Kevin Williamson built his career as a polemicist at National Review by caricaturing unfashionable Americans, whether inner-city blacks or working-class whites. What he lacked in originality—a black child who reminds him of Snoop Dogg behaves like a “primate”—he tried to make up for in ballsiness. He was a brute who could write. And one who loved opera, to the point of seizing a woman’s cellphone and hurling it into a wall after she breached etiquette by looking at it repeatedly during a performance. When the Atlantic needed a conservative contributor, who better to turn to than the Lincoln Center’s answer to Paul Kersey?

If property destruction is what a woman gets for interrupting a show, you can guess what awaits her if she ends a human life. After taking on Lena Dunham—another soft target—in National Review, Williamson one day got baited into a Twitter argument about abortion. This time the caricature he drew was his own: the no-compromise conservative who dared to say that, yeah, since abortion is murder, women who have abortions are murderers, and therefore they ought to be hanged. QED.

This was an embarrassing thing for Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of the Atlantic, to discover. He had hired Williamson wanting a provocative but in the end culturally acceptable right-winger, and here this man was saying things that could piss off not poor blacks or Trump-voting whites who don’t matter but the sort of professional women who actually read and work for the Atlantic. Goldberg hastily explained that Williamson’s offensive tweet was an aberration. Other defenders of this writer whose stock in trade was his take-no-prisoners pugnacity soon made the case that he hadn’t exactly meant what he’d said. The only way Kevin Williamson could survive was by not being the writer he’d spent years becoming at National Review.