Some months ago, a conservative firebrand named Kevin Williamson was chosen as a columnist for the venerable magazine The Atlantic. The thinking, evidently, was that the magazine’s generally liberal readership might profit (it was never clarified exactly how) by absorbing a point of view remote from and generally hostile to its customary presuppositions. But then it was learned that Williamson had made the striking assertion that women who have had abortions should be punished by hanging. In the ensuing furor, The Atlantic summarily dismissed Williamson before he had even written a single column.
At this point the well-oiled right-wing resentment machine predictably went into high gear, screaming in tones of high dudgeon about censorship and political correctness run amok. These wingnuts conveniently ignored the plain facts that (a) Williamson had abundant venues for spewing his bile, notably in the National Review and other organs of conservative paranoia; and that (b) as a private entity, The Atlantic was under no obligation to provide a forum to Williamson or anyone else. Some conservatives attempted to defend Williamson by saying that his comment was merely a solitary expression of intemperate bluster in a blog post—but, awkwardly enough, it was quickly revealed that he had uttered numerous other comments of an equally repulsive sort.
As we all ought to know by now, such vile remarks seem to be part and parcel of conservative rhetoric; the idea that they are mere aberrations is becoming increasingly untenable. So we have to ask ourselves: Is there something in the very nature of conservatism that inspires such crudity, vulgarity, and viciousness?