July 7, 2022

A conservative “safe space” columnist just quit Twitter and had a meltdown because someone called him a “bedbug”

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For years now, conservatives have seized upon the “safe space” narrative in order to prove that millennials and “the left” in general are whimpering adult babies unable to cope with the pressures of the “real world.” Their evidence for this is the imaginary epidemic of young liberals, especially college students, attempting to “censor” right-wing speech because it “offends” them and they simply cannot tolerate the existence of ideas they don’t agree with.


One of the most prominent promoters of this contrived narrative has been conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who infamously gave a 2017 commencement address at Hampden-Sydney College in which he urged all of  the students to “leave their safe spaces behind.”

However, it is now Bret Stephens who is in search of a safe space, demonstrating that behind all of his condescension and arrogance is nothing but an insecure and thin-skinned little man incapable of stomaching the softest of teasing.

Yesterday, an associate professor at George Washington University tweeted a lazy joke about how Bret Stephens was a “bedbug.” It originally got 9 likes and 0 retweets, but somehow it came to the attention of Stephens, who apparently has little better to do than name-search himself on Twitter.

In the space of twelve hours, Bret Stephens emailed the professor and his employer telling him to “come to his house, meet his wife, and call him a bedbug to his face,” deactivated his Twitter account in a rage after everyone predictably began making fun of him for getting so mad, and went on MSNBC to complain about how it was “totalitarian” to call someone a bedbug.

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With this complete and utter public meltdown over a schoolyard joke that barely got any attention, Bret Stephens has not only ensured that he will forever be mocked as a “bedbug” but also exposed just how performative and hollow the right-wing’s whole “free speech” charade really is.

Few people have such a lofty pedestal from which to bang the drums of “free speech,” and Bret Stephens has been steadfast in his insistence that any pushback to conservative rhetoric, no matter how discriminatory, dehumanizing, or dishonest it is, is an attack on “free speech.”

So it’s a tad hypocritical for a guy who once slammed the booing of an American Enterprise Insitute weenie as “leftist fascism” to try to get a random Twitter user fired for calling him a bedbug.

It cuts to the heart of the entire issue, which is that right-wingers want to be able to promote hateful, dehumanizing, and dishonest narratives in support of a white supremacist agenda while delegitimizing all the appropriate and well-deserved criticism as an attack on their “free speech.”

Bret Stephens is a perfect example of this phenomenon. When he’s not complaining about how the left is intolerant and constantly trying to repress right-wing speech, he’s spouting appalling racism and Islamophobia, climate change denial, anti-feminist tut-tutting about how #MeToo has gone too far…you name it.

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In one of his more particularly repulsive columns, he complained about candidates speaking Spanish at the Democratic debate and used it as an excuse to promote white supremacist narratives about how Democrats are more concerned with caring for Hispanic immigrants than they are for the rest of America. He’s referred to Palestinians as “psychotic,” defended Tucker Carlson for saying Iraqis were “semi-literate primitive monkeys,” and smeared Arabs for having a “diseased mind.”

This is the kind of rhetoric that the right-wing has been pushing for years, and it has demonstrably produced violence against Muslim and Hispanic Americans.

While conservatives like Stephens would have you believe that this is a “war of ideas,” the right-wing “free speech” obsession exists solely to provide cover for the promotion of an extremist, racist ideological agenda that unequivocally encourages violence and institutional discrimination against vulnerable minorities.

The right-wing does not offer up “ideas” in so much as they push a package of clumsy dog whistles designed to inflame humanity’s most barbaric instincts. “Opposing ideas” are what is being debated in the Democratic primary over the best way to transition into a single-payer healthcare system. “Arabs have a diseased mind” is not an “idea,” it’s just racist.

Stephens, Ben Shapiro, and the rest of the right-wing grievance industry are disgusting hypocrites whose opinions don’t deserve to be taken seriously in any fashion except when assessing the threat that they pose to our national security.

Colin Taylor

Managing Editor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of the Washington Press. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice, equality, and universal health care in America.

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