I’ve written before about Ann Coulter’s untamed mouth and how she manages to weaken her own arguments (and cause relentless misunderstanding and hardship for “her side”) with her undisciplined “let me be caustic, free-wheeling and outrageous” schtick. I don’t understand other people’s adoration of the woman. To me she has always been a partly exploded roman candle whose remaining gunpowder has seemed at risk to imminent blast, leaving a trail of destruction behind her.
Her delayed, back-up blast seems to have blown. This is the bit you’re going to see replayed everywhere, and even trying to put it “in context” won’t help much to those who have no exposure to this reasoning:
COULTER: But yeah, I think that’s reflective of what’s going on in the culture, but it is completely striking that at these huge megachurches — the idea that, you know, the more Christian you are, the less tolerant you would be is preposterous.
DEUTSCH: That isn’t what I said, but you said I should not — we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or –
COULTER: Well, it’s a lot easier. It’s kind of a fast track.
COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.
DEUTSCH: You can’t possibly believe that.
DEUTSCH: You can’t possibly — you’re too educated, you can’t — you’re like my friend in –
COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.
DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean –
COULTER: We have the fast-track program.
DEUTSCH: Why don’t I put you with the head of Iran? I mean, come on. You can’t believe that.
COULTER: The head of Iran is not a Christian.
DEUTSCH: No, but in fact, “Let’s wipe Israel” –
COULTER: I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention.
DEUTSCH: “Let’s wipe Israel off the earth.” I mean, what, no Jews?
COULTER: No, we think — we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.
Coulter obviously did NOT say Jews should be wiped off the planet, that was her host’s interpretation and the left, of course, will run with it. I don’t think she is an anti-semite at all, she is simply trying to express an idea, and doing it very badly, in an environment that is not going to help her do it better.
If you read that transcript to the end, you can see where Coulter tries to clarify her meaning, but she can’t, partly because a sound-bite forum is NO PLACE for that sort of deep and too-easily-misunderstood discussion, and partly because her host is, from his perspective as a Jew, unsurprisingly appalled by what he is hearing, by what he thinks Coulter is saying. This is a discussion best left to someone with a gift for diplomacy, a deft tongue and a loving, civil and collected mien. It is is absolutely not a discussion that should be undertaken by someone who has the deftness of a hammer and the mien of a German Shepherd. Coulter tries to explain, but keeps sinking further because she’s in deep waters, weighted down by time constraints and her own clumsiness; rather than rescuing herself, she’s taking down a whole ship!
The damage is done and it is HUGE damage, done very thoroughly; and her clarification is too little, too late and too inarticulate to do the job. And this is going to be red meat all through ’08, folks. This is going to be the caricature of Christians and conservatives for the next 18 months, (and beyond) and it’s going to stick because people want it to stick and because it’s EASIER to let it stick than to find out what this woman – who is really out of her depths here – was trying to say.
What did I just say the other day?
…journalism and politics and the academy all sunken into a kind of vague slog whereby every piece of reality and history is laid onto a stagnant wadi of settled muck that we all have to haul ourselves through, every day, until we’re all so tired of it and looking for a way out of it or a stupid distraction that we – everyday – allow more and more to be lain on the muck and absorbed and distorted and finally disregarded because one can’t possibly keep track of everything.
This is one of those stories, one of those flubs, that is going to simply get added to the muck and allowed to settle and become “accepted truth” much like “Bush (but not Clinton) lied about Iraq.” If you don’t like the way Christians are stereotyped these days, well, thank Mrs. Coulter for just making things that much more difficult!
If you thought the recent swarms and distortions regarding O’ Reilly and Limbaugh were bad, and the recent pronouncements from some on the left were excessively nasty, well… THIS Coulterian disaster is going to be a whole lot worse, for a whole lot longer. It is NOT going to go away. No one is going to be the least bit interested in “clarification,” here. No one is going to get the chance to get “clarified” in their understanding.
Some of my readers keep telling me Coulter is “brilliant,” but for crying out loud, this seems like a pretty dumb, clumsy and inarticulate interview and more importantly, it is a pointless exercise that makes Coulter (and Christians) sound like judgmental automatons who want to walk over you or convert you. This is going to be added to the ever-growing moral equivalence narrative that says “Christians are just like Islamic Fundamentalists!” A narrative that gets served up more often than you may realize by the deliverers of popular culture.
I hate to be cruel but as Hamlet says, I am cruel only to be kind. If Coulter can, she should try to make some sort of statement that apologizes for giving offense – because whether or not she meant to, she surely did manage it – and that does NOT sink her any further… and then maybe she should take a sabbatical, somewhere. Maybe go to Israel and hang out with these gals for a while, or something – try a little silence instead of her habitual, tiresome, trouble-making and incessant noise.
Deacon Greg says no wonder young people are leery of the faith. I don’t know if I buy that poll, but for sure, this does not make Christianity look attractive to outsiders.
UPDATE: Siggy says Lay off Coulter and suggests she said nothing truly untoward. Let me clarify that I never said she did. But as a commenter elsewhere said, Christians can hope that the rest of the world comes into the fullness of Christ without being repelled by the manner in which they are invited.
What I have said here is that she was clumsy, unclear and incoherent in her expression of that idea – that a soundbite forum is no place to try to express it well – and in so being she has managed to give handfuls of red meat to people who have absolutely no intention of allowing clarification, are not interested in clarifying for her, and thus she has given Christian caricaturists a heavy dose of “see? See what they’re like” to back them up.
Christians can like the message and still wish it had been delivered with a more tactful, empathetic and compassionate voice, and they can be secure enough to say, “this was not that voice.” Re-read the very first sentence I wrote. It’s her schtick that brings down her arguments, every time, and her schtick that makes it difficult for the rest of us.
UPDATE II: From To Kill A Mockingbird: I find myself being part Aunt Alexandra, here, and part Atticus. I’m appalled that Coulter gives red meat to those who will gladly grind it, but I also understand that – by her reckless and inarticulate manner – they’ve been given something to grind. So I’ll allow Atticus Finch the last word, here.
Aunt Alexandra sipped coffee and radiated waves of disapproval. Children who slipped out at night were a disgrace to the family. Atticus said he was right glad his disgraces had come along, but Aunty said, “Nonsense, Mr. Underwood was there all the time.”
“You know, it’s a funny thing about Braxton,” said Atticus. “He despises Negroes, won’t have one near him.”
Calpurnia was serving Aunt Alexandra more coffee [...] I …looked up to catch Aunty’s warning frown. But she was frowning at Atticus.
She waited until Calpurnia was in the kitchen, then she said, “Don’t talk like that in front of them.”
“Talk like what in front of whom?” he asked.
“Like that in front of Calpurnia. You said Braxton Underwood despises Negroes right in front of her.”
“Well, I’m sure Cal knows it. Everybody in Maycomb knows it.”
“I don’t think it’s a good habit, Atticus. It encourages them. You know how they talk among themselves. Every thing that happens in this town’s out to the Quarters before sundown.”
My father put down his knife. “I don’t know of any law that says they can’t talk. Maybe if we didn’t give them so much to talk about they’d be quiet.”
Mark Shea says it better than I can
Roger L. Simon has more thoughts.