Our problems remain epistemological.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Strange Bedfellows, or: What To Do About Ann?

As for the first part of the title, I'll be speaking metaphorically herein: Ann Coulter's just not my type. I'm sure she'll be devastated to hear that when they tell her, but for God's sake, girl, order the pork chops instead of the watercress salad.

"There is more dissent on a slave plantation then amongst moderates in the Republican Party," said the fetching-to-many Ms. Coulter last night. Well, I fancy myself a moderate. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies, Missy Ann, but here goes:

She bewitches me as she does most conservatives: she is a guilty pleasure, because she is criminally funny. She is demonstrably brilliant and knowledgable, with a mind fortified and honed by a top-flight legal education, and she says many things we're all thinking and daren't say. She is our Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl or Chris Rock. But it was last night, as a featured speaker at a major conservative conference, that our Ann uttered:

I think our motto should be post 9-11, raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.

(According to this account, that riff received a "boisterous ovation" from the 1000 young conservatives in attendance.)

Now after the murders of 3000 of our fellow citizens on 9-11, it's totally understandable and not just a little cathartic to cheer such a statement with an even greater fervor than a touchdown for the home team.

But as a part of our politics, no. Ann Coulter cannot be a part of our politics, and in this case, anywhere near the forefront of the Republican Party. I (we) made great hay of Michael Moore, who should remain an equally "guilty pleasure" for the left, sitting next to ex-President Carter at the 2004 Democratic Convention. The inmates had taken over the asylum, and it was a legitimate political attack to point that out. We shall be judged not only on how we deal with our opponents, but our problematic allies.

Ms. Coulter is welcome to remain in our asylum, because in politics, especially in a two-party system, you don't often get to pick who occupies your beds. The GOP took in the Dixiecrats; the Democrats accept the entertaining demagogue Al Sharpton, and many who are far worse.

But larger than partisan considerations, some "ragheads" are our fellow American citizens, too. Some were teammates on my cricket club. And if the war with militant Islam is to be contained (and it is a war), it will be moderate "ragheads" who will contain it. We cannot kill them all.

Ms. Coulter was dismissed as a contributor to the intellectual godfather of today's Republican Party, National Review, for refusing to retract the following statement:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

Her friend Barbara Olson had just been murdered in the 9-11 attacks. Ms. Coulter's anger was understandable, and under the circumstances, even measured. She is obviously still angry.

So be it. Society has a place for those who will speak the unspeakable, think the unthinkable, our madmen, our artists, our philosophers, our passions, our minds.

We just gotta keep 'em from getting anywhere near the controls of the airplane. Bad things happen.


Mike D'Virgilio said...

Tom, Joe over at the Evangelical Outpost had a post on Ms. Coulter a day or two ago. His take on this challenging woman was much more pained than yours, and I felt overly so. Your view is more balanced and reflects a much deeper wisdom about human nature, and I appreciate that. She says some things that need to be said that few other people would say, and she says some things that are over the line. I guess you take the good with the bad. Certainly it's good for conservatives to call her on the carpet when she does cross that line, but like the crazy uncle we can still invite her to dinner occasionally.

By the way, maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think of “ragheads” as Muslims. Doesn’t that epithet apply more to Hindus or Sikhs?

Kathy Hutchins said...

I have always admired Ann Coulter as a personality. To me, she is the embodiment of what "women's liberation" should have, and perhaps originally, stood for. She earns a lot of money by standing in front of people and saying things other people would like to deny her the right to say. She is useful as pushback against the hypocritical campus left, who want free speech for themselves but not for those who offend them. And I have a sneaking admiration for anyone, in this neopuritanical day and age, who apparently subsists on nothing but cigarette smoke, wine, and misanthropy.

That said, it is often painful to watch attention paid her as if she were a serious political analyst, because she simply is not.

tbmbuzz said...

I think, Tom, you’re reading a little too much anger into Anne’s psyche when in reality she is more indignant than angry. Her expertise, much like Rush Limbaugh, is in exposing the Angry Irrational Left with reductio ad absurdum arguments, which is quite easy to do. Yes, she is completely non-politically correct, refreshingly so most of the time, over the line sometimes, but she is more of a throwback to the (long lost) attitude of Americans toward the enemy during WW2, when no one could care less about the enemy’s sensitivities, you know: the days of “japs” and “krauts”, Charlie Chaplin and The Three Stooges and Bugs Bunny. I submit, by contrast, the Angry Irrational Left’s equivalent in a way, but with seemingly intractable psychological problems, unable to manage her anger, someone who is completely humorless, consistently throws out blatant lies, a vitriolic termagent who hates men and probably reaches a far greater readership worldwide than Anne, namely, Maureen Dowd, NY Times columnist. (Her enraged colleague, Molly Ivins, is a close second). Dowd is a woman who in medieval Europe and 17th century Salem would be placed at the head of the line of witches to be burned at the stake!

