A profile of Bari Weiss

If you’ve read this site for even a short time, you’ll know about Bari Weiss, a liberal writer for the New York Times who, like me, specializes in criticizing the excesses of the Left while still believing that Republicans and the Trump administration are the most horrific aspect of American politics. (I, for one, don’t spend a lot of time criticizing Trump because others do it so much better, and far fewer people worry about Left-wing shenanigans that could help re-elect Trump in 2020.) To read some of my pieces on Weiss, whom I much admire, go here.

There’s now a new Vanity Fair piece about Weiss that has a lot of information I didn’t know, particularly about her personal and intellectual history. You can read it for free by clicking on the website below.

Given that Weiss is a liberal, self described as a pro-choice feminist, it’s odd—but understandable in today’s ideological climate—that she’s hated more by the Left than, perhaps, many Righties. This is because she calls out the excesses of the Left. Here are a few excerpts from the Vanity Fair piece:

Broadly speaking, Weiss’s work is heterodox, defying easy us/them, left/right categorization. Since getting hired at the paper in the spring of 2017, she has focused on hot-button cultural topics, such as #MeToo, the Women’s March, and campus activism, approaching each topic with a confrontational skepticism that until recently had a strong place within the liberal discourse. Her basic gist: while such movements are well-intentioned, their excesses of zeal, often imposed by the hard left, can backfire.

. . .Weiss has little patience for the new campus activism, in which she says students have been blithely tarring professors as “fascist.” In a May 2018 feature, “Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web,” Weiss profiled several popular academics and pundits, such as Bret Weinstein, Jordan Peterson, and Christina Hoff Sommers, who’ve retreated from academia and the mainstream media but have emerged on other platforms. Some thought the piece was a frank portrait of a phenomenon worthy of examination. Others believed that by giving these provocateurs the floor, Weiss was endorsing their opinions.

Weiss views outcries over cultural appropriation—Katy Perry shouldn’t wear a kimono, Marc Jacobs shouldn’t put white models in dreadlocks, and so on—as “un-American.” “If that point of view wins, it’s just a pleasureless, gray world,” she says. “Who wants to live in a world where you can only stay in the lane of your birth? Literally everything good about this culture comes from mixing.”

And here’s some Zionism mixed with disdain for Trump: the kind of mixed opinion that infuriates the Authoritarian Left:

The day after Weiss wrote “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation,” [Glenn] Greenwald published a full-throated takedown of a range of her opinions, calling her writing “trite, shallow, cheap.” He also accused Weiss of “crusading against Arabs, Muslims, and other assorted critics of Israel.”

It’s here where Weiss’s views draw the most passionate objections. She is an ardent Zionist, and has come to believe that much of the anti-Zionist talk on the left is tantamount to anti-Semitism, a view that many American Jews find objectionable and even infuriating. But her passion for Israel has not defined her overarching belief system—the need to protect what makes America great—and in this, she believes it’s right-wing American Jews who have lost their way. After the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, where Weiss grew up, she appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and issued a warning to American Jews who aligned themselves with Trump because they like his policies: “I hope this week that American Jews have woken up to the price of that bargain. They have traded policies that they like for the values that have sustained the Jewish people and frankly this country for forever: welcoming the stranger, dignity for all human beings, equality under the law, respect for dissent, love of truth. These are the things that we’re losing under this president. And no policy is worth that price.”

Weiss is about to publish a new book on anti-Semitism:

I’ve found little to disagree with in Weiss’s columns, which puts me at odds with those on my hue of the ideological spectrum. So be it: we need her, her writing, and her worldview.

