April 18, 2017
Inclusivity in journalism is fine except when journalists hate facts and/or the planet
by Susan Rella
Last week, the New York Times hired a new conservative op-ed columnist, Bret Stephens. Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was most recently the deputy editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal (where he worked for sixteen years), and was that publication’s voice of protest against Donald Trump throughout the 2016 election. Often clashing with not only Trump himself, but with the likes of Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and other uber-conservative gasbags, Stephens seems at first blush to be a completely sensical addition to the Gray Lady’s roster.
…until you look at literally anything he’s ever written. Hamilton Nolan did just that, and shared some whoppers over at Fusion.
Like that time he said that, as far as he was concerned, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had “waterboarded himself,” 183 times (spoiler alert: torture works!).
And then that time he made reference to something called the “disease of the Arab mind” before using the term “anti-Semitism” in the next clause because he has no understanding whatsoever of cognitive dissonance or racism — and then later defended this language on the grounds that “the Arab mind” is “a figure of speech, not biology.”
And who can forget this gem: “the campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy.” This was part of a larger article titled “Liberalism’s Imaginary Enemies,” which helpfully informed us that both hunger and institutional racism are also imaginary enemies?
Or that time he diplomatically called the Black Lives Matter movement “the big lie of America, land of the irredeemably racist.”
And still somehow found time to extoll the virtues of white colonialism.
While complaining that President Obama’s Iran deal was “worse than appeasing Hitler.”
But perhaps the Times’ newest op-ed heavyweight is best known for his love of discussing climate change: specifically, of mocking the increasingly warm hellfire out of it. From patronizingly explaining to John Kerry that “skepticism is essential to good science,” to bizarrely opining on the unattractiveness of climate scientists, to disbelieving the reality of climate change while simultaneously offering a solution to climate change, Stephens routinely flirts with global-warming denial.
But to New York Times editorial page editor James Bennett, labeling Stephens a climate denier is “terribly unfair.” In response to backlash that has been building over Stephens’s hiring, Bennett told the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone and Nick Baumann that “there’s more than one kind of denial,” which is such a bizarre meta-denial that I no longer know what words mean.
It’s also a puzzling editorial stance when one remembers that, last year, Times executive editor Dean Baquet stated that climate change is the overall issue of our day, and the news section has repeatedly used the unambiguous label “denialist” when reporting on the environmental views of the new administration.
As for Stephens, he told Calderone and Baumann that he is a “climate agnostic” — appropriately religious rhetoric from someone who describes environmentalists as possessing “near-religious fervor” and global warming as “another system of doomsday prophecy.”
Susan Rella is the managing editor at Melville House, and a former bookseller.