Monday, March 05, 2007


Ann Coulter uses the term "faggot" in a joke about John Edwards. Her comment is publicized prominently on TV and rightly denounced. Fair enough.

Bill Maher says the world would be better off (a lot fewer dead people) if Dick Cheney were himself dead. MSM response? Almost non-existent.


Anonymous said...

There is a simple but crucial difference: Coulter's invoked a derogatory, hateful term targeted at an entire class of people (homosexuals), a group that has been particularly marginalized in much of twentieth-century America, prey to various forms of oppression and even violence. I doubt that many serious commentators object to the fact that she attacked Edwards, it is rather how she did it. Had she made a remark similar to Maher, she would likely have provoked a similar reaction.

But shouldn’t we ask what this slip of Coulter’s reveals about her motives and thoughts, as well as those who seem so inspired by her views and rhetoric?

Anonymous said...

You are naive to think this was a 'slip' on the part of Coulter.

maurile said...

For the sake of reference, here is Coulter's comment:

And here is Maher's comment:

RKirk said...

I agree with anonymous #2 that Coulter's comment wasn't a "slip," and I doubt that anonymous #1 actually thinks it was a slip.

The comments by anonymous #1 about a "class of people" who have been marginalized doesn't take into account the way American culture now (esp. the pop-culture) has transformed this oppressed class into individuals whose sex lives are endlessly and unrealistically celebrated. (Note how the homosexual component of the Catholic "pedophilia" scandals was rigorously censored, even though a substantial percentage of the abuse was with adolescents, not kids.) Putting oneself in this formerly oppressed group can now immunize a person against criticism for infidelity and scandalous public behavior(as was the case with New Jersey's Gov. McGreevey) and get you a gig hosting the Academy Award Show.

All that said, a reasonable (as opposed to a political) analysis would put sexual or racial slurs lower on the "hate scale" than a comment in which someone wished for the death of an enemy. I'd rather lefties call me a "white cracker" than start a linguistic bandwagon rolling that had "KILL KIRK" written on it. (There is a website that provides a litany of "wish you dead" remarks by leftist journalists and celebrities directed toward conservatives from Justice Thomas to Henry Hyde to Dick Cheney to President Bush.)

One final thought: Among the motivations for Coulter's remark (I mentioned a publicity vortex in a prior post.) is the fact that conservatives and religious individuals are regularly, indeed obsessively, vilified in the popular culture. When I turn on an episode of "Law and Order" (I no longer watch "Boston Legal") there is close to a 100% probability that some anti-religion, anti-conservative, or pro-gay theme will be employed. Indeed, I frequently have the "joyful" experience of channel-surfing and finding one-two-three programs simultaneously vilifying and "marginalizing" the groups I either identify with or appreciate. From this perspective Coulter's remark represents a counterproductive "reprisal" in the culture war. (Her popularity, by the way, rests overwhelmingly on the fact that she gives the left the same respect that they regularly give conservative and religious folk, NONE--and that she regularly fills her columns with facts (I mean specific facts) that illustrate leftist duplicity.

maurile said...

All that said, a reasonable (as opposed to a political) analysis would put sexual or racial slurs lower on the "hate scale" than a comment in which someone wished for the death of an enemy.

Ann Coulter publicly wishes for the death of her enemies quite frequently (e.g., "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.") -- something Maher did not do in this instance, and which I don't ever remember him doing.

RKirk said...

Here is a list of left-wing hate speech items collected on I don't myself think that Farrakhan belongs in a list of "left-wingers" any more than David Duke belongs in a list of "conservatives," but I reproduce the list in any case. I also copied a bit of commentary and update information from patterico after the list:


Brace yourself for the leftist hate:

National Public Radio legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg:

[I]f there is retributive justice [Sen. Jesse Helms] will get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.

USA Today syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux, on Clarence Thomas:

I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease.

Washington Post syndicated columnist Richard Cohen:

For hypocrisy, for sheer gall, [Newt] Gingrich should be hanged.

