Kevin Williamson and the Limits of Polite Discourse

The Atlantic fired one of their few conservative voices for saying women who have abortions should be hanged. Was this beyond the pale?

Conservative provocateur Kevin Williamson was fired from the Atlantic after barely a week after it was discovered that his view that women who have abortions should be subject to the death penalty was not simply an “intemperate tweet” but “represent[ed] his carefully considered views.”

Not surprisingly, most voices on the left have applauded the firing, while contending Williamson’s record was sufficiently repugnant he should never have been legitimated in the first place. HuffPost’s Ashley Feinberg (“Atlantic Fires Kevin Williamson After Suddenly Realizing He Believes The Things He Says“) and Jezebel‘s Katie McDonough (“Jezebel Regrets Its Decision to Hire Cannibal Witch as Writer-at-Large“) are representative samples. Many on the right have likewise expressed their distaste for Williams being seen as their representative.

The defenses are more interesting, if varying considerably in their persuasiveness.

The Federalist‘s Warren Henry (“Ta-Nehisi Coates And Jessica Valenti Prove The Atlantic‘s Hypocrisy On Kevin Williamson“) tries some false equivalence, noting that Coates and Valenti say some provocative things. But none of the things he cites are advocacy of murder. Coates merely notes that the struggle to end the effects of racism could well involve violence. And Valenti argues that there should be no limits whatsoever to abortion.

Reason‘s Katherine Mangu-Ward is more persuasive (“By Firing Kevin Williamson, The Atlantic Shows It Can’t Handle Real Ideological Diversity“):

I do not share his view. But by declaring Williamson to be outside the Overton window of acceptable political discourse because he believes strongly that abortion is a serious, punishable crime, The Atlantic is essentially declaring that it cannot stomach real, mainstream conservatism as it actually exists in 21st century America.

Williamson uses colorful and sometimes rash language. He didn’t have to detail the grisly form of punishment he would inflict on women who decide to terminate their pregnancies. He chose to do so because he enjoys provoking a reaction. But The Atlantic knew that about him before it hired him.

Editor Jeffrey Goldberg says he decided to fire Williamson only after learning that the tweet and podcast quote “represented his carefully considered views.” But the underlying logic of Williamson’s position is a view shared by roughly half or at least 40 percent of Americans.

It is, of course, the perfect right of The Atlantic‘s editors to publish whomever they wish. Reason staffers are all libertarian, under a big-tent understanding of that term (not to brag, but we are repping the pro-life view). That’s written into our mission as a magazine. But if The Atlantic purports to capture a broad spectrum of American political views, Williamson’s firing is a sign that it hasn’t yet figured out how to do so. And the reader outcry against him (and his rightish heterodox kinfolk at The New York Times) is a sign of a market that has grown increasingly squeamish about a genuinely inclusive journalistic vision.

Now, the links she provides merely demonstrate that a significant percentage of Americans think abortions should be illegal in all or most cases. In my own memory of the debate, going back some four decades, few mainstream politicians have advocated punishing women for having abortions, preferring instead to punish the provider. (Then again, many states punish women for having so-called “back alley” abortions, on the grounds they could seriously injure the unborn child if unsuccessful.) When then-candidate Donald Trump argued women should receive ”some kind of punishment” for getting abortions, he was quickly forced to walk that back. (Although 39% of his supporters agreed with the original statement, according to one survey.) Meting out the death penalty, then is surely an extreme view.

Still, Mangu-Ward is right that Williamson’s conclusion is a logical one that might be drawn from the perfectly-mainstream “abortion is murder” rhetoric.  The reductio ad absurdum would likely be self-defeating, running away potential converts to the anti-abortion position. But perhaps Williamson is just being honest while anti-abortion politicians and activists are being strategically measured.

Rod Dreher‘s argument is stronger than his silly title (“Atlantic Cashiers Kevin Williamson, Its Reputation“):

How many other writers at major national magazines grew up poor, white, and in a badly broken culture? Are there any? Not many writers, whatever their background, could write as beautifully and insightfully as Kevin Williamson does. If you know his work at all, you can easily see why Jeffrey Goldberg hired him at The Atlantic. It is hard to separate Kevin the fearless and brilliant writer from Kevin the guy who can be a jackass. You know who else was like this? Christopher Hitchens.

The Atlantic is not obligated to hire or to retain anyone. Firing Williamson because of that one blemish on his immense record is unjust — and it’s a serious stain on the magazine’s reputation.

If we are going to start refusing to hire writers for holding or having stated harsh opinions in the past, this is going to cost us plenty. Of course we’re not going to do that across the board. It’s only going to apply to writers who offend against left-liberal politics. Mind you — and this has to be repeated — most pro-lifers would find Williamson’s remark beyond the pale. But you do not see pro-lifers, or any other conservatives, coalescing to fire writers.

Recently, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus came out in favor of eugenic abortion regarding Down Syndrome babies. It shocked the conscience of a lot of conservatives, who said so. But did a mob form to demand that the Post fire Ruth Marcus? Of course not — and had there been, there’s no way I would have joined it.

Williamson’s former (and perhaps soon-to-be-again) National Review colleague David French (“On the Cowardly Firing of Kevin Williamson“) makes the strongest defense I’ve seen:

The Atlantic has caved to the intolerant mob and fired Kevin Williamson, and in so doing has contributed to a slanderous fiction — that Kevin is so beyond the pale that he has no place at one of the nation’s premiere mainstream publications. His millions of words, his countless interviews, and his personal character were reduced to nothing — inconsequential in the face of deleted tweets and a five-minute podcast dialogue.

So, what are The Atlantic’s readers now missing? I ask you to read Kevin’s February 18, 2016, NR cover story about the opioid crisis. It’s not a chart-filled, graphics-heavy analysis. It’s a story about people. It’s a story told the way only Kevin can. It takes a reader who may not know or may never meet a heroin addict, and it puts you in their world. By the end, your heart breaks.

[…]

Kevin is independent. He’s provocative. Sure, he can troll a little bit, and — no — I don’t agree with everything he says. I’m a moderate, you see. If abortion is ever criminalized in this nation, I think only the abortionist (and not the mother) should face murder charges for poisoning, crushing, or dismembering a living child. So we might differ about the laws in hypothetical-future-America.

But in this America, the one we live in now, Kevin is one of our most interesting and talented voices. Like every single interesting and talented person I know, he can provoke. But so what? Aren’t we adults? Can’t we handle disagreement? Apparently not.

I’ve spent my entire adult life in an academic and media environment that put a premium on shocking the conservative conscience. Advocate for the most barbaric abortion practices? Fine. Celebrate an artist who dips a crucifix in urine? Cool. Decry 9/11 first responders as “not human” because of white supremacy? Intriguing. But the marketplace of ideas isn’t for the faint of heart, and good conservatives learn to simultaneously defend the culture of free speech while also fighting hard to build a culture of virtue and respect.

Look, I know it’s easy for some to dismiss Kevin’s termination as mere inside-baseball media drama. But it’s more than that. It’s a declaration by one of America’s most powerful media entities that it can’t even coexist with a man like Kevin. If he wants to write, he should run along to his conservative home. His new colleagues simply couldn’t abide his presence.

After Kevin was fired, Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti tweeted that she was “very relieved for the women” who work at The Atlantic. Why? What was Kevin going to do to them? Write things that made them angry? God forbid! His ideas might hurt? Have mercy!

And so it goes, the steady, inexorable division of America into the tolerable and the intolerable — with the range of tolerable people narrowing ever-so-rapidly. There’s no grace in this brave new world. There’s no charity. It’s not enough to disagree. Now we must ruin. Now we must humiliate. Saying “you’re wrong” is no longer enough. The argument isn’t sufficient.

Aside from mischaracterizing Coates’ “not human” remark (apparently, there was a memo: Henry and Dreher do the same with the same passage) he’s got a strong argument here for tolerating Williamson’s words and style. If abortion were illegal, and we were seriously considering upping the penalty on women who have abortions from, say, twenty years in prison, to death, his views would be dangerous. As it is, they’re merely extremist nonsense.

But the issue isn’t whether Williamson’s extremist nonsense should be tolerated but whether The Atlantic ought to legitimate it by having it appear under its masthead. I see no obvious reason why it should. Williamson’s vision of women being executed for having abortions is no more likely to become public policy than Coates’ reparations, but the latter is far more interesting. Yes, they both make people uncomfortable. But Coates is contributing something more valuable to the discourse.

French seems to argue that more is at stake. That the Establishment has declared Williamson persona non grata and excommunicated him from the elite-level conversation. And maybe they have.  I can’t see the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, or any other prestige, non-ideological publication hiring him right now.

Henry Farrell goes further in (“Who has any use for conservative intellectuals?“):

It is an unfortunate, but fairly obvious truth that most intellectuals, both on the left or right, don’t have particularly original ideas. Go to the Aspen Ideas Festival, or TED, or any of their ilk and you won’t find much that is genuinely surprising or exciting. Instead, you will find a lot of people whose stock-in-trade is not so much innovation as influence.

This used to be true in some quite specific ways of conservative intellectuals. The conservative movement perceived the need for intellectuals, both to hold their own fractious coalition together through ‘fusionism’ and the like, and to justify their goals to liberals, who dominated the space of serious policy discussions, and could possibly stop them. Liberal policy types, for their part, needed to understand what was happening among conservatives, and perhaps hoped to influence it a little. The result was that conservative intellectuals were in a highly advantageous structural position, serving as the primary link between two different spheres, which didn’t otherwise come much into contact. As network sociology 101 will tell you, this allowed them a fair amount of arbitrage and enough slack that e.g. people like Jonah Goldberg were treated as serious thinkers.

Now, however, the game is up, thanks to an unfortunate concatenation of events. Conservative intellectuals defected en masse from Trump, thinking that it was a fairly cheap gesture of independence, but Trump got elected. Not only did this damage these intellectuals’ personal ties with the new administration and the conservative movement, but it opened up the way for a conservatism that basically didn’t give a fuck about policy ideas and the need to seem ‘serious’ any more. The result is that conservative intellectuals don’t have all that much influence over conservatism any more.

The problem is that without such influence over conservatives, these intellectuals’ capital with liberals and the left is rapidly diminishing too. If conservative intellectuals don’t have much of an audience within conservatism itself, why should people on the opposite side listen to them any more? Their actual ideas are … mostly not that strong. Some of them are good writers (David Frum, for example), but good writing only goes so far. The only plausible case for paying attention to conservative-intellectuals-qua-conservative-intellectuals, is that perhaps the pendulum will swing back after Trump, and the old regime be restored. That might happen, but you wouldn’t want to betting serious money on it.

This is really the rub. There has been a perennial debate, at least since I began blogging fifteen years ago, along the lines of “Who are the thinkers on the [other side] that [people on my side] should be reading?” It has always been easy to point to liberals that conservatives would benefit from reading, whether to sharpen to their own thoughts or to challenge them. It’s gotten harder and harder to find conservatives that liberals need to read. And I say that as someone who would have self-identified as a conservative a decade ago and would likely still be characterized that way by most on the left.

Jeet Heer had a go at at yesterday:

Daniel McCarthy (@ToryAnarchist) and Daniel Larison are indeed fine candidates, although they specialize in foreign policy. I’d add Kori Schake (@KoriSchake) to the list, along with some others. But, not only are they mostly writing about a narrow topic but, as Farrell notes, they’re not the types of conservative currently influential with the movement. McCarthy and Larison aren’t even less interventionist than I am, making us outliers. Schake would be a candidate for National Security Advisor or another senior post in a John Kasich or Jeb Bush administration but she’s a plankholder in the #NeverTrump movement.

Having long ago relegated National Republic Online to the link-only reading list, I’m not familiar with Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd)’s work. I gather Helen Andrews (@herandrews) is a journalist who specializes in literary criticism, but that’s just from a scan of her portfolio. Sam Goldman (@SWGoldman), a political scientist, seems to specialize in religious issues, particulary Israel. Off the top of my head, I’d add Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) of Harvard and Lawfare on legal matters.

There are a few general interest conservative thinkers out there, including Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru). But, again, the ones I find interesting are almost exclusively the ones outside the tent.

Given that Donald Trump commanded nearly half the vote in the most recent presidential election, it almost certainly makes sense to find columnists who express their viewpoint in the most persuasive way possible. But given that his appeal was anchored in frustration, nativism, racism, and a general rejection of intellectualism, that’s likely an exercise doomed to failure.

UPDATE: Tom Nichols, who I’d very much include on the list of conservatives worth reading (he’s a national security professor but weighs in on issues across the spectrum, adds:

Reading his thread he’s decidedly not arguing that Williamson’s rights are being infringed or even that conservatives are generally being unfairly targeted. But he does see a double standard. He, for example, does a much better job on the Valenti double standard issue than did Warren Henry:

UDPATE 2: Slate‘s Jack Shafer offers an incredibly backhanded defense of Williamson (“Congrats, Jeff Goldberg. You Just Martyred Kevin Williamson.“):

I’ve long admired Williamson’s writing, if not his ideas, for the way he’s internalized Michael Kinsley’s warning that if you’re afraid to go too far, you won’t go far enough. Williamson almost always goes too far, taking his arguments to thought frontiers where there are no roads, no mobile phone service and sometimes barely enough air to breathe. For examples of the Williamson oeuvre, see these National Review pieces arguing against reparations, decrying the mainstreaming of transgender rights, critiquing the “white working class” and dismissing the idea of “white supremacy.”

Since the rise of Donald Trump, Williamson has emerged as maybe the most eloquent and forceful internal critic of that part of the white working class that went for Trump. He’s a blue-collar Texan who regularly lets his fellow blue-collar white people have it for their moral failures, for their embrace of a strongman, for letting the “American values” they purport to stand for decay into a swamp of self-pity and conspiracy-mongering. He has become the center-left’s favorite righty firebrand, and it’s not hard to see why Goldberg wanted him aboard. But once you get beyond the anti-Trumpism, he also holds a lot of social positions the center-left loathes, and he’s ferociously good at articulating them. He’s the kind of writer comfortable liberals ignore at their peril.

