Never one to shy away from publicity and attention, Ann Coulter headlined gay conservative fundraiser, Homocon, this weekend and everyone is reacting as planned in Coulter’s perfectly choreographed appearance. Progressives and gays and lesbians are appalled, conservatives are titillated, and GOProud has gotten tons of ink.
The easiest way to read Coulter’s soundbites is to imagine the husky-voiced, bottle-blond in her too-short signature black cocktail dress swigging a Chardonnay and smoking a cigarette. Even if that’s not how she delivered her speech, it helps understand why her act plays so well on the gay road.
Like a Borscht-belt comedian, Coulter plays to the cheap seats. She’s in on the joke and seems amused that people actually take her schtick seriously. The fact that she was once kind of a serious pundit who said provocative but interesting things is blurred by the fact that she’s now largely just a publicity machine tossing out red meat to the crowd.
Here’s how Esquire’s Marty Beckerman reported on some of her best comments:
In her speech on Saturday, Coulter says that “not only can gays be conservative, you pretty much have to be,” because they are the “highest income demographic,” because “gays are too stylish to work for the federal government,” because radical Muslims want to execute them, and because “once [scientists] find the gay gene, guess who’s getting aborted?”
While people acted stunned that the “tea party of the gay rights movement,” would invite Coulter, it’s actually a match that makes perfect sense. GOProud wants to scandalize and tweak the gay establishment. And Coulter’s gay cred dates back to the days–according to David Brock’s memoir Blinded by the Right– that she and Laura Ingraham went to gay bars and cruised conservative events for gay guys with the man who would later create progressive mediawatchdog Media Matters for America.
How much of her act does she actually believe? Well, that’s where the cognitive dissonance comes in. Beckerman, who has the best coverage of the speech, said “[t]his is the same Coulter, of course, who is comfortable with the word “faggot,” wrote that Rick Santorum’s comparison of gay sex to bestiality is an “indisputably true point,” told an interviewer that sexually active gay men should “feel guilty about it,” and mocked the “irritating lesbian” teenager in Tennessee who wanted to bring her girlfriend to senior prom.”
All the pearl-clutching over the speech misses the larger point. Coulter is a conservative. GOProud is made up of conservatives. Conservatives–gay and lesbian or straight–are suspicious of extension of civil rights laws, hate crime laws, and much of the liberal gay rights establishment’s agenda. They would prefer voters, not the courts, would approve same-sex marriage. In that sense, the underpinning of GOProud and Coulter’s thinking is not that far-removed from more serious voices like Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch.
And who doesn’t like a good vaudeville act. I mean, the Human Rights Campaign trots out Kathy Griffin and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network uses Lady GaGa to make their point on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Gay divas have headlined gay events for years, using their celebrity to promote a cause. In the end, Coulter got herself a lot of attention and GOProud got a lot of attention. Anyone expecting something highbrow and politically-correct clearly doesn’t get her schtick and understand that her greatest goal is to get this kind of media attention.