The Atlantic fired conservative writer Kevin Williamson Thursday, causing much anguish among the respectable Right.
The former National Review writer’s hire by the esteemed liberal magazine was controversial when it was announced last month, with leftists honing in on Williamson’s tweet that women who have an abortion may deserve the death penalty.
He was also attacked by progressives for “insensitive” writings on race and gender issues, but the abortion view is what cost him his job. It was already known when Williamson was hired that he had once suggested hanging as an appropriate punishment for abortion. That comment was excused by his defenders as a poorly-thought out tweet and they insisted the anti-Trump conservative doesn’t support that idea.
After The Atlantic published Williamson’s one article for the publication, Media Matters dug up a podcast where the writer made a similar statement. That was the last straw for his employers. (RELATED:Kevin D. Williamson Fired By The Atlantic — Media World Reacts)
The decision to fire Williamson was greeted with outrage by many conservative pundits.
I’ve grown up in the midst of an elite media/academic world that positively delights in shocking the conservative and Christian conscience. Yet the same elite can’t coexist with a talented, provocative conservative? Contemptible: https://t.co/F8E6ldnEEZ
— David French (@DavidAFrench) April 6, 2018
If the body of Williamson’s work renders him a “toxic” voice, either the concept has been recklessly diluted to the point of uselessness, or you’re going to alienate and radicalize a lot of conservatives. https://t.co/uD77DUVx5W
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) April 6, 2018
The Atlantic’s Hypocrisy On Kevin Williamson https://t.co/FXISUSThj6
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) April 5, 2018
Kevin Williamson was Never Trump *and* one of the most talented writers of his generation. They still wouldn’t let him work for a a venerable liberal institution. Let that be a lesson.
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) April 5, 2018
If Kevin Williamson and @bariweiss are too controversial for Leftists to allow a platform, this raises a serious question: is there anyone to the right of David Frum who isn’t?
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 5, 2018
A media company firing one of its writers isn’t exactly an earth shattering event, but it was for conservative writers who aim for respectability. One of the hallmarks of conservative punditry (at least of the Trump skeptic variety) is the desire to have civil discussion with liberals.
They want to be able to agree to disagree, which requires their opponents to respect the positions of moderate conservatives. Writers such as David French don’t expect to convince liberals to become pro-life, they simply want their pro-life position seen as legitimate.
Respectable conservatives also go to great lengths to distance themselves from the supposedly noxious elements of the Right, positioning themselves as reasonable voices liberals can tolerate.
The firing of a respectable conservative like Williamson over abortion shows that the majority of the Left doesn’t actually respect right-wing views — no matter how reasonable they sound. The center-left liberals who run The Atlantic may still respect anti-Trump conservatives, but young leftists don’t and they don’t want them working for any publication outside of the right-wing ghetto.
“The goal here isn’t just to get one creep fired,” tweeted left-wing writer David Klion in response to Williamson’s termination. “The goal is to change the incentive structure for mainstream publications so they stop rewarding bigots and trolls with cushy jobs and stop whitewashing conservatism.”
A similar situation arose last year when The New York Times hired neoconservative Bret Stephens. Leftists ignored Stephens’ strident criticism of Trump and lambasted his questioning of climate change and opinions on Palestinians. But The Times stood by their hire and it paid off when the supposedly conservative Stephens argued for the repeal of the Second Amendment. (RELATED: The New York Times Affirms Its Elitist Bent With Latest Hire)
The difference between Stephens and Williamson is that the Left was able to convince The Atlantic it violated the dictates of identity politics with its hire. Stephen may be repugnant to leftists, but he didn’t pose a “threat” to protected classes like Williamson supposedly does. “He wants to hang women for abortion!” is more damning than warmongering.
Many Never Trumpers have enjoyed a strange new respect from liberals with Trump in the White House — so long as they stick to liberals’ preferred topics. Plenty of progressives would share Williamson’s searing critiques of Trump and his supporters, but that didn’t mean they would accept his other, more offensive views. (RELATED: National Review Writer: Working-Class Communities ‘Deserve To Die’)
In defending Williamson’s hire, Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg implied Williamson would stay in his lane and do little to offend liberal sensibilities. “I would also prefer, all things being equal, to give people second chances and the opportunity to change,” Goldberg wrote in a memo to staff a week before firing his new hire.
The respect for anti-Trump conservatives only extends to their negative views on the president and any other issue that aligns with left-wing priorities. Everything else is bigotry unworthy of polite society.
The Williamson firing should be a wake-up call to conservatives who pine for civility and respect from liberals. The Left only likes conservatives if they serve the larger goal of attacking the Right.
Leftists want ideological hegemony, not civil debate.
No matter how much some conservatives call for civility and distance themselves from Trumpists, they’ll still be banished if their opinions run afoul of progressive orthodoxy.
In polarized America, there’s no room for compromise and polite discussion. Respectable conservatives have two choices: follow the footsteps of Bret Stephens and become a moderate liberal, or stick with right-wing media where their views are still respected.
Seeking the respect of people who only have contempt for your worldview no longer pays off.