Comedian and (former) talk show host Craig Kilborn [Caption under footage of George W. Bush]:

Snipers Wanted

Members of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club:

And then there’s Rumsfeld who said of Iraq “We have our good days and our bad days.” We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say “This is one of our bad days” and pull the trigger.

Actor Alec Baldwin on Conan O’Brien:

[I]f we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! [crowd cheers] Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No shut up! I’m not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we’d kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families.

Comedian Chris Rock:

If President Clinton would pardon me I would whip Starr’s ass right now. I will get a crew from Brooklyn and we will stomp him like, like, we’re Savion Glover. We’ll stomp him like it’s bringing da noise.

Director Spike Lee on Charlton Heston:

Shoot him with a .44 caliber Bulldog.

James Carville on Ken Starr:

He’s one more mistake away from not having any kneecaps.

Syndicated columnist Alexander Cockburn:

There is a sound case to be made for dropping a tactical nuclear weapon on the Cuban section of Miami. The move would be applauded heartily by most Americans. Alas, Operation Good Riddance would require the sort of mature political courage sadly lacking in Washington, D.C., these days.

Columnist, author, media pundit, journalist, and newspaper editor Dan Savage:

My plan? Get close enough to Bauer to give him the flu, which, if I am successful, will lay him flat just before the New Hampshire primary. I’ll go to Bauer’s campaign office and cough on everything. Phones and pens. Staplers and staffers. I even hatch a plan to infect the candidate himself; I’ll keep a pen in my mouth until Bauer drops by his offices to rally the troops. And when he does, I’ll approach him and ask for his autograph, handing him the pen from my flu-virus-incubating mouth.

That column also appeared on It was a little more than hate “speech” — the guy actually did try to give Gary Bauer the flu.

It’s racism you want?

Democrat Senator Robert Byrd:

There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I’m going to use that word.

Democrat presidential candidate Jesse Jackson on Jews:


and on New York City:


During his presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson was linked with (and refused to denounce) Louis Farrakhan, who has at times been linked with the Congressional Black Caucus, which also supported his Million Man March. Farrakhan is a man of the left who has been a harsh critic of President Bush.

Here’s Farrakhan on Jews:

Many of the Jews who owned the homes, the apartments in the black community, we considered them bloodsuckers because they took from our community and built their community but didn’t offer anything back to our community.

Farrakhan on Pope John Paul II:

no good cracker

Farrakhan on white people:

White people are potential humans - they haven’t evolved yet.

And again:

Murder and lying comes easy for white people.

Does it count as “hate” speech if you say you “hate” Republicans?

Howard Dean:

I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for . . .

Back to assassination wishes:

British pundit Charlie Brooker, during the presidency of George W. Bush:

John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?

Actual elected officials have engaged in hate speech:

Democrat Representative Pete Stark, speaking to a Republican:

You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp? Come on. Come over here and make me, I dare you. You little fruitcake.

Alabama Democratic congressional incumbent Earl Hilliard, on challenger, Artur Davis:

Davis and the Jews, No Good for the Black Belt

Let’s not forget the bloggers:

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga crowed over the death of American contractors in Iraq:

I feel nothing over the death of merceneries [sic]. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

Duncan “Atrios” Black discussing ABC’s The Note:

[M]y take on The Note has always been, with apologies to Douglas Adams:

A bunch of mindless jerks who will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Huffington Post blogger Tony Hendra wished for Dick Cheney to die:

O Lord, give Dick Cheney’s Heart, Our Sacred Secret Weapon, the strength to try one more time! For greater love hath no heart than that it lay down its life to rid the planet of its Number One Human Tumor.

The point of this list is not to argue that leftists are more hateful than conservatives. There are many documented examples of hate speech on the right; Ann Coulter provides many examples, but she is not the only one. I publish this list simply to rebut the Greenwald-spawned canard that leftist hate speech is exclusively the province of anonymous trolls on the Internet. On the contrary, prominent leftists have said some pretty awful things.

