Day 552: Her?

originally published July 5, 2013

This is, of course, the day after the day when Americans join together, partisan strangleholds aside, and revel in their love for their country and mutual enthrallment at watching things explode in the sky. And why shouldn’t they? America is a pretty fantastic concept, and despite some sloppy execution it remains a veritable symbol for liberty and opportunity in the world. I’m proud to have cholesterol-rich American blood in my veins, descended as I am from a hearty New York Jew who settled in Canada not because he wanted to leave his homeland, but for the love of a woman.

But to love America – or specifically the freedom which America provides in writing to all her citizens – is to love the wastewater that flows along with it. While the Constitution allows citizens to speak up with dissent (all of which will be written down in the NSA’s little notebook, but hey – you can still do it!), it also lends a free voice to the irredeemable nutjobs who speak up for the most hate-filled and rotten human beings in the land.

Which brings me to Ann Coulter.

I don’t write about politics very often, and when I do I make every effort to be respectful of both sides, except when one side is so deeply steeped in crap I fear they might drown. In Ann’s case, there is no need for such a fear – she has shown an almost amphibious ability to remain submerged beneath her fecal rhetoric for most of her career. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Coulter’s defenders state that Ann makes over-the-top statements because it’s the only way to break through the ‘liberal lies’ and make her opponents take notice. A more practical view might be that Coulter goes above and beyond rational discourse because it brings attention to Ann Coulter, and thus ensures future bookings on shows that are willing to rely on her variety of verbal swill for ratings.

And they are.

I’ve seen some sites in which Coulter is characterized as an ‘idiot’ or as ‘stupid’. That’s a dangerous distinction to make, and I suspect it’s completely untrue. She is smart enough to manipulate her own image, and whether or not she actually believes the hate-filled yammering she spreads around, it doesn’t matter. She knows what buttons will bring her the most attention, and she pushes them with pride. Stupid? No. An asshole? Well, judge for yourself.

When the far-right was splooshing over the idea of impeaching Bill Clinton over his inappropriate penile dalliances, Coulter’s voice was shrieking louder than most. Her first book was devoted to this topic, and her emergence into the public sphere around this time serves as the perfect example of how excessive volume on a subject can make it seem much more important than it really is.

Doing a search for “Ann Coulter quotes” will serve as adequate proof that her brand of so-called ‘political commentary’ is often vapid, with more attention placed on garnering attention than expressing a well-reasoned point. “Liberals are always frightened by diversity of opinion.” Here’s a statement Coulter made to Townhall in 2000. It’s a bigoted and untrue statement, and it does nothing to advance any sort of intelligent discourse. Replace ‘liberals’ with any other group (‘blacks’, ‘gays’, ‘Jews’, ‘women’) and her comment would be seen as hate-speech. Instead, the more ignorant and rabid among her audience will cheer and celebrate it.

Coulter has come out as anti-evolution, calling it bogus science. She supports the Patriot Act, racial profiling and Jack Bauer-esque torture. But what she stands for is not really that important – it’s the one thing she rallies against that defines her, and that thing is liberalism. Coulter has written nine books: that one about Bill Clinton, and eight which appear to exist solely to trash liberals. Coulter’s aim is to villainize the left, to pigeon-hole all who disagree with her into a neat little category, one she can attack and accuse with the finger-pointing simplicity of a grade-school bully.

Here is just a sampling of some of the more inane utterances from the queen of Look-At-Me:

  • After a 2012 debate between Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama, Coulter tweeted that she approved of Romney’s “decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.” When the Special Olympics (among others on both sides of the aisle) condemned her comment, she was unapologetic, claiming the word had been used to mean ‘loser’ for years.
  • After the Boston Marathon bombings, Coulter told Sean Hannity on Fox News that the wife of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev should be thrown in jail for wearing a hijab. This is the sort of ‘free society’ Coulter supports.
  • In 2006, she spoke out against Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Her choice of words were “I think our motto should be, post-9/11, raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.”
  • Three days after September 11, Coulter complained that airports weren’t doing enough in terms of security, and that the US should invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

I could go on and on, but to list every attention-grabbing, self-serving comment laced with played-up ignorance and Us-vs.-Them fear mongering that has come from Coulter’s mouth would take forever. Okay, one more: “If only we could get Muslims to boycott all airlines, we could dispense with airport security altogether.” (2007) Seriously.

Again – Coulter is not stupid. She knows that a sizable portion of her audience is looking for someone to blame for everything wrong in the world, and she knows how to craft her message to make liberals into that someone. It may be facile and devoid of complex reasoning, but that’s what sells books. That’s what gets people to tune in. There are reasonable, intelligent people who speak on behalf of the right, but they don’t have the wow-factor that Coulter carries. She aims for the lowest intellectual rung on her side of the political aisle and she nails them with remarkable precision.

Coulter is beyond bias. She is spectacle, and a spectacle which fuels only distrust, disdain and suspicion. I honestly don’t know how much of what she says she truly believes – and honestly, I don’t care – but there are some who swear by her words and agree with the flags she waves.

So on this weekend, as Americans celebrate America, and as those around the world are offered a similar moment to pause and reflect on what really does make that country great, we should also remember, freedom means Ann Coulter. Freedom of speech means freedom of manipulation of the weak-minded and hate-filled. And no one pulls that off quite like Ann.

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