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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Journalistic Venereal Disease

by digby

Glenn has another great post up today in which he throws down the gauntlet to the right wing bloggers like the Old Perfesser who are all quick to require that Democrat purge the party of radicals while they cheer and applaud the eliminationist fascists in their own midst.

Republicans have been playing this game for years. They wildly inflate the importance of fringe, extremist figures and then -- every time one of those individuals makes an intemperate remark or comment that can be wrenched out-of-context and depicted as some sort of demented evil -- they demand that Democrats ritualistically parade before the cameras and either condemn those individuals or be branded as someone who is insufficiently willing to stand up to the extremists "in their party."

I've written dozens of posts on this topic myself and it never fails to amaze me how deeply the right believes in its own righteousness. We on the left are not perfect, but by God, when leftist radicals start talking wistfully about killing Republicans we don't make them into best selling authors and cheer them like rock stars.

But I think there is another dimension to Glenn's observation and one that lets the right wing bloggers off the hook just a little. You can't really hold them responsible for Ann Coulter when the woman is profiled on the cover of TIME magazine and characterized as some sort of kicky, ascerbic comic. The writer of that article said:

"the officialdom of punditry, so full of phonies and dullards, would suffer without her humor and fire."

Here are a few more choice quotes from that article, (gathered by the incomparable Howler:)

CLOUD: Coulter's speech was part right-wing stand-up routine—she called Senator Edward Kennedy "the human dirigible"—and part bloodcurdling agitprop. "Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism," she concluded. "I say, let's give them some. They've had intellectual terror on the campus for years ... It's time for a new McCarthyism." Curtain.

CLOUD: [S]he told me several times that, as she put it in an e-mail, "most of what I say, I say to amuse myself and amuse my friends. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about anything beyond that."

CLOUD: So which is it? Is she a brave warrior or a shallow hack? Or is Ann Coulter that most unlikely of conservative subspecies: a hard-right ironist?

CLOUD: [A]s Coulter herself points out in Is It True What They Say About Ann?, "I think the way to convert people is to make them laugh or to make them enraged ... Even if I could be convinced that if I had gone through 17 on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hands, I might convince one more liberal out there, I think I'd still write the way I write, because it gives me laughs." Coulter told me that when her editor suggests cutting a line from a column to save space, "I'll ask him, 'But is it funny?' And if he says it's funny, I'll cut an actual fact [instead]."

CLOUD: People say that Jon Stewart has blurred the line between news and humor, but his Daily Show airs on a comedy channel. Coulter goes on actual news programs and deploys so much sarcasm and hyperbole that she sounds more like Dennis Miller than Limbaugh.

CLOUD: One theory about Coulter is that she is less Joe McCarthy and more a right-wing Ali G, acting out a character who utters what the rest of us won't.

Why Coulter is just a female Ali G! Hilarious!

When Eric Alterman had the temerity to call Cloud on this utter swill, the author fell back on journalism's tedious false equivalency crutch:

Eric Alterman calls my piece on Ann Coulter a "moral, professional, and intellectual abomination" as well as, redundantly, a "moral and intellectual scandal." He says Time has "a journalistic venereal disease." This is the left-wing equivalent of an Ann Coulter attack: callous and intended to create as much friction as possible (words I use to describe Coulter in my alleged puff piece). But that's really what my story was about--the kind of take-no-prisoners dialogue that Coulter has helped create and popularize. Now Alterman, it would seem, is trying to out-Coulter Coulter.


What Alterman wants is for people to ignore Coulter, to pretend as though she doesn't exist and isn't one of the most loved--and hated--figures on the public scene. I would rather engage her, examine her ideas and her popularity, and challenge her. My story does all of those things. It's true that I don't list every single mistake Ann Coulter has ever made, although I do print some new ones. My job was not to fact-check all of Coulter's 1,000 columns, the 1,300-odd pages of her books and the hundreds of TV appearances; it was to profile her. Nonetheless, I do list several Coulter errors and also correct the record on some mistakes by others who have written about her--including Alterman. In his book on the media, Alterman asserts that Coulter said to a Vietnam vet, "People like you caused us to lose that war." She did not. In fact, the vet had just gotten his facts wrong, and Coulter responded sarcastically, "No wonder you guys lost." Harsh words, yes--sort of like saying Time has a venereal disease--but Alterman got the quote wrong.

