As I re-emerge into the world of breaking news and the neverending scandals in the field of writing and journalism (and boy, am I happy to be back), I feel like I can begin to comment somewhat more competently on the whole Ann Coulter debacle.
Friday afternoon, I enjoyed a great discussion with a colleague on
- the legitimacy of Ann Coulter’s statements specifically about the 9/11 widows and
- her presentation of those statements, both in print and subsequently with the media.
Our discussion began from her reaction to what Ann had said about the 9/11 widows, calling them witches and money-hungry widows…I told her that I had to reserve judgment until I researched the story more. Basically, what I gleaned from news snips and our own conversation was that Ann Coulter believed it to be unfair that the 9/11 widows could hide safely from attack behind the emotional barrier surrounding them simply because their spouses were killed in the tragedy. Coulter’s point, I believe, was this: Don’t throw yourself out there to become political forces and then duck back into the emotional green zone every time somebody questions your arguments/cause.
On the surface, I can see Coulter’s point if this is the issue. My colleague believes it is okay to use appeal to emotion in an argument, and I don’t disagree. I do believe, however, that the use of that appeal to emotion is then fair game to refute if the other party decides to put it on the table. This, I believe, is what Coulter was attempting to do.
The problem with Ann, though, is that she is so rude and sarcastic that the argument jumps the tracks entirely, and we are left with Matt Lauer specials filled with questions that focus on what Ann was thinking when she wrote such outrageous statements, instead of focusing on the reasoning behind her original claims that the 9/11 widows shouldn’t be able to hide behind the emotional curtain.
The other problem with Ann is this:
First, the 9/11 widows use appeal to emotion to have their arguments heard.
Second, Ann Coulter responds with her own appeal to emotion slanders.
Third, Matt Lauer and others respond to Coulter’s appeal to emotion to have her arguments heard.
Fourth (and here’s the point): When Matt Lauer informs her that they never told her that she can’t respond to them, Coulter says, “Look, you’re getting testy with me.”
And that’s it, right there. Ann, the problem with you is you always want the last punch. You need to be able to play by the same rules that you complain others don’t play by. If the gloves are off with using appeal to emotion, suck it up and keep the train on the tracks. We’re all more interested in the battles fought on the field rather than those fought hiding behind any kind of barrier…
By the way, the 9/11 widows responded formally to Coulter’s claims. and their statement is reprinted here (it first appeared at crooksandliars.com). ….
We did not choose to become widowed on September 11, 2001. The attack, which tore our families apart and destroyed our former lives, caused us to ask some serious questions regarding the systems that our country has in place to protect its citizens.
Through our constant research, we came to learn how the protocols were supposed to have worked. Thus, we asked for an independent commission to investigate the loopholes which obviously existed and allowed us to be so utterly vulnerable to terrorists. Our only motivation ever was to make our Nation safer. Could we learn from this tragedy so that it would not be repeated?
We are forced to respond to Ms. Coulter’s accusations to set the record straight because we have been slandered.
Contrary to Ms. Coulter’s statements, there was no joy in watching men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home again. We adored these men and miss them every day.
It is in their honor and memory, that we will once again refocus the Nation’s attention to the real issues at hand: our lack of security, leadership and progress in the five years since 9/11.
We are continuously reminded that we are still a nation at risk. Therefore, the following is a partial list of areas still desperately in need of attention and public outcry. We should continuously be holding the feet of our elected officials to the fire to fix these shortcomings.
1. Homeland Security Funding based on risk. Inattention to this area causes police officers, firefighters and other emergency/first responder personnel to be ill equipped in emergencies. Fixing this will save lives on the day of the next attack.
2. Intelligence Community Oversight. Without proper oversight, there exists no one joint, bicameral intelligence panel with power to both authorize and appropriate funding for intelligence activities. Without such funding we are unable to capitalize on all intelligence community resources and abilities to thwart potential terrorist attacks. Fixing this will save lives on the day of the next attack.
3. Transportation Security. There has been no concerted effort to harden mass transportation security. Our planes, buses, subways, and railways remain under-protected and highly vulnerable. These are all identifiable soft targets of potential terrorist attack. The terror attacks in Spain and London attest to this fact. Fixing our transportation systems may save lives on the day of the next attack.
4. Information Sharing among Intelligence Agencies. Information sharing among intelligence agencies has not improved since 9/11. The attacks on 9/11 could have been prevented had information been shared among intelligence agencies. On the day of the next attack, more lives may be saved if our intelligence agencies work together.
5. Loose Nukes. A concerted effort has not been made to secure the thousands of loose nukes scattered around the world – particularly in the former Soviet Union. Securing these loose nukes could make it less likely for a terrorist group to use this method in an attack, thereby saving lives.
6. Security at Chemical Plants, Nuclear Plants, Ports. We must, as a nation, secure these known and identifiable soft targets of Terrorism. Doing so will save many lives.
7. Border Security. We continue to have porous borders and INS and Customs systems in shambles. We need a concerted effort to integrate our border security into the larger national security apparatus.
8. Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Given the President’s NSA Surveillance Program and the re-instatement of the Patriot Act, this Nation is in dire need of a Civil Liberties Oversight Board to insure that a proper balance is found between national security versus the protection of our constitutional rights.
— September 11th Advocates
Lorie Van Auken