Oh there she goes again! We’ve all gotten used to Ann Coulter promoting her silly career as professional shit-stirrer by saying the most outrageous things (un-)imaginable. [Sullivan] sees her as a pathetic hollow figure, simply driven by hunger for notoriety. But motivations are unknowable, actions are what count. And this time is different. Her comments in her new book and on television that the widows of men who died in the World Trade Center are exploiting the deaths of their husbands and reveling in financial gain from the catastrophe go far beyond mere controversy-mongering. It’s worse than “mean spirited”. It’s immoral. It slanders innocent people and lowers the level of discussion of public matters below the gutter. Enough is enough.
Any money she makes through this scurrilous hate mongering comes at the cost of people’s reputations and all of our sensibilities. Any money that her publisher makes from her is damned. The book, Godless, is published by the Crown Forum imprint of Random House. Random House, the venerable house built by Bennett Cerf and once the publisher of writers like William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neill and James Joyce, now peddles this trash purely for profit. Certainly not because it benefits society in any way. Cerf must be spinning in his grave seeing what has become of his company, now part of the giant Bertelsmann conglomerate.
“Bertelsmann’s corporate culture is based on the belief that ownership, economic success and the nature of the media business bring with them a special responsibility to society.”
So states the Bertelsmann corporate website. There seems to be a cognitive disconnect between their corporate philosophy and the product they sell. Perhaps we need to let Jasmin Borhan, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Communications for Bertelsmann, know that they need to try a little harder. Their corporate mission can’t possibly involve making money off slanderous attacks on the families of people lost on 9/11.
She can be reached at [removed, for the reasons stated at the end of this post…] UPDATE 6/10: There is [evidence] that bookstores are getting cold feet about having her promote this book. That will get the attention of her corporate enablers more than any amount of public denunciation…UPDATE 6/16: More on corporate responsibility and the promotion of hate speech, after the jump.
UPDATE 6/19: Thoughts on the call to action and the risk of censorship. Toward the end after the jump.
Late in the week she’s back in the headlines for saying [something abominable] about former Marine Rep. John Murtha. More of the same from her, but what bothers me is that Editor & Publisher, in [a follow-up piece] asked Universal Press Syndicate (distributor of Coulter’s syndicated column) Director of Communications Kathie Kerr whether there would be repercussions for her vitriolic and slanderous statements. Kerr invoked free speech in her response that, “We’ve never felt that it is a syndicate’s job to censor commentary. It is the nature of commentary that it is to inflame.” But she lets the cat out of the bag when she also says, “Ann’s client newspapers stick with her because she has a loyal fan base of conservative readers… after all, her latest book did go to No. 1 on the best seller on Amazon within 48 hours of its publication.” Coulter is not the only one being mercenary. Universal Press and Bertelsmann/Random House are along for the ride.
Editor & Publisher takes pains to point out that cartoonist Ted Rall faced a concerted backlash when he criticized the 9/11 widows in a cartoon — subscribing newspapers received complaints and responded by pulling his feed and he lost audience. So far, Coulter has not received the same treatment.
How does maintenance of deceny interfere with free speech — and does the argument of free speech even apply in situations where people are generating profits by what they say for themselves and their corporate enablers? What responsibility, if any, do editors and publishers of hate speech have to moderate public discussion of important matters? Is it simply a matter of market dynamics — those who complain the loudest at the retail level will influence the public discourse? I know what my gut tells me — but my gut may be wrong here.
6/19: I got [taken to the woodshed] in high style by Al Barger over at Blogcritics. Made me think about the implication of censorship in the original call to let the media outlets making coin on Coulter know how offensive her statements are. It’s fair criticism. I was pissed off at her tactics and wanted pressure brought. But that kind of pressure is a slippery slope I don’t think I want to get on. I’ve removed the link to the CorpCom officer at Bertelsmann because, ultimately, they will know the reaction of the public to their business decisions at the cash register. I may not like the fact that they and Coulter are lining their pockets from irresponsible language — but I don’t feel comfortable calling for pressure to enforce responsibility. Too risky.