I have two new pieces up at The Federalist: “Ta-Nehisi Coates And Jessica Valenti Prove The Atlantic’s Hypocrisy On Kevin Williamson,” and “The Seven Dumbest Defenses Of The Atlantic’s Decision To Fire Kevin Williamson.” Both were written on a “breaking news’ basis, so I don’t have a ton to add, but I do have a couple of things.
Williamson’s firing is related to a number of themes that have interested me as a writer here. It is in part about the role media outlets play — or attempt to play — as gatekeepers. As noted in the first column, I note that Williamson’s extreme pro-life view (which I believe to be incorrect and poorly reasoned with respect to capital punishment; Williamson seems to lack a firm grasp on how the criminal justice system treats homicides generally) is considered a career-killer, while Jessica Valenti’s pro-choice extremism is considered unexceptional.
To this I would add that the people enraged at Williamson were pretty quiet when the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus wrote in support of the eugenic abortion of those who test positive (perhaps inaccurately) for Down Syndrome. If you think that’s not controversial, how is it different from advocating abortion for sex-selection, as in China. And if there were a prenatal test for sexual orientation, would it be highly controversial to advocate for the right to abort on that basis? And yet those wanting Williamson fired said little about Marcus, except perhaps to salute her “courage.”
And the firing is in part about how prior failures of conservatives to fight to remain integrated in mainstream institutions resulted in marginalization, which warps the perspectives of the marginalized and privileged alike.
And I probably should have ditched one of the dumb defenses of the firing in favor of discussing the one which might be titled “The Atlantic Isn’t Obliged to Publish a Nazi, Is It?,” which is also formulated as “National Review Is Right to Exclude White Supremacists, Aren’t They?” This response involves a version of the”Washington Must ‘Do Something'” fallacy. The “argument” is: (1) Some political views should disqualify someone from a job at a respectable media outlet; (2) Kevin Williamson has some political views; (3) therefore, Williamson should have been fired. It avoids the problem of addressing Williamson’s argument on the merits (where they might even be convincing), but more significantly avoids having to make a case that Williamson’s particular views are not merely wrong, but so objectionable that he should be treated differently by major media outlets from a Valenti or a Marcus.
Update: Also consider that the claim that Williamson wants to hang women is based on the premise that he would not make the same arguments regarding a male abortionist. So what is bothering people here is Williamson’s refusal to deny women moral agency in cases of abortion. That strikes people because pro-lifers and pro-choicers have politically self-interested reasons to agree that women lack moral agency in this context, which is far from self-evident. And it’s precisely Williamson’s willingness to challenge that sort of quiet collusion that is at issue here.
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