Bedbugs and Bret Stephens — Why This Scandal Matters

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New York Times conservative columnist and free speech advocate Bret Stephens had a colossal meltdown when a relatively unknown university professor called him a “metaphorical bedbug” on Twitter.

The tweet, as Professor Dave Karpf relates below, got nine likes and no retweets (and wasn’t even tweeted at Stephens).

The tweet was a sarcastic commentary on the fact that, earlier, an assistant editor at the Times, had tweeted there were bedbugs in the Times’s newsroom.

In response, Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote a letter to the professor – and his provost at the university – objecting to the professor’s language and inviting him to his house to meet his wife and kids and afterwards call him a bedbug to his face.

In the face of mounting ridicule about overreaction, Stephens then deactivated his Twitter account.

Stephens further made an appearance on MSNBC where he (ridiculously) claimed he wasn’t trying to get the professor “in any professional trouble” by tattling on him to his boss.

The most generous thing one could say about Stephen’s response is that it was baffling and childish. Everyone knows the Twitter-sphere can be brutal; in the larger scheme of things, being called a “metaphorical bedbug” on Twitter is pretty mild.

However, Stephen’s response was the utmost of hypocrisy, as he is a known as a huge advocate for free speech.

Before he left The Wall Street Journal for The New York Times in 2017, Stephens wrote, “[t]he right to offend is the most precious right. Without it, free speech is meaningless.”

Stephens wrote many columns advocating for the right to speek freely. “Free speech – at least that is truly free –is always a scandal to someone or the other,” he tweeted in January 2015.

But why does Stephens’ meltdown matter?

Free Speech is arguably the most precious commodity we have today in the fight against Islamist radicals, from Congresswomen Ilhan Omar to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

When Omar began her now-famous vitriolic anti-Semitic statements, there was outrage. That outrage quickly turned to shock when our Orwellian world – now the face of the Democratic party — made it forbidden to criticize her.

We learned that her victimhood status as a Muslim trumped the oldest bigotry on earth – anti-Semitism. How dare anyone criticize Ilhan Omar! Islamophobia, they cried!

Chelsea Clinton and Nancy Pelosi both learned that the hard way.

In March 2019, Chelsea, arriving at a vigil at New York University for the victims of the New Zealand mosque massacre (while visibly pregnant), was aggressively confronted, backed against a wall and summarily accused of being the cause behind the massacre.

Her crime? Speaking out against the anti-Semitism that had been recently being spewed by the newly-elected Omar.

“Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there,” Chelsea was told by the self-appointed vigilantes of social justice. Clinton’s accusers were subsequently provided a mainstream media platform to justify and explain their attack on her by the trendy and popular internet site BuzzFeed.

There, they wrote that Clinton was part of “a bigoted, anti-Muslim mob coming after Rep. Ilhan Omar for speaking the truth about the massive influence of the Israel lobby in this country.”

For her part, House speaker Nancy Pelosi went from initial outrage and plans to pass a House resolution censuring Omar for her anti-Semitism to a mere whimper. After being taken down by the “mob,” Pelosi settled on chiding Omar ever so lightly with a watered down resolution deploring all kinds of bigotry.

Stephens is a popular conservative writer that still has a substantial voice in the mainstream media. Until this incident, he understood the important of free speech – and the consequences of having that taken away.

That he caved in over a harmless insult is a detriment to all of us who challenge the party line of the liberal press that has served, most recently, to shut down any dissenting voices.

Most pointedly, those voices are anyone who challenges the Leftist media’s intersectional alliance with radical Islamists – from CAIR to Linda Sarsour and their ilk.



Calling Out Anti-Semitism: the New Islamophobic Crime

Ilhan Omar Rages Anti-Semitism; Pelosi Whimpers ‘Apologize’

Islamist Thugs Abuse Muslim Reformist Women Calling Out Ilhan Omar


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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