Bari Weiss, a liberal hired by the New York Times strangely to bring balance to its left-wing opinion page in the wake of the paper’s misreading of the 2016 electorate, publicized her resignation this week.
Thirty-something editor Weiss wrote 30-something publisher Arthur G. Sulzberger that “the lessons that ought to have followed the election — lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society — have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
Should we celebrate Weiss for accepting what until recently stood as universals as she supports the power-obsessed ideologies that inevitably lead to the anti-freedom, cancel-culture bullying that she decries?
Yet, hiring Weiss, an unabashed anti when it comes to Donald Trump, to offset the paper’s biases against that chunk of the population who voted for the president seems like a greater indictment against the Old Gray Lady’s slant than Weiss’s departure. A bisexual living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side who supports abortion, the repeal of the Second Amendment, a porous border, and so many other left-wing articles of faith strikes as a strange counterweight in that she sits in the scale’s cup that gravity already had pulled to the bottom.
“Everyone I knew was voting for Hillary Clinton,” she told podcaster Joe Rogan last year. She exudes identity politics but rationalizes this by claiming a distinction between “good identity politics” and “bad identity politics” (she goes for the former). She uses words like “cisgender” and “transphobic” (because everyone with their ear to the MAGA ground knows the “cisgender” and “transphobic” lingo on the lips of every red-hat wearer). She divulges, “I definitely consider myself a feminist.” Most telling of all, she suffers from the pseudointellectual tic of affixing the one-word question “Right?” to every declarative sentence as though it negates the authoritarianism of declarative sentences by Jedi Mind Tricking the listener into hearing democratic consensus when confronted with an individual opinion.
“I was sobbing, openly, at my desk,” Weiss reflected in a Vanity Fair profile regarding her reaction to Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. “I wanted people to see how I felt about this, and what I thought it meant for the country. I realized I had to leave.”
So, she made a fuss leaving the Wall Street Journal. Now she wants people to see how she feels about the New York Times, so she again makes a fuss heading out the door. Like many millennials, she makes a performance of her feelings. But the New York Times played the poseur first in hiring her.
She says others bullied her at the Times for her positions, which include skepticism toward aspects of #MeToo, disgust at the knee-jerk reaction to the Covington Catholic smirk story, and a refusal to look the other way at anti-Semitism in the Women’s March group. She wrote Pet Sulzberger (May we call him “Pet” since his forebears claimed “Punch” and “Pinch” already?) that “intellectual curiosity — let alone risk-taking — is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.”
Weiss calls herself a “centrist.” The Hill‘s coverage on her resignation dubbed her a “conservative.” She is really quite liberal, just not as extreme as her colleagues at the Times in that she more or less believes in due process, freedom of speech, and that bigots do not rate hall passes when they fall on the favored end of the political spectrum. Should we celebrate her for accepting what until recently stood as universals as she supports the power-obsessed ideologies that inevitably lead to the anti-freedom, cancel-culture bullying that she decries?
“The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people,” Weiss recognizes. “This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its ‘diversity’; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.”
The Times revealed its drooling, shiny-eyed face to Weiss when they hired her because, in her own words, “The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers.” She grasps the reason they hired her. She ignores the deeper question of whether the paper hired her to ostensibly inject a different perspective or to actually inject a different perspective. If they wanted someone to articulate, or even identify writers articulating, the position of roughly half of the electorate who voted for Donald Trump, then hiring a woman who lives in a section of the Big Apple where less than 8 percent of voters cast ballots for the president seemed to undermine that goal.
This is the New York Times. Their idea of correcting the anti-Trump imbalance involved hiring someone who cried when The Donald won the presidency. The arrogance of the Times to maintain that Weiss, surely regarded as the token annoying opinionated liberal at the table if dropped into Thanksgiving dinner at most American households, provided ideological balance fails to surpass the arrogance of Weiss to take on such a job knowing her own views.
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Imagine the hostility on Eighth Avenue if the broadsheet had hired an actual supporter of the president to bring that perspective to its readers. That this theoretical would seem inconceivable in 2020 would seem inconceivable in 1980. Why does a newspaper employing more than 5,000 people and styling itself as the “newspaper of record” not feature a single identifiable full-throated enthusiast of the president of the United States? Because it harbors a bigotry so profound that even someone who not only passes the Left’s purity test on guns, abortion, and homosexuality but also looks like a Care Bear could not last in that environment.
Bari Weiss’s letter is quite good, but quite late in recognizing an intolerance fermented in leftist circles long before she even stepped foot on Columbia University. It meshes with the public letter decrying cancel culture signed by J. K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky, Fareed Zakaria, Katha Pollitt, and dozens more that canceled inclusion of any supporter of the president, i.e., the type of intellectual hurt most by cancel culture. They care now because their place at the left-wing dinner party went from head of the table to being served on a plate. They did not care when their publishers placed de facto bans on conservative authors, their alma maters disinvited, shouted down, and blocked conservative speakers, and their media (old, new, and otherwise) paymasters censored conservative voices. This is not principle. This is self-preservation.
The New York Times building, a glass but opaque monstrosity of 52 stories but one narrative, houses a cannibalistic tribe. Conservatives, never allowed admittance, know you hate us. Liberals now say with shock, “No, you ate us.”
People in glass houses should not throw stones. But maybe we can give Bari Weiss a pass for shattering a few windows in Midtown Manhattan. Better to defenestrate oneself and become a pancake on Eighth Avenue than to metamorphize into imitation Chicken McSchool in the lefty lunch line on the 14th floor.