the national interest

How a Gawker Rant Portended the End of Freedom in America

It all started with a Gawker post. Photo-Illustration: Daily Intelligencer; Photos: Rob Carr/Getty Images, fStop/Corbis

Suzy Khimm reports from a confab at the Heritage Foundation, where a distinguished panel of right-wing intellectuals held forth about the various horrors of modern liberalism, from licentiousness (David Azerrad: “It’s all sex all the time”) to totalitarianism. Naturally at home in this milieu was National Review’s Kevin Williamson, the noted historical revisionist, opera buff, and hate-crime victim, who is ever-attentive to signs of strongman tendencies arising on the left. There is one sign in particular that seems to set off Williamson:

“The left is intellectually dead, and where it’s heading towards is authoritarianism,” said Williamson, citing a Gawker blog post making the case for arresting climate change deniers.

The blog post in question did indeed argue that some climate change deniers should be criminalized, on the extremely shaky legal basis that it is a crime to deliberately mislead people about certain dangers. Let us concede from the outset that this is a terrible proposal with obvious slippery-slope potential. In the same spirit, we might concede that a single Gawker post, which identifies itself as a “rant,” is not necessarily indicative of broader strains of liberal thought.

Williamson first recorded this post with alarm on March 28 (“And they complain when Jonah calls a book Liberal Fascism”). He discussed it again, at greater length, in a column appearing April 6. He cited it again the next day, once again on April 18, and yet again yesterday, before holding forth on it at Heritage.

At no point has Williamson entertained the possibility that this single rant on Gawker does not encapsulate the predominant current in contemporary liberal thought. Perhaps he requires reeducation on this point in a FEMA camp.

Update: Williamson points out that he also discussed at the Heritage conference statements by Robert Kennedy Jr., who has advocated marginal conspiracy theories regarding such subjects as vaccines and the 2004 election, and who also shares the opinion that climate change denial should be criminalized. Several of Williamson’s columns and blog posts citing the Gawker post also cited other objectionable things. Please do peruse the links.

Gawker Rant Portends End of Freedom in America