On Thursday, Kevin D. Williamson, formerly of National Review, was fired from The Atlantic. He didn’t assault anyone. He didn’t embezzle any money. He didn’t harass anyone. He simply had conservative views, especially on the issue of abortion. Williamson, like myself, is adopted. I can relate to his pro-life stance, though I don’t think we should put women to death if abortion is made illegal tomorrow, however, but it’s a view that’s no less provocative than—say—declaring it’s totally fine to abort babies with Down Syndrome. The Atlantic also has controversial writers as well. It’s not like Williamson was crashing the party. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote that 9/11 responders weren’t human.
“They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body,” he wrote.
The Daily Caller has a good grocery list of the site’s dive into the cesspool of nonsense, like the train wreck of a piece that said six-week-old fetuses have no hearts. The correction at the bottom of the piece, which focused on how ultra-sounds are used in the abortion culture war, is gold. Oh, yeah, the eclipse is racist and Trump is having an incestuous relationship with his daughter. But you see these are extreme views from liberals, so it’s okay. In fact, Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s editor-in-chief—sort of admits that Williamson’s behavior was not the cause for his dismissal; it was that his views would have triggered the newsroom (via Daily Beast) [emphasis mine]:
Full memo from Atlantic editor Jeff Goldberg to staff on Kevin Williamson pic.twitter.com/8R7rtEoS5L— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) April 5, 2018
Kevin Williamson has been fired from The Atlantic.— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) April 5, 2018
From Jeffrey Goldberg's letter to staff: "The language he used in this podcast—and in my conversations with him in recent days—made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views."
…Goldberg on Thursday reversed course, telling Atlantic staffers that the podcast demonstrated how Williamson did, in fact, believe that women should be hanged for having abortions—language which Goldberg denounced as “callous and violent.”
“The language he used in this podcast—and in my conversations with him in recent days—made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views. The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it.”
The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of how his especially violent belief conflicts with the “values of our workplace.”
Of course, conservatives and right-leaning writers on Twitter voiced their concern over this reasoning. In short, if Williamson either adopted a pro-choice position, or kept his mouth shut, he would still be employed with the publication. Seems rather…fascist, no?
Wow. This memo makes it clear that if Kevin had not really held his deep convictions on the criminal immorality of abortion, he'd still have a job. https://t.co/d9nfGsRGZr— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) April 5, 2018
This is precisely why this is asymmetrical. Kevin feels especially strongly about this issue b/c he's the sort of person who could - maybe would - have been aborted after 1973. They extend no similar empathy to how this affects *him* personally. https://t.co/93zeFUxCbU— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) April 5, 2018
"Violent belief." Hasn't Ta-Nehisi Coates excused actual violence -- physical, not verbal -- in the pages of The Atlantic? https://t.co/zm05ai5zr4— Jim Treacher is a dumb pseudonym (@jtLOL) April 5, 2018
David French of National Review noted that the reason why The Atlantic was interested in Williamson was because he took on the Left and the kooks on the alt-right. He was not a fan of Donald Trump, but that’s not the issue here. It’s differing opinions and the intolerance of allowing those who hold them to be heard at left-leaning publications:
So, what areThe Atlantic’s readers now missing? I ask you to read Kevin’s February 18, 2016,NR cover storyabout the opioid crisis. It’s not a chart-filled, graphics-heavy analysis. It’s a story about people. It’s a story told the way only Kevin can. It takes a reader who may not know or may never meet a heroin addict, and it puts you in their world. By the end, your heart breaks.
Kevin is independent. He’s provocative. Sure, he can troll a little bit, and — no — I don’t agree with everything he says. I’m a moderate, you see. If abortion is ever criminalized in this nation, I think only the abortionist (and not the mother) should face murder charges for poisoning, crushing, or dismembering a living child. So we might differ about the laws in hypothetical-future-America.
But in this America, the one we live in now, Kevin is one of our most interesting and talented voices. Like every single interesting and talented person I know, he can provoke. But so what? Aren’t we adults? Can’t we handle disagreement? Apparently not.
One final note, The Atlantic was attracted to Kevin in part because of his independence, because he was willing to say what he thought even if he infuriated members of his own ideological tribe. And he often did. In return, he didn’t face a mere news cycle of fury. He faced it for weeks that stretched into months and have now stretched into years. The Atlantic couldn’t face friendly fire for a few days. Its cowardice hurts us all.
Here’s Williamson breaking down supporters of socialism: