Coulter-bashing has reached a fever pitch, with the story of her CPAC remarks moving to network television and, even, Albert Mohler signing on. "Why," Mohler wonders, "would Ann Coulter use that word? And, even more troubling to me, why would any in her audience laugh? There is nothing remotely funny about that word in any context."
I lost patience with Coulter about 18 months ago, and have lately found more to dislike than like in her columns, so I don't feel sorry for her. Mohler is a bit off about what she's done wrong, though, so I think it's worth examining.
First, I doubt very much that Coulter intended to hurt John Edwards personally, and I doubt that he was. If John Edwards has any sense, he's grateful for Coulter's remark because it reminded people he's running for president. It probably is the best thing that has happened to his campaign, albeit inadvertently.
I think Coulter intended to get some laughs by using a naughty word and, as every writer and public speaker knows, it's an effective tool when it is used properly. Consider this passage from a blog post I wrote a while back: "Nobody except the most perfervid fundamentalists believe any more that an old man with a long beard thrust his head out the underside of a cloud and bellowed things like 'Stone the adulterers, and the fairies.'" I used the word "fairies" to draw, and intensify, a ridiculous picture, and nobody minded. It worked in its plain context. This piece was republished here at Blogcritics, and not one comment was concerned with my use of that word.
Coulter's remark was without context, though, a gross non sequitur that affirmed and titillated Goody Two-Shoes with their own unspoken malice; that was its purpose, and the applause tells us it worked. And, why not? Captured by the evangelical, God-Is-A-Republican Right and acutely aware that anti-gay marriage initiatives do well on election day, the Republican Party has made gay-bashing a de facto plank in its platform.
The remark per se is insignificant, and thoughtful people can disagree in good faith and with good will about what our public policies ought to be regarding homosexuality. What is significant is that such infantile playground stuff, scarcely distinguishable from the knock-knock puns so beloved of children and other simpletons, is now the medium via which the Republican Party communicates.