I had a Voltaire moment earlier this week. It was one of those moments when I paused to realise that my education had not been in vain, but it shocked me nonetheless because I actually found myself defending Ann Coulter.
Not that I like or agree with anything Ann Coulter might ever say or venture to say, you understand, but on this occasion, I felt she was worth defending.
I had read about her speaking tour of Canada and of how the president of one of the three Canadian universities where she’d been scheduled to speak, had written her an e-mail warning her that freedom of speech in Canada wasn’t quite the same thing as it was in the United States; therefore, basically, Coulter should tone her message, and the words used to convey it, down a decibel. The e-mail left a subtly understood phrase “or else” hanging at its end like a dangling participle.
This e-mail prefaced her tour, but the next thing I heard was that this selfsame president had actually cancelled Coulter’s appearance, due to an incident that had happened at the university where she spoke immediately before his institution.
Coulter had been speaking at the University of Eastern Ontario, when – during a Question and Answer sesson at the end of her speech – she was confronted by a 17 year-old Muslim student who asked that Coulter justify a remark made in one of her previous books, asserting that Muslims should be forbidden to fly, post-9/11.
Whilst I’m no fan at all of Coulter’s and I’ve never read any of her books (nor do I plan to do so), even I understand that, more than anything, Coulter is a satirist – albeit, a satirist from the Right end of the political spectrum. The satire in her works is extreme, to say the least, but a lot of political satire pushes the extreme in its limits. Even pundits such as Joan Walsh and Alan Colmes have recognised this facet of her work. The fact that most people from both sides of the political coin, who’ve read Coulter’s writings, don’t recognise this as satire and buy into a serious reading of her message, marks her out on the Left as a whackjob and on the extreme Right as the Queen Mother of the message they hope to convey.
The plain truth is, I imagine, that she’s neither.
I’ve no doubt that she’s a Republican or that she’s a conservative, but I’ve every doubt that she drinks the koolaid she sells. Coulter’s schtick, like most pure satirists, is to provoke a reaction, and her works certainly do just that. They provoke horror and revulsion amongst the Left. On the Right, these people recognise her as giving voice to a lot of thoughts they’ve harboured, but never found the courage to express vocally. To the people on the Right, Coulter’s their Bill Maher, who happens – in real life – to be a particularly good friend of Coulter. In fact, Maher’s said on several occasions, that once someone’s spoken with Coulter, and taken the politics out of the situation, it’s easy to see exactly from whence she’s come and where she hopes to take her message.
And that’s directly to the bank.
In truth, I don’t suppose Maher or Coulter differ very much in real political perspective: they both support the death penalty and racial profiling, they are both anti-union, don’t approve of government-controlled healthcare and are virulently against government funding of the arts. Both have been extremely vocal critics of George Bush. Yet Bill is considered and calls himself a Progressive, and Ann is readily identifiable as a Republican. Maher’s espousal of the legalisation of pot and same-sex marriage saves him from being branded as a Republican, but doesn’t exclude him from being accused of being a closet Blue Dog.
Anyway, the serious Canadian adolescent demanded Coulter justify her remarks about Muslims not being allowed to fly. As if she were unable to believe the content of the question, Coulter paused for a moment, before replying, “And here I thought it was only American schools that produced ignorant students.”
The nuance in the reply was clear. The remark was satirical and not meant to be taken literally. Maybe this was the first time Coulter was presented with someone taking the supposed veracity of the statement to heart, and that someone happened to be a po-faced first-year university student. In retort, the student took the argument one step further.
“I’d just like to know,” she began, “how I’m expected to travel, being a Muslim.”
Coulter gave a wise-assed reply that summed up her estimation of a sublime moment descending into the realm of ridicule.
“Flying carpet,” she quipped.
It was snark.
But still, the student demanded mollification. “But what if I can’t afford a flying carpet?” she continued. (I mean, why not ask “how long is a piece of string” while you’re at it).
Finishing off what had evolved into a conversation truly worthy of theatre de l’absurde, Coulter finished by telling the student to “take a camel.”
The next day, Coulter was informed that her second engagement, at the University of Ottawa (whose president had sent her the e-mail), had been cancelled.
Allegedly, students raised a protest, demanding that she be allowed to speak, but the president wouldn’t be budged, even though several of this group recognised the fact that she should be allowed to give her point of view in the speaking engagement already booked.
Local publications and the Huffington Post implied that the cancellation was due to the exchange with the student at the University of Eastern Ontario, which was pretty silly to say the least. It was a conversation, based on a question posed by a pretty intelligent kid, who’d probably never read anything Coulter had actually written and who’d pounced upon the remark taken out of context and taken personal umbrage at it on face value. Understandable. I, quite often, take umbrage at the blanket assumption of many people on my own side of the political fence that all Southerners are Rightwing, incestuous, fundamentalist Christian and stupid. I’m certainly none of those things, and I take exception to the inference.
But the kid, having never read whatever book from whence that statement came, either didn’t understand that Coulter’s works were satirical (and straight satire is, quite often, not intended to be funny), or – if she had read the work – she didn’t understand satire in general. Was she wrong to have asked the question? Probably. Certainly, she was wrong to challenge someone on a statement made in a published work, without either having read or understood the work, in question.
And Coulter was probably wrong to give the answers she gave – certainly, the initial answer, which implied that American students were stupid and inferred that Canadians were also. In actualy fact, a remark like that reeked of something Bill Maher would say – only in that instance, the audience intended, both sides of the 44th Parallel, would have howled with glee and nodded in agreement.
