Bari Says Buh-Bye
A free-thinking New York Times writer has had enough abuse from colleagues.
Two years ago, when the editor-at-large of a left-leaning publication tweeted, “Why she still got her teeth?” we could sense that Bari Weiss and her thoughtful ways might not be long for The New York Times. Still, in the wake of her departure yesterday, it’s remarkable to consider how deeply hate-filled and intolerant this once proud, once decent, once world-leading newspaper has become.
Bari Weiss is what we once would’ve called a classical liberal. She believes in the free and open exchange of ideas, and she believes in the full array of our civil liberties. And yet this talented young writer-editor is out at the Times, having left with her dignity intact and a scathing letter of resignation on the very public lunchroom table.
“I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago,” she writes. “I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: 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.”
Weiss goes on to list some of the diverse voices she’d brought to the pages of the Times during her tenure. She then reflects on the ugly forces that are now calling the shots there. “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times,” she continues. “But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.”
Was Weiss simply naive about her employer’s interest in an array of opinions? Perhaps. Remember, this is the same thin-skinned and weak-kneed New York Times that recently solicited an op-ed from a U.S. senator, Arkansas’s Tom Cotton, advocating a position supported by fully 58% of the American people, then forced out its editorial page editor and reassigned its deputy editor when its own newsroom melted down about the paper having published such a piece.
Conservative writer David French knows plenty about the nasty, narrow-minded mob of which Weiss speaks. He’s been viciously attacked by the far Left and the far Right for everything from his defense of the Christian faith and his opposition to same-sex marriage to his disdain for Donald Trump and his adoption in 2010 of an Ethiopian girl. His piece on Weiss, whom he rightly describes as “kind,” is titled “When Cruelty Wins,” and it provides a fine history of her turbulent times at the Times. He writes, “Cruelty bullies employers into firing employees. Cruelty bullies employees into leaving even when they’re not fired. Cruelty raises the cost of speaking the truth as best you see it — until you find yourself choosing silence, mainly as a pain-avoidance mechanism.”
So the Times no longer supports editorial diversity, and its newsroom is now populated by a vicious bunch of intolerant Groupthinkers. And that’s likely the way it’ll stay until the Times’s readership and advertisers decide otherwise.
“The cancellations will continue,” warns French, “so long as good men and women continue to praise courage in private and maintain silence in public. America’s liberal institutions can survive many things. They will struggle to survive the combination of cowardice and cruelty. Malicious men and women cannot be permitted to define the terms of America’s public debates.”
And yet that’s just what’s happening at the NYT. As Weiss herself rebuked her bosses, “I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage. Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.”
No, it shouldn’t.