Anyway, these are columnists, nowhere near the controls of the airplane. I would worry more about the irrationally angry politicians who ARE at the controls and who have hijacked the once great Democrat Party.

KeithM, Indy said...

I don't remember seeing Ann anywhere near an important person during the last Republican convention...

Yep, her style is in bad taste but her message is clear enough.

If they want to talk tough, they should face the consequences.

Saddam sure found out what "serious consequences" mean.

You can put in place of "they" any of the people who are opposed to freedom, and are oppressing their people.

Hunter Baker said...

I want to find out why Ann hasn't tied the knot. She's quite attractive in a severe sort of way, would seemingly be fun to talk to, and has plenty of cash-ola. What's the deal, Ann?

Karnick said...

I agree with you entirely, Tom. I really wish Anne could express herself without sounding like a maniac. Oh well, perhaps I'll have better insights after I see her speak next Thursday.

James F. Elliott said...

Doesn’t that epithet apply more to Hindus or Sikhs?

Nope. It's an epithet originally applied to Bedouin and Berber Arabs and now to Arabs in general. Peopke tend to confuse Sikhs with them because of the head-wrappings, even though Sikhs fold theirs differently.

Evanston2 said...

Count me as a fan of Ann who finds her "raghead" comment to be, at best, silly. She compounded it in a column I saw today by throwing in "camel jockey" and some other insulting generalizations. Hey, I'm a defender of free thought and particularly the Danish cartoons that specifically probed the notion that Muhammed is associated with violence. The cartoons communicated ideas, possibly (but not necessarily) insulting. [You can be insulted by the image of Muhammed, but not the notion that he would endorse of Islamic terrorism.] But what do terms like "raghead" and "camel jockey" add to the debate? Absolutely nothing.
Now Hunter, if Ann would date me, her marriage problem would be over posthaste! I just need to send a photo...where are my stamps?!?

Kathy Hutchins said...

But what do terms like "raghead" and "camel jockey" add to the debate? Absolutely nothing.

I propose they add exactly what Ann intends to add -- flammability. And in a strange way, I can see the point -- living peacefully in a multiethnic, officially "tolerant" society doesn't mean that no one gets insulted, it means no one riots over an insult.

If I'm wrong, do I get to burn down a Lutheran church the next time I get a whiff of lutefisk? Talk about insults.

James F. Elliott said...


There was a 2004 or 2005 issue of Esquire where one of their staff writers went on a series of dates with Ann Coulter. You should try to find it. It was kind of funny, and seems to indicate that her "on" and "off" personas aren't really all that different.

That said, the woman bothers the crap out of me. She advocates violence without consequence. She's just as irresponsible as any fundamentalist agitator. At the CPAC - the conference Tom is alluding to - she advocated "ragheads" burning down the Supreme Court with the "liberal justices still inside."

At CPAC, one young Republican described how he is expanding
"co-belligerency" - allying conservative Catholics and evangelicals - to include conservative Muslims. He begged Coulter and others to stop using
the term "rag heads." Coulter replied, "Yeah, I made a few jokes about Muslims. They killed 3,000 Americans." She received a standing ovation and numerous hotel room numbers.

That's not funny. That's not witty. That's not even clever. It's inflammatory and inaccurate. It's painting all Muslims with the terrorist brush. It's irresponsible.

Jay D. Homnick said...

While of course I agree with Tom, all this coverage has given me a real appetite to attend next year's CPAC. Sounds like fun.

Matt Huisman said...

But what do terms like "raghead" and "camel jockey" add to the debate? Absolutely nothing.

I propose they add exactly what Ann intends to add -- flammability. And in a strange way, I can see the point -- living peacefully in a multiethnic, officially "tolerant" society doesn't mean that no one gets insulted, it means no one riots over an insult.

I think Ms. Coulter is taking it a step further than that. Her raghead bit is designed to show what liberals will truly get upset about. When she makes an offensive remark, they will demand apologies from her and denunciations from her friends. When 3,000 people are killed in the name of the prophet, there are no similar demands made of American Muslims?

I think she has a point.

