Policing Their Own

A bunch of conservative blogs are publishing an open letter to sponsors and organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference, asking them to stop extending speaking invitations to Ann Coulter. You can find links to the various blogs publishing the open letter at Memeorandum. (Also, Spudsy's got a related post, not specific to the open letter, below.)

I was happy to see conservative bloggers condemning someone for using anti-gay slurs—until I actually read the letter and found it disappointingly short on support for the LGBT community, and what little there was squashed under the weight of self-defense.

The letter begins: "Conservatism treats humans as they are, as moral creatures possessing rational minds and capable of discerning right from wrong. There comes a time when we must speak out in the defense of the conservative movement, and make a stand for political civility. This is one of those times." So…the real problem in having turned a heinous, homobigoted harpy into a prominent spokeswoman for the conservative movement isn't that she's propagating hatred; it's that she's making the conservative movement look bad. I'm sure there are some conservatives who will disagree with my interpretation here, but if the real concern was for the LGBT community, then the letter would read: "There comes a time when we must speak out in the defense of the LGBT community," know what I mean?

Three paragraphs later, we get to a denouncement of Coulter's language, but it couldn't be done without a passing swipe at the people who actually give a shit about the LGBT community: "At CPAC 2007 Coulter decided to turn up the volume by referring to John Edwards, a former U.S. Senator and current Presidential candidate, as a 'faggot.' Such offensive language—and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it—is intolerable to us. It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation's premier conservative gathering." Yeah, it's totally the same when I use fuck as when Ann Coulter uses faggot and raghead. Honestly, the reference to the whole naughtywords debate is just all kinds of silly; it undermines the purpose of this letter to use it for partisan sniping, and, not to put too fine a point on it, but some of the authors of the blogs highlighted for naughtywords usage are themselves gay men, like Paul the Spud, for a start. Way to minimize your ostensible commitment to equality by once again perpetuating a false equivalence between cursing and intrinsically offensive hate speech.

The letter continues: "Coulter's vicious word choice tells the world she care little about the feelings of a large group that often feels marginalized and despised. Her word choice forces conservatives to waste time defending themselves against charges of homophobia rather than advancing conservative ideas." The first sentence is great, but, again, immediately we veer off into a description of how she has victimized the conservative movement—whose members made her a star, and many of whom cheered and applauded her use of that "vicious word" at the conference—rather than what it means for the community she actually slurred.

And, you know, it's kind of disingenuous to pretend that conservatives have to "waste time defending themselves against charges of homophobia" just because Ann Coulter used a homophobic epithet. There are some conservative bloggers who support same-sex marriage, and some who support civil unions, but there a lot more who argue that the LGBT community doesn't deserve marriage equality and enthusiastically supported the Federal Marriage Amendment and/or various similar state amendments. Some argue the LGBT community doesn't even deserve legally protected status, like inclusion in federal hate crimes legislation and employment protections. Some argue against gay fostering and adoption. Et cetera. Conservatives can argue from here to the moon and back that holding such policy positions doesn't make them homophobic, but many of us fail to see it that way for what ought to be obvious reasons.

The letter then notes that "Within a day of Coulter's remark John Edwards sent out a fundraising email that used Coulter's words to raise money for his faltering campaign. She is helping those she claims to oppose. How does that advance any of the causes we hold dear?" Again, whinging about Ann's comment hurting the conservative movement, as opposed to criticizing her for contributing to a climate of fear and hatred in which people are brutalized and killed for being gay, or even wearing pink pants for cripes sake, is just pathetic. Poor us; Ann's making us look bad and helping our opponents raise money! Well, yeah, but aren't you the least bit concerned that she's also mainstreaming overt hatred of gay men in a week when a man died after being killed by a lunatic in a homophobic rage?

More dramatic pleas to be wrenched from Coulter's maniacal grip as the letter continues. "If Senator Barack Obama is the de facto Democratic Presidential nominee next year, will Coulter feel free to use a racial slur? How does that help conservatism?" Yeah—how does that help conservatism?! (Wait—can anyone think of a way it would help us? No? Cool.) We don't want no racist outbursts if they aren't going to help us!

I'm quite certain that the writers of this letter didn't intend for that to be the inference of their letter, but it's there nonetheless. It just goes to show how not internalized a willingness and obligation to defend the LGBT community from attack is when the ramifications of epithets are focused not on what it means for the community at whom they're directed, but instead focused on what it means for the community the slinger of the epithet represents. The posters of this letter aren't nearly doing as much to defend "faggots" as they are to defend themselves—and that's the whole problem. The letter ends with a request that "that CPAC speaking invitations no longer be extended to Ann Coulter because her "words and attitude simply do too much damage." To us are the words left unwritten.

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