David Karpf, the associate professor at George Washington University who incurred the wrath of New York Times columnist Bret Stephens after calling Stephens a bedbug, seems to have gotten the last laugh.
If you were blissfully unaware of this saga so far, here it is: The Times apparently has bedbug infestation. Karpf tweeted:“The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
Then, Stephens emailed Karpf and his university provost asking him to come meet his wife and children and then insult him. Stephens went on to delete his Twitter account, after which he appeared on MSNBC to whine. Finally, the provost, Forrest Maltzman, invited Stephens to speak at GW.
In an essay for Esquire, Karpf captured the absurdity of the situation.
As luck would have it, I have little to fear from Bret Stephens. I am a tenured academic, with the support of my university of administration and my disciplinary peers. I am also, like Stephens, a white guy. If either of us was a woman or person of color, we would endure far worse insults online every day. My life will go on and so will his. He will have a new nickname that he doesn’t care for; I will have some new Twitter followers who will soon learn that I am less funny than they had hoped.
Stephens sure seems to get a lot out of writing emails to his critics. He is awfully sensitive for someone whose entire career consists of being a giant meany. You can see his cruelty in his coverage of Palestinian rights. At the Wall Street Journal in 2015, he referred to Palestinians’ “blood lust” in an article called “Palestine: The Psychotic Stage.” In March, at the Times, he wrote a piece with the title of “Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter*” Yes, with an asterisk. (He also devotes much of his platform to casting doubt on climate change.)
Karpf appears to understand that Stephens is nothing but an overgrown bully. He wrote in Esquire:
Stephens reached out to me in the mistaken belief that I would feel ashamed. He reached out believing my university would chastise me for provoking the ire of a writer at The New York Times. That’s an abuse of his social station. It cost me nothing, but it is an abuse of his power that would carry a real penalty for a younger or less privileged academic. The Times should expect more of its writers. Stephens should expect more of himself.
“There’s a bad history of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past,” Stephens said on MSNBC Tuesday.
But in a 2013 piece at the Journal, he referred to Palestinians as one collective “mosquito:”
Israel is dynamic, threatened, divided, innovative, evolving. Egypt careens between revolution and restoration. Lebanon is on the brink, Iran is on the march, Syria is in its agony. America is beating a retreat.
Only the Palestinians remain trapped in ideological amber. How long can the world be expected to keep staring at this four-million-year-old mosquito?
Read Karpf’s piece in Esquire here.