A collage of a broken heart pendant with the New York Times newspaper inside of it and part of a letter that seems like a breakup letter

That’s What She Said

Dear, NYT: It’s Not Us, It’s You

The Gray Lady is flushing decades of dependability down the drain with its increasingly disturbing op-ed hires, turning a Paper of Record into a Paper of Discord.

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Dear New York Times,

Hey bb, it’s me. This is a tough letter to write because you know I love so many things about you and we have a wild, nerdy history together. But I can’t be in love with who you were. Or who you could be. I have to be in love with who you are, but I can’t be. Not anymore. Because my darling, you are an inky, stinky, hot-off-the-press mess.

I know I’m not perfect. You have made it more than clear that my trust issues are a problem for you and you didn’t like my “Modern Love” submission. Which is fine. I’m glad you were honest with me. I was honest with you about only wanting to do your Monday through Wednesday crossword puzzles because your Thursday through Sunday crossword puzzles make me feel like I’m starring in a Darren Aronofsky film about breakfast. And I do have trust issues but you are making me look smart for not trusting you. Because you are being a shitty boyfriend.

One night right after the election, when we were first getting together, I was feeling understandably low. We were on the F, or maybe it was the V train and it was so late, maybe 2 in the morning, and I was crying to you about how sad and scared I was, as a woman, as a human to be living in a country where Donald Trump could be elected President. How it felt like living in a nightmare. How it felt like being gaslighted by the whole world. You reached over, gently dabbed my tears with the sleeve of your grey cardigan, held my hand and said, “Fiona, with me the truth has a voice.” and then we made out so hard we fogged up each other’s glasses. I said I’d be your apocalyptic dream girl that night because I believed in you. I believed in the power and the devastating beauty of the truth you promised me.

But now you are part of the world that is gaslighting me. I know you didn’t read my #metoo essay because you don’t really care about my writing but I wrote a very brave and good one. I have a history with sexual abuse, we’ve talked about it a little but maybe you weren’t listening. And I guess you definitely weren’t listening back in April when I told you it was dumb to hire Bret Stephens to write op-eds for you. I know you are trying to have a diversified mix of voices but you really think Bret is the answer? You think Bret deserves to have a high-profile take on climate change? Black Lives Matter? Sexual abuse cases? Really? Things he knows literally nothing about? America has been inundated with the baseless, pretentious trow-slop that dribbles from the mouths of entitled, misinformed, White men since always. Do you honestly think this is an underrepresented voice in our society? You feel you should remedy this injustice by publishing the magniloquent idiocy of Bret’s warped journal pages? You want to shield him under the prestigious umbrella of your legendary newspaper so he may speak his truth and play doltish devil’s advocate on crucial cultural and environmental issues? Issues that involve people and polar bears suffering and dying? You wish to say, “Now wait a minute, everyone be quiet, let’s see what Bret has to say about this woman’s account of the brutal sexual abuse she experienced as a child.” Babe, what are you doing? This is dangerous. And confusing. How can you publish the Weinstein story which featured the brilliant reporting of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey while also allowing Bret to be truly such a dunce about Dylan Farrow’s case and campus rape? You are being a two-faced asshole about sexual violence and climate change and it’s really disappointing. You thought Maureen Dowd should cover Uma Thurman’s story? The fuck? Uma, you are a complicated goddess genius and you didn’t deserve any of this horseshit. The men who hurt you are monsters. The journalist who wrote your story was careless. No one did your exquisite talent and voice justice but none of that is a reflection of you. You’re great. My shitty boyfriend just fucked up the only part we could’ve had some control over. Uma, your true story should have been respected and supported by smart, seamless, responsible reporting. You know, like how Ronan Farrow does it. But it wasn’t and that’s my boyfriend’s fault.

Also, around the time I was blindly falling in love with you, my shitty boyfriend, you were…being really nice to Nazis? You were like, “This small-time Nazi really touched my heart.” and “Is it weird that I love Richard Spencer’s look?” and I was like, “Um kinda? Can I curl up into a ball under your sink? I think if I take out all the shampoo bottles and stuff I can fit under there. A small, dark cave situation is where I’m looking to be.”

Honestly, you keep messing up in the white nationalism department and it really doesn’t have to be complicated at all. It’s very simple: white nationalism is poison. So if there’s even a drop of white nationalism around, that’s bad. Because it’s poison. Can you remember that? Seems like you can’t. Bae, you hired and fired Quinn Norton all in one long, dumb day–did you eat too much of an edible again? If it’s the gummy bears, just have one.

