If you are at all involved in the world of media, you have to develop a fairly thick skin. But many establishment journalists, long used to not having immediate pushback on what they write, still get up in arms when they are criticized, however mildly, and simply make things worse.
A prime example is Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist for the New York Times. This article tells the story.
It began with a story about an apparent bedbug infestation at the New York Times building. Riffing on the newspaper’s predicament, David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, poked fun at Stephens on Twitter on Monday evening. The post received nine likes and zero retweets.
Here is the tweet.
The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens. https://t.co/k4qo6QzIBW
— davekarpf (@davekarpf) August 26, 2019
There are much worse things that can be said about you on the internet than being called a bedbug but Stephens was just outraged.
What followed was as close to the perfect Streisand effect as one could imagine. Stephens, who was not tagged in the original post, emailed Karpf, and copied in the provost of the university, in an apparent attempt to get Karpf in trouble.
And then it went viral.
Karpf shared news of the scolding on Twitter, in a post that has now been retweeted 7,500 times and liked 48,500 (and counting).
By Tuesday morning, Stephens was a top-trending topic on Twitter, with hundreds taking the opportunity to poke fun at his snitching – and his puerile invitation to come meet his family and insult him to his face. Stephens’ Wikipedia page has since been edited to read “Bret Bedbug Stephens”.
Karpf, the GWU professor, told Splinter: “I assume the thing that set him off here is that I’m a white guy with a PhD, and I think it offends his sensibility that fellow upper-standing white guys are saying mean things about him. I guess there’s some power structure he thinks I violated.”
In the end Stephens, who has in the past proudly claimed to be a free speech advocate and the need to be able to put up with discomforting opinions, announced that he is quitting Twitter, denouncing it as a sewer, which is probably just as well.
As they say, if you can’t stand the tweets, you should get out of the Twitter.