Every Williamson article contains strong meat, which has led his detractors to dismiss him as a troll. But that’s not who he is. He’s really more of an ogre who loves to take arguments to the breaking point in hopes of shocking readers with his cold, unbound logic. Where other writers might serve 7 percent alcohol in their brew, Williamson likes to up his percentage to 20. Where other writers might stop at mean, Williamson keeps going all the way to cruel.

I never read Williamson in hopes of seeking agreement. And on that score, he has almost never failed me. He’s not interested in building consensus or in gentle persuasion. He reduces all the grays to their black-and-white components. He pushes boundaries and doesn’t stop until he’s gone too far.

[…]

Without relitigating Williamson’s abortion views—which I don’t share—let’s agree that if he hadn’t been sent packing for his less-than-modern views on abortion, his critics would have griped about something else in his archives to engineer his removal. Let’s be real here: Kevin Williamson wasn’t sent packing for expressing strong language on abortion but for being Kevin Williamson. The very things that made him so appealing to Goldberg were destined to lead to his exit.

The loser here isn’t Williamson. Like other excellent writers who’ve gotten the ax, he’ll find a new job soon enough—and now he’s become the right’s latest free-speech martyr. The real losers are Atlantic writers and Atlantic readers—writers because they’ll become faint-hearted about their work (who wants to be the next Williamson?) and readers because the magazine will be less eager to challenge them.

There’s certainly something to be said for fearlessness. But “He’s not interested in building consensus or in gentle persuasion. He reduces all the grays to their black-and-white components. He pushes boundaries and doesn’t stop until he’s gone too far” sounds precisely like the antithesis of an Atlantic writer.

UPDATE: See my follow-up “Kevin Williamson Doesn’t Want Women Murdered And Doesn’t Belong at The Atlantic.”

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Media, Politics 101, Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    It’s an irony, too, that Williamson’s articles about Trump were among the most scathing I’ve read. And he was deeply hated by the Trumpkins for those pieces. I have wondered if these anti-Trump writings weren’t what piqued the interest of The Atlantic.




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  2. perhaps Williamson is just being honest while anti-abortion politicians and activists are being strategically measured.

    To be fair, there is a sizable portion of the pro-life community that is also opposed to the death penalty. This is especially true of Catholics, which make up a large segment of that community.

    That being said, I think you do have a point that for many pro-lifers the punishment question is one where they tend to fall apart. The rhetoric from that side about the alleged heinousness of abortion has become such that one does have to conclude that, except for those philosophically opposed to the death penalty, there isn’t any logical reason why capital punishment should not be a potential although not necessarily mandatory punishment.




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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The cop-out answer, adopted by Trump and noted by a couple of the columnists I quote above, is that the women who have abortions are themselves victims and therefore should not be punished. That it’s the providers who are the real villains. That strikes me as sexist horseshit, denying women agency.




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  4. Mike Schilling says:

    If the Atlantic shouldn’t have fired Williamson, then NR shouldn’t have cut ties with Derbyshire; it’s the same argument about a skilled and intelligent writer who has some extreme opinions. Not that French went there.




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  5. @James Joyner:

    That’s not an unfair conclusion, and when I do get into discussions about this issue with people on the pro-life side, there does tend to be an effort to wiggle out of the logical consequences of their rhetoric. Perhaps because they are unwilling to face the implications of just how far their argument can be pushed or, as you put it, because expressing the opinion Williamson has would likely turn off moderates to pro-life arguments.

    Again, though, it’s worth remembering that at least some segment of the pro-life community is also opposed to the death penalty as well as opposing things like physician-assisted suicide for terminal patients. Even if one disagrees with one of those positions, at least those people are being somewhat intellectually consistent.




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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Mike Schilling: It’s a slippery slope, indeed, but I think arguing, in 2014, that blacks are inherently stupid and scary if much further outside the bounds of polite debate than arguing in 2018 that abortion is murder.

    @Doug Mataconis: The weirdness is that I gather Williamson himself opposes, or at least has concerns, about capital punishment. His real argument is that we should treat abortion the same way we treat any other murder–to include capital punishment.




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  7. Modulo Myself says:

    Williamson didn’t try to defend what he said. He’s a writer, and he should have written about why he said women should be hanged in his first column. I suspect that he doesn’t have a defense. He just likes to say to horrifying things about women who have had abortions. You can’t say the same about Coates or Marcus, both of whom were exploring in good faith what they were thinking in order to make others understand. Williamson comes from a place where everything is a scam: in no way is he interested in communicating or being honest.




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  8. Kathy says:

    I’m sure that outside the hardcore fanatical fringe, most people opposed to abortion do not, in fact, consider it to be murder.




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  9. SKI says:

    @Mike Schilling:

    If the Atlantic shouldn’t have fired Williamson, then NR shouldn’t have cut ties with Derbyshire; it’s the same argument about a skilled and intelligent writer who has some extreme opinions. Not that French went there.

    THIS




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  10. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    @Mike Schilling: It’s a slippery slope, indeed, but I think arguing, in 2014, that blacks are inherently stupid and scary if much further outside the bounds of polite debate than arguing in 2018 that abortion is murder.

    1. You aren’t a woman and probably haven’t thought through the dehumanizing predicates to that line of argument .
    2. He didn’t *just* argue that abortion was murder. He argued that woman who have an abortion should be executed. That is WAY, WAY outside normal discourse.




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  11. MarkedMan says:

    James, I think you are missing a key part of Williamson’s firing. According to Goldberg, he brought this up during the hiring process and Williamson assured him that it was just a single tweet, tapped out without thought. It didn’t represent his real position. When someone dropped the podcast into Goldbergs inbox, he not only learned that this was much more than a single tweet, he learned that Williamson had lied to him about a potential scandal.

    Goldberg risked a lot in hiring Williamson. He knew he was going to have to continuously defend his past and in return Williamson had to make Goldberg aware of everything that might come up. Once he realized Williamson was holding back Goldberg cannot be blamed for deciding it wasn’t worth prolonging the agony. After all, who knows what else was going to drip, drip, drip out? What could he expect from Williamson? After all, he had let Goldberg write a known falsehood (that it was a single tweet written in the heat of the moment) in the very column that Goldberg wrote to explain why he had hired Williamson in the first place.




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  12. MBunge says:

    Kevin Williamson wasn’t hired by The Atlantic because he’s a talented writer. He was hired because he’s a geyser of contempt for Donald Trump and Trump supporters. And he wasn’t fired for a tweet and a podcast comment on abortion. He was fired because he’s an intemperate ass whose bile will largely be directed at The Atlantic’s core audience.

    I would guess the powers that be at The Atlantic actually thought this through and realized that even if they stuck by Williamson and he did some kind of apology tour, that wouldn’t be the end of it. Williamson would either have to radically change the tone of his writing or this stuff would happen over and over again. Neither would benefit the magazine so they decided to nip this problem in the bud.

    The irony of NeverTrumpers balking at NeverWilliamson is fairly entertaining, however.

    Mike




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  13. MarkedMan says:

    I think only the abortionist (and not the mother) should face murder charges for poisoning, crushing, or dismembering a living child.

    This is just BS. If she believes this, she is just deluding herself. More likely, the plan is to go after the doctors first, but then later on go after the pregnant women. After all, do we execute the hitman but let the person who hired them go free?




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  14. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: I think arguing, in 2014, that blacks are inherently stupid and scary if much further outside the bounds of polite debate than arguing in 2018 that abortion is murder.

    I really don’t understand the time qualifier. If the dates were reversed, you’d be more supportive of Derbyshire and less of Williamson?

    And while it’s fair to ding pro-lifers for their murder rhetoric, there is nothing inconsistent about believing abortion is the taking of a human life but treating it as manslaughter or some other category of homicide.

    Mike




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  15. michael reynolds says:

    Obviously this:

    But perhaps Williamson is just being honest while anti-abortion politicians and activists are being strategically measured.

    Is true. The notion that we could prosecute abortionists but not patients is nonsense. The cops will need a lever, and that lever will be criminal charges against abortion patients. Further, such laws will be set by states and if you don’t think Mississippi would hang a woman for having an abortion – bonus points if she’s black – you’re blind. It is patently absurd to allege that the abortionist is a murderer, but the person who hired and paid the hitman is somehow innocent. It’s a lie, it’s always been a lie, the hardcore anti-choice people know it’s a lie, and it requires an act of deliberate self-deception to believe it’s anything but a lie.

    Williamson believes that there are tens of millions of American women who deserve to be executed. That’s his position. Millions of women – including my wife – are murderers and should be marched up scaffold and have their necks broken.

    Is that OK at the Atlantic? I am a free speech extremist, but this isn’t about free speech, this is about whether the owners and editors of the Atlantic want to keep a writer who believes that they, their, daughters, their wives, deserve death.




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  16. KM says:

    Forced-birthers like the word “murder” purely for its emotional connotations and the demonization of those involved. Even in the Bible, the deliberately-caused death of an unborn is never referred to as murder, either in legal terms or as a lurid descriptor. It’s the same reason they wave bloody pictures in people’s faces that don’t accurately depict the reality of the situation – they are trying in invoke primal horror and disgust rather then address the situation rationally.

    I had this argument on another thread in that most of them screaming “murder” don’t really mean that. They mean it as a pejorative and slander, not as an actionable legal accusation. That’s why when you push for an answer on punishment you get hemming and hawwing. Kinda like the whole executing drug dealer thing – people may think it’s a good idea but they’ll freak out when authorities start dragging highschool cheerleaders out to the gibbots for selling Grandma’s Oxy. Yeah they said they should die but didn’t mean they should actually, you know, die!




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  17. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    He didn’t *just* argue that abortion was murder. He argued that woman who have an abortion should be executed. That is WAY, WAY outside normal discourse.

    I haven’t heard the podcast but gather that he’s actually arguing something different: we should treat women who have abortions as murderers, with the same penalties. He’s apparently anti-capital punishment but thinks whatever the punishment is should be the same.

    @MarkedMan: A

    ccording to Goldberg, he brought this up during the hiring process and Williamson assured him that it was just a single tweet, tapped out without thought. It didn’t represent his real position. When someone dropped the podcast into Goldbergs inbox, he not only learned that this was much more than a single tweet, he learned that Williamson had lied to him about a potential scandal.

    Fair if true. But see previous response for my understanding of what Williamson’s actual position is.

    @MarkedMan:

    This is just BS. If she believes this, she is just deluding herself. More likely, the plan is to go after the doctors first, but then later on go after the pregnant women. After all, do we execute the hitman but let the person who hired them go free?

    Logically, no, but even in the pre-Roe days, we punished the abortionist, not the mother. Or at least punished the former much more severely.

    @MBunge: The time qualifier is about where we are in the respective debates. Derb’s position was long since repudiated by the time he took it. While Williamson’s position is extreme, there’s a massive anti-abortion movement still ongoing.

    @michael reynolds: We’re in essentially the same place here. It’s just hard to see the value of having that viewpoint at the Atlantic.




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  18. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    1-) There are relatively few people that are opposed both to the Death Penalty and On Demand Abortion. There are Catholics on the left(And some on the right) that are opposed to both, but, that’s it.

    And most people that favor abortion restrictions compare that to child murder, specially since on demand abortion is not legally limited to the first semester in the US.

    2-) I’m more troubled by Williamson’s position of “I’m not racist because I also hate poor whites” than by his positions of abortion.

    3-) The Atlantic had once hired Michael Kelly and Andrew Sullivan, two men that were involved with the Stephen Glass scandal and both supported, vociferously, the Iraq War. The magazine does not have a pure recent history.

    And I’m more troubled with both of them than with Williamson. Sullivan gave a lot of legitimacy to a horrible war.

    4-) You can argue that Williamson is a mediocre writer, and I’m pretty sure that he is. But if you are going to argue that he should be fired by his positions(Specially positions that are not related to race) than you are going to end with predictable and boring op-ed writers.

    In the end you’ll have people like Bill Kristol, not Daniel Larison, writing op-eds.

    5-) Andrew Sullivan positions and record on race are way worse than Williamson’s.




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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @James Joyner: Not advocating punishment for women is a deliberate tactical move. While many conservatives would agree with Williamson, and Nathan Lane’s character in The Bird Cage, they realize that it’s tactically a non-starter.Trump was too ignorant to know this, went there, and had to be straightened out.
    It’s kind of like “life”. When does “life begin? When God implants the soul. But that makes it clear what we’re talking about is their religious belief, on the wrong side of church/state. So they know, tactically, not to go there. Except every now and then, like Trump, one of them is too ignorant to understand the game and says it out loud.




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  20. gVOR08 says:

    Remember “Pinky” from some time ago on these threads? Maybe still here with a new handle. His big thing was that his and others’ conservative opinions should be respected for no reason except that they exist. That’s where we’re at here.




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  21. Franklin says:

    Like every single interesting and talented person I know, he can provoke. But so what?

    I don’t agree that provoking people is the path to being interesting and talented. But then again, shock jocks apparently make a lot of money. I was bored with Howard Stern’s schtick after about two shows, for example, but that’s just me. The Atlantic couldn’t have planned a better way to make Williamson more famous because of his schtick. They somehow managed to make two mistakes instead of just one.




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  22. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    I’m sure that outside the hardcore fanatical fringe, most people opposed to abortion do not, in fact, consider it to be murder.

    I think you’re wrong there.

    Why do you think people are opposed, if they don’t think it’s murder? Because it’s icky? Because women are wh-res who need to be punished for having sex?

    Ok, some people believe that last one, but the “abortion is murder” crowd is not the fringe. There are a lot of people who are closer to “abortion is ending a human life, so manslaughter?” but that’s just quibbling over the details.




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  23. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m inclined to believe that Williamson’s statement was a rhetorical excess. He has stated, as James noted, that he is opposed to the death penalty. What he was saying is that it should be treated like murder. As Doug noted, this gets to the biggest knot in the pro-life argument, which is what do you do with women who have abortions? Williamson has, like a lot of brilliant people, thought himself into an intellectual corner from which he can’t escape.

