Bari Weiss: there are signs of sanity returning
The writer tells Freddie Sayers why she is optimistic about the future
Fighting — or even participating in — a culture war is a dangerous business. It is especially so when that war is being fought behind enemy lines. So when Bari Weiss was hired by The New York Times as an opinion editor after Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, it was a risky move.
A self-described classical liberal, Weiss was hired to bring more conservative and centrist voices to the paper, but she quickly found herself at odds with its hyper-progressive staff. Tensions reached a breaking point when NYT writers complained about Senator Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for the troops to be sent in during the BLM protests — something Weiss had helped to commission and edit.
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Weiss subsequently left the paper to launch her own Substack, but her experience at one of liberal America’s most hallowed institutions exposed her to the inner workings of the paper and its gilded readership. In a conversation with Freddie Sayers, Weiss suggests that the chasm between the “haves and have-nots” in America has only got worse, as highlighted by this week’s MET Gala event:
On why she’s optimistic about the future:
On “comical” Covid restrictions:
On her experience at the New York Times:
On ‘extreme’ politicians:
Why liberalism is good:
Watching the spectacle of the standard bearer of Left politics, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, showing up at an event that costs $35,000 a seat and wearing a white tight dress that says ‘tax the rich’ on the back, while all of the staffers there are having to wear masks. There’s no way that you can watch that spectacle and not think this is insane. These are the same people who are trying to tell parents that their two, three, four and five year old children that they need to spend all day at preschool masked. And yet here they are, at this ridiculous opulent spectacle and, and flaunting the very rules that they want for the rest of us.
A truly modern-day Marie Antoinette moment. I really can’t tell if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is brilliantly riling her political opponents or just blissfully unaware.
People like Cortez just take themselves as the standard of good. There’s no self-examination. The attitude would be “it must be right because it’s me doing it”.
AOC takes herself very seriously…. Thinking about that, do ‘Progressives’ have a sense of humour?
They definitely do not. Try making fun of them and it’s like poking a hornet’s nest.
Paralleled only by that defender of the poor and marginalised, Meghan Markle, appearing on the cover of Time wearing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.
Great interview. I think Bari Weiss is one of the most acute commentators on modern culture out there. I recommend her Triggernometry interview if you haven’t seen it.
I laughed when Freddie said at the end of the interview that Bari almost sounded like she was staking out a position for a future political career. That’s exactly what I thought.
Despite some rays of optimism this interview was quite sobering. She was clear she didn’t think what we call the ‘culture wars’ would end any time soon, and that the term ‘culture wars’ really didn’t capture the scope of the division and upheaval within western society.
Like her, I’m also encouraged by the rise of alternative media outlets that present the ideas being censored by the MSM and Big Tech. It’s now relatively easy (from a historical perspective) to create a podcast or even an online magazine. Here in the US there’s also a long tradition of independent schools so I could imagine a parallel school system not dominated by woke gradually emerging for those who could afford to send their kids. Universities are a different matter, imo. How are we going to recreate the university system from the ground up? That’s a most daunting task.
The current school system, right from pre school really, is at the vanguard of a re-engineering of our social and moral landscape. I worry about it’s impact on our boys in particular.
Fred Ferudi has a very good essay over on Spiked: 100 years of the culture war.
Universities are the same. The view from the inside is even worse!
About the “tear it down crowd”: They might be motivated by this incomplete but compelling idea that institutions are built by the elites to serve the interests of the elites. (That’s the opposite, of course, of Abraham Lincoln’s formulation of “government by the people, of the people, for the people.”)
But, I’d say “incomplete,” because “tearing it all down” includes dispensing with “equality before the law”. “Equality before the law”/the rule of law is dismissed as “white supremacy”. Absurd, of course, because what is that alternative to equality before the law? The alternative is the traditional, tribalistic way of doing things. The alternative is in-equality before the law. The alternative is arbitrary rule. That is a bad business.
So, the “tear it down crowd” are not interested in institutional integrity. They’re interested merely in power for the sake of power. Those people are totalitarian freaks.
This interview raises a curious contradiction – a polarising of political forces away from the middle ground yet an increase in the strength of feeling on individual issues that do not follow the traditional political divide. Food for thought. Not sure about new institutions, it suggests a new conformity and takes a long time. I would prefer a greater acceptance of what each person is, that there is a large overlap in what individuals want. That we should help, not hinder people, in getting what they want, avoiding envy, victimhood and blame because they are destructive and achieve nothing.
