Let’s Make Argument Great Again: Deconstructing Ann Coulter’s Insane Rhetoric

Conservative author Ann Coulter addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington on Saturday Feb. 20,2010. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Much of the political writing I’ve done has been critical of Hillary Clinton and the DNC, which has made a lot of you Democrats angry.

This time, I thought I’d write about someone we can all agree to dislike: Ann Coulter.

Every once in a while, Ann crosses my Twitter threshold like some folkloric ghoul. I never invite her in, yet there she is: unbidden, haggard, and wailing about liberals.

When the specter of Ann Coulter appears, I follow it back to her Twitter page, the source of her anguished moaning and chain-rattling, to see what’s going on in her cold crypt of a world.

Does this creature have fond feelings for anything? Does she have pets? Does she binge watch TV shows? Does she have any hobbies? (Okay, she did write a piece for Billboard about her devotion to the Grateful Dead – which, in my punk-loving opinion, explains a lot.)

You know how most people, even people you don’t like, will occasionally talk, post, or Tweet about something that makes them seem almost human? Like Trump and the best piece of chocolate cake he ever had? Paul Ryan and his love for Rage Against the Machine? (Clearly, a dubious honor for the band.) Or Jeff Sessions and his favorite white hood?

But check out Ann Coulter’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, or website and you won’t see any of that. No pictures of majestic landscapes, cute animals, delicious meals, or beloved family members.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with being business-like, but it does make you wonder: What exactly is she?

A dry husk, like the exoskeleton left behind by a mantis? A blonde Zorak, but meaner?

The living embodiment of Eris, sowing discord born out of a life of elite, white privilege?

One of the shrieking Nazgûl devoted to an impotent, obese, imbecilic, orange Sauron?

But all joking aside, I want to move beyond the name calling, which I’ve done to make a point: ad hominems (something Coulter rarely seems willing to move beyond) aren’t fair and logical argumentative strategies. No, the real issue I want to talk about is Ann’s deceptive and fallacious reasoning.

I spent a few hours last weekend reading her weekly columns from the date of Trump’s inauguration to the most recent (there’s not enough cheap wine in the world to make this experience bearable), and it became clear to me that her writing follows a kind of formula that never transcends the inflammatory or hyperbolic.

Let’s examine her most recent column, for 10/04/17, titled “MEDIA FIND LAS VEGAS SHOOTER’S MOTIVE: HE’S WHITE!”, as an example of this formula.

1. One trick Ann likes is using excessive and unnecessary exclamation points and capitalization.   Scan her 10/04/17 column, or any of the others, and you’ll see that her writing is littered with them.

Writers who deal in facts don’t have to rely on these cheap tricks. They’re flashy gimmicks intended for dullards who don’t read carefully, tactics borrowed from the world of advertising where the assumption is that dumb consumers won’t take the time to actually read anything that isn’t underscored in some obvious way, and where the goal is to get them to invest in something of dubious value without thinking.

Ann uses more exclamation points that a lovesick college girl writing a note to her boyfriend and more all-caps sentences than my seventy-five year old Mom when she’s texting.

2. Another trick is making assertions without providing proof. In this particular example, Ann writes, “Blacks and Hispanics are extremely well-represented as perpetrators of mass shootings, Muslims are over-represented, and surprisingly, even the usually law-abiding Asians more than hold their own.”

So we’re just supposed to take her word for this? Where’s the source?

3. A third trick is making up fake “quotes.” For example, when Coulter writes from the imagined perspective of a “typical reporter”:

“Typical Reporter: Yeah, we decided not to go with the mass shootings at the Tennessee church, the Washington Navy Yard, San Bernardino, the Pulse nightclub, Fort Hood, the LIRR, the Carson City IHOP, the Trolley Square Shopping Mall, the Windy City Core Supply warehouse, Virginia Tech, the Binghamton Civic Center, the Hartford Distributors, the hunting tract in Wisconsin, the Appalachian School of Law … and on and on and on.”

How about quoting an actual reporter? Maybe because no reporter has actually said or written anything like that?

