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Checking In With A Great American Public Intellectual

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Kevin Williamson has a nuanced, illuminating take on Elizabeth Warren:

As Edroso does the hard work of explaining, it’s exactly as good as it sounds:

That’ll reinvigorate conservatism, alright right alright! Or at least keep the donors happy. Williamson tells us how all the tyrannies of the past few centuries are attributable on Marxists (though he skips, among other tyrants, the Nazis, since associating them with Marxists and thus with liberals is Legacy Pledge Jonah’s side of the street). Then in a shock cut worthy of “the foundation of the city of… Imperial Rome” (though in fairness Buñuel was a surrealist, not a psychopath) Williamson speeds to his primary target:

Elizabeth Warren is going to look terrific in those mirrored aviator sunglasses and peaked captain’s hat. She’s spent half her life playing dress-up, morally — pretending to be an Indian — so she may as well dress the part of her aspirations. “Who are you wearing to the state dinner? Oscar de la Renta? Prada? Pinochet?”

Oh, yeah, Williamson skipped Pinochet, too, until it was time to compare the senior senator for Massachusetts to a fancy dictator he hadn’t used yet. Williamson says Warren is in a panic because “her entire party lurches in a chávista direction” — presumably meaning some members of it want to return the top marginal tax rate to where it was under the notorious Bolshevik John F. Kennedy (who was a reformer among his kind, however, as he reduced it from the 90-plus it was in the heyday of America’s Stalin, Dwight Eisenhower).

Since Warren is a female as well as a liberal, Williamson has to drag her a while (“Senator Warren has pretended to be a lot of things. A Cherokee, for one” — Fox and Friends, make room for one more!) before he gets to her alleged “asset-forfeiture scheme,” a 2% wealth tax. You may see some purpose in such a tax in an era of rampaging inequality, flat wages, and nominally middle class families living in terror of sudden impoverishment, but Williamson thinks it exists because Democommies find it “simply morally obligatory to hurt wealthy people.”

When the readers of the Atlantic were denied these hot takes, leaving Williamson with only 75 paid venues willing to publish his writing, the First Amendment truly died.

In related news, the Williamson parody might be my favorite entry in Pareene’s Review of Ideas:

As Tucker Carlson and his corporate advertisers find themselves the latest targets of our nation’s continuous digital struggle session, I have been asked once again to reflect on my own recent turn in the barrel, that brief and comical period of employment at a Liberal Magazine.

As I’ve said before, I bear no ill will toward The Atlantic, and I think my erstwhile bosses were not necessarily wrong to believe that the damage I’d cause their brand might outweigh whatever value they originally found in my ideas. They were reacting to the realities of the market, not making the same moral judgment of my character that my attackers were.

But if I was similarly unbothered by the fact of being pilloried by the mob, something I already had some experience with, I can’t say I was completely unvexed. What was irksome was the flattening of my entire work, the left’s creation of a cartoonish pundit-brute who carried my byline but whom I barely recognized. The liberal mob needed me to be a simplistic hatemonger to justify their disgust at my defiling one of their journalistic temples, so they made me into one.

In reality, my views are much more complex than their parodic version of me suggests, and if anyone had asked me to expand on them them at length, instead of quoting a few outrageous-sounding lines out of context, they would have found much more solid backing for their hatred of me. But hardly anyone called to ask what my actual position was on any of the issues they claimed to think I took vile and extremist positions on. Had they, they might have learned my actual views are vile in much more nuanced ways.

A few stray comments on abortion caused me to be painted a raging misogynist, of course, and I acknowledge that they were glib. But I was not making a straightforward case for the thing I sounded like I was making a straightforward case for. I was trying to spark a debate, to force people to reckon with their preconceived ideas about the issue. And at the end of that hopefully long debate I sparked, I hoped people would understand that my position is much more sophisticated than it sounded in a simple tweet. I don’t believe we should hang women who have abortions. I believe we should criminalize abortion, and then apply criminal punishments to women who have abortions. And, crucially, I believe in not specifying what I personally think those criminal punishments should be, but I’m leaving all the options on the table. I only suggested hangings because I think capital punishment should be more graphically violent, to force people to reckon with their support for a punishment I abhor under most circumstances. Forcing people to reckon with things, through glib provocations, is key to my work.

You may ask, under which circumstances don’t I abhor capital punishment? I answer: See, I’ve sparked debate.

Or take, for another example, poverty. I was accused of racism simply because my writing contained negative caricatures of the African-American poor. But I’m not your typical conservative intellectual who never leaves the Acela corridor, but who never misses an opportunity to condescend to the white American poor, pretending they’re the virtuous keepers of the True American Spirit. In fact, I hate the white rural poor, and periodically travel to their depraved villages simply to announce that I think it’s good that these communities are dying. As I detail the squalor of their rotten lives, I don’t pretend conservative orthodoxy can solve Appalachia or the Rust Belt. No tax cut will bring prosperity back to these fallen places. Instead, I say: Go take another Oxy and crawl into your hole to die, grandma.

With some time to reflect on the matter, I can admit it was amusing to have been hired for the thought-provoking complexity of my hateful beliefs, only to be fired because people thought I believed much more simplistic versions of the terrible things I espouse. I know my value to an ostensibly liberal magazine editor lay in my apostasy, the fact that I could provide a dose of erudition to a take like “Democrats are the real racists” so that it reads like something you might plausibly see in a magazine subscribed to by college graduates. Unfortunately for Atlantic readers now deprived of such contributions, I was too honest to keep up the mask of politesse required for the job.

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