In defence of Bari Weiss

More people need to take a stand against the Great Awokening.

Sean Collins
US correspondent

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A journalist deciding to leave a publication is usually not news. But Bari Weiss’s resignation from the New York Times has caused a huge stir – her incendiary letter of resignation went viral on social media, and has provoked lots of commentary. Weiss’s departing letter provides further confirmation that the Times has made news reporting subservient to the promotion of a narrow ideological agenda, and sheds light on the intolerance of the Great Awokening movement that is so rampant in our cultural institutions today.

In her letter, Weiss, a prominent millennial editor and writer for the Times’ opinion section, said she was resigning to protest against management’s unwillingness to defend her from personal attacks from colleagues, as well as the newspaper’s stifling imposition of progressive orthodoxy. According to Weiss, senior editors at the Times bow to the woke mobs, which can be found inside and outside the publication. ‘Twitter is not on the masthead of the New York Times’, writes Weiss in a caustic put-down. ‘But Twitter has become its ultimate editor.’

The Times expected Hillary Clinton to win easily in 2016, and the shock of her defeat led it to a moment of self-awareness: maybe it missed the rise of Trump because it was too insular. Weiss was hired by opinion editor James Bennet in 2017 as part of the Times’ attempt to broaden the range of views within the paper. She proceeded to write lively pieces that challenged conventional wisdom on the left – criticising the Women’s March, questioning the excesses of #MeToo, and debunking notions like cultural appropriation and intersectionality. Progressives denounced her as a retrograde right-winger, but in reality her views are more aptly characterised as heterodox: liberal on certain issues (immigration, social issues, anti-Trump), and more conservative on others (Israel).

Weiss describes herself as a ‘left-leaning centrist’, but what matters more than a label is her approach, which evinces curiosity, scepticism and openness to change. A profile of her in Vanity Fair commented: ‘After listening to someone else’s point of view, she’s been known to do something amazing – change her mind. Given the current climate, in which everyone seems to be retreating to angry and angrier corners, those who meet her find this expansiveness refreshing.’ While her openness is applauded by many, progressives find her even more infuriating than a straightforward conservative.

The Times’ self-reflection after Trump’s victory was shortlived, and the newspaper shifted to a relentless pursuit of conspiracy theories about Trump and Russia. At the same time, its move to widen the range of voices went by the wayside. As Weiss wrote in her letter: ‘The lessons that ought to have followed the election – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society – have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.’

To find evidence that the Times, the historic paper of record for the US, has lost its way, look no further than its much-trumpeted 1619 Project. This initiative – which claims slavery should replace the American Revolution as the nation’s foundational event – shows that the Times has given up on its traditional role as a news reporting organisation. In its place, the Times revealed that its new mission is to rewrite history and push that message into thousands of schools across the country. In a leaked transcript from an August 2019 staff meeting, Times executive editor Dean Baquet said that the newspaper was going to pivot from Trump-Russia to promote 1619 and race – and sure enough, that’s what has driven its content over the past year.

The recent forced resignation of Bennet, the man who hired her, may have been the last straw for Weiss. Times staffers were up in arms over the publishing of an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton, which argued for deploying the military into US cities if necessary to quell riots (a view supported by most Americans at the time). Management originally backed Bennet, but then caved in. Weiss has described the uproar over the Cotton piece as a ‘civil war’ inside the Times between ‘the (mostly young) wokes’ and ‘(mostly 40+) liberals’. The wokes proceeded to attack Weiss for airing their dirty laundry in public.

The vitriol hurled at Weiss, present from the beginning of her stint at the Times, seemed to get even worse after Bennet’s removal. Weiss describes the environment as hostile to her personally:

‘My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again”. Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post axe emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.’

When Weiss joined the Times, she was writing about the intolerance of the campus left; three years later she was living it inside the country’s largest-selling newspaper. Indeed, the stories from Weiss and others about what goes on inside the Times sound as juvenile and gossipy as the worst woke school. And its management have played the same role as the supine university administrators – the ones who capitulate to the woke mob. You can tell from Weiss’s resignation letter that she reserves more disdain for the cowardly management than she does for her craziest co-workers.

In her goodbye blast, Weiss also makes an important, but oft-neglected point – many people agree that wokeness is a problem but are afraid to speak out:

‘Even now, I am confident that most people at the Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. Why? Perhaps because they believe the ultimate goal is righteous. Perhaps because they believe that they will be granted protection if they nod along as the coin of our realm – language – is degraded in service to an ever-shifting laundry list of right causes. Perhaps because there are millions of unemployed people in this country and they feel lucky to have a job in a contracting industry.

‘Or perhaps it is because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back. Too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the “new McCarthyism” that has taken root at the paper of record.’

If we are to defeat these forces of division and intolerance, more people are going to have to follow Weiss and stick their necks out. Yes, there are risks, but it’s not like the consequences are as severe as they were in, say, Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union. Some may seek to work within their institutions, while others may prefer to leave to join others, or start new organisations – what is important is that we don’t let this slide by and become the new norm. There is strength in numbers, and if more say no, then it will be harder for the new elite to get its way.

One way or another, more people are going to have to be like Bari and speak up.

Sean Collins is a writer based in New York. Visit his blog, The American Situation.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Comments

Jim Lawrie

19th July 2020 at 10:21 pm

Being on the losing of the infighting in the NYT does not equate to being the victim of injustice.

I’m sure she’ll learn to code no problem.

John Pretty

18th July 2020 at 5:30 pm

Here’s Ms Weiss making a prat of herself on the Joe Rogan show in 2019. Lampooned by Jimmy Dore:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS-sxJFn6O0

“Can you check what toady means?”

