In case you haven’t heard, The New York Times recently hired ex-Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, a well-known climate change-denier and all-around right-wing crank. I’m not here to rebuke the ridiculous standards he proposed in his first column (“Climate of Complete Certainty,” The New York Times, 4/28/2017), in which Stephens basically says that nothing should be done about climate change until there’s 100% certainty within the scientific community of what exactly will happen—which he either knows is impossible and is being disingenuous about, or is really just that stupid about climate change. I think it’s the former.
But the more interesting story is how The New York Times is bungling its response to reader outrage (and apparently waves of cancellations) so horribly that it’s approaching a Sean Spicer-caliber event horizon. Jonathan Weisman, for example, thought it a good idea to spend time condescending to readers:
And here’s part of James Bennett’s statement regarding the matter:
I’m not going to cancel my subscription to The New York Times—it’s too valuable a journalistic resource to let go because of yet another dumbass on the editorial page. (I mean, really. Between Brooks, Douthat, and Dowd—and not forgetting that Bill “We’ll be greeted as liberators” Kristol used to write there, too—I found it hard to imagine the opinion pages getting any worse. At this point they might as well give David Icke a column.)
But what should be made clear is that people deciding to cancel their subscription over this aren’t doing so to avoid “spirited debate.” Like I said, they’ve put up with the likes of Brooks and Douthat and Dowd for years. They object, and I object, to the notion that climate change is a subject that the newspaper of record should attempt to refute its own reporting on in their editorial page by someone who has zero qualification to write about it.
There’s this idea that conservatives and centrists-at-all-costs keep passing around: that any idea is worth elevating to national conversation, regardless of how thoroughly debunked it has been. Stephens’s column, which has a tone far softer than when he used to regularly berate those who acknowledge climate change, isn’t explicitly denying climate change—but his concessions that it’s real and man-made are just window dressing for his agenda of denying the reliability of the science in order to advocate inaction.
I doubt The New York Times will have the foresight to let Stephens go anytime soon—that would make him a martyr on the right, it would give him a badge of honor, being fired from the liberal, elitist, DNC-mouthpiece propaganda arm that is NYT. It would also add to right-wingers’ belief that the left hates free speech, because apparently all ideas, no matter how stupid, are obligated by our strongest and most-reliable media outlets to be given a seat at the table of reasonable discussion. It’s the only way stupid conservative ideas are able to have the sway they do over so many in this country—they’re given the air of intellectualism without ever having to earn it.