Huffington Post reported the incident in an article, which was repeated on their Facebook page. Immediately it appeared, the article was inundated with comments from both Canadians and Americans, alike, the majority of them calling for Coulter to be silenced, commending the Canadians on quelling Coulter’s voice and wishing there were some way America could shut her up. Some clever clogs, an American, remarked that the fact that the Canadians had, effectively, denied Coulter her right to speak, implied that they were actually better than Americans, and this comment was followed by several, expressing a desire to move to Canada.
Or the fact that the Canadians appear not to have anything remotely resembling a First Amendment, so they can silence any remark they deem to be particularly offensive anytime they choose?
On Bill Maher’s MySpace page, a regular Canadian commentator dove in, feet first, with a gloating remark, pungent with sarcasm, at the triumph of the Canadians not to tolerate racist remarks and condescendingly explaining to the Americans peopling the forum that in Canada, they have race hate laws that forbid this sort of thing.
Well … wait a moment.
Let’s look at what Coulter said.
She actually didn’t declare during the speech, that she thought Muslims should be prohibited from flying. This was something brought up by a member of the audience. Her initial response – that Canadian students were probably as stupid as Americans, which surprised her – held no racist or racial content. Was it rude? Yes. Offensive? Most definitely, to Americans as well as Canadians, and the exchange should have stopped at that point, and Coulter should have moved on; but she allowed the student to persist, in what proceeded to become an almost surreal conversation.
Were the “flying carpet” and “camel” remarks racist? I think they were intended to be sarcastic, and their intent was probably to shut the kid up, implying that the initial question wasn’t worth a serious answer. Coulter could have stopped and laboured a point with the student that her work and the comment, therein, were satirical; but Coulter’s a single woman, pushing fifty, who’s never been married or around students since she was one, herself. She’s the product of a private education and the holder of an Ivy League degree. She probably assumed that anyone attending a university ought to have some concept of satire, or she should have realised that the kid had probably never read the book she was querying. A good reply would have been to ask the student if she’d read the book, and to suggest that she do so before attempting to analyse and question a controversial remark, taken out of context.
So were the remarks racist? Not really. Stupid. Ignorant. Almost puerile, yes, but racist, no.
Anyway, the gloating Canadian commentator on the forum was just advertising his own ignorance in his remarks, because Muslims are not one particular racial group. A Muslim is a follower of Islam. “Muslim” is a religious term, not racist. Keith Ellison is an African-American (by race), who is a Congressman and a Muslim. His religion is Islam. Sarah Joseph is a British author and lecturer, who is Caucasian (by race) and who is also a Muslim. “Jihan Jane”. John Walker Lindh. Mike Tyson. Salman Rushdie.
If you take Coulter’s remark literally, all of those people would be denied access to travel by aeroplane.
Did Coulter’s remarks imply or incite religious hatred? Not at all.
Canada probably does have race hate laws, much in the same way the UK does – laws, which prohibit direct incitement of hate against people for reasons of race. There are also laws in the UK, which do the same, regarding religion. Maybe this is true in Canada as well, but Coulter, in this instance, was guilty of nothing more than silly, snarky remarks.
What is disturbing about this entire incident is the readiness, the eagerness of the people on the Left to silence any sort of controversial viewpoint that isn’t in lockstep with their own views. Lockstep is supposed to be something identifiable with the Rightwing. We’re supposed to be the Big Tent. Yet when I made a remark, recently, on another forum, in support of Markos Moulitsas’s view that Dennis Kucinich’s eleventh-hour obdurance, which threatened passage of healthcare reform, was not helpful to the cause, I had several people, who prided themselves on their own tolerant image, go viral on me. This is tolerance? Not much.
The Coulter incident reminded me of an observation Coulter’s sparring partner, Bill Maher, made about a year ago in an interview with Howard Kurz – how it always shocked and alarmed him that the people most vocal in wanting to deny First Amendment rights to opposing viewpoints were young college-aged people who purported to be from the Left.
These seem to be the same demographic of people who are expressing a longing to move to the Canadian Utopia, more or less, for what they perceive to be “free healthcare”. That’s another fallacy being promoted by Canadians, who should know better, one of whom is the selfsame Mr MySpace, who pronounced upon Coulter’s remark. He’s gloatingly gone on record, as have many other Canadian commentators I’ve read, staking bragging rights to Canada’s “free healthcare”.
It’s not, and he knows it. Free at source, yes, but “free at source” doesn’t mean “free.” It means you pay for it, beforehand, via taxes, doofus. Regrettably, a lot of Americans buy into the “free lunch” notion attached to this, so maybe Coulter does have a point about American and Canadian stupidity.
Thanks so much for all the feedback. The most interesting comment I got, I must say, was on another site, from a Canadian woman who accused me of being all sorts – her chief complaint was failing to see how I could even pair Ann Coulter with Bill Maher in the same comparison, reckoning that that was a completely low blow and an insult to Maher. The sad thing was, when I tried, ever so politely, to tell her that Maher and Coulter were really siblings under the skin and that Maher’s politics were probably closer Coulter’s REAL politics than he’d like us to believe (backed by FACTS – you know, dates and things), she told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (amongst calling me a variety of names).
Gee, to paraphrase Ann Coulter, I thought just Americans were stupid and intolerant. What about this great Canadian progressiveness and tolerance I’ve been hearing so much about (mostly from Canadians)? (No offence to Canadians, you understand).
No offense taken, Marion 😆 ……….. we have our own share of nutjobs and whackos. My response to them is laughter – I really can’t take them seriously!!
Yes… Of course… that’s it.
