I’d never heard of Kevin Williamson until a friend sent me a link to an opinion piece in the New York Time entitled The Outrage Over Kevin Williamson. Even though I’ve lost a lot of respect for the Times, and I generally avoid their opinion page these days, I read the piece. I wanted to know 1) who the hell is Kevin Williamson, and 2) who was outraged by him, and 3) why.
The editorial is written as an apologetic letter to Williamson by Bret Stephens, who I only know as a conservative political writer who opposes Comrade Trump. It begins with Stephens citing the reasons for the apology:
Sorry, first, that you have to endure having your character assailed and assassinated by people who rarely if ever read you and likely never met you. Sorry also that your hiring as a writer for The Atlantic has set off another censorious furor in media circles when surely there are more important subjects on this earth.
Okay, then. This guy Williamson, who has been offered a job writing for The Atlantic, is apparently having his character assassinated. That’s shameful. Nobody likes that, nobody is in favor of character assassination. So at this point in the editorial I’m feeling a bit of empathy for poor Williamson. Until I found out why there is a ‘censorious furor in media circles.’ Stephens writes:
The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it.
I may have set a North American speed record for shifting from empathy to censorious furor. This guy tweeted that women who have abortions and doctors who perform them ought to be hanged? Hanged?
Stephens lists a couple other reasons for that ‘censorious furor’ but really, why bother? I mean, that first reason alone is more than censorious furor-worthy. Hanged, for fuck’s sake. Hanged!
I don’t like abortion, as I’ve said elsewhere, but I completely support a woman’s right to choose. I can understand why a lot of folks disagree with me. I can also understand why a lot of folks would like to turn back the clock and make abortion illegal again, though I think they’re absolutely wrong. I can even understand (on a purely intellectual level) why some folks would think it necessary to criminally punish women and abortion providers. But hanging? Are you fucking kidding me? Hanging?
Stephens goes on:
[Y]our critics show bad faith when they treat an angry tweet or a flippant turn of phrase as proof of moral incorrigibility. Let he who is without a bad tweet, a crap sentence or even a deplorable opinion cast the first stone.
A flippant turn of phrase. Hanging women and doctors…just a bit of irreverent frivolity. I’ve written my share of crap sentences, and I know there are folks who think some of my opinions are deplorable. But you can hand me that first fucking stone, because if advocating hanging women and abortion providers isn’t proof of moral incorrigibility, then I don’t know what is. What kind of fucking madness is that? You know what really shows bad faith? Wanting to hang people for receiving or performing an absolutely legal medical procedure.
Stephens finishes by chastising the people who don’t think The Atlantic should hire a guy who has advocated hanging women and abortion providers. He says,
[T]hey foreclose the possibility of learning something useful from someone smart. Learning does not require agreement. There’s a reason this section of the newspaper is labeled “Opinion,” not “Affirmation,” “Reinforcement,” or “Emotional Crutch.” Liberals used to know that. What happened?
What happened? I’ll tell you what happened, you pus-brained fuckwit. A lot of people have no interest in ‘learning’ the opinions of assholes like Kevin Williamson who think the appropriate response to terminating an unwanted pregnancy is to string women and their doctors up by their necks until they die. That’s what happened.