Ethics Quote Of The Month: Time Op-Ed Writer Bret Stephens


“It’s a compromise that is fatal to liberalism. It reintroduces a concept of blasphemy into the liberal social order. It gives the prospectively insulted a de facto veto over what other people might say. It accustoms the public to an ever-narrower range of permissible speech and acceptable thought. And… it slowly but surely turns writers, editors and publishers into cowards.”

Bret Stephens, intermittently conservative New York Times columnist, in an op-ed condemning the acceptance of censorship and self-censorship as norms by the modern Left.

Stephens is certainly on a roll lately. His previous column (effectively and accurately) condemning the pet Times race propaganda “1619 Project” for what it is (that is to say, cultural and historical toxic waste) was not his last, as many predicted, and apparently emboldened by his survival, Stephens is determined to “let it all hang out,” as they used to say in the Sixties. Once again, he is attacking his own paper, which has doubled-down in its determination to publish only the news it feels safe to let its readers know about.

It is telling that Stephens’ column was published in tandem this week with another attempt by the Times to hide the utter corruption of the Biden family from the public, at least until the election is over. Above the Stephens piece—also telling—is the poisonous Michelle Goldberg’s screed suggesting that the discovery of Hunter Biden’s incriminating (to both him and his father) laptop is more GOP “collusion.” The Times’ truly despicable headline: “Is the Trump Campaign Colluding With Russia Again?” Note “Again”: the Mueller investigation found no evidence of “collusion” by any American citizen, much less the Trump campaign (to be fair, it didn’t investigate the Clinton campaign’s Russian dealings), and yet the Times allows that lie to lead its Editorial page. Polls show (I know, I know: polls) that over 70% of Democrats still think the President won the election by colluding with Russia, and mainstream media descriptions like this is a main reason. And it’s intentional.

While the Times is suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story to ensure Joe Biden’s victory, it also recently engaged in exactly the kind of self-censorship Stephens is addressing. Last week, a French history teacher who had shown caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammed in class was decapitated and his assailant shot dead by French police as they tried to arrest him, police and prosecutors said. The attacker shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ a police source said. The Muslim phrase, meaning ‘God is Great,’ has been routine in jihadist attacks. The Times reported the incident like this:

Times distortion

Nice. That’s fake news, of the deceit variety. This was religious terrorism, not just an attack by “a man.” Nor is a public decapitation accurately described as a “knife attack.”

It will be interesting to see who Stephens votes for, if he really believes what he wrote. One thing President Trump has stood against from the beginning, and indeed “walked the talk,” is mincing words, avoiding unpleasant truths and stifling unpopular opinions. Meanwhile, since his election, the AUC (that’s the Axis of Unethical Conduct—Democrats, the “Resistance” and the mainstream media) have increasingly taken chunks out of our freedom of speech, with intimidation being a primary tool. The survival of free speech in America is itself sufficient justification to vote against Democrats this year, not that there are not many, many others.

Stephens concludes,

We are killing democracy one weak verb, blurred analogy and deleted sentence at a time.

I should be more precise. When I say “we,” I don’t mean normal people who haven’t been trained in the art of never saying what they really think. I mean those of us who are supposed to be the gatekeepers of what was once a robust and confident liberal culture that believed in the value of clear expression and bold argument. This is a culture that has been losing its nerve for 30 years. As we go, so does the rest of democracy.


11 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Month: Time Op-Ed Writer Bret Stephens

  1. “It accustoms the public to an ever-narrower range of permissible speech and acceptable thought. ”

    Which is why I hate the argument that private organizations, like employers, are required to honor freedom of speech. I understand it, yes. I know employers cannot allow employees to cause financial harm to the business through their words or actions, yes. But this practice of hunting down an offender’s place of employment in order to pressure the business into firing the employee is another example of acclimating people to accept the suppression of expression.

    “It will be interesting to see who Stephens votes for, if he really believes what he wrote.”

    If it’s even reported. The latest propaganda tactic by the news media is to publish articles on how Mitt Romney or the Navy Seal on the bin Laden raid voted in order to further help Biden campaign against President Trump.

    • But this practice of hunting down an offender’s place of employment in order to pressure the business into firing the employee is another example of acclimating people to accept the suppression of expression.

      What is truly droll is that this is the kind of intolerance we used to see from the right, particularly during the 1950’s and 1960’s when fear of communism was rampant, and those who failed to embrace “God and country” were censured from polite society, drummed out of their towns, and any dissent from what was nominally considered “good” was cause for dismissal from work.

      The Old Left fought this cultural authoritarianism and eventually won. Now they are embracing that very thinking as their own.

      Funny old world, isn’t it?