    The problem here is the word “murder”. While I’m sympathetic to the pro-Life argument, the murder rhetoric is hard to sustain. And from a religious point, it’s impossible. If you look at Exodus 21:22, it says that punishment for a man who strikes a woman and causes a miscarriage is a fine. Murder it punishes by death; accidental death by exile. It is regard as an injury to the woman (which is why conservative Jewish scholars oppose abortion but don’t regard it as murder). Most pro-Lifers who have thought this out go with that standard: an abortion provider should be punished for injuring the woman, but you don’t punish someone for injuring themselves. It’s a bit of a weasel but there is no such thing as a political philosophy that doesn’t have some weasel in it.




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  24. Kit says:

    When society decides to use the law to punish what would otherwise be seen as a private transaction, it’s rather easy to figure out which party is guilty: them! Us is the group writing the law, of course. Prostitutes don’t write laws. Neither do drug dealers. Business men do, so beware of working if your papers are not in order.

    Same logic at work with abortion: a paterfamilius enjoys controlling the bodies of his wife, daughters and lovers, but having the law condemn them to death… Well that should be a private matter. Still, what good is a law that doesn’t howl for blood? Enter the doctors.

    Now poor Williamson is really only guilty of being ahead of the curve. In his mind, Red America is busy mopping up abortion, at least in its neck of the woods, and sees the end game in sight. So them becomes liberal women. And justice demands death. But until that fine day arrives, he’s just a provocative voice ahead of his time.




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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Hal_10000:
    If you want to find the single, inciting event that led to our absolutely polarized politics, it is the decision of greedy swine like Reverend Jerry Falwell and immoral Republican politicians to start using, ‘murder,’ as an accusation.

    No compromise is possible with people who murder babies. And the anti-choice core of the GOP believes ‘murder’ is literally true. Once the GOP internalized the idea that Democrats are baby-killers, no common ground was possible. Rhetoric matters. It may just be a tool for the pols and the grifters, but the dumbasses who are the GOP base take it literally.




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  26. george says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    1-) There are relatively few people that are opposed both to the Death Penalty and On Demand Abortion. There are Catholics on the left(And some on the right) that are opposed to both, but, that’s it.

    Actually that’s a lot of people around the world (left wing Catholics are very common in Canada and Europe, and I suspect much of the rest of the world – there are about a billion Catholics in the world).

    And restricting it to America, there are 70 million Catholics, and over half lean towards Democrats according to Pew … that’s about 40 million, still not a small group. I guess the question then becomes what percentage of them follow their church’s position (against capital punishment and abortion). I’m guessing a lot of them, just from conversations I’ve had with Catholics (mainly left wing).

    In the case of Williamson, the Atlantic is a for profit organization. Why would they keep around someone who’s going to hurt them, especially in a time like now when magazines are having a hard time staying afloat under the best of conditions? I see their firing him as a pretty straightforward business decision.




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  27. R. Dave says:

    @James Joyner wrote: “Aside from mischaracterizing Coates’ “not human” remark…”

    How did French et. al mischaracterize Coates’ remark? Coates literally said of the 9/11 first responders that, “They were not human to me,” and he attributes that feeling to his experiences with the institutional violence perpetrated on the black community by the police due to systemic racism / white supremacy.




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  28. James Joyner says:

    @R. Dave: It’s pretty clear from context that, at a particular point in time, his anger at police shooting his friend made them part of an other with whom he could not sympathize or see as heroes. He wasn’t advocating murdering them or treating them poorly. He was simply saying that, at a point in time, he could not see their humanity because he could only see them as threats. Here’s the whole quote:

    “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.”

    That’s not even particularly inflammatory. Although, amusingly, the book review to which all refer notes that the quote will be misused:

    This startling passage seems meant not to convey a contempt for the first responders on Sept. 11, but to underscore the depth of Mr. Coates’s emotion over the loss of his friend and his anger at police killings of unarmed black men — killings that represent to him larger historical forces at work in American society, in which black men and women were enslaved, their families and bodies broken, and in which terrible inequities continue to exist. Yet it could be easily taken out of context, and it distracts attention from Mr. Coates’s profoundly moving account of Prince Jones’s brief life, and the grief of his mother, a woman who had worked her way up from the “raw poverty of her youth” to become an eminent doctor, trying to provide her children with comfortable — and most of all, safe — lives, which, in Prince’s case, would be cavalierly taken away one night by a police officer later found guilty of negligence and excessive force.




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  29. MarkedMan says:

    Re: the comforting fiction that murder charges would only be brought against doctors. Here’s the reality:

    Last year, Georgia prosecutors attempted to charge Kenlissa Jones with attempted murder after authorities claimed that Jones used abortion drugs to self-induce a miscarriage. Arkansas prosecutors charged a 37-year-old named Anne Bynum for allegedly using the same pills. The best-known of these cases even unfolded in Vice-President-elect Mike Pence’s backyard: Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman, apparently used abortion drugs she had obtained over the internet to try to end her pregnancy in its second trimester. Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison until an appeals court reduced her sentence




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  30. James Pearce says:

    I’m with Tom Nichols on this. Our block-happy, get-the-bad-guy-fired, you-can’t-say-that puritanism is death to the discourse. People think that by being like that they’re going to be a bulwark against people like Trump.

    They continue to think that well into the second year of Trump’s presidency. It’s (clap) not (clap) working (clap). (Am I using the claps wrong? Never mind. I don’t care if I am.)

    Re: Williamson….I think I’ve mentioned I live in a low-income, non-white neighborhood that has been completely neglected by our country’s superficial liberals. I can’t imagine a single person, myself included, in a square mile of my house who gives a flying F about what columnist the Atlantic hired or what they wrote about or why it’s important that they don’t get that platform.

    But hey, go on: dance like no one’s watching.




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  31. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @george: In Latin America there is a coalition of the Catholic Church and left-of-center parties that is opposed to both. But polls shows large opposition to abortion and large support for the death penalty.




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  32. barbintheboonies says:

    I think the question is Why would he be let go for asking a rhetorical question? It is legal to have an abortion in this country, and even if he is against it why is his point of view being chastised? This is what’s wrong with America today nobody can have a discussion without being attacked. We look to see how the masses are following like sheep and we go along too. Then when we are asked why, we have no answer.




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  33. R. Dave says:

    @James Joyner: Thanks for the quick reply, but again, I don’t see how that’s inconsistent with how French and the rest characterized it.

    Coates’ statement: “They were not human to me.” He explains and contextualizes that feeling as arising from the white supremacist violence institutionalized by the police.

    French’s characterization: “Decry 9/11 first responders as “not human” because of white supremacy? Intriguing.”

    Dreher’s characterization: “Ta-Nehisi Coates has written some appalling things, in my judgment, such as his saying that 9/11 firefighters weren’t human to him.”

    Henry’s characterization: “He has written that he can see no difference between a police officer who shot a Howard University student and the first responders to the 9/11 terror attacks: “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.”

    I suppose Henry errs by using the present tense “can” instead of the past tense “could”, but apart from that, they all seem to be a pretty straightforward reflection of exactly what Coates said and his rationale for the feeling those words expressed.

    In any event, this is obviously a tangential point, but I really don’t think those are unfair characterizations of Coates’ words, at least not sufficiently so to undermine the point that they suggest a double standard for what kind of extreme views and commentary are permissible.




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  34. barbintheboonies says:

    I cannot believe or maybe I can you are censuring my comments. I have not attacked anyone. Maybe anyone with an opposite view than most people here scares you.




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  35. Timothy Watson says:

    Colin Kaepernick peacefully demonstrated against police brutality, while not violating a single law or professional rule, while also not lying to his employers about his position, and he can’t get a single job.

    And I’m supposed to care about the “chilling effect” of someone who advocated the judicial murder of women who get an abortion? Who then lied about his position to a prospective employer?




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  36. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Jeez, what’s with broads today anyways? All getting their bras in a snarl because someone thinks they should be hung for undergoing a legal medical procedure. Being so mean to Kevin and all. B*itches, every one of ’em.

    What’s that? It’s “hanged” not “hung”? Get outta here ya damn elitist!




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  37. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I haven’t heard the podcast but gather that he’s actually arguing something different: we should treat women who have abortions as murderers, with the same penalties. He’s apparently anti-capital punishment but thinks whatever the punishment is should be the same.

    Nope. Listen to the podcast starting at 8:58 minute mark. and then again at 13:50.

    He isn’t joking and your characterization isn’t accurate. He is explicit that he advocates hanging over life imprisonment for abortion and stands by those views. He then goes on to say that while he is “kinda squishy” on capital punishment in general, he has a “soft spot for hanging.” He later (15:13) admits while a “practical matter” we can’t do it today, abortion is “worse than your typical murder.”

    My other take away from listening to him casually describe lots of people whose ideas he disagrees with as “stupid” is that he is more than a bit of an asshole who has little interest in civil discourse.




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  38. gVOR08 says:

    @barbintheboonies: Because your comment @barbintheboonies: reminded me of Pinky @gVOR08: Williamson is free to have whatever opinions suit him, and he is free to publish whatever opinions for which he can find a publisher. In the end, he failed to get Atlantic to publish him. A business decision when all is said and done.

    You want respect, earn it. You want a spot in a major publication, earn it. Unless, like Bret Stephens or Bari Weiss you can sneak in as an affirmative action hire.




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  39. R. Dave says:

    @SKI: My other take away from listening to him casually describe lots of people whose ideas he disagrees with as “stupid” is that he is more than a bit of an asshole who has little interest in civil discourse.

    Yeah, this is my general view of Williamson as well. He’s a bit of an asshole who seems to sprinkle his work with glib, unsympathetic statements on matters that warrant greater nuance and/or compassion. As such, his style strikes me as entirely unsuited for that of The Atlantic. However, he wasn’t fired for his style – which is readily apparent from even a casual sampling of his work – he was fired for his views on abortion. And on that point, I think The Atlantic was very much in the wrong.

    Don’t mistake me – I completely disagree with Williamson’s view on this – but his view doesn’t strike me as being outside the realm of acceptable discourse. Roughly half the country considers late-term abortion to be the moral equivalent of premeditated murder, and overwhelming majorities support the death penalty for premeditated murder. The transitive logic involved here is not exactly mysterious or obscure. Williamson is not advocating or even excusing extrajudicial “justice” or terrorism to stop abortions. He’s not spouting blatantly misogynistic or other hateful rhetoric. He’s simply translating the implicit logic of standard conservative views on abortion and capital punishment into a coherent policy position that explicitly links the two.




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  40. Ben Wolf says:

    . . .by declaring Williamson to be outside the Overton window of acceptable political discourse because he believes strongly that abortion is a serious, punishable crime, The Atlantic is essentially declaring that it cannot stomach real, mainstream conservatism as it actually exists in 21st century America.

    How many libertarian socialists has Reason hired, Katherine? Can’t stomach them, huh? Funny, that. I can’t seem to find a libertarian or supposedly left-of-center mainstream publication that will hire an actual socialist, but everybody from The Atlantic to the New York Times is falling over themselves to get “conservatives.”

    Needless to say the righty-whitey publications screaming discrimination have not a single socialist or communist on the payroll. It’s almost like they want it all their way.




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  41. SKI says:

    @R. Dave:

    Don’t mistake me – I completely disagree with Williamson’s view on this – but his view doesn’t strike me as being outside the realm of acceptable discourse.

    I disagree. He is literally calling for the execution of about one out of every 4 women in the country (See study indicating 23.7% of all women have had an abortion).

    You think that is a mainstream view?

    I don’t think it is an acceptable view.

    And I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m “intolerant” for saying that it isn’t acceptable.




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  42. wr says:

    @R. Dave: “Coates literally said of the 9/11 first responders that, “They were not human to me,” and he attributes that feeling to his experiences with the institutional violence perpetrated on the black community by the police due to systemic racism / white supremacy.”

    Honestly, dude, if you can’t tell the difference between “they are not human” and “they were not human to me,” you clearly napped through every English class you every enrolled in.




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  43. SKI says:

    The bottom-line reality is that anti-abortion advocates have spent 30 years dehumanizing women with their language.
    They deny them agency.
    They obscure the impact of their preferred policies on them.
    They lie – regularly and routinely – about what occurs.
    They use inflammatory language designed to dehumanize the women involved and recast them as baby-killers and monsters (*or victims).
    They stalk and harass and occasionally kill.

    We need to be honest about what is going on and draw lines between honest advocacy against abortion and calling for murder.




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  44. michael reynolds says:

    @R. Dave: @SKI:
    If Williamson were calling for the execution of Americans by race or sexual identity, I suspect you’d see it differently. He’s saying that one quarter of American women deserve death because they follow a moral code other than that professed by evangelicals and some Catholics. In other words, execution for religious differences.

    It goes without saying that his view is misogynistic, and in one particular way that I doubt many have noticed: why only the women? What about the men who may have paid for the abortion? Or bullied the woman into one? If it is murder then the hitman (the abortionist) and the one who hired the hitman (the woman) and anyone who paid the hitman (guys in many cases) are all morally guilty of murder and deserve death.




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  45. Jay L Gischer says:

    I like your focus on Henry Farrell’s remarks. I thought they were spot-on.

    The more bits of Williamson’s remarks, the more they strike me as hyperbolic posturing. “I don’t like capital punishment all that much, but I have a soft spot for hanging”? I don’t find that offensive so much as tiresome. As such, I would be unlikely to read a lot of what he writes, though to be fair, I’ve read a fair number of pieces at NRO that I thought were interesting and thoughtful, as long as a mentally removed the obligatory two paragraphs of posturing.

    And having just written that, I recall times where, for my own sake, I have to put in two paragraphs up top to put my remarks in context for their presumed liberal audience. But I generally use affirmatives, “I want X and I want Y”, rather than the negative “X is terrible and liberals are stupid”.

    Of course, nobody reads me. I couldn’t stand Hitchens, either.




