This week, some parts of the internet erupted into a firestorm after discovering The Atlantic hired Kevin Williamson, who is theoretically a journalist but probably more aptly described as a conservative troll given his garbage opinions on women, trans women, and Black people.
Under the guise of adding a “different viewpoint” to its coverage, The Atlantic inexplicably gave this man a job. Just to make this super clear, The Atlantic willfully hired a man (and then doubled down on that hiring) who said women who have had abortions should be hanged, that trans women are not women, and that a Black boy was a “3/5ths Snoop Dogg” in a published article, just to name a few. While I’m all for having a variety of voices at the proverbial table – a hateful, violent, misogynistic and racist voice doesn’t deserve a seat – especially when that table is on the nationally respected level.
While it may be easy to dismiss this as just one hire at one magazine, it’s larger than that. Way too many people out here (*cough* Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg *cough*) are willing to defend something like killing women for having autonomy over their bodies or denying the humanity and lived experiences of trans people, as simply an “unpopular opinion” or even “free speech.” Sure, this dude can say whatever he wants (especially on Twitter, which basically lets people who want to harass women run amok), but here’s the thing: HE. DOESN’T. NEED. ANYONE. TO. GIVE. HIM. A. PLATFORM. FOR. HIS. BS. OPINIONS. He certainly doesn’t need a large national magazine to pay him to write those opinions as if they are good or even valid. Because that’s exactly what giving him that kind of platform does – it legitimizes what he says, and reduces misogyny and racism from the systemic violent systems that they are to simply an opinion someone can agree or disagree with.
We should not be willing to accept violent rhetoric against women, against people of color, against LGBTQ people – against anyone as something that needs to be given credence. And when we do, that’s not just dehumanizing and infuriating to a good portion of the country and the world, it’s straight up dangerous. It’s the kind of rhetoric that encourages abortion opponents to shoot people in a Planned Parenthood clinic or kill abortion providers. It’s the kind of rhetoric that contributes to the disproportionate violence against trans women. It’s the kind of rhetoric that lets people ignore that misogyny plays a big role in mass violence in this country.
If you’re really looking for a different viewpoint, editors, let me offer you a pro-tip: find someone whose opinion doesn’t involve murdering a large chunk of the population.