March 10, 2007

Dave Kopel: Respect Your Glib Betters!

Dave Kopel, who writes a bi-weekly column in the Rocky Mountain News about media coverage churns out a real dud this week. Rather than pointing out flaws (real or perceived) in the media's news coverage he takes opinion columnist Paul Campos to task, ostensibly for using Coulteresque style bombast to get noticed. His real purpose of the column is to defend his friends in the blogosphere. Apparently, the opinion pages of a major daily newspaper are now vehicles for blogospheric navel gazing. Oh boy.

Let's start from the top:

They seem like opposites: she's tall, blond and right-wing; he's short, balding and left-wing. Yet both are extremely intelligent weekly columnists with a gift for turning a clever phrase. They attended the University of Michigan Law School together, where he apparently developed a lifelong hatred of her. Enmity notwithstanding, he lately seems to be modeling his own style after hers. The more I read Paul Campos, the more he reminds me of Ann Coulter.

Okay, I have no real problem with his opening paragraph aside from a pet peeve: Why do people keep saying that Ann Coulter is "extremely intelligent" or "brilliant"? Seriously. Even a number of conservatives who tut-tut her when she does something stupid will usually explain how much they love her legal mind.

Why? Aside from churning out books filled with lies, distortions and half-truths, she writes a weekly column which is almost entirely substance free demonization of "libruhls". Does someone have any scholarly writings of hers? Court cases she successfully argued?

One of Coulter's tricks is insulting upward. That is, pick somebody more famous than you. Vilify the person in some outrageous way. Ideally, the target gets upset and responds, and the press covers your public argument. By engaging in a public fight with you, the target has implicitly raised you to his own level of importance.
For example, on Friday afternoon, March 2, Coulter spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the most important annual conference for conservatives, held in Washington. She used the word "faggot" in connection with John Edwards. Predictably, the Edwards campaign and the Democratic establishment pitched a fit, garnering Coulter more attention.

Okay, first of all. Of course you want to insult upward. Why would Ann Coulter devote time to bashing the Fort Wayne State Campus Democrats? If you use your forum to trash people who are less famous than you, you are being a bully.

Besides that, what does fame have to do with it? Does Kopel think that people who are important people are to be immune from criticism from people with less "fame"? I am quite sure that he doesn't, as his day job is at the Independence Institute where he and a team research public policy issues so that President Jon Caldara can use them in debates. Surely Caldara is less famous than former governor of Colorado Bill Owens, or current governor Bill Ritter. Yet Caldara, who apparently bases his puplic persona on one of the heathens in a Chick Tract has absolutely no problem attacking these two (Nor should he by the way).

So why is Kopel upset? Because Campos blasted his friends.

The next day, Campos, in a move straight out of the Coulter playbook, spoke to a local meeting of the Young Democrats in Denver. Four times he called Coulter a four-letter word (which this newspaper won't print). The word refers to female genitalia, and it rhymes with "lame publicity stunt." For his Rocky column last Tuesday, Campos condensed his speech.
Of course this is the first I've heard of it, and without seeing a transcript or an audio file, I can't comment on the context or appropriateness. Of course, Kopel provides no links or even family friendly quotes, so apparently we are just supposed to be shocked SHOCKED to hear that Campos said "cunt".

here it is. Notice that Campos says that it is a horrible thing to do. Never mind that, though. Dave Kopel just wants to be able to make the claim that "OMG Liebruhlz are teh misogynists!!!11!" No context, no debate. Just an attempt to get the mouth breathers all enraged at Campos for being so darn uncivil.

Like Coulter, Campos employed lawyerly verbal formulations in which he technically claimed that he was not directing his gutter language at his obvious target.
Unfortunately for Campos, Coulter - a wily veteran of the publicity game - ignored his vulgarity.

Does Kopel have any proof that Coulter has even heard about this. I don't find it likely, since the only reference I can find is from Roy Edroso commenting on this very same Kopel column. By the same token, I am proud that I haven't responded to Glenn Reynolds' threat to disembowel me, nor will I. I'm just classy and well versed in the PR game, I guess.

His column also insulted upward at University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse (bizarrely claiming that she is part of a conspiracy to protect Coulter). Althouse is far more famous than Campos on the Web and in academia; her record of scholarly publications in law journals is significantly larger than his. She responded to Campos on her blog, thus giving him more publicity.

Ann Althouse play the victim card? No way. As to whether she is a more respected legal scholar than Campos, I'll let this claim stand as IANAL nor am I a law professor. However, Campos is not attempting to debate legal minutia with Althouse, he is attempting to debate public policy. This just happens to be lawyers arguing with other lawyers about what a lawyer said at a political conference. Scholarly credentials have NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. If I were to get in a debate over legal theory with Althouse, I would probably lose. That doesn't mean that Althouse isn't spectacularly dim regarding nearly every other opinion she has, nor do I need to be a lawyer to prove this.

A couple of weeks ago, Campos also successfully insulted upward when he accused University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds of advocating murder, and urged that the school censor Reynolds. Reynolds too has a vastly larger record of scholarly publication than Campos, and Reynolds' Web log, InstaPundit, is the most influential in the world (based on incoming links statistics at truthlaidbear.com).

I think Campos was a little bit hard on the nutty professor, but It's about time that someone pointed out the truth, which is that Reynolds is not a moderate, nor a libertarian. He is an authoritarian cultist and again, assuming he has the legal credentials that Kopel claims, a spectacularly shallow thinker about everything else under the sun. Also, Kopel is claiming that Reynolds is influential because he gets a lot of links and a lot of page views. Wrong. It means that a lot of people read him. No more. Is Anna Nicole Smith the most influential celebrity in America? The news can't stop talking about her after all? I guess it also follows that Howard K. Stern is the most influential attorney in the US. I mean way more people are talking about him than Glenn Reynolds


Both writers make outlandish claims about other people. She insists that for the last 50 years, nearly all liberals have been on the side of treason. He compares Glenn Reynolds (who is a libertarian) and national radio host/blogger Hugh Hewitt (a mainstream Republican) to "fascists." (Disclosure: I attended Michigan Law School with Hewitt, and have co-written articles with Reynolds.)

Stop it. This is where the right wing noise machine does its damage. Repeated lies become truth from paragraphs like this. Reynolds is not a libertarian and he and Kopel and shout it to the heavens, but it still ain't so. Reynolds believes that the media should be a propaganda arm for the military and that anti-war positions are borderline treason. There is a reason that you can Google "Glennuendo", Kopel, and it isn't Bush Derangement Syndrome.

And Hewitt is a fascist, and a hack and a complete and utter joke. Calling him sensible just doesn't make it so. Kopel just wants to sit at the cool kids lunch table and hopes that this is his ticket.

As an aside, I know that Kopel and Reynolds have published works together. I am impressed that Kopel kept Glenn focused enough to keep them about the second amendment, rather than how cool it would be to be a robot.

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