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  46. MarkedMan says:

    @barbintheboonies:

    I think the question is Why would he be let go for asking a rhetorical question? It is legal to have an abortion in this country, and even if he is against it why is his point of view being chastised?

    It’s pretty clear from Goldberg’s comments that is NOT why he was let go. He was let go because he lied when he was being interviewed. He told his future boss that this was a single tweet done in a moment of passion and not representative of his real views. He let that boss publicly defend him based on those facts. It then turned out that he was lying about that.

    Play it through. If Goldberg had kept him on despite this he would have been obligated to address the issue. What would he have said? “I know I told you the “execute the women” tweet was not enough to stop us from hiring this talented writer because it was an isolated incident and not representative of his views, and that I didn’t think it was fair to forever damn someone because of one tweet. It turns out that he lied to me about that, and let me prominently come to his defense in this very magazine based on that lie. And of course, now I have no reason to trust what he told me and no idea what else he lied to me about. But I’ve decided to keep him on anyway because…”

    Yeah. I just don’t see what could come after the “…”




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  47. R. Dave says:

    @wr: In the context of the discussion, both statements are very clearly saying the same thing, i.e., that Coates was dehumanizing them in an abstract sense, not that he was denying their biological membership in the human species.




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  48. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    puritanism is death to the discourse.

    No, he wants death for me and the other women on this thread if we do something he disapproves of. That’s not discourse, James – that’s a f^cking threat. You and all the other men can idly spectacularly that “he’s kidding” or “we’re ruining debates in this country by censoring people” because it isn’t your neck he wants to snap.

    You want me to debate someone who’s serious position is to execute me? You want me to tolerate this because you live a poor neighborhood and are pretending your neighbors won’t be swinging from gallows en mass if Williamson’s point of view gets adopted? You want me to pretend this sentiment isn’t lurking around in the rural areas you’re bitching are being ignored and will probably be the first places it’s implemented, all to save “public discourse”?

    No, it isn’t death to discourse to exile fanatics like Williamson any more then not giving the guy raving about the end of the world on the street corner. Garbage in, garbage out. We need to accept reality again and admit there are some viewpoints that aren’t worth the air they inhabit. Not everybody brings something to the table and pretending they do does more harm to discourse then kicking out the nut.




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  49. gVOR08 says:

    To be fair, I went to NR‘s site and read a few Williamson pieces. A piece on Don Jr.’s divorce which somehow morphed into Chelsea Clinton being the villain. A long, long bit about Q Anon (some guy who’s big right now in online RW conspiracy theories). I agreed with what KW said, but he kept going on and on long after he’d said everything he had to say. A short piece getting huffy about Krugman lying where the quote from Krugman was a trivial throw away line unimportant to Dr. K’s point, and KW failed to make a convincing argument it wasn’t true. Then NR said I’d had my three free articles. I’d kind of lost interest anyway. Nothing terribly objectionable, but while adequate for NR, hardly what one expects from Atlantic.




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  50. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Yep, there’s no suggestions of the electric chair for the men who caused the pregnancy against the woman’s will. After all, he’d be responsible for creating the situation so you can say he set the child up to be murdered.

    Bet if he’d started seriously advocating guys being draw and quartered for causing unwanted pregnancies that led to abortions, this thread would look a helluva lot different.




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  51. R. Dave says:

    @michael reynolds: If Williamson were calling for the execution of Americans by race or sexual identity, I suspect you’d see it differently.

    Sure, because that would be advocating punishment on the basis of what someone is, not what they’ve done. Apples and oranges.

    @michael reynolds:He’s saying that one quarter of American women deserve death because they follow a moral code other than that professed by evangelicals and some Catholics. In other words, execution for religious differences.

    It’s not execution for religious differences; it’s execution for the unlawful killing of another person entitled to protection under the law, and belief in that entitlement need not be based on religion. One needn’t believe in god to acknowledge that a fetus in the late stages of pregnancy is developmentally very similar to a newborn infant and to believe that it is therefore entitled to legal protection based on secular morality and prudential concerns.




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  52. gVOR08 says:

    Just as points of interest, Catholics are just as likely to get an abortion as other U.S. women. Why? And Poll finds many U.S. Catholics breaking with church over contraception, abortion and L.G.B.T. rights.. (Those are both the first relevant hit I found, by happenstance both from something called America, The Jesuit Review. And dirty secret, I didn’t read either beyond finding they confirm the titles.) The point being that one should not conflate Catholic teaching with the beliefs and practices of actual Catholics. I expect that’s true of all religions.




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  53. Jen says:

    The trouble Williamson ran into here is his assumption (false) that abortion is a rare thing, done by a desperate teenager whose parents might kick her out. It isn’t. Roughly a third of the adult female population has had or will have an abortion and over half of those women are already mothers. Williamson advocates the hanging deaths of 52 million wives, daughters, mothers and good friends.




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  54. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @michael reynolds: Not to be TOO snarky, but if the breaking point was Falwell and co beginning to use the term “murder” for abortion, how does that square with your argument in another thread that words don’t matter or change the debate/environment? You were looking for examples of how changing what someone/thing was called changed things…

    More pertinently to this thread, as James really noted, there aren’t really any conservative writers left who are both popular with the base and traditionally “conservative”. The modern Republican party isn’t conservative at all, its full of angry reactionaries (arguably the exact opposite of conservatism). I actually do like Andrew Sullivan these days. He’s written an entire book of apologies for his Iraq war support and what he said at the time about people who opposed it, and I don’t believe that what a person thought 15 years ago means they should never be listened to again. But Sullivan himself isn’t popular with the Trumpkins either. If Williamson wants to spend the next few years apologizing for and repudiating his comments that women who get abortions should be hanged I might even read him again someday.




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  55. KM says:

    @R. Dave :

    It’s not execution for religious differences; it’s execution for the unlawful killing of another person entitled to protection under the law, and belief in that entitlement need not be based on religion.

    And who’s law would that be? Not US law since abortion is legal. Exactly who’s law is being used to declare it “unlawful” and since when does an individual have the right to execute anybody at all? The STATE has the right, not a person. The STATE sets the law and the STATE says it’s legal.

    Anything other then the Constitution and it’s derived US laws is not law in our country. Not “natural” law, not religious laws, not your own personal interpretation of law. So again, WHO’S law authorizes that kind of execution?




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  56. R. Dave says:

    @KM: No, he wants death for me and the other women on this thread if we do something he disapproves of. That’s not discourse, James – that’s a f^cking threat….You want me to debate someone who’s serious position is to execute me?

    Capital punishment for drug dealers has long been rhetorically popular on the right and even in liberal minority communities. Should anyone whose ever bought a bag of weed for a friend – yes, that makes you a “drug dealer” – feel personally threatened and imminently endangered enough to refuse to engage in debate with or even work alongside anyone who supports such change to the drug laws?




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  57. R. Dave says:

    @Ben Wolf: How many libertarian socialists has Reason hired, Katherine?…[B]ut everybody from The Atlantic to the New York Times is falling over themselves to get “conservatives.”

    The difference is that Reason is an explicitly ideological publication, as is National Review, whereas The Atlantic and the NYT purport to be unbiased, big-tent publications without an explicit ideological bent.




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  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    Why do you think people are opposed, if they don’t think it’s murder?

    Plain and simple. because they don’t want women to have agency, to be in control of their own lives. How many “pro life” people are in favor of birth control? Foster Friess thinks an aspirin between the knees should solve unwanted pregnancy…. In other words, women who have sex are sluts and should get what’s coming to them. He wasn’t speaking only for himself.




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  59. Ben Wolf says:

    @R. Dave: The Times and Atlantic won’t hire critics of capitalism either And any publication that claims the phrase “free minds” is begging for criticism when it offers no breadth even across libertarianism.




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  60. KM says:

    @R. Dave:
    Consider Trump wants to do it, yes you should. You may not have time to regret it later.

    It stops being rhetoric when they’re contemplating making it actionable. You think it’s only words and it can’t happen to you. Well, plenty of people make that mistake right before things hit the fan and they find out how wrong they really are. You know how we keep hearing about people ignoring warning signs something is wrong right before someone shoots up the place? How many said “it’s just words” or “they can’t be serious” only to watch the news later and realize, yeah that thing they said? They meant it. How many women have heard their abusive boyfriend scream they’ll kill them and think “no, he wouldn’t really do it”…. only to get seconds to realize how wrong they were when he shoots them in the head?

    You can work with people who want to kill you. Diplomats do it all the time to try and ease tensions to reach a viable goal. But they’d be fools to pretend the danger isn’t real when someone threatens them. Women get threatened with violence all the time and we still have to deal – doesn’t mean you don’t take the psycho seriously when he says he thinks hanging you is a good idea.




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  61. MarkedMan says:

    Interesting thread. I’ve twice upvoted people who posted things I disagreed with, but did so with a cogent and respectful analysis.




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  62. James Pearce says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I don’t find that offensive so much as tiresome.

    The left can’t tell the difference.

    @Timothy Watson:

    And I’m supposed to care about the “chilling effect” of someone who advocated the judicial murder of women who get an abortion?

    It seems to me that Colin Kaepnick and Kevin Williamson are in the same boat; they’re both unemployed because they have the wrong views.

    But you’re not worried about the “chilling effect”….

    Love the downvotes, too. I’ve been telling you guys for years to give up the superficial BS soooooo interesting to affluent white liberals, but you won’t do it. You can’t even conceive of it. You’d rather sit up there on your high horse and whine about who writes for the Atlantic? Are you kidding me?




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  63. R. Dave says:

    @KM: And who’s law would that be? Not US law since abortion is legal. Exactly who’s law is being used to declare it “unlawful” and since when does an individual have the right to execute anybody at all?

    Current US law allows both individual states and the federal government to use capital punishment for murder and to restrict abortion so long as it doesn’t pose an “undue burden” on the woman’s right to an abortion under SC precedents. Williamson is advocating that this be changed / expanded upon to fully criminalize at least some abortions and treat them as capital murder under the law. In short, he’s advocating for a change in SC precedent and in the relevant federal and state laws. So, to answer your question, it would US laws at both the state and federal levels.




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  64. KM says:

    @James Pearce:
    You complain about smug liberals whining about who write in the Atlantic but care about downvotes?




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  65. barbintheboonies says:

    I have commented here a few times and because it was not in tune with most of you and is not something that sounds totally far right, which I am not. I am pro choice. I am just expressing an opinion and feel being attacked is not very proactive. Nothing is all black and white, and we should at least open dialogue on our differences. A few times my posts were rejected and I do not know why. Face Book is doing the same thing. What about free speech for all?




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  66. KM says:

    @barbintheboonies:
    Perhaps language being used? If I get caught in moderation, it’s usually because the filters picked up an uncensored curse word. The code used for the website may have auto filters in place that they don’t control and it’s detecting something in your post for review.

    Why are you taking it so personally? We’ve all gotten caught up in moderation and just ask to be released – James and Doug are pretty quick to respond. It’s not like they’re singling you out…..




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  67. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I’ll be frank here – the vast majority of pro-lifers are absolutists. Emotionally driven zealots with whom it is impossible to reason, and who will accept nothing less than 100% of what they want.

    You can’t have a discourse with such people. You can only resist them and do everything in your power to thwart them. Trying to treat this situation as though it’s two rational, reasonable idea structures which simply disagree has gotten us to where we are today – abortion being a practical impossibility in many states.

    They are not reasonable people, ergo they cannot be reasoned with. Goldberg was a fool to even try this stunt.




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  68. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    Women get threatened with violence all the time and we still have to deal – doesn’t mean you don’t take the psycho seriously when he says he thinks hanging you is a good idea.

    While I haven’t read a lot of Williamson’s work, there’s pretty considerable consensus that he’s something of an asshole. No one that I’ve read, however, thinks he’s going to go around hanging women if his preferred policy choice isn’t implemented through the democratic process. Which, incidentally, it won’t be.

    @James Pearce:

    It seems to me that Colin Kaepnick and Kevin Williamson are in the same boat; they’re both unemployed because they have the wrong views.

    Well, almost. They’re unemployed because their bosses have calculated that their value-added isn’t sufficient to overcome their damage to the brand.

    @barbintheboonies:

    A few times my posts were rejected and I do not know why. Face Book is doing the same thing. What about free speech for all?

    “Free speech for all” is a societal concept, not one applicable to privately-owned websites. That said, so far as I can tell, none of your posts here (at least under this pseudonym) have ever been rejected. I can’t speak to Facebook.




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  69. R. Dave says:

    @KM: Women get threatened with violence all the time and we still have to deal – doesn’t mean you don’t take the psycho seriously when he says he thinks hanging you is a good idea.

    Williamson is not threatening anyone with violence in the sense that you’re suggesting. He’s advocating a policy change, enacted and applied through democratic and legal mechanisms. Like any policy that criminalizes an activity, it involves punishment meted out by the state. Like James Joyner says above, there’s no indication whatsoever that Williamson might take matters into his own hands if he doesn’t achieve his policy goals. So the only “violence” he’s “threatening” is the same indirect, attenuated violence that accompanies any legal prohibition -including, by the way, all the ones that you support – that’s backed up by the power and force of the state.




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  70. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    No one that I’ve read, however, thinks he’s going to go around hanging women if his preferred policy choice isn’t implemented through the democratic process. Which, incidentally, it won’t be.

    With all due respect, I don’t have the same faith you do that his policy choice isn’t a possible albeit highly unlikely future. There are places in this world where imprisonment and death are facts for women who have abortions, not a theoretical debate. We can talk about this asshat and his outrageous ideas till we’re all blue in the face but the truth is it *can* happen here. America is by no means perfect and democracy can create some monstrosities that the public cheerfully accepts. Like they say, freedom’s not free and we must stand on guard for those who would steal it away.

    I totally agree Willamson’s just a blowhard – it’s not like he’s a potential serial killer. However his viewpoint must be challenged for what it is: a death threat to half the population for no other reason that his definition of murder is not the legal one. I’d feel the same if he was demanding drug dealers be executed because their actions lead to the “murder” of the person who took the drugs willingly.




