To fight the unbeatable foe

Hume’s Ghost, guesting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog, on why we need to respond to people like Ann Coulter (emphasis mine):

Not too long ago a friend of mine told me she was trying to become more politically informed. To do so, she continued, she had begun reading Ann Coulter's How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). Think about that for a moment. This was an individual who did not know much about politics, was a non-ideological independent and the first person she could think of to learn more about politics from was a hate-mongering hack. This should have never happened, because Coulter should have been exposed for the vile, bigoted, intellectually bankrupt propagandist that she is by journalists a long time ago. In this regard, my friend was failed by a mainstream media which is more interested in using Coulter as a figure to drive up ratings than they are in doing their jobs of promoting a responsible national discourse.
I urge you to read the whole post; it’s not very long, and it expertly articulates a point many of us have been circling around for some time.

Last week, I compared Coulter and her ilk to school bullies, and suggested that the only way to end their abuse is by standing up to it. The Ghost pinpoints why ignoring the bile is no longer an option: when hatespeak is absorbed into the national consciousness as a natural extension of public discourse, it becomes self-sustainable. The bullies have found that it’s not necessary to have a visible target- by simply insulting a group as a whole, they can poison the minds of others, and band together in hatred, without ever having to defend their position or see the real effects of their bigotry. By ignoring them, we simply make it easier for the message to spread. I submit that once an obvious sociopath like Coulter, whose history of spouting violent threats against anyone she disagrees with is well-documented, is invited to appear on two major, supposedly apolitical talk shows and manages to get through both interviews with her dignity and credibility intact, closing our eyes until she goes away is no longer an option. Coulter herself may not last forever, but her continued acceptance simply makes it easier for whoever comes along next to lower the bar still further.

I remember back in college I saw Coulter on “The Daily Show.” She made some criticism of a Republican, and Jon Stewart asked, “Oh, so you’ll admit that there are bad Republicans?” Coulter responded, “There are some bad Republicans- there are no good Democrats.” There was booing in the audience, and Coulter got this awkwardly pleased expression on her face, as though she realized she may have gone too far, but utterly adored the sensation. I had no idea who she was at the time, so I was just astonished by the her idiocy. Obviously she wasn’t going to get a positive response from the crowd she was speaking to, and it wasn’t as though it was a quip that invited debate, so what the hell was the point?

The beauty of it is, there is no point. At least not on a case by case basis. Coulter and Malkin and Limbaugh and all the rest aren’t using their media platforms to win over their opponents, but rather to throw out as much absurdist, id-based ramblings as they can get away with; they reach the few sympathetic ears that will listen (and there are always a few sympathetic ears), they keep selling whatever they’re selling, the world rolls on. But at some point, perhaps when the Republicans got hold of the government en masse, they were allowed a legitimacy that any rational society would deny them. So now these bullies are treated as though they’re an integral part of the political machine, which grants their third-grade Nazi bullshit a horrifying degree of credibility. At best it’s a distraction, at worst it poisons the debate by forcing us into a position where we have to defend ourselves before we can even state our case. And we can’t just ignore it; even if we know better, even if we’re not bothered by having our lives metaphorically threatened and our principles spat on, we’re not the only ones listening.

I work at a college library in the interlibrary loan department. I’m going to request a copy of Coulter’s latest, Godless: the Church of Liberalism, and I’m gonna read it, and then we’ll just see, y’know? It’s about time I put my money in the general vicinity of my mouth.

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