It’s not just that Stephens is yet another white man, like nine of the other 12 current columnists. As Hamilton Nolan thoroughly documented over at Fusion (4/14/17), Stephens holds a number of fringe right-wing opinions, namely his consistent climate change denial, anti-Arab racism, anti-black racism, advocacy of torture and insistence that the campus rape epidemic is an “imaginary enemy.”
Stephens has referred to antisemitism as “the disease of the Arab mind,” insisted Palestinians have a “blood fetish” and “blood lust,” said Black Lives Matter was a “lie” based on the “myth of victimization,” labeled institutionalized racism another “imaginary enemy,” called climate change “hysteria” and a “religion without God,” and, in a piece subtly headlined “I Am Not Sorry the CIA Waterboarded,” contended Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in fact “waterboarded himself” by not being “truthful with his captors.”
As others have noted (The Outline, 4/18/17; Think Progress, 4/13/17), these are all far-right positions that would be usually be considered outside the Acceptable Mainstream. What is less commented upon is how Stephens’ hiring highlights the radical asymmetry at work when considering what is and isn’t a fringe opinion. When one goes to the far right—namely the neocon right, which puts a premium on anti-Arab and anti-black racism, and fetishizes American exceptionalism above all else—there doesn’t seem to be a line that can’t be crossed.
This is in stark contrast to the other end on the spectrum, where anything slightly to the left of Hillary Clinton is nonexistent in the staff opinion section at the New York Times. All of the liberal or pro-Democratic Times columnists during the 2016 primary, for example, were behind Clinton or, at the very least, not behind Sanders or his broader policy aims.(…)