Professor Who Tweeted Bedbug Joke Calls Out Bret Stephens: Email Was Clear ‘Exercise in Wielding Power’


David Karpf, the professor at the center of the strange Bret Stephens “bedbug” saga, penned a piece for Esquire criticizing Stephens on what he was conveying with his email.

Amid “there are bedbugs in the New York Times newsroom” Twitter Monday, Karpf joked, “The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”

Stephens subsequently emailed him (cc’ing the university provost) to call him out over the tweet. Karpf publicly called out Stephens and the rest is history.

But beyond the Streisand effect of the whole situation, Karpf writes what Stephens did was “an exercise in wielding power”:

[W]hat was most striking to me was that he had gone to the effort to CC the provost. Including the Provost clarifies the intent of the message. It means he was not reaching out in an earnest attempt to promote online civil discourse. It means he was trying to send a message that he stands above me in the status hierarchy, and that people like me are not supposed to write mean jokes about people like him online…

Bret Stephens seems to think that his social status should render him immune from criticism from people like me. I think that the rewards of his social status come with an understanding that lesser-known people will say mean things about him online.

He calls it a clear “abuse of his power” snd says the Times “should expect more of its writers.”

Stephens is no longer on Twitter, and on MSNBC today he invoked the ugly history of totalitarians dehumanizing people by referring to them as insects. Karpf says, “Equating a random Twitter account with a totalitarian regime is a remarkably long walk.”

You can read bis full Esquire piece here.

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Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac