Local Vocal: The Coulter formula: False assumptions and crazy logic
My vote goes for keeping Ann Coulter’s column in any paper that will print it. Don’t close the Holocaust Memorial just because it gets you down. It’s important to have daily reminders of this style of thinking and writing. Here are the reasons why:
Coulter’s column is a great teaching tool. I teach academic writing to non-native speakers studying English. Every week, I can easily locate a free example of a poorly written essay in Coulter’s column. Her organization is always weak. She misuses affect and pathos with her entirely subjective, emotional language. She falsifies facts with strong emoti-words and descriptions that bend the truth, rendering her own ‘“support’” ineffectual. Her ‘“arguments’” usually begin from an assumption that is incorrect, overly exaggerated or illogical. Then, they proceed to build upon the initial fallacy, creating an entirely fabricated network of emotional words that do not support any specific, reiterable point. In this week’s column, ‘“Party of a rapist,’” Coulter’s subject is not identifiable ‘— she meanders through at least six topics, only briefly touching on the theme named in her title. Therefore, the column should remain as a how-not-to testament to writers of English.
Coulter is a source of laughs. Loud, raucous belly laughs. Admittedly, the knee-jerk reaction for many of your readers, upon encountering her stunning language, is anger. However, that is her intent.’ We give Coulter too much by falling for her emoti-words so easily. A quick application of logic healthily removes reader affect and reduces ‘— like a hearty, rolling boil ‘— Coulter’s broth to its essence. Take a random sample paragraph from her current column:
‘“First of all, I’m getting a little fed up with people trying to make money off my book. Worthless little cable TV shows with teeny-tiny audiences, ridiculous legislators and tabloid newspapers are all trying to make a name for themselves off the profundity of Godless.’”
Once scrubbed and cleansed of words like ‘“fed up,’” ‘“worthless little,’” ‘“teeny-tiny,’” ‘“ridiculous,’” and ‘“tabloid,’” her average paragraph is somewhat neutered and can be studied for what it truly is: whining. Using highly emotional invective and accusations that cannot be traced to specific IDs, Coulter is basically complaining about her money. Tacky, tacky, tacky. Funny, funny, funny! Also, the statement was unrelated to the column, though featured as its first ‘“point.’”
Coulter is a man No self-respecting woman, after the history the gender has endured, would refer to Hillary Clinton as having ‘“beat a hasty retreat on her chubby little legs.’” Further, to refer to the previous section, isn’t ‘“chubby little’” an oxymoron? Again, funny. Also sad. Coulter’s opinions about Clinton’s professionalism or politics have nothing to do with Clinton’s weight or stature.
Coulter is crazy. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us three clear definitions of ‘“crazy.’” The first, ‘“full of cracks or flaws,’” is displayed by Coulter’s lack of continuity. Her current column’s title refers to, one assumes, the Democratic Party. Her book, however, is about ‘“liberalism’” ‘— whatever that is. The essay, apparently, is upset over both the party and the ideology, but then, as support, the essay addresses the ‘“mainstream media.’” One is not always the other, and so on. Flawed and cracked, the crazy essay can’t choose a focus, a target or a point. The second definition is ‘“out of the ordinary.’” Coulter, like Rush Limbaugh, often attempts to use quotations from ‘“the other side’” to illustrate the folly and idiocy of anyone who does not staunchly share Coulter’s (or Limbaugh’s) beliefs. Typically, these quotations are so far removed from their original contexts as to be almost meaningless. Just read the quotation about Newt Gingrich from this week’s column: ‘“So how do you put an end to what Jim Wright called ‘mindless cannibalism’? Do you put a muzzle on Newt Gingrich?’” That’s it. No explanation of the topic being discussed, or what is being cannibalized, or what is to end. Good support is always relevant. These examples document nothing.’ This is an extraordinary style of writing ‘— using bad examples to support an empty argument. The final definition of ‘“crazy’” is ‘“passionately preoccupied.’” In this week’s column, Coulter is ostensibly celebrating the triumph of her agenda over that of the enemy (which, as we discussed, is either the Democratic Party, or liberalism, or MSM: groups of people, a collection of beliefs, and an occupation ‘— we can’t be sure). Among other disclosures, she says that (and here, one might see the appropriate use of quotation as argumentative support), ‘“all they’ve accomplished is to make my book the No. 1 book in the country’…. Now who’s stuck in an unwinnable quagmire, losers’”, ‘“Liberals aren’t having so much fun now that the rabbit has the gun,’” ‘“the Silent Majority is silent no more.’” That sounds like a cause for celebration, right? The triumph of her cause? The end of long fighting? Sadly, no. For Coulter to stay employed, for her column and books to continue in syndication and in print, there must be a continued and perpetual enemy. So, no celebration. In its place we get passionate preoccupation with what the other side is doing and thinking. To take out all of the opinions, accusations and claims about Coulter’s enemy is to find that Coulter herself has little to say ‘— she can only react to the products of others.
Coulter has no friends. She needs us, her readers. Help Coulter by reading her column. Fix her bank accounts by keeping her in the papers and buying her books and having her on cable network talk shows.
To curb reader resistance to Coulter’s column, perhaps each week could be met with a column called ‘“Counter Coulter,’” in which another writer carefully dissects Coulter’s column, searching for the elusive subject matter and chasing down the many flaws to expose her one, single consistency: flawed logic’ In the current situation, readers must wait until the editorial section of the next issue to air their grievances. At least in a counter column, the dismantling could take place on the same page at the same time. I would volunteer to take up the charge, but I am not a smart, connected, intelligent syndicated columnist with a bestseller and a weekly treasure trove of excellent information and well-wrought opinions. Neither, for that matter, is Ann Coulter. Which begs another question: What in the world keeps this woman in print? It’s those emotional words like ‘“rapist’” and ‘“godless,’” people. Please pay attention. The loudest voice in the room gets picked up by the microphone every time.
Flawed logic, bad writing and weak support cannot be papered over with emotion, sensationalism and the dramatic flourish of name-calling. If Coulter could write, she could show us how she thinks. Then we could really have some fun! Until then she is a harmless, hilarious and helpful (in terms of teaching writing) foil. Please continue to include her column in YES! Weekly.
Jordan Earl is an instructor at UNCG’s Interlink Language Center.