This is an open-source project. If you think of other examples, leave a comment below, or e-mail me at patterico AT gmail DOT com. Bloggers, feel free to blog it and notify me of your post. Make sure to include a link that proves the quote, and make sure that the quote truly represents hate speech. I will continue to add examples as they come in, giving credit (and links, where appropriate) to those who provide new examples.

UPDATE: I have added context for the Atrios quote, and found a more accurate version of the Byrd quote. Thanks to commenters.

UPDATE x2: Some might argue that a couple of the above examples are intended as humor. Of course, that is Ann Coulter’s defense: when she talks about how someone ought to put rat poison in Justice Stevens’s creme brulee, it’s a “joke.” But the point of the “joke” is the same as that of the “jokes” above: I hate this person enough to want to see violence done to him. Ha, ha. Get it?

If leftists defend any of the above quotes on the grounds that they’re “jokes,” they cannot consistently criticize the likes of Ann Coulter for making the same kinds of “jokes.” But they’ll try. Just watch.


RKirk said...

Here is the text of Bill Maher's comments on his HBO program. In response to Maurile I would say that Maher comes much closer to saying that Dick Cheney's assassination would be a good thing [a lot fewer dead people if HE were dead] than Ann Coulter does to calling John Edwards a "faggot." Yet you seem to want to parse words in the former case and get to the clear meaning only in the latter.

Maher: What about the people who got onto the Huffington Post – and these weren’t even the bloggers, these were just the comments section – who said they, they expressed regret that the attack on Dick Cheney failed.

Joe Scarborough: Right.

Maher: Now…

John Ridley: More than regret.

Maher: Well, what did they say?

Ridley: They said “We wish he would die.” I mean, it was (?) hate language.

Barney Frank: They said the bomb was wasted. (laughter and applause)

Maher: That’s a funny joke. But, seriously, if this isn’t China, shouldn’t you be able to say that? Why did Arianna Huffington, my girlfriend, I love her, but why did she take that off right away?

After some discussion about why Huffington should or shouldn’t have taken these comments down, the following occurred:

Ridley: It’s one thing to say you hate Dick Cheney, which applies to his politics. It’s another thing to say, “I’m sorry he didn’t die in an explosion." And I think, you know…

Maher: But you should be able to say it. And by the way...

Frank: Excuse me, Bill, but can I ask you a question? Do you decide what the topics are for this show?

Maher: Yeah, I decide the topics, they don’t go there.

Frank: But you exercise control over the show the way that she does over her blog.

Maher: But I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow. (applause)

Scarborough: If someone on this panel said that they wished that Dick Cheney had been blown up, and you didn’t say…

Frank: I think he did.

Scarborough: Okay. Did you say…

Maher: No, no. I quoted that.

Frank: You don’t believe that?

Maher: I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.

Wake up, HBO: one of your hosts said the world would be a safer place if the Vice President of the United States of America had been assassinated.



maurile said...

In response to Maurile I would say that Maher comes much closer to saying that Dick Cheney's assassination would be a good thing [a lot fewer dead people if HE were dead] than Ann Coulter does to calling John Edwards a "faggot."

I disagree with this.

When Coulter says she can't say anything about John Edwards without using the word "faggot," she is not mincing words: she is calling him a faggot. (I do think she was using the term as a generic insult rather than a literal charge of homosexuality. I also think her statement has been way overplayed: she's said far worse on many occasions, albeit in nicer language, and the only reason this has gotten any publicity at all is because she used a curse word.)

Maher's contention that Cheney's assassination would result in fewer net deaths does not imply a wish that he were dead. I don't know whether you agree that Cheney's death would save lives -- but suppose for the sake of argument that you had compelling evidence that it would. Would you therefore wish that Cheney were dead? I'm guessing you wouldn't. So why attribute that same thought process to Maher?