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  71. R. Dave says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Really? People on the pro-life side are “emotionally driven zealots” who “cannot be reasoned with” and “who will accept nothing less than 100% of what they want”? With roughly a million abortions per year, and 1 in 4 US women having had an abortion, I’d say the vast majority of self-described pro-lifers have proven themselves to be eminently reasonable, rational, and willing to accept far less than 100% of what they want for decades now. Think about it. These people believe that up to a million babies are being murdered every year, and yet they’ve overwhelmingly tolerated a legal regime that permits and a popular culture that celebrates that status quo while they diligently work to change things within the constraints of the political and legal system. Honestly, the restraint and dedication to democratic norms that demonstrates is amazing.




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  72. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @R. Dave:

    Yes. 100% irrational zealots. Were I to be tasked with supplying a single word to describe these people, that word would be “unhinged”.

    If they actually got what they want, abortion would be illegal. Completely and totally illegal. The fact that is isn’t has much more to do with vigorous opposition to their policy proposals than it has anything to do with them being reasonable people willing to accept half of a loaf.

    Short version: if we hadn’t trotted off to court and body slammed them every time they tried to enact another ridiculous limitation on abortion, it would be impossible to obtain one anywhere in the US, if not outright illegal. That is isn’t has nothing to do with them being reasonable people – they continue to try to make it impossible for women to exercise this right nearly on a daily basis, be it through intimidation tactics outside of clinics, harassment of providers, in more than one case outright murder, and an endless menu of attempted policy changes intended to make it impossible for clinics to operate. These are not the actions of reasonable people, and they do not demonstrate anything resembling tolerance.

    They have made their policy goals and their intent quite clear, and there is nothing reasonable about either of them, sorry. Don’t want to be labeled a zealot? I’d suggest not being a zealot.




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  73. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    You complain about smug liberals whining about who write in the Atlantic but care about downvotes?

    Some people downvote my comments just because they see “James Pearce” attached to them. And yeah, I earned it.

    By having different views.

    I was born in the 70s, just before punk rock gave an extra 20-30 years to rock music. I will always have problems with conformity.




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  74. KM says:

    @R. Dave:

    Honestly, the restraint and dedication to democratic norms that demonstrates is amazing.

    Because the alternative is the force and violence you said wasn’t being truly threatened. Which is why we are concerned about how Williamson was speaking in the first place.

    Also, noting how pleased you are your side has stuck to law-abiding, democratic ways for so long isn’t exactly inducing fuzzy feelings of trust that it will stay that way. Kinda like a husband that’s really proud he hasn’t beaten his wife in months but stuck with talking it out when she’s being “irrational”- it means beating her was not only still in the cards but a real option to resort to that was averted only by his heroic strength of will. Understand why Williamson’s rhetoric are causing concern now?




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  75. KM says:

    @James Pearce:
    Meh, fair enough. I’ve gotten downvotes on completely uncontroversial posts that I know was due to me being me. Votes mean nothing, it’s the dialogue that matters.

    Still, first world problems. As you said, we shouldn’t be worrying about who posts what where but those folks in rural places that libs forget, that’s the real issue!




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  76. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @KM:

    Nope. Don’t care about them either. Used to, but then they inflicted the worst self-imposed damage on the nation since the secession of the South in a fit of pique. To be frank, I’ll cheerfully watch as the last gas station in West Bumf**k closes and they’re left to resort to living in their cars. They’re no longer my problem nor my concern.




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  77. R. Dave says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You’re describing the hardcore activist part of the pro-life side, not the average self-described pro-lifer. The reverse could easily be said of the pro-choice side – that they’re uncompromising, emotionally-driven zealots who won’t accept anything less than 100% abortion on demand up to the very moment before birth. That’s true of the most vocal activist set, but not of the average pro-choice person. The vast majority of both sides are in the gray area between those extremes – willing to accept some abortion rights and some restrictions. And beyond that, my point stands that even the true activist set among the pro-lifers have proven themselves willing to work within the system, and as long as that’s true, there’s room for discourse and engagement. You may consider their ends extreme because they are so diametrically opposed to yours, but their means have been well within the bounds of acceptable and ordinary political and legal advocacy.




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  78. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    Also, noting how pleased you are your side has stuck to law-abiding, democratic ways for so long isn’t exactly inducing fuzzy feelings of trust that it will stay that way. Kinda like a husband that’s really proud he hasn’t beaten his wife in months but stuck with talking it out when she’s being “irrational”- it means beating her was not only still in the cards but a real option to resort to that was averted only by his heroic strength of will. Understand why Williamson’s rhetoric are causing concern now?

    Rather obviously, @R. Dave is using the fact that there has been relatively little violence on the part of the pro-life movement, despite 43 years of heated rhetoric, as evidence that the movement is by-and-large composed of law-abiding, reasonable people rather than the “100% irrational zealots” who are “unhinged” that @HarvardLaw92 posits. That strikes me as a perfectly sound argumentative point.




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  79. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @R. Dave:

    False equivalency, although I have to admit I wondered when that particular one would show up. Please find for me anybody on our side who publicly advocates for the availability of abortion right up until the moment of birth, on demand no less, and takes action to try to make that belief a reality. Point me to their rallies, please. Please let me know where I can go talk to them as they stand outside of clinics pushing their beliefs. More to the point, point me towards any pro-choicer who has murdered pro-lifers in pursuit of that goal.

    In short, spare me the bullsh*t.

    When these mythical “reasonable” pro-lifers on your side actively and publicly denounce the zealots, and work to help resist their zealotry, we can talk about discourse. Until then, they’re no better than those “reasonable” white people in the South who passively stood by while the zealots were blowing up churches and hanging blacks.

    You don’t get to have it both ways. You either separate yourselves from them, visibly and publicly, or you get lumped in with them. Just how it is, sorry.




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  80. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    I think I’ve mentioned I live in a low-income, non-white neighborhood that has been completely neglected by our country’s superficial liberals. I can’t imagine a single person, myself included, in a square mile of my house who gives a flying F about what columnist the Atlantic hired or what they wrote about or why it’s important that they don’t get that platform.

    I understand your points, I do. I have a couple of points/questions:
    (1) Have any of our country’s superficial conservatives also neglected your low-income, non-white neighborhood? Or is it just superficial liberals?
    (2) Why can’t people also discuss the Williamson firing, and other issues at the same time? This issue raises damed good questions at time in which many many people are looking to remove people from various positions based on opinions.

    Is this a case of we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?




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  81. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    My suggestion to you is that you go spend some time escorting women into abortion clinics (I have …), then get back to us about how “reasonable” these people actually are. Just be prepared to be shocked …




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  82. Erik says:

    @R. Dave: “their means have been well within the window of acceptable and ordinary political and legal advocacy”

    I would not consider emotionally tormenting women trying to get heath care or those who provide that care, even if you disagree with their choice, to be within acceptable and ordinary advocacy.

    PS: second the comment up thread about appreciating your calm and cogent argument, even though I don’t think I probably agree with your position




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  83. James Joyner says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Please find for me anybody on our side who publicly advocates for the availability of abortion right up until the moment of birth, on demand no less, and takes action to try to make that belief a reality.

    As noted in the OP, Jessica Valenti offers just that argument. (Although it turns out that associating her with The Atlantic is rather disingenuous; I’ve written more pieces for them than she has.) If your retort is that she’s taken no “action” beyond advocacy, that’s just as true of Williamson.

    @HarvardLaw92:

    My suggestion to you is that you go spend some time escorting women into abortion clinics (I have …), then get back to us about how “reasonable” these people actually are. Just be prepared to be shocked …

    You’re moving the bar rather considerably. It was you who asserted that 100% of abortion opponents are zealots. Nobody—certainly not me—is arguing that none of them are.

    Again, I think Williamson is probably a zealot. (Otherwise, he’s a troll, which is even worse from the standpoint of his having a perch at a prestige opinion journal.) I think Valenti’s views may well be as extreme but her arguments are certainly more conducive to productive conversation than his. (Then again, this is our busiest comment thread in days.)




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  84. KM says:

    @James Joyner :
    I suppose it depends on how you define violence. Why yes, there’s been no murders or stabbings or any riots for years. Yay? For all those who like to claim “great restraint” on the part of pro-lifers, I urge to go spend a week escorting women to PP. You can even be restrictive about it and only help those women who aren’t there for an abortion if you like but I must tell you, it won’t make a lick of different to your experience.

    I had the misfortune of renting an apartment two blocks for a PP, once. I found out very quickly was it was so cheap. It was near daily madness with protesters getting in your face for daring to walk down the block while female and getting too close the building. I’ve been yelled at, shoved, had my car keyed, been recorded by people and had my license plate number taken down, nasty messages left on my windshield and generally feared my safety even though I never went through those doors – and that’s “restraint”. I should be grateful for that and that it wasn’t worse??

    Being proud that listening to your own side’s rhetoric but not striking out at the “murderers” is kind of a circular argument. If I made the same claim about BLM showing great restraint in not destroying whole cities every time there’s a police shooting despite the heated rhetoric, you’d rightly think I was full of it. You don’t get points for being a decent person and not lapsing into violence – that’s normal, not a high standard.




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  85. KM says:

    @HarvardLaw92 :
    Beat me to it. I have nothing but respect for those brave souls. Some of them are even pro-life but cannot stand how the women are treated. I knew one guy who was a true-blue Catholic who spent his free time as an escort. He highly disapproved of abortion but felt interfering in free will and harassment were worse.




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  86. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    You don’t get points for being a decent person and not lapsing into violence – that’s normal, not a high standard.

    I’m not given them points for it. I’m seconding a commenter’s perfectly reasonable refutation of an absurd claim that 100% of people on the pro-life side are “emotionally driven zealots” who “cannot be reasoned with” and “who will accept nothing less than 100% of what they want.” Almost all of them are in fact acting reasonably.




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  87. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    No. I just suggested that you spend some time there in order to illustrate the point. You effectively asserted that pro-lifers are non-violent, yet there they are, outside of clinics harassing vulnerable women, every single day.

    And before you go there, ask yourself why R. Dave has yet to speak in opposition to those tactics instead of terming then to be “within the bounds of normal advocacy” (effectively defending them).

    The failure to denounce those tactics -despite being given what, four opportunities now to do so – constitutes tacit acceptance of those tactics. The point was never to call Dave a zealot. It was to show that Dave evidently either can’t, or won’t, denounce the zealots. I’m left to wonder why.




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  88. Blue Galangal says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Agreed on all points. In particular, the most frustrating part of this for me, personally, is listening to men call for calm and reasoned discourse about whether or not I, or my daughter, or my niece, should be hanged by the neck until dead for the crime of not wanting to carry the fetus of a rapist, or of a fetus with a fatal foetal abnormality, or because we may not be in a position to carry a pregnancy to term for whatever reason.

    Abortion is currently legal in the United States. Full stop.

    Dr. Tiller was carrying out legal procedures to provide health care to women when he was targeted by this calm and reasoned discourse and subsequently murdered in cold blood in a church.

    There is no doubt in my mind, after reviewing the calm and reasoned discourse when Sandra Fluke made what seemed like a reasonable request – which was to have access to health care that she paid for, and which was represented by these calm and reasonable conservatives as “sluts who want the government to pay for their sex lives” – that people like Kevin Williamson fully support the death penalty not only for doctors who provide abortion services, but for women who avail themselves of these legal medical procedures.




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  89. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    Still, first world problems.

    I don’t really care if I get downvotes. I know I’m going to get them from certain people and if I throw in some snark, I’m just increasing my chances.

    But lefty crusades of this sort exasperate me –especially how proud it makes everyone– and I’m a liberal. I don’t need to imagine how conservatives in this country feel; I only need to gauge the degree.

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Yes. 100% irrational zealots. Were I to be tasked with supplying a single word to describe these people, that word would be “unhinged”.

    Outsourcing my response to a tweet from Jacob T. Levy.

    For the (many) people responding to me “but he advocates executions for abortion”— would it really make a difference to you if he advocated 20-year prison terms? 10 years? Excommunication and damnation? Is there an acceptable pro-life position for an Atlantic writer to hold?

    Apparently the answer is no.




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  90. restlessness says:

    @R. Dave:

    I didn’t see that Williamson made any distinction regarding which stage of pregnancy an abortion happens, so I’m not sure your statement

    One needn’t believe in god to acknowledge that a fetus in the late stages of pregnancy is developmentally very similar to a newborn infant and to believe that it is therefore entitled to legal protection based on secular morality and prudential concerns.

    has any bearing on the argument that punishing women for abortion isn’t punishment for their religious point of view.

    stats from 2013

    The vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester, where there can be no argument that the fetus is ‘similar to a newborn infant’.

    Very few abortions take place past the point of viability (about 20 weeks), and many, if not most, of those are due to medical reasons – including saving the life of the mother.

    Given that, even today, pregnancy can harm or even kill a woman, why should the choice to discontinue an unwanted pregnancy in those early weeks not be hers, and hers alone? What other considerations are there?




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  91. wr says:

    @R. Dave: ” In the context of the discussion, both statements are very clearly saying the same thing, i.e., that Coates was dehumanizing them in an abstract sense, not that he was denying their biological membership in the human species.”

    First of all, tense matters. Coates was writing about a time in the past when he had a certain emotional reaction. And what he was describing was that reaction. He wasn’t saying that first responders are inhuman — he was exploring the fact that at this point in time this is how he felt.

    If Williamson had written “after I discovered that my girlfriend aborted my child without me even knowing she was pregnant, I felt that women who have abortions should be hanged,” that would be a description of his emotional state. And then he could go on to explore how or why those emotions changed (or did not change) as time passed.

    But that’s not what Williamson was doing. He made an affirmative statement — not apparently springing from any particular emotional distress. but presented as a recommendation of the way he’d like to see society run — that women who have had abortions should be killed in a way so barbaric it’s outlawed in all or most of the states.

    If you really can’t tell the difference between the two statements, you either need to go back to school or stop pretending you are literate.




