Mary Elizabeth Williams is a longtime staff writer at Salon. Her job entails finding whatever self-explanatory thing was popular on the internet yesterday, and writing several hundred words today purporting to shed light on it. She could make a great living tutoring layabout high school kids in how to pad two paltry thoughts out into an entire term paper.
In the world of Mary Elizabeth Williams, the mere existence of a controversial news event is enough to warrant that event's inclusion in today's column, regardless of whether or not it fits. Let's see, bullying...gang rape... kind of similar!
Whether it's gang raping a little girl or a pack of schoolyard thugs who want to make sure they can relive their sadistic behavior again and again, viciousness is no longer a private act.
As you can imagine, all of this forced trend-conjuring doesn't make for very firm conclusions. MEW is a master of putting equal and opposite viewpoints together in such close proximity that no one can object to what she says—because no matter what, she agrees with you:
As absolutely essential as it is to raise kids with empathy and sensitivity, to have zero tolerance in our schools or our homes for bullying, and to give kids the tools for effective conflict resolution, the Heynes video is a powerful and necessary reminder to every little Biff Tannen out there that if you're dishing it out, eventually, you're going to take it.
As absolutely essential as nonviolence is, violence is also essential. See that? But don't go thinking MEW has no principles. She is never afraid to stand up for an overwhelmingly popular position. She's against domestic violence. She's against harassing children. She's against elder abuse.
She's also against talking about any issue unless there's an immediate pop culture news peg (the above issues would be Mel Gibson, Suri Cruise, and Mickey Rooney, respectively). You can always count on MEW when you need someone to take a forceful, verbose stand on an issue that requires little analysis or deliberation of any sort. Lavishing praise on a Jewish Hollywood star for her decision not to agree with a guy who likes Hitler? Check. Floating and rejecting a Charlie Sheen conspiracy theory in the space of a single column as an excuse to write more about Charlie Sheen? Check. Spinning a paper-thin tissue of an advertising trend angle in order to post the Levi's Ass Cam video? Check.
These are the tools of a first-class hack. We should know. We've used them all.