Thursday, February 10, 2005

Coulter Confidential

I have a guilty confession to make. I kinda like Ann Coulter. Oh, I don’t agree with her much – well, ever – except maybe through accident or coincidence. I like her because she has a kind of honesty that many of her other conservative comrades do not. Sure, she lies, makes stuff up – and the like. That’s not what I mean. Some are conservative commentators who are actually quite reasonable, however I may disagree with their worldview or arguments. But then there are those, you know the ones, who play fast and loose with the facts, who are more interested in scoring points than making them. Most of them at least try to give their arguments the gloss of reasonableness. Our esteemed Ms. Coulter will have none of it. There’s no subtext, no guile. If Coulter wants to claim that liberals are evil she just says so.

In some of the less-enlightened states, the public might not recognize the fundamental human right to suck the brains out of little babies. Apart from treason, this is all the Democratic Party stands for anymore. Republicans can only marvel at the Democrats' gall and Stalinist party discipline.

In this way, reading Coulter is something like a direct line to the conservative Id. It’s a guilty confession, because you’re correct in detecting just a little condescension on my part. And what kind of a liberal would I be if I didn’t feel a bit guilty about it?

Coulter’s most recent column is a case in point. Entitled “The Little Injun that Could”, Coulter takes up the flaying of the Right’s whipping boy du jour, University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill. For those of you just catching up, Prof. Churchill’s essay, written in the immediate aftermath of 9-11-01, “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens”, got him uninvited to a couple of college speaking engagements. This brought the previously obscure academic and his essay to the attention of many a right wing commentator. In it, Prof. Churchill makes something of an argument that the events on 9-11 are blowback for America’s many atrocities around the world. He concentrates on, but is not limited to, the massive loss of innocent life in the first Gulf War and makes reference to the inexcusable dismissal of Madeleine Albright, then Ambassador to the UN, of some 500,000 dead Iraqis as being “worth the cost.”

I say “something of an argument”, because it’s fairly rambling and incoherent piece. It’s full “aw c’mon” moments worthy of the less structured and informed, more free-associating bloggers. I don’t know much about Prof. Churchill’s work, which may or may not be generally well written and knowledgeable. He later turned this essay into a book by the same name, which may or may not be equally worthwhile. But this one essay is clearly nothing to crow about. It’s underlying ethical structure, as best as can be discerned, make’s GWB’s worldview seem complex and nuanced.

Churchill released a clarification fairly recently in which he claims:

I am not a “defender” of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people “should” engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy.

This is not entirely true.

As to those in the World Trade Center . . .

Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” – a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it.


In terms undoubtedly more meaningful to the property/profit-minded American mainstream, they've knocked down a half-dozen buildings – albeit some very well-chosen ones – as opposed to the “strategic devastation” visited upon the whole of Iraq, and punched a $100 billion hole in the earnings outlook of major corporate shareholders, as opposed to the U.S. obliteration of Iraq's entire economy.

With that, they’ve given Americans a tiny dose of their own medicine. This might be seen as merely a matter of “vengeance” or “retribution,” and, unquestionably, America has earned it, even if it were to add up only to something so ultimately petty.

The problem is that vengeance is usually framed in terms of “getting even,” a concept which is plainly inapplicable in this instance. As the above data indicate, it would require another 49,996 detonations killing 495,000 more Americans, for the “terrorists” to “break even”for the bombing of Baghdad/extermination of Iraqi children alone. And that’s to achieve “real number” parity. To attain an actual proportional parity of damage – the US is about 15 times as large as Iraq in terms of population, even more in terms of territory – they would, at a minimum, have to blow up about 300,000 more buildings and kill something on the order of 7.5 million people.

I will leave you to make your own assessment. FWIW and IMHO, this essay is poorly written and poorly reasoned. It’s a shame too. There’s a real argument to be made here about the historical and political implications of our nation’s sorry foreign policy, it’s history of propping up murderous right-wing dictators, it’s immoral wars and it’s penchant for undermining leftist democratic movements. Yet I can conceive of no coherent ethical system which both pleas for justice and finds the crashing of planes into inhabited buildings as “befitting.”

