Bari Weiss, one of the most interesting writers working in daily journalism today, has just resigned her position as staff writer and opinion editor at the New York Times.
This is major. Weiss has penned an amazing resignation letter that reveals just how impossible it has become for anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep with the woke left to survive at the New York Times.
Weiss’ resignation follows the departure of former top opinion editor James Bennett, whose sin was allowing an opinion piece by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican from Arkansas, to run in the Times.
Weiss is hardy a conservative, but she is iconoclastic and, as her letter makes clear, there is no room for somebody who thinks independently at the Times.
Weiss cited bullying by her peers and the role of the twitter mob in editorial decisions at the Times as reasons for her departure. It is a devastating letter. It is addressed to “A.G.,” the newspaper’s publisher Arthur G. Sulzberger.
It begins by acknowledging the paper’s flummoxing at the 2016 presidential election:
But 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.
Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. 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. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.
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 ax 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.
Weiss addresses Sulzberger personally:
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.
Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.
What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.
Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it.
This is more than a letter from somebody who is leaving a top newspaper job. It is an important document: it puts it in black and white that the New Times is no longer the paper of yore.
This is a milestone in the history of the newspaper that Gay Talese once profiled as an epic institution. That New York Times is gone.
Weiss’ letter includes a not too subtle hint that the paper has yet to hear everything she has to say:
There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.
A historical document—hot off the presses. You should read Weiss’ entire letter.