WE ARE PLEASED AND HONORED to welcome Ann Coulter to the FrontPage team. Many of our readers have long been fans of hers. I certainly have.
As a syndicated columnist, talk show pundit and bestselling author, Ann has distinguished herself as one of the most articulate, forceful – and cheeky – members of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.
Ann was recently dismissed from her position as contributing editor of National Review Online (NRO). The problem began with a September 12 column in which Ann declared (with regard to Islamic terrorists): "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Subsequently, NRO rejected another column by Ann urging airport officials to scrutinize with special thoroughness "any suspicious-looking swarthy males."
She was dismissed soon after -- prompting Ann to suggest in an interview with the Washington Post, that her sensitive colleagues at NRO were "just girly-boys."
What happened to Ann falls into a pattern that we at FrontPage like to call "PC McCarthyism." In the 1950s, the mere accusation of Communist sympathies could cost an innocent person his livelihood. Today, the charge of "racism," "sexism" or "homophobia" can have the same devastating effect.
As a Jew, I could be uneasy at Ann’s suggestion that mass conversion to Christianity should be wielded as a tool of foreign policy were it not so obvious that her comment was hyperbolic, tongue firmly in cheek.
Her comment about profiling "suspicious-looking swarthy males" was obviously a ripe target for the PC police, but hardly inexplicable in the present circumstances. Any airport official who today fails to pay special attention to "suspicious-looking swarthy males" is obviously not doing his job.
Certainly it was "non-U" for Ann to call her editors "girly-boys," but does this require an auto-da-fé?
In the final analysis, nothing Ann said should have caused a scandal. Not in a reasonable and open society.
But our society is no longer so open. It is increasingly governed by a political lunacy in which careers can be ended by a single careless – or free-spirited – remark.
All of us say things, from time to time, that some people find offensive. No one knows this better than NRO Editor Jonah Goldberg, who has been the public spokesman for the firing.
In a May 3, 2000 column entitled "A Continent Bleeds," Goldberg called for a military "crusade" to "bring civilization" to Africa.
"I think it’s time we revisited the notion of a new kind of Colonialism…," he wrote. "I mean going in — guns blazing if necessary... The United States should mount a serious effort to bring civilization (yes, "Civilization") to those parts of Africa that are in Hobbesian despair."
Goldberg did not retract his recommendation later, despite an orgy of predictable outrage from obvious sources.
The National Review was right to stand by Goldberg in the face of his political critics. But in today’s hypersensitive atmosphere, colored by the September 11 attacks, Jonah apparently considers Ann’s indiscretions beyond the pale.
Under Rich Lowry’s and Jonah Goldberg’s editorship, NRO is a worthy publication – one of the most astute conservative zines on the Web. And Goldberg has been one of its most fearless editorial voices, on precisely these troublesome issues.
Perhaps Goldberg and Lowry already understand the ironic corner into which they have painted themselves. We wish them well and hope they find their way out sooner rather than later.
I caught a lot of flack from conservatives for defending Bill Maher, the often irritating and much-beleaguered host of Politically Incorrect. No doubt, I’ll catch the same for hiring Ann.
So be it.
We defend the right to offend the self-righteous, and to puncture the pretensions of hypocritical virtue.
So welcome, Ann. We are proud to have you and trust you will continue your column with irreverent and cheeky zest.