  2. Coco Chanel is not normally thought of as a great thinker, but this quote (attributed to her by Goodreads) seems apropos:

    “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

    The NY Times and their enablers on the Left seek to levy a price for this courage. Those who speak their mind after thoughtful consideration, or speak the facts as they currently exist that fly in the face of popular thought or desire, are now enthusiastically pursued and attacked by the New Jacobins.

    Stephens should enjoy this freedom to be brave — limited as it likely is — while he still possesses it, because he won’t possess it much longer, at least in the forum that he currently enjoys. The New Jacobins will brook no dissent, however mild and intellectually profound. Controlling discourse is their raison d’être, and they believe, their direct link to power.

    We are being denied the freedom to think for ourselves aloud. The attempted cancellation of Chris Pratt, even though it has been resisted by nominal New Jacobin friends of his, is the current shining example of the poisoning and near-brain death of our culture. He is being censured not for what he has said, but for what he has not said. This is the next step in the New Jacobin’s plan for America — speak the right things, loudly and proudly, or lose your life in every way that counts, perhaps even corporeal life if the New Jacobins ever hold sway.

    I remember a time when the left used to defend the right to speak one’s well-considered beliefs, even when they profoundly disagreed. Alas, those days seem suddenly lost to the mists of time, and the aphorism “agree to disagree” a quaint souvenir of more tolerant age.

    The “tolerance” of the Old Left has not just been discarded by the New Jacobins, but turned on its head to mean “You will accept our beliefs, and embrace them, or else.” Since our cultural betters are apparently determined to remove or re-define every word in the English language that offends the New Jacobins, this should be unsurprising.

    Bret Stephens is, perhaps, finally realizing what his own words have helped bring about — the end of the liberal republic and the foundation of a new, authoritarian society that has already substantially existed many times before in places like France, Russia, China, North Korea, Nicaragua, Italy, and many others.

    I wonder if the decrepit old saw, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” has been banned from the modern lexicon yet? If not, its time must be short.

    Parting shot: the Democrats are considering the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee/Commission to determine how to deal with Trump supporters should Biden win the election. Can the Committee on Public Safety be far behind?

    • Probably not. This isn’t new, either, as the 2008 election approached articles popped up now and then in the news and opinion about outlawing the GOP or how all Republicans should just head to the nearest police station to turn themselves in afterward because of all the damage they had done. The idea died off as the new Democratic majority busily set to work crafting new spending projects and getting ready to push Obamacare through while they had the votes, which they only had for two years. I’m not sure it will die off this time out. The last four years are history, and it’s pretty obvious the Democrats are now sharpening their knives, getting ready to actually move against the other side not just politically, but using all the apparatus of government. They also expect the other side to just go quietly, like they wanted last time, but for real.

      Dear Sir, this is an executive order. You have been identified as a Trump supporter. You are hereby ordered to report on January 24, 2021 to your local police station. You will then be taken to the nearest Federal facility for processing. I would suggest you bring your toothbrush and wear an inexpensive pair of sneakers. You should expect to spend about four days in custody before you will be taken before a magistrate who will set bail. Be advised that there will be no ten percent arrangements and no bonds will be accepted. You will have to put up cash bail, or remain in custody. If you are granted bail and able to meet it, then you will be allowed to return home, where you must remain until the next stage of the proceedings. If you leave your home for any unapproved reason or make any unapproved communication until that time, which will be set at a date to be determined, you will be returned to custody.

      • Well, if that happens, I might as well go out like I came in – bruised all over from the forceps from being born breach.

        Who wants to live forever, anyway? 🙂

  3. “I remember a time when the left used to defend the right to speak one’s well-considered beliefs, even when they profoundly disagreed.”

    Reminiscent of Über Lefty Bill Maher, defending, of all people, Über-Righty Ann Coulter to S.E. Cupp:

    Berkeley, you know, used to be the cradle of free speech […] And now it’s just the cradle for f—king babies.”

    • I think Bill Maher is missing something or just playing loose with the truth. Berkeley was the cradle of annoying loudmouth radical leftists in the ‘sixties. Now it’s the home of Robert Reich and Erwin Chermeninski. Nothing’s really changed. It’s always been “free speech for me but not for thee, conservative motherfuckers.”

      • Actually, the Free Speech Movement, (FSM to pointy-headed WESconsinites) began during the 1964-65 academic year in Berkeley.

        My older brother did his post-doctoral work @Cal-Berkeley, and much to the chagrin of yours truly, the 77 Square Miles Surrounded by A Sea Of Reality (Madison) enjoys the ignominy of being referred to as the Berkeley Of The Midwest.

        Four more degrees to get you to Kevin Bacon; use them wisely…

        • The Berkeley of the Midwest? Hah! Give me a break. I guess those snobs at Michigan took “the Harvard of the Midwest” first, huh? Shouldn’t Madison have been called “the Columbia of the Midwest?” All those kids from New York partying there in the ‘sixties?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.