Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Yearly Condemnation of Coulter

Condemning something stupid that Ann Coulter says seems to have become a yearly exercise. CQ has a copy of the conservative bloggers open letter here, and I endorse it in full...
Ann Coulter used to serve the movement well. She was telegenic, intelligent, and witty. She was also fearless: saying provocative things to inspire deeper thought and cutting through the haze of competing information has its uses. But Coulter's fearlessness has become an addiction to shock value. She draws attention to herself, rather than placing the spotlight on conservative ideas.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2006, Coulter referred to Iranians as "ragheads." She is one of the most prominent women in the conservative movement; for her to employ such reckless language reinforces the stereotype that conservatives are racists.

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.

The legendary conservative thinker Richard Weaver wrote a book entitled Ideas Have Consequences. Rush Limbaugh has said again and again that "words mean things." Both phrases apply to Coulter's awful remarks.

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.

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?

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. This year she used a gay slur. What is next? 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?

One of the points of CPAC is the opportunity it gives college students to meet other young conservatives and learn from our leaders. Unlike on their campuses—where they often feel alone—at CPAC they know they are part of a vibrant political movement. What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter's mouth? How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect when Ann Coulter is allowed to address the conference? Coulter's invective is a sign of weak thinking and unprincipled politicking.
A couple things need to be said here. First, I think the coverage Coutler draws for these comments overstates her importance to society. I've seen at least a couple pundits on television refer to the conservative reaction to John Kerry's witless remarks about American servicemen in Iraq last fall and compare the two. While I would agree that Coulter used a far more inflammatory term, she's not an elected official. That's why I'm far more likely to take offense to Kerry, or, to use another example, Trent Lott, saying something stupid than I am to a paid pundit saying something inflammatory.

Second, I think what Jonah Goldberg said last year bears repeating...
I don't think Ann does anybody but herself any good when she jokes about killing presidents, Supreme Court justices or uses terms like raghead. I don't think she should do it and I don't think conservatives should applaud it. I'm all for shattering the stereotype that conservatives can't tell a joke, but that doesn't mean any joke is worth making just because it gets a laugh (indeed, some jokes shouldn't be made for fear that they will generate a laugh).
CPAC let her fool them once last year. They shouldn't have let her fool them twice. She's not going to be cowed by her fellow conservatives, but that doesn't mean you should let her use your platform.


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