That’s quite some POV.
YOU must be writing satire!
I was about to respond –
In other alternative news stories: Jeffrey Dahmer was actually a desperate and penniless vegetarian who found people in his freezer.
…That’s actually more believable than Ann Coulter being a satirist.
That was good! 😆
I have a TON of respect for Marion and everyone here.
…But…Ann Coulter? She is toxic. She’s profited in hate speech for far too many years to be called a satirist.
It’s revisionist history. Notice how more and more news outlets are trimming down on the availability of online news content – or you now have to pay and research for those things that they want to revise?
Conservatives will shape the news of the future:online – using their Revised Standard version.
…after all, they own it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong– I respect Marion too–see my comment below. I just thought your comment was clever.
But do you think outlets like WaPo — which charges for last week’ news!– are revising the previously published stories?
I do like print. 🙂
I don’t trust corporations without regulatory agencies… of course, if we had Texas in charge of everything (shudder) we would be in the dark ages.
….Hmmmm… Texas… Dark ages… Bush.. …current state of affairs in this country… Texas Board of Education…
Do I think outlets like WaPo might revise previously published stories?
Time will tell. I had started reading an interesting article on my last laptop (I’m still trying to recover the rest of it’s contents) that dealt with a story about some more moderate and conservative publications that had revised their online stories from the original published (paper) ones.
Another good post, Marion, and I agree with you for the most part.
Aside from that, I have to say that this is the first photo that I’ve ever seen of Coulter not wearing black.
I thought her entire wardrobe consisted of black!
…on the other hand the bony sternum and ribs are a little scary in this photo, though, huh, j’avaz?
To say nothing of her Adam’s apple!
…well, she is often referred to as Mann Coulter, Cher….
Marion, I am really going out on a limb here, and I ask your patience in advance.
A very effective comment, Cher!
Cheers to Marion too for her challenging article!
I think we’ve all been in a situation where someone says something in earnest that hits a sour note and they nervously tag on, “I was just joking.”
It is a way people excuse their saying things that are inappropriate. As for media folk who have branded her a satirist, they seem to be illustrating forced intellectualism. In a pursuit to show how clever they are, people can sometimes grasp for “unique” definitions or observations to essentially say, “I’m so clever I can see something most people don’t.”
The reality is, it’s more often a case of seeing the Emperor’s New Clothes.
My grandfather had a saying, “Sometimes you’re so smart, you outsmart yourself.”
Thanks for that, AdLib! I thought long and hard before posting that comment. Now, I’m glad I mustered my courage.
Ditto Cher was spot on with her comment and for Marion for being so brave to take his position because it was bound to be very unpopular. I know because I have some opinions that are unpopular with most on the board at times myself.
And more power to you, KQ, for having the courage to put your thoughts out there, popular or not.
Like the new and improved moniker by the way!
I agree. Marion took an unpopular position, and had the courage to post it.
I admire that. We should encourage this sort of thing.
Agreed. When I drum up some guts, I’ll write a post about why I don’t trust Michael Moore as a source of information.
I wouldn’t dispute that. As much as I like Moore, he flavours things with his own spin. ‘Sicko’, for example, I would rate as 75% true. The illustrations he gave from the British NHS were cherry-picked from the more affluent health authorities and in no way indicative of the shit service offered by most of the service.
The good old British National Health Service … soon to be known as Richard Branson’s Virgin Health: corporate (health) welfare run for a profit and funded by the taxpayer. NO SHIT.
She’s also a hypocrite. She likes to attack elites but she always reminds everyone that she has a ivy league education to show “proof” of her intellect. Hell she even attacked KO because she said he really did not have a Cornell degree when he did. I see allot of self loathing in her behavior which says to me she is more a sociopath than anything else.
Don’t get me started on Coulter’s hypocrisy.
Talk to Coulterites and they’re fed how hateful the left is and how you can’t have a discussion with them.
It’s like projection and transference 101.
She ‘outed’ both Keith Olbermann and her buddy Bill Maher as ‘Ag School boys.’ Although Cornell is Ivy League, it’s partly funded by the state and provides state aid scholarships for kids intelligent enough to get in there, but who can’t afford the fees. The Ag School is the ‘public’ part of the uni, so all the scholarship kids are registered as being in the Agricultural School, but allowed to take all their classes in the main liberal arts college. As both Bill Maher and Olbermann explained on Bill’s show last year, that meant that (in their day), their dads only paid $800 per semester for them to attend, instead of $10,000 that Ann’s parents paid. The state paid the rest in financial aid/student loans. (In actual fact, Cornell is the EASIEST Ivy League to get into, as viewed by the rest).
Maher hated Cornell, but it was the only school he could get into – Penn and Virginia both rejected him, presumably on SAT scores/grade average.
You made that up? I thought you were C&Ping a troll.
Wow, good imitation!
I put it in blockquotes because I was afraid Marion would think I really meant it and stop reading.
The irony in what you said, to get attention, is this: Anne Coulter never pretends to be anything other than elite. She’s the product of a private school and Ivy League education, herself. She doesn’t go around making a point of eating pork rind scratchings like Daddy Bush or trying to sound like a hayseed like Junior. She absolutely reeks of the sort of elitism that the Rightwing promote as bad. Yet they buy what she sells, and willingly.
I wonder who these people are, because Coulter doesn’t try to hide what she is, who drink her koolaid. Because when I hear her speak, she sounds to me, every bit, like the ueber bitch queen bee at the most exclusive sorority on campus, the type who could say whatever the hell she wanted with impunity and one word would forever condemn one person to social exclusion and derision. She might not mean what she said, but she said it for effect and for the effects it would render. She doesn’t give a rat’s ass about her congregation; it’s all about the money they pay into her bank account when they buy one of her books or book a ticket for one of her speeches.
