Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Understanding the Coulter Culture

What is it about Ann Coulter? By her own admission, the things she says and does are calculated to provoke the most infuriating response possible. Which begs the question: Is she in the business of providing astute political commentary or pissing people off?

It occurs to me that Ms. Coulter rarely achieves the former and, in all likelihood, regularly achieves the latter. This is not to say she is not one of the best at what she does. It’s just that people can’t quite seem to agree on exactly what it is that she does do. Despite this conundrum, she remains all too predictable, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Larry King is the master of the softball interview, but at least we know that going in.

For pure entertainment value, Ann Coulter has few equals. With exquisitely good looks and a diabolically sardonic wit to match, she presents a formidable presence, to say the least. But this presence, including all the taunting cloaked as sublime articulation, is so painfully manicured it all appears to be little more than a “shtick.” I’m not sure even she believes most of the immoderate rhetoric (to put it politely) that comes out of her own mouth. With Ms. Coulter, controversy and self promotion are the objective, not changing the hearts and minds of us lost liberal souls. She is keenly aware that the more extreme her vitriol the more entrenched her ideological opponents become. Of all the tools she possesses, the fine art of persuasion clearly eludes her.

Listening to Ann Coulter reminds me of professional wrestling. Is it real, or is it fake? That depends. What it purports to be, human gladiators intent on maiming one another, is so fake it doesn’t pass the laugh test. What it really is, entertainment on a stick, is as real as it gets. So it goes with Ms. Coulter. As she ostensibly promotes the virtues of conservatism, she compels us to dismiss her as an observer of the political landscape precisely because she is doing it all for show (not to mention book promotion).

So good luck with your next guest spot on The O’Reilly Factor, Ms. Coulter. Or should I say—in the tradition of theater-goers—break a leg. Either way I’ll be watching the same way rubberneckers gawk at a highway inferno, unable to turn away from the resplendent carnage. After all, I am so easily entertained.

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