Anonymous said...

there are two major differences between the two comments. one attacks a person based on what he has done, the other on the basis of who he is. one is a commentary on politics, the other is an ad hominem slur, or, as coulter herself called it, *in her defense!*, a 'schoolyard taunt.'

maher and others believe cheney's actions and policies have led directly to the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. thus, some might wish he were dead so that he might not continue the prosecution of his policies. sure, this is a personal attack against dick cheney, but it is one based upon dislike of the man's actions, not his race, sex, sexuality, religion, or any other part of his fundamental being.

calling someone a faggot is a different matter. this does not condemn any specific action or policy of that person. it condemns who he is, his very essence. of course, coulter was not actually calling edwards gay, but she was using the term faggot to imply that edwards is somehow weak or effeminate. thus, by implying that a faggot is automatically someone gay or effeminate by his very nature, coulter has insulted every gay man in the country. she has also provided no real critique of edwards as a politician or public figure. thus, we have baseless, tasteless AND completely uncritical mud-slinging.

the irony here is that the comment of maher, the comedian, has much more political substance than that of coulter, the supposed serious commentator. maher was, albeit in a very crude and comical fashion, critiquing the policies of dick cheney; coulter was merely hurling a crass insult completely devoid of any meaningful commentary in hope of getting a cheap laugh and nod of approval from her choir.

RKirk said...

Bill Maher's comments (It wasn't a single line, it was an extended discussion)focused on the "rights" of left-wing bloggers to lament the fact that Vice President Cheney hadn't been killed in Afghanistan. Maher agreed that they have a point when they say fewer people would be dead if Cheney had been killed. (This calculus assumes, with Michael Moore, that Iraqis would be playing happily on playgrounds if Saddam were still in power and not rebuilding the nuclear factory the Israelis took out in the 80's. It assumes that Al Qaida would have been engaged in origami after killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11 had the U.S. not invaded Afghanistan and established the Karzai government. It assumes that wars shouldn't be fought if the number of total casualties exceed the number of unknowable but presumed deaths caused by whatever political reasons without the war.)Maher also said that these left-wing bloggers have a "right" to wish, in print, that the V-P's had been assassinated.

This, to the left, constitutes humor and thoughtful discussion of free speech.

No one, interestingly enough, rises to defend Coulter's "right" to a joke that links John Edwards to the word "faggot." The reason is that everyone knows she has a "right" to say it. Just as Maher perfectly well knows that bloggers have a "right" to wish the V-P dead. What Maher does, however, is to sympathize with the bloggers in a way that no one sympathizes with Ann Coulter. (Conservatives know there is a difference between having a "right" to say something and "saying the right thing." I suspect liberals know this too, since they only talk about the "right" to say something when one of their own makes crass and hateful remarks.)

Maher defends the rights of left-wing bloggers to wish for the assassination of the V-P. He says they have a point, that fewer people would be dead if the V-P had been killed. Media response: nil.

Coulter uses the word "faggot" to slime John Edwards. Contrary to Maurile's comment, Coulter clearly does NOT call Edwards a "faggot." She simply dangles the word out there and leaves it to the audience to draw their own conclusions. Media response: semi-apocalyptic.

One person, a "politcally involved comedian" ponders, seriously, the "benefits" of the V-P's assassination--just as other leftists have pondered or hoped for, out loud, the assassination or death of other conservatives. (See the list.) Another "semi-comical" political commentator insults John Edwards in a joke.

I reiterate my earlier point that dangling "assassination" of your country's V-P out there for the amusement of folks is more vile than dangling a sexual slur out there for the amusements of folks.

The prior anonymous post about politics and ad hominem arguments, while generally on point, I think, serves to illustrate my earlier contention that politics (in this case anti-conservative and gay rights politics) drive media coverage and moral indignation--not the rather obvious fact, to me at least, that sexual slurs don't rise to the level of "I'd love to see him dead" on the HATE METER.

Anonymous said...

