NY Times author apologizes for tweeting something critical of Sarah Jeong

New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens has a piece today titled “The Outrage Over Sarah Jeong.” Stephens’ take is a mixed bag. He refuses to dance around the tweets themselves, which he labels “racist” but he also says the bad tweets aren’t the sum of who Jeong is and that she deserves a chance to prove it:

We should call many of these tweets for what they are: racist. I’ve seen some acrobatic efforts to explain why Jeong’s tweets should be treated as “quasi-satirical,” hyperbolical and a function of “social context.” But the criteria for racism is either objective or it’s meaningless: If liberals get to decide for themselves who is or isn’t a racist according to their political lights, conservatives will be within their rights to ignore them…

Is it ultimately her fault for writing those ugly tweets? Yes. Does it represent the core truth of who she is? I doubt it. Anyone who has been the victim of the social-media furies knows just how distorting and dishonest those furies can be. I’m routinely described on social media as an Arab-hating, climate-denying, pedophile apologist. It’s enough for me that my family, friends and employer know I’m none of those things.

His piece concludes, “So welcome, Sarah, to The Times. I look forward to reading you with interest irrespective of agreement.”

One of Jeong’s new colleagues linked the piece and expressed some uncertainty about the paper’s new hire. Writer Elizabeth Williamson tweeted: “Here’s @BretStephensNYT offering a classy welcome to a colleague who has yet to prove she deserves one.” The tweet was instantly jumped on by HuffPost writer Ashley Feinberg who has been a prominent defender of Jeong:

If you’re not familiar with Feinberg, this is par for the course. There are no good faith critics of Jeong who deserve a hearing apparently, only racist trolls who should be ignored. In any case, Elizabeth Williamson deleted the tweet and published this one instead a short time later:

The Wrap reports that it’s unclear whether Williamson deleted the tweet on her own, prompted by the online backlash, or was urged to delete it by her employer:

A rep for the New York Times did not immediately respond to request for comment on the matter. As a features writer, it is unclear whether Williamson, who was hired in March, is bound by the Times’ strict social media guidelines which forbid journalists from expressing opinions on the issues they cover.

“In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation,” read one of the guidelines made public by the Times. “Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.”

I guess it’s possible Williamson’s tweet could be seen as harming the Times’ reputation, but I suspect the online mob was enough to make her decide to delete it. In any case, I guess we’re lucky no one is demanding Williamson be fired…yet.

The more interesting point, as I’ve suggested before, is how unexceptional most of Jeong’s opinions are against the background of today’s left. Heather MacDonald made this point yesterday at National Review:

Her tweets are not imitative of anything other than the ideology that now rules the higher-education establishment, including UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School, both of which Jeong attended. And that ideology is taking over non-academic institutions, whether in journalism, publishing, the tech sector, or the rest of corporate America. Sarah Jeong’s tweets and blog posts are just a marker of the world we already live in.

The key features of Jeong’s worldview are an obsession with whiteness and its alleged sins; a commitment to the claim that we live in a rape culture; and a sneering contempt for objectivity and truth-seeking. These are central tenets of academic victimology.

If you want to know why so few people on the left have a problem with Jeong’s tweets, it’s because they basically agree with her. These days, it’s Elizabeth Williamson who is the odd woman out for offering a hint of doubt.