Kevin Williamson, a conservative writer, has moved from the National Review to the Atlantic, and the media is having a hard time accepting this.
There’s diversity of viewpoint, the critics say. But then there’s this guy.
Williamson has said a black child looked similar to a primate, compared trans people to voodoo doll worshippers, suggested women who have abortions should be hanged and, “in a too-cute-by-half bid for rage clicks,” accused Bernie Sanders, a secular Jew, of leading a “national socialist movement,” according to Slate.
He is “gratuitously cruel,” his “antipathy toward feminism extends to rape victims,” and he is “not a friend of the poor,” wrote Sarah Jones in the New Republic under the headline: “The Conservative Columnist Conundrum … On Kevin D. Williamson and the mainstreaming of the reactionary right.”
Williamson is but the latest worst-of-all-time conservative columnist to take a job explaining the right and how it thinks to audiences of liberal publications. The outcries upon their hiring are becoming routine, as Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss at the New York Times and Megan McArdle at the Washington Post will attest.
Employees complain to management. Management “explains” its decision. The new hire gets the message – trim your sails or expect constant fire.
“Now it’s Kevin Williamson’s turn,” wrote David French at National Review. “Kevin was our much-beloved and much-respected ‘roving correspondent.’ He’s supremely talented and undeniably provocative. He’s also incredibly prolific. He’s written millions of words, granted countless media interviews and sent thousands of tweets (at least when he was still on Twitter).
“So of course he’s now subject to the unbelievably tedious ‘gotcha’ exercise of angry progressives combing through that body of work, yanking the most irritating examples from the whole and attempting to define Kevin entirely through a few paragraphs, a sentence here or there, or an ill-considered tweet or two.”
Slate’s Jordan Weissman, under the headline: “Why Would the Atlantic Hire Kevin Williamson?” said Williamson was, “at his best, a right-wing provocateur who writes enjoyable, if slightly retro, prose. At his worst, he’s a verbose and hateful troll.”
His views are what “one would typically associate with the Atlantic, which has a long, unique history in American intellectual life that’s partly bound up with the advancement of civil rights – it was founded by abolitionists, published Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” and helped make Ta-Nehisi Coates a leading American voice on race.
“All of this makes Williamson, with his frequent sneer, dearth of empathy and dicey treatment of race, a bit of a weird fit for the publication.”
His evidence is Williamson referred to Black Lives Matter as “race-hustling professionals,” wrote that dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die” and said “we don’t do harems,” but if we did, Mitt Romney is the kind of guy who should have one.
Weissman then raises another point that deserves an answer. He said Jeffrey Goldberg, who runs The Atlantic, claims he hired Williamson to promote intellectual diversity, but that claim rings hollow, Weissman said. Williamson is a NeverTrumper, just as are Stevens, George Will and many other conservatives now writing at liberal publications. He doesn’t represent the 40 percent or more of Americans who support Trump and therefore offers no new understanding of why they think as they do.
“That’s a justifiable choice … but it suggests that Goldberg has some intellectual red lines he isn’t willing to cross in the name of diversity, one of which happens to cordon off the entire contemporary Republican Party” Weissman wrote. “Other editors might pick different red lines – like transphobia, or history of racial insensitivity –that would rule a writer like Williamson out. Goldberg is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in large part because he’s a conservative who opposes Trump, which makes him ‘interesting.’”