That said, being right doesn’t give you license to be a jerk, and I fail to see how it helps anything other than book sales to cheapen your argument with racial slurs. On top of that, it shows absolutely no consideration for those she’s identified with. I have enough trouble managing my own life; now I’m supposed to figure out how to appropriately associate with Ann Coulter? Forgive me, Ann, if I'm not entirely considerate in return.

(For those wondering, I’ve canceled all future public engagements with her. To be honest, I won't miss the book tour stops - but replacing the Begala hazings won't be easy.)

James F. Elliott said...

Her raghead bit is designed to show what liberals will truly get upset about. When she makes an offensive remark, they will demand apologies from her and denunciations from her friends.When 3,000 people are killed in the name of the prophet, there are no similar demands made of American Muslims?

I think she has a point.

With respect, Matt, that's the least intelligent thing I've ever seen you write. It starts as a strawman and devolves from there. First off, that's like saying we should demand an apology from Hindus in America every time some Hindus in India get all riled up and slaughter some Kashmiri Muslims. That's like, say, demanding an apology from King Assad every time Hezbollah or Hamas blows up an Israeli. It's a ridiculous assertion on its face, with little bearing to reality.

I find it curious that normally fairly reasonable conservatives claim Ann Coulter "says things I'd like to say but can't." Because really, Ann Coulter does little other than make ad hominem attacks, make generalized racist comments, and advocate gratuitous violence against "rag heads" and "pinko Commie liberals."

People aren't called to account for Ann Coulter's behavior. They're called to account for their reactions and acceptance towards her behavior. They're being asked to either unabashedly and publicly admit that they applaud her racist, violent comments, or to take responsibility for encouraging her and providing her a forum. They needn't apologize for sharing aspects of ideology. I don't apologize for Michael Moore, but then, I don't watch Fahrenheit 9/11 and applaud it, either. There's a world of difference. If American Muslims had been dancing in the streets on 9/11 - yes, an apology would be appropriate at the least. There's a world of difference for being held responsible for your reactions to someone's words and being held responsible for their words.

Hunter Baker said...

JFE, the Catholic/Evangelical/Muslim vote was going to be a serious thing pre-9-11. I suspect Bush wouldn't have won in 2000 without the American Muslim vote, which helps explain his extremely measured rhetoric.

James F. Elliott said...

JFE, the Catholic/Evangelical/Muslim vote was going to be a serious thing pre-9-11. I suspect Bush wouldn't have won in 2000 without the American Muslim vote, which helps explain his extremely measured rhetoric.

I'm not entirely sure where that comes from, based on my previous comment, but I'm kind of glad you brought it up. Bush is very consistent about his rhetoric on Islam, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity (just as I have never assumed he is a racist or bigot). It's one of the few areas I've ever consistently had some respect for him in, and it hasn't wavered in five years.

Evanston2 said...

JFE, I doubt I'll have a chance to read the back issue of Esquire, and for that matter I doubt I'd have a chance with Coulter, but I'm grateful for the tip.
While I often enjoy Coulter's wit and ability to point out hypocrisy, I think you're right to describe her as a mere agitator in this instance. Someone who just enjoys provoking others would be a nightmare date. I guess that means I'd avoid dating Tlaloc, too!
Kathy, I simply don't think "flammability" is itself admirable. Provoking just to provoke only communicates one thing to the audience -- hostility. Hopefully we have a better message for folks in the middle east. Advocacy of many issues, e.g., basic human and womens' rights, will offend but the offense is necessary if we believe in them. In such instances I think it's quite appropriate for Coulter to jam it to Islamofascists and dictators. I'm even willing to grant as an "entertainer" who needs to stay in the spotlight, she'll occasionally push the limits. But if she's looking to insult for insult's sake, leave me out.
Matt Huisman is a wiseman (does that rhyme?) to disassociate himself from her under such circumstances.
Hey, I was a Marine Corps officer for 21 years so I'm not a namby-pamby wuss. Nonetheless, I picked my fights based on getting things accomplished, not just to get someone upset.

Matt Huisman said...

James>> That's like, say, demanding an apology from King Assad every time Hezbollah or Hamas blows up an Israeli.

Not really; not if he wasn’t responsible. It would be like asking him to denounce such an act, especially if it appeared to be a cause that he was sympathetic towards. And outrage over the methods used in this scenario by Hamas would require me to get Mr. Assad’s position on record.

