It is with a heavy heart that I announce the New York Times is at it again. Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser are now friends.
In itself, this is unremarkable and unimportant news: two coastal media elites decide to pal around, film at eleven. But what it says about the press, and our weird sickness, is worth discussing.
Why don’t you two introduce yourselves first, as the Vegas preacher said to the drunk newlyweds. Weiss is a drywall-dull reactionary and writer of stupefyingly bad takes. She’s spent most of her career whinging about those Terrible Professors and those Terrible Youths on College Campuses. Skeptical of #metoo. Defender of Kavanaugh. She thinks the Intellectual Dark Web is worth taking seriously, which is the funniest thing about her. Weiss is also infamous for claiming Olympic gymnast Mirai Nagasu was an immigrant—and then, when she was called on it, backtracking in the lamest way.
Peyser is a not-quite-Left Twitter pundit who writes for Vice. Most of that time is spent writing Respectful Profiles of Problematic People. Her features typically include unintentionally hilarious lines like ”[David] Frum is a fundamentally serious man.” She published a list of people she wanted to smoke weed with. About half were war criminals.
That’s the prologue. On Monday, Weiss and Peyser published a two-person editorial in the Times. It blew up Twitter. The story was titled “Can You Like the Person You Love to Hate?” and contained the sentence “This is the story of how we went from being enemies to friends.” It’s the story of a star-crossed cocktail party.
BARI WEISS: ... [Jaron Lanier’s book] also made me think about how I saw other Twitter users, like Vice’s Eve Peyser. She was clever and often funny — and I disagreed with her about just about everything. ... But I wondered: If we had met at a dinner party rather than on Twitter, would we have liked each other? Was social media, as Mr. Lanier’s book suggested, creating a sense of intense conflict where there might be intense conversation? Did we actually dislike each other, or was Twitter just making us think we did?
… When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars …
EVE PEYSER: In the woke world of New York digital media, the worst person in the world is Donald Trump, but you, Bari Weiss, are a close second. You’re the perfect target for media leftists because you look like you’d be one of us, but in fact, you have contrarian views on subjects like Israel and #MeToo.
Hating you was the natural position for me to adopt. After all, I’m a social democrat who eagerly voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries and has contemplated purchasing a “Free Palestine” T-shirt.
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
EVE PEYSER: But I always had this nagging feeling that the Bari Weiss cyber outrage was overblown. Then, we became friends, and every tender thought I’d had about you was confirmed.
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
BARI WEISS: I was scared of you. Or rather, you were like the caricature of the person I know hates me on the internet: Gawker Media alum, probable Democratic Socialists of America member, many tattoos. That’s like my personal axis of evil. Then we ended up at the same conference, and you asked if I wanted to hang out.
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
BARI WEISS: I thought there was a solid chance you were going to try to James O’Keefe me, which is why I suggested swimming — quite hard to wear a wire in a bathing suit — but it ended up being really fun. We talked almost nothing about politics, but about relationships and love and how we grew up.
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Did you read that? I mean, she almost bought a T-shirt! Tattoos! Gawker! Media leftists! Wires! By what miracle was this impossible bridge built?
I’ve got news for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate: you better get ready to toss back your prize. For God’s sake, don’t you understand how unlikely this development is? A member of the New York media got drinks with another member of New York media. And they became pals! You don’t say! Will this age of wonders and miracles never cease? Will computers learn love, will NASCAR go vegan, and will Jeb Bush return to power? All dreams are now possible!
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Let the sun shine in
Open up your heart and let it shine on in
There’s a lot to unpack in this hottest of hot takes. But honest to Zeus, it’s the second year of the Orange Presidency, and enough of this. Enough. I had a long, elaborate analysis of the Peyser-Weiss alliance planned out … but SNL just had its cast sing a Christmas Carol about Robert Mueller, and the age of subtlety is as dead as Dracula. And I just cannot.
Where do I begin? Let’s start with the most obvious premise. Your friends in your private life—say, the people you grew up with, or the people in your family, or your neighbors—are different from the professional friends you make in the adult world. Only Manhattan legacy media would really fantasize that eternal peace between two journalists was national news. As my friend Anna said, “I’m becoming more and more convinced that the NYT exists to hand out gold stars/medals to upper class people for acting like human beings.”
Second, and I can’t believe this has to be ranted explicitly: Media “progressives,” stop making professional friends with reactionaries. Your shallowness is showing. Peyser has the luxury of not being directly effected by Weiss’ terrible politics. This luxury is called privilege. And every sentence in the Peyser-Weiss piece reeks of it. Politics is not a game for young urban professionals to play. Politics is a struggle over power. In many cases, it literally decides who lives and who dies. Of course people who celebrate cruel lies can be charming in person. How do you think toxic relationships work? It’s telling that Weiss and Peyser did not discuss actual political topics during their first hangout.
This leads into the third point. For some reason, the center-left never gets the memo: You are being conned by your conservative media friends. Peyser does not realize she has been co-opted into a classic bad-faith Weiss column. Read the Peyser-Weiss editorial again, and see who gives ground and who doesn’t. Weiss complains about being called out in public for her toxic views. Peyser sympathizes, and then this:
BARI: I’ve been thinking about our little détente a bunch in the wake of the midterms. I am struck by how some on the left are talking about the people — especially white women — who voted Republican. Their message seems to be, “We need a re-education camp for white women who are clearly motivated solely or primarily by racism.” It’s about shaming people. And shame, at least in my experience, doesn’t make people change their minds. It just makes them dig in.
EVE: In these divisive times, the increasingly moralistic left has adopted this idea that those who don’t agree with you politically are the enemy. (And vice versa.) I think it’s a self-defeating way of looking at things. If we dismiss the almost 63 million people who voted for Trump as irredeemably evil, where does that leave us as a society? You voted for Clinton, and yet, when we became friends, I worried I’d get “canceled” if Twitter found out.
Those terrible progressives! What about our precious civility?
Peyser tried a Quinn Norton gambit, and she got played.
Media conservatives will never give ground. They will demand center-left pundits give concessions. And they have read their targets well. The center-left will always punch left to give ground to the right, no matter how extreme the right’s ideas. That’s the whole reason the right has a media presence: to platform their godawful positions. The point of having a Tom Friedman is to praise autocrats and mainstream racist notions like “We Need a High Wall With a Big Gate.” The reason for having a Bret Stephens is to ordinary-ize the crackpot concept of climate denial. The sole purpose of Bari Weiss is to play long cons for the benefit of right-wing power.
The Peyser-Weiss connection is infuriating for a deeper reason. Most politicians and pundits want to avoid the issues. Discussing structural injustice would be troublesome. So they find topics to focus on. Their latest obsession is “tribalism.” Senator Ben Sasse just wrote a flimsy-ass book on this very subject. Tribalism is their go-to explanation for our perpetual political freefall. If only we could get beyond our tribal conflicts! Stories like Peyser-Weiss are supposed to serve as Aesop’s parables for the masses. But tribalism is not the problem.
There’s small elite, bankrolled by really rich people. The elite push austerity onto the public. The public supports progressive goals, and hates the elite. That’s the story. Those aren’t two “tribes,” any more than Al Capone and his victims were two tribes.
It’s pretty simple. There’s a ruling class. They like each other. They don’t like you. That’s the history behind every Bush and Michelle Obama picture. Or Weiss and Peyser. Privilege looks into a mirror, and calls the sight beautiful.