George Will is standing by his controversial Washington Post column, in which he stated that universities have turned sexual assault into "a coveted status that confers privileges," arguing that people on the internet just like being upset about things.
As Politico pointed out, during an interview with C-SPAN Friday, Will argued that the backlash has less to do with his argument than with the way the internet works now. "Today, for some reason ... indignation is the default position of certain people in civic discourse," he said. "They go from a standing start to fury in about 30 seconds."
Will went on to say that while it's great that the internet has "erased the barriers of entry to public discourse" he argues that now you don't have to be even remotely intelligent to criticize Washington Post columnists. "Among the barriers of entry that have been reduced, is you don't have to be able to read, write, or think," he said. "You can just come in and shout and call names and carry on."
The reaction to Will's column didn't consist of shouting and name calling so much as people calling for him to be fired. In his Post essay, Will argued against the "preponderance of evidence" standard for adjudicating sexual assault cases that is often used in university investigations (as opposed to the "beyond reasonable doubt" level of a criminal court), but in the process seemingly implied that the sexual assault epidemic isn't real. In fact, as he argued on C-SPAN, it's mainly kids getting in trouble with alcohol. "What's going to result is a lot of young men and young women are going to get in this sea of hormones and alcohol ... you're going to have charges of sexual assault," he said. That combined with the less rigorous legal process on campus means, "you're going to have young men disciplined, their lives often permanently and seriously blighted, don't get into law school, don't get into medical school, all the rest."
Will also responded to the four Senate Democrats who wrote him condemning his column, and claimed that he was more serious about sexual assault — or as he would say "sexual assault" — than Congress, because his definition of sexual assault doesn't include things like "improper touching." As he told CSPAN, "When remarks become sexual assault, improper touching … we begin to blur distinctions that are important to preserve if you believe as the senators purport to believe, that this is a serious matter." And yet, it's hard to imagine how his detractors could trivialize sexual assault more than a man who thinks of increased awareness of sexual assault as an obstacle for future male doctors and lawyers to overcome.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.