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  92. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92: yet there they are, outside of clinics harassing vulnerable women, every single day.

    By that standard, how many anti-Trumpers can be characterized as “violent?” How much should speech and protest be limited because others view it as “harassment?

    Mike




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  93. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “I can’t imagine a single person, myself included, in a square mile of my house who gives a flying F about what columnist the Atlantic hired or what they wrote about or why it’s important that they don’t get that platform.”

    I’d guess there are plenty of issues in my life that are important to me that not a single person in a square mile of your house would give a flying F about. I hope it’s not too big an imposition on you that I do continue to care about them.




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  94. SKI says:

    @R. Dave:

    Capital punishment for drug dealers has long been rhetorically popular on the right and even in liberal minority communities. Should anyone whose ever bought a bag of weed for a friend – yes, that makes you a “drug dealer” – feel personally threatened and imminently endangered enough to refuse to engage in debate with or even work alongside anyone who supports such change to the drug laws?

    Let’s put it a different way: anyone who holds such views should be informed that their views are not acceptable, are barbaric and they should feel ashamed for holding them.

    You don’t debate Nazis. You don’t debate religious fanatics. You don’t debate with someone who starts with the proposition that a set of humans aren’t valuable and entitled to equal treatment.




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  95. wr says:

    @James Pearce: You’d rather sit up there on your high horse and whine about who writes for the Atlantic? Are you kidding me

    Um, according to the headline of the post, this is a conversation about who writes for the Atlantic. It seems like a pretty good place to, you know, talk about who writes for the Atlantic. If it’s of so little interest to you, there are a lot of other posts on this site. But apparently, the only thing more interesting to you than who writes for the Atlantic is who writes about who writes for the Atlantic.




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  96. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: Derb’s position was long since repudiated by the time he took it. While Williamson’s position is extreme, there’s a massive anti-abortion movement still ongoing.

    Uh, you might want to check on on that. Virtually NO ONE in the anti-abortion movement supports or even comes close to advocating the same position as Williamson. On the other hand, exactly how many Americans do you think agree with Derbyshire’s racial views?

    The real difference between them is that conservatives use race as a dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable right-wingers, though you still see plenty flirting with the gateway drug that is Steve Sailer.

    Mike




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  97. MBunge says:

    @SKI: You don’t debate with someone who starts with the proposition that a set of humans aren’t valuable and entitled to equal treatment.

    Wait, are we talking about women who get abortions or the children they are aborting?

    Mike




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  98. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    How much should speech and protest be limited because others view it as “harassment?

    OK, I’ll play Mikeball. If the person in question is a conservative, all of it. They should all be packed up and left to rot on a deserted island somewhere, so as to better enable society as a whole to progress. 🙄

    That should be enough to get your bullsh*t persecution complex ramped up to 100. 😀




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  99. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    While I haven’t read a lot of Williamson’s work, there’s pretty considerable consensus that he’s something of an asshole. No one that I’ve read, however, thinks he’s going to go around hanging women if his preferred policy choice isn’t implemented through the democratic process. Which, incidentally, it won’t be.

    And yet we know that someone reading him and his ilk very well may kill because they have been told, over and over again, by people who would never do it themselves like Williamson, that these women and doctors are murderers. Williamson explicitly stated that they are *worse* than most murderers. Why on earth would we consider that kind of rhetoric socially acceptable?

    More to the point, why do you think it should be acceptable to advocate for the death of millions of women?




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  100. SKI says:

    @MBunge: We are talking about actual humans, not fetuses.




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  101. SKI says:

    @James Pearce:

    Outsourcing my response to a tweet from Jacob T. Levy.

    For the (many) people responding to me “but he advocates executions for abortion”— would it really make a difference to you if he advocated 20-year prison terms? 10 years? Excommunication and damnation? Is there an acceptable pro-life position for an Atlantic writer to hold?

    Apparently the answer is no.

    Actually, I’m fine with excommunication and damnation. That is the prerogative of a particular religion and not the government.




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  102. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @KM:

    Beat me to it. I have nothing but respect for those brave souls. Some of them are even pro-life but cannot stand how the women are treated. I knew one guy who was a true-blue Catholic who spent his free time as an escort. He highly disapproved of abortion but felt interfering in free will and harassment were worse.

    It still stands as one of the most uplifting days of my life, strangely enough. I took every summer intern from the firm who voiced an interest in participating (more than a few) along with me, and had shirts printed for the occasion:

    Front: “Attorney who is looking for an excuse to bankrupt you”

    Back: “So please give me one …”

    I was deadly serious about it, and would have pursued it had I been given the opportunity. If we’re being honest, I went there looking for it.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately), whether out of fear or just an interest in simple self-preservation, the loonies suddenly remembered how to peacefully protest that day.




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  103. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Is there an acceptable pro-life position for an Atlantic writer to hold?”

    My response to suggesting prosecuting women for having an abortion is the same of the one 2nd Amendment supporters make when someone proposes banning guns. Go ahead and change the Constitution first.




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  104. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    They’re like every other zealot who is bent on imposing their personal concept of morality onto everybody else (willing or otherwise).

    Strangely, they seem to forget every shred of that morality the second a fetus pops out of a womb and becomes an infant. To be frank, they are not “pro-life”, nor have they ever been. They’re “pro-birth”. Their intent is, and always has been, to force women to give birth to infants they do not want and/or cannot afford to support, solely in order to assuage their own personal discomfort with abortion. The quality of life said infants will enjoy once born doesn’t seem (and never has seemed) to be very high on their list of priorities. Indeed, from my perspective, it seems like they’re hell-bent on ensuring that it will be as miserable a life as possible by eliminating any programs intended to better that quality of life.

    Selective morality, indeed … Christ would undoubtedly cross the street to avoid these people who proclaim themselves to be his followers.




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  105. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    More to the point, why do you think it should be acceptable to advocate for the death of millions of women?

    Two points.

    First, as noted in the OP,

    But the issue isn’t whether Williamson’s extremist nonsense should be tolerated but whether The Atlantic ought to legitimate it by having it appear under its masthead. I see no obvious reason why it should.

    Second, I don’t see Williamson as arguing that we ought go round up and hang every—or any—woman who has had an abortion. He’s proposing to make abortion illegal and then treating it like we do murder, presumably as a deterrent. That’s an extreme position but it’s not advocacy of genocide.




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  106. Jay L Gischer says:

    @SKI: You are taking the position that Williamson’s threats seemed serious enough to you, and that warrants his exclusion from civil society. Since I described him as posturing earlier, it’s clear that I had a different conclusion.

    Rather than arguing about which of us is right, I would like to point to the fact that statements such of this have their impact precisely because of that grain of ambiguity that they have. He might have been serious, and that’s why we pay attention. To me, it seems like this is a position that costs him nothing, since it doesn’t threaten him, nor does it seem remotely likely that his program will ever be taken seriously, much less ever put into action. It’s kind of like the sort of guy who has his friends hold him back, and tell his “target”: “You’re lucky they are holding me back!”.

    And then we must ask the question of what would happen if, for some reason, nobody was holding him back. He might feel cornered and forced into following up.

    I have worked very hard to steer both my own children and my students away from this kind of talk. I know a boy who, then 14, got in trouble for saying, at camp, “If you do that again, I’m gonna come down there and kick your ass!” I had to convince his mother that this was not so very different from people leaving death threats in comment sections of articles about women, which she didn’t like. But from her son, well, of course he didn’t mean it. Once I drew the parallel, she changed course.




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  107. James Pearce says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Have any of our country’s superficial conservatives also neglected your low-income, non-white neighborhood? Or is it just superficial liberals?

    Oh, no, superficial conservatives also neglect my neighborhood. It’s just that they know it.

    Why can’t people also discuss the Williamson firing, and other issues at the same time?

    I don’t know. People get distracted by the shiny stuff and procrastinate on the hard stuff. Hasn’t that been the pattern we’ve seen over and over and over the last year or so?

    I mean, how’s gun control going? Is that still on the agenda?

    @wr:

    Um, according to the headline of the post, this is a conversation about who writes for the Atlantic.

    I know it’s a topic of discussion and I even know why it’s a topic of discussion.

    But do you know how this discussion looks outside the bubble?




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  108. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    While I haven’t read a lot of Williamson’s work, there’s pretty considerable consensus that he’s something of an asshole. No one that I’ve read, however, thinks he’s going to go around hanging women if his preferred policy choice isn’t implemented through the democratic process. Which, incidentally, it won’t be.

    Which is to say he’s a typical example of RW “journalism”, making a living by finding more and more outrageous things to say, even though he doesn’t really believe them. Which is why Atlantic should never have considered him in the first place.




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  109. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    The people you think are watching us in a bubble, are themselves in a bubble. They are not people open to reasoned dialog. They don’t even participate in consensual reality because reality makes them feel uncomfortable. It has nothing to do with issues, they identify with Trump. It’s all identity. Ironic.

    The only thing that will move the remaining 40% is catastrophe. The task now is to wrest power from them before they cause one.




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  110. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “But do you know how this discussion looks outside the bubble?”

    I assume it looks like any conversation about fantasy football teams or upcoming neighborhood association meetings or complaints about the foreman. In other word, interesting to people who are interested and of no interest to people who aren’t.

    Why are you so concerned about what complete strangers think about a conversation among people you only know on this site? What possible difference could it make?

    Tell you what — you can let your neighbors know I won’t gossip about the casserole they brought to last night’s pot luck or who lets their dog crap on the sidewalk, and you can assure them they don’t need to worry about other people talking about staffing issues at the Atlantic. ‘Kay?




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  111. george says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    That’s interesting. Its the opposite with European Catholics; I suppose that’s to be expected, generalizing over a group of one billion people was silly (my bad, but its Friday).

    I did find a few articles of the beginnings of a coalition of left and right wing Catholics in America against capital punishment, but none that gave percentages.




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  112. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Its not that simple. I know quite a few indigenous people who voted for Trump as a big F-U to both D’s and R’s; while I think that was a very stupid thing to do, I guarantee that none of them identify with Trump, and most of them aren’t racist (and those that are are racist against whites, happily making jokes about helping whites destroy themselves via Trump). People vote for a lot of different reasons; you’re a writer, you’re supposed to know how diverse people’s motives are …




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  113. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The people you think are watching us in a bubble, are themselves in a bubble.

    I am not talking about RWNJs*.

    I’m talking about people who don’t read The Atlantic or magazines like them, aka, most of the people in this country. How do you think this discussion looks to them?

    (*RWNJs actually get a kick out of the left’s purity wars. It hardly even affects them at all.)

    @wr:

    Why are you so concerned about what complete strangers think about a conversation among people you only know on this site?

    OTB isn’t the only one talking about Kevin Williamson.

    What possible difference could it make?

    The difference between President Donald Trump and Secretary Clinton.




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  114. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m talking about people who don’t read The Atlantic or magazines like them, aka, most of the people in this country. How do you think this discussion looks to them?

    Do you think they’re in any less of a “bubble” than you accuse us of being?




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  115. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    Rather obviously, @R. Dave is using the fact that there has been relatively little violence on the part of the pro-life movement

    That’s your perspective. I’ll give you another. My wife worked for planned parenthood in NYS. Every day I wondered if some Christian fanatic was going to put a bullet in her as she drove into work past the spittle flecked crowds of Jeebus fanatics. Christians killed abortion providers and firebombed their places of work, but fortunately for me and my children, they bypassed her center. And it isn’t just the lone nutjobs. A large Christian community protected the Atlanta bomber, clothed and fed him for years after he murdered dozens in the name of “Christian Righteousness”.
    So no, Williamson and his ilk are not just being intellectually provocative. He is actually provoking violence from nut balls that the Christian community protects.




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  116. MarkedMan says:

    R. Dave: I disagree with much of what you said, but appreciate that you put I. The effort to make a cogent argument, and treat legitimate disagreement respectfully.




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  117. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Again, I’m just defending the very narrow point that, no, 100% of anti-abortion people aren’t extremists. That doesn’t negate there being too much extremism in the movement.




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  118. MBunge says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That’s about as clear a waving of the white flag and admitting “I can’t actually defend my position” as I’ve ever seen. Good to see that Harvard degree being put to some use.

    Mike




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  119. MBunge says:

    @SKI: We are talking about actual humans, not fetuses.

    I really shouldn’t be smiling quite so much as this comment. Let me just leave it as “When you define the humanity of others for your own convenience, don’t be shocked when others start redefining yours.”

    Mike




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  120. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: They don’t even participate in consensual reality because reality makes them feel uncomfortable.

    How’s that Trump/Russia/money laundering thing working out? Should we expect the indictment next week or tomorrow?

    Mike




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  121. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    Oh, poor baby, Fox News has left you so clueless.




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  122. michael reynolds says:

    @george:
    No one who was conscious could have failed to note that African-Americans felt threatened by Trump. No one could escape the same awareness of fears in the Hispanic and LGBTQ community. But these voters you’re talking about ignored that. Do you think the same voters would have displayed the same indifference if the frightened people were white?

    I have very little pity for these people. On occasions when I’ve had to manage employees, hire and fire, I was a lenient boss, but I had my limits. Everyone is entitled to a mistake now and then, but they have to recognize the error, confess and reform. But I’m not talking about the 46%, I’m talking about the 40% still with him. What’s their excuse? They still don’t know Trump’s a racist and a misogynist and a crook? Please. This is pure white wing identity politics.




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  123. wr says:

    @James Pearce: :I’m talking about people who don’t read The Atlantic or magazines like them, aka, most of the people in this country. How do you think this discussion looks to them?”

    I think people who don’t read the Atlantic mostly have better things to do than pay attention to discussions of who’s writing for the Atlantic. And I’m pretty sure that vote was ever changed because someone the voter will never meet talked about who was writing for a magazine they never read.

    You really seem to think the voters of America are obsessed with what you and people like you do…




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  124. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Do you think they’re in any less of a “bubble” than you accuse us of being?

