Josh Barro Is Blinded By His (Elite) Privilege

Josh BarroLast Thursday, Josh Barro tweeted out something really offensive. But before I get to it, I just want to note that he needn’t fear that he will lose his job. You see: he’s a conservative. Unless he comes out with the n-word, nothing he says will matter. Remember that Ted Nugent can repeatedly threaten assassination against the president and nothing happens to him. Meanwhile, two liberal writers have lost their jobs in the last two weeks because they weren’t nice enough.

But Josh Barro won’t get fired for taking a strong stand against democracy. Because only liberals are ever held to account for what they believe. And when Josh Barro makes a bold stand in defense of the powerful, well, that just makes him all the more worthy for a promotion. How long will we have to wait until he becomes managing editor of The Washington Post?!

It’s interesting how “the masses” are simply the Republican Party in the mind of Josh Barro. And then, let’s look back at this Republican Primary. It’s true that Donald Trump is gauche. But how exactly is he categorically different from anyone else on the Republican Party’s “deep bench”? Barro told us more than he knows when he tweeted this out. Like most conservative elites, what is unacceptable is just a matter of style — never of substance.

But I wouldn’t bring this up at all except that this truly vile tweet led me to find another Josh Barro tweet. This one is equally vile, but it is more interesting in its total lack of self-awareness. It is from two and a half years ago, so at least inconsistency isn’t one of Barro’s sins:

In one way, I agree with this — but it is such an obvious thing that it does bear tweeting. A professional plumber (an “elite”) has better judgment about what is causing a toilet to overflow than an average person. But that’s as far as it goes. The problem with people like Josh Barro is that they think “elite” isn’t a situational title. This is why we see successful business people listened to with reverence when they pontificate about the educational system. The truth is that Bill Gates knows quite a lot less about education than the average teacher.

Josh Barro must, at some level, realize this. He is, after all, a reasonably smart guy with a great education and pretty much every intellectual advantage a person can have. But all of this does fold into why Josh Barro is an elite — why he is Senior Editor at Business Insider. And that reason is because he is the son of the very famous (conservative) economist Robert Barro. Do you know where Josh got his bachelor’s degree (In psychology!) from? Harvard. Would it shock you to learn that Robert got his PhD from Harvard?

I’m sure Josh Barro would take offense at this (he has skin as thin as Donald Trump’s), but he’s a royalist. And that makes him a great example for the modern conservative movement. It used to be said that conservatism evolved from Edmund Burke. I think that was true up until about 40 years ago. Since then, the conservative movement has regressed back to Burke. Josh Barro might use different language, but at base, he thinks God wants things the way they are. It’s just that Barro’s God is meritocracy, and his career has nothing to do with having a rich, famous, and powerful father.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

26 thoughts on “Josh Barro Is Blinded By His (Elite) Privilege

  1. Matt Bruenig wasn’t fired because he wasn’t nice enough. he was fired when his former employer asked him to stop leading harassment campaigns against women on Twitter and he refused. He still has his day job and got a $25K severance package from his followers. This idea that he was only fired because of a McCarthyism style hunt for liberal people is nonsense. There is a difference between being brash and being a harasser and Bruenig crossed that line repeatedly on purpose.

    I am not sure on Resnin but there may have been an attempt to crack down on the writers acting like jerks on social media since they often represent the company and yes, an employer has some expectation that their writers will be professional in their conduct to the public when IDing as a Vox writer.

    As for Barro’s disgusting tweet-he won’t get fired for the same reason that Trump won. Both of them are being honest about how awful they are and that side likes people being awful.

    • I don’t follow the Twitter much, so I’m unsure what the normal standards of behavior are. Maybe writers directly insult each other all the time. But to me there’s a difference between criticizing someone’s work/behavior to your readers and doing it directly to them. If Taibbi regularly insults Thomas Friedman in his columns, well Friedman can avoid reading Tabbi’s columns. If Taibbi is personally sending him insulting messages, that (to me) is different.

      It’s like if you or Frank wrote a critical thing about someone here. That’s fair game in my eyes. And if they show up here to refute the criticism, then that’s fair game too. But again, I don’t know what’s normal on Twitter and if Bruenig started those ugly exchanges or not.,

      The Resnin case is more troublesome. It looks like he was simply suspended out of corporate cowardice. I looked at his Twitter page (the one you can read without joining) and it seemed like he was making a political point about direct action, specifically that damage to property (in his view) was acceptable civil disobedience, and harming people was not. That may not be a popular view, but I don’t find it offensive. It’s just theorizing in the way liberals do. Many liberals believe we should be breaking the law to disrupt carbon-intensive energy, for example.

