New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens apparently can’t get a reader’s joking insult calling him a bedbug out of his head — and referenced the insect in an opinion article Friday about attacks on Jews in World War II. Critics on Twitter were shocked that Stephens appeared to be comparing a bedbug slam to Nazi anti-Semitism.
“The political mind-set that turned human beings into categories, classes and races also turned them into rodents, insects and garbage,” Stephens wrote in the column, headlined “World War II and the Elements of Slaughter.” He added, ”‘Anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing,’ Heinrich Himmler would claim in 1943. ... 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 added: “Today the rhetoric of infestation is back.”
Stephens shut down his Twitter account earlier this week after he went ballistic when David Karpf, an associate professor at George Washington University, referred to him in a tweet as a metaphorical bedbug.
Stephens emailed Karpf and his provost to complain, but the columnist insisted he wasn’t out to get Karpf fired.
Online comments to Stephens’ Times column Friday ranged from calling it an “educational” insight into the hurtful “rhetoric of infestation” for Jews to “laughable.” One commenter asked: “Did this column actually happen? What shred of evidence exists that the professor who jokingly referred to Stephens as a ‘bedbug’ in a single, obscure tweet ... used that word because Stephens happens to be Jewish? Good Lord ...”
Karpf responded on Twitter that this “just stopped being funny” and that Stephens “should know better.”
Ironically, one follower pointed out that Stephens compared Palestinians to mosquitos in a 2013 infestation column in The Wall Street Journal.
Most of the reaction on Twitter to Stephens’ column was in the “good Lord” vein.
Stephens could not immediately be reached for comment.