Saturday, June 10, 2006

How To Deal With Ann Coulter (If You Must)

As I'm sure you all know by now, Ann Coulter's gotten herself into trouble again, over some comments she made in her latest book. I was hesitating to even write this piece (God knows I don't want to increase her book sales), but I had a couple of thoughts. The latest controversy is over some despicable comments about 9/11 widows in New Jersey. In fact, here's what the fuss is all about

Coulter's comment that has perhaps drawn the most attention is an attack on the widows of 9-11 victims, appearing on Page 103 of Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum), and read by Lauer: "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

source: Media Matters

I don't know about you, but I'd say that's pretty darn despicable. She's drawn ire from liberals (including Hillary Clinton), and even conservatives. She goes on to call them "harpies," and the "Witches of East Brunswick." Apparently, this is all because they decided to actively support positions that she disagreed with. All in all, pretty vicious stuff. The thing is, this is hardly new. This is the latest in a career of over-the-top slanders, smears, and absurd invective. It's hard to be shocked by this, because it's become her raison d'etre.

The principal defense that her supporters (and they are many) offer up for this latest incident is that she was making a larger point about how liberals supposedly use victims of tragedies to prevent conservatives from attacking their arguments. She uses the term "human shields." She "argues" that these 9/11 widows were using their widow status to advance their argument, and manipulate people. Many who support her in other things but criticized this latest move argued that the point was valid, but it's lost by the poisonous rhetoric. David Horowitz calls her a national treasure. Some say she's a satirist, like a modern-day Mencken or Twain. (You think I'm making this up?) The Colbert Report is satire. Her catalog of attacks are not. After all, she admits that she believes everything she says. Her committed supporters say that she's edgy, tough, and she "tells it like it is." The only problem is, things aren't as she tells it.

The fact is, beneath all the poison and personal attacks, is an argument that really doesn't hold. The last thing her arguments need is to be undermined by her rhetoric. Let's deal with the argument at hand. Certainly, it's true that being a victim of tragedy gives your arguments no more weight in and of itself, but it certainly adds a measure of credibility. It certainly gives the person making the argument more weight as far as their motives are concerned. In the case of the 9/11 widows, one would think the fact that they lost their husbands on 9/11 might explain their commitment. If a woman is raped, couldn't the fact that she was raped explain her commitment to getting rapists off the street? Surely, it doesn't make her an expert, but it would explain her motives. As I've said, the fact that one has been victimized by tragedy, or fought in a brutal war doesn't support the argument by itself, but it ought to protect a person from being called a traitor, or a coward, from attacks like this.

Besides, it's not as if only liberals do it. Conservatives have done it too, and still do, even now. Conservatives have used 9/11 victims to justify their positions. They've used tragedy victims for their agendas. They've used veterans to prop up their arguments. The fact is, both sides do it. Both sides have gone too far. As far as Coulter's style in general, her supporters have defended that too. They say that the Left is worse, and someone has to stand up them. Of course, the truth is that both extremes can be equally vicious. A quick stop on the right side of the blogosphere, or talk radio, or Fox News proves that. For every Michael Moore or Al Franken, there's an Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity.

But at the end of the day, her arguments don't add up to much, except the usual right-wing fluff. Beneath all the venom, there's not much there. Liberals get incensed at her rhetoric, but that's what fuels her. The far-right loves her, and they love the fact that liberals can't stand her. She enjoys this. You see, that's the one thing liberals forget: She feeds off all of this. In fact, all of this controversy really has helped her book sales. It doesn't validate her points, but millions keep buying her books. People have a tendency sometimes to spend money on things they know, or should know aren't good for them. It's like fast food or porn.

There was an incident a while back in which Coulter got herself in trouble before. When her book Slander came out, she got herself in trouble. Many defended her, but as she went further and further, more people were turned off. The thing not to do, is to play her game. Don't shout her down at speeches, and for God's sake, don't throw things. Incivility cannot be overcome with equally uncivil behavior. Also, it makes her a martyr.

The biggest threat to Ann Coulter's credibility, is Ann Coulter. Her own words seal her fate. The best thing to do is ignore her. It might be hard for some, but oftentimes the best thing to do is to let her dig her own grave, and not give her any more attention. In fact, I've given her far too much in this blog post already.

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