Quick update: my first column for CBC’s Viewpoint section is up and running. This will be a regular deal now, so check often!
Now, onto my regular blog…
I am not an unkind man. I believe it is paramount in a democracy that freedom of speech be maintained for everyone, regardless of how crazy or outlandish some people’s views can be. I also don’t believe in personal attacks in the media, because any time you fire off an insult at a fellow reporter or someone you’re writing about, you’re helping to create a culture that says it’s okay to be unprofessional to each other. After all, if the media is behaving in an irresponsible way, isn’t that the bellweather for how we treat each other in business, politics, et al?
This being said, I, along with many, many others, have a bone to pick with Ann Coulter. Coulter is a right-wing journalist (some would say extreme right) based out of the U.S., and she’s gotten herself into a whole lot of hot water.
Here’s the skinny on Coulter. A former columnist for the National Review Online, she’s written numerous books slamming “liberals” in the U.S. and is considered the guest pundit du jour for Fox News. She’s as conservative as they come – unabashedly pro-war, socially conservative, and vicious towards anything and anyone politically to the left of the Republican Party. According to Salon, she went on record saying that “my only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building” – a comment she said after 9-11. But that’s not even the most shocking comment she’s ever made – the National Review, a veritable clearing house of conservative views in the U.S., terminated their working relationship with Coulter after she published an article days after 9-11 that, according to Salon, suggested the U.S. “invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”
And that’s just the beginning.
Last year, she wrote a book called Treason, in which she actually celebrated infamous U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy as a hero of democracy (and an attractive man?) for outing various celebrities who were alleged to be members of the Communist Party (almost all of whom were not Communists and had their acting careers ruined because of the House of Un-American Activities so-called “Black List”). Most conservatives and libertarians don’t support this position for obvious reasons, but Coulter, well, she does.
Politically, few Canadians can relate to her views. But she’s now caught in a quagmire that threatens to undermine her credibility in U.S. conservative circles.
Coulter was pegged to report on the Democratic National Convention for USA Today (in all fairness, Michael Moore, some of whom have called the left-wing version of Coulter, is covering the Republican National Convention next month in New York City for USA Today). Yet Coulter’s first column was an angry, cruel, ad hominum attack on everything and everyone at the DNC; USA Today claimed the column was dropped because of “basic weaknesses in clarity and readability that we found unacceptable.”
Well, maybe. But Salon’s web site today outlines some of what Coulter was planning to publish. And it’s unsettling to say the least (her unpublished column is on her web site, if you care to read it).
It’s bad enough what Coulter writes about Democrat women (as opposed to her self-described “pretty-girl allies” in the Republican Party), personally mocking Dennis Kucinich and her very un-journalistic tendencies not to have things like “facts” in her pieces. She’s completely unapologetic, almost basking in the attention that her inflammatory, angry columns seem to generate.
Two things here. One, I don’t believe Coulter is as personally far-right as she seems (it’s almost impossible to believe that someone would, in 2004, suggest going on a religious crusade that would fit better in the 12th century). She’s playing a role here – the angry, young conservative who deliberately writes extreme pieces to make “softer” Republican views of the George W. Bush variety more palatable to the average voter. It’s an old trick; you have certain members of a political party create dialogue on ever more extreme topics in order for more “watered down” points of view emerge into public debate. This means views that were once considered “extreme” now become “moderate” when they’re introduced as public policy by governments, because no mainstream party would espouse a view to convert Muslims to Christianity. Not even Republicans, because the vast majority of Republicans aren’t that extreme.
Second, Coulter has every right to say what she says. But that doesn’t mean she can continue to publish her columns with impunity – if she can dish it out, she can take it back at the same time. You have to expect people to criticize her positions, mostly because, well, they’re scary. That’s me as a person speaking, not as a journalist, because I don’t politically identify with her.
So don’t say Coulter has no right to publish her views in her columns, because the 1st Amendment gives her the right to do so. But that being said, read her columns and Moore’s columns next month – they might give you an idea as to how rough U.S. politics has become.
JOHN EDWARDS: Some say the Vice-President’s Office is pretty pointless. Yet last night, Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards gave an incredible speech that fired up everyone at the DNC. He’s the perfect compliment to Presidential nominee John Kerry (who speaks tonight at 10 p.m.), for Edwards’ relentless optimism and message of “Hope Is On The Way” seems to be resonating with delegates in a big way.
Kerry and Edwards are a terrific combination, that’s for sure. But tonight, Kerry must give the speech of his life. It will be broadcast throughout the world and will help to determine the fate of the Democrats this year. Stay tuned.