Monday, March 12, 2007

Consequences for Coultergeist?

Coultergeist's "joke" in calling John Edwards a "faggot" at the CPAC convention predictably brought a swift and emphatic reaction from what the right wing would consider the usual suspects. However, there have been negative reactions from other sources.

I have to tip my hat to Greg Sargent of The Horse's Mouth. His posts on this matter provided me with a lot of the material in this post.

The blogosphere reacts

One week ago, conservative blogger Sean Hackbarth of The American Mind posted "An Open Letter to CPAC Sponsors and Organizers Regarding Ann Coulter." In that letter, Hackbarth provides good support for his opinion that Coultergeist no longers serves a useful purpose for conservatives. The entire letter is worth reading, but I quote the last two paragraphs:
One of the points of CPAC is the opportunity it gives college students to meet other young conservatives and learn from our leaders. Unlike on their campuses—where they often feel alone [PERSONAL NOTE: Hackbarth obviously did not go to my alma mater, but that is another subject for another time.]—at CPAC they know they are part of a vibrant political movement. What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter’s mouth? How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect when Ann Coulter is allowed to address the conference? Coulter’s invective is a sign of weak thinking and unprincipled politicking.

CPAC sponsors, the Age of Ann has passed. We, the undersigned, request that CPAC speaking invitations no longer be extended to Ann Coulter. Her words and attitude simply do too much damage.
(emphasis added). Hackbarth has a partial list of other right wing bloggers who have signed this letter, and I salute Hackbarth for taking a stand on this matter. I also salute all the other signatories to the letter. For several reasons, however, I also say that I wish something like this had happened long before now. I will discuss this point further in a separate post, but I want to state now that my satisfaction that this is happening now far outweighs my dismay that it did not happen earlier.

Again, the entire letter is worth a read. Also, following some of the links to other postson this Coultergeist matter. There is some pretty good reading in them as well.

Newspapers

Coultergeist is a syndicated columnist, and there are many papers across the nation that print her "musings." However, the total number of such newspapers is decreasing.

The first paper to ditch Coultergeist was the Lancaster New Era in Pennsylvania. Then came the Oakland Press of Michigan and the Mountain Press of Sevierville, Tenn. Next were American Press of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and The Times of Shreveport, Louisiana. Two more papers, the Sanford Herald of North Carolina and the Daily Chronicle of DeKalb, Illinois, then decided to dump Coultergeist.

Corporate sponsors

Coultergeist's website has been losing advertisers rapidly. It started with Verizon, Sallie Mae (nation's leading provider of student loans), and NetBank (a major online banking service). Then, as reported by Editor & Publisher, AT&T pulled its ads. And the list has grown to include the following companies: Washington Mutual Bank, USA TODAY, Mitsubishi, BellSouth, ING Financial, Dollar Rent-A-Car, Edmunds.com, Dogpile.com, Novica.com (in conjuction with National Geographic), SmileTrain.org, University of Phoenix, LasikPlus, Power Chord Academy, 1-800-CONTACTS, Gulf Shores.com/Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ulta.com, Yellow Pages.com, Classmates.com (subsidiary of United Online), and Wireless Foundation.

Also, ValueClick, one of the major players in the online ad placement industry, has removed Coultergeist's website from their network.

What (I hope) this means--and what it does not mean

Let's get something out of the way right now. If there are any wingers out there that 1) are upset in any way over the reaction to Coultergeist calling Edwards a faggot, and 2) criticized Edwards in any way over language used by his former-employee bloggers, then you are hypocrites and should shut the hell up.

And before anyone tries to label me a hypocrite on this matter, I am on record as saying that hiring those bloggers was a bad idea and that "I do not regularly read either Marcotte or McEwan because, while I have at times agreed with their viewpoint in what I have read, it has seemed to me that their primary objective lies not as much in the substantive content as in being provocative and combative in their use of language." In other words, regardless of whether the source is left wing, right wing, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, or anything else, I don't care for language that is provocative simply to be provocative. Invective without substance, ad hominem attacks with no basis in fact, and childish or boorish language are all things I do not favor because those things do not contribute to a meaningful, substantive discussion.

And that brings us right back to Coultergeist and the long overdue backlash against her.

Hackbarth's open letter (discussed above) shows what some right wing bloggers think about Coultergeist, but, just for grins, let's take a look at what some of the newspapers and advertisers mentioned herein have to say about her.

Editorial board of the Lancaster New Era
Coulter's use of name-calling, sarcasm and overstatement in her columns too often detracts from the arguments she seeks to make. Her writing leads her political opponents to respond with name-calling and vitriol.

The quality of public discussion falls below that which Lancaster County residents expect in the opinion pages of their daily newspaper.

Lancaster County residents of whatever political view - conservative, moderate or liberals - deserve intelligent discussion of issues. Ann Coulter no longer provides that.
Ernie Schreiber, editor of the Lancaster New Era
[Coulter] was hurting our credibility. Our community is largely conservative and Republican. They expect insightful discussion of issues. Ann Coulter wasn't giving us that. We have lots of conservative columnists who do...
*******
I can't defend her antics, and I don't want the New Era associated with them.
*******
My primary objection to Coulter's antics are that they distract attention from the issues that are important -- the war in Iraq, immigration policy, spending policy, health care. Her schoolyard taunt of John Edwards is just so irrelevant to American life. I resent having to spend a moment dealing with it.
(emphasis added). Wingers please take note that the Lancaster New Era is not part of the omnipresent "liberal media."

