New York magazine has a dispatch out today about a recent book party held by New York Times writer Bari Weiss. I suggest reading it on an empty stomach.
Full disclosure: I have not read the book Weiss wrote and was celebrating, How to Fight Anti-Semitism. Judging from everything Weiss has written on the topic; the reviews which suggest that the book contains her usual levels of racism and disingenuousness, and that it frames leftist opposition to Israel—including and especially from Jews—as a threat on par with the rise of neo-Nazism in America; and the noxious excerpts which have leaked out, I hesitate to say that I will love it if I ever pick it up. But you never know, I suppose.
What I do know is that the company Weiss appears to keep seems pretty heinous. Her reputation as one of America’s worst and most pernicious opinion writers is matched only by her other reputation as one of America’s bravest public intellectuals who is actually really sweet if you get to know her, so why are you being mean to her on Twitter? Unsurprisingly, it is the latter view that ruled the party, held in Manhattan’s Lambs Club. See if you can spot some patterns here, as reported by New York’s Boris Kachka (emphasis mine):
The depredations of the online left came up often at the party, with little or no prompting. MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle, who has frequently hosted Weiss on her morning show, deplored “cancel culture.” “On a regular basis,” she said, “people say to me, ‘I wouldn’t say that in public.’ As soon as people start to retreat and not share their views, it’s bad for society and culture.” To Ruhle, Weiss is “the perfect example of someone who gets unwarranted flak for her thoughtfulness.”
The neoconservative New York Post columnist John Podhoretz wandered around in an orange Lacoste shirt and sensible shoes. He finally quit Twitter in March, after several unsuccessful attempts, following a joke about bombing NYU. “Twitter is only good for people until they get around 75,000 followers,” he said. “And then the only thing you can do is fuck yourself … With the exception of people like Ta-Nehisi Coates that people are afraid to criticize, everybody looks like shit.”
Katie Roiphe, scourge of the “Shitty Media Men” list...told me she and Weiss had commiserated over their ostracism...
Frank Bruni, the liberal Times columnist, defended the need for intellectual diversity at the “paper of record.” Looking around the room — the beige banquettes and velvet curtains and atomic-chic chandeliers — he played with the idea that it might resemble reality more than the internet does. “This party isn’t Twitter,” he said, “and I think it’s easier for diverse people to find points of connection.”
Really, it’s all quite perfect. Wealthy white people with all sorts of incredible platforms—the party also featured such notables as Viacom chair Shari Redstone, former HBO chief Richard Plepler, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, Weiss’ former girlfriend, SNL star Kate McKinnon, and several more leading lights of the Times, including publisher A.G. Sulzberger—love nothing more than to ensconce themselves in elite spaces and talk to each other about how much they’re being persecuted. One of these wealthy white people, John Podhoretz—a man who gives even nepotism a bad name—even found the time to randomly bash a prominent black writer and pretend like Ta-Nehisi Coates never gets criticized.
It’s intellectual body dysmorphia on a mass scale, a group of people at the very top of the ladder looking in the mirror and seeing themselves at the bottom. And why? Well, people on Twitter sometimes tell them they’re wrong. The fact that they are doing this all in service of a person who has frequently attempted to destroy people she doesn’t agree with makes it all the sweeter.
The Frank Bruni quote is the best one, though. Bruni looks around the room of an upscale Manhattan restaurant which is filled with some of the most privileged, ideologically aligned people in the universe—and which, judging from the story, is just about entirely white—and calls it diversity. He even calls it reality. It would be offensive if it wasn’t so stupid.
That this is the world Bari Weiss has chosen to move in should tell you everything you need to know. That it is the kind of world the New York Times is choosing to celebrate should also tell you everything you need to know.