I don’t like Bari Weiss much–there is something about her that just reeks of smugness. But I find myself aligned with her in her in the battle against wokeness, but this is only because she was cancelled by the mob. But she wasn’t really cancelled, as she has a platform, indeed many platforms. Bari and I could debate things in the classical liberal sense; on some things we might agree, on others not so much. I know people like her well; I went to school with them. They were social justice warriors up to the point that Israel was criticised; only then did they push back. When I was in law school there were innumerable protests against South Africa, the apartheid state. People like Bari were often leading these protests, up to the point where “POCs” (people of color), whom I call “COWs” (citizens of Wakanda) said that Israel was also an apartheid state. Additionally, she is one of those pseudo-journalists who loves being the story, not reporting the story; it’s all about her–look at me, see how great I am.
But today the level of debate is not to use logic to persuade, the object of “debate” is to destroy your enemies. The woke do not want to prevail in a logical debate, they want to destroy the non-woke and want their enemies dead. Literally.
I do not share Bari’s optimism. Where does this optimism come from? Despite Bari’s seeming anti-wokeness, she is, quite clearly, part of the liberal, coastal elite, and I hate the elite. I see no cause for optimism and I see a coming Civil War in the United States. Really. The level of hatred is off the charts, many are heavily armed, and it will only take a single spark to ignite the Civil War. Lock and load!
The USA today is in roughly the same situation that the USSR was in after their defeat in Afghanistan (Allah and the Stinger missile, supplied by the USA), and shortly thereafter, the USSR imploded, leaving only the Russian Federation. Think I’m kidding? I may be early, but I’m not wrong. Watch this space when the shooting starts.
PS–I actually like Bari’s podcast HONESTLY, more because of her guests and in spite of her. Her smugness is the dominant feature, but her guests are quite interesting and have something important to say.
Antisemites always bring up Bari’s Jewishness.
“Flaunting” the rules. Cheezus, Bari.
She obviously can’t spell flout….
You might spot a “slither” of sracasm in this comment…
I resonate with this idea of the difficulty of building things and ease of tearing down (sometimes devastation). Also the idea of how it is when the “masks come off” and the two may not be unrelated. It is that idea of the hidden hand or forces which exist in every sense behind the masks and the crucible in which something new can be built and the price to pay for doing so. I also recognise the discussed loss of an anchoring centre of common sense or liberalism in society which appears to have deserted us and, I believe, has led to the insane anti-Brexit and COVID reactions.
If optimism is genuinely in the air, then this interview would be snappier, shorter even. Is it just wishful thinking to believe optimism, or sanity, is in the air? Some things were bound to calm down or improve such as the rhetoric in the media vis-à-vis the President of the United States: because Biden is in office now. Handily for him, the pandemic is under better control. But people are exhausted after 2020. The problems or demands have not really gone away, however. Just as the late 80s pop music scene paled in comparison to the prolific-in-melody early-to-mid Eighties because of musicians needing a break, so the next year or two will be calm as the angry now take their break. The signs of that are in the enthusiasm, more even among the Left, to still talk about or name-drop Trump. The need for a bogeyman even now must signal the need to keep warring sentiments simmering. Nobody after 1975 talked about Nixon much. Just occasionally. The internet does not help of course. But let’s get back to creating good popular music. Forget the ridiculously tiny screens. They bring only misery. Crikey! If I had been a refugee from Iran in 1979, the sounds out of TV and radio would have been mighty pleasant and enjoyable. Don’t current refugees from bad places deserve a little happiness and cheer again from the natives, as it were? Where politics are politics and culture is culture? The stuck-up West truly knows how to shoot itself in the foot!
I’ll just add that I actually found this interview quite exhausting to listen to. Maybe it’s just me and little do I understand well young people’s elongated phrasing. (I needed tea and biscuits quick). You see, if talk of optimism is genuine, then snappier, clear-cut phrasing should be flowing. But it does not.
I get the impression from this pleasant-enough interview that young people are groping in the dark. They need their Berlin Wall “89 knockdown moment, God love ‘em. America escaping Kabul with its tail between its legs was not good, though. Not a good sign about the credo of the current administration. But then again, maybe young Americans were optimistic a month or two after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Well, for no good reason other than the music being good back then. We live in hope so. Let’s get sane and happy first.
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