Enough with the cutesy posts about saints who visit my AdSense list. Nasty reality intruded this week with the latest dust-up over Ann Coulter. As you surely know by now, she addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and referred to John Edwards as a faggot. At least that’s how it’s being parlayed in the media — as a homophobic taunt. That’s not exactly what happened. She was making a flat-footed reference to the public lambasting of Isaiah Washington for using the word “faggot” to describe one of his co-stars on Grey’s Anatomy, indirectly commenting on political correctness and also trying to say something snarky about Edward’s wishy-washy policies. If anything it showed her utter tone-deaf approach to comedy and, perhaps sensing this, she was careful in Q&A to say that neither she nor Republicans were anti-gay. On the contrary, gays should support Republicans because they are for tax cuts and law enforcement and, “gays make a lot of money and are victims of crimes.” Like I said, tone-deaf.
You should see the [entire performance] before you read anything else anyone says about it.
In fact, she said other things that were as bad or worse. About seven minutes into her spiel she remarks that Barack Obama is not nearly as popular among African-Americans as was Bill Clinton because, “Obama is half-white and half-black, but Clinton is half-white and half-trash”. Nice. Further, “Democrats don’t even like blacks.” Later, she casually refers to the expectation that Rudy Giuliani will bomb Iran (one of the few reasons, she says, that he’s popular among Republicans). But this is a theatrical performance. Her cynical superficiality became obvious when she was asked by fawning college Republicans how they could combat rampant apathy among their campus colleagues. Her considered response? She told them to wear Joe McCarthy tee shirts around campus and show Ronald Reagan movies. Coulter the ideologue. Sure. And check out her hard as nails response to the zinger delivered by the Nation writer who blindsides her with a question about her defense of marriage and how it squares with her 3 failed engagements. She’s so thrown she forgets what the next questioner asks her right after he asks it. Coulter the warhorse. Right.
The really depressing thing about the popularity of Ann Coulter is just that — her popularity. Like any narcissistic performer she feeds off the response she gets from her audience. The problem is not so much her (if she choked on a chicken bone tomorrow there’d be a new one to take her place the next day), it’s the general atmosphere of shamelessness and incivility that created a market for her to serve. As when she made the [hideous statement] about World Trade Center widows exploiting their husband’s deaths, what galls is not so much that she says such things but that her political and corporate enablers profit from it. And the audiences she addresses lap it up because it’s like junk food for the mind: spicy, easy to swallow and with no nutritional value whatsoever. It makes no demands upon them because it merely reinforces their prejudices. Contrary to what [some bloggers] thought, the whoop you hear in the room when she drops the word “faggot” is not the audience recoiling in shock — it’s glee at hearing their ballsy heroine utter what they had thought was unutterable. Until that moment.
Back in 2003, Joe Conason [wrote a review] of her book Treason entitled “Has She No Shame?” — the title riffing on her professed love of the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the famous question put to McCarthy by Joseph Welch during the Army hearings: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”. Well, it’s pretty clear she does not. But what about her publishers at Random House (owned by Bertelsmann)? What about those in the press who [carry water] for her, like Slate‘s resident bushy-eyed bigot, Mickey Kaus? What about the Republicans she shares the dais with? It’s encouraging that the major candidates and some right-wing pundits have denounced her use of the word faggot. That’s nice. After 20 years of devolution in public discourse it’s a start. But they need to shun her.