Sunday, January 22, 2006


In a somewhat overwrought essay on Sarah Silverman (via Andrew Sullivan), Terry Sawyer beautifully captures the basic cowardice of Ann Coulter's schtick:
Silverman's champions should acknowledge that the surface-level of her performance dovetails nicely with the right-wing brand of performative bigotry whose message is more along the lines of: "We all know that black people are lazy and feminists are ugly lezzies, so I'm going to be the only person brave enough to say it." Irony can easily get deployed as a responsibility dodging device. Ann Coulter buttresses comments such as "When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors," with claims that liberals have no sense of humor about the threat of being mass murdered, even though part of her larger intellectual project has been to pathologize liberalism and make its claims synonymous with "Anti-Americanism". In this instance, irony is used to keep the argument about the ability of the attacked to "take a joke", even while the pernicious core of the argument seeps into popular discourse in a slightly less extreme form. Both the impolitic and the "politically incorrect" are themselves market norms; so common that everyone from Dennis Miller to Coulter can envision themselves heavyweight shadow boxers with the ghost of political correctness. Sarah Silverman is not Ann Coulter by any unsavory stretch of the imagination, but both of them spill outrageous sentiments into discourse only to cower back into suspicious explanatory coves of irony, sarcasm, or theoretical hide-and-seek.


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