Speaking before roughly 3,500 people at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s meeting last month, University Law School alumna and strikingly attractive right-wing pundit Ann Coulter argued that “we need to execute people like (American Taliban holy warrior) John Walker 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.”
Weeks later, in a Feb. 28 column, Coulter implicitly complained that Afghan Transportation Minister Abdul Rahman was recently assassinated instead of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta because Mineta isn’t too keen on the idea of explicitly singling out Arabs for searches at airports. In the same column Coulter reveals (no doubt following an exhaustive review of Mineta’s civil service record) that Mineta “is given plumb government jobs solely and exclusively because he is a minority.” Furthermore, “Mineta is burning with hatred for America,” because he has complained in the past about his and other Japanese Americans’ treatment in internment camps during World War II – the nerve of that guy!
The Aryan vixen made a name for herself in the world of post-Sept. 11 “discourse” when she published a column advising the United States to “invade their (Arab/Muslim) countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” on Sept. 12. David Horowitz, Coulter’s new boss since she was fired as a contributing editor to the National Review Online, later justified that comment by suggesting that it was merely “hyperbolic, tongue firmly in cheek.” You see, she was just kidding around – on the day immediately following the disaster.
Well, so what? By almost any standard (apparently even the National Review’s), Coulter is (for lack of a better term – politically correct or otherwise) a total bitch. It’s too bad that people like Ann Coulter exist, but that shouldn’t mean they ought to be censored.
Obviously … But that’s not the point. Coulter’s column is syndicated nationally by Universal Press Syndicate and she’s a frequent guest on many of the pundit shows that air on the news networks. Coulter even shared the podium at the CPAC meeting with such esteemed (by some) personalities as conservative moral crusader Bill Bennett, Lynne Cheney and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. In other words, Coulter is widely acknowledged as a legitimate participant in public discourse; her (crazy) opinions are ones that the media elites apparently think we ought to take seriously. Hmm … maybe it really would be good if Sec. Mineta was assassinated.
Umm … no.
In our national debates over policy matters, there is what Noam Chomsky calls the “bounds of the expressible.”
Only opinions that fall within the bounds of the expressible are regarded as legitimate and thus worthy of genuine consideration. For example, Chomsky argues that mainstream criticism of the Vietnam War was/is limited to arguments about how the war was a regrettable tactical blunder; a terrible waste of resources and life. Missing from this criticism was/is the viewpoint that maybe the U.S. should not have been in Vietnam in the first place; that the U.S. occupied the moral low ground during the war; that the war was nothing less than a murderous crusade against average Vietnamese people.
Think about it this way. There are certain people whose opinions are (for better or worse) commonly thought to be unworthy of even thinking about. Ex-Klansman David Duke and ex-Nation of Islam official Khalid Abdul Muhammad fall into this category because they are both, quite simply, vulgar anti-Semitic idiots (among other things). It’s not that they should be censored, they’re just not worth listening to because there is so little to be gained from due consideration of their views.
But Duke and Mohammad aren’t the only vulgar (and, it has been alleged by some, anti-Semitic) idiots who we would probably do well to just pass off as irrelevant: Fascists and theocratic snake oil salespeople like Coulter, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have all demonstrated themselves to be intellectual dead weight in public discourse. I suggest, then, that the public demand from the media elites that these views be discarded. Better yet, they should be counterbalanced with more radical critiques from prominent thinkers on the left of the seeming consensus that the American response to the Sept. 11 attacks has been both just and beneficial to all of humanity.
Suspend your political sentiments for a minute and ask yourself this: Apropos of post-Sept. 11 U.S. policy, would it not be healthier for mainstream discourse (not to mention much more intellectually stimulating for individuals) to give due consideration to radical analyses of the “War on Terror” – or Ann Coulter’s asinine remarks about how great it would be if a member of George W. Bush’s cabinet was assassinated?
… That’s what I thought.
Nick Woomer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.