The decade's most triggering comedy
Donald Trump broke The Atlantic. One of the last remaining sophisticated, left-wing outlets—indeed, one of the last physical magazines to which I and other conservatives I know still subscribe—has decayed into a monthly mélange of shallow leftist tripe. While the ideological crescendo has built over many months, today’s firing of conservative columnist Kevin Williamson seals the outlet’s fate: The Atlantic has become irredeemably partisan.
The magazine fired Williamson just weeks after hiring the veteran conservative columnist away from National Review over his suggestion years ago that the law treat perpetrators abortion of abortion as murderers. In a tweet and on a podcast in 2014, Williamson suggested that women who perpetrate abortions be hanged. Never mind that later in that same podcast Williamson pointed out that he’s “kind of squishy on capital punishment in general,” making clear his intention to describe the moral similarity between abortion and murder rather than the social importance of hanging women who have had abortions. Never mind also that The Atlantic continues to employ Ta Nehisi Coates, who once attacked 9/11 first responders as “menaces” and advocated violence against the police. The scum-sucking vultures at the radical leftist group Media Matters seized on Williamson’s the comments, pressured The Atlantic to fire its newest hire, and the magazine quickly complied.
If The Atlantic can’t tolerate Kevin Williamson, it can’t tolerate any conservative. Williamson is intellectual, literary, elitist, and vehemently anti-Trump—in other words, he’s the sort of conservative The Atlantic would hire. The magazine’s capitulation to the far-Left completes a months-long process of decay that began with the election of Donald Trump.
While always leaning left, The Atlantic until recently offered worthwhile journalism and commentary to fellow travelers and conservatives alike. Since Trump’s election the magazine has become coarse, sophomoric, and one-note. This month’s cover story accuses Trump-supporting Christians of selling their souls in an error-laden rant. Another article from the April issue contemplates whether Trump is best caricatured as a “fat-assed golfer,” “a red-faced fathead sitting on the toilet” or “fat, castrated…with a tiny penis.” Last month’s cover story accuses the Trump campaign of participating in a “plot against America.” Another feature from that issue muses on all of the ways in which President Trump is a “dupe.” A dispatch from that same issue accuses the GOP of posing “existential, not incidental, threats to American democracy” and conveniently—but oh-so earnestly—demands that all patriotic Americans must vote for Democrats regardless of their personal political views.
The January/February cover offered a sinister-looking portrait of Vladimir Putin in a shameless attempt to revive the Russia collusion “nothing-burger.” Inside it mocked Mike Pence’s religion and equated his support of Donald Trump with grave mortal sin. December gave us a cover story on the “American Nazi” and the irrelevant Alt-Right bogeyman. October’s cover portrayed a White House sinking into oblivion beneath text reading, “The Trump Presidency.” September’s cover story? “How America Went Haywire.” Months before that the magazine smeared Trump as an “autocrat.” Such obsessiveness calls to mind Winston Churchill’s definition of a fanatic as “one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
It’s a shame. Since The New Republic collapsed in 2014, The Atlantic has served as the last redoubt of serious left-wing magazine journalism. Now it panders to vacuous partisans, and the high ground, once lost, is virtually impossible to recover. Perhaps in the age of clicking for dollars it was ever thus. In any case, to quote the man who hastened The Atlantic’s self-destruction, “Sad!”