    If the people who don’t read the Atlantic are in a bubble, it’s a much larger one. I would venture to guess that most people are only vaguely aware of the magazine’s existence, familiar probably from a chyron on one of “the shows,” and need to spend more than a few minutes getting up to speed on what is so awful about Kevin Williamson and why Jeffrey Goldberg “screwed up” in hiring him.

    And really, forget that Williamson is a small fish in a small pond (and not worthy of the dynamite) but consider that I would like these RWNJs to be up front and honest, and not hide behind a bunch of weasel words and dog whistles. We shouldn’t want Williamson to moan in obscurity. We should want him to speak directly to us, not only to shine a light on the darkness, but so that we can engage him, so that he can defend his ground and so that we may gain some.

    Tolerance > Hate.




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  125. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @george: I think that there is a considerable number of Catholics that are opposed to both(That’s why many Latin American countries have laws against the Death Penalty, against abortion and easy access to birth control). But they are not in the majority, they are more or less similar to the Never Trump Movement, they are concentrated in Establishment and among higher educated folks.




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  126. @James:

    “He’s not interested in building consensus or in gentle persuasion. He reduces all the grays to their black-and-white components. He pushes boundaries and doesn’t stop until he’s gone too far” sounds precisely like the antithesis of an Atlantic writer.

    Indeed. Which is why I remain more surprised he was hired in the first place than I am that he was fired.




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  127. @SKI:

    Listen to the podcast starting at 8:58 minute mark. and then again at 13:50.

    I had not listened to this before. He does sound rather serious about the proposition and not flippant nor hyperbolic on the topic.




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  128. An Interested Party says:

    The difference between President Donald Trump and Secretary Clinton.

    Oh yes, if only more people had stopped talking about issues that you don’t think are important, than Hillary would have won…

    How’s that Trump/Russia/money laundering thing working out? Should we expect the indictment next week or tomorrow?

    Oh, so you have some kind of insider knowledge of Mueller’s investigation? Look, we realize that this president means everything to you and that you gladly and willingly debase yourself here on a daily basis for him, but you have no clue what Mueller knows nor what he’s going to do in the future, so stop whistling past the graveyard, unless you want to make yourself look like an even bigger fool than you already have…




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  129. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Do you think Indians have it better in North America than blacks? By almost any stat (including death by cop) Indians come in last. And to answer your question, a lot of Indians who voted for Trump would think it was a bonus if white people were frightened; a lot of the youth in native gangs feed off of that fear (its often the only time they get any respect at all). The rest wouldn’t care one way or another; everything isn’t about white folks. For many it was a big F-U to the whole system, a system that’s been rotten under Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else. A stupid F-U, but one which I can understand. When are Indians (a word I use because its the only one most folks understand) even thought of? You’re concerned for blacks, which is good, they’ve have a horrible time of it. When was the last time you expressed concern for Indians, who’ve had it as bad or worse?

    People have a lot of different reasons for voting the way they do. You’re projecting your own experiences on first nations people who’ve lived a life and a history radically different than your own; concern for white people is not high on their list.




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  130. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Good to see white liberals growing a pair. By all means…tolerate different viewpoints. But the tone of today’s “Conservative” dialogue is what I like to call “a$$h0lism”. This guy…whoever he his could have stated his viewpoint–yet went out of his way to be an a$$h0le. Sign his pink slip and keep it moving.

    This is how you deal with people that resonate with authoritarianism–swift, decisive, and as drastic as appropriate. These types of people will ultimately undermine anything they see as weak or non-masculine. Hey, Im all for peace, debate, discourse, civility….. but I wont be the only one practicing it.

    Eff this guy…and the rest of the bomb throwing, shock jock industry of “conservative” “thinkers”. Giving the bare knuckle treatment they’ve been dishing out for the past 30 years. Tone is everything. We should accept differing points of view….we should not accept those viewpoint delivered in the a condescending or demeaning tone.




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  131. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Listen to the podcast starting at 8:58 minute mark. and then again at 13:50.

    He isn’t joking and your characterization isn’t accurate. He is explicit that he advocates hanging over life imprisonment for abortion and stands by those views. He then goes on to say that while he is “kinda squishy” on capital punishment in general, he has a “soft spot for hanging.” He later (15:13) admits while a “practical matter” we can’t do it today, abortion is “worse than your typical murder.”

    I finally got around to listening to this and disagree.

    He’s clearly not joking but then again I never said that he was. He makes three, separate points, neither of which I agree with.

    First, when people have challenged him as to why, if he believes abortion is murder, he doesn’t support capital punishment for it since we do that for murder, he says, why, he does support it.

    Then, Charlie Cooke goes on a long discourse about how it’s not intellectually inconsistent in the least to recognize that one’s view differs from that of the greater society and to recognize that, since most people don’t see abortion in the same way they do premeditated murder, it’s perfectly fine to accommodate one’s view of what the punishment should be to that reality.

    As this wraps up, Williamson makes a second point: That, while he’s personally squishy on capital punishment, he believes that, if we’re going to do it, then we ought do so violently rather than pretending that it’s an antiseptic measure.

    Finally, he makes a third point, that abortion is in some ways more heinous than typical murders because it involves a completely innocent victim.

    But the consistent characterization of Williamson’s view—that he wants to go round up the millions of American women who have had abortions and hang them—simply isn’t supported by that conversation.




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  132. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the consistent characterization of Williamson’s view—that he wants to go round up the millions of American women who have had abortions and hang them—simply isn’t supported by that conversation.

    Ok, we seem to be talking past each other. Let me try to be more clear.

    There are two different issues that I, and I think you and all decent people, should have with his comments and I feel like you are conflating them and thereby avoiding grappling with the actual import of his position.

    First – he is saying that the millions of women who have had abortions are worse then your typical murderers. Do you agree that that it is acceptable? To base your argument on an assertion that one quarter to one third of all women in the United States are heinous and horrific?

    How would you react to someone claiming that all men who had vasectomies were murderers because they are stopping the natural progression to human life? Would you think they were someone worthy of being listened to? Rational?

    Second – he is saying that he would like to, in the future, have the government kill women who had abortions. We know for a historical fact that women have always sought to end unwanted pregnancies. Are you ok with the state killing such women? Do you think that is a morally acceptable position?




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  133. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: I find both positions morally defensible to articulate and the policy implications morally unacceptable. I’m pretty close to an absolutist on the acceptability of offering ideas.




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  134. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: I’m not sure being in a larger and slightly more ignorant (in the sense of “not knowing”) bubble has much relevance. As wr said, most people probably don’t consider this issue at all anyway. They’re too busy with life in general.

    Tolerance > Hate.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of “hate.” I think there are some ideas that have moved “beyond the pale,” and “let’s regress America to the point abortion is illegal again and also punishable by death” is one of them.

    I do think Williamson would have had a better chance to stay at The Atlantic had he not basically lied to Goldberg at the outset, but we can’t know, anyway.




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  135. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    @SKI: I find both positions morally defensible to articulate and the policy implications morally unacceptable. I’m pretty close to an absolutist on the acceptability of offering ideas.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to elaborate because that doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I’m a free speech absolutist so I get the concept of allowing people to say whatever they believe but I don’t understand what you mean by it is morally defensible to advocate for morally unacceptable thoughts. Williamson is free to espouse his monstrous views but the rest of us are free to condemn him as a monster, no?

    You say that you view his advocacy for the killing of women who have abortions in the future, is “morally unacceptable” but it is morally defensible for him to advocate for that? That makes no sense to me. Would you find a white supremacists’ advocacy for reinstating chattel slavery to be “morally defensible” too? If not, what is the difference to you?




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  136. michael reynolds says:

    @george:
    Don’t make excuses for Indians, they have the same agency and responsibility as anyone else who casts a vote. They can vote, or not vote, but if they vote they are taking an action for which they and they alone are responsible.

    And what does the degree of my pity for Indians have to do with a given vote cast by a given person? The people who voted for Trump did something nasty and stupid, and they hurt their own country. No excuses. Now those people can grow enough spine and integrity to admit they screwed up, or they redouble the degree of their culpability. When you screw up and admit it, you can be redeemed. When you double down on stupid, you get the contempt you deserve.




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  137. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I agree it was stupid, and I argued with friends and family about it many times before and since the election. But you stated they voted for Trump because they identify with him, and that is simply bat sh*t crazy; normally you’re better than that.

    There’s a huge nihilistic streak growing in the native American community, a sense that the only way things will change is if everything is destroyed. Its insane, the good old days (that means pre-1492) are never coming back – and its romantic foolery to think that many of us could survive under those conditions if it did. But that’s what drove their Trump vote; oddly enough, Indians saw the self-destructive nature of Trump regarding America better than many whites – the ones who voted for him voted for that destruction, because they have the romantic notion that things will be better if civilization collapses. That’s simply wrong, but its very different than the motive you assume for them.

    Voting for Trump was indeed nasty. But still better than some of the violent things desperate people do. And there’s a lot of desperation, a lot of young people with a lot of anger, a lot of energy, and nothing to lose.




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  138. @george:

    People have a lot of different reasons for voting the way they do.

    Without getting into the rest of the comment (save to note that I am pretty sure most people would understand “Native American” in lieu of “Indian”), I think this point needs to be remembered. In the context of an essentially binary choice, people have a myriad of reasons and motivations for the choices they make.




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  139. @James Joyner:

    But the consistent characterization of Williamson’s view—that he wants to go round up the millions of American women who have had abortions and hang them—simply isn’t supported by that conversation.

    I would agree that this is a cartoonish characterization of his position. However, I think you are explaining away the podcast. He quite calmly endorsed the notion of hanging women for abortions. He didn’t come across to me as doing so to make some broader point via exaggeration.

    It seems like he and Goldberg had a conversation about this and he sounded in that conversation the way he did in the podcast.




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  140. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    That’s about as clear a waving of the white flag and admitting “I can’t actually defend my position” as I’ve ever seen. Good to see that Harvard degree being put to some use.

    Not at all, “Mike”. It’s basically me stating that I hold you, and consequently anything you have to say, in such utter, complete contempt that the limits of the effort I’ll expend on replying to you amount to derision. That’s basically all you’ll ever get from me: literally being ignored or figuratively being given the middle finger. It’s all that you deserve.

    The short version is that you just aren’t worth the effort. You should translate anything I say here in reply to you as “why are you even still here?”




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  141. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, I’m just defending the very narrow point that, no, 100% of anti-abortion people aren’t extremists.

    Again, that was never the point. That was a tool utilized to illustrate the actual point. You’re defending the wrong hill.

    I don’t legitimately think that 100% of pro-lifers are extremists. I never did. I used that as a means of pointing out that, when given an option, they won’t denounce the ones who ARE extremists (and in my opinion that percentage is larger than you want to believe that it is).

    It’s essentially a case of “I’m not comfortable engaging in the tactics that you utilize, but that’s more a product of my interest in self-preservation than it is in disagreeing with the goal of those tactics.”

    I used the analogy above, equating these “non-extremist” pro-lifers with whites in the South who weren’t bombthrowers themselves, but who certainly didn’t make any effort to denounce the bombthrowers either. They didn’t do so because their problem with the bombthrowers was one of degree, not one of intent.

    Same scenario: Do all pro-lifers intimidate women outside of clinics? No, but their silence with regard to condemning such tactics indicates to me that they’re perfectly comfortable with the eventual goal of the tactics; they just don’t want to personally get their hands dirty.

    As far as I’m concerned, that lumps them all into the same boat.




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  142. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m pretty close to an absolutist on the acceptability of offering ideas

    This makes no sense. Williamson was given a podium from which to offer his ideas, and offer them he did.

    Are you trying to say that you’re pretty close to being an absolutist with regard to ideas being offered without subsequent opprobrium or consequence? That better fits the argument that it sounds like you’re trying to make, but it’s also an exceptionally academic (read that to mean naive) statement.




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  143. R. Dave says:

    @HarvardLaw92: False equivalency….Please find for me anybody on our side who publicly advocates for the availability of abortion right up until the moment of birth, on demand no less, and takes action to try to make that belief a reality.

    James Joyner pointed you to Jessica Valenti. Take a look at some of Melissa McKeowan’s stuff over at Shakesville too. More broadly, though, I have to wonder whether you’re arguing in good faith here, because frankly, the idea that abortion should be a matter exclusively between a woman and her doctor – i.e., unrestricted abortion rights – is a bog standard position among pro-choice activists. So, as you said, spare me the bullshit.

    More to the point, point me towards any pro-choicer who has murdered pro-lifers in pursuit of that goal.

    Sure, but a few loonies who became violent over the course of decades does not accurately reflect the rest of the pro-life movement. Claiming otherwise is like the pro-lifers who dishonestly trot out Kermit Gosnell as though he’s in any way typical of abortion providers.

    When these mythical “reasonable” pro-lifers on your side actively and publicly denounce the zealots, and work to help resist their zealotry, we can talk about discourse. Until then, they’re no better than those “reasonable” white people in the South who passively stood by while the zealots were blowing up churches and hanging blacks.

    Now there’s your false equivalency. In the Jim Crow south, extreme violence against and oppression of black people was widespread and unavoidable, whereas violence on the part of pro-lifers is an infinitesimal part of the pro-life movement, so the duty to go out of your way to speak out against it is not the same. Is every civil rights supporter today obligated to expressly disassociate themselves from every idiot claiming to be a BLM activist who commits an act of violence? Are all left-leaning activists morally bound to condemn whatever isolated incident of Antifa or Black Bloc violence happens to be in the news at any given time? Please. Tarring a whole political movement with the actions of the most extreme members and then accusing them of tacit support if they don’t explicitly condemn it is a common tactic, but it’s entirely unpersuasive to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. You’re better than that.




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  144. R. Dave says:

    @Erik: I would not consider emotionally tormenting women trying to get heath care or those who provide that care, even if you disagree with their choice, to be within acceptable and ordinary advocacy.

    Well, to be clear, it’s not acceptable to me personally, but I do think it’s within the bounds of what’s considered “acceptable” protest by society at large (and certainly under the First Amendment). Protesters are generally not looking for a calm, polite exchange of ideas – they’re impassioned, often angry, and they show up to make some noise. It’s definitely not pleasant to be the target of a protest. That’s true whether the protesters are pro-lifers, BLM activists, Occupy protesters, or whoever.




