Pure hate: Sarah Jeong

Jeff Bezos

Thanks to the Internet, newspapers are in a bad way. Just the other day, without warning, the New York Daily News dumped a large percentage of its staff. The Washington Post survives thanks only to its purchase by the world’s richest man, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has poured cash into the Post in an effort to transform it into “media and technology company.”

Carlos Slim

Meanwhile the New York Times is kept afloat by another zillionaire, Carlos Slim, who topped the list of the world’s richest guys from 2010 to 2013. owned by one of the world’s richest men. Yet Slim’s cash hasn’t protected Times staffers from job insecurity. Over the last few years, the people who run the Times have instituted various economies, large and small. In 2014, about a hundred newsroom jobs were eliminated. Last year, the paper cut the number of copy editors roughly in half.

Sarah Jeong

All of which makes the Times’s hiring of one Sarah Jeong even more puzzling. In late July, the Times announced that Jeong, a young Korean-American writer for a website called The Verge,would be joining its editorial board. It didn’t take long for Jeong’s remarkable history of tweets to make news. Written between 2013 and 2015, they reveal a stunning hatred for white people, especially white men.


“White men are bullshit,” she writes. Whites are only “fit to live underground like groveling goblins.” And: “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.” After maintaining that everything white men do other than skiing and golf is cultural appropriation, Jeong concludes: “it must be so boring to be white.” In a couple of tweets, she seems to express approval of genocide: “#cancelwhitepeople.” “White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along.”

She hasn’t just targeted whites. Her Twitter record contains plenty of vile stuff about the police, too: “[C]ops are assholes.” “[F]uck the cops.” “If we’re talking big sweeping bans on shit that kills people, why don’t we ever ever ever ever talk about banning the police?”

It’s more than enough, of course, that these tweets are hateful. But in addition to that, they’re staggeringly vapid and vulgar. None of them have the remotest hint of wit or intellectual content. If somebody told you this person was headed for a job on the editorial board of the New York Times, would you ever believe it in a million years?

Andrew Sullivan

Jeong’s tweets sparked outrage. In some places, anyway. Conservative publications and websites called out the Times for hiring an obvious racist. So did Andrew Sullivan at New York Magazine. But the Times held firm. In an August 2 statement, it stood by its hire, accepting her “explanation” that her ugly tweets had been responses to “torrents of online hate” that she had experienced as “a woman of color on the internet.” Her tweets about whites, cops, etc., insisted Jeong, were a form of “counter-trolling” and “intended as satire.”

Sorry, but we don’t buy it. In what way is “fuck the cops” satire? Others didn’t buy it either. But an appalling number of commentators did. Not only did they defend Jeong – they celebrated her. More on Thursday.

In Hollywood, rage + PR = $$$

Tessa Thompson

On Tuesday we discusses the politically engaged actress Tessa Thompson and her definitive movie project, Dear White People (2014), a story about black students at an Ivy League college that Time Out hailed for its “rage.”

Needless to say, Dear White People was a story of oppression. The only real difference between 12 Years a Slave and Dear White People, you see, is that college takes only four years. 

Tessa, the thinker

The Chicago Tribune pretty much agreed with Time Outs praise for the movie’s rage, but put it more simply: “Dear White People isn’t perfect. And yet the flaws really don’t matter.” Of course not – not when you’re dealing with racial rage! Toss out the critics’ notepads, bring on the awards! Neatly skirting the question of aesthetic merit, A.O. Scott of the New York Times took a similar line, instructing his readers: “You want to see this movie, and you will want to talk about it afterward, even if the conversation feels a little awkward. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong.” (Scott didn’t promise – note well – that readers would actually enjoy the movie.) Not to be outdone by these other outlets, Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post gave a thumbs-up to the film’s celebration of dormitory segregation, an arrangement that, Hornaday maintained, provides “solidarity and protection.” 

Tessa in a $12,500 Gucci dress (“available at select Gucci stores nationwide and gucci.com”)

As noted, Tessa Thompson loved Dear White People. In 2016, she told The Cut that it was “an indictment of Hollywood,” where young black actresses often get cast as “the sassy black friend.” Never mind that the film was distributed by Lionsgate, a major Hollywood player. In any event, while Thompson felt she was rebelling against Hollywood, she wasn’t interested in rebelling against Hollywood-style PR: for the article in The Cut, she posed in a $3,200 Marc Jacobs sweater, a $2,208 Marc Jacobs skirt, an $11,500 Michael Kors dress, a $3,590 Ralph Lauren dress, and a $12,500 Gucci dress. Talk about overcoming!

Thompson has continued to fight the intrepid fight against The Man – not only in the name of blacks but in the name of women. In October 2017, she told the New York Daily News that she’d pitched “an all-female Marvel movie” to the head of Marvel Movies. In January, she celebrated the Time’s Up campaign against sexual abuse by posting on social media a picture of herself with such female stars as Laura Dern and Brie Larson.

Lena Dunham (dress price unavailable at press time)

And that’s where the trouble started. Also in the picture, as it happened, was Lena Dunham, who until recently was the very personification of young American women’s empowerment. But in these Reign of Terror-like times, when today’s feminist heroine can tomorrow be sent to the gallows, Dunham had become persona non grata in the Time’s Up crowd after she defended a writer of her TV series, Girls, from rape accusations. When Dunham, too, shared the picture on social media, it was Thompson who called her out, telling the world that while she and the other women in the photo had spent two months working on the Time’s Up campaign, Dunham had played no part in their activities. The plain implication was that Dunham was trying to take credit for other women’s feminist labors.  

