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Jeffrey Goldberg On The Kevin D. Williamson Coming And Going At The Atlantic

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Jeffrey Goldberg, editor at The Atlantic joined me this morning to discuss the coming and the going of Kevin D. Williamson at the magazine, which Kevin wrote about here.

The audio:

04-25hhs-goldberg

The transcript:

HH: One of the controversies of April quickly forgotten in the press of news, but important for it having occurred, was the coming and the going of Kevin D. Williamson at The Atlantic. He was hired by The Atlantic, and then promptly fired, and he wrote about it on the Saturday essay at the Wall Street Journal this past Saturday. I’m joined by Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor who hired him and then had to let him go at The Atlantic. Because Jeffrey’s a longtime friend of the show, I wanted him to come on and talk about what Kevin had written eloquently about, per usual. Kevin’s one of the more talented conservative writers in America. Good morning, Jeffrey, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

JG: Thanks, Hugh.

HH: What was your reaction to Kevin’s piece?

JG: My reaction to Kevin’s piece in the Journal?

HH: Yes.

JG: I mean, you know, one of the things, one of the things, one of the reasons I’m happy to talk to you now is you know, these are human resources issues. These are personnel issues. I’d like to keep things private if possible. But Kevin went out and described his side of the story. I thought his piece was, first of all, he is not, I want to make a correction. He’s not one of the most talented conservative writers in America. He’s one of the most talented writers in America.

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This Is How Values Change

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Consider this piece by “The Editors of GQ,” 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.  What this is is an attempt at slightly upscaling clickbait.  It’s a list of stuff which is always attractive for passing around Facebook.  I look at them all the time  – “The 20 Most Overpowered Superheroes” – garbage like that.  But this is different.  First of all, “Gentleman’s Quarterly,” while not exactly a bastion of intellectual greatness, at least on the branding scale is higher up there than “Comic Book Resources.”  Secondly this is a swipe at some books that most people have read, books that represent a significant part of how we think and that encapsulate our values.  It is not just that it is cynical, but the fact that it is so deeply cynical for the sake of generating traffic that is truly troubling.  Taking shots at Superman becasue he is old and tired and cliche’ is one thing – it’s pop culture.  But taking shots at Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger and The Bible (yeah, I said The Bible) – well that is a very different sort of thing.

The thing that is most troubling to me about this piece is that while it is anonymous, it is highly and deeply personal.  I am going to assume that each editor wrote an entry or two because each entry is first person (something it is very difficult for a panel to pull off.)  In being so deeply personal, the entries end up being trivial.  For example, one entry dismisses “The Old Man and The Sea” because of how much the author hated it when his or her grandfather made them try fishing as a child.  The entries fail to understand the historical, social and culture context in which the works they so readily dismiss appeared – it is all about the authors right here and right now.  Apparently, according to this piece, books are only worth reading if they apply to where I am right now and they affirm the way I look at things.

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