Yes the phrase "TIME has journalistic venereal disease" (meaning that this rhetoric is passed along through intimate contact) is equivalent to "my only regret is that he [McVeigh]didn't blow up the NY Times building. Right. Exactly the same.

I wrote about this nonsense last spring when the Coulter profile was published:

Ann Coulter is not, as Howie Kurtz asserts today, the equivalent of Michael Moore. Michael Moore is is not advocating the murder of conservatives. He just isn't. For instance, he doesn't say that Eric Rudolph should be killed so that other conservatives will learn that they can be killed too. He doesn't say that he wishes that Tim McVeigh had blown up the Washington Times Bldg. He doesn't say that conservatives routinely commit the capital offense of treason. He certainly doesn't put up pictures of the fucking snoopy dance because one of his political opponents was killed. He doesn't, in other words, issue calls for violence and repression against his political enemies. That is what Ann Coulter does, in the most coarse, vulgar, reprehensible way possible.

Moore says conservatives are liars and they are corrupt and they are wrong. But he is not saying that they should die. There is a distinction. And it's a distinction that Time magazine and Howard Kurtz apparently cannot see.

I have long felt that it was important not to minimize the impact of this sick shit. For years my friends and others in the online communities would say that it was a waste of time to worry about Rush because there are real issues to worry about. Likewise Coulter. Everytime I write something about her there is always someone chastizing me for wasting their time. Yet, here she is, being given the impramatur of a mainstream publication of record in a whitwash of epic proportions. Slowly, slowly the water is heating up.

It's kind of funny that I and others spent last week arguing whether Democrats ought to be encouraging Hollywood to stop selling sex, (which even David Brooks agrees doesn't seem to correlate to any real negative change in the way kids behave.) But, here we have a real problem, a real coarsening of the discourse which has resulted in our politics becoming so polarized and rhetorically violent that it's as if we live on two different planets.

While Ann Coulter makes the cover of Time for writing that liberals have a "preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason," her followers actually side with Iraqi insurgents against an American charity worker. At freeperland and elsewhere they laughed and clapped and enjoyed the fruits of the enemy's labor. This is because if you listen to Ann and Rush and Sean and Savage and all the rest of these people you know that there is no greater enemy on the planet than the American liberal. That's what Ann Coulter and her ilk are selling and that is what Time magazine celebrated with their cover girl this week.

Ann Coulter and her violent, racist eliminationist rhetoric is considered funny and mainstream by the Washington post and TIME magazine. Considering that, why should the right wing bloggers believe they have any responsibility to hold themseloves to the standard to which they hold liberals with an outlying provocateur like Ward Churchill? In thier view, and most of the poltiical establishment, Ann Coulter is perfectly respectable.

I ended this post on the same subject with this comment from the racist website RedState:

Ann Coulter doesn't go on television ranting and raving like the liberals do. Remember Lawrence O'Donnell? Paul Begala? James Carville? Try Maureen Dowd. Ann is nothing like these losers but she does have a sharp wit and biting tongue and knows how to dish it out. These conspiracy theory wingnuts deserve nothing less.

That is the problem with Republicans. They don't know how to go for the throat while the Democrats are pros at aiming for the head.

I hope Ann keeps it up and never gives an inch. She is a strength for us conservatives, not something to be ashamed of.

Here's a cute little quote from that fun little minx's biting tongue:

"Liberals hate America, they hate flagwavers, they hate abortion opponents. They hate all religions except Islam post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do; they don't have the energy; if they had that much energy they'd have indoor plumbing by now."