Readers Explode Over Op-Ed About Jews

Bret Stephens' latest New York Times column hails 'Jewish Genius'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2019 5:05 PM CST
Twitter Explodes Over Column Saying Jews Are 'Smart'
Bret Stephens speaks at Sinai Forum in the James B. Dworkin Complex of Purdue University Northwest in Westville, Ind., Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.   (Richard Chambers/The News Dispatch via AP)

Bret Stephens' latest think piece is called "The Secrets of Jewish Genius"—and, as you might imagine, some people are a little upset. "How is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?" writes the conservative New York Times columnist, who cites such Jewish luminaries as Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and Karl Marx. "The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart." Twitter users are accusing Stephens, who is himself Jewish, of embracing eugenics or claiming Jews possess genetic superiority. The Times quickly cut part of the op-ed, so let's start there:

  • Deleted study: The paper deleted Stephens' mention of a 2005 study saying Ashkenazi Jews have the best average IQ of all ethnic groups, per the Daily Beast. One of the study's authors was considered a "white nationalist" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, while another has written that from a "biological perspective," homosexuality is "surely a disease." Says the Times: "Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors' views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically."

  • Ashkenazis: Looks like the Times also removed what Stephens wrote after "Jews are, or tend to be, smart," based on this Guardian quote: "When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it's true … Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better." (For the record, Stephens is Ashkenazi.)
  • 'Eugenicists': Among the many scathing Twitter responses: "It's hard to read this column as expressing anything other than a belief in the genetic and cultural inferiority of non-Ashkenazi Jews ... it's not the sort of thing the Times should be running," writes Tim Marchman, Vice editorial director. Tweets Times contributor Jody Rosen: "Speaking as both an Ashkenazi Jew and a NYT contributor, I don't think eugenicists should be op-ed columnists."
  • Anti-Semitism: Others argue that Ashkenazi Jews vary in intelligence, and thinking otherwise is reverse racism: "Some are smart, some are dumb, and most are somewhere in between," writes Moshik Temkin, an associate history professor at Harvard. "You should be suspicious of anyone who thinks Jews are special—that's a big part of antisemitic thinking."
  • The paper: Others are calling for Times readers to cancel their subscriptions, for the newspaper to be "shut down," or for its editorial department to undergo "a very serious examination."
  • Lost comments: The Times pinned a positive comment about Stephens' op-ed at the top of its comment section, but most "Reader Picks" comments were critical, notes Business Insider. The Times then shut down the entire comment section the day the piece was posted.
  • 'Bedbug' redux: Fox News is among media outlets recalling Stephens' recent Twitter spat with a professor who called him a "bedbug." Stephens said the slur was anti-Semitic and ended the dispute by quitting Twitter, which he called "a sewer" that "brings out the worst in humanity."
(In related news, here's an odd quote from Rudy Giuliani.)

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