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Ann Coulter & The “R” Word

Ann Coulter is (surprise!) at the center of a controversy for her repeated use of a variant of the term “Retard” this election season — primarily on Twitter.  She has referred to the president this way as well as those who are using the term Romneysia. It’s a strong and cutting word and I understand why she uses it. 

But she is wrong to use it that way. 

ursula.jpgI un…

  1. Rudolf Halbensinn

    Trace, she didn’t say downs-syndromish, she said retarded.

    For those with overly thin skin, any word with the slightest hint of a  related meaning to something which hurt their feelings must be castigated. 

    You let the language evolve but when a limited group coerces a change this is not evolution.  Making a fuss over a word uttered by Ms Coulter is jousting with strawmen perched on windmills.

    I’m happy that you enjoyed my straw man.

    And make all the bald-headed old jerk comments you desire.  I’m not thin-skinned.

  2. Steven Potter

    Wow, I sit here disgusted at some of the comments I’m reading:  stop being so sensitive, this is just liberal PC orthodoxy, there’s nothing offensive about it.  Really?  And yet somehow we think our side is more mature.

    Using that word to mock someone implies that the mentally handicap have less value than other humans.  That’s the point of using that word to put someone down.  The person using it may not realize they are implying it, but they are.  That’s why I abhor the word as someone with a younger brother that is mentally handicapped.

    I understand it’s culturally accepted to make jokes using that word though I may hate it.  Conservatives shouldn’t be for limiting freedom of expression, but, by God, they should have the decency to know what is and is not right to say.  In Ann Coulter’s case, she tarnishes the conservative values she tries to represent by delving into that hole.

  3. Rudolf Halbensinn

    Potter, have you noticed that the more advanced civilization becomes, the more sensitive the people become? This is the Princess and the Pea effect.

    A person complains that his mattress is not soft enough. Fine. However when he starts to rail against all people because his mattress is not soft enough, then this person must be sent back to the year 1150 AD to broaden his perspectives. He can sleep on the cold earth in a mud hut and exercise tolerance with his fellow human beings.

    You say you understand that it’s “culturally accepted”, but you cannot accept it. You feel obligated to rein in Ms Coulter. Do you feel the same way about what Bill Maher said about Sarah Palin?

    “They should have the decency to know what’s right” you say. Well, put your list of forbidden phrases in a Language Manifesto and nail it to the office door of HBO, if your idea of “what’s right” is not written in stone. There are many, many different levels of acceptable language depending on who you talk with.  Have you ever visited a truck stop?

    Try exercising tolerance.

  4. Nanda Panjandrum

    Trace, the link to Ursula’s blog seems to be broken…

  5. E. Blackadder

    Twitter isn’t exactly known for flowery language, nuance, or depth.

    I think the comments here, while appropriately supportive of family, miss the point that it’s perfectly reasonable to deride a sitting president when he’s being very deridable.  It is certainly a reasonable opinion that the president has some surprisingly severe limitations.  It’s certainly conceivable that highlighting those limitations has value, and it’s also reasonable to have ways to express those limitations in shorthand.  Referring to the president as “retarded” says with one punch-in-the-face word that which might otherwise take a paragraph.

    I have no truck with those who get up in high dudgeon over use of a word in political discourse.  Unless the word is “kill.”

  6. Trace

    Thanks Nanda. I think I fixed everything.

  7. Goldgeller

    I don’t think she should use that word derisively. You know, she’s smart and witty, and in doesn’t have much fear– these are good things for a conservative–but the big danger would be that she makes herself so toxic that it would do no good to cite her work or her books.  She should cool it down some. 

  8. Mel Foil

    When you use that word to describe a person that it would never apply to with the original meaning, it’s much less of a transgression. I’ve been called that for asking a woman her age, and in that case, for that moment, it was accurate. I think Obama could handle it. It didn’t make him cry, I don’t think.

  9. Trace

    The point Mel is that using that word as an insult derides mentally disabled people and those that care for them. I get that it’s a sharp, effective word, but she should be supporting those that choose to give birth to and raise children with birth defects, not using them as a punch line.

  10. Ryan M

    Oh, I have written about this before and how I don’t think changing words is helpful. Retarded is already a PC version of other words, like idiot, now commonly used as a derisive term that is not complained of. Retarded has been changed into handicapped and has likewise made the transition into a different meaning. I think, particularly because it is no longer acceptable in its original definition, it is fair game as used by Ann coulter. I’d link to the essay, but I am on my … Stupid phone!

  11. FloppyDisk90
    Trace Urdan: The point Mel is that using that word as an insult derides mentally disabled people and those that care for them. I get that it’s a sharp, effective word, but she should be supporting those that choose to give birth to and raise children with birth defects, not using them as a punch line. · 0 minutes ago

    And it’s simply not an accurate description of the President.  Obama understands perfectly well what he’s doing and has to a large extent successfully executed key pieces of a social progressive, statist agenda.  We may regard his political philosophies as wrongheaded but he has articulated and sold them in a masterful way.

