Barri Weiss resigned from the NY Times last week, citing, among other issues, continual bullying and abuse by her colleagues, some of which was antisemitic, and management’s failure to address it:
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.
Those familiar with Weiss would know that, in addition to being a pro-Israel Jew who’s outspoken about antisemitism on both the left and right, her “wrongthink” included her belief that the ‘paper of record’ should embrace intellectual diversity, that editors should feel free to commission stories that go against ‘the narrative’, and that cancel culture is real and has a chilling effect on free speech.
The Guardian weighed in the row and, unsurprisingly, was not only unmoved that Weiss was bullied mercilessly by her own colleagues, but decided to smear her as well. The piece, written by Guardian columnist Moira Donegan, is titled “Yes, social media can be asinine – but ‘cancelled’ pundits like Bari Weiss aren’t the victims”, July 15th, and the mischaracterisations of Weiss begin in the opening paragraph:
If you’re familiar with the navel-gazing internecine squabbles of the US national media, you probably know that Bari Weiss, the millennial conservative writer who for years attracted controversy and online consternation for her opinion columns, recently quit the New York Times, saying that the newspaper was insufficiently supportive of her because of her political views.
Falsely describing Weiss – a pro-choice, anti-Trump bi-sexual feminist who describes herself as a left-leaning centrist – as a conservative is not just a simple mistake: it’s a way of signaling from the outset to Guardian readers that she shouldn’t be trusted.
Now, here comes the most egregious deception by the Guardian columnist:
After announcing her resignation, Weiss published a letter to the paper’s publisher, AG Sulzberger, citing her reasons for departing the paper. “My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views,” Weiss wrote. “My work and my character are openly demeaned in company-wide Slack channels.”
Assuming she read the short resignation letter, Donegan’s failure to inform readers that the bullying Weiss was subjected to included antisemitism represents an intentional decision not include information which would allow the former NYT editor to appear sympathetic. At various points in the article, Donegan refers to Weiss as a “professional rightwing attention seeker“, a “glorified shock jock“, and someone who “deliberately provokes outrage” designed “to appeal to people uncomfortable with social forces that challenge the established hierarchy of power”. This echoes a view expressed by Donegan in 2019, when she employed the vapid woke trope that Weiss’s views “privilege the powerful”.
Yet, even a cursory review of Weiss’s op-eds shows that this portrait of Weiss is absurd.
Whatever Donegan’s take on Weiss’s politics, it’s clear that her views are sober, thoughtful and well-informed – the opposite of the ‘provocateur’ the Guardian columnist is trying to paint. We challenge Donegan to cite even one of Weiss’s NY Times columns – or public appearances – that conform to this crude caricature.
Whatever Donegan’s take on Weiss’s resignation, we would have hoped that following a Labour antisemitism crisis which included countless instances of antisemitic – and often misogynistic-laden – bullying on social media, that editors would have learned something: that when Jews complain of antisemitic bullying, their accusations should be taken seriously and that they, at the very least, shouldn’t be belittled and smeared.