By Staff Writer Eric Sousa
Last week, an innocuous tweet was sent out by a college professor calling Bret Stephens a bedbug. The exact tweet was, “The bedbugs (at NYT) are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.” This tweet was seen by less than a dozen people…. One of which was the aforementioned Stephens, a columnist for the NY Times. How would a renowned columnist, infamous for mocking safe spaces, find such a hidden, unremarkable tweet? Easy; he googles his own name.
To be so insecure that you need to comb Twitter for self-references spells a medical diagnosis of thin-skin. However, his next decision moved his skin from thin to downright translucent; he emailed the offending party, professor David Karpf, complaining about it. The response letter, which was paragraphs longer than the two-sentence tweet, detailed an invitation for the professor to sit at his house, eat with his family and children, and then call him a bed bug to his face.
The cringe-level gets worse. Not only did he send that email, but he forwarded the email to Karpf’s boss as well. He claims this wasn’t to get the guy fired but… come on, there’s no other reason somebody would do that.
The fallout for this set of events was borderline nuclear for this poor lost lamb. After this happened, the professor released this about the tweet: “…It got 9 likes and 0 retweets. I did not @ him. He does not follow me… He just emailed me, cc’ing my university provost. He is deeply offended that I called him a metaphorical bedbug.”
If he didn’t enjoy being called an unwanted insect once, he most likely didn’t enjoy the public outcry against him that followed. Things far worse than bedbug were thrown at him, but one choice nugget is Trump’s mocking tweets towards him. If being called a bedbug by a professor hurt, being called one by the president must’ve seared his soul.
However, Bret Stephens showed exactly 0% of self-awareness in his response. He doubled down on his reaction, stating, “Analogizing people to insects is always wrong … Being analogized to insects goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.” This would be a good point, if he wasn’t previously criticized for referring to Palestinian people as mosquitoes. At this point, I wish I was kidding.
When it became too much for this milquetoast man, he released a statement detailing his online withdrawal. He lamented, “Twitter is a sewer, it brings out the worst in humanity… Thanks to all my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”
Let me get this straight. This conservative columnist cut his teeth on mocking safe spaces. Then, he becomes affronted by a no-traffic tweet with 9 likes, and brings it into the limelight on himself. He lit the match, threw it into the gasoline, and burned himself. Then… the man who made a career on ridiculing safe spaces felt the need to separate himself from a harsh community for his own sanity. There is no other way to view this; he needed a safe space.
I’m happy about this for two reasons. For one thing, this might be the sort of humbling an abrasive personality like his needs to feel empathy for his fellow human. He might emerge from this experience reborn, sympathetic and more understanding to a generation he casually undermined. Just kidding, he’s definitely not going to do that.
For the second reason, if you’re an English major and you still struggle with understanding irony, look no further than this hooligan. Nearly every aspect of this entire escapade is a perfect example of irony. That’s the best silver lining I could find about this entire sad affair.