This week, two of the right wing's most extreme voices are learning the hard way that eliminationism no longer pays nearly as well as it used to. And the left wing is proving its skill with a new tactic in the war against eliminationist pundits. To coin a phrase, we might call it "getting Spockoed."
First, Michael Savage sent Media Matters a letter accusing them of "stalking," which would be funny if it weren't so predictable (a conservative shucking personal responsibility for his own public rantings…where have we seen this before?). Apparently, Mr. Weiner (uh, Savage) got on the air after the Oscars with a homophobic rant about Melissa Etheridge, in which he called her gay marriage "digusting" and "nauseating" and a form of "child abuse."
In his rabid lather, Savage apparently forgot that he and Ms. Etheridge are both represented by the same talent agency, CAA. Which, understandably, felt the need to take sides in this dispute -- especially after Media Matters dutifully recorded Savage's rantings and brought them to their attention. And which, also understandably, chose to respond by standing with its new Oscar winner and with its gay talent in general.
So Mr. Savage was unceremoniously dropped from his spot with the world's top agency. And he's blaming Media Matters for all this. After all, it couldn't be anything he said himself that caused all the ruckus; it's just those "scum-sucking vermin," those "left-wing rats," who insisted that he be held accountable for polluting the public airwaves -- and the public discourse -- with his hateful verbal sewage.
There was, of course, a parting shot, featuring that old-time eliminationist invective that earns Savage millions each year:
You ought to be happy, you liberal SOBs, that I am only a talk-show host. You ought to thank God that I have no avariciousness in my soul. You ought to thank God that I'm not power mad like you liberals, because if I ever ran for office, I can guarantee you, you wouldn't be in business too long. I can guarantee you you'd be arrested for sedition within six months of my taking power. I'd have you people licking lead paint, what you did to this country.Curiously: he can't quite figure out what it is about this that we find so offensive. Perhaps his new agent (if he finds one) can explain it to him.
Then, there's Ann Coulter, who is positively on a tear this week. On March 2, of course, she got up at CPAC and called John Edwards a "faggot." This is, of course, business as usual for Ann -- but, like Savage, this time, her words went on the record.
As they also did the very next day, March 3, when she got up in front of Dr. James Kennedy's "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference, and announced that she can "understand" the assassination of doctors who perform legal abortions. Talk2Action's Fredrick Clarkson described the scene:
In demagogic fashion, Coulter first presented the shocking view -- and then wink, wink -- said she didn't really mean it; but in doing so, still held fast to the argument that leaders of the underground Army of God have used for years to justify the murder of abortion providers -- which she calls "a procedure with a rifle…."It's quite possible that Coulter has been out there saying this stuff to conservative groups, every week, every day, for years, without ever being called to account for it. But those days are clearly over.
"…Those few abortionists were shot, or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure with a rifle performed on them. I'm not justifying it, but I do understand how it happened...."
Coulter's being Spockoed courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign, which claims it's written 20,000 letters to seven newspapers carrying her column. So far this week, at least three of them have already dropped it; and HRC says they're not done yet. (Coulter claims that her column is carried by over 100 papers; but HRC's researchers could only find seven. The others may be too small to be picked up by Lexis-Nexis.) In a mailing to their members, HRC made it crystal clear what's at stake here:
"Coulter’s use of the demeaning and harmful word 'faggot' is so beyond the pale that anyone who uses it should not be given a platform as a respected voice in the political discourse of our country. ... The news media has a responsibility to not simply become an avenue that allows Ann Coulter the opportunity to broadcast her vile slurs."Over at Street Prophets, commenter Vagrarian reports that the damage is spreading.
Major corporations are pulling ads from her website, including Verizon, AT&T, and Sallie Mae.(Curiously, some of these papers have said that they're on the lookout for another female conservative columnist to fill Coulter's size 11 stilettos on their pages. Paging Michelle Malkin...)
As of writing, four newspapers have dropped her column, finding her vicious personal attacks and over-the-top rhetoric unsuitable, unsavory, and unacceptable. The editor of the Times of Shreveport, LA, said, "This isn't some liberal vendetta. If it was, we would have dropped her long ago....she's simply worn a hole in the welcome mat."
The HRC has launched a protest.
And a cadre of conservative bloggers, including a number of gay Republicans, has issued an open letter to CPAC organizers, asking that she never be invited back to the event, and basically kicking her out of the conservative movement (as far as they're concerned).
Reportedly she's losing fans at a rapid rate; people are rejecting and repudiating her hate-filled rantings. Her career seems to be on the verge of a meltdown.
To which I say: Too bad. You reap what you sow.
Shrill, dissonant, and increasingly playing false notes, the Mighty Wurlitzer -- which has belched out the right wing's gaseous chords day in and day out for a quarter of a century -- has finally begun to run out of hot air. Coulter and Savage are going down. O'Reilly's numbers are in free fall. Creating our own progressive media machine was the first phase of regaining control of the national conversation (and that work will be ongoing). But the second phase -- which is now beginning -- will see us using our power to re-draw the parameters of the national discourse, and re-define what is and is not acceptable political debate. Without the hatemongers and potty-mouths throwing tantrums that foreclose all adult conversation, we might finally get down to discussing the real obscenities -- poverty, global warming, Iraq, bad immigration policy, and all the other horrors this administration has left unaddressed.
It's predictable that, as their popularity starts to fade, the right-wing bloviators will attempt to regain their audiences by doing more of what made them so popular in the first place. Turning up the outrage -- and outrageousness -- always worked before. It'll work now (won't it?) if they just go out and push the dial all the way to 11.
And I say: let 'em bring it. They don't realize that the landscape has changed around them -- and that even their allies in management and the ad agencies have limited tolerance for bad behavior. Liberals understand eliminationist rhetoric now for the danger it is -- and we're learning where to push, and how, and who, to exact a severe career price from anyone who engages in it. The harder they turn it up, the faster we can get them gone.
Getting Spockoed. We're getting better at it. They better get used to it.
Update: Media Matters confirms that the headcount on HRC's spockoing campaign on Coulter is now up to five. They've assembled a full list of papers that carry Coulter's column, including e-mail addresses of their editors, for those of you who'd like to play along at home.