Klavan On The Culture

On Kevin Williamson, The Atlantic Has No Excuse

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If anyone should hold a grudge against Kevin Williamson, it’s me. He was relatively obscure the first time I met him. We were on a bus going to join an NRO cruise. But I realized within about a minute that I was talking to a brilliant and, more importantly, cultured man. So when he said I should read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, I believed him and I did.

And yet even after wasting precious months of my one and only life wading through those thousand pages of self-referential drivel, I retained a real affection, admiration and respect for the man — Williamson, not Wallace. He is incisive, wickedly droll and a terrific writer. In fact, given his insistently deadpan sense of humor, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually believe women who have abortions should be hanged, as he has occasionally said. But, of course, that’s an old trick of the left, isn’t it? Pretending to be outraged by conservative jokes so we learn to be careful what we say.

Anyway, that was the crappy little ploy Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg used when, after hiring Kevin to bring some diversity of opinion to his magazine, he fired him two weeks later for bringing some diversity of opinion to his magazine.

Now, I love reading Kevin’s pieces and sometimes I agree with them, or part of them. But here’s a fun fact to know and share: When I disagree with something he says, I don’t burst into flames or faint dead away or explode or even melt like the Wicked Witch. I merely sharpen my arguments against his and wake the morrow morn a wiser man. So it is with all opinions I disagree with and even with opinions I hate. Sometimes what a writer writes angers me but, to coin an internet meme, do I die? Not even close.

This is why there is no possible excuse for Goldberg’s puling moral cowardice. He did a genuinely bad thing and it is harmful to what remains of our national discussion. Goldberg’s not some college kid who doesn’t know any better. He’s a grown-up man in a grown-up job that people respect — and he just sent a message to the thinking people of the country that they are justified in demonizing opinions, jokes and provocations that cause them some discomfort. I mean, I can understand why the vivisectors of babies might break out in a bit of a sweat when the subject of hanging them comes up. But this is America. Screw em, if they can’t take a joke.

This is no time to discuss whether Kevin’s right or not, whether what he said was untoward or not — as some misguided thinkers on the right are doing. This is the time to heap shame on Goldberg for caving in to the hysterical voices of the bullying left. There is only one reason to silence someone like Kevin: your arguments are so bad you can’t stand up to him in a fair debate.

On top of which, hiring a man away from his job, then firing him for being exactly who you knew he was is simply a skunk thing to do. Shame on Goldberg, really.

In today’s political debate, there are two kinds of people: those who want to silence the voices they disagree with, and the good guys. Kevin Williamson is one of the good guys. Goldberg, it turns out, not so much.

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