Thursday, July 16, 2020

Is Alice Walker REALLY A Proud Anti-Semite?


bariweiss |  It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed “fell short of our standards.” We attached an editor’s note on a travel story about Jaffa shortly after it was published because it “failed to touch on important aspects of Jaffa’s makeup and its history.” But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati. 

NYTimes |  Today, I’m going to call Alice Walker. She won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel, The Color Purple. She was the first black woman to win that prize. She also won the National Book Award that year. She’s published many books, novels, poetry collections, essay collections. And she really for many decades now has been telling the truth about who we are and how we struggle and how we persist. Her most recent book is a collection of poetry called Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. I’ve been reading it the past few days. It’s terrific.

tabletmag |  Alice Walker was given another uncritical platform at a premier outlet which proffered no mention or questions about her anti-Semitic history. That outlet? A popular New York Times podcast.

For Wednesday’s episode of Sugar Calling, Walker was interviewed about her life under lockdown by host and author Cheryl Strayed. Remarkably, in her questions, Strayed quoted verbatim from the very Times interview where Walker promoted David Icke, asking her about the “kinship” with Jane Eyre she’d expressed there, but not about the anti-Semitism she’d voiced.
If it seems unbelievable that the Times would knowingly repeat its mistake of feting Walker without foregrounding her bigotry, that’s because it is: The episode was made in error, not malice. When I raised the issue with Strayed and detailed Walker’s prejudicial past to her, she was shocked and explained that neither she nor her producers were aware of the author’s anti-Semitic backstory. “I had no idea and neither did the producers who make the show,” she said. “You’re correct that I read that interview and asked her about Jane Eyre, but I didn't know anything about the Icke book until yesterday. If I’d known, I wouldn't have asked Alice Walker to be on the show.” Saying she was “mortified,” Strayed promptly deleted her posts promoting the episode on social media. It was a rare expression of genuine contrition and accountability that is all too rare in my experience reporting on these matters.
The problem here is not Cheryl Strayed, who responded admirably to a difficult situation. The problem is The New York Times, which in 2018 did not respond admirably to the same situation, and left their original interview with Walker untouched, with no annotations to indicate to subsequent readers that Walker was promoting anti-Semitism in it.
At the time, after it became a national scandal, the Times book editor did not apologize and told reporters that in such an interview, “we would never add that a book is factually inaccurate, or that the author is a serial predator, or any kind of judgment on the work or the writer. We do not issue a verdict on people’s opinions.” Asked if “in retrospect, would you have done anything differently with the column by Ms. Walker?” the editor answered, “No.” Thus, even after the controversy, the Times did not amend the piece to inform future readers that one of the books that Walker recommended in it was a vicious anti-Semitic screed.

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