TIME.com: Viewpoint: Why Ann Coulter Matters
The same day I was reading Ann Coulter’s book, I read Margaret Talbot’s excellent New Yorker piece from last week on Oriana Fallaci, the Coulteresque Italian journalist who is not intimidated by the
“penitential narcissism that makes the West guilty of even that which victimizes it.” She has written that the “art of invading and conquering and subjugating” is “the only art which the sons of Allah have always excelled.” Fallaci has said that Muslims “breed like rats,”
As it happens, it’s illegal in much of Europe to say such outlandish things: Fallaci currently faces trial in Italy for defaming Islam. At least in the U.S., Coulter is not threatened with prosecution for being Coulter, but as I read Talbot’s piece I wondered why the de rigueur intellectual response to Coulter in the U.S. is to dismiss her automatically.
America’s obsession with loving or hating Coulter is a psychological phenomenon almost unique in our culture. Her various epigones on Fox News can’t quite match her ability to induce people to take deeply seriously what is obvious satire. I’m not saying Coulter doesn’t believe what she says — if you talk with her mother, who’s even more conservative, you’ll know that she does — but she knows that outrage is the blunt cousin of argument, that irony is more accessible than a thousand position papers. She knows that saying what no one else would dare to say will get her attention.