Friday, March 9, 2007

Be Very Afraid

The following was for a column, entitled The Left Brain, that I send out to local papers on a semi-regular basis. Since I'm an ex-employee of all of them, they never print my work. No problem. I thought I'd reprint it here for the hell of it. M.H.

I am not scared of Ann Coulter or the dozens of neocon lunatics like her, who the pseudo-news agencies love to parade out in full froth during ratings periods. The fact that she used the word “faggot” to refer to presidential hopeful John Edwards during a speech last Friday doesn’t frighten me. I’m not shaken by such casual, hateful insensitivity or by her logic-defying response to the ensuing furor that we should just get over her use of a “schoolyard taunt.”

No, what scares me was the crowd’s immediate reaction to her words. Applause.

The fact that we live in a social climate that allows whack-jobs like Coulter to become wealthy by spewing their version of public opinion to a waiting audience, hungry for all the intolerance, racism, misogyny and hate they can swallow, scares the bejeezus out of me.

Before anyone points out that Coulter has a right to say things like, “I think there should be a literacy test and a poll tax for people to vote,” (on Hannity & Colmes, Fox News Channel) or her classic post 9-11 syndicated column, playing to our grief and fear stating, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity,” or her vicious comments last year directed at 9/11 widows who she claimed were “witches” enjoying their celebrity status, you’re correct. She has the right to say mean-spirited, horrible things due to a constitutional freedom of speech.

I have a constitutional right to carry a lethal firearm too. I can conceal it while I carry it and I can fire it. This does not give me the right to aim it in Ms. Coulter’s direction and pull the trigger. There are laws against that sort of thing.

There’s an expansive canyon between our rights and our abuse of them to disrupt and hurt others; a chasm that Coulter routinely hops over with graceless ease.

Her latest foray into the Howard Stern-like shock arena may cost her more than usual, however. Some newspapers among her strong client list are starting to drop her column, albeit at a slower pace than she deserves. Evidently a memo has circulated within the corporate media world noting that the use of slurs to taunt those you oppose is bad for business. Who’d a thunk it?

Of course locally, where the finest media outlets in Burnet and Llano counties consistently run fishing columns and canned political rhetoric by conservative incumbents, passing this off as opinion/editorial content, I don’t expect as much as a batted eye. There’s a sick, co-dependent relationship here in the Hill Country wherein the citizenry continues to allow the local press to blatantly shirk its historic duty to those it serves as long as the church news gets in, the obits are timely and the high school football scores are right. It’s embarrassing but not many seem to care.

Still, it’s not the “dog bites man” non-newsworthiness of Coulter’s immature and mind numbingly stupid comments that should scare every freedom loving, flag waver out there; it’s the appreciative audience that she and her ilk play to. That she justifies her remarks with an equally offensive response about bullying schoolchildren isn’t nearly as troublesome as the millions who will nod obediently at the boob tube, drooling in agreement while mumbling, “Yeah, what’s the big deal?”

That group of Americans frightens me more than predictable stupidity from the stupid. Luckily, many of them are easily identifiable by Bush/Cheney stickers and therefore can be easily avoided by those of us who have a clue.

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