Monday, June 19, 2006

New Attitude About Coulter

Watching her on the Leno show (I've been actively ignoring her for a couple of years) it became clear to me that the Left, for the most part and including myself, have been dealing with her in entirely the wrong way.

A lot of what I read in opposition to her is a focus on and outrage at the outrageous things she says. Probably because those are the things which are most widely disseminated. There are good substantive arguments out there which counter her assertions, but those get lost in "the show."

But she admitted on Leno that she wears the Left's contempt like a badge of honor, and her followers approved heartily. She even somewhat obtusely admitted to doing things just for attention, like wearing skimpy mini-skirts.

And her book is number one on the NY Times Best-seller list.

So the controversy is garnering much attention, and her badly sourced book with its false assertions is being widely read. And, surprise surprise, a whole lot of people will take what they read as the truth because they don't know about her techniques, they're pre-disposed to agree anyway, and/or they never purposely look for counter-arguments.

Contrary to what many think of her, I don't think she is crazy. She is calculated. She is definitely other things as well, but I don't want to get into the personal, and that's because I don't want to play into her game.

I think she sees herself as a political, female Andy Kaufman. Always "on," always provocative, and therefore, at least by the masses who don't really "get it," always to be taken seriously. People were really up in arms about Kaufman wrestling women. And remember how obnoxious he was singing "100 Bottles of Beer," how much the audience would hate him, but, toward the end, how much they would cheer him on? As he said, "Once they're hooked, they won't let you stop."

People take Coulter seriously because she takes herself seriously.

Which is why we should take her seriously, too.

But not by raging against her controversial "character," because her tenacity and constancy get her points, fans, attention and credibility. As much as we - like Peter Daou who makes an excellent criticism of the SCLM and the dumbing down of the national discourse - may deride the media for giving her a platform and feeding her attention and "character," THAT'S WHAT THE MEDIA DOES. It's who they are, how they operate. She uses that fact. When we react to her "character" we increase the controversies she stirs while further, as strange as it may seem, giving her credibility.

As much as we need to work on forcing the media to reform and become more responsible and diligent, we also need a more immediate tactic for dealing with people like Coulter.

Whenever personal attacks are focused on, she wins, because the substantive arguments are lost. But if her outrageous comments are overlooked, if her opponent, in whatever forum, goes straight past the personal, outrageous remarks to the substance of the argument, she loses because she is lying and she is wrong.

Further, she knows she's lying and is wrong. Thence the "character" and distractions. Stop falling for it.

And that goes for the Hannitys, the O'Reillys, the Limbaughs and whatever other provocateurs and agit prop artists there are.

As I started to say a few paragraphs ago, we need to counter Coulter, not by raging against her controversial "character," but by playing with her controversial "character."

Like Stephen Colbert told the students at Knox College, say "yes-and." Take what she says at face value, accept that she believes what she says regardless of how ridiculous, and speak to it. The difference is, we won't be trying to top her outrageousness and lies with more outrageousness and lies, we'll be answering back with facts.

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