From The Iraq War To Climate Change To Sexual Assault, NY Times' New Op-Ed Columnist, Bret Stephens, Is A Serial Misinformer

From The Iraq War To Climate Change To Sexual Assault, NY Times' New Op-Ed Columnist, Bret Stephens, Is A Serial Misinformer

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The New York Times hired Wall Street Journal deputy editor Bret Stephens as its newest opinion columnist, claiming he “will bring a new perspective to bear on the news.” Stephens has a long history of promoting misinformation, including on climate science, foreign policy, and sexual assault.

NY Times Hired WSJ Editor Bret Stephens As An Op-Ed Columnist, Lauding Him For His “New Perspective”

Politico: Bret Stephens Leaves WSJ To Join NY Times As Op-Ed Columnist. Politico reported that Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor for The Wall Street Journal, is leaving the Journal and “will be The New York Times’ newest op-ed columnist.” The Times ' editorial page editor, James Bennet, wrote in a memo announcing the hiring that Stephens is “a beautiful writer” who “will bring a new perspective to bear on the news.” From the April 12 article:

Bret Stephens, the Journal's deputy editorial page editor, will be The New York Times' newest op-ed columnist, both papers announced on Wednesday.

"He’s a beautiful writer who ranges across politics, international affairs, culture and business, and, for The Times, he will bring a new perspective to bear on the news," Times editorial page editor James Bennet wrote in a memo. "You can expect other additions to our lineup in coming months as we continue to broaden the range of Times debate about consequential questions. From my own conversations with Bret, and with those who have had the privilege of working with him, I can tell you he is also a generous and thoughtful colleague with a deep sense of moral purpose and adventure about our work." [Politico, 4/12/17]

Stephens Has A History Of Promoting Conservative Misinformation On Climate Change, Foreign Policy, And Sexual Assault

Stephens Continually Promoted Climate Denial And Anti-Science Misinformation

Stephens: “Global Warming Is Sick-Souled Religion,” Not Science. In a 2008 column in the Journal, Stephens called global warming a “sick-souled religion,” claiming that “much of the science has since been discredited.” Stephens cited conservative talking points that have been repeatedly debunked, including that NASA revised its rankings to reflect that 1934, not 1998, was the hottest year on record (NASA noted that 1934 was the hottest in the U.S.; 1998 remained listed as the hottest globally at the time). Stephens added that global warming is a “nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God.” From the July 1, 2008, column:

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the mass hysteria phenomenon known as global warming. Much of the science has since been discredited. Now it's time for political scientists, theologians and psychiatrists to weigh in.

[...]

But mother nature has opinions of her own. NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954. Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world's oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years, never mind that "80% to 90% of global warming involves heating up ocean waters," according to a report by NPR's Richard Harris.

The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years. At least as of February, last winter was the Northern Hemisphere's coldest in decades. In May, German climate modelers reported in the journal Nature that global warming is due for a decade-long vacation. But be not not-afraid, added the modelers: The inexorable march to apocalypse resumes in 2020.

This last item is, of course, a forecast, not an empirical observation. But it raises a useful question: If even slight global cooling remains evidence of global warming, what isn't evidence of global warming? What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn't mean God doesn't exist, or that global warming isn't happening. It does mean it isn't science.

[...]

As it turns out, a lot, at least if you're inclined to believe that our successes are undeserved and that prosperity is morally suspect. In this view, global warming is nature's great comeuppance, affirming as nothing else our guilty conscience for our worldly success.

In "The Varieties of Religious Experience," William James distinguishes between healthy, life-affirming religion and the monastically inclined, "morbid-minded" religion of the sick-souled. Global warming is sick-souled religion. [The Wall Street Journal, 7/1/08; Media Matters, 8/12/07; Skeptical Science, 10/15/16]

Stephens Compared The “Intellectual Methods” Of “Global Warming True Believers” To “Closet Stalinists,” Anti-Semites, And Communists. In a December 2009 Wall Street Journal column, Stephens claimed that “the intellectual methods” of “global warming true believers” and “closet Stalinists” are “instructively similar.” Stephens also wrote that “global warming has become the fill-in-the-blank explanation” for all problems of the world. From the December 8, 2009, column:

[T]he really interesting question is less about the facts than it is about the psychology. Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well.

One of those things, I suspect, is what I would call the totalitarian impulse. This is not to say that global warming true believers are closet Stalinists. But their intellectual methods are instructively similar. Consider:

[...]

• Monocausalism: For the anti-Semite, the problems of the world can invariably be ascribed to the Jews; for the Communist, to the capitalists. And as the list above suggests, global warming has become the fill-in-the-blank explanation for whatever happens to be the problem.[The Wall Street Journal, 12/8/09]

Stephens: “Global Warming Is Dead.” In an April 2010 column, Stephens declared that recent scientific research supported his claim that “global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time.” In each case he cited, the scientists and researchers themselves had explicitly rejected such a conclusion. From his April 6, 2010, column:

So global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time. Which means that pretty soon we're going to need another apocalyptic scare to take its place.

