The limits of rhetoric

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While digging my way out from under the many thoughtful and measured responses to my recent piece on Ann Coulter, I came across
this column by Dave Astor, media critic for Editor & Publisher. Astor makes a point I haven't seen elsewhere: that Coulter has a habit of publicly calling for people to be killed, among them Justice John Paul Stevens and Congressman Murtha.

Astor implies this is unprecedented, which is not the case (consider Julianne Malveaux on Clarence Thomas, or the guy who wrote the novel about President Bush's assassination), but that's beside the point. What we have here is yet another episode where the legacy media is overlooking the real story out of eagerness to wax indignant.

The real story is this: Ann Coulter has had the great misfortune of attracting the attention of a stalker.   According to her, he's one of the truly dangerous types, capable of just about anything.

Which calls to mind the name of John Hinckley. It's a well—established fact that Hinckley's motive for shooting Ronald Reagan (along with James Brady and a Secret Service agent) was to impress Jodie Foster. Hinckley was fixated on the film Taxi Driver in which disturbed New Yorker Travis Bickle (played — magnificently — by Robert DeNiro) obsesses over Jodie as a teenage hooker to the point that he takes a pop at a presidential candidate. That was enough to set Hinckley off.

So with this example in mind, it's not difficult to envision Coulter's stalker going after, say, Justice Stephens, under the delusion that such an act would really, really impress Ann. (Though she says that the stalker hates her, that changes little — if these guys were stable, they wouldn't be stalkers.)
 
Coulter can't be blamed for being targeted, nor for anything the stalker might choose to do. But she does have a responsibility to pay close attention to how these types act, think, and behave. There are many reasons for limits on rhetoric. This is a particularly urgent one.

J.R. Dunn   6 27 06

While digging my way out from under the many thoughtful and measured responses to my recent piece on Ann Coulter, I came across
this column by Dave Astor, media critic for Editor & Publisher. Astor makes a point I haven't seen elsewhere: that Coulter has a habit of publicly calling for people to be killed, among them Justice John Paul Stevens and Congressman Murtha.

Astor implies this is unprecedented, which is not the case (consider Julianne Malveaux on Clarence Thomas, or the guy who wrote the novel about President Bush's assassination), but that's beside the point. What we have here is yet another episode where the legacy media is overlooking the real story out of eagerness to wax indignant.

The real story is this: Ann Coulter has had the great misfortune of attracting the attention of a stalker.   According to her, he's one of the truly dangerous types, capable of just about anything.

Which calls to mind the name of John Hinckley. It's a well—established fact that Hinckley's motive for shooting Ronald Reagan (along with James Brady and a Secret Service agent) was to impress Jodie Foster. Hinckley was fixated on the film Taxi Driver in which disturbed New Yorker Travis Bickle (played — magnificently — by Robert DeNiro) obsesses over Jodie as a teenage hooker to the point that he takes a pop at a presidential candidate. That was enough to set Hinckley off.

So with this example in mind, it's not difficult to envision Coulter's stalker going after, say, Justice Stephens, under the delusion that such an act would really, really impress Ann. (Though she says that the stalker hates her, that changes little — if these guys were stable, they wouldn't be stalkers.)
 
Coulter can't be blamed for being targeted, nor for anything the stalker might choose to do. But she does have a responsibility to pay close attention to how these types act, think, and behave. There are many reasons for limits on rhetoric. This is a particularly urgent one.

J.R. Dunn   6 27 06