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  145. R. Dave says:

    @SKI: You don’t debate Nazis. You don’t debate religious fanatics. You don’t debate with someone who starts with the proposition that a set of humans aren’t valuable and entitled to equal treatment.

    I fundamentally disagree with that view. As long as the Nazis and fanatics come at you with words, you respond in kind. I’m from the Brandeis school of thought on this: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

    Beyond that general principle, I would also note that believing at least some abortion constitutes murder and should be punished as such isn’t limited to fanatics. Williamson isn’t a Nazi and he’s not running around with torches and pitchforks to burn the heretics here.




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  146. R. Dave says:

    @MarkedMan: Thanks, MarkedMan. Ditto.




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  147. R. Dave says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You effectively asserted that pro-lifers are non-violent, yet there they are, outside of clinics harassing vulnerable women, every single day….And before you go there, ask yourself why R. Dave has yet to speak in opposition to those tactics instead of terming then to be “within the bounds of normal advocacy” (effectively defending them).

    The failure to denounce those tactics -despite being given what, four opportunities now to do so – constitutes tacit acceptance of those tactics. The point was never to call Dave a zealot. It was to show that Dave evidently either can’t, or won’t, denounce the zealots. I’m left to wonder why.

    I hadn’t previously expressly denounced such tactics because I didn’t think that tangent was particularly relevant to the actual discussion at hand. Aggressive verbal asshattery isn’t violence, so it isn’t actually a counterpoint to my argument that the pro-life movement has largely been non-violent. That doesn’t mean I approve of it; it just means I haven’t succumbed to the current fashion on the left of expanding the meaning of “violence” to encompass verbal and even written statements they find upsetting. For the record, though, yes, aggressive verbal asshattery is unacceptable to me personally, but as I note in response to Erik, above, I don’t believe it’s particularly unusual among protesters generally.




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  148. R. Dave says:

    @restlessness: I didn’t see that Williamson made any distinction regarding which stage of pregnancy an abortion happens, so I’m not sure your statement [regarding late-term abortion] has any bearing on the argument that punishing women for abortion isn’t punishment for their religious point of view.

    Well, I was speaking more broadly to what I took to be Michael’s point that punishing women for abortion is inherently derived from religious views. I wasn’t really speaking specifically about Williamson’s views. Even with early-term abortion, though, it’s easy to construct an argument for prohibiting them and punishing people who get them that’s based on secular moral philosophy and prudential concerns without resorting to religion.

    For example, one could argue that the wrong committed in murder consists of taking both the life they have and the life they will eventually have – i.e., depriving them of all the years to come – and that the latter element still applies to early-term fetuses even if they don’t have a current “life” to speak of. And from a prudential perspective, you could argue that engaging in any kind of post-conception line-drawing with respect to when human rights attach undermines their universality and could lead to the use of intelligence and cognition based criteria to deny rights to mentally handicapped people, elderly dementia patients, etc.

    Personally, I think all of that has to be balanced against the right of the woman to control her own body, and I believe that balance tips from the woman to the fetus around the point where the fetus becomes capable of experiencing pain (i.e., approx. 20-24 weeks), but my point is that one needn’t resort to religion to think the balance should be struck at some earlier point up to and including conception.




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  149. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    However, I think you are explaining away the podcast. He quite calmly endorsed the notion of hanging women for abortions. He didn’t come across to me as doing so to make some broader point via exaggeration.

    We don’t disagree. I don’t think he was being intentionally absurd, although I think he was being obtuse.

    His position is that abortion is murder and we ought treat it like we do murder. Indeed, the most heinous forms of murder. He opposes the death penalty but also thinks, if we’re going to impose it, we ought not sugar coat it, thus he prefers hangings to more clinical measures. And, if we’re going to hang people, those who have abortions should be included.

    That’s a rather horrible position on a number of levels. It is not, however, an argument lynching women who have had abortions in the past but rather for making future abortions incredibly risky.

    @HarvardLaw92: You stated, multiple times, that your position was that 100% of pro-life people are zealots who can make no compromise. In response to several responses pointing out how most pro-life people weren’t exhibiting that behavior, you doubled down on that position. Now, you’re saying it was never your position. That’s a rather tiresome waste of people’s time.

    @HarvardLaw92: People are of course free to judge the value of ideas being proffered. With rare exception, I don’t think ideas per se are immoral. I think Williamson’s preferred policies would have immoral effects. But I believe it possible to believe abortion is murder and ought be treated as such is morally defensible.




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  150. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @R. Dave:

    I have to wonder whether you’re arguing in good faith here, because frankly, the idea that abortion should be a matter exclusively between a woman and her doctor – i.e., unrestricted abortion rights – is a bog standard position among pro-choice activists. So, as you said, spare me the bullshit.

    Another false equivalency. Saying that abortion should be a matter between a woman and her doctor means nothing more than the decision to have an abortion should not be artificially influenced by the state interposing itself in that decision. It has nothing, and has never had anything, to do with this fantasy that pro-choice devolves to “abortion on demand right up to the delivery room door” you’re trying to sell. You’ll find few of us – including me – who have the slightest problem with the concept promulgated in Roe that abortion rights exist on a sliding scale which balances the right of the mother to have an abortion against the viability of the fetus. Late stage abortion is, and should be, reserved for medical exigencies that legitimately threaten the health of the mother. What that statement you’re twisting means is nothing more than doctors shouldn’t be forced by the state to conduct state mandated presentations which amount to little more than psychological pressure intended to either shame or frighten the woman into deciding not to undergo the procedure. The litany of pressure tactics your side has come up with – in a nakedly transparent attempt to use the power of the state to bully vulnerable women into not having abortions – is effectively endless. So, once again, spare me your bullshit.

    I hadn’t previously expressly denounced such tactics because I didn’t think that tangent was particularly relevant to the actual discussion at hand

    Of course not. As I noted above, they serve your broader purpose.

    Aggressive verbal asshattery isn’t violence, so it isn’t actually a counterpoint to my argument that the pro-life movement has largely been non-violent. That doesn’t mean I approve of it; it just means I haven’t succumbed to the current fashion on the left of expanding the meaning of “violence” to encompass verbal and even written statements they find upsetting.

    Gotcha. Harassing women ok. Bullying tactics ok. Damaging vehicles ok, blocking progress of pedestrians ok. Anything short of “violence” as Dave defines it is ok. Rather a convenient position to take, whataboutism notwithstanding, methinks.

    For the record, though, yes, aggressive verbal asshattery is unacceptable to me personally

    Good. For the record, you denounce the tactics utilized by pro-life groups to attempt to pressure women into foregoing abortion, condemn them, and consider those who utilize them to be in error. And it only took aggressive verbal asshattery to convince you to do so.

    I’ll be frank. My contempt for pro-lifers is multi-faceted. On one level, they get lumped in with everybody else who seeks to impose individual interpretations of morality onto others against their will. For lack of a better term, I use “religionists” to encompass that group, because said individual interpretations of morality almost always stem from religious belief. You will find nothing – zero, nada, absolutely nothing – which I hold in lower esteem; that I consider to be cause for contempt, than fervent religious belief. So, on some level, you’re a victim of being roped into that contempt, but I’ll have to abstain from apologizing for that. Frankly, I’m not sorry in the least about it.

    My own viewpoint about your beliefs is simple: “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have an abortion. Problem solved …”

    Meanwhile, what other women may decide with regard to their medical care is neither your business nor your concern. Your side should politely find the door and see yourselves out of those decisions.




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  151. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    You stated, multiple times, that your position was that 100% of pro-life people are zealots who can make no compromise. In response to several responses pointing out how most pro-life people weren’t exhibiting that behavior, you doubled down on that position. Now, you’re saying it was never your position. That’s a rather tiresome waste of people’s time.

    I’m an attorney. Utilizing language as a tool to 1) promulgate my interests and 2) defeat those with whom I disagree is what I do for a living. I am not Mother Teresa.

    My interest is rarely, if ever, in discussing someone else’s opinion if I differ with it. My interest is in driving it from the face of the Earth. If that’s problematic for you, simply say “go away”. I will say, however, that the tendency of academics to try to formulate every discussion as though all sides are equally valid regardless of the content of their arguments or the structure of the belief systems underpinning them is equally tiresome. My colloquial term for it is “smoke-filled coffeehouse crap”. Philosophy is for philosophy classes.

    But I believe it possible to believe abortion is murder and ought be treated as such is morally defensible.

    And you’re welcome to do so, but I can’t imagine that you had any presumption that this commentariat, of all people, were going to let Williamson’s statements slide in the name of some apparent desire to hold hands and sing KumBahYah. We’re not academics. We owe neither Williamson nor his ideas the slightest consideration in the name of fairness. His ideas are reprehensible. Frankly, they’re ghastly. That makes him reprehensible and ghastly. For much of this group, the discussion goes (and can go) no further than that determination.

    I get what you’re trying to say; I’m just telling you that it’s an academic argument which was inevitably going to put you in the position of being considered to be defending Williamson, which is exactly where you’ve found yourself. By and large, we’re not Girl Scouts around her, and we generally don’t like campfires.




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  152. Eric Florack says:

    @Timothy Watson: expressing an opinion and for that matter peaceful protest are not crimes. Killing someone is. Or at least, it was the last I looked.

    The response to Colin Kaepernick isn’t a crime either. Nor then is the response to what one would consider to be a murder.

    As for owing Williamson a hearing, that’s your call. But I am strongly reminded of Bill Buckley remarking at one point about how Liberals are forever and always claiming to be willing to hear the other side, willing to be open-minded, willing to be open to other opinions and ideas and then forever shocked and dismayed when they find that other people actually have other opinions and ideas.




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  153. Eric Florack says:

    @KM: you tend to get used to it after a while. Trust me on this one.




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  154. Barry says:

    Dhreher: “It is hard to separate Kevin the fearless and brilliant writer from Kevin the guy who can be a jackass. You know who else was like this? Christopher Hitchens.”

    I pointed out another’s observation that Hitchens was *not* accepted by the mainstream media, until he became politically acceptable (anti-Clinton, pro-war).




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  155. Barry says:

    James: “If abortion were illegal, and we were seriously considering upping the penalty on women who have abortions from, say, twenty years in prison, to death, his views would be dangerous. As it is, they’re merely extremist nonsense.”

    That sort of thinking landed us Trump as president, and ‘good people on both sides’ Nazis. Maybe we learned to strike back immediately.




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  156. Barry says:

    @Timothy Watson: “Colin Kaepernick peacefully demonstrated against police brutality, while not violating a single law or professional rule, while also not lying to his employers about his position, and he can’t get a single job.”

    The Dixie Chicks would also like a word with these outraged right-wingers.




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  157. Barry says:

    @gVOR08: “I’d kind of lost interest anyway. Nothing terribly objectionable, but while adequate for NR, hardly what one expects from Atlantic.”

    One thing which struck me was that all of these right-wingers seem to regard Williamson as a serious writer and intellectual (as well as Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan).

    They aren’t.




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  158. george says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    My interest is rarely, if ever, in discussing someone else’s opinion if I differ with it. My interest is in driving it from the face of the Earth. If that’s problematic for you, simply say “go away”.

    I’ve known engineers like that too. I (and most other engineers) have learned not to work with such people; their bridges tend to fall down. I also did graduate studies in physics, and the same thing was true there – people that certain of their theories or understanding that they refused to consider (or even allow the existence of) opposing opinions rarely if ever went far (even Einstein, who was sure his relativity was correct, took a lot of time and effort to understand other theories and criticisms of his theories). Basically, someone who is that certain that their opinion/calculation/theory is a disaster waiting to happen in science and engineering, and such people generally find themselves unable to find work after a short time).

    So I’m surprised to hear that its not only a viable option, but even one to be proud of in law – why do you suppose that is? I gather what I quoted from you is a selling feature for a lawyer. For an engineer or physicist its a sure way to make sure you’ll never be hired.




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  159. Eric Florack says:

    “[T]his is a case study in exactly the problem establishment editors are trying to address by widening their pool of writers: the inability of contemporary liberalism to see itself from the outside, as it looks to the many people who for some reason, class or religion or historical experience, are not fully indoctrinated into its increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies.

    “By this I mean that my pro-choice friends endorsing Williamson’s sacking can’t see that his extremism is mirrored in their own, in a system of supposedly ‘moderate’ thought that is often blind to the public’s actual opinions on these issues, that lionizes advocates for abortion at any stage of pregnancy, that hands philosophers who favor forms of euthanasia and infanticide prestigious chairs at major universities, that is at best mildly troubled by the quietus of the depressed and disabled in Belgium or the near-eradication of Down syndrome in Iceland or the gendercide that abortion brought to Asia, that increasingly accepts unblinking a world where human beings can be commodified and vivisected so long as they’re in embryonic form.”

    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/04/07/opinion/sunday/among-the-abortion-extremists.html




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  160. Eric Florack says:

    @Eric Florack: thank you, downvoters, for demonstrating so very clearly precisely what Bill Buckley was talking about. Well done.




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  161. restlessness says:

    @R. Dave:

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Having thought about it for a while…

    I think that the disconnect I feel has to do with the independence of a fetus. There’s a reason Roe v Wade made the trimester distinction – before viability, a fetus can’t exist except within a woman’s womb.

    When you judge the future life of an early fetus as equivalent to the life of a born child, you are, I think, giving the fetus more status than it has. The elderly, the handicapped – all independently alive. A child, even grievously ill, is independent – and yet we give parents the rights to deny treatment.

    Looking at it from the other side, if that child needed a, say, liver transplant, and a parent was a perfect match, there would be social opprobrium but no legal means to force the parent to donate.

    Why then is the completely non-independent fetus regarded as having any greater rights than the independent woman within whom it resides?

    (I understand that you aren’t arguing it does, here, I’m just trying to organize my thoughts)




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