I sense the student in this case may not have been as naive as some would portray her. Or even if she were, she might have done something that even a child can do effectively. Even a child can simply…hold up a mirror.
This is what you are.
This is what you said.
And Coulter’s response was to insult the child.
I wonder if the president of the university who cancelled her “performance” did so because he had had enough of Canadian kids being insulted. Maybe her political opinions had nothing to do with the cancellation.
If someone had been invited to my home and had insulted my children, she would be asked to leave. Period.
Coulter is a child herself…but unfortunately, apparently, something of a bad seed.
She’s the junior high mean girl who says the most wickedly cruel thing and then giggles. “Just kiddin’!”
“Whatsa matter? Can’t take a joke?” Is her “defense.”
When you play that game, you can say anything — and I do mean anything — with apparent impunity. At least in America.
Not in Canada, though.
Gosh, thanks, Canada.
Nailed it. I wasn’t so sure in this case the student was na
I haven’t read any of Coulter’s books and I know little more about her than what I hear on Keith Olbermann, who always shows her picture with an eye-patch, which I find amusing because she is so easy to hate.
Having confessed my limited exposure, I can still address her statement that Muslims should not be allowed to fly, post 9/11. Considering the context of that statement — the fact that there are plenty of rightwingers in this country who would agree with that wholeheartedly, I don’t see how you can conclude that it’s satire. It doesn’t sound like satire to me at all. It’s just a stupid kneejerk reaction that was echoing throughout all the xenophobic and paranoid streets of America after 9/11. Plenty of people said the same thing and they all meant it. Why should we think Coulter didn’t mean it?
Even if she had meant it as satire, what makes her think that anyone would “get it?” Again, considering the context? Surely, she has a better understanding of the xenophobic and paranoid American psyche than that.
I agree with adlib’s post below — she is no satirist. She is simply an opportunist who learned that she can get attention and money by making outrageously obnoxious statements designed to piss off groups of people by insulting them with stupid stereotypes. That’s not satire.
I also question the comparison with the issue of Kuchinich and his vote on health care reform. I’ve taken plenty of flack from far lefties over on HP. I’ve been accused of being a capo, a Nazi, a loser, and some other nasty things — all from far lefties on HP who think I’m a colluding criminal for supporting the colluding criminal Obama and wanting the health care bill to pass. But I don’t get how this is the same sort of thing as seeing Coulter as a satirist.
I do get the point that Coulter has a right to say whatever she wants, and that the left is showing a certain level of hypocrisy by cheering on the school’s decision to cancel her lecture. I think we do get into a group think routine that closes off dissent and real discussion.
I lived in San Francisco for years and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed the freer atmosphere of expression in Colorado. I remember one time I was in an elevator in SF and I was telling a friend about a manicure I’d just had from a Vietnamese woman. I told my friend that the woman hadn’t spoken a word to me the whole time and was very grim. I said, “She was long on skill but short on charm.” A third woman (a white woman) in the elevator — just before getting off — turned to me, gave me a snarly look and said, “Well, that’s probably what she’s saying about you right now.” It took me awhile to figure out what her hostility was all about — the only conclusion I could come to was that she figured my remark was racist, which it wasn’t. I would call this PC run amuck. There’s plenty of that to go around.
But having said that, I also admit I’d love to see Coulter muzzled, along with Beck and Limbaugh. It’s not because I don’t believe in free speech, but it’s because they just piss me off so damn much. If I were the official in charge of muzzling and had to take responsibility for it, I wouldn’t muzzle them — but I sure would be tempted to.
Great post e’cat. And, I’ve actually watched her on C-Span doing interviews and giving speeches. It’s not an editing issue. She really is vile. And she loves it.
And yes, you nailed her comments. Like I said, I don’t buy the cutesy act. She is playing to people that really do believe that, and, I think she might as well.
She came real close on Matthews one time to saying the answer was to bomb Islamic society into submission.
P.S. I’ve heard of liberals getting high and reading aloud Ann’s books in ironic book groups. Now that’s satire!
I’m glad you mentioned Olbermann, because he’s just as bad. The eye patch depiction etc. It’ a well-known fact that Olbermann’s beef with Coulter is the fact that Coulter have outed Olbermann and Maher as having been Ag School boys at Cornell (Financial assistance). Olbermann went viral on Scott Brown, after Brown’s election, calling him all sorts and levelling accusations of misogyny and advocation of violence against women, on the flimsiest of evidence. It took no less than Jon Stewart to bitchslap him into reality, and Olbermann apologised to the viewers … not to Scott Brown.
Coulter was wrong in that case because the way a university system works is they usually have several affiliated colleges. Look at the Oxford and Cambridge system of colleges as an example.
But I do have one big problem with KO. He never takes on the very people he ridicules. His show is probably the biggest echo chamber on the air.
Believe me I do get your point about hypocrisy on the left. I just don’t think Coulter is a good poster child to use as an example.
Yeah, point taken with KO.
Keith can’t hack one-on-ones with people of an opposing viewpoint. He decompensates and gets nasty, but at least he recognises this and has it written into his contract. He got into BIG trouble on ESPN for ridiculing his (female) co-presenter on air when she disagreed with something he said. He reduced the woman to tears.
