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Conservative Writer Bari Weiss Has “Self-Expelled” From the New York Times. Good.

The New York Times building

Bari Weiss, a conservative writer and editor for the New York Times’ opinion section, announced today that she was resigning—sorry, “self-expelling”–from the paper.

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Weiss, who has spent years presenting herself as un-cancellable, has left the Times over what she says is a culture of “discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge.” She says she’s “no legal expert” yet also calls her treatment “unlawful.” In her open letter announcing her resignation, she references both a “new McCarthyism” and her ostensible bravery for daring to engage in what she says is perceived as “Wrongthink”—aka offensive, oppressive opinions expressed on perhaps the world’s most respected platform.

To be fair, I have no idea what the internal culture of the Times is like. I don’t know what Weiss went through. I also don’t care.

Weiss has built her career alternating between decrying cancel culture and fighting for it when it benefits her and when she’s felt slighted. She’s frequently written about how persecuted conservative voices (or, as she identifies, the “intellectual dark web”) are and has railed against “safe spaces,” while also, for example, reporting a Black colleague to management for politely refusing to get coffee with her.

That sort of behavior isn’t uncommon among the conservatives at the Times. Bret Stephens, who was hired around the same time as Weiss, is famous for complaining to editors and even emailing the paper’s masthead, demanding to see consequences when his colleagues call out his awful, often bigoted takes online.

People like Weiss and Stephens are representative of a pervasive tactic among conservative media figures: to bash “cancel culture” as the greatest threat to modern discourse while simultaneously demanding everyone who criticizes them be canceled.

Weiss has called the culture at the Times a “civil war,” which, honestly, seems pretty spot-on since one side of the American Civil War was fighting to maintain the right to systemic oppression and in her resignation letter she specifically defends Senator Tom Cotton’s recent op-ed that led to the resignation of opinion editor James Bennett, in which Cotton called for violence against primarily BIPOC police protesters. (In criticizing Bennett’s resignation, Weiss conveniently forgets to mention that he admitted to not having read the essay before publishing it, which is quite an indictment of his job performance.)

In her letter, Weiss paints a picture of a newsroom that is terrified of expressing a controversial or “challenging” point of view. “But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times,” she writes. “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.”

I wholeheartedly agree that the Times can be maddeningly toothless in their reporting, especially having spent four years writing every variation on the “trying to understand white Trump voters” op-ed. But Weiss’ underlying subtext seems to be that the proof the Times is scared of “challenging” opinions is the pushback against her opinions. A writer who pushes Islamaphobic views at a paper with few Muslim columnists or anti-trans ones in a world where transgender rights are constantly questioned and attacked (why yes, Weiss did sign onto that terrible Harper’s Magazine letter!) is not brave and they are not persecuted if their readership tells them those views aren’t what they’re looking for.

“Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor,” Weiss writes, in the ultimate dismissal of the primary source of direct feedback from both her readers and colleagues.

(image: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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