As lagniappe, here’s a video of a speech Weiss made at Chatauqua. Riffing on George Carlin’s famous bit, “The seven words you can’t say on television,” Weiss, describing incidents that many of us know, gives her own list of seven words that were once respected and are now profane. Behold: “The New Seven Dirty Words”.

imagination
humility
proportion
empathy
judgment
reason
doubt

I’ll let you hear for yourself why, she says, these are “dirty” words. Listen and enjoy (if you’re not a Weiss-hater):

45 Comments

  1. Mike Anderson
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Bari Weiss’s article on the “Intellectual Dark Web” marked her as an idiot, in my book. The “intellectual dark web” isn’t intellectual (except for Sam Harris), isn’t dark, and isn’t a web. Couldn’t she do a little bit of research?

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Wow. I wonder if you even read her piece; she didn’t make up the name.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        You wonder if I read the piece that made me think of her as an idiot?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      It’s almost as if you haven’t read the Vanity Fair article…

      “Intellectual dark web” came from Eric Weinstein, on an episode of the Sam Harris’s Waking Up Podcast. According to the IDW site he

      “coined the term semi-ironically to refer to a group of scholars and podcasters who were willing to have discussions that were considered too toxic by mainstream academia and media.”

      I think we can safely assume that the IDW title is somewhat ironic still, though it may be as ultimately yembarrassing & as counter-effective as “The Brights” was.

      Weiss certainly isn’t an idiot & in the article you refer to, she does wonder about the efficacy of a WEB of people so diverse in outlook & ideology [some are so relatively diverse they are facing opposite compass points]. There are twenty IDWers at the moment.

      • BJ
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Hey, did you happen to see the Phish videos I posted for you? Curious about your thoughts on them.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          I haven’t watched yet, thanks, but I will tomorrow some time & report back. I only have access to my cheapo, 2nd hand tablet today that I’ve set up for financial stuff [shopping, banking] & some safe sites. Videos & streaming services in general don’t play on it.

          • BJ
            Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

            No problemo. I look forward to finding out what you think 🙂

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    You didn’t hear it from me, friends and comrades, but I think our host might have a little professor-emeritus-style schoolboy crush on someone whose initials are B & W.

    Having read her pieces in the Times, and the profile of her in Vanity Fair, can’t say as I blame him a bit.

    • BJ
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      “Having read her pieces in the Times, and the profile of her in Vanity Fair, can’t say as I blame him a bit.”

      For real. An deep, intellectual conversation with a woman (especially where we disagree on some points) is foreplay for me. Very few things get me hotter. I mean that!

      You could look like a supermodel, but, if I talk to you and find out you can’t hold an interesting conversation, I immediately become unattracted.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Kinky, man. 🙂

        • BJ
          Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          I know. I’m such a freak!

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      It is not true that I have a crush on Bari Weiss, and I have no idea where you got that notion. I admire her writing and have highlighted it; that’s all.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 27, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Ok, denial accepted. (You realize I was being a bit facetious here, right?)

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    The Vanity Fair article: I enjoyed the title picture of Bari Weiss by Martin Schoeller. His site is worth hunting out even just for his other title pics, although most are not as playful, nor as photoshop-heavy as this one:

    bari-weiss-may-2019-lede

    [Photographed in New York City. Trench coat by Max Mara; dress by Valentino; shoes by Manolo Blahnik, styled by Nicole Chapoteau]

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Vanity Fair‘s always been known for its great photography. I gave up my print subscription a while back because I got sick
      & tired of thumbing through so many goddamned perfume and fashion ads just to find the table of contents. Once I found it, I’d mark it with a sticky, but post-its have a bad habit of coming unstuck from Vanity Fair‘s slick pages.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Did you have a sticky problem with Playboy too?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Only read it for Hef’s automotive and stereo insights.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      I think they should have waited for the weather to improve.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I love that picture. Combine it with her Chautauqua speech and a crush is the obvious result.

  4. Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I would add the word compromise to that list. But eight dirty words dies not have the same ring as seven dirty words. The word seven is one of the words that stands out and gets attention.

  5. Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Weiss’s thoughtful commentary is a refreshing respite from the “talking points” conformists on either side.

  6. GBJames
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, PCC[e]. That talk is well worth listening to.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Excellent talk.

