Hiring Bret Stephens is not the diversity the NYTimes needs

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Recently, the New York Times chose to hire the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens in order to pop the much-maligned “liberal bubble” and expand the viewpoints platformed by the Times. But adding a “well-educated,” cisgender, conservative, white man who hates Muslims and black folks, denies climate change and the epidemic of campus rape, and dismissed the humanity of Palestinians to the editorial team actually worsens the Times’ dire diversity problem.

The editorial page of the Times is easily its worst section. Though the Times claims to be a solution to the overhyped problem of “fake news,” New York Times editorials are largely lazy opinion pieces entirely devoid of facts or reality-based analysis. For example, the Times frequently gives a platform to anti-transgender bigots. Media Matters for America documented this specific phenomenon in 2015, but it has only gotten worse since anti-trans legislation sparked a national discussion of transness. The problem has gotten worse since the publication of that 2015 article, with the Times publishing a dangerous piece by cisgender woman Judith Shulevitz, who framed the debate on trans folks using the correct gendered facilities as a “clash of values — gender inclusiveness versus bodily privacy.” She continued to invalidate the humanity of trans folks, as the Times seemingly welcomes cis folks to do. While they have allowed a few trans writers onto the op-ed page, the Times has made it clear that it prefers to amplify the voices of cis writers who believe that transness is a discussion topic rather than a marginalized identity that they are further marginalizing.

Of course, the Times’ embracement of bigotry is not limited to anti-transness. The Times welcomes attacks on all marginalized identities, and it goes beyond just the editorial pages. Anti-blackness can be found in profile pieces, such as Alessandra Stanley’s “Wrought in Their Creator’s Image: Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine” and David Brooks’ coverage of Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests of racism.

The problem is fundamentally rooted in the misguided “unbiased” approach to journalism. A lack of bias apparently means a refusal to call out bigotry as such. This leads to ridiculous coverage where, for example, the white nationalism of Steve King is described as something “perceived by many,” turning dangerous racist statements into a matter of perception.

And yes, there are good columnists of marginalized identities, such as Charles Blow, but the Times is still overwhelmingly white, cisgender, straight, and male. Of course, it’s not limited to this one publication – the American Society of Newspaper Editors found last year that minority journalists make up just 17% of newsrooms and 13% of supervisors.

The big diversity issue in the news is not that there is a “liberal bubble,” but that there is a white, cisgender, straight, male bubble. There is no bubble for marginalized folks in America. No matter what, no matter where we are, we have ignorance and bigotry. While “liberal” institutions endlessly praise themselves for being accepting and welcoming to all, their trivialization of marginalized identity by opening themselves up to “opinions” from “both sides” makes even supposedly progressive spaces unsafe for marginalized folks. Sorry, but we don’t need to give a platform to “both sides” when one side believes that transgender identities are invalid and Black Lives Matter is a hate group.

So given the true bubble plaguing the media, it actually makes a whole lot of sense why the New York Times views a perceived lack of conservatism as a bigger problem than the lack of trans writers to fight against the abundance of transphobia elevated by the media. Therefore, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that a conservative, cisgender, white man was the Times’ answer to the non-existent “liberal bubble” problem.

Stephens represents one of the Times’ strongest efforts to demean women and minorities. His ignorance and bigotry have been covered in detail by writers such as The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani, Climate Progress’ Joe Romm, Slate’s Osita Nwanevu, FAIR’s Adam Johnson, and Fusion’s Hamilton Nolan, but I’ll give three examples that exemplify the problem. (Trust me, it was hard to choose.)

On the campus rape epidemic: “The campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.”

On racism: “Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy.”

On Black Lives Matter: “The Black Lives Matter movement, ignited by the small fable of Michael Brown’s innocence, has metastasized into the big lie of America, land of the irredeemably racist.”

Unfortunately, the likelihood of the New York Times and other supposedly left-leaning publications realizing their true problem is unlikely. They are stuck in their bubble, and Donald Trump’s presidency has only made them further recede. With the media embracing the false narrative that Trump’s Electoral College victory can be primarily credited to the “white working class,” a narrative that has been debunked time and time again, there is little reason to believe that the media will hold itself accountable for its lack of diversity and fight the actual epidemic of biased and ignorant news written by white, cisgender, heterosexual journalists.

It comes down to this: Bret Stephens is not the solution to the problem. Bret Stephens is the problem.

Jordan Valerie is the Head Writer and Editor-in-Chief at Millennial Politics.

She is also an activist, cinephile, and proud queer woman of color. Her friends call her a Mad Max: Fury Road obsessive, but she prefers the term enthusiast. She’s cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity.

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