Friday, June 09, 2006



John Cole observes that Ann -- in going for the shock-value of attacking the 9/11 widows -- missed the opportunity to make a really serious observatioin about contemporary political culture. It is about the personalization -- and, thus, politicization -- of tragedy:

In other words- anything the Jersey 4 or Cindy Sheehan states, from a policy standpoint, should be listened to because they are coming from a position of personal sacrifice. If you refute (or try to) their arguments or their policy positions, why, you are attacking a ‘grieving mother!’ That is what certain political operatives are trying to do, and it is nothing more than an emotional appeal that should be ignored. If the GOP found 4 relatives of people who had died in 9/11, and parents of soldiers killed in Iraq who were all wild and enthusiastic supporters of this administration, would their sacrifices make their political opinions ‘infallible?’

Of course not, as that is absolute nonsense. I don’t want you all to think that ‘the left’ is the only group that seems to do it- both political sides seem to be as cynically manipulative with this sort of thing. It just seems like this happens more now with ‘the left’ than ‘the right,’ which I would guess is because ‘the left,’ at the moment, is operating from a position of no power. They don’t control the WH, Congress, etc. However, if you doubt both sides do it, think back to how many times we saw poor Terri Schiavo’s parents wheeled out in front of the cameras to show that we absolutely must change longstanding laws and policy decisions because they were grieving.

So, yes, Ann Coulter is a vicious shrew who made a boatload of nasty comments about people who have gone through hell and deserve, if nothing else, to be treated with a dose of compassion that the heartless columnist Coulter seems to be unable to muster. But at the same time, Coulter is on to something-we, collectively, have got to stop using tragedy in attempts to make bad ideas somehow seem better. It is unseemly, it causes bitter divisions, and worst of all, it doesn’t let the best ideas come forward. It advances the most emotionally fraught arguments assume positions of dominance, and if we have learned ANYTHING over the past few years since 9/11, hysteria and emotional appeals are no way to run a government.
Quite so. And this is certainly not a new phenomenon. When I was in DC, whenever there was a press conference to heighten awareness of an upcoming critical vote, congressional staffers and interest groups activists always made sure that there were several "victims" (preferably a family). And, no, we're not talking about victims of crimes -- we're talking about victims of some government policy (or regulation or tax or agency).

It became essential to put a name and a "story" behind the legislation. Reason alone had failed (and would likely fail again), thus the individual circumstances became a way to both illustrate the issue -- AND to pre-emptively block counter-arguments.

How can anyone of good reason and integrity oppose a policy that would help -- or offer relief -- to this family. ('And look at that cute little girl standing with her doll next to her hard-working daddy!')

Call this Baby Boomer legislating-by-emoting.

Of course, the opposite side of that coin is exactly what Ann Coulter now represents: Debating-by-bombthrowing.

The easiest way to combat the enforced sentimentality which is used as a weapon to forestall debate, is to attack in the most personal terms the integrity of the supposed "victim." The reasoned argument John Cole attempts above? Forget that!! ('Geez! Nice words, John, but that's never going to cut through the media morass.')

It is simpler to charge, as Coulter essentially does, that the 9/11 widows are more than just politically wrong or misguided: They are lacking any integrity. They are corrupt and they have used tragedy to gain significance and wealth that is undeserved.

The irony, of course, is that Coulter's tactic has accomplished the same result for her: Attacking women whose husbands died on 9/11 has created perfect media-storm controversy during the book's roll-out week. Ann Coulter, thus, manages to make money off of demonstrating anger at four widow's grief! (The extra upside for her? She doesn't have to deal with the inconvenience of having her husband die and raising her kids by herself.)

Like those widows, she'll get to see lots of money from her Godless work. And, because we still live in such a sensitive emoting age, it is inevitable that -- even despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- this little controversy will have, as the saying goes, legs.

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