When I heard that Ann Coulter, in a throwback to the 2012 election cycle (albeit a bit earlier in this time) had used the word “retard” again, I wasn’t going to write about it at first. But obviously I’ve changed my mind.
Content Note: Ableist slurs, Ableism, Donald Trump, US Election 2016
Image Description: Headshot of Ann Coulter at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards – woman of indeterminate age with long blonde hair and blue eyes, smiling into the camera.
In 2012, after a Presidential debate, Ann Coulter tweeted “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard”, in reference to Barack Obama, and I said that I was “shocked.”
I’m not shocked this time around. I’ve heard her talk a lot in the last four years.
This time, she was defending Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. In her new book, In Trump We Trusts, she writes (as reported by theslot.jezebel.com):
“Trump denied knowing that Serge was disabled, and demanded an apology, saying that anyone could see his imitation was of a flustered, frightened reporter, not a disabled person. It’s true that Trump was not mimicking any mannerisms that Serge has. He doesn’t jerk around or flail his arms. He’s not retarded. He sits calmly, but if you look at his wrists, you’ll see they are curved in. That’s not the imitation Trump was doing—he was doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid: “’Ahhh, I don’t know what I said—ahhh, I don’t remember!’ He’s going, ‘Ahhh, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said!’”
Even if I chose to overlook her use of “retard” and “retarded”…it’s a terrible argument, and Ann Coulter knows it.
Call Her What You Want – Ann Coulter is a Smart Woman
Check out Coulter’s biography. She’s a corporate lawyer. She worked for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, for God’s sake. She’s a best-selling author and columnist and a respected Conservative pundit, and you don’t get to her level in the right-wing media when you’re a woman unless you’ve got some major brains in your head.
Granted, Coulter was fired from MSNBC (twice) because she’s so controversial. Personally, I think most of her expressed opinions are disgusting. But I’d bet money that a lot of her bluster is just that – bluster. She’s worked hard to get to the top and she knows that the more she can shock people, the longer she’ll stay there. The people that are buying In Trump We Trust aren’t going to be bothered that she used the word “retard”. She’s hoping that you’ll be bothered enough that you’ll buy the book to see what else she’s said, or that you’ll at least talk about this one page in her book long enough to keep her in the news a little longer so that her fans who haven’t heard about her book will buy it.
And yes, I do realize that I’m contributing to this by writing this blog post. But:
- I’m not going to get into the number of people that access this blog in a day, but this post isn’t going to be what keeps Ann Coulter in the news.
- The people who consistently access this blog aren’t likely to go out and purchase Ann Coulter’s book even out of morbid curiosity.
Ann Coulter is a shock jock, and she plays that game really well.
Each time she says “retard”, she knows what the response will be, and she’ll only use it as “evidence” to support her Trump-ish narrative that America is too politically correct and that people can’t speak their minds for fear of the “thought police” coming after them. I’ve been hearing this narrative for years, and it irks me. I’m not in favour of “silencing” anyone – people should feel free to say what they want. But word choice has consequences, so people should ask themselves, “Am I willing to live with the consequences?” before tossing around words like “retard” like they don’t have any historical context and emotional weight behind them.
Apparently Anne Coulter feels so strongly about using shock value as a way to stay in the spotlight that she’s willing to live with the personal consequences of using ableist language (not to mention racist, classist and sexist language) in her speech and writing. And that’s her problem. Not yours. The best thing you can do is continue to let her know that there are consequences to using language that’s hurtful to other people.
Ann Coulter – Here’s What You Can Do
You’re not going to change Ann Coulter. But here are some things you *can* do:
- Refuse to even read her books (let alone buy them) and tell people why.
- When people bring up her theory that Donald Trump wasn’t mocking Serge Kovaleski, tell them that it’s a load of crap and explain why (it’s not that difficult; just go over the paragraph I cited.) Be sure to include that she should know herself that it’s a load of crap, since she’s a corporate lawyer and can presumably spot a poorly-constructed argument.
- Continue to explain to people why “retard” is hurtful and why people get upset when celebrities use it. Mention that she’s a frequent and unapologetic offender.
But at the same time, don’t let her hateful rhetoric rent space in your head.
You’ve got much more important things to think about than the ramblings of a woman who feels irrelevancy nipping at her heels.