Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Nunberg nails it

...specifically about the toxic blob of ectoplasm that is known as Ann Coulter (yes, that was an insult. yes), but more generally about exactly what's wrong with her style of "provocation:"

"Political Taunting"

Is Coulter sincere about the things she says? That's a silly question, like asking whether schoolchildren are sincere in the taunts they throw at each other across the school yard. But that doesn't make her a satirist, as her defenders like to claim -- usually with the implication that her literal-minded liberal critics don't get the joke.

Satire depicts things as grotesque in order to make them seem ridiculous -- what Stephen Colbert does in his Bill O'Reilly persona or Christopher Buckley does with the pointed caricatures of ``Thank You for Smoking.'' But Coulter isn't actually sending anybody up -- not herself, certainly, and not the targets of her remarks.

Her fans may enjoy hearing her talk about poisoning Justice Stevens or say that it's a pity Timothy McVeigh didn't park his truck next to the New York Times building. But that's not because the remarks make either Stevens or the New York Times seem particularly ridiculous. It's because Coulter seems to be able to get away with unbridled aggression by presenting it as mere mischief, leaving her critics looking prim and humorless. (``Perhaps her book should have been called `Heartless,' '' said Hillary Clinton after Coulter's remarks about the widows, inviting the response, ``Oh lighten up, girl.'')

That rhetorical maneuver doesn't really have a name, but it's a close relative of what we think of as smut. In the strict sense, of course, smut is the leering innuendo that veils sexual aggression. But in a broader sense, smut can be any kind of malice that pretends to be mere naughtiness. It might be a leering vulgarity, a racial epithet, or simply a venomous insult -- what makes it smut is that it's tricked out as humor, so that if anyone claims to be offended you can answer indignantly, ``Can't you take a joke?'
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6 comments:

SUEB0B said...

Ah yes, "Can't you take a joke?" As if oppression, the loss of human rights, killing, lying, cheating and stealing are just funny little incidents.

God, you liberals are such a downer! If you could just learn to chuckle at the poor and downtrodden, how much more fun you would have!

belledame222 said...

I know. We should save our outrage for the things that -really- matter. Like the War On Christmas; or the burgeoning threat of gay marriage; or flag-burning; or the fact that some liberal pundits say meen things about the Preznident, or O'Reilly and his ilk.

spotted elephant said...

It's gay marriage that's responsible for the war on Christmas!

(vomits in horror)

Oh, wait, is it the other way around? I wonder if I should vomit again. Save the baby Jesus!

/snark

ToastedSuzy said...

Nunberg's article is awesome. I'm going to make my students read it today. Thanks for sharing.

Ann Coulter . . . puh.

She is a joke. A gnat.

gandhi rules said...

she's fly shit.

belledame222 said...

i know, but she's a maddeningly persistent one!

a live-action troll if ever there was one.

i wish to fuck the publishers and talking head hosts would stop enabling her already. Seriously: we're all supposed to get our fifteen minutes of fame, right? Hers are long over; there are over six billion people in the world, at least a good four billion of which must be less toxic and more articulate; and a good portion of which must be photogenic enough to meet mainstream teevee's criteria. Pick one and get on with it. 'cause this one has jumped the shark loooooong since.