"The prior anonymous post about politics and ad hominem arguments, while generally on point, I think, serves to illustrate my earlier contention that politics (in this case anti-conservative and gay rights politics) drive media coverage and moral indignation--not the rather obvious fact, to me at least, that sexual slurs don't rise to the level of "I'd love to see him dead" on the HATE METER"

OK. Wishing someone dead is worse than marginalizing people on the basis of the their sexuality (which is what Coulter's use of faggot does--reinforces the marginalization of gay men as effeminate people and somehow unfit leaders).

The point you did not, address, however, is that Coulter's attack is 1) against a large minority of people in this country and 2) not based upon critique of policy or individual action, but rather upon their fundamental nature. In contrast, Maher's comment is 1)aimed solely at Cheney and 2) a critique not of the man, but of his actions.

I think you are right that there are some problems with the idea that more people would be alive today if Cheney had not ever been in office. This may or may not be true, but to argue that is beyond the point. We aren't concerned here with the validity of the statement, but rather the relative appropriateness of it. At least those were the terms you outlined in your initial post. Debating about whether or not the invasion of Iraq has saved or cost Iraqi lives is an entirely different matter, and to bring in such issues to the current discussion only serves to obfuscate matters.


maurile said...

I think we all agree on at least these points: (a) Ann Coulter has the right to insult whomever she wants, and (b) insulting someone is less severe than wishing for his death.

The points of disagreement seem to concern the purely semantic issues of (a) whether Ann Coulter called John Edwards a faggot, and (b) whether Bill Maher wished for John Cheney's death.

I personally don't find those issues terribly interesting, so I will drop out of that part of the discussion.

I will, however, offer my answers to two questions raised by Mr. Kirk:

1. Why is Coulter's comment getting more media attention than Maher's?

It's because Coulter used a swear word.

2. Why is nobody making it a point to defend Coulter's right to insult people?

Coulter's remarks weren't censored. The comments on Huffington's blog were censored (appropriately, in my view). I think that explains the difference.

Anonymous said...

i think, maurile, you have completely mis-diagnosed the points of contention.


maurile said...

That's certainly possible, jim.

On another note, anyone else notice that the last several articles in this blog focus on a rather peculiar love triangle? (Coulter has dated both Maher and D'Souza.)

RKirk said...

I think most of the points of this discussion have been covered. My observations are, in summary, that both Maher's and Coulter's comments are worthy of condemnation; that Coulter's comments were emphasized by the media because she is an articulate conservative "pop-star" who drives lefties crazy; that conservatives and religious folk are vilified (as a group)more frequently than (in public) gays are vilified; that Cheney's death was not contemplated as a justifiable wish by Maher because of Cheney's "personal" acts but because he is a conservative; that wishing a conservative dead is not, in our media culture, problematic (note prior examples of same)--that it is, in fact, more acceptable than using a sexual slur IF the slur is used by a conservative; that Coulter could have left someone to die in her partially submerged car and still be a U.S. Senator if she were a Massachusetts liberal; that the media is overwhelmingly liberal and that that political orientation is reflected in their coverage of these issues and in their selective outrage.

P.S. The comments about "number of people dead" and Iraq were added not to "obfuscate" this issue but rather to answer the TENTATIVE JUSTIFICATION that was given, here in these comments, for the accuracy of the comments about Cheney that Maher was defending.

maurile said...

Her popularity, by the way, rests overwhelmingly on the fact that she gives the left the same respect that they regularly give conservative and religious folk, NONE--and that she regularly fills her columns with facts (I mean specific facts) that illustrate leftist duplicity.

Not to belabor the subject of Ann Coulter, but I don't know many people who, in describing her writing, would choose "fact-filled" as a principal adjective.

PZ Meyers has proffered a challenge that has not yet been met: "I will suggest ... that if anyone reading this thinks some particular paragraph anywhere in chapters 8-11 [of her book Godless] is at all competent or accurate in its description of science, send it to me. I couldn't find one. That's where the obligation lies: show me one supportable claim in Coulter's farrago of lies and misleading statements and out-of-context quotes, and we'll discuss it."