Pundit Peter Principle


New at Reason: Has Ann Coulter's mouth finally written the check her ass can't cash? Cathy Young surveys the rising tide of conservatives giving her the heave-ho over Treason.

NEXT: Perverse Incentives

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Maybe he’s a post-Marxist.

  2. Why is everyone posting from Boston… Jay Severin is also a master of vitriol, but he’s a little snottier than Coulter. Well that and Jay does commercials for periodontics… Let’s face it. Coulter is great at what she does, which is colorful put downs of liberals I personally don’t happen to like. Also, she’s pretty hot, and she has a tongue like a whip. What’s not to like?

    On a side note, I don’t think there’s any demographic that fails to resort to demonizing “the other”. It’s kind of a fact of life. No one fails to judge.

    On another side note (yes yet another), I think that the intensity and vitriol of debate probably increases as the size of the political stakes increase. The more government controls and regulates, the more we have to care what other people are trying to do to us through government…

  3. The notion that Ann Coulter is a radical who fervently hates the opposition is a misreading of the lady’s motives. She is more likely one who dotes on the U.S. a bit more than the rest of us (albeit jingoistically) and is thus more disturbed than the rest when she sees it debauched.

    She is not necessarily the prosaic villain some make her out to be — turning to viciousness and extremism; she is more likely simply an ardent, passionate citizen driven to despair.

  4. Cathy Young quotes Ann Coulter:

    “Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position.”

    While I haven’t experienced this sort of treason talk personally, Coulter’s overstatement of her case mirrors to some extent my observations of discourse among liberals.

    I’ve been in social contexts with big-city Democrat types, talking about anything but politics, when–WHAM!–one of them will drop a non-sequitur “Bush is such an idiot,” or some such, prompted by who-knows-what-they-heard in the conversation.

    I’ve encountered this type of behavior often, yet it never fails to startle me whenever it happens. I allow for a somewhat uncomfortable pause and move the conversation back to where it was before it was derailed.

    It proves to me, at least, that big city liberals live in a world where they don’t expect anyone they come into contact with to have a view other than their orthodoxy, otherwise I can’t imagine why they’d risk offending someone during a non-political conversation.

    Somewhat off the point of Cathy’s piece, I know, but I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced this?

  5. “…she is more likely simply an ardent, passionate citizen driven to despair.”

    No…she is basically what Michael Moore is: another version of WWF Wrestling. It’s entertainment, folks; the problem is when people take any of it seriously.

  6. Brad S.: Ah, yes, let’s place all the blame on that evil bogeyman, the “mainstream media.” They’re the only ones who give Moore credibility.

    What, then, to make of all the people who have bought Moore’s book and made it a best-seller (not to mention far more popular than Coulter’s treatise)? They can’t all work for the media. Obviously, then, they’ve just been brainwashed by the media. Thank God that you, somehow, managed to avoid those terrible brainwashing waves that seem to have afflicted, remarkably enough, only those people who disagree with you.

  7. The story I’ve heard is that Coulter’s actually much smarter than her public persona. All the foaming about the traitorous librulls is just a gimmick that she’s discovered plays well with the rubes, gets her on TV, and sells the hardbacks.

  8. People tend to forget that Rush is quite fond of the terms “Femi-Nazi” and “Eco-Nazi” also. Please, quit trying to redefine what an insult is people – you sound like Clinton with his “is” statement.

  9. (1) Democrats are thin-skinned. They’ve dished it out for years (the article gives a few good examples, but forgets Michael Moore, remember that guy with the Oscar[tm], and more fame, awards, accolades, and wealth than Coulter will ever have?), but apparently can’t take it.

    My entire life, as a rock-solid centrist, I have been given a few disapproving glances from time to time by conservatives, but from liberals I have been called “racist,” I have been called “insensitive,” and I have been derided for not toeing the Noam Chomsky foreign policy and Hillary Clinton domestic policy lines.

    Liberals can all go to hell, and I hope Coulter puts them there. The entire web is exploding with “NOT ME!” messages from liberals who say Coulter is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To liberals I say: Bull. Prove it. I didn’t hear any liberals complain when I was being called “racist.” Go take it like an adult for once in your lives.

    (2) Democrats have painted themselves with the same broad brush Coulter now uses. They speak with one voice, and always have. Coulter is not to be blamed for using their supposed cohesion against them. Those same “NOT ME!” liberals are crying that Coulter doesn’t “distinguish” one liberal from another. Oh, please. And which liberal should we distinguish from which? Can someone tell me which of the current Democrat candidates is to be distinguished from the others? Hardly, if at all. If I hear “Scoop Jackson” again, I swear, I’m going to go exhume him and put him in the race. It’s pathetic.

