Saturday, March 03, 2007

Coulter and the rest of us

by Dave

Ho hum. Another year, another CPAC conference, another contrived Ann Coulter Controversy, just like last year. Once again, we get a kabuki dance from movement conservatives who denounce the remarks themselves but neglect to go any farther.

As I noted last year:
Across the board, would-be mainstream conservatives behave the same: they invite her onto their talk shows, book her for their conferences, and buy (and promote) her books by the bushel. Then, when she says something outrageous, either simply pretend it didn't happen or sniff that no one takes her seriously.

Conservatives, in fact, have been happily swimming in the Coulter cesspool for a long time and have not only failed to notice the stink, they've positively extolled its virtues.

The extent to which conservatives willingly turn a blind eye to what Coulter represents is reflected in their abject unwillingness to confront it.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is what happens to conservatives -- like, say, Dan Borcherd -- who actually do: they get roughed up by Coulter's goons -- another incremental step in the right's thuggishness. Now they're tossing out genuine Republicans who were actually invited to their events. (Recall, if you will, Coulter's call for students to behave as goons on her behalf at a campus appearance last year.)

Unsurprisingly, the talk as usual has focused on Coulter's rather naked bigotry. But it's also worth observing the context in which she placed it:
Oh, and I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards. But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot," so I'm -- so I'm kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards. So I think I'll just conclude here and take your questions.

The reason Coulter is worth watching is that she serves as a kind of advance bellwether -- watch how she forms her argument, because it will become a template for the rest of the right in the coming months and years. She made her bones promoting the Myth of the Clenis in the '90s, and her "treasonous liberals" meme is now a ceaseless favorite of her fellow movement ideologues. The underlying tenets of last year's "raghead" remark -- that Muslims themselves are not merely "the problem" but The Enemy, and that they deserve not just our everlasting contempt but persecution -- are now being eagerly bandied about on cable TV by the likes of Glenn Beck.

Watch what comes out of Coulter's mouth now, because you'll be hearing variations on it for the next several years. All slightly less noxiously, of course, but the underlying logic (or rather, the lack thereof) is the same.

Coulter's mockery in this case is aimed, of course, at the "political correctness" that conservatives love to inflate as a sign of liberal hypocrisy and stupidity, and perhaps overweening authoritarianism. In Coulter's world, calling someone a "faggot" requires rehabilitation or "reeducation." Pity the poor schlubs, she's telling us, who just want to call a faggot a faggot.

In the real world, of course, calling someone a faggot isn't cause for forced rehab -- though it is the kind of ugly, hateful remark that may indicate a deeper problem (such as, say, substance abuse) that does require rehab. Coulter herself may want to look into this. She can ask her pal Rush for pointers, though I don't think he'll be much help.

Deeper issues or not, what it does indicate is that the person wielding it is a thoughtless bigot whose opinions and beliefs are forever tainted by that bigotry. It is the kind of remark that should, in the real world, permanently discredit whatever that person says.

But not in Wingnuttia. As Glenn Greenwald adroitly observes:
Anyone who went to this event -- and that includes Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Dick Cheney -- knew exactly what they would be getting. Coulter's face was prominently plastered on the promotional material. The right-wing political candidates who accepted the invitations to speak there knew exactly the type of people would be there -- namely, the type who continously cheer on Ann Coulter's bigoted and nakedly hateful screeds. Anyone who makes themselves a part of that event is purposely associating themselves with those sentiments. That is what this Conference is for.

The right has been feasting at Coulter's Diner for several years now and just loving the shit sandwiches she serves up regularly. They may cough and choke a little, but they all settle back and let her be the face of the movement, because it serves them well. After all, Coulter can trot out the latest bullshit, take all the lightning hits because that's what she does, and it just promotes her image in the media.

The "edgy" hate talk that she has been pushing for some time now especially appeals to the frat-boy level of sophistication that is her intended audience, and this latest iteration is all about justifying the new bigotry. Coulter's underlying logic is simple: Bigots are just people with different ideas, not hateful misanthropes whose beliefs are innately poisonous.

Expect to hear a lot of iterations of this. Already you can see it having an effect on the campus level, where right-wing acolytes of the Coulter School of Pseudo Fascism have been holding "Find the Illegal Immigrant" games or "South of the Border" parties, and mock MLK Day parties, and the like. Bigotry, with this crowd, is "edgy."

Greenwald also remarks on a related point:
But we should, at the very least, be able to have a moratorium on all of the scandals driven by their claims to be so offended and upset when anonymous commenters on a blog say mean things, or when bloggers use curse words, or when Senators transparently botch a joke. The ugliest and most obscene sentiments are openly expressed not by their blog commenters or even bloggers -- though that is true -- but by their most admired and successful political leaders, the ones whom their presidential candidates desperately seek to embrace and for whom their most committed throngs cheer wildly.

Unfortunately, I think Greenwald misses an important nuance to the dynamic at work here: The endless accusations of ugliness and "unhinged" behavior on the left are actually part of the right's general projection strategy, of which Coulter, Limbaugh, and Malkin are the chief heralds. These accusations are not only flung in the face of reality, their very purpose is to obscure and distort it -- and to justify the right's own behavior.

After all, since liberals are so clearly unhinged -- as Howard Kurtz will happily parrot for you -- it's only natural that they get their faces slapped a little in return, right?

Pretty soon, of course, we'll be hearing all about left-wingers' supposed desire to do away with, and inflict violence upon, conservatives -- that is, after all, an important subtext of Coulter's latest controversial jibe. That should be the warning sign that they're justifying their own future actions. With Coulter, no doubt, leading the charge.

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