Saturday, March 31, 2018

The never-ending banquet at The International House of Hot Takes

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator

The snow has melted, the crocuses are blooming, and the Red Sox are winning (OK, one game, but still!).  So why are we once again stuck inside, lured by the siren song of the International House of Hot Takes, d/b/a The New York Times Op-Ed Page?

We couldn't resist the latest hot, fluffy version of one of their traditional standbys: a stack of intolerant liberals, drizzled with condescension.  It's served to us by the most recent “diversity” hire: long-time reactionary hack Bret Stephens (If you foolishly thought that to promote diversity, The Times Op-Ed page might give space to groups traditionally unrepresented in mass media, like women of color, Latinas, Muslims, or Asians, then brother you've wandered into the wrong place).

With our government despoiled by corrupt autocrats, our children massacred in school, Puerto Rico languishing in ruins and despair, and our young men of color gunned down for the crime of texting, what social ill is white man Bret Stephens worried about today?

If you guessed a white man being criticized for the dumb shit he wrote and still believes, you won!  Bret has sprung to the defense of human toilet brush Keven Williamson, whose hiring by The Atlantic was greeted with less than universal acclaim by those intolerant liberals. 

According to Stephens, Williamson has graced the National Review and other equally-reputable outlets with “smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary.”  Whenever one white male reactionary describes the work product of another thusly, you know you're getting a horrible goulash of racist and misogynist hate speech, correctly spelled and punctuated.

Stephens' op-ed colleague, real journalist Michelle Goldberg, provided a few examples of Williamson's smarts, style, and hilarity:
He described an African-American boy in East St. Louis sticking out his elbows in “the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.” Defiantly using male pronouns in a piece about the trans actress Laverne Cox, Williamson wrote, “Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman.” Feminism, he wrote, is a “collection of appetites wriggling queasily together like a bag of snakes.” He tweeted that women who have abortions should be hanged, later clarifying that while he has doubts about the death penalty, “I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.”
Have you stopped laughing yet? Equating women who wish to control their own reproductive system to murderers is not only not especially risible; it's not even original. It's been a staple of anti-choice hellhounds for generations.

Comparing people of color to monkeys and trans persons to freaks? Just as funny, and just as original.

But we're not here to pillory a garden-variety reactionary jackass like Williamson. We're trying to understand why Bret Stephens thinks liberals should tolerate the actions of The Atlantic, a publication with pretensions to decency.

Bret, give us the argument.  The take about hanging women for obtaining abortions?  That's OK, because it was only a Tweet:
I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.
Perhaps women and their male supporters seeing the right to safe and legal abortion under siege, and within one vote of demolition by the Trump Supreme Court, are worried now.  Perhaps women seeking abortions in states where providers have been closed down by yahoos echoing Williamson are worried now.  Perhaps abortion providers coping with death threats on a daily basis are worried now.  Well, as long as Bret Stephens isn't worried, why should those trembling liberals be?

The Tweet-not-a-book-line was at least formally an argument.  Having formulated it, Stephens is quite sure his case is made:
The real question, then, isn’t what kinds of arguments are “acceptable.” It’s what kinds are, or ought to be, acceptable to liberals.
The “then” is what our old friend Karl Marx called a “verbal rivet:” it pretends to create an argument.  Of course, it doesn't – it just connects whatever came before it to the conclusion, which is that liberals should tolerate advocates for the execution or life imprisonment of women who terminate their pregnancies and those who assist them.  But Stephens, perhaps realizing that he hasn't actually stated a coherent position, continues by equating those who support a woman's right to choose with those who seek to hold Texas necktie parties for them.

Did I mention that all entrees at the International House of Hot Takes are served with Both Sides?  Believing that embryos, zygotes and fetuses are not human beings is no different from advocating the execution of those who act on those views.

Of course, had Williamson said that he believes that a fertilized egg is a human being and that it should not be legal to terminate a pregnancy, no one would balk.  It's the genocide (or life imprisonment) of millions of living, breathing, sentient women and abortion providers that causes some of us to wonder why a racist, misogynist, bigoted advocate for that position should be hired by a publication that once had a reputation for intellectual respectability. 

To Bret, this liberal outrage constitutes “character assassination.”  We sure hope that Williamson can recover from this dastardly assault.  That would distinguish him from Stephon Clark, who was assassinated simpliciter by the Sacramento Police for holding a cell phone.  But at the International House of Hot Takes, the continued war on persons of color isn't usually on the menu.  Maybe if the space that Bret Stephens wastes was given to someone who actually would bring a diverse perspective, Bree Newsome might serve up something worth reading.

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