The Atlantic’s Firing of Kevin Williamson Was Wrong in Nearly Every Way
There are a lot of weird and unjustified firings in opinion media, but The Atlantic suddenly getting rid of brand-new columnist Kevin Williamson was, for a variety of reasons, particularly unsettling.
First, they literally fired a person they just hired for his strong opinions because they found out that he really does believe something (that women who have abortions should be subject to death by hanging) they already knew that he had tweeted. This act clearly strikes a chilling blow on free expression by further altering the standard for what someone, specifically a conservative, is allowed to say and still be considered worthy of having a voice in the “mainstream” media.
Second, they did this in an extremely awkward and embarrassing manner given that this had already been a controversy at the time of his hiring. It was the result of an obvious campaign by liberals to sabotage Williamson, while making it more difficult for conservatives to be “mainstreamed.” His hiring was intended as a sign of conservative outreach by a very liberal-leaning publication, but obviously now that move has completely backfired for everyone involved.
Third, the offense itself, while I get why his statement is upsetting (since when is having an upsetting opinion a disqualifier to being an opinion columnist?!) to pro-abortion liberals, but, while I disagree with it, it is hardly indefensible, and nowhere near a disqualifier for his position.
Believing that abortion, especially the late-term variety, is morally equal to murder is not at all illogical. If you believe an act is the same as murder, then having the death penalty as punishment for such an act is also not remotely irrational, as many states still have such laws on the books. A couple of states still even allow hanging as a form of execution.
So what exactly is so horrendous about having that as OPINION? Again, Williamson obviously did not ACTUALLY try to hang a woman for having an abortion, he simply stated, years before being hired by a liberal outlet, his preference that such a punishment be made viable.
There seems to be a blatant double standard at work here. For instance, I wonder how many liberal readers of The Atlantic would have been deeply offended if a progressive writer had theorized that those convicted of bombing abortion clinics should be subject to death by hanging?
I’m guessing very few, and that may be the part of this that is most troubling. This is a move which is obviously designed to pander and placate their core readership, almost as if liberals are admitting that they want to be allowed to remain in their “safe space,” instead of occasionally being challenged by a conservative, even one who is a fierce critic of Donald Trump.
Some may say that, since The Atlantic is a business, this exactly what they should be doing in order to protect their audience and bottom-line. However, journalistic outlets are supposed to be inherently different from normal businesses, which is why we (used to) think that they might be telling us something simply because it is true, and not just because it promotes profits.
I am hardly naïve in this area. I realize far too well that, especially in this era with badly broken business models dragging down media outlets almost universally, that almost all editorial decisions are now made through this prism.
However, if only because truth in advertising should still matter at least a little, if The Atlantic really is only going to be a place where liberals will never be offended — even by something one of their writers never actually wrote in their pages, or even while working for them — then they at least need to admit that is all that they are. For the record, I feel exactly the same way about several major “conservative” outlets when it comes to their blanket censorship of anti-Trump views.
It is very strange to me that, in this era where social media has allowed everyone who wants it to have some sort of a public voice, we are now censoring opinions with access to the largest platforms at an unprecedented rate. Most dangerously, this phenomenon is now quickly becoming perfectly acceptable and a part of the “rules” for membership in the Elite Media Club.
At least for conservatives.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.