Just days after the controversy over a heckler calling him a “bedbug” on Twitter, The New York Times’ op-ed columnist Bret Stephens argued in a new column published Friday that the term “bedbug” was a tool of political rhetoric aimed to dehumanize. Drawing parallels between the pre-WWII era and the present day, Stephens recalled that in the pre-war era a “political mind-set that turned human beings into categories, classes and races also turned them into rodents, insects and garbage.” He then harkened back to a Polish anti-Semite watching Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto burn in 1943, who said, “The bedbugs are on fire. The Germans are doing a great job." He then wrote, “Today, the rhetoric of infestation is back.”
Stephens was called a “bedbug” in a tweet earlier this week by an associate professor at a D.C. college. Stephens reacted to the tweet by emailing the professor, the school’s provost, and the school’s dean. In an op-ed, the professor said he was merely contributing to the online joke about the New York Times being infested with bedbugs and claimed Stephen’s sought to “impose a social penalty” on him for making jokes about him online.