The jokes came pouring in on Monday as news broke that employees at the New York Times discovered bedbugs in their newsroom, but a turn of events that could only unfold on Twitter made sure that the bedbugs wouldn't be the biggest story.
Reacting to news of the bedbugs, George Washington University Professor Dave Karpf tweeted that the bedbugs were a metaphor for New York Times Conservative opinion columnist Bret Stephens.
The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens. https://t.co/k4qo6QzIBW— dave karpf (@dave karpf) 1566853675.0
What originally began as an innocuous tweet blew up when Karpf revealed that Stephens saw the tweet and emailed Karpf, as well as cc'ing the GWU Provost.
This afternoon, I tweeted a brief joke about a well-known NYT op-Ed columnist. It got 9 likes and 0 retweets. I d… https://t.co/9eFtAghjja— dave karpf (@dave karpf) 1566868953.0
In the email, Stephens accuses Karpf of setting a "new standard" in the toxicity of Twitter.
Alright fine... here is the email: https://t.co/A4E5I6CoB6— dave karpf (@dave karpf) 1566872007.0
"Someone just pointed out a tweet you wrote about me, calling me a 'bedbug,'" Stephens wrote. "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 standard."
Stephens then presented Karpf with a challenge.
"I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for for [sic] a few minutes, and then call me a 'bedbug' to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part. I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say."
The email completely backfired, as Bret Stephens and #Bretbug began trending on Twitter. Stephens wasn't happy, and soon deleted his account.
I love how Bret Stephens quit Twitter, like that was his problem Twitter didn't force Stephens to email a random p… https://t.co/k9LsdFEx9Q— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum) 1566913510.0
He later appeared on MSNBC, assuring that his motive for emailing Karpf's boss wasn't to get Karpf into professional trouble.
On MSNBC, Bret Stephens characterizes Dr Dave Karpf referring to him as a metaphorical "bedbug" on Twitter as akin… https://t.co/juRd8VeQU7— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1566913201.0
Ironically, Stephens has routinely used his New York Times column to rail against political correctness on college campuses and considers himself an advocate for free speech.
@atrupar Free speech for me, but not for thee —Bret Stephens, NYT bedbug https://t.co/GVGu8UJpVk— Hilary Agro 🍄 (@Hilary Agro 🍄) 1566915792.0
Please don’t call Bret Stephens #BedbugBret or, even worse, #BretBug. You may think it’s “free speech,” but that’s… https://t.co/QcSWciO0Ea— The Daily Edge (@The Daily Edge) 1566905553.0
Many women, POC, and/or queer writers laughed at the idea that "bedbug" was the dealbreaker for Stephens, considering the amount of hate marginalized writers regularly receive on Twitter.
Sir, I’m going to need your email address. Who is your boss, sir? I’m going to copy them on the email https://t.co/UGFS5vZIks— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@Yashar Ali 🐘) 1566903917.0
Imagine if Bret Stephens had to endure a tiny fraction of the hateful comments that women and POC—even total civilians—get #onhere.— Clara Jeffery (@Clara Jeffery) 1566873986.0
In the last 24 hours, I've had about a dozen messages from strangers calling me a "faggot" or some kind of transpho… https://t.co/XnuMiIip4B— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈) 1566880649.0
sometimes i think of the deluge of cruelty folks like jemele hill and jamelle bouie and other folks get and they ba… https://t.co/B2tqYA1DMv— Joel D. Anderson (@Joel D. Anderson) 1566876265.0
The internet quickly roasted Stephens.
People like Bret Stephens believe in the marketplace of ideas until they realize you can’t ask to speak to a manager— Sam Adams (@Sam Adams) 1566911549.0
Bret Stephens, waking up this morning like, “Well, now that I’ve safely put this bedbug insult to rest, let’s see w… https://t.co/jimhbpqrJS— Mike Drucker (@Mike Drucker) 1566905044.0
i am not personally going to kinkshame Bret Stephens for wanting someone to come over and call him names in front of his wife.— pony (@pony) 1566904899.0
Even the dictionary threw some shade, providing the definition of the Streisand Effect.
The 'Streisand effect' occurs when the attempt to cover something up only brings it more attention or notoriety. https://t.co/VgBJObll5g— Merriam-Webster (@Merriam-Webster) 1566873714.0
We're eagerly awaiting Stephens's next column.