Monday, March 05, 2007

Hate Speech

Blogospheric navel gazing is low political art, but I don't think I can stomach a post on Iran or the Hillary-Obama scrum for black voters. So it's off to a minor rebellion in the blogosphere, where righties are rallying forces against Ann Coulter.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC] in 2006, Coulter referred to Iranians as “ragheads.” She is one of the most prominent women in the conservative movement; for her to employ such reckless language reinforces the stereotype that conservatives are racists.

At CPAC 2007 Coulter decided to turn up the volume by referring to John Edwards, a former U.S. Senator and current Presidential candidate, as a “faggot.” Such offensive language–and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it–is intolerable to us. It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering.

It concludes with a request to CPAC to banish Coulter from future events. Righties have begun, reluctantly, to admit that she may not be so hot for the party anymore. (It appears they don't actually disagree with her or disapprove of her words--they were great back when the GOP was attempting a soft coup of the government--but now they appear gauche, and so she's gotta go.) Of course, righties, forever aggrieved, paranoid, and thin-skinned, want to point out that while Coulter is indeed nasty, she's a teddy bear compared to lefties.

This is GOP 101 (aka, the five-year-old's strategy): no matter how great the crime of a Republican, some Dem somewhere has committed a greater atrocity. This is, of course, a further manifestation of the paranoid and thin-skinned personality of a party who has called John Kerry and Max Cleland a traitor, Michael J. Fox a liar, and the Democratic Party traitors and treasonists. But let us examine these charges, just because it's a slow day and it's an amusing diversion. Blogger Patterico prepares a rap sheet, among which are these dandies:
Comedian and (former) talk show host Craig Kilborn [Caption under footage of George W. Bush]:
Snipers Wanted
Comedian Chris Rock:
If President Clinton would pardon me I would whip Starr’s ass right now. I will get a crew from Brooklyn and we will stomp him like, like, we’re Savion Glover. We’ll stomp him like it’s bringing da noise.
You see, Chris Rock and Craig Kilborn--this is the kind of material had had to offer. In fact, scanning through all the horrible things all the Democrats and liberals have ever said, he managed just a single Democratic party A-lister, Howard Dean, whose devastating comment was? "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for." Yeah, that's the equivalent of calling John Edwards a fag (a deeply bigoted comment meant to question Edwards' masculinity and--bonus!--offend gays).

Dems have had their racist comments, as Patterico documents, but when Jesse used the word "Hymie," he was held to account by liberals. But he must cite Louis Farrakhan four times, highlighting the central absence of racism within the liberal orbit.

In fact, Patterico accomplishes something he didn't intend: Dems and liberals, he illustrates, almost never say the kinds of things Coulter does. And, when one does, it is some obscure character like an Alabama Representative or a British pundit (!). Furthermore, by demonstrating that these are isolated cases, he shows that there is no movement approval, as is the case with the very clubby right-wing smear machine (from the Fox pundits to Limbaugh to the attack ads of Rove and coordinated PACs like Swift Boats).

Finally, Patterico highlights the different nature of the attacks and the different ways in which the parties handle racist/offensive language. First, the nature of the attacks. On the one hand, Coulter (for whom gay is a them): "I don't know if he's gay. But [former Vice President] Al Gore -- total fag. ...Everyone has always known, widely promiscuous heterosexual men have, as I say, a whiff of the bathhouse about them."

Now, let's take one of Patterico's "hate speech" examples, from Nina Totenberg, discussing Jesse Helms: "If there is retributive justice [Sen. Jesse Helms] will get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it."

In the first case, Coulter launches an ad hominem attack on Gore based on who he is (or in this case, isn't). Totenberg, whom I assume was talkign about a Helms effort to block AIDS legislation, makes an admittedly harsh comment about Helms based on his actions. Big difference. Except with the racist commments Patterico details, that's the case with all his comments.

And then there's the way the parties handle things. When a Democrat makes a racist comment, as Jesse did, there's a firestorm and he's forced to apologize. When righties attack, they are given key posts in the Bush administration or fat raises by Fox News. In fact, Patterico unwittingly drives this point home with regard to the current Coulter flap: note that no one's asking her to apologize; they're just hoping she'll go away.

1 comment:

Zak J. said...

Perhaps Bush's & Cheney's "with us or against us" policy can be applied to Republicans across the board in reverse: "if you don't condemn, you condone."

The Lon Mabon example closer to home is certainly one to bring up with local Republicans. To welcome someone like that in your ranks is to advertise your sympathy with their views.

Though not nearly as overt in the NW wing of the party, in addition to gender bigotry, the Republican party in the south remains firmly the party of white identity, that is, the party there exists to protect white power and privilege. That Harold Ford did as well as he did (47& wasn't it?) in a state like Tennessee is telling though--people of tiring of the old battles and genuinely looking for a new agenda to take us forward.