    The Democrat Party deserves Coulter.

  10. “People tend to forget that Rush is quite fond of the terms “Femi-Nazi” and “Eco-Nazi” also.”

    But don’t worry about Rush Limbaugh. He’s moving on to the realm of football, and surely won’t be slinging those terms around the bleachers.

  11. Scoop Jackson liberals are apparently neocons

  12. I would have to disagree with you Cathy. But in some fundamental ways. I happen to enjoy Coulter. Even when I disagree with the content of her speech, I love the vitriolic verbal hand grenades that she lobs at the liberal camp. It’s pure hate speech, and I love it. Occasionally there are even some nuggets of truth in there. And since Coulter isn’t so much touting anything as one big ANTI, it’s easier for a libertarian to appreciate her invective than if she were railing on about God, the state, and the two parent family.

    I guess the point of this post is that I don’t believe in possibility of “reasonable debate” beyond a certain point of partisanship. Essentially because the points of contention are subjective evaluations that cannot be formulated in reasonable terms that can be accepted by others with different subjective evaluations. There is a point at which evidential arguments no longer matter and normative arguments take over. At that point, people are just arguing tastes.

    Which brings us to the second point: “detrimental to democracy itself.” This is correct. If by this you mean that democracy functions poorly when radical elements envenom the discourse thus causing swaths of the population to be swayed by rationally flawed, yet emotionally appealing arguments. But perhaps one could say this is the inevitable incentive of majoritarianism. If you have reason to believe that a majority can be swayed by an emotional appeal, then you have every incentive to manufacture one first so as to impose your Weltanschauung before your adversary.

    Which brings us to the final point, if it is the case that the incentives of majoritarianism lead us to faction, factions that are based on non-rational emotional appeals, then chances are that our fellow citizens whose views differ from ours substantially ARE in fact the enemy and should be treated as such. Because rarely does anyone with unchecked power stoop to reasonable debate. They use the bully pulpit and the powers conferred upon them by “democracy” to lavish on their base and beat on the opposition.

    So I think the fundamental point may be that if “democracy” (the term is fuzzy, I know) creates these perverse incentives (an adversarial system if you will), I am not sure that it is something a reasonable person would want to support.

  13. Insults are one thing. Accusing your opponents of a crime (which is what treason is) goes way beyond insults.

    Which is more likely to incite a lynch mob; “Bush is stupid”, “Michael Moore is fat” or “Liberals are traitors”?

  14. What is the difference between the treatment of Bush by liberals, vs. the treatment of Clinton by conservatives? If disliking a President is treasonable, then I’m afraid that I have been committing treason since I became politically conscious in 1974. As far as being at parties and seeing lines dropped, I’ve witnessed the same thing myself, except this was amongst Southern Conservatives, and it was invariably a remark about Clinton’s cock size, cock ring, or the size of his cigars.

    And Conservatives are thin-skinned as Liberals; witness their apoplectic fits over the election of Clinton in 1992. They just couldn’t image a Democrat being President; it was beyond their ability to comprehend.

    Ann Coulter is a demagogue. She is one of the clearest examples of such in the American political body. Now maybe people like demagogues, but she is more, like Michael Moore, a source of “sound and fury signifying nothing” than she is one of truth. In fact, I keep on waiting for those two to get married, as personality and character wise they are a perfect match.

  15. Which is more likely to incite a lynch mob;

    1) Bush is stupid
    2) Michael Moore is fat
    3) Liberals are traitors

    [The answer is #1]

  16. FastNBulbous/Olivia-

    GW Bush does not equal america, and voicing an opinion about him isn’t “anti-american”, as you seem to imply. As a member of the majority that DIDN’t vote for him, I think “Bush is stupid” isn’t a phrase for polite company because it insults their intelligence, sort of like informing them that the sun is going to come up tommorrow.

    Liberals Deserve Coulter-
    For someone who is “rock solid” and accuses Democrats of being “thin skinned”, you sure whine like a little bitch. “The mean old Liberals called me a racist! That’s it! I’m going to go hide behind this skinny schizo-bitch who has the balls to say things I don’t.”

    Given your one dimensional, black-and-white worldview, your comfort in telling a large and disparate group to “go to hell”, and your incapacity for self-examination, it seems obvious to me that you probably are a racist. I’m sorry those mean liberals told you the truth about yourself.

    Good thing Irony’s dead, huh?

  17. nice reverse troll, anyone who makes a peep about anti-bush bias is now a pro-bush troll

    how about this troll –> bushies and anti-busies, you are both retards

  18. The reason I gave that answer is because you wouldn’t be lynching people if you didn’t feel guilty.

    If you committed a crime, you would defend yourself in the courts. Lashing out or chasing your accusers with a noose is a sure sign of guilt.

