Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ann Coulter Ruins it for Everyone

I see that one of the universities in town is hosting a lecture by Hate Filled Barbie--Ann Coulter. On MSNBC this morning they mentioned that a white supremacist group has purchased an anti-illegal immigrant billboard in Las Vegas, which the courts have ordered must stay up. And, of course, Matt Hale is back in the news as authorities try to figure out if he is responsible for the murder of his judge's husband and mother. I know that Ann has the right to say whatever she wants to say, but it really pisses me off that she is coming to town and being heard on campus, as if she's just another mainstream voice that, though different than mine, equally deserves a public forum. Would they have brought Hale to campus? Are they going to find a Kleagle of the Klan and ask him to come so that our community can be exposed to his point of view? What makes Coulter any different? Sometimes, on my much more generous days, I feel bad for Ann, just a little, because I think that she really believes that SHE's important, that, when she's on TV with all these other talking heads, she's their peer. But the only reason she's useful is because she's not. Because she's a woman, she can spout all this hateful crap, and precisely because she's perceived as not being someone we have to take seriously, she even gets invited to college campuses. It's like this: If Matt Hale said something on his website insinuating that we did Native Americans a favor by killing them all off quickly because they were just savages who were killing each other off slowly, it'd be rightly perceived as some kind of hate speech. It wouldn't be that he was saying, "My followers, go forth and kill Native Americans," but it'd be obvious that he was continuing a kind of rhetoric that helps create an atmosphere in which idiots feel that other groups of people are their expendable enemies. And, it seems, he has the right to say whatever he wants about whoever he wants, as long as he's not directly inciting folks to violence. But we all have the right, as a society, to treat him like a dangerous nutcase and not invite him or his ideas into our homes and communities. But Ann says those things and she's still invited to college campuses. And why? Because no one thinks Ann has a following of violent idiots who are waiting to do her bidding. The thought of Ann having people willing to kill for her is funny, even to me. And it's precisely because we recognize that she doesn't have the power to back up her speech, that she's useful in spreading these ideas. Where we'd protect ourselves from people--men--we perceived as being dangerous ideologues, we really don't perceive any threat from Ann. It's like, no matter what she does or says, because of her gender, she's forever in the minor leagues of hateful craziness. She’s a "safe" alternative to Hale or the Klan or the Neo-Nazis. We can give her a public forum and people who agree with her can show up and have their own beliefs confirmed while feeling safe that she's not really in the same league as Hale and the rest of them, so they (the people who agree with her) aren't really racist; and people who disagree with her can show up and denounce her without really risking anything. Standing up to Hale--even without realizing you are doing so, Birdsong, rest your soul--gets you dead. Standing up to Coulter gets you a warm feeling of self-righteousness. But she's still spouting evil shit. And, in that regard, she's still poisoning the well. So, she's useful. She’s not "really dangerous," so she's a useful means for getting these ideas out into the general population or reinforcing them once they're out there. And then there's the other useful purpose Ann has: to reinforce--across the whole culture, left and right--the unspoken assumption that women are a little crazy and that society doesn't really have to take us seriously. Why else, of all the women, liberal and conservative, that one might bring on one's show and to one's campus or to one's banquet, is Ann the one that keeps popping up? I mean, here, we're giving Ann Coulter equal billing with Al Sharpton and Howard Dean, as if Ann is the best and most comparable female speaker to this minister and this politician. You see what I'm saying? It's like the university looked at Sharpton and Dean--and say what you want about them, they're both dynamic speakers--and then was like, "Well, we don't want to be accused of being unbalanced. Can we get a woman and a conservative to round out the bill? What about a woman conservative?" and the best they think women can do is what Ann Coulter can do. She is the public perception of the best political thinking conservative women can do. Yikes. She's so perfect in many ways, that if she didn't exist, you'd think the far right would have invented her--she's so useful, both to get these ideas talked about in the mainstream, as if they're a healthy part of political discourse, and to reinforce the idea that women aren't quite ready to fully participate in political discourse because they’re crazy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be hones, I am a little dismayed by this one...

First, if a college campus cannot be the one place in our society in which all ideas, however wrongheaded we may believe them to be, can be presented, where, or where, can we have open, honest debate? But to say that Ann doesn't deserve an invitation to this forum because we do not like her ideas, is worse than anything she may happen to spout. You are basically forbidding these students from true, intellectual and academic development. How can they rationally form their own beliefs and be able to intelligently defend same without exposure to all ideas, no matter how unelightened we may feel them to be?

