Make no bones about it, Quillette is an outrageously racist site. Here’s an article that compiles numerous examples of its biases.
Lehmann has said she started Quillette to counter what she calls “blank slate fundamentalism,” or the proposition that educational outcomes, career success, capacity for ethics, and economic class are determined more by environmental factors than genetic ones. That is to say, she believes that social status, morality or immorality, and, yes, income itself are all genetically based.
Lehmann told Politico that Quillette’s goal is “to broaden the Overton window”—that is to say, expand the limits of acceptable discourse. She didn’t stipulate that she wants these limits broadened only to the right, but she didn’t have to. Writing in Quillette, Lehmann said the Overton window should be shifted so that people can more openly denounce “immigration,” for example by trumpeting the Muslim heritage of sex-crime suspects.
The real question, though, is why so-called liberals support the site, or even read it. The answer to that is that it exploits the same cracks that were exploited by the right wing to fracture the atheist movement: anti-feminism, anti-Islam, anti-trans bigotry. The people who are otherwise horrified by racism will cheerfully overlook the glaringly illiberal perspective of the site to join in #metoo-, Islam-, or trans-bashing.
Perhaps the most important weapon Quillette uses is applying pressure on a few specific fault lines that divide liberal audiences, such as the MeToo movement. Quillette has recruited liberal men accused of sexual harassment or assault, like Elliott, and empowered them as experts on feminism. In his first Quillette piece, Elliott blasted the desire to “believe women,” and blamed one accuser for his poor book sales and his television agent’s not returning his calls. Elliott has since written three more pieces for the magazine and become one of its strongest partisans on Twitter, joking about a “Quillette Hot American Summer” and frequently retweeting the magazine’s diatribes against feminism. “Wow, Quillette has been killing it recently,” he said in one tweet.
Despite his public defense of the magazine, Elliott told me, “People say, ‘Oh they published this or that,’ and I don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t read most of the articles in Quillette.” Asked about the magazine’s repeated promotion of racist pseudoscience, Elliott said, “I don’t agree with that, obviously. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal.… The articles you’re talking about, I haven’t read. Maybe if I read one, it would be so offensive that I would say I can’t write for them anymore.”
You can’t be a “dyed-in-the-wool liberal” if you’re willing to smear women, Muslims, and trans persons. You’re just another bigot who only likes white Christian cis men.