Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The conservative movement owns Ann Coulter. Or is it the other way around?

The controversy over Ann Coulter's remarks at the Conservative Political Action Convention last weekend has been met with a multitude of reactions. There has been outrage, disgust, an attempt by conservative politicians to distance themselves from her, an attempt to remove her from the speakers list of future conventions and, above all, silence.

It's easy to move right past the outrage and disgust. Those who truly expressed those sentiments would never be convinced to support Coulter's candidates of choice anyway. And while conservative US politicians made statements to distance themselves from Coulter's words, they were careful not to exercise her complete destruction.

Even the petition which some of the more moderate of conservative voices have crafted has a cautious tone. While it is a commendable condemnation of Coulter's use of words from her privileged platform, it makes reference to only one other episode, CPAC 2006, during which Coulter mouthed words considered worthy of criticism.

One could, if not possessed of better information, believe that Coulter only recently started making obscene remarks, engaging in outrageous attacks on anyone who or any group which did not fall within the brackets of her narrow political and world view. If that were the case, it would be understandable that it took until 2007 to have her spoken thoughts condemned by other conservatives.

But, none of that is the case. Ann Coulter has been around for some time now and she has always spewed her currency of hatred. She has made a long-running series of indecent statements dating back several years sparking outrage among her political opponents but bringing little in the way of criticism from the conservative movement. It makes one wonder how she continues to survive.

The answer is, exactly the same way all of her contemporaries survive. She is hardly alone. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, William Donohue, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity and a host of others have all managed to step over the line at one time or another. Michelle Malkin is as odious as Coulter, having unapologetically published the personal information of peace activists and then, after being advised that those people had received death threats, refused to remove the information from the public forum.

Yet the conservative movement embraces them, as they will continue to embrace Ann Coulter in all her gross intemperance.

The truth is, the current-day conservative movement needs the Coulters, the Limbaughs, the O'Reillys and the Malkins. Without them, the conservative movement would have no voice. As outrageous as Coulter's statements are, they are the words the politicos of the conservative movement cannot speak. But, if Coulter does the speaking, they can, with a clear conscience, accept her endorsement and command an audience of bigots, racists and homophobes.

When Max Blumenthal documented some of the events at CPAC there was a remarkable episode when he confronted some of the Tom Tancredo supporters. One supporter had a Confederate flag on his lapel and, once on camera, felt the need to hide it. Why? People who hide things have something to hide, be it an agenda, an ethos or simply an icon. But more importantly, those same supporters felt comfortable wearing such accoutrements amongst a large group of conservatives, apparently without fear of criticism.

Coulter is a creation of the conservative movement. They own her. She has always been a bigot and they knew it in the past as they know it now. No different from her fellow present-day shock-style pundits, she acts as a conversational surrogate, uttering the words they wish they could but dare not in an age more enlightened than their own views.

Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly et al, loudly appeal for a return to a pursuit of life which existed soley in American mythology. They want to turn the cultural, political and social clock back to a time which really never existed. They do it by attacking those they view as having perpetrated a cultural change in the fabric of society which makes them uncomfortable. And the source of their discomfort is not the lack of personal wealth but the perceived dilution of their social power.

Yet, when from their midst, they are apprehended wrapped in the hypocrisy of law-breaking, abuse of their position over subordinates or ignoring their own spoken code, they immediately run for the protection of a constitution none of them would ever have put ink to, often with the aid of an organization they would see destroyed, the ACLU.

The personal behaviour of pundits like Coulter belie the words they speak. They act on impulse and perform from a sense of entitlement. And the conservative movement is happy to feed their egos. Why else would Bill O'Reilly be able to sexually harass a staffer and still maintain an audience? Why else would Rush Limbaugh be able to suggest that those who abuse drugs be sent to jail and then once exposed himself, retain a corps of loyal adherents to his vilification of the very system which saw him remain free. Why else could Ann Coulter go on for years spreading hatred and smearing anyone who opposed her views, come under criticism and then re-emerge as though nothing had happened.

Because the conservative movement created them. It doesn't even really matter if the conservative pundits believe what they themselves are saying, and we don't know that they do. It may all be a form of theatre intended to capture an audience large enough to support their inflated egos and expansive bank accounts. Whatever it is, the only concern of those in the core of the current conservative movement is that they continue to speak. The so-called "values" the pundits of the conservative movement claim to hold in such reverence, when scrutinized alongside their actions, turn out to be nothing but a sham; a pretense employed to gain power. And when their actions so clearly violate the standards and values espoused by the conservative movement, instead of being removed from their pulpit, they are permitted to continue pontificating. Why? Because the conservative movement claims "forgiveness" as one of those values, providing the recipient is one of their own. Such forgiveness extends no further since it too, is simply camouflage employed to preserve and achieve power.

Any attempt to end their reign on the conservative stage will be met with a violent response. Conservatives must know, now that they have seen Coulter's form clearly, apparently for the first time, that she would turn it all on them. Coulter holds a mortgage on the conservative movement. She spoke the evil on their behalf and now, they owe her. That is why she confidently proclaims that she does not fear rejection by the conservative movement. She knows them well. She and her contemporaries are monsters of the conservative movement's creation. And, with the knowledge of how those monsters will attack anyone who threatens their comfortable and lucrative positions, conservatives know those same monsters will just as readily make conservatives the target for the very same reason.

While using such a wide brush on the conservative movement generally may appear unfair, it is no less than what moderate conservatives have allowed. The silence over the Coulters of this world went on for far too long. Others can be excused for believing that all conservatives lined up behind Coulter. If they didn't, they should have spoken out long ago. What were they afraid of?

Coulter is right. She hasn't been tossed under the bus by the conservative movement and it was clear moments after she uttered her vile line at CPAC 2007. Given the raucousness of conservative crowds when assembled at such gatherings, there should have been something other than momentary "ohhh" and then applause.

I would believe the conservative movement was finished with Ann Coulter had they booed her off the stage. It is one thing to demonstrate repulsion in the moment of conception. It is quite another to demonstrate righteous indignation hours or days after the event. If the attendees at CPAC had truly found Coulter's remarks offensive she would have left the building in shame, accompanied by no others but her bodyguard.

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