This is sort of an inside baseball story but I found it interesting. Nellie Bowles is a former NY Times reporter who recently quit that job and is now apparently writing a weekly newsletter for Bari Weiss’ Substack site. She wrote her own introduction to Weiss’ audience at the top of her first newsletter today:
Hello and welcome to the Common Sense weekly news roundup. I’m Nellie Bowles. Until a couple weeks ago, I was a reporter at the New York Times. Funky local paper.
During my four years at the Times, I wrote a lot about people and Silicon Valley culture; I won an award for a series on child predators using video games to reach children; and I covered the impact of last summer’s protests on small businesses. You can read those stories here, here and here.
I started at the Times as a very happy, lauded bulldog liberal of a writer (readers may remember and hate my 2018 profile of a well-known professor, the last point of contention in my marriage).
Okay, that stopped me in my tracks because suddenly I remembered Nellie Bowles. She’s the author of a truly awful profile of Jordan Peterson for the NY Times. Every progressive on social media loved it and thought it was brilliant, but it genuinely was not brilliant. It made zero effort to understand or explain anything Peterson was saying and instead treated him as an ignorant buffoon, someone too dim-witted to realize how clueless he was. To say I didn’t care for it would be putting it mildly.
When I wrote about it at the time, I compared it to someone who hates rock music writing a review of a rock concert. In retrospect maybe it wasn’t all Bowles fault. There’s really only one reason editors would assign an Opera fan to cover the latest Ozzy tour and that’s to produce a predictable, gorillas-in-the-mist hit piece.
Anyway, I kept reading because now I was wondering why that Nellie Bowles was writing for Bari Weiss:
In the years since, my curiosity started getting me in trouble with my coworkers. As America’s power center shifted leftward, as the country was being reshaped by a charismatic new ideology, I was supposed to cheer it on or otherwise carefully ignore it.
When I didn’t, I became suspect. My colleagues started leaking stories to other publications to embarrass me. I would get a call from a magazine reporter: “Your colleagues are mad you went to CHAZ. Any comment?” Efforts by well-meaning bosses to intervene only made it more frenzied. At first it was crazy-making, like a breakup or a betrayal, a feeling so many in my position have written about beautifully already in this newsletter.
So I quit. Quietly. Unlike some people around here.
I don’t remember her piece on CHAZ. I do remember the subsequent one on far left protests in Portland. I wrote about that one and while it was an improvement it still left me scratching my head a bit. Bowles reported that anarchists were handing out pamphlets including one titled “I Want To Kill Cops Until I’m Dead” which is exactly as vile as it sounds. Here’s a sample: “Police Officers must be killed, the families of Police Officers must be killed, the children of Police Officers must be killed, the friends and supporters of Police Officers must be killed.” And yet, this gets mentioned only in passing as if people in masks advocating the murder of police officers is worth mentioning but only just barely.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to find Bowles now writing for Weiss. And I noticed quite a few of her commenters were surprised as well. Several had not very nice things to say about her Jordan Peterson hit piece and a few asked if she’d like to revisit that at some point. If Bowles responded I didn’t see it.
But of course as I’m thinking about all of this it occurs to me that the very worst thing you can do to someone who has had a genuine change of heart is tell them they aren’t welcome because you don’t like something they said 3 1/2 years ago. In fact, that’s exactly what the left does to everyone.
Wokeism has been described (by John McWhorter and others) as a religion without forgiveness. The mob finds the 3 worst things you’ve ever said (in their view) and holds those against you for good. They don’t allow for people to change their minds or make mistakes and they definitely don’t offer any kind of forgiveness. They are the heretic hunters and everyone they disagree with are the heretics, only fit for kindling in a never-ending public bonfire.
Those people suck. They are bad humans. They are zealots. They are fractal parts of a mob whose whole existence is built around punishing others for sins whose definitions and contours change on a weekly basis.
All that to say, I’m inclined to give Bowles a chance just because I know if the roles were reversed…well, let’s not kid ourselves, the roles would never be reversed because the woke wouldn’t allow it.
And, hey, if you’d asked me 3 1/2 years ago if I’d ever make a habit of reading Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan or Matt Yglesias, much less quoting them approvingly on the regular, I would have laughed. And yet, here we are. In an increasingly insane world, things change unexpectedly. People change for the worse and the better. Unlike the woke, we’re the people willing to have a conversation, negotiate a truce, come to an agreement, find a reasonable middle ground and all that stuff that the far left abhors.
Bottom line, if Nellie Bowles was having doubts about leftist extremism, that means there are a lot of other people out there who, right this moment, are thinking ‘I don’t know how much longer I can hang with these extremists.’ And when they’ve finally had enough, we can be here to welcome them back to common sense.
Update: Okay, so I knew vaguely that Bari Weiss was married but honestly did not realize she was married to Nellie Bowles. Now this move makes a lot more sense. Anyway, Weiss’ Substack has been pretty great so far so I’m a fan.
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