    • merilee
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      +1

  8. KD33
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had the same reaction you have to Weiss’ writing: mostly reasonable, thoughtful, not dogmatic, and offering insight. All the while I’m puzzled at the level of vitriol she seems to incite. I thought Greenwald’s response piece was weak. Such responses seem to say more about those authors than they reveal errors in Weiss’ reasoning.

    • Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I think that much of the vitriol directed at her is because of her unabashed defense of Israel’s right to exist.

      • Posted April 27, 2019 at 2:28 am | Permalink

        Isn’t a part of the equation Zionist = Evil due to the metomyny whereby “Israel” is used in place of “right-wing-israeli-government”?

        And why does the WordPress spell checker not like the word metonymy?

  9. Historian
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The attacks on Weiss by certain elements of the Left is disturbing because in their quest for purity they open up a wedge for Trump in that these leftists may not vote for a Democratic candidate that does not meet their ever growing list of litmus tests. For example, the Huffington Post has been criticizing Joe Biden because apparently he has not sufficiently apologized to Anita Hill for the way he ran the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1991, a mere 28 years ago.

    Republicans have an advantage over Democrats in that they not only do not demand political purity, their most extreme hypocrisy means nothing. Has anyone seen Lindsey Graham’s video from 1998 about the reasons why he supported Bill Clinton’s impeachment? It is totally relevant today; just switch Trump for Clinton. But, Lindsey doesn’t care. Being Trump’s number one toady is what makes him happy.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Notice that the even the impartial Vanity Fair article on Weiss refers to Brett Weinstein and Christina Hoff Sommers as “provocateurs”. If any thoughtful dissent from the current pop-Left orthodoxy is dismissed as “provocation”, then ordinary language is apparently being transformed.
    Before long, we may expect such dissent to be described as: “heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth”, following the words of a Papal Bull issued by Leo X in 1520. Why, Pope Leo was, in a way, ahead of his times.

  11. HBB
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Not to be a stickler or anything, but I count only six “new dirty words.” Is “brevity” the missing one?

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      ‘Imagination’, she describes in her presentation.
      The first one.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      ‘Imagination’.
      She describes it in her presentation.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    In the Clarence Thomas SCOTUS nomination hearings, Senator Joe Biden provided Anita Hill with the opportunity to testify, which she did. She charged Thomas with the terrible offenses of repeatedly asking her for a date, and repeatedly talking dirty. Thomas denied the charges. Joe Biden’s offense was that he failed to drop to his knees on the spot and nominate Anita Hill for sainthood. This will plague him with the vein of opinion reflected by HuffPo. If he nonetheless secures the Democratic presidential nomination, he could get around difficulties of this sort by a judicious choice of VP candidate, such as of Senator Kamala Harris. A Biden/Harris ticket would look pretty good.

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      What Thomas did wasn’t just joking around and asking for dates – it was sexual harassment. Full stop.

    • tomh
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      @ Jon Gallant

      Wow, that is some whitewashing you’ve done of both Thomas and Biden.

  13. Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    What an excellent talk!

    The point about identity politics unwittingly affirming the white nationalist view that culture is the essence of identity and cultures shouldn’t be mixed, (my wording), should be really be obvious to all.

  14. Posted April 27, 2019 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Great talk. But was she quoting Lincoln as talking about an “electric cord”? Were there such things in 1858? Must have been a figure of speech.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      The electric telegraph had been a thing for more than ten years when he made that speech. I think it that is what he was thinking of and it makes sense in the context.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps a misspelling of chord. Lincoln was hardly a spelling bee champion. The sentiment in the electric cord speech is the same as that expressed in his First Inaugural, viz. “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave…” Instead of mystic, Lincoln used the adjective “electric”, which at the time could be used to describe a sort of life force or soul, as in Whitman’s “I sing the body electric.”

  15. Posted April 27, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    So who were these old people that Weiss was speaking to? They are probably already convinced of her theme. It is too bad that those who most need to hear this lecture probably won’t.


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