4. A fourth trick is using faulty analogies. For example, Coulter questions why (a mere forty-eight hours after the massacre) it has taken reporters so long to uncover the facts about the Las Vegas shooter, writing, “Within hours of the first indictments in the Duke lacrosse case — later, all thrown out — the media was bristling with information about the players’ parents, the homes they grew up in, the ritziness of their neighborhoods, and the tuition at their Catholic high schools.”

First of all, rape and murder aren’t the same crimes. Second, colleges are repositories of all kinds of information about students, which isn’t always the case with adults who don’t have an institution tracking their every move for consecutive years. Third, neighborhood income levels and school costs are easily verifiable, whereas finding out whether a killer’s girlfriend knew about his stockpile of guns is a far more subjective kind of inquiry.

5. And finally, Coulter often relies on emotional appeals. For example, “There was one characteristic of white men in abundant evidence at the Las Vegas massacre. They’re awfully chivalrous, these white male country music fans … At the Las Vegas concert, men died protecting women, using their bodies as shields and standing up in the middle of gunfire to direct the women to safety. The New York Post reports that one woman said she “was running away and a couple of guys said, ‘Hey, come stand behind us,’ and boom, they went down.” Heather Melton has described how she felt her husband, Sonny, being shot in the back, fatally, as he shielded her from the rain of bullets.”

In reality, the fact that heroic white men (weren’t they any women or minorities saving anyone?) and beloved husbands died saving others doesn’t make the Las Vegas massacre any less of an example of white domestic terrorism.

In addition to the formulaic approach I’ve outlined above, here are a few other red flags to watch out for that tell you Coulter’s a scammer, a peddler of lies:

  • She rarely includes the dates of the articles she quotes from or links to them — especially when it’s The New York Times or The Washington Post. This way, she can avoid sending traffic to these credible sources and away from her own website.
  • When she does includes links, they’re usually to her own books on Amazon. So, for example, when she cites a statistic about how many illegal immigrants there are in the U.S., she’ll link to her own book rather than the source from which she originally got the info.  (See 9/20/17)
  • She brags about her own writing, which is never a good sign. Most laughably, she writes that Trump “championed the entire thesis” of one of her books. (8/30/17).   Doesn’t this presuppose that Trump bothers to read at all?
  • She cites fake news sites like WorldNetDaily, The Daily Caller, and Breitbart. As a lawyer and well-educated person, she knows better.
  • She uses personal testimony as evidence. For example, after reading her 1/25/17 column we’re supposed to believe she can’t afford health care?  Um, nope.  She has twelve best-selling books and gets paid $30,000-$50,000 per speaking engagement http://www.celebrityspeakersbureau.com/talent/ann-coulter/.  That’s a “plain folks appeal.”   But guess what, Deplorables?  She’s not one of you.
  • She cherry-picks evidence. For example, in her 3/08/17 column, when trying to argue that Mexican immigrants rape children more often than Americans, she provides statistics about people she assumes are Mexicans (based on last names) from one state, North Carolina, obtained from a non-credible source, but then doesn’t compare this number against numbers of child rapists who aren’t immigrants across the U.S.

Now, for your amusement, I’d like to wrap up with some of the unintentionally-comical, ludicrous, and sweeping generalizations Ann has made in her weekly columns:

11/09/16: On Trump: “Now comes the part Americans have desperately hoped for, but almost never seen: A politician keeping his promises to the American people.”

How’s that working for you, Ann?

12/21/16: “Only white liberals take Kwanzaa seriously. American blacks celebrate Christmas.”

Actually, some of us, both black and white, don’t take any of it seriously.

1/11/16: “… the 21st-century white American male is the most pacific — and least rock-throwing — Y-chromosomed being ever to walk the Earth.”

So tell us more about how you’ve studied violence in every white culture since the beginning of time, Ann. 

2/15/17: “Let’s compare what President Trump has accomplished since the inauguration (with that enormous crowd!) with what congressional Republicans have done.”

Enormous crowd?  Mmkay.

6/14/17: “… masked, armed liberals around the country have formed military-style organizations to beat up conservatives. In liberal towns, the police are regularly ordered to stand down to allow the assaults to proceed unimpeded.”

I wish I had time to include more examples, but I have to end here so I can go meet up with my friends in my local “military-style organization to beat up conservatives.”

Wait, does that mean we’re not sensitive, SJW snowflakes anymore?

Oops. Must have missed that memo.

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