Monday, March 05, 2007

Getting down in the mud.

Those of you who are attuned to the (U.S.) political scene have probably heard about the latest Ann Coulter outrage. For those who haven't: At a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a nexus-point for conservative thinkers, bloggers, and candidates, conservative bomb-thrower Ann Coulter was given an opportunity to do her usual routine. During her speech, she made a comment about how she would talk about John Edwards but using the word f****t would land her in rehab.

Now, this type of comment doesn't surprise me from Coulter. I find her sometimes funny but often incredibly crass, and as a result, I don't read a lot of her writing. (This doesn't mean I don't support her right to print what she wants. Rah-rah, First Amendment, and all that.) And when I hear a comment like this one, I just shake my head. This isn't political discourse. This is childish namecalling. It's low-class.

What did surprise me, to some small degree, was the support she received on the right side of the internets. Not from many (if any) of the big names, but a lot of the little fishies in their big ponds were applauding. One of my favorite semi-political bloggers, Rob at Say Anything (Content Warning for language, for all links in this post), rightly denounced her comments as doing more harm than good to the conservative agenda, and his typically loyal commenters started attacking him like a school of piranhas for daring to disagree with the hard-right darling. Others, like Jay Tea at Wizbang, have taken a more cautiously balanced approach to the latest Coulter debacle, but even he is being taken to task by commenters who demand more support.

Other key conservative bloggers, like Michelle Malkin, have denounced the comments as well. (Of course, Malkin's comments may not hold water with some of you, but I'd firmly argue that, at her worst, she's not even in the same league as Coulter.)

What bothers me, and motivated this belabored post, was the justifications given for Coulter's slur by the right-leaning internets' "little fish." (And for the record, I think of myself as the shrimpiest of little fish in this great big blogorama.) They said that she was "telling the truth" and "taking it to the dirty Kommiekrats." They defended her as being "no worse than the wingnut Lefties" who say the same sorts of things about Republicans. At one point, Rob tried to argue for taking the high ground in political debate, and the response was that "when you're fighting pigs, sometimes you have to get down in the mud."

This is why I don't talk a whole lot of politics--because this is what it takes now. The high ground has been abandoned by people who think you have to "fight ire with ire," so to speak. One commenter said that the "William F. Buckley" route stopped being effective because conservatives are shouted down by some uncouth and disrespectful liberal types. So, such people now believe that the only way to get their say is to play just as dirty as some of the folks on the Left do. They believe this approach is justified.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Maybe I'm becoming just as "sissified" as some bloggers think others are who were offended by Coulter's comment, but I refuse to engage in low-road rhetoric. It's easy to slip into. But I'm working on getting past the immaturity of "You're GAY!" insults. That's how ignorant children argue. If you want to sit at the adults' table, you should learn to conduct yourself better.

And I expect that those of you who come from a different political perspective than I do will keep me honest if I start to slip into knee-jerk "Lib's are teh suck" mode in the next year and a half. Not to say that I won't address political issues, because I probably will, and aggressively. But I do promise you that I will do so with respect and sober judgment. And if I start relying on childish slaps, I'll trust you to challenge me.

But more often than not, I'll probably just shrug off political discussion altogether and talk about TV or something. It's more enjoyable than getting down in the muck.

[Here's a fantastic post by Dean Barnett that addresses the issue better than I did.]

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