And whose to say Ann's ideas are so suspect. She has a rather large following, has sold a number of her books and has many regular listeners to her radio programs. Surely she has a message that speaks to some, and why cannot that message be presented in an academic forum? Ann is a very smart woman and very well educated. As far as I know, she is quite capable of expressing herself in a clear, convincing manner and defending her beliefs with rational argument. Unlike some, on both the left and right, she does not reflexively fall back on emotional appeals/threats/harangues in expressing herself. This is exactly the kind of intellectual inquiry that should be encouraged on college campuses.

Because we do not agree with her is exactly the reason she should be given a forum. How stimulating is it only to hear from those, with whom we agree? How much intellectual development does that foster? The tyranny of political correctness is damning to us all. Were is it written that anyone has a right to be free from offense?

Frankly, it is the reactionary, leftist academic elite, that would bar their "students" from this kind of speech that are the real villains. How can they, on the one hand, speak to educating the youngsters in their care, but on the other, foreclose these same youngsters from the full breadth of experience necessary to determine their own opinions, not monkey the opinions of their professors?

Perhaps Hale should have been brought to campus. It is not until these ideas that we all find repellent are exposed that they can be overcome. How can I respond, intellectually, not emotionally, to Hale's tirade's if they are never spoken in public and never discussed. We can all agree that his ideas are asinine, but why? To say that they are asinine and that no one should think that way is of little comfort.

Further to put Al Sharpton on the same page as Ann Coulter and look at her as the crackpot is really surprising to me. I am not aware of Ann making derrogatory or racially insensitive remarks, ala the Reverand. Last I knew, she never made race baiting comments to inflame African-American New Yorkers to riot against their Jewish neighbors - that's Al's bag.

Last I heard, Ann never slandered the New York police and prosecuter's departments alleging they sodomized and violated a 15 year old Tywanna Braley. Which, incidently, was completely fabricated, and for which, your hero has never apologized. These things have been glossed over as Al has become "respectible", but never openly discussed in the mainstream press until people like Ann brought them forth.


3/07/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I'm sorry. Was I unclear? I didn't mean the Ann Coulter running for mayor of Chattanooga, I meant the other one, who was recently arguing on Canadian TV that, contrary to the historical record, Canada had sent troops to Viet Nam; the one who was disappointed Tim McVeigh didn't drive his truck into the New York Times; who accused disabled Viet Nam vets of being the reason we lost that war; who gets on FOX News and advocates for a return to the poll tax, and then on Politically Incorrect and argues for a repeal of the Emancipation Proclimation and women's suffrage; the insane, evil one.

Do you really believe, not just in a froo-froo rhetorical sense, but in a "we all have to live here on this planet until we die--unless you know something more about the funding for NASA than the rest of us" way that it's worse for me to be upset that Ann Coulter is being trotted out again as if her ideas have any merit (I'm not sabatoging her appearance; I'm just expressing my outrage) than it is for her to spew her venomous crap?

To say that my grouching about her being here is somehow denying students their ability to form their own beliefs and be exposed to all ideas seems to underestimate the power of cable television. Any student is free to watch her on TV or read her books or search out her columns on the internet. Her views are widely available.

The university, though, has a choice about who they bring to campus. They could have chosen any number of sane conservative thinkers, who are able to articulate their positions in thoughtful and provoking way.

I don't agree with 97% of what Andrew Sullivan has to say, for instance, but he and I seem to just genuinely differ in our takes on what needs to be done to make our country stronger (or even what that strength might look like). Unlike Coulter, I am sure that Sullivan is operating from a carefully thought-out and rationally reasoned point of view; it just differs from mine.

Even Maggie Gallegher (money-taking aside), who I vehemently disagree with on just about everything, writes from a position, though utterly foreign to me, of genuine thoughtfulness. She doesn't reach conclusions I like, but she has a well-worked out nuanced world-view.

But back to your point, do we owe her a forum from which to be heard? Do we owe pro-Stalinists a forum in which to argue that it was okay for Stalin to kill 7 million of his own people during the 30s because it helped him consolodate and keep power while at the same time leaving enough people to fight off the Germans or is there a point at which we just say, fuck all, that's the stupidist thing I've ever heard?

I mean, yes, it's true that no one has the right to be free from offense--meaning I can't expect the university to anticipate and cater to my desires. But that doesn't mean that everyone has the right to say whatever they want and expect a polite reception--which you seem to think I owe Ann.

She has a right to spew shit and I have a right to say that 1. it stinks and 2. by hosting her, the university resembles a toilet.

Now, on to two last things.

