New York Times columnist Bret Stephens tried to justify bringing a Twitter joke to the attention of one of his critics’ boss.
The conservative columnist sent an email to George Washington University professor David Karpf, who jokingly called Stephens a “bedbug” in response to a story that the pests had infested the Times newsroom, and he also copied the man’s provost.
“I think Twitter brings out the worst in its users,” Stephens told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing. “It tends to bring out the worst in its users.”
“That’s certainly the case with me at the New York Times,” he added. “My editors are always aware of what I’m saying, and I’ve sometimes been called to account, rightly so. He then posted my email on Twitter so people are free to go and look at what I had to say. All I would say is that using dehumanizing rhetoric like bedbugs or, you know, analogizing people to insects, is always wrong. We can do better. We should be the people on social media that we are in real life.”
Jansing pushed back a bit, asking Stephens if that insulting joke was the worst thing he’s ever been subjected to on social media.
“There’s a bad history of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past,” he said. “I’ve been called worse. I wrote this guy a personal note. It’s out there for everyone to see.”