Sure, the attention we pay the two of them supplies us with nothing even remotely resembling intellectual stimulation in return but who cares? Their appeal is emotional and sensual and America, clearly can't get enough of either.
Here's the speech:
While everyone is busy disapproving of Coulter, its interesting to look at what's underneath all of this and why they would be offended again and not go further with it. After all - it's Ann Coulter. But people commenting on blogs like Towleroad saying that she should be ignored because she's a bigot trying to sell books and that by talking about her we're validating and helping her are missing the overall role Ann Coulter plays.
As Reuters pointed out, it actually took the media a long time to report Ann Coulter's statement primarily because the media doesn't really take her seriously. No one took Anna Nicole seriously when she was alive either because, just like Ann Coulter, she didn't command respect.
Yet, the media covers Smith relentlessly and they absolutely should. Just like they should with Coulter and as Reuters also pointed out in the editorial they ran about the reaction to the speech no she absolutely won't go away if we ignore her.
Why? Because, as Reuters pointed out, she represents something that cuts to the core of the American psyche and what Americans feel - not so much what Americans think. Which is odd when you consider that she's a political pundit. That's something that Coulter and Smith share. They are emblematic of something Americans feel they can't express adequately.
Coulter herself is a knee jerk reaction based attention seeking pundit who can't actually even operate as a pundit generally does; basing their arbitrary arguments on basic fact. Coulter is important because she is emblematic of defiant conservative viewpoints. Conservatives love passionate speakers who have a gut level of passion about them. It validates the purity of their divine vision.
Similarly, Smith represents a combination of Paris Hilton esque aspirational transcendence of the mundane mixed with an ego gratifying emotional, tragic beauty.
Sure, Smith and Coulter are ultimately horrifying but so what? More often than not, all our basic desires are frightening to us and the media will always represent them to some extent because that's what we are attracted to. The media coverage of Smith and Coulter are, on some level, really no different to a dozen Krispy Kremes and a good two hour session of money envy based reality TV.
If we get stuck at the beginning; being offended at Coulter's use of the word "faggot" we miss out on everything that's going on beneath it. Was Coulter's use of the word "faggot" unacceptable? Sure and she should be chastised for doing so. But she's always been happy to act like a bigot to get what she wants, it's a formula. Like she said on her website "I'm so ashamed, I can't stop laughing!"
If you want to concentrate on people who benefit from and revel in bigotry then nearly everyone who spoke out about it is guilty as well.
John Edwards issued a statement saying that it was terrible blah blah blah and then asked for money in the form of Coulter Cash to help keep the campaign going and to fight back against the politics of bigotry. Hello, what? How vague and opportunistic. Oh look, opportunistic, just like Coulter.
So many other presidential hopefuls, including Republicans McCain, Romney and Giuliani issued statements almost immediately, distancing themselves from her so as not to alienate themselves from what they must have figured was their primary voter base thus solidifying some level of appeal.
Bad words are to be avoided like the plague for the moment and as a result, Coulter dropped one as she did what she always does, she shot off her mouth to get attention. Edwards is clearly a worthy opponent in the race for President or Coulter wouldn't have mentioned him.
One thing that's interesting on a deep level about this incident is that because Edwards is clearly a threatening Presidential candidate, Coulter did a throw back to the core issues of the 2004 presidential campaign and equated her party's opponent with gay people by referring to the Isaiah Washington incident, in order to proclaim some kind of dominance over him and dilute him.
In the lead up to the 2004 election, gays were the new black in more ways than one and after Bush was photographed in a crotch enhancing flight suit John Kerry had to respond by being seen on a motorcycle. It was a masculinity competition then and for the most part it probably still is. After all, Hillary Clinton won't wear a skirt even at the suggestion of Donatella Versace.
One question that seems to stand out is, will that kind of bastardising of gay people be as effective for 2008 as it was in 2004? and if so, why?