Of all the horrible things I’ve seen about the Bret Stephens debacle, a real-time implosion of ego and stupidity combined with an almost pathological need to step on one’s own dick in public, by far the worst to me is this:
“I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face,” he continued. “That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part. I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say.”
I mean, Bret is terrible for throwing this tantrum in the first place, let’s not forget that. The abuse of power, the staggering overreaction to a mild metaphoric insect joke, the Streisand effect, the subtweeting in the pages of the Times, it’s all sad. Particularly coming on the heels of the Jacob Weisman nonsense, which was exactly the same goddamn thing.
Lest we think this is unusual, a blogpal of mine once got an angry phone call, then an e-mail, from a columnist at the paper that hosted her blog. Her crime? She had dared disagree with him about architecture, and he felt the need to slap his great big Pulitzer on her desk and yell various iterations of DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM. This particular species of man is on every goddamn masthead. He thinks because he was smart once he can never be wrong ever, and his fear of losing an argument, any argument, is pathetic and sad and he gets paid six figures for it.
But for some reason what itches me about Stephens’ ongoing self-owning is the “my wife and kids” routine. Like, leave them out of this, pal. I doubt they crawled into your rattrap psyche and begged you to task them with defending you. Did you really need to throw them in front of Dr. Karpf like some kind of fucked up human shield? TELL IT TO MY WIFE AND KIDS WHY DON’T YOU? What a load.
(I don’t know about you, but the very last thing I would do is invite someone I believed had malicious intent toward me to come meet with my offspring in person. But then, my spouse and child are real people, and not extensions of the public persona I perform each week on Meet the Press.)
It’s a very White Christian Male of a Certain Class move, to invoke the sanctity of one’s homelife in order to prove you’re not a choad. Men since the days of Homer have been hauling out their virtuous helpmeets and pure-of-heart scions to escape criticism, as if the presence of sproglets precludes assdickery.
As if some of history’s greatest motherfuckers weren’t parents who cared about their children.
You would think Stephens, a professional opinion-haver, would be able to have his own opinions without pulling his family into this. Like either come at the guy on your own, or just ignore it like a grownup (or a chick on the internet) but don’t throw them in front of the bedbug-ridden bus that was heading your way. They didn’t ask to be your enemies’ exterminators.