  19. Str8 Shooter,

    I do agree that, “GW Bush does not equal america, and voicing an opinion about him isn’t “anti-american””
    and I have plenty of criticisms of Bush myself, primarily with regard to his domestic policies. However to say “Bush is Stupid” is not an example of insulting the audience’s intelligence, it is more likely an example of elementary-school-name-calling mentality. I welcome any legitimate criticism of policy proffered by the left, but in conversation, this seems very rare. More often than not, the left offers only nonsensical outbursts designed to instigate. (No blood for oil, Bush is stupid, etc…) It is akin to those on the right calling Hillary a “b!tch”, and thus is not far from Ann Coulter’s own rhetoric.

    Liberals Deserve Coulter,

    I must agree that you are correct in feeling frustrated over the hypocracy of the left. The next person to liken my industriousness to the “rape” of the “environment” should talk to someone who was, in fact, raped; then re-evaluate their own haphazard use of language. This is an annoyance of mine, as Coulter’s dialogue annoys the left, but I think we’ll survive.

  20. I’m a little confused: What exactly IS the anti-American position on Scrabble?

    See, that’s the problem with Coulter and her ilk — they think every subject can be neatly split into a “you’re either fer us or agin us” dichotomy. Moreover, the “us” doesn’t even refer to the United States; it really refers to conservative Republicans. That’s why Max Cleland was a traitor, and why it’s apparently patriotic to support the president only when the president isn’t a Democrat; I don’t remember Coulter calling anyone a traitor for bad-mouthing Clinton — or trying to run him out of office.

  21. John L Phillips wins! Great post!

    Str8 Shooter doesn’t know me, but insults me just the same. Obviously a liberal.

    Liberal insults don’t hurt me a whit, only that their hypocrisy and vituperance discounts their views. My point was that insults are the liberals’ coin of the realm, but they can’t take what they give. Beanie gets it exactly right.

  22. “What exactly IS the anti-American position on Scrabble?”

    preferring the french version

  23. Real conservatives who respect the Constitution would tell Ann Coulter to carry out some basic research before she becomes so free with her accusations. There is a very good reason why treason is the one crime where both the punishment and the crime are explicitly defined in the U.S. Constitution: historically “treason” has been a technique used by a party in power to attack any opposition and keep itself in power. Witness the Italian city-states during the Renaissance. Or witness what has been going on in places like Zimbabwe at present. Or if you really want to go back to a good example, look at how it was applied in the Roman Empire.

    Ann Coulter’s unbridled use of the term “treason” is stupid, careless, and irresponsible.

  24. Beanie:

    You can’t “rape” the environment. Anything that looks that good is asking for it.

  25. trea?son — n. (1) Violation of allegiance toward one’s country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one’s country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies. (2) A betrayal of trust or confidence.

  26. Hmm, that 2nd definition puts Ms. Coulter in a better light, doesn’t it?

  27. Both Coulter and Moore are obnoxious, and both are basically partisan demagogues for their own respective sides. In street language, both are “shit disturbers”. Nothing more, nothing less. Neither should really be taken seriously in terms of real political analysis. The key difference between Coulter and Moore – well, besides about 300 pounds – is that while Moore is generally accepted (even lauded) by the mainstream media for his views, Coulter is generally ridiculed by the same mainstream media for hers.

  28. I hate the argument that so-and-so is much smarter, kinder, or whatever in private than his or her public persona lets on.

    So what? What else do we have to go on? Someone who writes inane, indefensible things such as Coulter appears to have (I haven’t read the book) deserves whatever criticism is heaped on her.

  29. The big thing about Coulter — that an outspokenly conservative female could be easy on the eyes — got old for me almost immediately. Perhaps this is because she sounds a lot less attractive on the radio, where I have encountered her and her views most often. I have been disappointed with Coulter’s propensity to shoot from the hip — more rash than rational. Her act seems to be built around various aspects of shock appeal, which may work for some people, but I never much cared for her style, and found little mitigating substance to warrant paying regular attention to her.

    For a radio voice, nobody beats Ilana Mercer, who also looks excellent in photographs and, oh yes, actually does her homework before she opens her mouth.

    Virginia Postrel does well in television interviews, and also has a great writing style. It is hard for me to believe that she wasn’t the inspiration for the Ainsley Hayes character on “The West Wing,” though I have never been able to confirm it.

    There are other candidates, too. I’m hoping that the spotlight will shift to those more worthy pundits, when Coulter’s 15 minutes are up. Tick tick.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.