1. You should probably choose a rhetorical stance. Either it matters that Ann is "very well educated" with her Cornell B.A. and her Michigan J.D. and thus we must at least consider her ideas or the academy is full of the "reactionary, leftist academic elite" who really shouldn't be taken as seriously as we do. Either an education means something or it doesn't, but you argue that both things are true.

I tend to like and appreciate incongruity and meaningful contradictions, but I suspect that's not what you were going for.

2. How do you read any beatification of Al Sharpton (calling him my hero) from "It's like the university looked at Sharpton and Dean--and say what you want about them, they're both dynamic speakers"? Am I an Al Sharpton apologist for noting that he's a good public speaker? Didn't you see him at the Convention? On the Daily Show?

I said he was a good speaker. I didn't say that he was flawless.

Plus, it's disingenous to give Ann credit for bringing to light Sharpton's flaws, to act as if the mainstream media somehow glossed that over. That incident has always, rightly, been an albatross around Sharpton's neck and all the in-depth coverage I've ever read on him has mentioned that.

3/07/2005 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point is not to defend anything that Ann has to say, but that the university of all places, should be where they are said. I know that virtually anyone with a blowhole can get themselves on cable tv somewhere, but that isn't really the same. Our universities are supposed to be a melting pot of ideals. Yes, even the really stupid ones. How much meaningful discussion is ever had by anyone sitting around watching O'Reilly or Politically Incorrect or whatever.

This is something that really kind of sticks in my craw about american universities, maybe all universities, but i've only ever been to the american kind. When I was in lawschool, Mr. Hale was attempting to stand for the IL bar. (he did not go to the same school, as I, but another in our fair state). He was denied the right to take the bar because of his beliefs. He wrote a letter of pamphlet or something decrying the unfairness of this. I cannot tell you what, specifically, he wrote, because the lawschool I attended denied him the opportunity to publish his manifesto. The students were so incensed, the allowed the university to install cameras in the hallways to oversee the mailboxes to ensure that no unwanted messages ever found their way there.

There are two things wrong with this story (all of which is true and not embellished even the slightest). First that Hale was denied the right to practice his chosen profession because of his political beliefs, which seems very unAmerican to me. Second that a public university and the students therein, would rather have cameras permanently overseeing their mail than be confronted with ideas with which they disagree.

When I was in undergrad, it came to light that 10 or 20 years earlier a professor had written a screed denying the holocaust. This was a tenured, electrical engineering professor, and, to be honest, I don't really know how scholarly his approach to history was, but it certainly wasn't somehting finding its way into the classroom via this guy. Anyway, the student body was all aghast that this beast was allowed to walk our hallowed halls and called for his immediate termination. He was offered an opportunity to defend himself at a semi-regular lecture series that was put on, I'm not sure why, by the dorm I lived in. We were picketed, vandalized and villified to the point were there was armed officers to escort us into and out of the building. The prof never actually got his opportunity to speak. Maybe he would have said something enlightening, maybe he would have realized the error of this ways, who knows, but what I am damn sure of is that he was never given the opportunity. As an aside, one of the most vehement protestors was the leader of the International Socialists, who three days later I saw folding sweaters at the Gap, and that still, strikes me as funny.

As far as the stalinists, there are still plenty apologists and gloss over artists that do believe that josef was right, many of whom are still active in academia. The university of colorado, boulder, has a tenured professor that compared the dead 9/11 americans to eichman. universities have long been the forum for a particular voice and maybe saying its leftist is demeaning, but to say that any american university (other than maybe bob jones) is a forum for constructive analysis of conservative ideals, is overlooking how stultifying our universities truly are. There are no disagreements, the professor espouses the students take notes and thats it. To answer your question, we do owe a forum to alternative ideas and ideals. Or at the very least, to not shield people from those ideas. Quite frankly there a lot of people that don't think that way and Ann, and others of her ilk, give voice to that.

My point in mentioning Ann's credentials is only to indicate that she has some background for the the crap that comes out of her mouth. Not to imply that only the educated can spew vitriole, and that she is, hate her all you like, a good public speaker and can intelligently express a point. "Reactionary, leftist academic elite" is something entirely different. There is an establishment at american universities, at least the ones I have had any experience with, maybe yours is different, but I doubt it, where left thinking is right and right thinking is wrong, without discussion, but as determined as if it were natural law.

As far as Sharpton, I may have been a little over eager in my response, but this is again, somehting that bothers me. When he ran for president, the only people I ever heard mention his "indiscrections" were the O'Reillys and Scarbaroughs and yes, the Coulters of the world. Not that she discovered something, ala bob woodward, that would otherwise go unmentioned, but really, none of this was getting press and it should have. Yes he is a dynamic public speaker, but so is Coulter, and if that crackpot can be given a stage, why not another?