He’s another one with women issues, bordering on misogyny. (Ever notice how misogynists have MUCH younger girlfriend? Both Maher and Olbermann have ‘girlfriends’ young enough to be their daughters.
When Olbermann addressed Stewart’s criticism, he was narcissistic to the point that he reckoned Stewart dared to criticize him because 2 years previously, Olbermann had refused to appear on The Daily Show to be interviewed. He thought this was Stewart’s revenge, but it’s easy to see why he wouldn’t appear. Stewart wouldn’t have been afraid to challenge some of his viewpoints. He appeared on Maher’s, however, who gave him a pretty softball treatment, but who got visibly uncomfortable whenever Olbermann mentioned being at Cornell the same time as Maher was.
We have a profound misunderstanding of free speech in this country. The first amendment reads:
Contrary to what one might understand from the simplicity of the statement, our congress has made many laws abridging free speech — laws which have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Many kinds of speech come under restriction: defamation, sedition, obscenity, commercial speech, and others. “Free speech” does not mean we can say whatever we want whenever we want.
Free speech also does not mean we are obligated to listen simply because someone chooses to speak. Free speech rights guarantee the right to protest, boycott, and shun — all of which seem to me appropriate when it comes to Ann Coulter. I find nothing worthy in anything she has to say. Her words are vile, hurtful, and unfunny. I applaud the students for standing up for civility. If she has problems with their free speech rights, then she is nothing more than another right wing hypocrite. Which should be no surprise to anyone.
Have to disagree with you on this. I am somewhat familiar with satire and parody and I would disagree that Coulter practices parody or satire.
According to Merriam Webster:
The student’s questions were neither dumb, nor taken out of context. In the way that you are using the word “satire” in this post, they were exactly the same thing. She wanted to put Ann on the spot about her obvious (satirical or no) racism. She did that. She got Ann to look mean and utterly lacking in class. And that was easy.
This article makes it sound as if a.) the student really believes in flying carpets and b.) Ann is the type of satirist in the Stephen Colbert vein (where everybody knows he’s putting on an act, becoming an alter ego), which she is not.
She is somewhere in that realm of partial satire, partial seriousness, full time provocateur, attention grabbing human annoyance who sops up the adoration of an audience that is not sophisticated enough to sort out between what she really means, because they don’t care as long as its hateful.
Nobody “silenced” her. They just told her that if she was going to act obnoxious, dismissive and hateful (in other words, be Ann Coulter) then they couldn’t guarantee that she’d walk away without getting her hair mussed. And she did what the right always does in cases like this, played victim and turned it into a cause celebre.
I guess you could call THAT “satire” as well.
When satire become so subtle that one does not know when she is being satirical and when she is serious the satire is lost on me. She began on the tube as a serious political commentator, was she being satirical then? I wold have liked to have seen her whole speech. Was a skit, a routine?
P.J. O’Rouke is funny/satirical from the right, she is not. Were Lenny Bruce, Mort Saul and George Carlin satirical? Yes. Did any of them write Op-Ed’s and wanted to be considered serious political thinkers? Did any of them headline a political gathering? Should I think that Sarah Palin is really brilliant and she is just acting?
While I enjoyed the thought provoking POV, Marion, I cannot agree with it. Her words are ignorant and hurtful not insightful.
I just find her mean,spiteful and snarky.
Bito, I agree with you about PJ O’Roarke. He is the one conservative writer that I think is genuinely funny and makes really strong points. I’ve read several of his books and loved them all — even when I disagreed.
Yes PJ O’Roarke is an excellent example of a political satirist on the right.
I defend anybody’s right to be as obnoxious as they want. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to listen to it. I was aware of Ann Coulter’s name and always assumed, gleaning from the odd references I’d come across, that she was, indeed, a right wing pundit a la Beck and company. When the controversy erupted here, I heard her described as a comedian – odd, I thought to myself, but it then made her flying carpet and camel remark fall into context. Still, obnoxious and, IMO, race-baiting – but not illegal up here. Canada does have hate laws but they are very difficult to get a conviction under and all Crowns are very reluctant to even consider starting a prosecution.
The thing that struck me, in reading your post, is the way this has been reported in different countries. Here, we are told that the police in Ottawa could not guarantee Coulter’s safety and the organizer of the event, Ezra Levant, decided to cancel the speech. I heard a fellow, who lives right next to the campus and walked the grounds that night, say the protest wasn’t a violent one – it was simply loud and nobody in campus security seemed to be that worried about the protesters although there was concern at the large number of people who had turned up (not to attend the speech or to protest but simply to gawk). Dare I suggest that the organizer (who is no slouch himself in the obnoxious department – especially where moslems are concerned) saw an opportunity for political point making? The student protesters certainly played into his hands – they need to learn to protest ‘smarter’ and, as you say, actually read what Coulter has written, before protesting it.
Everybody I have heard discussing this on radio and TV (CBC) have agreed that the Provost of Ottawa U. did a really dumb thing in writing the email – dumb, dumb, dumb – and, without dissent, they have all agreed that Coulter has the right to say what she wants, even in Canada – as repulsive as most Canadians find that to be.
Thanks Woof, for the perspective from above the line. I have been wondering about your take since I first heard of her speaking tour.
So is she a pundit, a political commentator, or a satirist, a comedian?
None of the above. She’s a hack.
I have loads of problems with ‘protests’ against her. They often feed straight into her narrative.
Make them polite, don’t resort to her level, and expose her for what she is.
And yes, the email was dumb. It also feeds into her narrative. The conservative martyr in a ‘lamestream’ media.
The fact that Muslims come from different backgrounds was really lame, sorry.
