Follow-Up Interview Re: Coulter Censorship

The excellent New England-based LGBT newspaper Bay Windows has a follow-up interview with me about the campaign by some gay organizations to get Ann Coulter’s column cancelled by newspapers. I oppose censoring Coulter because opposing censorship is always the right thing to do, even–especially–when the person being considered is unappealing. Sadly, the First Amendment is the least popular part of the Constitution–everyone is in favor of speech they agree with.

12 Responses to “”

  1. Sean Says:

    You’re still confusing getting the sack from a commercial enterprise with censorship. She can say what she wants. No one has to buy it.

  2. Ted Rall Says:

    That was fast.

    Economic censorship is still censorship, especially in this case. Coulter’s “faggot” remark was in a speech to CPAC; if CPAC decides not to bring her back next year they’re within their rights.

    Her column, however, has not changed content. She has long made bigoted comments in her column, notably about Muslims, without losing client newspapers as a result. An editor who cancels her because people are pissed off at her “faggot” speech isn’t really making an economic decision to improve his newspaper–he’s yielding to bullying, McCarthyite political pressure to silence her voice.

    Can you explain to me the difference between your “nobody has to buy it” argument and the McCarthy-era argument that Commie actors could say anything they want, but that didn’t entitle them to a job acting in Hollywood?

  3. JXC Says:

    I don’t see why Coulter’s first amendment rights are any more important than the first amendment rights of individuals ans organizations that protest her spew. Having said that, I’m kind of happy to see her as the face of the right. And Limbaugh, O’Riley, Hannity, whatever crawls out from under a rock next, their exhibitors have been riding the short term fad that’s starting to wear on the public. Their ilk will always be with us but the invisible hand of the marketplace may very well brush them aside someday soon.

  4. Ted Rall Says:

    Coulter’s rights are not more important than anyone else’s. The point is, she’s not trying to make anyone else shut up. No one should make her shut up either. And as I said in the interview, I rather admire her honest bigotry. It’s a refreshing improvement over the polite mainstream variety of Mitt Romney and, for that matter, Hillary Clinton (who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act).

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I must admit that it probably is good to have her as the “unhinged” public face of the Right-wing (in much the same way it was bad to have David Duke as the “articulate” face of the Klan). What reasonable person would want to rally around a banner carried by her? Also, if replaced by one who says the same things but with less overt offensiveness (ala Buckley or even that White House whore Gallagher), much more damage could be done against the Left in the War of Ideas.

    Reasonable people can still be disgusted by her, though. Censorship is just a kneejerk reaction, and perhaps this is the best reason for not jumping on the bandwagon to get that weekly literary cesspool of hers dropped, since kneejerk reactions have led to some of the worst man-made disasters in history.

    It is good to take a deep breath and wait until every angle has been pondered before acting. Perhaps the HRC should have done the same.

    Evil Kumquat

  6. Sean Says:

    Well that’s easy. Acting and politics aren’t connected. If they’d strayed form the script to quote Marx in the middle of a B-grade detective movie they would have deserved the sack.

    A better analogy would have been the case of an actor who insisted on the unnatural styles apparently favoured in the 18th century. They’re paid to act. If the studio decides their acting sucks and will keep paying customers away, sack ’em.

    Coulter is paid as a political and social commentator and let’s face it for celebrity value. If the nature of her comments and infamy start to adversely affect the bottom line, she can fired for the the inverse of the reason she was hired.

  7. Ted Rall Says:

    The McCarthites believed acting and politics were connected. So do many Americans: consider how actors with strong political views–Ed Asner, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, Charlton Heston–have suffered lost opportunities because of their views.

    As someone who is paid to give speeches as well as write a column, believe me when I say that they are different forums and different vehicles of expression.

  8. Sean Says:

    If the HRC campaign were McCarthyite, Coulter would be hoist on her own petard. Didn’t she write a book claiming Joe as a great American hero?

    But it ain’t. McCarthy was a Senator. The government has the power to legislate and subpoena. It has armed officers to enforce that legislation and compel attendance before its committees. It taxes industries, like the movie industry, at the rate which it pleases. It controls licenses necessary to undertake commercial enterprises. And so on and so forth. It’s referred to as the power and majesty of the State, Ted.

    The HRC are a collection of citizens, and they’re within their rights to boycott products and write to editors.

  9. John Riedel Says:

    I think it is important to draw a distinction between speech that is curtailed by the government (or an entity or person that is exercising the control of government) and private citizens. I don’t really have an opinion whether AC’s voice should be silenced – I think her voice lends clarity to the true inspiration behind the opinions held by many on the right and for that, I almost feel that her opinions should be known by all. However, I also believe that private citizens should be able to use their economic force to stifle speech they don’t agree with. The religious right discovered this long ago and given that our nation is unabashedly capitalist driven, then we should vote with our wallet (or purse) and should have the right to do that. Understand that the Constitution says nothing about my efforts as a private citizen to stifle your speech – I’m perfectly able to use any legal means at my disposal to do such.

  10. Carl Says:


    Hillary Clinton didn’t vote for DOMA. Her husband signed it into law, but it was passed in 1996, 4 years before she entered the Senate.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    See, this is why a guy like Ted is invaluable. He doesn’t let his (unabashedly) partisan views get in the way of speaking out against something he feels is wrong. So long as those on the left call for the boycott of Coulter, they have no ground to argue against the next right wing call for a boycott against a lefty.

    Sigh… as Stealer’s Wheels so poetically put it, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right!”

    Oh, and just as an historical point here: McCarthy himself never instigated the blacklist. He may have thought it a grand idea, but it was not of his (governmental) making. That was the studio system “voting with their checkbooks.” If the private, studio driven blacklist was wrong (and of course it was), than the private, HRC attempt to boycott Coulter is wrong.

    If the left doesn’t like being compared to McCarthy and his ilk, maybe they should stop acting like them.

  12. Sam Holloway Says:

    I’m leaning toward John Riedel on this one, Ted. There’s a huge difference between asking your congressman or senator to have Ann Coulter’s bile outlawed and organizing to put financial pressure on a newspaper (a non-governmental entity by definition) to make a business decision to drop Ann Coulter. If an editorial board decides– based on the force of the squeaky wheel, however accurate that may be as a barometer– that keeping Coulter’s column is harmful to their bottom line, then why wouldn’t they drop her? That’s the flip side of free speech in a corporate media environment.

    Of course, said newspapers have every right to ignore any shape or scope of public pressure and retain a syndicated column on principle. That leads me to another element of this discussion that I think has been missed.

    In their efforts to get their message out, wealthy right wingers have spent decades and billions of dollars forming propaganda mills that churn out pundits, columnists, and media outlets whose purpose has been to sway public opinion toward their pet causes. It just so happens that virtually all major media outlets are owned by wealthy right wingers.

    So if an interest group (e.g. a collection of gay organizations) decides to campaign against Ann Coulter, they are not only exercising their own right to free speech. They are fighting an uphill battle.

    Again, corporate media outlets can express whatever points of view they wish, and provide platforms to whomever they wish for the same purpose. Media consumers have a right– and a responsibility– to do what they would do as consumers of any other product or service and demand that certain things be added to or subtracted from the menu.

    The preponderance of right wing ideas that have been foisted onto mainstream political and cultural discourse, and the damage those ideas have wreaked upon the republic, are no mystery to those of us who have been paying attention. Using market pressure to call purveyors of those ideas to account is not censorship; it is another exercise of the First Amendment.

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