3/07/2005 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Hmm. You now have me thinking about what I expect a university to do. I was about to say that I expect a university to give students a well-rounded education, but then, I think that I agree with you, that part of a well-rounded education is being exposed to ideas that are foreign to you.

And so, I guess, I have to say that it doesn't bother me that universities are stuffed to the gills with leftists, because leftist ideas are still not mainstream and so most students aren't familiar with the variety of ways one can be an insufferable intellectual elitist, as you might say.

Before I went to college, I was much more familiar with the ideologies espoused by Matt Hale than I was with, say, Marxism, because I, like you, and like Mr. Hale, grew up in white, rural Illinois.

I already had my full indoctrination into the God Bless America, whites are better than everyone else, men are better than women, homosexuality is a freakshow, Christians are better than atheists and other heathens, democracy is better than all other forms of government, and capitolism is the only economic system that makes any sense line of thinking.

And, even though, as an insufferable college student who thought I had navigated reasonable responses to those beliefs (a point I want to come back to) it challenged me and shocked me and hurt my feelings in some cases when I was confronted with professors who didn't share my point of view or my lofty opinion of myself.

But the point I want to make is that, until I went to college, I had no idea most of these viewpoints even existed, but I was well-aware of many types of conservative thought. And I'm willing to bet you one million dollars that, unless you're the child of a college professor or some other progressive, you, too, are shocked by the diversity of ideas that you're confronted with among professors, even at a little school like the one your wife and I went to.

But, you may be surprised, I agree with you that the vehemence with which students take up their causes is shocking and, in some cases, frightening.

My experience has been that there are three factions on any campus, with competing interests: the administration, which is very conservative and interested in presenting a "proper" face to the rest of the word, which, in part, means controlling students in ways that seem ridiculous; the faculty, which are, by and large, liberal and interested in both provoking their students and challenging the authority of the administration; and the students, who are, as you point out, inhabiting a strange place between childhood and adulthood and looking to figure out who they are.

Students are like people who've just found Jesus. They're obnoxiously excited about putting their new beliefs into action and, as of yet, blissfully unaware of the complexities of any given position.

So, your story about Hale doesn't surprise me. Of course the students would be willing to be watched (a loss of privacy which, you recognize, seems to contradict their budding leftist leanings) in order to be protected from him.

And, of course, the university is going to seize the opportunity to watch the kids.

(This is complicated by the fact that Hale's followers are dangerous and, in hind-sight, one can hardly blame your fellow students for being nervous about having them poking around the mail room.)

As for the idiot in Colorado, I find it hilarious. He's a faker and a charlatan and he's already cost the President of the University her job and rightly so. And not because of what he said, which is protected speech, no matter how gross, but because he's not who he claims to be and because he can't argue coherently or logically. He shouldn't have ever gotten tenure, but that doesn't mean that the whole country is full of professors like him.

As for whether Hale should have been admitted to the Bar, I was under the impression that the law was that a lawyer couldn't "engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. In relation thereto, a lawyer shall not engage in adverse discriminatory treatment of litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others, based on race, sex, religion, or national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status."

Pray tell, how can someone who advocates the extermination of non-whites and is actively working to promote that world-view meet that requirement?

As for Sharpton, I'd argue that the rest of the media didn't give it as much airplay as the conservatives did because the conservatives you mention race-bait for ratings. They have an obligation to the bottom line to trot out the scary on any black person seeking a position of power (look at how long they rode the "Colin Powell's wife is crazy" pony).

Everyone else knew it didn't matter what Al Sharpton did twenty years ago; he had no chance of becoming president.

Better to put your resources on researching candidates who actually stood a chance.

I'm kind of surprised that we find ourselves here. You strike me as the more conservative of the two of us, and yet, you seem to be arguing from a position of moral relativism--that all ideas are worth hearing out.

And, here I am, the hippy liberal heathen arguing that we don't have an obligation to entertain every idea, that we can know, without making ourselves experts in their arguments, that some people are wrong.

Strange, huh?

3/07/2005 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your wrong to not believe leftist ideas are not mainstream, they are, or are given disproportionate coverage in mainstream sources.