That was race baiting. And how can you defend Jews needing to be “perfected”? She does believe that, I don’t doubt it.
Many a Muslim has been scarred with phrases such as “Camel Jockey”. Why not let the N-word fly, while bemoaning that those in the projects were ever given the vote just to bolster the ‘Democrat Party’? Such satire has its place, but in this context, I’m not sure I can really condone it – I’m trying to look at it objectively, but sorry, ’twas racist. Doesn’t take Edward Said to see that.
She has every right to speak as Ahmadinejad does.
I don’t for a second buy her cutesy satire act, though. I agree she likes to push the envelope for its own sake, but she also intends to be taken seriously – even with notoriously poorly cited references and footnotes in her books. She’s first and foremost a polemicist that employs snarky satire.
It’s not all satire with her. And, her statement at her mother’s death shows true conviction. I do give her an occasional pass, able to see she is clearly relishing the reaction she’ll get more than anything.
In any case, besides ignoring her – as she had been in Hasbeenistan – equally provocative satire is a way to respond. I will give her credit on this. She’s no shrinking violet and can probably even appreciate this:
I appreciated the effort to be an advocatus diaboli, and I too have had the odd instance defending her, and lamenting those who ask her stupid questions and overreact, thus proving her point. This was not one of those cases. She should still be allowed to speak. But I do not have to defend the words she says anymore than Ahmadinejad’s cutesie “not really, just joking” Holocaust denial.
I even go one step further. When she boards a plan she would much rather see no brown people on board.
I agree the “perfected” comment was sincere as most of her hate speech is.
I guess what I should have said is that she in her mind doesn’t intend it as ‘racist’ per se, because all ethnicities are invited to Christ, as they are to be Muslim.
My point in citing Edward Said (a Christian), was the condescending attitude that is historically tied to a certain type of Orientalist – and white – attitude.
Maybe she isn’t a racist. I’m sure she’s cool with (what’s the name of that Indian-American neocon? – he’s Goanese, that’s all I remember) brown people who are conservative Christians. Maybe the worst that can be said is that she’s a hard-core Christianist supremacist. That, though, in my mind is tied to a history of the same attitudes that accompany racism.
I do believe she hides behind her sarcasm. I would’ve actually appreciated a straight answer. At least Malkin has the balls to do that in her appearances.
In Ann’s words, it’s “just a joke” –
Never mind all the homophobic comments. This is really interesting about satire. Is it only okay when you mean the opposite? She would have us believe that she’s mocking liberals’ exaggerated caricature of conservatives.
Her’s the thing. While criticism can go overboard and be poorly thought out or outrageous (like throwing objects at her), I really don’t think that she really isn’t that extreme, and that she’s making fun of political correctness because she would rather be able to use such language in any situation – to be utterly unaccountable for every hateful, baiting, hurtful thing she says.
she has no sense of decency. When to just let it go, and say – I meant that in this situation, I don’t mean you all. Compare what she said and replace ‘Muslim’ with ‘black’. Would you buy her deflection?
Canada’s law on hate speech.
In Canada, advocating genocide or inciting hatred against any ‘identifiable group’ is an indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada with maximum terms of two to fourteen years. An ‘identifiable group’ is defined as ‘any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.’ It makes exceptions for cases of statements of truth, and subjects of public debate and religious doctrine. The landmark judicial decision on the constitutionality of this law was R. v. Keegstra (1990).
I don’t think she is quite there, but she sure knows how to come straight to the line and push it.
Oh she’s been there and back methinks.
Unless calling John Edwards a “f@#$%t” is not detrimental to the LGBT community just to start.
Detrimental, hateful, yes.
I myself made reference to her homophobia.
I’m just not sure if it falls under inciting violence.
I mean, could it? Yeah.
But she knows just when to stop at the line (or stealthily cross it and come back) to not be held liable for it, was my point.
Most people of that ilk do know exactly when to stop – most people of any ilk who have regular dealings with the public and have a platform to do so, know exactly that.
A lot of people on the Left deride Glenn Beck for not having a college degree, as if this implies ignorance. Beck, like the multi-colleged inarticulate Palin, are very media savvy. They know exactly how far they can go and they even know the subtle nuances they can use to get the sort of message across that they wish to convey. They do it all the time, and Coulter’s no different.
Actually, here’s my take on Coulter. First, she’s a qualified lawyer, who came to national attention as part of the legal team representing Paula Jones in her suit against Bill Clinton. It was Coulter, in fact, who actually fucked Jones’s litigation up, so we know from that that – as a lawyer – she’s really not very good. Then Bill Maher gave her a platform on Politically Incorrect, and she got a schtick of saying controversial things. That led to the Fox News stint. She has, actually, lost employment (The National Review springs to ming) for saying things that were too controversial and not backed up with fact.
Basically, Coulter is the arch hack. She’s latched onto something that earns her a pretty penny. Is it satire? Yes, in the purest sense, and that’s never pretty. And hardly funny. Also, her brand is more than a bit cack-handed. She can appear before CPAC and spew what sells, and people in the audience, people who really, in the privacy of their homes, believe her extremes, find a heroine; and she’s laughing at them – it’s much the same with Bill Maher, who’s been exposed various times as a charlatan to his beliefs. I actually had a CANADIAN commentator on another site prissily tell me that to even equate Bill Maher with Ann Coulter is a low blow.
Pas du tout. If anything, Bill taught Ann a lot of what he knows and how to use it.
