Friday, July 15, 2005

Ann Coulter and the Moral Equivalency Game

My mom sent me a printout of this Ann Coulter article in the mail: "Thou Shalt Not Commit Religion." In it, the aggressively conservative Coulter attempts to put displays of the Ten Commandments in federal and state buildings in the same category as obscene NEA-funded "art exhibits."

Rotten argument: "Well, they get to do what they want!" It's petulant and pointless, and Coulter is clearly preaching to her own choir. But let's look at a couple of her points, shall we?

To put the Supreme Court's recent ban on the Ten Commandments display in perspective, here is a small sampling of other speech that has been funded in whole or in part by taxpayers:

- Graphic videos demonstrating how to put a condom on and pep talks by "Planned Parenthood educators." -- sex education classes at public schools across the nation

Okay, we can discuss the validity of sex education methods - curriculum, starting ages, and all of that - at some point, but to trying to glibly equate all sex education methods with pornography is ridiculous. Moving along.

Korans distributed to aspiring terrorists at Guantanamo. -- U.S. military
This one's telling. The implication, of course, is that the Koran (Islam, that is) causes terrorism. Well, there are certainly those who use radical forms of Islam to justify terrorism, but I don't think I'm alone when I say that I'm not willing to condemn the entire faith for the actions of a few murderous fanatics. Anyone think she might be a little disingenuous?

Besides, the comparison is ludicrous, since U.S. prison inmates are given access to Bibles and Korans, and allowing prisoners access to religious material is different than prominently displaying a religious code of law or symbol in the court house of a supposedly religiously-impartial government.

- "If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers (than the attack of 9/11), I'd really be interested in hearing about it." -- Ward Churchill, professor, University of Colorado

- We need "a million more Mogadishus" (referring to the slaughter of 18 American soldiers during a peacekeeping mission in Somalia in 1993). -- Nicholas De Genova, assistant professor, Columbia University
As much as I'm sure it grates on Coulter that people are allowed to say things like this, tough luck. Freedom of speech, Ann. That includes nutty college professors broadcasting their insanity, as well as people like Jerry Falwell pointing out gay cartoon characters and Telle-Tubbies for us.

- "The entire federal government -- the Congress, the executive, the courts -- is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate. That agenda includes the power of the state to force pregnant women to surrender control over their own lives. ... If you like the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming. And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture ..." -- Bill Moyers' commentary on PBS' "Now"
PBS is given a government grant, but the government doesn't control what PBS does. I think that's a pretty good deal.

"Kiss it." -- governor of Arkansas to state employee

Oooooh, how intimidating. How about: "Fuck off," as said by Vice President Dick Cheney to Sen. Patrick Leahy?

The rest of her bullets are a bunch of examples of NEA-funded art exhibits, posters, and novels that all contain obscene, vulgar, or adult material. Figuring out what the NEA can and can't fund is another discussion altogether (although it wouldn't be much of an "art" endowment if there were censors around, right?)

But by this time, Coulter's taken her readers pretty far afield, and a long way away from the idea of posting religious symbols in a federal court house. The only argument she's making is "Look at all these nasty, dirty, evil forms of speech we allow! If they can do that, then surely we should be able to have some good, wholesome, Christian commandments in our courthouses! It's only fair!"

Is this the kind of school-yard rhetoric that passes for punditry these days? Damn, I can pull stuff out of my ass, too! With a blonde wig, I could be famous!


UPDATE: Open Posting at Mudville!