“You should see Polythene AnnShe’s so good looking
That she looks like a man
You should see the old hag
Dressed in conservative drag
Yes, you should see polythene Ann”
----parody of the Beatles “Polythene Pam”
Back in the day, in my college years, I had a reputation for not suffering fools gladly. A friend of mine, witnessing an exchange I had with a young pro-war adherent of Bill Buckley’s “Young Americans for Freedom” was moved to comment after the debate that he’d only seen two people in his life that would verbally kick a person when he had the best of the argument. “Bill Buckley and you, you son-of-a-bitch!” he exclaimed. And this observation came from a close friend of mine. Mind you this was during the heat of disagreements over the war in which everything was on the table; everything from one’s patriotism to one’s sexual preferences were by one’s opponents considered fair game. Debate was seen, and indeed at times were, no-holds-barred, take no prisoners, blood on the floor, gladiatorial events; sometimes even among friends.
When it came to vitriol, my friend Larry Hamp was moved to remark, “no one holds a candle to you, you prick.” I responded by reminding him that when you are dealing with swine you have to fix your heel securely upon the back of their neck and never let them up. A lesson contemporary liberals and progressives have been slow to learn.
“While others say don’t hate nothing at all
I have mellowed over the years becoming, over time, more complacent and tolerant. But the shrill voices arising on the political wrong, careless and ignorant of facts and spouting the kind of intolerance and hatred that I had seen in the adversaries of my youth have stretched the bounds of tolerance and re-awakened the visceral reactions all too familiar to this old political gladiator. Inspired by an adage of another old friend that “if you want to kill the rats, you’ve got to climb down into the sewer”, and in reaction to the miserable discourse of the likes of Limbaugh, Beck and Coulter, I decided to dust off the lethargy of the intervening decades, hone my old skills, and re-enter the colosseum.
Accordingly, calling Ann Coulter a “Banshee from hell”, I set about in an early post dismantling the ‘vicious little vixen’ in a mere two paragraphs. Comparing her to a ‘Praying Mantis’, I concluded by calling her a “feminine Johnny Appleseed walking the landscape sewing kudzu wherever she goes; casting false pearls before real swine”. (2)
It was a deliciously disparaging little piece coming as it did when she was the wet dream of a host of young white conservative males. She was everywhere in those days, on television talk shows, in op-ed newspaper columns, in books on the newsstand. One couldn’t go anywhere without one’s sensibilities and intelligence being continually assaulted by her endless harangues. Featured, in 2005, on the cover of “Time” under the heading “Ms. Right”. Heather Digby Parton, writing for “Salon” characterized Coulter as one of the “edgier breed of right-wing provocateurs”. (3)
“In 2000”, Parton writes, “she (Coulter) had won the Media Research Center-presented “Conservative Journalist of the Year” award, and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute gave her its annual conservative leadership award “for her unfailing dedication to truth, freedom and conservative values and for being an exemplar, in word and deed, of what a true leader is.”
“High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton,” “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right,” “Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism,” and a collection of her columns, called “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter” — all of which were very successful. The theme of these books is obvious from the titles. She was famous for her cleverness in hating and baiting liberals. And in those heady days of conservative apotheosis, with sex scandals, stolen elections, terrorist attacks, unnecessary wars and liberalism on the run as never before, Coulter was the most deliciously vicious of all the haters. Among her famous quotes of the era were:
•The “backbone of the Democratic Party” is a “typical fat, implacable welfare recipient.”
•“My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that’s because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism.”
•“If you don’t hate Clinton and the people who labored to keep him in office, you don’t love your country.”
•“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”
•“Congress could pass a law tomorrow requiring that all aliens from Arabic countries leave… We should require passports to fly domestically. Passports can be forged, but they can also be checked with the home country in case of any suspicious-looking swarthy males.”
And one of her most memorable (to me at least) was this one:
“We need to execute people like John Walker [Lindh] in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors,”
Coulter later clarified what she meant;
“When I said we should ‘execute’ John Walker Lindh, I mis-spoke. What I meant to say was ‘We should burn John Walker Lindh alive and televise it on prime-time network TV’. My apologies for any misunderstanding that might have occurred.”
If that reminds you of certain fundamentalists operating today in the Middle East, you wouldn’t be alone.
“Slander” and “Treason” were filled with such vitriol. And they were also cited by numerous critics for their many inaccuracies. Coulter, like her talk radio funhouse mirror image, Rush Limbaugh, always slithered away from any such controversies simply by claiming that she’s a comedian of sorts. Here’s how that Time Magazine article illustrated her comedic talent:
"People say [continues Parton] that Jon Stewart has blurred the line between news and humor, but his Daily Show airs on a comedy channel. Coulter goes on actual news programs and deploys so much sarcasm and hyperbole that she sounds more like comedian Dennis Miller on one of his rants than Limbaugh. Consider an exchange on Fox News in June 2001 with Peter Fenn, a Democratic strategist. At the time, Barbra Streisand had suggested that Californians practice more conservation, to which Coulter responded:
COULTER: God gave us the earth.
FENN: Oh, O.K.
COULTER: We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the seas.
FENN: Oh, this is a great idea.
COULTER: God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.’
Coulter and Fenn were both laughing. But her rape-the-planet bit would later be wrenched from context and repeatedly quoted as Coulter nuttiness. “What p_____ me off,” Coulter says, “is when they don’t get the punch line.”(4)
“There was a lot of controversy over Coulter’s words in that exchange, but the author of the Time puff piece, John Cloud, helpfully explained that it was only because they didn’t understand the context. A lot of people believed him after reading that article, people like MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell who said in 2006:
'Do not make the mistake of taking Ann Coulter seriously. She does fancy herself something of a comedian, a political comedian, and when you press her on a lot of these things, you find out that what’s really underneath it is the intent to make a joke. Now, it’s a joke that generally works only with the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. But she doesn’t mean a great deal of what she says.”' (5)
Mean it or not she has grown wealthy by polluting the airwaves and reducing political discourse by appealing to the base political instincts and the lowest intellectual common denominator. The result is that she has become an embarrassment to her own movement.
“Now, they won’t give her the time of day. At a recent book signing for her most recent piece of pseudo-journalistic tripe, ¡Adios America!, she was heard whining, “They’re ignoring me, now!” According to Annie Lowery of The Intelligencer, Coulter’s pathetic lamentation continued:
‘I haven’t been on CNN yet, because I was made up, my hair was done, I was mic’ed up, I was walking to the set…He [Don Lemon] was doing a full hour on the Doogans or whatever their name is…the next night, ‘We’re going to do all Doogans again.’ And then the next week, it’s the cop who yelled at a girl in a bikini! And then it’s Bruce Jenner!’
Actually, Ms. Coulter, it’s “Duggars,” not “Doogans.” The self-preoccupied Princess of Putrid and Poisonous Prose couldn’t even get that right.” (6)
1. Dylan, Bob. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding). “Lyrics 1962-85” Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1992. Page 176
3. Parton, Heather Digby, “Ann Coulter Has Fallen From Grace—And The Reason Why Is Terrifying”. “Salon” 6-29-15 http://www.salon.com/2015/06/29/ann_coulter_has_fallen_from_grace_and_the_reason_why_is_actually_terrifying/