If she’d been more of a serious satirist and less of a narcissist, she would have passed over the question from a college kid, instead of giving an answer that made her sound like something straight out of ‘Heathers.’ But she didn’t. As for the college president, I think he didn’t want her there in the first place, had second thoughts about agreeing to the appearance, and jumped at the chance to use this as ammunition to cancel the gig. That, and his e-mail, made her appear to be a martyr.
Like my philosophy teacher always said: TANSTAFFCF
There Ain’t No Such Thing As Fat Free Chicken Fat
Yes, a US university certainly does have the right to refuse any speaker they wish. The University of Ottawa didn’t have to book Coulter in the first place. Speakers are usually booked by the Student Unions of these places, and they have to obtain approval of the President’s office. The President of this university had obviously given his initial consent and, quite even more obviously, was having second thoughts – otherwise, he wouldn’t have e-mailed Coulter initially. I think he grasped at the incident at the University of Eastern Ontario to give him the excuse he needed to cancel her speaking engagement at the eleventh hour. And that was pretty sucky. If he were uneasy with her speaking there, he should have veto’d the Union’s initial request.
I happen to think the kid who asked the question was just naive. It’s been a long time since I was 17, and maybe any of us would have had chutzpah enough to question an author about the content of a book they’d written and the questioner hadn’t read. We wouldn’t do that now – at least, I wouldn’t; that’s the stuff of the tea-partying Right.
In cancelling her appearance as a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that really bore little reality to either race or religious hatred (just a pretty silly exchange between two people who were probably as arrogant in their assumptions as each other), it’s made people of a Progressive persuasion look like they’re denying the right of expression to an opposing viewpoint, and it’s given Coulter the martyr pulpit. The guy should have swallowed hard and let her speak. That way none of the above would have gained any relevance.
I was an undergraduate at Virginia when Chuck Robb was a law student and President of the Student Union. Because of his real-life situation as a Presidential son-in-law, he was able to secure a lot of big names to come and speak. His coup was to be the first to ask John Dean to speak after his release from prison. There were scores of protests against this, owing to the nature of Watergate. For the only time in my life, I crossed a picket line to attend, and I’ve never regretted that, because I learned a lot from Dean that night.
Whether or not you agree with the speaker isn’t the point, it’s being exposed to another viewpoint.
As for Maher, it’s amusing to watch him doing what is essentially damage limitation this season in Real Time, after spending the last half of the year developing his Obama-bashing to an art. That that was entirely done in order to gain much-needed publicity was patently obvious, especially the way he’d gone from talk show to talk show, bragging about being the first person to criticize the President. He’s got to take a lot of blame for ructuring the Left in that respect.
The difference between Coulter and Maher is that Maher knows when he’s over-stepped the mark and he obsesses about it. He’ll blog about it, bring it up on his panel, force his guests, sometimes uncomfortably, to give him reinforcement – and he’s like a dressed-down adolescent when the adults at the table set him straight. So far this season, he’s been kiss-assing the President, after having been bitch-slapped by a Long Island audience at the beginning of the year. Friday night, he virtually admitted on-air that he was a Democrat in his editorial. I’ll give him that much. I just want him to stop saying he’s a Progressive when he’s a Blue Dog.
Because if you listen to an insincere liar, and you actually have facts to hand, you can call them out on their lies. But, as you say, you don’t have to listen. And people at all of those venues didn’t have to buy tickets to listen to Ann Coulter, but many did.
How does a person who only listens to Faux News, pundits like Coulter and right wing radio have the facts?
That’s the problem.
I’m just saying we should open debate on what free speech is. Right now almost any speech even lie, hate and corporate speech is seen as free speech. Maybe we should consider why more progressive countries like most in Europe and Canada have more limits on speech.
Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. I’ve lived in the UK, where they have laws legislating not only religious and racial hate, but they also can prohibit people of various political parties from speaking freely – and this is the country which touts itself as the Mother of Democracy. There’s also a raging and ongoing debate in Parliament about the police being able to hold and detain terror suspects WITHOUT CHARGE for 48 days. The hereditary House of Lords regularly smacks this proposed legislation to the curb every time the elected Commons sends it to them.
Let me tell you what the British ‘hate laws’ have produced: an entire demographic of people, whom we would recognise as Teabaggers, who feel disenfranchised. These are people who, in the past, would have quite cheerfully voted Labour. They’re now debunking to the fascist British National Party, and they are truly a nasty group. They’ve evolved, through the guidance of their Oxford-educated head, Nick Griffiths, into a booted and suited bona fide political party, which is as cynical as they come. They recognised a niche and jumped in it to become the voice of the disenfranchised.
Formerly (and closetly currently) racist adn white-only, they’ve revised their membership to include blacks and Hindu Indians, and they’re becoming a bigger tent. The BNP, like Sinn Fein in the 90s, was banned from speaking publically by the British government. They effectively became personae non gratae. But once they’d won three seats in the European Parliament, there was no choice but to lift the ban.
Make no mistake, they don’t give a rat’s ass about the people they serve, but people you’d never imagine in a million years as being sympathetic to a fascist cause are signing on the dotted line … through fear. Freedom of speech is restricted by ‘progressive’ Europe, but you need to know that the Right is on the upsurge in Europe, and – contrary to what a lot of people assume – the Right in Europe isn’t our equivalent of warm, cuddly Democratic liberals. In any country.
I have family in both the U.K. and Germany and don’t think that your average Brit in the Midlands or further north are losing any sleep about a yobo like Nick Griffiths ever gaining enough votes to topple any party.
Conservative scare tactics, I have to wonder why?