Now Ann has assumed the position of Hamas in this example by using grotesque tactics (racial slurs), and the outraged world demands that people declare for her or against. But who demands the same from the Muslims of the West with respect to Al Quaeda? Why do some appear more outraged by (alleged) Koran mishandlings at Gitmo than they do about the actions that brought the detainees there in the first place? What should we make of the liberal elites – including academia, actors, media outlets and politicians - that use the term ‘freedom fighters’ instead of terrorists to describe Al Quaeda members?

The lack of outrage at the violence of Al Quaeda relative to the comments of Ms. Coulter is an outrage itself. She uses overheated rhetoric; they blow up innocent people. I have no use for either tactic, and therefore am not bothered in the least by anyone wanting to respond to each in kind. But the question she raises still stands - are you truly outraged by the tactics of Al Quaeda?

[Note: The only reason I’m arguing that she has a point to make is that I’m bored. I think it is an incredibly lousy way to make a point, and her approach harms more than helps her cause. As for it being the least intelligent thing I've ever written...I can live with that.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Evanston: Nonetheless, I picked my fights based on getting things accomplished, not just to get someone upset.

Amen, sir. Having some Good in mind, no matter how misconceived, is the least we can ask of each other's words and actions.

Prudence would be the next step, but that seems too much to reasonably ask of most folks.

Evanston2 said...

Tom, thank you for the concurrence but with respect to your February 13th post, I disagree that "prudence" is a proper standard for our own internal discourse or our communication with muslims. I placed a comment at the end of the thread that asserts "truth" (or as you state here, some type of "Good") is the proper standard for our communications. While truth and good are subjective, we ourselves are responsible for the content and results. Conversely, "prudence" is quite malleable (a near synonym for "situational ethics" or "relativism") and it also places the power of censorship in the hands of those who would be offended. If we decide something is true or good, we ought to be willing to stand for it, even if it offends. If not, we have no reason to complain if we seem to be surrounded by falsehood and evil.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Prudence concerns itself with the how and when, not the what. Some see truth as an end in itself, and let the chips fall where they may.

I do not see that as virtue or wisdom: truth is a strong medicine, and while it can cure anything, used without care, it can also kill.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Ann Coulter is one of my favorite people, so I'm willing to make allowances. A lot of allowances.

Most of the conversation here, although otherwise thoughtful and informed, has confined itself to her work as a social and political commentator, an area in which she is my colleague, or perhaps my competitor. As a columnist I find her witty and provocative, and her line about the voters giving a "man-date" against gay marriage is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

But she is my hero, and will always be, as I explained in these pages more than a year ago, for her work as an attorney. If not for her legal work on the Paula Jones case, President Clinton would not have been impeached. For the details, I suggest you read Mr. Isikoff's book on the impeachment.

Raghead comment, rude and pointless. But I make allowances.

Kathy Hutchins said...

In Catholic moral theology, "prudence" has a specific meaning, one I assume Tom has in mind when he uses the word. Prudence is a cardinal virtue, the practice of which enables one to know under what circumstances an otherwise morally neutral act becomes either virtuous or sinful; its opposite vice is folly. Prudence is most emphatically not a cover for situational ethics -- no amount of prudence turns a per se sinful act into a good one.

D said...

Speaking of Cricket, India won the 5 match series against Pakistan!

Ann Coulter who?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yeah, but Pakistan won the Test series, which is all that counts.

True cricket fans can't get around any version of the game doesn't last four or five days.

D said...

ouch... that's so wrong, and mean!

You keep to your tastes old man, and I'll watch India obliterate the opposition at the world cup next year...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oz rules, mate. You can have the rest of the field.

But I'll take India over the Poms in the upcoming Test series. The subcontinental featherbeds will suffocate their pace, and they don't have anyone who can turn the ball to save his life.

As for the ODI part of the tour, who cares? Outside of the WC, which is cool, one-dayers are forgotten by the morning after they're played.

But Tests, they live forever.

D said...

In the last ODI, India chased 287 w/o Tendulkar, Sehwag, and Harbhajan, now if only consistency was as easy to achieve victory over... It does look better by the day.

With the added well-performing new players in the England team, the series should atleast be competitive. Only Dravid is capable of consistently facing a good pace attack, methinks. The home team pitches in Pakistan are worse!

Tom Van Dyke said...

It was a dead rubber, man. That's a double who cares.

Evanston2 said...

