Perhaps the main thing you need to know about the opinion writer Oliver Willis is that he spent a formative part of his career at Media Matters for America, the sleazy left-wing propaganda factory run by David Brock, who has variously been called a “smear artist,” “poisonous” (in The Nation, no less!), and a “slippery snake” (by Maureen Dowd).
Willis is black. His parents were Jamaican. He is obsessed with race. Shortly before the 2016 election, he dismissed Trump supporters as “knuckle dragging racists.” He also dismissed the idea that working-class whites in flyover states had any legitimate grievances, whether about the economy or anything else: no, these people were “table-slamming racists,” “the absolute gutter worst of the country,” and didn’t deserve a hearing. They “lack the capacity to have any sort of empathy for anyone who doesn’t look exactly like them.”
In today’s America, Willis maintained, “you still start out several lengths ahead if you’re white and male than if you’re brown and female. The system is still set up for you to have a home field advantage, and the rules and many of the referees are still rigged for the outcome to tilt in your favor.” Needless to say, some people who’ve been denied jobs or rejected from colleges because of affirmative action would disagree strongly with this statement.
But in Willis’s world, affirmative action isn’t a matter of systematic victim-group preference but of being “more inclusive” of “well qualified — sometimes overqualified — people [who] have been sidelined for eons because they didn’t buy the winning genetic lottery ticket.” Anyway, when Trump won, Willis attributed it to racism, pure and simple. Just the other day, he tweeted: “i see we’re still pretending trump’s rust belt wins were about effing trade agreements and not racism.”
Sometimes his race obsession manifests itself in a particularly ugly way. When Houston was struck by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Willis asked on Twitter: “where are the right wing memes ridiculing houston evacuees like w katrina? many of the photos of people from houston are white. ahhhhhhhhh.” And sometimes it comes out in a way that’s just plain bizarre. Retweeting an item about the early 1800s slave trade, he wrote: “I am told daily by conservatives that the founders were perfect.” Huh? In 2018, who on earth describes any of the Founders as perfect? Doesn’t every history textbook these days emphasize that several of them owned slaves?
Willis thinks of himself as smart. Exceedingly smart. His website is headlined “Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid.” “I hate being smarter than the leader of the free world,” he tweeted only a few days ago. The purported stupidity of conservatives is a constant theme in his work. “For #WorldBookDay,” he tweeted on March 1, “I would like conservatives to know that they are the scary piles of paper with all the forbidden knowledge and one day you should crack one open.” Back in 2010, the Huffington Post ran a piece in which Willis took on the charge that liberals who look down their noses at conservatives are elitists: no, he argued, liberals should treat conservatives like inferiors, because the latter are, quite simply, morons.
The Tea Party crowd, he explained, are “cretins,” “the lowest common idiotic denominator,” and a “roving band of conspiracy nuts” who are preoccupied with “idiotic” issues. In sum: “we owe them no recognition or inclusion in the important discussion about the direction of American society.”
Pause for a moment over that last sentence: as far as Willis is concerned, a whole huge chunk of the American populace deserves no voice in the public square. Implicit in this claim is an assumption that he and his ideological confreres have, or should have, the right to silence those who disagree with them. Willis smears white conservatives as exclusionary racists, but he’s the one who’s the exclusionary racist.
More on Thursday.