Ann Coulter -- a Stern figure?

At the risk of alienating myself from the blogosphere, I think some self reflection is in order here. This morning I was jolted into the sudden realization (a realization which grew stronger in direct proportion to the amount of coffee I consumed) that maybe I had been unfair to Ann Coulter last night. That in my haste to agree with the many moral pronouncements condemning her (and I do agree that she was way out of line in saying the 9/11 widows were happy over their husbands' deaths), I might have been applying my own standards unequally.

In fact, by joining in the dogpile, I might be sliding down the slippery double-standard road which ends only in that lowest level of hell we call hypocrisy!

Didn't I just a few days ago defend the rights of people who practice P.T. Barnum tactics, as well as their followers? Didn't I come perilously close to defending Hal Lindsey against a charge he was engaged in Barnum-style hucksterism?

And, when bloggers were dogpiling on Howard Stern for various offenses, didn't I also defend him repeatedly?

In numerous blog posts, the point has been made that Ann Coulter is little more than a political huckster and that this is her "shtick." If that is true, then under what theory would it be permissible for me (or anyone) to defend Howard Stern or P.T. Barnum while excoriating Ann Coulter? Merely because Ann Coulter's hucksterism is political in nature?

Well then, what about Hal Lindsey, religious huckster? Isn't there a normal supposition that religious pronouncements are in the ordinary course of things more sincere and more principled than those of a circus showmaster or a "shock radio" host? In Lindsey's case, Dean Esmay made the point that the man had so discredited himself as to be a "complete phony lying fraud." Yet this is the land of opportunity -- a free country where people line up to see him and pay money for his books. Sounds a lot like Barnum to me. If Barnum billed one of his "freaks" as a "bearded lady," and it turned out to be a man in a dress, would anyone have been seriously surprised? Under the totality of the circumstances, would Barnum's claim really constitute fraud? Were his circus attendees really suckers, or were they simply people who wanted to be entertained? Why should Lindsey's suckers be seen differently? Don't they also seek entertainment?

Isn't there such a thing as the doctrine of caveat emptor? If it applies to circuses, if it applies to Howard Stern, or Hal Lindsey, why shouldn't it apply to Ann Coulter?

Do I sound sincere? (I wouldn't want to sound insincere about serious issues.)

I think the moral objections to hucksterism (and yes, these are moral objections) arise from the sincerity issue. Barnum and Stern are seen as inherently insincere, and not serious, because they are entertainment.

But aren't Lindsey and Coulter also entertainment? From any rational commercial standpoint, they are hot properties. The revenues they generate run into many millions. They are on TV, they titillate, they outrage. Sane and sober people debunk them, and angry cranks yell and scream at them. Just like Howard Stern and (probably in his day) P.T. Barnum.

Someone help me here. I'm struggling once again to be rational in an irrational world.

It's probably emotional escapism.

(May the gods of entertainment forgive me.)

posted by Eric on 06.08.06 at 08:36 AM


Ann Coulter is the same as Katie Couric to me. I'm not terribly familiar with either's work, but I see their names flash around the internet now and then. Neither impacts my life, and I couldn't care less about what either has to say.

Is one outrageous? I hadn't noticed.

Dennis   ·  June 8, 2006 9:51 AM

Whodat? Katie Coulter?

Eric Scheie   ·  June 8, 2006 10:01 AM

How were you "unfair to Ann Coulter?" The most damning thing you did was quote her own words in all their stupid vindictive spoiled-bigoted-high-school-princess glory. In fact, that's one of your tamer posts. There's nothing to "self-reflect" or "self-flaggelate" about here. You did nothing wrong. NOTHING.

Raging Bee   ·  June 8, 2006 11:32 AM

Its hard to tell how seriously Coulter is trying to be taken. I think she falls somewhere inbetween pure entertainment and serious policy analysis. I'm put off by her particular sense of humor, if that's what it is supposed to be, so I can't take the time to figure out when she is being serious and when she is just trying to be funny.

Adam   ·  June 8, 2006 5:02 PM

Well, did Barnum or even Lindsay ever say anything as mean as Coulter? I think that gets to the heart of it. Clearly, Coulter shouldn't be attacked for giving people what they want, even if you don't like it. But, if you are going to attack Ted Rall, why not her? I think the nastiness is the crux of the matter, to be honest.

Jon Thompson   ·  June 8, 2006 7:35 PM

I feel Ann Coulter brings balance to the force. Whether that makes her a Sith Lord or a Jedi Master, I don't know.

Harkonnendog   ·  June 8, 2006 9:38 PM

Adam: It's "serious policy analysis" until it comes back to haunt her, in which case, "Geez, it was just entertainment! No one has any sense of humor, they're all so mean and hateful..."

Ever notice how Coulter's fans always defend her by talking about how "edgy" she is, how she gets herself noticed and riles the libruls up? Ever hear her fans defending her by talking about how smart or perceptive she is? Nah, me neither...

Raging Bee   ·  June 9, 2006 1:56 PM

she is pretty smart and perceptive, though. honestly. sometimes she lacks perspective, but if you watch during interviews or read her books you'll find she's very intelligent.

Harkonnendog   ·  June 9, 2006 4:20 PM

Ann may be a bony harpie, but I'd still hit it.

anonymous   ·  June 9, 2006 10:26 PM

Really? Got any examples of this intelligence everyone else seems to have missed? All I see so far is the Paris Hilton of the far right: famous only for being famous.

Raging Bee   ·  June 12, 2006 9:16 AM

"Bony harpie" is right: to little flesh on her bum, too little flesh on her chest, and WAY too little flesh between her ears. In other words, nothing to "hit."

Raging Bee   ·  June 12, 2006 11:34 AM

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