The Atlantic has garnered national headlines for its decision last week to fire conservative writer Kevin Williamson due to comments he made in 2014 arguing for hanging women who have abortions.
Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg supported Williamson at first when the former National Review writer came under fire for his controversial comments, but decided to fire him after receiving more information.
"The language he used in this podcast — and in my conversations with him in recent days — made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views," wrote Goldberg in a staff memo, as quoted by The Washington Post.
"The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it. Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic's tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace."
Here are four perspectives on the debate over Williamson's firing. They include one who sees it as censorship of pro-life views, one who sees it as justified, a dissenting view from the Atlantic's staff, and one who is conflicted on the firing but believes it reveals an hypocrisy among liberals.
Conor Friedersdorf, staff writer at The Atlantic, offered a dissent to his publication's decision to fire Williamson, expressing concern that the firing and overall treatment of Williamson "were failures of tolerance."
Justice is best advanced, Friedersdorf wrote in a column published by Atlantic on Sunday, by tolerance and cross-ideological engagement.
"I believe that justice is best advanced, that repressive outcomes are best avoided, and that vulnerable groups benefit disproportionately from a polity in which the public sphere is characterized by tolerance, forbearance, deliberate cross-ideological engagement within moderating institutions, and attempts at moral suasion rooted in love. At the group level, my sort of public sphere serves as a bulwark against the threat of authoritarianism that targets minorities; on an individual level, I believe engagement within it causes many to soften their most extreme views," he wrote.
Tolerance for opposing views doesn't require abandoning ones morality, he concluded.
"Individuals participating in the public sphere, and publications that aspire to cultivate a broad civic dialogue, ought never slip into indifference to injustice or abandon moral judgments. But neither should they mistake tolerance for moral collapse. Much can be worked out by objecting to the objectionable in ways that do not foreclose the possibility of all cooperation. As citizens, if not as employees of any particular company, we are inescapably bound. And it is incumbent on all of us, even in our inevitable moments of pained outrage, to model how to work together."
Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, warned in a column published last Friday that the Williamson firing "is just the beginning."
Domenech compared the Williamson firing to Brendan Eich being compelled to step down from a position at Mozilla for donating money to California's Proposition 8 campaign and James Damore being fired from Google, purportedly for his conservative views.
"This story is a predictable continuation of the left's ownership not just of media but indeed of all institutions. It is depressing. It is predictable," wrote Domenech.
"If you have wrongthink, you will not be allowed for long to make your living within any space the left has determined they own – first the academy, then the media, then corporate America, and now the public square."
Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, wrote a column for USA Today published last Friday arguing that the Atlantic was justified in firing Williamson because "no publication is obligated to hire people who express views that violate their ethos."
"The Atlantic is a center-left publication, yet it hired Williamson knowing he was an articulate conservative who opposes abortion rights. What The Atlantic didn't know was the callousness and inhumanity with which Williamson discusses women who've had an abortion," wrote Powers.
"To suggest, as many have, that he was fired for being 'pro-life' is ridiculous. He was fired for being unable to have a reasoned, civil debate about abortion that doesn't involve fantasizing not just about the government killing women who get abortions, but about how they kill them."
Powers pointed out that Williamson's comment on punishing women who have had abortions is "not even mainstream among conservative anti-abortion rights organizations."
"When candidate Donald Trump said in an interview that he thought women should be punished for abortions, the rebukes [from pro-life groups] were swift and mighty," added Powers.
"Trump was forced to reverse his position to say that should abortion be outlawed, the only person who would be held accountable would be the doctor, not the woman. Even Trump didn't gleefully muse about hanging people."
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argued that there was plenty of extremism on the pro-choice side that "mirrored" the "callous" views of Williamson.
To illustrate, Douthat noted the extreme views of Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who recently penned two op-eds defending late term abortions for babies who tested positive for Down syndrome.
While personally divided on the actual firing itself, Douthat said in his column that "my pro-choice friends endorsing Williamson's sacking can't see that his extremism is mirrored in their own."
This pro-choice extremism was described as a system that "advocates for abortion at any stage of pregnancy, that hands philosophers who favor forms of euthanasia and infanticide prestigious chairs at major universities, that is at best mildly troubled by the quietus of the depressed and disabled in Belgium or the near-eradication of Down syndrome in Iceland or the gendercide that abortion brought to Asia, that increasingly accepts unblinking a world where human beings can be commodified and vivisected so long as they're in embryonic form."