Fallout from the Coulter speech

The right wing which has tolerated and embraced Coulter for so long slowly tries to disassociate itself from her.

Published March 5, 2007 11:02PM (EST)

(updated below - updated again)

To follow-up on the issues relating to Ann Coulter's speech at the CPAC on Friday, the following exchange occurred today during the live chat hosted by The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:

Oxford, Miss.: Are the comments from Ann Coulter, a featured speaker at the most influential conservative convention, comparable to anonymous blog comments made at the Huffington Post? Do the anonymous comments at HuffPo tell more about liberals than comments from featured speakers at conservative events tell about conservatives? (And Ann Coulter's views and style were known before she was chosen to speak.)

Howard Kurtz: Coulter's comments are more telling because a major conservative conference of the Republican Party invited her to speak. . . .

I'd say that is a rather substantial understatement, but it is still productive to compel Kurtz to acknowledge it. And though he goes on to insist that he "never said that the nutjobs posting Cheney death wishes on the HuffPost were representative of anything other than the fringe," the fact remains that he devoted an entire column to the Cheney comments promoted on the front page of the Post's website, (and a separate column to the Edwards bloggers comments), but never mentioned a word in his column about the Coulter speech, despite the fact that it is "more telling because a major conservative conference of the Republican Party invited her to speak."

On a less encouraging note, Kurtz actually said: "I was certainly surprised that she got more than a smattering of applause when she dropped the F-bomb." As Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog said in response:

Oh, yeah -- that was a huge surprise, wasn't it? Based on all of our experience with movement conservatives, you'd have expected the crowd to walk out en masse and begin burning her books instantly -- right?

Several right-wing bloggers have created and signed onto a commendable petition which, among other things, calls for the CPAC to cease inviting Coulter to speak. Several of the more decent pro-Bush bloggers have signed on, though, at least as of now, most have not (and Sean Hannity expressly refused to condemn Coulter when asked about the remark).

This was the point all along. Merely denouncing specific comments of Coulter's -- as plenty of right-wing political figures have done routinely in the past -- is plainly disingenuous if the conservative movement continues to venerate her as a featured speaker at its key events and the people who claim to find her comments so offensive never object to her inclusion and even attend those events. As the Petition itself states: "Denouncing Coulter is not enough. After her 'raghead' remark in 2006 she took some heat. Yet she did not grow and learn. We should have been more forceful."

Of course, Coulter has a history that is many years long of making statements of this sort, which is why the right-wing movement's elevation of her to superstardom and its clear approval of her message made it not just fair to claim, but inescapably clear, that it was enamored of her and her sentiments (and Blue Texan offers the less generous and likely more accurate explanation for many, if not most, of the denunciations). As the aforementioned Steve M. said this weekend, in a post that seems to have spawned the creation of the right-wing petition:

Reality: She is your biggest star. The people you claim to speak for feel she speaks for them much, much more than you do -- and they're right.

She is modern conservatism's id -- she's the one who says what the rest of you would say if you didn't feel it would cost you your standing as reasonable, responsible people.

Want to prove me wrong? You cut her off. You boycott the sponsors of TV shows that still invite her on as a guest. You show up at her book signings and campus appearances and hand out flyers quoting her nastiest bon mots. You boycott CPAC next year if she's invited, and demand that others do the same. Or if you have a problem with boycotts as a matter of principle, at the very least urge your fellow conservatives, on college campuses and elsewhere, to stop extending invitations to her, given the profound harm you say she does to your movement.

But you won't do that, will you? In that case, shut the hell up, hypocrites, and acknowledge that while Coulter may be the bad apple in the family, your door is always open to her.

Precisely. And along those lines, several right-wing bloggers who did not sign the petition are running around today giddy because they think they found equivalent statements made by "prominent leftist figures" -- including such towering political leaders on the left as Conan O'Brien, Chris Rock, Alec Baldwin, Alexander Cockburn, Dan Savage, and Louis Farrakhan -- many of which are from 20 or 10 years ago, with the average being 8 years old.

The fact that they found such examples proves, they all claim in unison, that I "lied" in this post -- because my argument, of course, was that no liberal of any kind has ever said anything offensive or wrong in the entire history of the world, so finding examples where that happened -- no matter how isolated, stray, inconsequential, unrepresentative, or old -- proves that I'm a "liar." The reason I ignore most attacks from right-wing bloggers is not because I don't believe in the virtues of responding -- I do -- but because most of the attacks are at this level and it is honestly difficult to generate the motivation to reply (as but one helpful hint, if you want to accuse someone of "hypocrisy," you must (a) excerpt a standard the person has advocated and then (b) show how they have violated that standard; failure to follow steps (a) or (b) means that you have not made out a case for what is called "hypocrisy").

Ron Chusid and Lean Left provide more than ample analysis and responses to those posts. As they both note, the fact that someone has to go digging into ten-year-old comments from low-level celebrities (or, again, anonymous blog comments) in order to establish an equivalency, when the right-wing's most popular pundits with literally millions of fans -- Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and the rest -- spew out hate-mongering bile on virtually a daily basis, tells you all you need to know about the validity of the purported equivalency.

UPDATE: In Comments, Mona points out the real issue here, the glaring question that most right-wing pundits and their media allies are simply unwilling to examine:

I'd love to hear [the "petitioners"] explain why it is that (a) they need to ask a "respectable" organization like CPAC to keep a hate-spewing bigot off its stage, and (b) whether they think a petition will do anything to diminish the popularity of Coulter's views, as manifest in cheers, heavy booking on college campuses, as well as astronomical book sales?

What does all this mean about their conservative movement? The idea that they could get around that issue with some cheap and easy "repudiation" on their blog or something is absurd. I'm not saying they don't deserve a bit of credit for the petition effort, but there are bigger questions about their brand that ought to be occurring to them.

Denounce away, but the undeniable fact is that there are millions of hard-core Republican "base" (in every sense of the word) voters who admire or even revere Coulter, buy her books the minute they are available, and generally cheer her on as enthusiastically as can be.

Aren't there any political journalists out there who are interested in examining why that is, what that demonstrates about the political movement that has been dominating our country for a full decade or so? I tried asking some of those questions, here, at one right-wing blog and did not really get any answers. But that is the issue that makes these Coulter-related issues so important. It is not Ann Coulter or anything she says that matters, but rather the reasons why she is -- and for years now has been -- so incomparably popular in this movement.

UPDATE II: Few people have documented the deeply dysfunctional and outright pureile national press we have as well as Bob Somerby has, and his post today on the lowly and vapid insults which fill Maureen Dowd's column (h/t Cindy Ross) is just superb. Somerby makes a convincing case that Dowd's endless attempts to feminize Democratic male politicians (and masculinize Hillary) is merely a slightly more polished version of the tactics which make Coulter so wildly popular on the right (Coulter's use of the word "faggot" with regard to Edwards was not, of course, an actual attempt to suggest he was gay, but designed only to impugn his masculinity).

By Glenn Greenwald

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