The regular columnists on the editorial pages of the New York Times are people who range from centrists to right-wingers. In particular, the paper has always taken a strongly pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian stance. Glenn Greenwald takes apart the bogus claims of that newspaper that it seeks viewpoint diversity in its editorial pages by showing how its recent hires have gone in the opposite direction, especially with the hiring of Brett Stephens and Bari Weiss, the latter being pretty much a propagandist for Israel who has long been on a crusade to suppress any criticisms of that country’s atrocious treatment of Palestinians.
Weiss has predictably written multiple banal columns for the NYT denouncing what she perceives as growing left-wing intolerance for dissent, in general but particularly on college campuses. I’ve watched as Weiss has become celebrated in right-wing circles as some sort of paragon of free expression and academic freedom, and mourned by centrists as the tragic victim of online PC mob silencing campaigns (imagine being a columnist and editor at the New York Times – with full access to the most influential media platform in the world – and seeing yourself as the victim of silencing and censorship), even though her entire career is grounded in precisely the viewpoint-suppression, vilification and censorship campaigns she now depicts herself as loathing.
All of this finally came to a head last night after Weiss published yet another column complaining that she and her ideological comrades are unfairly criticized by left-wing authoritarians who try to silence them by associating them with “fascism.” Weiss’ column was so replete with humiliating factual errors, shoddy argumentation and glaring holes in reasoning that she ended up trending on Twitter, and her editors had to delete an entire paragraph from her column and then add an Editor’s Note explaining that she had cited evidence that was an obvious hoax.
Professor Juan Cole wrote at the time: “The lesson for academics, and American society as a whole: McCarthyism is unacceptable except when criticism of Israel is involved.”
That’s what makes this whole spectacle so amazing: the New York Times is allowing one of its columnists to masquerade as a stalwart defender of campus free speech and academic pluralism while utterly ignoring, and allowing her to falsely deny, her own long history in trying to stigmatize and punish professors who criticized Israel, to the point where the NYCLU stepped in and denounced her campaign as a dangerous threat to academic freedom.
If Weiss would acknowledge that she spent years engaged in the precise types of censorship and vilification campaigns that she has now come to regard as so menacing, I would find that admission admirable, not objectionable. But she’s doing the opposite: she’s denying that her activities were geared toward exactly the climate of intimidation and censorship against which she now crusades. Perhaps it’s possible that she’s just in a state of denial, incapable of admitting that she built her career based on exactly the types of activities that she now so vocally denounces.
But what seems far more likely is that, like so many people, Weiss finds censorship and vilification objectionable only when it’s directed at her, her friends, and the viewpoints she supports. In particular, it is this mentality that explains why left-wing attacks on racism, fascism, and other authoritarian views on campus receive so much attention from America’s pundit class, while the most pervasive form of campus censorship – directed at Israel critics and pro-Palestinian activists – is so often ignored. In Bari Weiss, the New York Times seems to have found the perfect embodiment of this free speech double standard. But none of that should justify allowing a New York Times columnist and editor to offer such blatantly inaccurate claims about ugly controversies in which they played a leading role.
The New York Times does have some good reporters who do good work but its overall editorial policies are awful.