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This post is to criticize Kevin Williamson for a recent column at National Review.
There was a previous post that was undertaken by another Ricochet member, in which he criticized Kevin Williamson for the same column. That post became to heated with emotional responses and unhelpful rhetoric. Factiousness emerged. Hopefully we can do better and consider the column on its merits at this post. The column is deserving of criticism.
Kevin Williamson is a columnist for National Review and he is a Podcaster of Ricochet. I will state up front that I am not a fan of Mr. Williamson, and I am not a regular reader of his work, nor do I listen to his podcasts. He does have his fans, including some who are members of Ricochet. As near as I can tell, he has more former fans than current fans among the membership.
Jet Blue Incident
The recent column by Kevin Williamson was written on the occasion of a recent incident. A gay couple got to shouting at Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner about Ivanka’s father. Jet Blue security bounced them off the flight. Their behavior was pretty ugly.
I had heard a thumbnail version of the incident. I searched the Christian Science Monitor but could not find any coverage. The Washington Post article was extremely thin on information. An internet search got me the sort of information that I had expected to find. Here is the New York Daily News:
Before Lasner, Goldstein and their son ever boarded the plane, the teacher tweeted that his spouse had Ivanka and her hubby in his cross hairs.
“Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial,” tweeted Lasner. “My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil.”
They portrayed themselves as victims afterward.
“JetBlue kicked us off our flight when a (flight) attendant overheard my husband expressing displeasure about flying w/Trumps,” read the new version.
JetBlue released a statement confirming the incident and explaining its rationale for bumping Lasner and Goldstein — making it clear they were in the wrong.
Kevin Williamson Column
Mr. Williamson wrote a column for National Review in which he observed on the coarsening of our culture, as evidenced by the bad behavior of Goldstein and Lasner. I only read the column because it became the cause of a stir at Ricochet. I think it is a very poor column. Some of the points are blunt and over-the-top, while other points are so subtly presented that they went sailing right by several of our Ricochet members.
Uday and Qusay
Williamson’s column is titled “Manners, Even in the Age of Trump.” Most of you will already know that Kevin Williamson has a strong dislike for Donald J. Trump, and has written extensively and caustically to denigrate Mr. Trump, repeatedly, for well over a year. The column begins with a prelude that invokes our kinship with the animals:
But about 99 percent of our DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees — which are intensely social and fierce. The genetic difference between orangutan and chimpanzee is relatively small, and the genetic difference between chimpanzee and H. sap. is tiny indeed. (“My brother, Esau, is a hairy man.”) Every day presents a struggle between the better angels of our nature and the inner chimp.
Williamson then pivoted to the incident at Jet Blue:
The inner chimp shows up in unexpected places….
Then follows a very brief review of the incident. Next is the part that bugged an intrepid member of Ricochet:
I suppose that by now regular readers of National Review will have figured out that my sympathy for the Trumps is . . . limited. My own view is that Donald and Ivanka and Uday and Qusay are genuinely bad human beings and that the American public has made a grave error in entrusting its highest office to this cast of American Psycho extras. That a major political party was captured by these cretins suggests that its members are not worthy of the blessings of this republic. But here we are.
You really should read the entire column if you are at all interested in this dust-up. I will place a link in the first comment. Williamson continued:
It would be far better and far more human (and we Christians should be thinking this time of year about what it means to be human, in the flesh) to do the opposite, to pull past that coveted parking space and let him have it rather than let him have it. … We are called to be something more than our emotions and appetites and allegiances. But that is also the approach consistent with enlightened self-interest. Manners are a misunderstood thing: They are not, at heart, about aesthetics, about making yourself a more pleasant dining companion. It does not matter, in itself and in the greater analysis, which fork you use for your salad. The point of manners is to make other people feel valued, respected, and considered. Which is to say, the point of manners is to keep the peace.
Following additional remarks about manners, K. Williamson brought it back to politics, and then his conclusion:
Politics always brings out tribalism — politics is tribalism for most people — and this year’s election has been more tribalistic than most….
You don’t have to be a saint. All you really have to do is to mind your manners and you can pass for human most of the time.
It was clear in the comments that those inclined to like and defend K. Williamson saw his remark about “inner chimp” to be a reference to the fallen state of humanity, and it is clear from the column that Williamson thinks he shares the problem of an “inner chimp” with everyone else. That theme is woven through this column from beginning to end. Near the bottom, he included this:
But we are called to be more, to be human, to be morally and spiritually larger than what’s within our own skins.
If you are inclined to put the very best construction on K. Williamson’s writing, then you might see this in a positive light.
However, it is clear that there is a Ricochet contingent that is not willing to be generous when reading K. Williamson. Some readers of K. Williamson were turned off recently by K. Williamson due to his bitter and caustic writing against Donald Trump. Others of us had dropped K. Williamson in previous years because of things he wrote long ago.
The key sentence that drew the ire of some readers was this one:
My own view is that Donald and Ivanka and Uday and Qusay are genuinely bad human beings and that the American public has made a grave error in entrusting its highest office to this cast of American Psycho extras.
Does this deserve criticism? If a Ricochet member had written it in a post, would it be considered a violation of the Code of Conduct? Would this, if aimed at Peter Robinson or Pat Sajak or Mona Charen, earn an Editor’s redaction?
We have had many long discussions about the awfulness of D.J. Trump. It has been common to see Podcasters, Contributors, Editors, and members all say things like “genuinely bad human being.” Does likening Donald and Ivanka to Uday and Qusay cross the line? Does “American Psycho” cross the line?Published in