Tuesday, March 06, 2007

On Ann Coulter

Regarding Coulter and her use of the word "faggot," only two major points need be made. The only difference between Coulter and former Klan leader and Louisiana state Representative David Duke is pedigree. Coulter comes from a wealthy Connecticut family, her father an attorney who specialized in decertifiying unions. Her father's wealth got her into Cornell University and the University of Michigan law school. David Duke arose from middle class mediocrity and could attend no more prestigious a university than LSU.

Coulter regularly says hateful, bigoted things no different in substance than what the former Klansman utters about gays, religious minorities, etc, but her elite origins give her cover in the mainstream media the same way it does for Pat Buchanan when he sugggests that gas was not used to kill Jews at Auschwitz or said that America is a nation based not on ideas like democracy, but on race. The same pass was given to William Buckley when his "National Review" regularly calls blacks intellectually inferior. The mainstream media harbors the smug illusion that racists and bigots all appear in white sheets on the "Jerry Springer Show" or can be represented by inarticulate, Archie Bunker-style rubes.

The uncritical access to the media enjoyed by Coulter, Buchanan and William F. Buckley reveals as much about the class prejudices of elites as it does about the mainstreaming of anti-black and anti-immigrant racism and homophobia. Time Magazine, in a cover profile of Coulter, wanted to dismiss the women's crude stereotypes of Muslims and her obssessive hatred of gays as some type of shtick, as if she were a right-wing Bill Hicks or Lenny Bruce. Surely, someone so rich and well-educated and Aryan blonde cannot be as intolerant and ignorant as she sounds.

However, many of the worst expressions of racism in America came from the wealthy and educated, whether it was slaveowning, the horrifying medical experimentation on African Americans documented in Harriet Washington's new book, "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Ties To The Present," eugenics, the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, the imposition of quotas limiting or eliminating black and Jewish access to the Ivy League in the early twentieth century, the harsh immigration restrictions imposed after World War I that cut off a route of escape for Holocaust victims in the 1930s, or Senate fillibsters of anti-lynching legislation. The best and the brightest don't often wear white sheets but it has often been their hand that set fire to the cross. Mainstream media elites don't want to face Coulter's bigotry it raises about themselves.

My second point is brief. Media outlets need to stop enabling racism, homophobia and anti-Muslim intolerance. This is not a call for censorship. But no one is guaranteed access to the airwaves or space for a newspaper column by the Constitution. The media doesn't give everyone a venue, so why is precious airtime or limited newspaper space given to an apostle of intolerance? Let Coulter rant all she wants to her fellow bigots in cyberspace. Sadly, she will have lots of company. Coulter's media enablers like Bill Maher and the various anchors on CNN need to stop fobbing off her slurs as political commentary. Or they need to be honest facilitators of racism and give David Duke his TV show.

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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