Lessons from the Kevin Williamson affair

Scott has written about the firing of Kevin Williamson by Atlantic. Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic’s editor fired Williamson for having expressed the opinion that women (though not all of them) who get abortions should be hanged.

In my view, this position, if not beyond the pale, is near the pale’s boundary. However, as Scott pointed out, Williamson had taken it before Atlantic hired him, and Goldberg knew this.

Moreover, virtually all controversialists will have taken at least one position that many regard as beyond the pale. Doing so doesn’t make them beyond the pale. One must view their work as a whole before reaching that judgment.

But that ship has sailed when it comes to liberal media. Such outlets can’t thrive without yielding to the increasingly strident demands of leftists for orthodoxy and “correctness” down the line. As Ben Dommenech puts it:

[Liberal audiences] really just wants their existing views re-expressed to them in different forms and by different voices. Get through the diversity veneer, and you’ll find the same rule: No wrongthink can be tolerated.

The fact that leftists increasingly exercise a veto over who appears in mainstream media outlets makes it imperative that they have no say over who appears in center-right ones. This seems obvious.

Yet the left just made a run at having Laura Ingraham expelled from Fox News. We don’t know whether they came close to succeeding, but the mere fact that they tried without being laughed out of court is sobering — all the more so because Ingraham’s comments about the teenage gun control advocate were mild, though ill-advised.

To the extent the attack on Ingraham gained traction, it was due to sponsors yielding to pressure from leftists. It’s hard for any media outlet to ignore folks who help pay the bills. Yet in cases like this one (as opposed to, say, an on-air personality who serially harasses women) it’s imperative. And because it is even harder for media outlets to ignore folks who consume the product, conservative consumers must insist that sponsors be ignored (again, in cases like Ingraham’s).

Dommenech counsels:

For those with views placing them on the right, the only way to win is not to play this game anymore. The only way to win is to build up our own platforms and institutions – our own Hillsdales, our own TV shows, our own Atlantics. . . .

I agree. We need two distinct sets of media because the fully formed set has little tolerance for conservative views — and less all the time.

It’s likely that with two sets of media will emerge two sets of corporate sponsors, one of which will be immune to boycott campaigns by leftists. Conservatives have as much purchasing power as liberals do. Though we are less prone to boycott, that reluctance will give way as the left becomes more aggressive. In response, corporate America will either stop taking sides or divide roughly evenly into two sides based on the opinions and prejudices of the bulk of their customers.

Surprising as it seems, this is the optimistic scenario. Dommenech offers the pessimistic one:

The pressure surrounding the American public square is building. It is steadily destroying the standing of institution after institution and bringing a certain frantic tension to every aspect of life. It will, eventually, explode. What that explosion looks like, I cannot tell you. But I can tell you that if you think Trump was the explosion, you are wrong. You haven’t even seen it yet.