Ven Oods

19th July 2020 at 10:18 am

That is a superb clip you’ve linked there.
While I feel that her being bullied out of her job is wrong, she seems merely to have been overtaken by the ‘more-woke’. It’s a bit like what happened to JK Rowling – the biter bit.
Her unfounded smears in that Jimmy Dore skit are frightening. ‘I kinda heard that this person said or believed something awful – I think. I can come back on here when I’ve had time to check.’
Pathetic!

jessica christon

18th July 2020 at 12:47 pm

Bari Weiss, JK, and countless others encouraged cancel culture right up until the moment it came for them. Of course wokeists should have free speech, but personally I have zero sympathy for their careers and legacies being trashed on the altar that THEY built.

The fact that Spiked cries every time this happens shows what an organ of controlled opposition it really is.

jessica christon

18th July 2020 at 12:49 pm

Perfectly reasonable comment with no offensive words in mod again for nothing. Under an article about free speech, no less! Hypocrites.

James Knight

19th July 2020 at 10:27 pm

Or it shows they are consistently against cancel culture. Seeing everything in black and white and then dismissing people is a key part of cancel culture.

Gordon O Gopher

19th July 2020 at 11:26 pm

One might argue that being against cancel culture is seing it in black and white. There’s currently no equal opportunities in freedom of speech. I’m with Jessica, I’m not going to lose any sleep if an opinion editor of the NY Times (46m Twitter followers) and an almost-billionaire kids book writer (14m Twitter followers) have a slightly smaller platform to air their opinions.

W 1V

20th July 2020 at 1:20 pm

Or this is exactly how the fight against cancel culture will be dragged back to the place of manufactured consent and conveniently shut up in the meantime those thousands of battered honest thinkers who got cancelled by viciously evil careerists like Bari Weiss. It raises questions as to who is funding Spiked and why they would publish this.

Delia Scales

18th July 2020 at 9:50 am

It was a great resignation letter. And standing up for free speech is the main issue of our times.

John Pretty

18th July 2020 at 5:44 pm

… I wonder if she wrote it herself (lol, see my other post here).

Dominic Straiton

18th July 2020 at 5:17 am

I thought he was dead. Instead hes lost a lot of weight, had a sex change and drastic skin whitener treatment. Can he sting sing, thats what I want to know.

Gordon O Gopher

18th July 2020 at 12:34 am

Jeez don’t defend ‘her’. Weiss is the ultimate in über woke progressivism; transgender, transracial and transgenerational, it was only a few years ago Bari Weiss was known as Barry White and sang a few songs ‘n stuff.

Brandy Cluster

18th July 2020 at 1:44 am

Bloody funny!

Jonathan Marshall

18th July 2020 at 2:24 pm

He’s also come back from the dead!

Gordon O Gopher

18th July 2020 at 7:18 pm

No. Still dead. But identifies as alive.

Brandy Cluster

17th July 2020 at 10:16 pm

I admired the resignation letter of Bari Weiss, but I feel this is a classic case of the Left eating itself (something Brendan denied in a debate in the USA about 3 years ago, ironically enough!).

Weiss interviewed Dr. Jordan Peterson 2 years ago and reverted to the feminist talking points trying to wedge Peterson; he was up for the argument though, at times, it did become coherent. I felt he was afraid of ball-busting feminists too (who wouldn’t be?). So, Weiss is a victim of the very culture which enabled her to become who she is.

As one wit commented recently below-the-line on “The Australian” (our only national newspaper), “you get the very strong feeling that these woke millennials and Gen Xers who are busy destroying society are one and the same who got what they wanted as children by using their voices”!!!

And Weiss is, for me, a useful idiot to prove a point, since I’ve been prosecuting the case elsewhere for about 3 years that the media has effectively cancelled itself because of activism and advocacy and has lost the respect of the people, leading alternatives just like “Spiked”, “The Rubin Report”, “Joe Rogan” and many others to flourish in the vacuum.

I have zero sympathy for a Lefty who is cancelled by their own zealous comrades because they were simply never smart enough to see ahead of the pack in the first place. All this has to make you wonder why they consider/ed themselves so smart to begin with. I expect it was just good old contempt for those they considered their inferiors – a dangerous tripwire, if ever there was one.

James Knight

17th July 2020 at 8:28 pm

Twitter is not on the masthead but twitter is the editor… That is some parting shot. Also on the money. The NYT is a huge name in traditional media that people assume has gravitas. But this insider is saying that instead of setting the standard for others the NYT is down with the worst in the social media swamp.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Brandy Cluster

17th July 2020 at 10:17 pm

It is only when the bottom line is compromised that things will change; not an hour before.

W 1V

17th July 2020 at 2:30 pm

What a daft piece. She’s a bloody neocon with a trail of destruction behind her, calling for the cancellation of many Palestinian activists.
Bari Weiss is a hypocrite and doesn’t need any defending. Sad to see Spiked publish this drivel where there are thousands of legitimate victims of cancel culture. This article is just the worst, up there with the tendentious smear piece on Brian Cox. A shame the great Andrew Doyle has made this place his home, so I have to visit here. Neocon apologists.

Brandy Cluster

17th July 2020 at 10:10 pm

Shouldn’t you be writing this on “The Guardian”?

jmNZ

17th July 2020 at 2:23 pm

She is hoist by her own petard.
She did exactly the same to people like Tom Henderson over Syria as she now complains is being done to her.

W 1V

17th July 2020 at 2:33 pm

Damn right.

Peter Anestos

17th July 2020 at 2:35 pm

Yes, she is no symbol of resistance to censorship. Even as an undergraduate at Columbia, she agitated for the removal of a pro-Palestinian professor. Unfortunate, because her points re. the NY Times’ capitulation to the woke narrative—especially the easily debunked 1619 thesis—Are well taken.

James Knight

17th July 2020 at 8:18 pm

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

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