Quinn was going to be the lead opinion writer on the power, culture, and consequences of technology. Well, one consequence of technology is that when you tweet hate slurs, even if you’re tweeting them in edgy, ironic, or intricately contextual ways, they still read as regular ol’ hate slurs and it makes you look like a bonafide bigot. So if you tweet those and you don’t delete them, we, as a culture, are gonna read those and think, “Dang, Quinn sure looks like she loves Nazis and gay slurs!” Quinn, I read your essay about John Rabe, the Nazi you look up to. And I agree with you that human beings are extremely multifaceted. We can be good and bad and so many other things. John Rabe can be a Nazi and a “living Buddha.” Listen, it wouldn’t surprise me if the guy who raped me is currently known as the “living Buddha of Brooklyn” right now but that doesn’t mean he didn’t rape me. I see that kind of shit all the time. Guys who sexually abused women are now yoga teachers who write terrible poetry. Sounds a little Hitler-esque, yeah? A path a young Hitler could’ve taken if a few people bought his paintings and his dick wasn’t as deformed as it was. But he didn’t take that path, he took the path where he murdered millions of Jews. It was an obvious, black and white, clean cut choice to murder millions of Jews. So that’s why a lot of us really call out even just a smidge of white nationalism when we see it. Because it’s a festering poison, Quinn! Goddammit why did I have to spend a giant paragraph explaining why Nazis are bad? Fuck you, Donald Trump, fuck you so much. And fuck my shitty boyfriend, NYT, for not even googling the Nazi sympathizers he’s about to hire for fancy jobs on his editorial staff.

NYT, you have profoundly fucked up so many times and you won’t take responsibility for your actions. Instead you are doing the thing shitty boyfriends do best: telling their partners to shut the fuck up. And it’s not just me, you are asking your employees to shut the fuck up. They feel you are facilitating a hostile work environment where only a chosen few have the privilege to speak freely. They feel you are lying when you say you care about diversity. You amplify the truly troubling voices of Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens and quell the voices of, well I don’t know their names because they don’t feel safe enough to publicly state them.

Last Thursday night, you maybe shouldn’t have had that third manhattan because you sent a long, weird letter to your colleagues. Someone forwarded it to me and sweetie, it’s not good. It is the literary equivalent of farting into a hat and then wearing the hat. And then asking everyone not to tell people you farted into a hat and then immediately put it on your head. It’s pathetic.

In your flowery, fart-hat manifesto to your colleagues, you refer to Adolf Ochs’s vision for The Times. How his mission with the Opinion section was to help “assure the free exercise of a sound conscience.” Okay cool I can give a conscience quote too, one that is a little hack at this point, it’s from Hamlet: “Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all.” Will, I wish. I wish people’s consciences were getting in the way of them doing epic, harmful things these days but a lot of people’s “sound consciences” are way too sound. Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss, Maureen Dowd—they’re all sleeping too soundly at night in my opinion. You want The Times to encourage people to think for themselves? Good, you are succeeding. A lot of people are canceling you, bb. A lot of people are leaving you because you talk about how crucial seeking and sharing the truth is but you don’t back it up.

You write about the purpose of Opinion at The Times:

“If the newsroom’s fundamental role is to describe the world as it is, ours is to envision how it could be made better.”

Okay, do you think you are paving the way for a better world by telling my friends and me that we shouldn’t wear yoga pants? We shouldn’t wear yoga pants because it makes us look too hot or not hot enough? Did you eat a bad dumpling? Because you’re throwing up in your mouth again. Also, is Honor Jones a real person or did you invent a robot-woman op-ed contributor for the sole purpose of exhausting the entirety of the female race in 1,200 words? This is trash in its purest form. There seems to be no article of clothing a woman can wear, ever, without catching a massive wave of lava thrown at her. Can we maybe let women wear whatever they want to yoga, and focus on them not getting sexually assaulted during the class? Or, my sweet, adorable, dumb-fuck boyfriend, do you prefer the classic, nauseating, “what was she wearing?” take?

In what ways are Bret, Bari, Quinn, Maureen, and the now mythical Honor Jones’s opinions helping to create a brighter future for mankind? I’ll be under the sink waiting for your answer. You say, “History will have to sort out who had it right in the end.” Cool, it won’t be you. You won’t look good. You will look like a cagey, volatile, shitty boyfriend. You say I should listen to obnoxious voices that I object to, “provided they meet the same tests of intellectual honesty, respect for others and openness.” Sounds good, I will happily do that when you start consistently publishing op-eds that meet those standards. Because dude, you don’t do that. You’re lying again. Just like you’re lying when you say you carefully select contributors who believe in “the essential equality of all human beings.”

You ended your letter to your colleagues on a cowardly note:

“I’d like to close with an ask of you: Criticize our work privately to each other as you see fit.”

You asked journalists to be quiet. Baby … you’re a newspaper. What the fuck are you doing?

That night on the train, you were lying. You don’t respect or protect the truth, not really. You don’t support diversity, women like me, or this devastated planet. Parts of you do. But parts of you are not enough. You didn’t deserve my hopeful breath on your glasses. You don’t deserve my trust or my modern love.

Without fear or favor,

Fiona Landers

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