      But apparently (from a Web search) the right-wing media jumped all over him and Vox as “another example of liberals being the real fascists who advocate violence.” And Vox blinked. Way to support your writers, folks. Again, he may have a history of being vicious to others, I dunno. If he was only suspended for that one tweet’s reaction from the right, it’s a pretty lousy reason. Like anybody prone to rioting reads a Vox twitter feed!

      And looking at his Twitter posts (the ones you can see without joining, ‘cuz I ain’t joining if I can avoid it), I found this gem: “Christian Rock is always bad. Put that shit on in front of God and he’ll kill Keith Richards just to change the station in heaven.” That’s pretty damn funny! And he apparently hates rich yuppies who go to American soccer games, so I already have a soft spot for the man . . .

      • Bruenig, in the tweet storm that finally got him canned, told a woman she was a scumbag (in reference to a meme that used to be popular) and that she was starving his mother. Cue the supporters piling on.

        This is a very fair breakdown of what happened.

        One of the more irritating things about this is that yes, women and PoC get disproportionately attacked. It even happened in this case when Mrs. Bruenig was the one catching hell when her husband deleted his Twitter account.

        • That was hardly the first time Elizabeth Bruenig was attacked on Twitter. I remember an actual campaign against her some time ago, but I don’t remember the details.

          The fact that women are more attacked on Twitter than men should be a good reason for Demos to take that stand over someone other than Tanden.

          • They did-they took it over the massive amount of letters they got (with attached tweets) to show that he is not just a minor problem but a big one.

            She was attacked due to a disagreement with Roosh V who is a vile human.

      • He called Neera Tanden a “scumbag.” But since there are so many Clinton supporters who have found Bruenig offensive for so long, I would have thought that they would have blocked him by now. It’s also interesting that someone as powerful as Neera Tanden has to be defended against Bruenig. There’s a certain kind of sexism going on here where Tanden (!) is seen as the weak one just because she’s a woman. She’s the president of the Center for American Progress, for God’s sake!

    • I’m very much aware of the Bruenig case. And it has nothing to do with women. Bruenig was a jerk to everyone he disagreed with on Twitter. The whole thing about leading “harassment campaigns” is simply the allegations of those who don’t like him. I’ve not seen any evidence of that. And that was not Demos’ stated reason for the split. Regardless, I tend to believe Bruenig that it was all about that one exchange and not the history and not that he wouldn’t promise to be a good boy in the future. Personally, I don’t get the outrage. I never read him on Twitter. I read his blog — religiously. People who want to have reasonable discussions should not have them on Twitter. As it is, his blog is now down, but he told me that it would be back up soon enough.

      The only reason I brought up those two liberals was to note that nothing would happen to them if they were conservatives. By the way: Bruenig very much did lose his gig because he wasn’t nice. Resnin, was not, however; I just didn’t want to get into it.

      • No, it has a lot to do with the fact that this wasn’t the first time he had engaged in these kinds of attacks. That is the problem and I think Matt Yglesias was very fair to him in Yglesias’ assessment of what went down.

        Demos stated in their press release on the issue:

        After our tweet apologizing for Matt’s personal attacks including the term “scumbag,” we received emails from multiple individuals who made it clear that we were not aware of the extent to which Matt has been at the center of controversies surrounding online harassment of people with whom he disagrees.

        It was evidence of a pattern of behavior that is far out of line with our code of conduct. After multiple conversations, Matt Bruenig and Demos have agreed to disagree on the value of the attack mode on Twitter.

        What he said to her wasn’t that big a deal as insults go (after all, he avoided the old standby that most of the female Clinton supporters I know have gotten including me) but if he is going to be a jerk on Twitter then he needs to be ready to deal with the consequences. As you pointed out recently, what you say here can spill over onto your “day job” and have consequences, the same goes for him.

      • The post on Barro was so solid there really isn’t a lot to add. This Twitter stuff does fascinate me because I know so little about it and clearly it’s a major part of most people’s online life (and the more aware I am of bad behavior on Twitter, the less interest I have in ever participating!)

        There’s an interesting moral question to me here. If you have “followers” who behave badly, what responsibility do you have for their behavior? Now clearly a writer should feed free to criticize any public figure. Does doing so on Twitter (rather than an posted article) encourage online mistreatment of that figure? Or would the results be the same? I don’t know enough about it to guess.

        If all that’s needed is for writers with a popular platform to refrain from personal Twitter attacks, then I think it’s fair to expect that they should. But if simply writing a negative opinion of (not to) someone results in online mistreatment of that person, then it’s a stickier situation. If I think so-and-so to be a soulless monster, but I know writing this will cause that person and/or their family to receive threats and abuse (rather than simply the further criticism I think they’ve earned), what’s my responsibility? To write as well and honestly as I can, or to guard against uncalled-for abuse? My sympathies lie with the writer at that point. But our effect on others online is something I worry about, and I would hope writers who are widely read agonize about it more than me.

