Monday, June 26, 2006

Let's revisit this whole Internets thing

My latest up at Raw Story has generated a little more discussion and email than usual. But what I am seeing does not exactly fill my heart with song.

I try to write about important and controversial subjects most of the time, but when I take on a subject as polarizing as Ann Coulter I guess I should expect to attract a little extra attention. Reading through the comment thread at Raw, I am of course disappointed to see how it has deterioriated into a flame war between a pro-Coulter troll and a few lefties willing to take the flame-bait. The fact that so many are so easily distracted is sad, but I've seen that pattern many times before. The wheat-chaff sensors in so much of America are in dire need of adjustment.

On the other hand, some have actually attempted to grapple with the substance. And that is where I have been a bit surprised. One emailer writes,
I am a registered Republican, ideologically a consistent benevolent individualist and I can tell you that it is a mistake to analyze the dynamics of a large, ideologically and culturally diverse organization as you are.
If you think you can shame prominent Republicans by the actions you suggest you are wrong.

Now I guess I should be happy that such people are reading my stuff -- getting outside the left echo chamber and being heard in the other one is a very good thing. But I am not sure this reader actually read what I wrote. Does this sound like I was painting all Republicans with the same brush?
Republicans have been able to maintain a Kabuki symbiosis with all manner of cave-dwellers by speaking in an elaborate, dog whistle-like code. They hold racists, homophobes and rapture acolytes close enough to keep their votes without ever having to either publicly embrace or disavow such extreme viewpoints. That relationship with white-sheet America has been essential to their electoral strategy for decades.
The whole point of the piece was that there are at least two flavors of Republican voters, and that Coulter provides a wedge to separate them.

And I never said anything about shaming prominent Republicans, a prospect I agree is nearly impossible. Shaming them is not essential to the effectiveness of my gambit. If they embrace Coulter's vitriol, so much the better. As I said, "It matters little, so long as we force them to go one way or the other. "

Then there is the Raw Story commenter who said,
My only argument with this editorial is the equating of Michael Moore with Ann Coulter as if she is his right-wing equivalent. Whether one agrees with him on everything or not, Moore is not a rabid hate-filled maniac like Coulter. Let's be careful not to validate their demonization of Moore.

Now here is what I said about Moore:
When Michael Moore had the gall to confront Americans with the footage of our deer-in-the-headlights 9/11 President in 2004, Republicans were quick to force Democrats to distance themselves from such blasphemy. They savaged as "Michael Moore Democrats" all who would not disown him. That cleft has contributed to the alienation of the grass roots of the party from those who chose respectability over populism.
We need to make Ann Coulter the third rail of Republican politics, just as Michael Moore was for Democrats two years ago. (They can be equally significant as symbols; there is obviously no comparison in talent or accuracy.)

Was I not being clear enough there? Did I leave open to interpretation what I think of Michael Moore?

As jaded as I think I am, I guess I can still be surprised by the ways in which people can hear what they expect to hear and miss what is actually being said. That may be the self-limiting problem for blogs -- the shortcomings of all other forms of written communication affect us, too.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

Don't sweat it, man. It's a communication thing. Most people don't listen so much as wait for their turn to talk. I think it's the same when people can post comments. They rush through the text so they can write whatever it is they want to write about, whether it's relevant or not.

If you look closely, you will surely find people that actually read your piece, thought about it, and then either had questions or insights worth posing or sharing.

It's kind of like the New York Times returning to quality investigative journalism.

Just kidding.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I just put this in my web log:

Not particularly outraged by offensive political smut

All the bloggies have their knickers in a twist about the awful Ann Coulter and her making fun of the 9/11 widows. I say let a thousand Amanitas pop their spores. I don't care. Let her rot in her own rottenness. I certainly harbor no interest in Ms. Coulter's knickers, nor in whatever she may have twisted up inside them, but lifelong devotion to satire, freedom of speech, and John Locke leads me to the unremarkable Biblical observation that it all depends on whose ox is doing the goring.

Let us pause in our denunciation of Ms. Coulter (whose individual efforts have given the word skank such broader prominence) to recall the sainted lefty rebel Paul Krassner who wrote a tasteless satire for The Realist in which LBJ committed a nuisance on JFK's corpse as the plane flew them back from JFK's assassination.

It was several orders of magnitude more offensive than anything Ann Coulter has ever said in her life. Funnier too, but not so funny that I want to quote it myself.

2:03 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...


I am not familiar with Krassner's rant. It certainly sounds tasteless, but if it was satire, I would not put it in the same category as what Coulter does. Comedy can employ outrage, but not all who rely on outrage are doing comedy. And would we excuse Saddam if he confessed it was all a performance art piece?

If Coulter ever breaks the fourth wall, I will consider reconsidering. For now, I think the evil Coulter accomplishes outweighs any possible satiric intent. C.f. the troll befouling the comments to my piece at Raw Story.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Do you want me to quote/paraphrase Krassner here?

Pretty rank. I suppose nobody believed him, and maybe somebody actually believes Coulter.

I'm not sure your distinctions work. It's like one of those "conjugations":

I am satirical. You are sarcastic. She is a cruel bitch.

Best regards.

9:27 AM  

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