NY Times columnist quits, cites bullying over her centrist views

Opinions writer and editor Bari Weiss alleges a 'New McCarthyism' at the US's most prominent and influential newspaper.

    Headquarters of the New York Times in New York City. Columnist Bari Weiss resigned from the paper on Tuesday citing a 'hostile work environment' for her centrist views [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]
    Headquarters of the New York Times in New York City. Columnist Bari Weiss resigned from the paper on Tuesday citing a 'hostile work environment' for her centrist views [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

    A staff writer and editor for the most prominent newspaper in the United States, The New York Times, resigned on Tuesday alleging that she has been bullied by her colleagues and subjected to a hostile work environment because her views are not aligned with the prevailing progressive orthodoxy at the newspaper.

    In a scathing resignation letter to Times publisher AG Sulzberger, writer Bari Weiss said she joined the paper's opinions section with "gratitude and optimism" three years ago as part of an effort to bring in the voices of centrists and conservatives and others "who would not naturally think of The Times as their home".

    The reason for the effort, she said, was the paper's failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election and its lack of understanding about the country it purports to cover.

    "But the lessons that ought to have followed the election - lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society - have not been learned," she said.

    "Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else," she added.

    Weiss, a self-professed centrist politically, said she is the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with her views. She said she has been called a "Nazi and a racist" by co-workers, and frequently belittled on company-wide messaging platforms in full view of the paper's editors. She said co-workers insist that she needs to be "rooted out" if the newspaper is to be "inclusive".

    "I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper's entire staff and the public," she wrote to Sulzberger.

    "Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery."

    Weiss's departure follows the resignation last month of editorial page editor James Bennet, who recruited her to the newspaper. Bennet was forced out after publishing an opinion article by US Senator Tom Cotton advocating the use of military force against anti-racism protests that turned violent in some US cities. Black staffers at the newspaper said the Republican senator's article put them in physical danger.

    In her resignation latter, Weiss lamented that opinion articles that would have been published without controversy only two years ago can now get writers and editors fired. She said intellectual curiosity is now a liability for people who write for the newspaper as a "new McCarthyism" takes over.

    "If a person's ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinised," she said. "Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.

    "All this bodes ill, especially for independent-minded young writers and editors paying close attention to what they'll have to do to advance in their careers," Weiss wrote.

    "Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril," she added. "Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you'll be hung out to dry."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News