Friday, June 09, 2006

Evil minds

The question of the week has been, Does Ann Coulter believe all the crazy, hateful, lying, vituperative, vile, nasty, and just plain weird things she writes and says?

Or, to put it in a way Time Magazine would approve, is her playful, witty, satirical eloquence all for show?

Matt Lauer asked her if she believed herself.

She said yes, and I'm inclined to take her word for it.

I think she believes all of it...and none of it.

Ann Coulter believes in Ann Coulter and in the worship and adoration of Ann Coulter.

Back during the Impeachment Crisis she learned that she could inspire worship and adoration just by saying whatever nasty thought popped into her head.

She didn't have to be right, she didn't have to have any facts to back up her opinions, she didn't have to think. She just had to say something and a crowd cheered, the cameras swung around to focus on her, and money rained down upon her from the skies.

In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the gods of every culture are dying out. Gods exist in Gaiman's world only as long as people believe in them. Their power and their force diminish as the numbers of their worshippers shrink. Jesus is at this point just some guy wandering the back roads of America, lonely and ignored. Amazingly, Odin still has enough adherents for him to be a main character.

But people who are gods and goddesses in their own minds also only exist as long they have worhippers.

As long as the faithful flock to their altars, people like Coulter are justified to themselves.

The proof of their rightness is in the intensity of their followers' devotion.

Knowing that she's adored proves to her she's right before she says a word. After she finishes saying something and sits back basking in the applause she can tell herself that she was right to think she was right. This saves her the trouble of having to listen to herself, think about what she's saying, or care about what her words mean or the pain and damage they might cause.

You can say she's just in it for the money. And you'd be right. Of course she is. The money is proof of her divinity. It's the slaughtered goat, the burnt hecatomb, the virgin tossed into the volcano. It's the sacrifice of her devotees showing their love.

You can say she must know how awful she is.

But evil people don't have to "know" they are evil.

Nevermind evil people. People don't have to know they're doing evil to do it.

To know if you're doing right or doing wrong, you have to think.

Most people don't think. They react. Mostly what they react to are their own needs, appetites, and desires.

They react to the demands of their egos, vanity, and pride.

Their "thinking" on most everything is mostly cover. The words they use are chosen to justify their reactions not guide their behavior.

The artist who declares she will never sell out.

The athlete who promises he will never use drugs.

The business owner who vows never to cheat a customer.

The politician who promises to get to the bottom of this.

All of these people are using words to flatter themselves at the moment. They're not thinking, and they're certainly not tying themselves down.

When the time comes for the artist to sell out, she'll find a new set of words to describe selling out as her growing and as artist and dismiss old friends who point out her hypocrisy as jealous and small.

When the time comes when the athlete can't continue his career without chemical assistance, he'll find a way to explain it away---everybody does it, he needs to keep going to support his family, his teammates are counting on him, and what's the difference between steroids and vitamins and cortisone shots anyway?

The businessman will blame the cheated customer for being a sap or expecting too much or not reading the contract.

The politician will treat his high-minded words as if they were actions, as if saying he would challenge the Vice President to explain himself was the same as actually challenging the Vice President.

And for the most part people do not remember themselves. What they said and did last week, last month, last year are not part of who they are today.

Remembering ourselves may be impossible anyway. All our memories of our past selves are informed---tainted---by all that happened to us between then and now.

It may be that we don't remember anything in and of itself anyway. We remember the last time we remembered it.

Making sense of ourselves to ourselves---making a sensible self---making a self---is a matter of reconciling memories with feelings, comparing now with then, correcting, learning lessons, consciously recognizing the need to change our minds and our behavior, forgiving or not forgiving mistakes, allowing for changes of heart, disallowing them, recognizing changes in circumstances, recognizing that we are changing, honestly facing up to all this, sternly and earnestly trying to put it all together into a consistent and decent whole. Integrating. Having integrity.

It's difficult, daunting, hard, and exhausting. It's beyond most of us so most of us don't even try. We just let ourselves be.

And we assume that's enough.

That's us. That's who we are.

We assume a consistency, an integrity, that isn't there because we didn't force it upon ourselves.

As far as I can tell, Ann Coulter is no different than most people. She has no integrity.

She isn't ashamed of anything she's said because it isn't real to her. She exists only in the present.

Scrooge, begging for mercy from the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, vows to reform by remembering.

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut away the lessons that they teach.

One of those lessons is that Scrooge has been a bad man.

Not something he knows about himself at the beginning of the story.

At the beginning he's quite pleased with himself. He's the smartest, funniest character he knows. The person with the most sense. He's happy. He thinks.

"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" he asks. "If they had rather die than they had best do it and decrease the surplus population."

He's being funny. It's a joke. He cracks himself up.

Does he mean it? Who knows? Who cares?

He's been told that many people would rather die than go into the workhouse. But right after his joke, his Coulter-esque joke, he says he doesn't know that it's true, that they'd rather die. It's not his business to know.

Scrooge doesn't care if they live or die. He says what he says about decreasing the surplus population because it deflects the demands upon his conscience, upon his time, and upon his wallet.

Does he mean what he says? Does he believe it? For all practical purposes it doesn't matter. The effect is the same. Children will go hungry.

Does Coulter believe what she says? Does it matter? The effect of what she says is the same. Stupid, angry people grow stupider and angrier.

Scrooge is just being himself. He's reacting to his feelings at that moment.

Scrooge believes in Scrooge's comfort. He believes in Scrooge being left alone. What he says to make himself comfortable, what he tells people to make them leave him alone are just words, words used as tools to get what he wants.

Coulter wants applause, she wants celebrity, she wants money, she wants power.

She wants Ann Coulter to be right.

The words she uses as tools to get what she wants work, so she believes in them.

Getting her to care about what words she uses, to think about them, to regret the ones that are wrong and hurtful, to correct herself, is impossible because once she uses them they're gone. Did she mean the 9/11 widows are happy their husbands are dead? Did she really mean those words?

She meant their effect. She meant them to sell her book. She meant them to outrage her opponents. She meant them to excite and enthrall her worshippers. They did the trick.

She exists!

Thanks to Susie Madrak, Avedon Carol, Kevin Wolf, Crooks and Liars, Red Tory, and the Heretik.


Post a Comment

<< Home