But here’s what still bothers me as this strange episode recedes from the news cycle: Bret Stephens seems to think that his social status should render him immune from criticism from people like me. I think that the rewards of his social status come with an understanding that lesser-known people will say mean things about him online.
Stephens reached out to me in the mistaken belief that I would feel ashamed. He reached out believing my university would chastise me for provoking the ire of a writer at The New York Times. That’s an abuse of his social station. It cost me nothing, but it is an abuse of his power that would carry a real penalty for a younger or less privileged academic. The Times should expect more of its writers. Stephens should expect more of himself.
No one has freer speech than a public intellectual with a regular column in the paper of record. Stephens is free to say whatever he wants. With that freedom comes the discomfort that people will disagree with you. If Stephens is going to have this social power, he is going to have to learn to wield it more responsibly.