Reality and Sanity

June 10, 2006

The Coulter Phenomenon

La Shawn Barber has the best analysis of Coultershock, updating the original post with the help of some of her commenters:

Ann says one thing liberals and some conservatives don’t like, and suddenly her photo’s plastered on front pages, her name is uttered on cable news shows all day long, and the blogosphere is buzzing off the…“blogometer” or whatever you’d call it.Don’t you people understand that she calculates these things? Ever go fishing? Fish are really stupid. They see the dangling bait and go for it. Then they get hooked and reeled it. You’d think fish would have “evolved” and figured out what’s going on. After all these years, their generational axiom should be, “Don’t go near the scrumptious-looking worm if he has a string coming out of his head.”

You’d think humans would have evolved the same way. Ann Coulter throws out the bait, and just like the silly fish, the haters bite it. It happens every time. She knows exactly how to rile people up, and it’s no coincidence that she said something “controversial” on network TV this close to publication. It’s Coulter-Shtick, and I’m probably in the minority of the conservative and Republican blogosphere when I say this: I like it.

On the "9/11 Widows" comment, after posting the entire exchange with Matt Lauer in context:

It’s important to note that Ann was referring to a “particular” group of 9-11 widows who made commercials for John Kerry and used their husbands’ deaths as a political statement, not women who’ve lost their husbands in war in general.It’s also important to understand this: Liberals denouncing Ann’s remarks don’t care about the widows; they just don’t like Ann. Any reasonable person can see that. While many of us wouldn’t go out of our way to insult widows, they are not untouchables. If we respond critically to something they say publicly, there is nothing indecent or awful about it.

A point of clarification before I go on. I refused to join the conservative “Get Cindy Sheehan” bandwagon because it was boring and because I believe the woman was whacked out with grief and anger. I also believe she used her son’s death for personal gain and to make a political statement. When people cross over into this realm, they’re fair game. [Ed. – Emphasis mine]

Which is why I made this post earlier today; the 9/11 widows who did just that are fair game. If I were to use someone dear that I lost to amass a fortune and change the course of political debate, it would be perfectly within the Left's rights to take shots at my arguments. The beauty of the First Amendment is that each of us has the right to express our views, like the "9/11 Widows for Kerry" did publicly. It also gives everyone else the right to rip those views. Just because someone suffers a personal tragedy does not exclude that person from public criticism if they take a public political high-profile position based on that tragedy, which is Coulter's point.

Update: Dafydd at Big Lizards has an even better defense of Coulter, backed up with examples and great analysis:

"The infallibility of grief" is used to silence opposition by exploiting basic human decency.

Among con artists, there are two kinds: those who exploit human greed by tricking their marks into thinking they can con someone else (like the "dead millionaire Nigerian dicatator" spam) — and those who exploit human pity by pretending to some tragedy that causes the decent to want to help them out (the classic "my rented baby is hungry, can you give me $5 for some baby food?" scam).

The latter are much more repulsive; if a greedy guy thinks he's scamming someone else and gets fleeced himself, who cares? He got what was coming to him. But to rip someone off by attacking his empathy and goodness not only punishes the victim for his goodness, it also makes him cynical — and makes it that much harder for people who really are in trouble to get help. Once bitten, twice shy.

But those who practice the infallibility of grief scam are even worse:

  • They affect the much larger arena of public policy via irrational appeals to emotion;
  • They twist tragedy for their own ends;
  • They pervert the deaths of their own loved ones (recall the funeral of Sen. Paul Wellstone);
  • And they create backlashes against those who really have suffered great tragedy, but have chosen not to use grief as a weapon… a backlash that is itself exploited by the "griefarazzi" as a weapon against the Right.

Coulter argues — and I completely agree — that by using their grief as a club to batter their opponents into silence, they have willfully and irrevocably forfeited the right ever again to use it as a shield.

 Do I need to tell you to read the whole post?

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