Bret Stephens is, at least in a strictly formal sense, a professional writer:
It isn’t hard to guess why. New York has, by far, the highest population density in the U.S. among cities of 100,000 or more. Commuters crowd trains, office workers crowd elevators, diners crowd restaurants. No other American city has the same kind of jammed pedestrian life as New York — Times Square alone gets 40 million visitors a year — or as many residents packed into high-rises. The city even has a neighborhood called Corona, which, it turns out, has among the highest rates of coronavirus infections.
As tends to be the case when you substitute bad puns for research or even thinking, this reductive explanation is of course vastly over-simplistic. Density probably makes the pandemic worse all things being equal. But as a one-note explanation it’s extremely unconvincing. Some of the worst American outbreaks have occurred in notably non-dense urban areas like Detroit, New Orleans, and the suburban cities east of Seattle. Conversely, several major Asian cities that are much denser than New York City have contained the virus much more effectively. Stephens doesn’t know any more about the subject than Richard Epstein and the idea that social distancing is no longer necessary in urban areas less dense than NYC is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible.
And what would a Bedbug column be without a massive factual howler that supports his narrative?
No wonder so much of America has dwindling sympathy with the idea of prolonging lockdown conditions much further.
Again, this is just flatly false. No matter how much you might want it to be true, it isn’t. And this isn’t a hard question to verify; the data is easily available. It’s also not clear why the editors allowed this flagrantly false claim to be published, but then if you were concerned about publishing things that were false you would never have hired Stephens in the first place.
This is a good thread about the total bankruptcy of CHALLENGING YOUR READERS as a paradigm:
Nothing Stephens writes is actually challenging to the NYT’s liberal readership. He argues from false information, nonexistent evidence and motivated reasoning. He’s intellectually incurious and uninterested in dissecting the dogmas of his own ideological peers.— Michael Hobbes (@RottenInDenmark) April 25, 2020
He is simply repeating, in workaday prose, opinions we can find in 75 other places. He is the voice of an increasingly entrenched, lazy and amoral ruling class. The fact that the NYT’s editors consider that to be “challenging” is a far bigger problem than Stephens himself.— Michael Hobbes (@RottenInDenmark) April 25, 2020
This is how you end up with columnists who can shift seamlessly and shamelessly between claims that college students need to SUCK IT UP AND HEAR UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS and claims that you personally being mildly criticized on Twitter is fascism.