As for a right leaning Europe, maybe, but apparently not enough to alarm my family there. I would compare it to your msm, pushing the envelope for the Repukes and the TP while neutralizing the real feeling of the people not involved directly in politics.
Germany has her scars. We were taught collective guilt in our schools, we would never make the same mistake twice.
There is a weekly news program that airs on the BBC called ‘Question Time’, consisting of a moderator and a 4- to 5-person panel, who take questions from a studio audience regarding the newsworthy items of the week.
The BBC, contrary to what a lot of people in the US believe, is not so clean, itself, and isn’t above stacking an audience or two, which is what it does regularly on Question Time.
A few months back, they took flack for agreeing to let Nick Griffiths appear as a panellist on the program. You would be suprised at how many Left-leaning commentators did not want him to appear. But, the BBC, held firm, invoking freedom of speech, especially since Griffiths was now a legitimately-elected MEP. They managed to also book Bonnie Greer, FAILED American author who conveniently married a Brit and moved to the UK, where the BBC immediately adopted her as its pet American, who so totally represented the typical American viewpoint I seriously began to wonder why I didn’t think like Bonnie Greer. (Another ‘pet American’ was Jamie Rubin, who taught at LSE when his wife Christianne Amanpour was based in CNN’s London office.) For years, Greer, an African-American, identified herself as a Reagan exile and paraded the fact that she’d now accumulated a British passport in addition to the American one. Suddenly, when Barack Obama was elected, she became ‘American’ again, started shouting from the rafters that she was a childhood friend of Valerie Jarrett and any moment would be receiving an official Presidential invitation to come home and take up her rightful position at the right hand of the President on the Cabinet – if not perhaps, running the Kennedy Centre or the Smithsonian or something cultural like that. (Greer couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery).
Well, they sat Greer beside Griffiths, for the effect. Throughout the whole show, she acted like the spoiled kid at the adults’ table who didn’t want to eat her spinach – turning away from him, sitting sideways in her chair, addressing him over her shoulder, just acting petulant. He, in turn, acted like the proverbial 12 year-old boy who has a crush on a girl but teases her to make people think the opposite. She acted like he had cooties, he acted like he wanted to ask her out for a drink. The rest of the panel descended into brazen call-out arguing with him. At the end of the day, Griffiths ended up looking like a pretty sympathetic character, and the next day, papers were reporting that applications for membership in the BNP had risen by 40%.
You underestimate the rise of the Right Wing in Europe at your own risk. Until recently, Italy ALWAYS prohibited anyone with connections to their old Fascist party from holding public office – until Berlusconi, a quasi-Fascist himself, removed that in order to allow the openly Fascist mayor of Rome to assume his position – duly elected.
KQ, I can’t help but compare the situation to the situation that prevails here on the Planet. Would anyone say that we lack freedom of speech? I certainly wouldn’t. But are there no limits at all? Of course not.
I think you make a very good point.
On this one the only thing I disagree with are trying to silence her for her opinions, that is never a good thing. We cannot go around censoring people like her because we would be busy 24/7 but I do not agree that her mean spirited attack is acceptable, at least to me. But…I deal with that by paying her no mind, silence her? Never. Where would we be if the FBI and Falwell had been able to silence Martin Luther King Jr?
You can call them out on their bad behavior, but to silence is to invite tyranny. If what she does is satire, then she has taken it to a whole new level. At least Maher tames his with humor, I know where he is coming from, she does not.
The fact is Maher is viewed by the public as a comedian first while the public that listens to Coulter regards her as a political commentator. If people in this country had the gift of discernment we should have I would agree with Marion. Coulter, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity would all be viewed as nothing but right wing jokers. But unfortunately we on the left are the only ones who seem to see through their bullshit.
Here’s something interesting about Bill Maher: get him in a serious interview and refer to him as a comedian, and he’ll politely correct you and describe himself as a satirist and political pundit. But once Bill’s made a faux pas and offended someone or some group, he backs off by demurring that he’s ‘only a comedian.’
Sometimes, you can’t have a cafeteria situation.
Funny how he does not mind cashing in on playing so many comedy clubs when he takes breaks from his show. When he stops making his living telling jokes, satirical jokes or not, then he can call himself something else.
The point is most people see him as a comedian and most people see Coulter as a political commentator.
I don’t want her silenced. I want her to say what she has to say. Also Beck. Because I want people to listen to them both or to anyone from that side of the fence. Look at what’s happened the past week – from Palin to Boner right on down, we’ve seen near-as-dammit sedition. This sort of stuff needs to be listened to and acted upon. (Sedition is a federal offence, as is incitement to violence. Why haven’t the police been summoned to Mr Vanderboegh’s Alabama home for his incitement of Teabaggers to break windows?)This is why I think people must be encouraged to listen to Beck – the more you listen to people like that, the more ammunition you have to call them out on their shortcomings.
I’ve never heard Coulter speak and I haven’t read any of her books. That said, I’d never call her out in a public forum WITHOUT having prepared myself by reading something she’d written previously, which is where this kid came up short.
As for Maher, a lot of the criticisms he makes on stage for a television audience are very much toned down in his live act. For example, he now warns and apologises beforehand whenever he’s about to comment on religion. And you NEVER got the Obama snark live that you got on Real Time – OR the ‘stupid America’ comments.
Marion I was not saying that you felt she should not be allowed to speak, I was speaking in general terms. While I do not like her, I don’t think anyone should be silenced. If they make suggestions or use strong words to incite violence, then by all means take care of it, but they do have the right to say it.
If a person speaks and incites violence or insurrection, they need to suffer the consequences of that speech.