Sweater, $3200; skirt, $2208

After receiving some backlash for her assault on the previously untouchable Dunham, Thompson apologized. Then, after a number of women spoke up on Thompson’s behalf, many of them complaining that the women’s movement still privileges white women, Thompson revisited her apology, saying that she hadn’t really meant to apologize for calling out Dunham but had intended rather “to re-center the conversation” around the fact that many women of color “don’t feel safe and seen.” 

The Dunham dustup made a lot of news, but it wasn’t even Tessa’s biggest event  in January. Also in that month, Variety featured this spectacular headline: “Jane Fonda, Gloria Allred, Tessa Thompson Slam Trump at Sundance Women’s Rally.”

Jane Fonda at the Sundance Women’s Rally

Forget her acting career: Thompson has made it into the Holy Trinity of Twenty-first Century Feminism, along with Hollywood’s favorite multiple Oscar-winning socialist billionaire (Fonda) and California’s leading anti-patriarchy shakedown artist (Allred). Eat her dust, Dunham! Tessa’s the new reigning princess of Hollywood feminism. Why, after all, should the face of feminism be white?

This, of course, is what happens when group identity takes center stage: as sure as night follows day, the white woman shaking her fist on the anti-male barricades is destined to be knocked off her perch by a woman of color. But after that, how long will it take before she, in turn, is dethroned by a black lesbian or a disabled Muslim grandmother? Stay tuned.

Joseph Massad: betraying gays

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Joseph Massad

We’ve been discussing Joseph Massad, yet another Columbia University professor whose “teaching” consists largely of spreading Jew-hatred, spouting contempt for the West, and whitewashing the history of Islam. In these regards, he’s of a piece with his colleagues Hamid Dabashi and Gil Anidjar, whose careers we’ve already looked at. But Massad has one attribute that makes him stand out amidst his fellow propagandists in Columbia’s Middle Eastern Studies department: he’s gay. Now, you might think that as a gay man he would appreciate the freedom that gay people enjoy in the Western world and would look upon Islamic culture, with its harsh treatment of gay people, more critically than men like Dabashi and Anidjar.

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James Kirchick

Nope. Massad first laid it all out in a 2002 article, “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World,” and then elaborated on it in a 2007 book, Desiring Arabs. Now try to follow this: as Massad sees it, homosexuality exists in all cultures, but gay identity is a Western construct, and campaigns for gay rights in Islamic countries are therefore acts of colonialism. As James Kirchick put it in 2007, Massad views “the case for gay rights in the Middle East [as] an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West.” The efforts of those gay activists (whom Massad dubs the “Gay International”) to bring gay rights to the Muslim world are, in his view, not benign but malignant – just one more aspect of the American and Israeli effort to crush Muslim culture, Muslim values, and Muslim morality. “Massad’s intellectual project,” comments Kirckick, “is a not-so-tacit apology for the oppression of people who identify openly as homosexual. In so doing, he sides with Islamist regimes over Islamic liberals.”

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Two of the 52 men arrested on the Nile party boat

Nor is Massad’s position purely theoretical. In 2011, when Egyptian police arrested 52 gay men on a party boat on the Nile and then proceeded to torture and shame them, parading them in public and showing them on television, Massad sided with the authorities, dismissing the 52 men as “westernized” persons who got what they had coming to them because of their fraternization with gay Western tourists. For Massad, the 52 men, being Egyptian, couldn’t really be gay, even though many of them explicitly said they were; in Massad’s lexicon, they were “gay-identified” – meaning that they identified not with their own culture, and with the categories that are a natural part of that culture, but with the colonialist Western enemy.

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Tom Lantos

Massad also condemned the U.S. congressmen Barney Frank and Tom Lantos, who threatened to stop U.S. aid to Egypt unless the 52 men were set free. Massad defended his position in the following way: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”

One of the 52 men described their arrest as “our Stonewall,” a reference to the 1969 riot in New York’s Greenwich Village that is generally viewed as marking the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. But Massad rejected this claim, saying that while the Stonewall rioters saw themselves as gay, the 52 Egyptian men did “not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny.” As Kirchick observed, “Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced.” Massad further maintains that very few Arabs who have sex with other men think of themselves as “gay” or support the idea of gay rights.

massadbokIndeed, as Kirchick underscores, all 418 pages of Desiring Arabs are predicated on this claim. But Massad offers no evidence to support it; he doesn’t take into account that to openly identify as gay or engage in gay activism in much of the Arab world would be to risk instant death; and he ignores evidence such as that presented in a 2002 article by Yossi Klein Halevi, who had interviewed a number of young Palestinian men who lived in Tel Aviv. All of the men engaged in same-sex activity, all identified as gay, and all had fled from Gaza or the West Bank, where they stood a very good chance of being imprisoned or murdered by their own families or friends, in order to be able to live in the safety of Israel.

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Martin Kramer

If you think a man who holds such repulsive positions should not be on the faculty of Columbia in the first place, the fact is that he has come close to getting fired. Accused in 2004 of harassing pro-Israel students, he was exonerated by a faculty committee, although its “findings” were widely viewed as a whitewash. When he was up for tenure in 2009, a battle ensued. Fellow Middle East scholar Martin Kramer wrote that “Massad does Columbia no credit”; after Columbia President Lee Bollinger signed off on Massad’s tenure, the New York Daily News called on the university’s trustees to block tenure. Jacob Gershman wrote in the New York Post that “Columbia’s trustees must decide: Do they attempt to clean up after Bollinger and stop this absurdity—or do they confer academic legitimacy on Massad’s ideas and agenda? Hesitant to insert themselves in an academic matter, the trustees would be wise to consider the consequences of silence.”