Alan English, executive editor of The Times of Shreveport
Today we move past the rhetoric and unproductive dialogue offered by Ann Coulter. The Times is dropping her column effective immediately.

It is her recent “joke” about John Edwards being considered a “faggot” that is the back-breaking straw for a decision we've openly discussed for some time. We had a dialogue with readers last year regarding whether Coulter was a responsible commentator and journalist.

Her repeated use of hyperbole in the call for the death of some journalists and politicians was beyond the pale. And while we all believe she was “just kidding,” her "shock-jock'' writing style is no different from Howard Stern's practical jokes and bathroom humor that aims to draw a school-yard snicker but falls well short of reasonable, thought-provoking journalism. Unlike the work of a Thomas Sowell or a Kathleen Parker, two thoughtful conservatives, does a Coulter column raise the level of discourse?

The answer: rarely
.

No doubt some conservatives will lament the loss of their beloved Coulter, someone who made the joke they are too polite to make. Objections are expected, but please do not miss the continuation of outstanding conservative commentary by Cal Thomas and Jonah Goldberg that continues on our pages. Sure Michelle Malkin sometimes approaches a Coulter-style rant, but we don't recall any homicidal zingers.

We are committed to providing a balance in commentary, so Coulter will be replaced by another conservative voice. Our many local conservative voices from the community also will continual to be welcome on our pages. With Coulter's departure, we're not demanding commentary all dressed up in delicate finery. Forceful, direct, even bare-knuckled writers are welcome as long as they are tackling ideas or stances rather than making profane personal attacks.
(emphasis added). On a personal note, readers of this blog should already know that I have a low opinion of Jonah Goldberg ( and I did not used to), but I do not believe I have previously expressed an opinion on Malkin, so here it is: she is oh so close to being as loathsome as Coultergeist. I do read Cal Thomas's columns semi-regularly even though I rarely agree with him--and I will continue to read his columns.

ValueClick
A spokesman for ValueClick said that since the controversy erupted, Coulter's site has been removed from their network. ValueClick reviews sites on its network on a case-by-case basis, and AnnCoulter.com was deemed too close to "hate speech" to be kept onboard.
AT&T
Many of our ad placements -- particularly on the Internet -- are secured in bulk with placements made by third-party buyers with a goal of trying to reach the broadest audiences possible. We ask our media buyers to avoid sites that might generally be seen as offensive or polarizing to the public, which appears to be the case with this political Web site. Our ads have been withdrawn.
There's more, but I think the foregoing gets some points across.

The initial point is that Coultergeist's baseless bullshit
does not lend anything meaningful to any discussion about any topic and is in fact a detriment to efforts to have a meaningful discourse.

A larger point is that people who support and like Coulter need to recognize that it is way past time for them to start talking substance rather engaging in propaganda and name-calling.

Another larger point is that everyone else needs to come to the same recognition and act accordingly.

The issues facing us today are serious, and they are not going to be resolved through some sort of game in which the only objective is to get and keep power. These issues will not be resolved through name calling and bullying. They require examining what is best for our nation, not what is best for one political party or the other. They require thoughtful consideration and discourse.

That's what this backlash is about. It is not about protecting Coultergeist's freedom of speech. She can still keep spouting the same crap if she wants. However, she does not have some inalienable right to have people pay her to do so, nor does she have some entitlement to be provided a forum. See, while there is freedom of speech, there is also freedom to choose--choose what to listen to or read, choose what to support or not support, choose what to pay for and/or sponsor. The backlash now confronting Coultergeist is about that freedom to choose. It is not about restricting her freedom of speech.

Study the topic of the First Amendment and free speech, and you will come across this term: "the marketplace of ideas." The theory is that in a true marketplace with little or no regulation, all ideas can be considered, and those that have merit will win out. Though there can be much debate as to whether and to what extent such a marketplace of ideas exists in our country today, it seems that in the marketplace the "ideas" of Ann Coulter and her ilk are being seen and accepted for what they are--worthless and detrimental.

At least I hope that is what all this means.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Ray said...

"Another larger point is that everyone else needs to come to the same recognition and act accordingly." Yep, conservatives are doing the right thing and distancing themselves from someone who may espouse certain conservative ideals, but can also exhibit diarrhea of the mouth thus hijacking any meaningful dialog. Ann Coulter does not speak for us. Now, when will people like Clark do the same with lefty bloggers and other pundits who also spew hate-speech, as emphatically and unequivocally as the conservatives have?

3/12/2007 8:33 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

I assume that by "conservatives" you mean true, actual conservatives (as we have discussed before). I'm not so sure that "CINOs" have distanced themselves from Coulter.

"Now, when will people like Clark do the same with lefty bloggers and other pundits who also spew hate-speech...?"

Are there any particular lefty bloggers and pundits you had in mind?

3/12/2007 9:59 PM  

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