NYT columnist Bret Stephens blasts woke culture that saw Bon Appetit rewrite its archive


New York Times columnist Bret Stephens criticized ‘woke’ culture this week

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, whose recent column was pulled by the paper when he criticized the firing of a reporter who repeated a racial slur in conversation about the word, has lashed out at what he says is excessive ‘wokeness’ in the media and academia.

In a column published on Monday, Stephens took aim at Bon Appetit’s ‘Archive Repair Project’, which launched last July as an effort to identify and edit ‘problematic recipes’ over the past 55 years. 

In a recent example, Bon Appetit apologized for a 2015 recipe that had promised ‘actually good hamantaschen,’ a triangular cookie that is traditional for the Jewish festival of Purim, hours after someone on Twitter complained that the author wasn’t Jewish.

‘Most Jews would probably be grateful for an ‘actually good’ hamantasch,’ wrote Stephens, who is Jewish. ‘No transgression of sensitivities is so trivial that it will not invite a moralizing rebuke on social media.’

Bon Appetit apologized for a 2015 recipe that had promised 'actually good hamantaschen,' a triangular cookie that is traditional for the Jewish festival of Purim

Bon Appetit apologized for a 2015 recipe that had promised ‘actually good hamantaschen,’ a triangular cookie that is traditional for the Jewish festival of Purim

Food writer Abigail Koffler had written on Twitter of the hamantaschen recipe: ‘Traditional foods do not automatically need to be updated, especially by someone who does not come from that tradition.’

Hours after the complaint, Bon Appetite had changed the headline on the six-year-old article to read ‘Five Steps to Really Good Hamantaschen’ and added an editor’s note of apology.

‘As part of our Archive Repair Project, we have edited the headline, dek, and content to better convey the history of Purim and the goals of this particular recipe,’ the note read in part. ‘We apologize for the previous version’s flippant tone and stereotypical characterizations of Jewish culture.’

Stephens, a Pulitzer-winning conservative columnist, slammed the move, writing ‘no charge of cultural insensitivity is so far-fetched that it won’t force a magazine into self-abasing self-expurgation,’ saying that the incident was ‘the apotheosis of Woke.’

The Archive Repair Project is an effort to search and edit 55 years of recipes from Bon Appetite and other Conde Nast magazines, which are collected at Epicurious.com.

The project’s aim is to remove ‘objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens,’ according to the Associated Press. 

Bon Appetite added this editor's note to the hamantasch after the Twitter complaint

Bon Appetite added this editor’s note to the hamantasch after the Twitter complaint

Most recipes on Epicurious that have been updated do not indicate what was changed, though archived versions of the pages reveal some examples.

In one case, suggestions from 2015 for ‘how to make pesto out of pretty much everything’ were edited to remove a tip to use a ‘Middle Eastern blend of mint and cilantro’ to give the pesto an ‘exotic flavor.’

For reasons that are unclear, another tip to make pesto from cilantro and pumpkin seeds, which contains no cultural references, was also removed.

Another 2017 recipe for sweet and sour chicken was edited to remove this line recommending the addition of pineapple: ‘Yes, pineapple. I admit that it’s a strange and sort of trashy addition, and one that takes the recipe in a decidedly non-Chinese direction. But those juicy bites of pineapple do add a brightness to the dish.’

In several recipes, an alternate name for a makrut lime, which is the same as the South African ‘K-word’ for black people, was removed. 

‘George Orwell warned in ‘1984’ of a world in which ‘the past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth,” Stephens wrote in his column. 

‘At the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith was obliged to rewrite what had been said about sweets — chocolate, not cookies — to hide the fact of ever-dwindling rations,’ he continued. 

Stephens added that the project to erase and edit old recipes ‘may seem like a farce. But it’s a telling one.’

‘If a major media company like Condé Nast can choose to erase and rewrite its food archives for the sake of current Woke sensibilities, why stop there?’ he asked.

In the column, Stephens also criticized the University of Illinois at Chicago for banning law professor Jason Kilborn from campus after an incident during a civil procedure exam.

In the column, Stephens also criticized the University of Illinois at Chicago for banning law professor Jason Kilborn from campus after an incident during an exam

In the column, Stephens also criticized the University of Illinois at Chicago for banning law professor Jason Kilborn from campus after an incident during an exam

In a question about a workplace discrimination claim, the exam contained the phrases ‘n____’ and ‘b_____’ (using the first letters of the slurs and an underscore for the other letters, as they appear above).

A petition from the Black Students Law Association claimed: ‘The visual of the N-word on Professor Kilborn’s exam was mental terrorism.’

One student declared that on seeing the sentence, she became ‘incredibly upset’ and experienced ‘heart palpitations,’ according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kilborn was placed on administrative leave, removed from his committee assignments, and barred from the UIC campus in response. 

Jason Kilborn's exam the exam contained the phrases 'n____' and 'b_____' with the letters of the slurs represented by underscores

Jason Kilborn’s exam the exam contained the phrases ‘n____’ and ‘b_____’ with the letters of the slurs represented by underscores

The administration later told him he had been suspended as a potential threat to campus safety for a remark he made to one of the petitioners, who asked him to speculate why the dean had not shared their petition with him. 

‘I flippantly responded, ‘I suspect [the dean’s] afraid if I saw the horrible things said about me in that letter I would become homicidal,’ Kilborn said, saying the remark was then reported by the student as a homicidal threat.

‘In the game of Woke, the goal posts can be moved at any moment, the penalties will apply retroactively and claims of fairness will always lose out to the perpetual right to claim offense,’ Stephens wrote of the case. 

It comes weeks after the New York Times killed a column by Stephens that was critical of the executive editor who initially said ‘intent’ doesn’t matter after star health reporter Donald McNeil Jr was forced to resign over his use of the N-word. 

The Times had initially allowed veteran journalist McNeil Jr. to keep his job after complaints he used the racial slur during a company funded school trip to Peru in 2019. 

It comes weeks after the New York Times killed a column by Stephens that criticized the ouster of health reporter Donald McNeil Jr for using a racial slur in conversation about the word

It comes weeks after the New York Times killed a column by Stephens that criticized the ouster of health reporter Donald McNeil Jr for using a racial slur in conversation about the word

Management said last week it had conducted an investigation and decided not to fire him because they believed he showed ‘poor judgment’ but did not use the words with ‘hateful or malicious’ intent.

But McNeil Jr. was forced out after 150 Times employees out of 4,500 signed a letter saying they were ‘deeply disturbed’ by the paper’s handling of the incident. Out of those 4,500, only 1,600 are journalists.

Executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn had initially said: ‘We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.’ 

Stephens had planned to question those comments by Baquet and Kahn in his column titled ‘Regardless of Intent’ in his column before it was spiked by editors. The New York Post has since obtained a copy of his column and published it in full. 

He noted that his column was not about the ‘particulars of McNeil’s case’ and wasn’t an argument about the ‘ugly history’ of the racial slur.

‘This is an argument about three words: ‘Regardless of intent.’ Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously,’ the conservative commentator wrote.

‘Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.’  





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