the original is “Immigrants: We get the job done.” Though the daughter of immigrants, Nagasu is not an immigrant. People (including Chrissy Teigen) explained to Weiss why what she’d tweeted was offensive, but instead of apologizing, Weiss tripled down on that bad tweet. Leaked chat transcripts from New York Times staff show how pissed her own colleagues are with her behavior.
For this tweet I am being told I am a racist, a ghoul and that I deserve to die. So I deleted the tweet. That’s where we are.
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) February 12, 2018
Over at the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald summed up Weiss’s modus operandi:
“Exactly as she was doing a decade ago as a ‘pro-Israel’ activist at Columbia and thereafter at various neocon media perches, her formula is as simple as it is predictable: She channels whatever prevailing right-wing grievance exists about colleges, Arabs or Israel critics (ideally, all of those) into a column that’s supposed to be ‘provocative’ because it maligns minority activists or fringe positions that are rarely given platforms on the New York Times op-ed page.”
Weiss knows her takes are bad and for the trolls—she often adds a few whines in her column about how she knows she’ll get called out for her offensive opinions, but she’s so brave because she’s ready to face the consequences. She likens anger over cultural appropriation to a lynching or a stoning. The response to her Nagasu tweet is a “sign of civilization’s end.” “I will inevitably get called a racist for cheering cultural miscegenation,” she wrote of her enthusiastic defense of cultural appropriation. “I’ll be accused of siding with the alt-right or tarred as Islamophobic,” she said after attacking the Women’s March organizers, adding: “If that puts me beyond the pale of the progressive feminist movement in America right now, so be it.”
“So be it” if people think you’re in league with the alt-right or an Islamophobe? I would think a journalist would care very much if other people see their work as promoting hate, but I guess not!
The New York Times is an incredible platform for any writer and using its pages to “surface” all ideas (even and especially bad ones) is not the point of journalism. Publishing neocon and intentionally divisive contrarians who are always at the ready with catastrophizing opinions about why college students, women, and activists are doing everything all wrong is not the point of journalism. Just because Weiss has an idea doesn’t make it a good one, a smart one, or one worth publishing.