First, one of the things Fox News and the New York Times have in common is that neither respects their audience. Fox is not up front about it – they tell their lies to the rubes without being obvious that the joke’s on any Fox viewer who believes their bullshit. The Times is far more transparent about the contempt in which they hold anyone foolish enough to subscribe. Stephens is a prime example – his consistent anti-intellectual war on supposed campus political correctness, and his overall “I am Bret Stephens of the New York Times, bow before me” attitude, makes him the kind of asshole that the Times thinks its readers deserve. There are plenty of (well, maybe a few) conservatives who would have more than one or two hobby horses and perhaps have less of a jerk attitude. The Times could have hired any one of these. Instead they chose someone who has, and will continue, to get into pissing matches and throw around their Times credentials for the lamest reasons possible. (I’ll leave the question of why a liberal newspaper needs to have conservative columnists in a world where nobody lacks for choice in finding opinions for another post.)
Second, someone at the U of Chicago or the LSE (the two schools he attended) must have given him an intellectual whupping that he can’t forget. Clearly, Brett has a thin skin that causes him to have many sads. I’m guessing more than a few of the moments that he keeps secreted away in his hand-embroidered, tear-stained sad holder occurred during his undergraduate or graduate career. I think most of us have seen a big-mouthed, full-of-himself, entitled male get his comeuppance when he trotted out an ill-constructed argument for a position that a teacher didn’t agree with. It would be easy to blame that teacher’s liberalism for their lack of acceptance, but in most cases it’s probably the fact that the student did a poor job defending their argument that’s more important than the political persuasion of the faculty member. Stephens probably got his hide chapped a few times in class, can’t forgive it, and has continued his noble crusade against what he perceives as political correctness to this day.
My most memorable example of an entitled male getting his comeuppance was at the U of Chicago, back in the 80’s during a campus debate over divestment from South Africa between the leader of the divestment movement, who struck me as a poseur of the first order, and President Hanna Grey. He came ill prepared, with facile little arguments that probably went over well in late night sessions around a bong but were pretty weak in the harsh sober light of day. She handed him his ass, in a cool, calm and collected manner. Of course, he was right, but he couldn’t make his case. Bret is wrong, and can’t make his case. In the realms of politics and philosophy (Bret’s college majors) it’s the job of a college faculty to teach students to make their case well. Bret probably didn’t get that job done at either of his alma maters, he’s sad, and now we have to watch him cry in public. It would be a tiny tragedy if he weren’t so well compensated.