Tom, would you agree with Kathy's/RCC definition of prudence? Or is the one you offered enough?
I always felt crucifying Christ was the prudent thing to do. I say this honestly, not for dramatic reasons. Pilate concerned himself with the how and when, not the what. He was confronted by the religious/political leadership, and their violent mobs. He did his best to delay the proceedings, referring them to other authorities, and then give Christ due process. He tried to satiate the mob by whipping Christ and then giving them a choice between him and Barabbas. The crowd made its choice and public order was restored. It was better that one man die for the sake of the nation. (John 11:50) There were no subsequent riots or acts of violence.
This was a prudent action, if I read the definition of the word correctly (for example, on Dictionary.com) instead of the RCC definition, which would naturally assume good motivations for any laudable action.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Couldn't scare you away with the cricket nonsense, eh? :-)

OK, here goes.

I think the RCC definition that Kathy supplied (thank you, Kathy) is far more wise than the sense of "prudence" I was using, a sort of ancient Greek one where truth and prudence are components of wisdom, one useless without the other.

Hitting a man over the head with truth is not the same as using it to open his heart. It is not prudent. It only makes him angry, and closes his heart.

If we assume that Muslims genuinely love God, then that's the common ground, not using crude cartoons to insult the way in which they worship Him.

Your take on Pilate is well-reflected. The Catholic Church is giving Judas a second look. Go figure.

Evanston2 said...

Thanks Tom. I would use the oft-neglected end of the sermon on the mount as an analogy. Matt 7:1 (per NIV "Do not judge, or you too will be judged") is everyone's favorite, but its counterpart is Matt 7:6 ("Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces). Using your terminology, it is "imprudent" to throw a pearl at a pig because a pig only knows that you are throwing something at it. It does not recognize the value of what you are throwing, likewise dogs will not treat what is holy with any respect. The "thrower" is likely to be attacked and injured by the "pig" or "dog." Christ therefore instructs us to use discernment regarding the current spiritual state of unbelievers. We should openly proclaim the truth, but once it is clear that a person has a hard heart, it is best to move on. I believe, however, that it is a mistake to censor ourselves vis-a-vis all muslims. Many are pigs or dogs (as are many/most people, including self-designated christians) and they will react angrily to the Word. However, the truth that Islam is a religion of violence is known to most muslims and some hearts will be open to alternatives (including Christ). Further, I contend that to self-censor is to judge the eternal fate of muslims (contrary to Matt 7:1) if we are not willing to speak the truth. Islam and its prophet are not above being caricatured. That many responded with violence proved the very point made by the cartoonists. Ann Coulter, on the other hand, insulted without any discernable point beyond the desire to provoke, and I hope she stops throwing such stuff (that lacks any value) at people. It is proper for all people to be offended by her pejoratives.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Again, well put. I would add that in John 8, Jesus sketches (we assume) the sins of the adulteress's accusers in the dust, rather than speaking His condemnations before all gathered.

This was prudent, I think, and far more effective.

(The crude insulting Mohammed cartoons are not an analogue.)

By all means we should speak the truth, in fact, we are bound to do so. But I dunno about you, Mr. Evanston, but no dear, it's not that that dress makes you look fat, but I think the blue one looks even better...

Matt Huisman said...

If you don’t mind my jumping in here, let me throw the following interpretation of Matt 7:6 at you. If the pearls represent the law or doctrine (as opposed to the entire redemptive story) it should be obvious that this would be the wrong place to begin a conversation with an outsider. When dealing with outsiders, Jesus (more so His disciples) make appeals to what they understood - things that were good and attractive. The fire and brimstone sermons were saved the Pharisees who could comprehend the basis for the teaching. In both situations, Jesus is appealing to what the other person knows.

Now self-censoring does not appear to me to be a matter of judging the eternal fate of mulsims. It is a matter of proclaiming the truth by living in an attractive way. When Islamic culture clashes with ours, we should rightfully assert our values swiftly and directly. But speaking truth through caricature does not strike me as biblically recommended; nor does the idea of ‘moving on’ when faced with the hard-hearted. Ultimately, we are responsible for how we conduct ourselves – the transformation and renewal of our souls – and it is up to God to determine how to use those efforts to change the world. The next few verses (Matt 7:7-12) provide some good direction here:

7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Evanston2 said...

Much thanks, Tom and Matt. It's obvious you care a great deal about muslims and want to always act toward them with good will. I'll let the subject of caricature rest, as well as what sort of truth-telling can be imprudent. I'm grateful for your thought-provoking positions. R/ Evanston

Tom Van Dyke said...

Cheers, Ev. I like it too when we discuss things around here rather than trade boilerplate monologues.

Let me know how the dress thing works out with your wife.