  12. Lamont Cranston

    @AnnCoulter Been busy, but in Obama STILL talking about that video? I had no idea how crucial the retarded vote is in this election.

    Technically speaking, the “retarded vote” includes my youngest daughter, Annie, who has Down syndrome. She’ll vote a week from Tuesday, just as she has in the past five elections. She’ll show her state-issued Photo ID (she’s insanely proud of her “license”), and I’ll take her into the voting booth.

    Does Ms. Coulter think Annie’s vote isn’t worthwhile? Does she think that Annie’s vote–in Pennsylvania, where Romney is within striking distance, and Tom Smith is a hair’s breadth behind in the Senate race–is worth mocking?

    I normally don’t get irritated by variations on the word “retarded.” But in this case, Coulter is specifically referring to a very specific group of voters–one of whom is particularly dear to me.

    Shame on her. 

  13. Ryan M

    John, Ann was very obviously NOT speaking technically. I wholly understand your personal sensitivity, but think about how often we use non-technical language every day. To hold people to that standard despite the fact that their plain meaning is obvious would be disingenuous.

  14. Jane

    Ann Coulter is a great heart and knows what she’s doing.  She’s done more to advance the cause of conservatism than most of the writers I’ve read combined.  The word is what you make of it.  She’s gold, a bona fide freedom-fighter, and, like most genuine revolutionaries, she’s not for the squeamish.

  15. Red Feline
    Ryan M: John, Ann was very obviously NOT speaking technically. I wholly understand your personal sensitivity, but think about how often we use non-technical language every day. To hold people to that standard despite the fact that their plain meaning is obvious would be disingenuous. · 12 hours ago

    Edited 12 hours ago

    I would have taken Ann Coulter’s use of the word “retard” as meaning those people who have been taken in by Obama’s “charisma”. As Ryan says, it certainly doesn’t apply to those with physical or mental challenges. 

  16. Red Feline
    HVTs … The fact that Ann Coulter is controversial is revealed in her choice of topics and subsequent argumentation in her books. She is only controversial for using the liberal media to draw attention to conservative ideasamong  liberals!  She is a conservative hero for doing that.  The fact she does this by tweaking their silly liberal noses with their own PC ludicrousness only demonstrates her brilliance.

    You will find no substantive, fact-focused counterargument to ANY Ann Coulter book.  She’s that good.  But you will find endless phony PC outrage that all has the same dog-whistle purpose for Lefties: ‘Can’t out-argue her; must discredit her.’  Ann Coulter is the most potent conservative weapon of her generation, and liberals know it. · 5 hours ago

    Edited 5 hours ago

    We need a lot more like her to counteract the barbarians at the gate! 

  17. At The Rubicon

    I used to be a big fan of Ann Coulter but she lost me when she violated Ronaldus Magnus’ eleventh commandment.

  18. Ryan M
    John Murdoch

    I normally don’t get irritated by variations on the word “retarded.” But in this case, Coulter is specifically referring to a very specific group of voters–one of whom is particularly dear to me.

    And John, I do not mean to minimize your relationship or your daughter – as a father how that feels, and nothing in the world could change that.

    But I also think you know full well that Ann Coulter was in no way referring to actual downs syndrome voters with that comment.

    And I think this is a question that most people wouldn’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole, due to sensitivities, but if we don’t allow voting for children – why would we allow voting for adults with the minds of children?  Now, from what I know, that does NOT include all mentally handicapped individuals.  I believe there is a spectrum.  But I think it is an interesting question on how we approach the concept of voting.  I am reminded of pushes to get out and vote – to reach to younger, uninformed voters.  Seems this isn’t always wise.

  19. Red Feline

    I happen to be a blonde and LOVE blonde jokes. In fact, at a book fair, I was laughing as I was reading a book of blonde jokes, when the operator of the stall said to me, also laughing, that he ought to pay me to stay there all day. :-)

    I notice Ann Coulter is also blond. A very gorgeous blonde, I would agree. She has to be very thick-skinned. Perhaps she takes it for granted that other people are too. 

    People are also always making jokes about Scots. In fact, we often make them up ourselves, just for the laugh. I like those too.

    On second thoughts, perhaps I ought to be more sensitive and take offense?

    That would be too bad, as I like to be able to laugh at myself. 

  20. Lamont Cranston
    Ryan M

    But I also think you know full well that Ann Coulter was in no way referring to actual downs syndrome voters with that comment.

    Actually, I assume she was referring, specifically, to the mentally-retarded. Not Down syndrome specifically–but the mentally-retarded in particular. 

    She’s bright, she’s capable, she’s literate. She writes and speaks for a living. She knows the power of words, and she chooses her words deliberately. She has a longstanding reputation for deliberately courting controversy as a way to attract attention. 

    Shame on her.

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