I am, as anyone who knows me, more stubborn than most, and really don't mind when people disagree with me. I think that's why I could tolerate the Contrarian, much more so than others, he had his opinion that my opinions were wrong, and that was fine. I also think thats why I was able to survive college with my conservatism largely intact, but I did so, largely by not talking about it and to this day, I really never espouse my politics to anyone, not even the Shill. But in college, these proto-adults with their barely formed ideas and arguments lifted from Cliff notes are very easily swayed. Colleges are not a bastion for development of conservative thought, they just aren't, (and I'm not sure that they should be, but nor do I feel they should be for the indoctrination of the next generation of leftists). But, worse than that, they actively discourage it. Yes a fair degree is imposed from classmates, but professors also do their share, but they do so with the color of authority, which only enhances their impact. Yes there are conservative professors and in some areas the faculty are, as a whole, conservative, but the university is not. The students do not have their ideas of their own, or at least not fully actualized ones, they parrot the ideas of their professors.

That ideas are worth hearing out is not moral relativism, but nothing more than what it is. All ideas are worth hearing, if for no other reason than to expose the lunacy or faulty logic of the speaker. There is nothing that Hale or Ward Churchill or whomever is on the pulpit with their claptrap, that is going to make them right, its just that their is nothing like the power of exposure and reasoned debate to finally address and eliminate all this crap. Churchill's comments would never have been exposed to the light of day if he had not been invited to a small college in New York to defend them. Low and behold, once exposed, he turned out to be a real dolt.

Hale was not granted the opportunity to defend himself. His application to take the bar was denied without presenting him the opportunity to explain, if he could, how he would be able to abide by the demands of the profession, given his ideology. Hugo Black was a member of the Klan in his youth, but grew up to be a supreme court justice and one of the staunchest supporters of FDR's new deal.

While conservative commentators may race-bait for raitings, is that any different than sharpton referring to new york as "hymmietown"? or jesse jackson acusing budweiser of being a racist corporation, but only until the point where is son is granted a distributorship?

There is an awful lot of dishonesty in our discourse in this country. The only way that I can think of to lessen it, or at least lessen its impact, is the free exchange of all ideas, even the bad ones. Coulter is not crazy and was a much more effective mouthpiece for conservatism before she became famous. As were any of the mouthpieces. Al Franken, was so much more effective politically when he was funny, now he is just a nasally whine that makes me want to stab myself in the eye.


3/07/2005 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

If left ideas are mainstream, how come we couldn't win two of what we thought were the most important presidential elections of our lifetimes?

It's ingenius the way that conservatives have managed to gain control of two (and about to be three) branches of the government and one of the biggest media outlets in the country and still managed to convincingly sell themselves as the underdog in American culture.

For that matter, it's not like the Media Elite and the Academic Elite were conspiring to keep Ward from the general public. Churchill's ideas were diseminated immediately after 9/11 and widely ignored because he's an idiot passing himself off as a provocature. Most folks have not read the essay in question; I have and it's nonsense--not because of the Nazi crap--but because the man is a college professor and can't string together ten thoughtful paragraphs in the shape of an argument.

He uses provocative imagry to hide his lack of coherence. It's a two-bit trick that anyone who reads can see through and not one that deserves any real response.

What should the proper response have been, anyway? Should there be an arm of the AAUP devoted to tattling to FOX news and other outlets every time some academic says something stupidly outrageous? Will a committee meet to decide what shoddy piece of scholarship published in some obscure journal deserves to be dragged out and sacrificed in the court of public opinion like some scapegoat destined to die for all academic sins, maybe on a bi-monthly basis?

As for Hale, talk about dishonest discourse. What's he going to say that's going to satisfy anyone with an ounce of common sense? Admitting him to the Bar, while he was still the active head of the World Church of the Creator, would have clearly been impossible and you know as well as I do he wasn't going to quit and he has no intention of changing his beliefs.

He could not have sworn to not discriminate against folks while actively discriminating against people. So he doesn't have the same opportunities that Hugo Black had. Don't mind me if I don't shed any tears for poor Matt Hale, happening to be born 100 years too late for his stupidity to find wide acceptance. I'm sure the kith and kin of the victims of his follows must just be devistated that Hale won't ever be on the Supreme Court.

Sharpton and Jackson both deserve all the criticism they get for the incidents you mention. The difference, I would point out, is that neither Sharpton or Jackson have his own TV show.

I'm about out of things to say about Ann. I find her to suffer from the same sins as Churchill--sloppy scholarship and incoherent arguments hidden under a thick layer of things designed to piss people so that most readers never notice their inability to develop and sustain an argument--even one I might disagree with. Why should the university reward poor scholarship?

On top of that, ths stuff she spews is ugly and vile and, I still maintain that if she's the best conservative thinker and speaker there is, conservatives are in big trouble.

As for the Liberarian, yes, he fights with everyone and, yes, he's contrary for the sake of being contrary, but he's brilliant in his own fucked up way and I respect him for it.

3/07/2005 07:16:00 PM  

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