New York Times columnist Bret Stephens responded to a heckler calling him a “bedbug” on Twitter by penning a column dubiously claiming Jews were called “bedbugs” during the Holocaust.
Last week, Dave Karpf, an associate professor at George Washington University, tweeted a joke that he initially said received nine likes and zero retweets. Karpf had replied to a tweet reporting that “there are bedbugs in the NYT newsroom” by writing, “the bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”
Stephens responded by writing an email to Karpf, that cc’ed his boss, inviting Karpf to come to his home, meet his wife and children, and “call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face.”
"I'm often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people — people they've never met — on Twitter. I think you've set a new standard,” Stephens wrote of Karpf’s incredibly-mild-by-Twitter-standards diss.
Stephens quit Twitter over spat:
After coming under fire for sending the email to Karpf’s boss over a trivial tweet, Stephens announced that he was quitting Twitter.
“Time to do what I long ago promised to do. Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens wrote. “I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt. Thanks to all of my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”
Stephens links ‘bedbug’ tweet to Nazis:
Just days after deleting the account and apologizing, Stephens wrote a Times column directly linking Karpf’s comment to the Nazis and the Holocaust.
"The political mind-set that turned human beings into categories, classes and races also turned them into rodents, insects and garbage. 'Anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing,' Heinrich Himmler would claim in 1943. 'Getting rid of lice is not a matter of ideology. It is a matter of cleanliness.' Watching Warsaw's Jewish ghetto burn that year, a Polish anti-Semite was overheard saying: 'The bedbugs are on fire. The Germans are doing a great job,'" Stephens wrote.
Except the link he used to cite the quote directed to a Google Books search he did for “Jews as bedbugs.”
Worse, the one source he cited noted that the quote was literally about bedbugs, not Jews, during a bedbug infestation in Warsaw.
“If you’re going to use a google books link, it’s generally a good idea to remember to clear the search,” wrote the Twitter user that first busted Stephens. “And maybe be a little wary if your only hit is an repurposed dissertation no one has bothered to review and that only equivocally supports your hypothesis.”