"The bedbugs are a metaphor", Karpf wrote on Monday.
And, so, yes, within just a few hours, Karpf's tweet mocking Stephens, that had just 9 likes and 0 retweets, has many thousands of retweets and tens of thousands of likes. As Karpf explained, "This afternoon, I tweeted a brief joke about a well-known NYT op-Ed columnist. I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say", Stephens said, according to an image of the email posted to Twitter by Karpf. "That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part", he says. "Time to do what I long ago promised to do".
Sufficiently humiliated, Stephens deactivated his Twitter account, lamenting that the platform "brings out the worst in humanity".
'There is a bad history of being called, being analogized to insects, that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.
His guest, the former White House communications chief Sean Spicer, chimed in, saying: "If that's the worst thing he's been called, take a look at my Twitter feed every day".
The WaPo adds that Stephens told them "he did not want to get Karpf in professional trouble" but that "managers should be aware of the way in which their people, their professors or journalists interact with the rest of the world". He reached out believing my university would chastise me for provoking the ire of a writer at The New York Times.
Stephens subsequently emailed him (cc'ing the university provost) to call him out over the tweet. He does not follow me. "His opinions are his own", he wrote. Our commitment to academic freedom an free speech are integral to GW's mission'.
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Luckily, having extricated himself from the Twitter "sewer", Stephens probably won't see any of the mockery, unless he goes looking, that is. They wrote about bugs and contrarian columnists, pasted Stephens's face on pictures of bugs and wrote satirical columns.
Some rewrote the first line of Kafka's "Metamorphosis", in which a protagonist awakens to find himself transformed into a roach, to be about him, while another prankster changed Stephens' Wikipedia entry to include "bedbug".
"He tends to write pretty lightweight, poorly researched columns about things that I know something about", Karpf said.
Rafael Shimunov shared a meme of the life cycle of a #bretbug.
Due to recent events, the time has come once again to talk about the meaning of the "Streisand Effect", as in, the phenomenon of attempting to suppress an issue only to inadvertently draw attention to it.
Karpf, for his part, said Stephens made a mistake by contacting his supervisor over the lighthearted jab.