Political discourse is no joke

Ann Coulter’s new book, If Democrats Had Any Brains They’d Be Republicans, hit the shelves this past week and has already begun to generate attention.

Coulter, the Marilyn Manson of conservative mouthpieces, has shown a fantastic ability to stir up anger and outrage from what she defines as the liberal media. Her last book, Godless, generated controversy when, among other things, she accused Sept. 11, 2001 widows who supported John Kerry’s presidential campaign of enjoying their celebrity and being grateful they had lost their husbands. Coulter also suggested they should pose in Playboy before their 15 minutes of fame ran out.

The title of her new book seems innocent enough, as if it is only the beginning of a political joke. A closer look reveals her hostility, and it becomes clear that this book is designed to gain attention by way of outlandish remarks.

The chapter titles were read on a radio show during an interview with Coulter. One chapter makes the standard generic reference to Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretion during his presidency. (Is it just me, or haven’t far more important issues developed since the late ’90s?) The most disturbing chapter title read on the show was “How blacks are the only thing that is keeping the Democratic Party alive.” My first observation of this is that she’s implying that African Americans and other people of color are not worthy of being referred to as a group of people, but as a “thing.” Secondly, she must be suggesting that as the only group keeping Democrats afloat, they are the brainless tools she refers in the title of her book. Of course, these are just titles, but the wording makes it very clear that she still has no respect for anyone and is willing to make blatantly racist remarks.

On Sept. 19, Bill O’Reilly, the face of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News, also revealed his lack of insight. He was discussing his recent visit to Sylvia’s, a soul food restaurant in Harlem, NY, and had an unusual review to share with his listeners. Seemingly surprised by the fact that a African American-owned and -operated restaurant could be “normal,” he let his listeners know that there wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who [was] screaming for more iced tea. He defended his remarks by claiming they were an attempt to show how absurd racist stereotypes are. What he said might have been considered quite revolutionary had it been said in 1807, not 2007.

Coulter’s Web site boasts that this book is her funniest, and many would argue that the likes of O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh are primarily entertainment. It may be all fun and games, and it is all most likely about making money and selling advertising space. The problem, though, is that the book is being sold and marketed as truth; and even worse, is being bought as truth by a large chunk of the population. Coulter’s book is currently the No. 1 political science book on Amazon.com, and the No. 8 book in terms of overall sales. Both O’Reilly and Coulter have already penned best sellers, but their words merely inspire intolerance.

The question is not solely whether what these people are saying is right or wrong. The question is: How are these people shaping the dialogue on national and world events among the general population? With so many important issues facing the world, commentary being sold as “legitimate” political discussion should not be reduced to offensive jokes and ignorant remarks.

As Americans, moreover, they represent the United States to the rest of the world and to future generations. Will people see all the good that can be done and has been done in the United States, or will the idiocy and ignorance the Coulters and O’Reillys represent become the nation’s legacy?

Curtiss Gibson is a senior majoring in English literature.