[...]

As for the United States, Gallup reports that global warming now ranks sixth on the list of Americans' top 10 environmental concerns. My wager is that within a few years "climate change" will exercise global nerves about as much as overpopulation, toxic tampons, nuclear winters, ozone holes, killer bees, low sperm counts, genetically modified foods and mad cows do today.

Something is going to have to take its place.

The world is now several decades into the era of environmental panic. The subject of the panic changes every few years, but the basic ingredients tend to remain fairly constant. A trend, a hypothesis, an invention or a discovery disturbs the sense of global equilibrium. Often the agent of distress is undetectable to the senses, like a malign spirit. A villain—invariably corporate and right-wing—is identified. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/6/10; Media Matters, 4/6/10]

Stephens Compared Climate Science To A Dying Religion And A “System Of Doomsday Prophecy And Faith In Things Unseen.” In a November 2011 column, Stephens wrote that “the climate religion fades in spasms of anger and twitches of boredom,” calling climate science a “system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen” “presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate.” From the November 29, 2011, column:

Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.

[...]

Religions are sustained in the long run by the consolations of their teachings and the charisma of their leaders. With global warming, we have a religion whose leaders are prone to spasms of anger and whose followers are beginning to twitch with boredom. Perhaps that's another way religions die. [The Wall Street Journal, 11/29/11]

Stephens: “We Can’t Predict The Next 24 Hours Of Weather. And We’re Supposed To Believe We Can Predict Climate 100 Years Out?”

[Twitter, 1/27/15]

Stephens Consistently Pushed Misinformation On Foreign Policy

Stephens Rewrote The History Of The Iraq War, Claiming That The Bush Administration’s Case Against Iraq Was Supported By Evidence. Stephens rewrote the history of the Iraq War in 2013, falsely claiming the Bush administration's case against Iraq was supported by solid evidence. Stephens criticized the Obama administration's case for military intervention in Syria by contrasting it with Bush's decision to invade Iraq, which he claimed was made based on "highly detailed" intelligence revealing weapons of mass destruction. Stephens claimed that the "testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix" supported the Bush administration's case for war, and accusations that the Bush administration lied were "libel" and "cheap slander." In fact, Blix told CNN in 2004 that the Bush administration "chose to ignore" his team's concerns about the lack of solid evidence in favor of war, and that prior to the invasion the evidence of WMDs in Iraq was revealed to be "shaky":

By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council. It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that "there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared," that his inspectors had found "indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized," and that Iraq had "circumvented the restrictions" on the import of missile parts.

The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn't shock Democrats that the White House's "trust us" approach isn't winning converts. When you've spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don't be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce. [The Wall Street Journal, 9/9/13; Media Matters, 9/10/13]

Stephens Fearmongered About The Potential For Iraqi Nuclear Capabilities. In a November 2002 article for The Jerusalem Post titled “So is it war?” Stephens fearmongered about the potential for Iraqi nuclear capabilities, alleging that “Saddam may unveil, to an astonished world, the Arab world’s first nuclear bomb.” From the article:

For how long? The 105-day process currently mandated by [United Nations Security Council] Resolution 1441 - 45 days for [U.N. weapons inspector Hans] Blix to get his people on the ground, plus 60 to produce a report - concludes at the end of February. That gives the US and its allies sufficient time to assemble a massive military force in the region. But it gives little time, given meteorological conditions and probable diplomatic imbroglios, to launch and conclude a successful invasion.

By then, the US may face a radically different, possibly more hostile, international climate. The winds of war may abate. Or Saddam may unveil, to an astonished world, the Arab world's first nuclear bomb. Whatever happens, the countdown has begun, but towards what nobody can yet say. [The Jerusalem Post, 11/15/02]

Stephens Claimed The Iran Nuclear Deal Was “Worse” Than The 1938 Munich Agreement With The Nazis. In a November 2013 column titled “Worse Than Munich,” Stephens criticized the interim nuclear deal with Iran, claiming, “Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.” He contended that the Iran deal “has many of the flaws” of the Munich agreement, which allowed Nazis to annex parts of Czechoslovakia, with “none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.” Stephens predicted that the deal would create “a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.” From the November 2013 article:

To adapt Churchill : Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.

[...]

By contrast, the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.

[...]

And each deal was a prelude to worse. After Munich came the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and World War II. After Paris came the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the humiliating exit from the embassy rooftop. After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.

[...]

After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it's because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas. [The Wall Street Journal, 11/25/13]

Stephens Denied The Prevalence Of Campus Rape And Sexual Violence

Stephens: “The Campus-Rape Epidemic … Is An Imaginary Enemy.” In a November 2015 column, Stephens claimed that “the campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy” conjured to sustain “liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.” Stephens added, “If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school?” From the November 30, 2015, column:

The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women. [The Wall Street Journal, 11/30/15]

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.