Once you get past the schadenfreude, one could almost feel sorry for The New York Times. With the very public and searing announcement by op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss of the reasons for her resignation from the paper, the curtain has been pulled back from the Gray Lady, leaving the venerable institution embarrassed, suffering, accused and defensive.
Weiss was hired in 2017, in what was understood to be an effort to bring center-right millennial voices to the opinion section of the Times. During her tenure, Weiss gained notoriety, prominence and a solid following in the world of centrist politics and those seeking a better understanding of Jewish culture, anti-Semitism and a centrist approach to Israel. But the picture painted in her resignation letter was less the utopian dream of the free exchange of ideas, and more the horrifying nightmare of being bullied and vilified for her “Wrongthink.”
The words in Weiss’ resignation letter were carefully chosen, and remarkably penetrating. She said: “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.” And she described the consequences of her refusal to adopt leftist orthodoxy: “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.’”
There is, of course, much to unpack here, and more facts are likely to come out. But there is a particular recent event that catalyzed Weiss’ departure — the disturbing public unraveling of the Times’ cloak of bipartisan fairness, which began with the decision to publish an opinion piece by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in which he called for a military incursion into U.S. cities that were experiencing protests. In the aftermath of the piece’s publication, Opinion Editor James Bennet resigned, and another section editor was reassigned. Then the Times issued a statement explaining that the Cotton piece didn’t meet the paper’s editorial standards.
We all make mistakes. But this one was a doozy. As the nation’s paper of record — which the Times proudly claims to be — it is an outrage that the views of a respected member of the United States Senate would not be deemed worthy of publication. More to the point, if readers are only going to be fed one-sided opinions, how can they be expected to reach informed views? Which is why Weiss says she chose to resign.
Of course, Weiss has her own share of critics. Already there have been several articles about her work and reasons for her departure — not all complimentary. But those analyses don’t erase the profound and deeply troubling unfairness in the Times’ coverage that Weiss points out — ranging from the flagging of a travel story about Jaffa because it didn’t touch on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to absolutely no pause or questioning of a “fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati.”
We hope Weiss’ departure from The New York Times brings some level of introspection to the paper, and some effort to address the uncompromising liberal-left orthodoxy that currently seems to drive its work. JT