Clearly this is just the sort of thing some on the Right can have a field day with. Coulter’s take left me wondering if she had even read the essay. She devoted a scant two paragraphs to the essay and uses quotes easily liftable from other sources. Most of the article is devoted to refuting the authenticity of Churchill’s Native American ancestry and denying his service in Vietnam. It really is a bald-faced ad hominem argument. What interested me was the opening salvo.

If Ward Churchill loses his job teaching at the University of Colorado, he could end up giving Howard Dean a real run for his money to head the Democratic National Committee.

And there we have it. Coulter also manages to take pot shots at John Kerry, Al Sharpton, and, yes, Hillary Clinton. And it is for this reason only that the column is worth comment.

In the days after 9-11, many thoughtful liberals sought to reexamine American foreign policy, knowing that understanding does not equal justification, knowing that understanding is the only real road to peace and security. (Churchill, BTW, feels “that the ‘resistance’ expended the bulk of its time and energy harnessed to the systemically-useful task of trying to ensure, as ‘a principle of moral virtue’ that nobody went further than waving signs as a means of ‘challenging’ the patently exterminatory pursuit of Pax Americana.”)

Thinkers of the Coulter type, unable to distinguish between explaining and excusing, howled treason. (One of them even wrote a book by that same name.) And they used their manufactured outraged to attack anyone not fully on board with the neo-conservative agenda – that’s you, Ms or Mr. Liberal.

Of course, neither Dean nor Kerry nor Sharpton nor Clinton (nor I) have signed onto to Prof. Churchill’s ramblings in this one essay. None of that matters to Coulter, for whom, in this instance at least, no non sequitor is too great, no argument of guilt by juxtaposition is too extreme and no conflation is too inconceivable to prevent her from taking another swipe at Hillary.

The irony, and only real point of interest, is just how much Coulter and Churchill have in common. Coulter herself admits that Churchill connects Iraq to 9-11. (But he does so in reverse. Churchill views 9-11 as the inevitable consequence of the first Gulf War. While Coulter sees our current war in Iraq as the inevitable consequence of 9-11.) Both posit a world of “us” and “them”. Both seem to be operating under a revenge system of justice. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. And neither are terribly concerned if the eye or tooth we remove in vengeance is from the same person or persons who took ours. They just need to be from the same general area of the world. Both employ guilt by association. And neither seem overly concerned about “collateral damage” – at least not when it comes to “them.”

All of this would still be scarcely worth comment if it weren’t for the fact that Coulter is not alone in these feelings. We have come to a point in our national culture in which the illogic and disinformation of an Ann Coulter finds respect in a wide audience. It’s a mindset that is unable to contemplate error on the part of America and finds danger in any such assertions. It is a mindset unable to even look upon our darker history. And maybe, just maybe, that is why “they” are so angry.

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At 2:20 PM, Blogger jennifer said...

I think of Coulter more like a gross car wreck that you can't stand to see nor can you ignore.
Check this link out:

She apparently doesn't ever have to be historically accurate to be "Right" but then again, few do.

At 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a doll Ann is! I'm especially
attracted by her adam's apple!
I wonder if she owns a sexy/slinky
evening gown?
check THIS link out:

At 2:51 AM, Blogger Kenny said...

I you love Coulter you have to check out her speech at the CPAC convention, she actually calls for a new McCarthyism against the liberals.

A new Un-American.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger erinberry said...

You're more generous with your affections then - I just can't stand her at all.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger JimG said...

I understand where you’re coming from. But Coulter is, literally, IMHO, beneath contempt. Her writing simply doesn’t rise to the level of being worth my ire. Yet there is a certain utility to her “work”. It can tell us something about the Right, much in the same way that a doctor might use a stool sample to figure out what’s going on inside you.
I realize that such condescension on my point is at odds with good liberal feeling. And that is why they invented liberal guilt.

At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

coulter is the shiznet! you have to realize that she doesn't mean a lot of what she says–much of it is designed to piss of the left and be satire.


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