        • There’s an interesting thing here regarding Matt Bruenig. He had over a quarter million followers on Twitter. But his blog wasn’t that popular, even though (or perhaps because) it was brilliant and insightful. Ultimately, the problem is us. Donald Trump isn’t a major political figure because he’s bad; he’s a major political figure because we’re bad.

          Twitter really does bring out the worst in people. As for me, when I try to use it, I feel paralyzed. I’ll come up with a humorous comment but then stop because I can see how people will misinterpret it. And the way Twitter works is that if people can misinterpret, they will. Assuming the worst is what it is all about. But rather than joining Twitter, I recommend reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. I think I especially like it because Ronson starts by thinking that public shaming is a good thing and finds over time that it’s actually really bad. Also, of course, Ronson is a great writer.

  2. On the surface, I would just think this an unfortunate word choice. I am loose-with-the-lip, but I am not a writer and especially a not a professional writer. And the fact that -unless I totally misunderstand their nature- tweets can be retracted…maybe even revised or re-worded and resubmitted.
    Yes, what I thought was just a clumsy comment is in fact a deeply revealing view into that mans paradigm.
    That is a very different brand of unfortunate.

    • Most people don’t delete tweets because it is seen as unethical. About the only time it is okay is when someone apologizes publicly about the tweet and then eventually deletes it. But the two Barro tweets are two years apart. He doesn’t see anything wrong with them. The same can be said of Bruenig’s tweets. He sees Twitter the way others see boxing.

  3. Thanks ER (great initials). Yeah, the net is a permanent record. I wrote an article on FC about searching an old email address of mine ( and finding retired NewsGroup data almost ten years old, preserved on some server somewhere. I can search my phone number and find craigslist computer ads from 8 years back………guess eager hosting companies will do anything to host (some kind of) searchable content.

    • I always found it funny that my initials are the same as the woman who she named me for-Elizabeth I who signed her name as Elizabeth R.

  4. Can someone direct me to an account of the recent Bruenig incident from someone besides Vox? I’m unwilling to take the word of any Clinton supporter at face value.

    I know B sometimes is needlessly inflammatory, but I’ve seen numerous false accusations levelled at him before. But I don’t believe anything until I see it from a source I respect.

    • I don’t think anyone really knows what when on. And I don’t think it matters. I’m disappointed the comments were all about Bruenig. Elizabeth is going to think the worst of Bruenig and I’m going to think the best of him. Just don’t believe anyone who tells you that they know what happened.

      The article, of course, was about how the oh so reasonable Republican Josh Barro doesn’t have a clue about his own privilege.

      • Perhaps, but is there anything that needs to be said here? We know that the right-wingers have a system of extra privilege that lets them get away with saying inflammatory things.

        Josh Barro is a scumbag. That’s clear enough for me. Yes, he will never pay any penalty for badmouthing a huge segment of America. Yes, like just about all the well-known right-wing writers, he likes to play the worldly practical man when it suits him, and now that it does not, he wants to play the shocked Conservative Intellectual. Yes, Josh Barro is a hypocrite.

        But the fact that a guy writes for a right-wing outfit usually is sufficient evidence that the individual involved a) has nothing to say, and b) is a terrible person.

        I suppose if we really want to hit back at an intellectual level we can continue pointing out that Barro’s level is lower than that of a fourth-rate Leon Trotsky wannabe. But really, how many times do we need to say this to each other?

        Good or bad, Matt Bruenig is an interesting person who has something to say. Barro is not interesting and has nothing to say. He’s a soft target, an intellectual nonentity.

        • It’s important to talk about Barro because he’s the kind of conservative who liberals love. When I watched MSNBC, I was always seeing him on it. I also have something personal against Barro. But you are right that all he has to offer is conservative apologetics.

          Not having Matt Bruenig around is a bad thing. But for the New Democrats, it’s a great thing. He cares about the poor. Bruenig is kind of like the anti-MSNBC. He doesn’t think that being against racism and sexism is enough to make you a liberal. For a lot of Democrats, it is — and has been since the mid-1970s. I’ve begun to think that liberals can be broadly divided into the ceilings and the floors. The ceilings are those who are most concerned that our system limits the success of exceptional people because of their race or gender or whatever. The floors are those who are most concerned that our system provides too little a floor for those who are not exceptional according to our society. We’ve tried it the ceilings’ way for decades and all we’ve gotten is tokenism; it hasn’t helped the minorities at the bottom. There are not many people with a large following who are floors.

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