Ann Coulter, cry-me

 Ah, Ann Coulter, what can I say? ("Preferably nothing", you reply, "she's a washed up has been who used her shit takes to ascend to the top of shit mountain during the Clinton impeachment, and, unable to compete with the new breed of Republican hate mongers, has been slowly sliding down shit mountain ever since".)

None of that is incorrect, unlike anything Ms Coulter writes. But she at least used to be kinda interesting to read, inasmuch as I'd check her books out of the library if I was running low on something to read, and sort of enjoy the argumentative thrust even if the wounds failed to land. 

Then Barak Obama won the Presidency in 2008, and she lost all relevance and her freaking mind. For the duration of the Obama presidency, in her dwindling schedule of TV appearances, she referred to him as B. Hussein Obama. For 8 years. Why? "Because it's funny.". I don't think it was ever funny, but for the people on her side, maybe it was funny the first half dozen times but surely it had to get old after a few years? But then again, these are conservatives, whose only joke these last few years is to declare their pronouns are Trump/Won or some such. Regardless that they've been telling each other this joke for years, it still seems to amuse them. I can imagine them as four year olds. All the other kids have moved on to knock knock jokes and someone saying "bottom!" as peak humour, but their idea of peak amusement is still someone dangling keys in their line of sight.

Occasionally though, Coulter still makes an illustrative, if not good, point. In a doomed attempt to send a red tsunami across America ahead of the mid terms, Republicans were keen to whip up fear of crime and Coulter was more than happy to add to the panic. What her pre-election column on the issue perfectly illustrates is how disingenuous Coulter is on crime, which doesn't matter much given she's washed up, but how she shares this disingenuity with the rest of the right, which does matter given how many of them influence and set policy. To wit:

Next Tuesday, voters, please remember that Democrats will never run out of excuses for criminals. They drone on about “racism,” “root causes,” “poverty,” “drug addiction,” “his gun dropped,” “mental illness,” “learning disabilities,” “he made a mistake” and “prison doesn’t work”!

     It’s not the government’s job to probe criminals’ psyches. These are predators, monsters, feral beasts attacking civilization, with no regard for your property, bodily integrity or life. The government’s only job is to keep them away from us, not to ensure that they have fulfilling lives.

Is that what Coulter thinks enumerating the socio-economic determinants of crime and implementing measures to overcome them is about? Probably not. I don't think she's a stupid woman, even if she hasn't quite known what to do with herself since the dying days of the George W. Bush administration.

But her readers will think that, and she knows it. She's written several books where she uses this tactic - throwing unrelated information at the reader under the same vague subject matter, and letting the reader draw it together in a ball of hate in their minds. Perhaps the worst example of this is Adios America! where she recounts in gruesome detail crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to the US, whilst never once presenting overall crime rates for undocumented immigrants versus other American residents. Guess what the statistics show. But people reading her book, unable or unwilling to consider the big picture, imagine "illegals" around every corner waiting to rape and plunder their lives. And that's still not as weird as Coulter's earlier tome, Demonic, where she digresses into a lengthy and gruesome account of the  treatment of a noble woman during the French revolution for no purpose other than a leap of reasoning so tenuous she has to spell it out at the end of the account: "this is what Liberals want to do to Sarah Palin". 

I really don't think anyone actually did? 

But Coulter acquits herself a little better here, inasmuch as her audience could grasp the point she's trying to convey without her having to spell it out. Democrats mention crime in relation to things like “racism,” “root causes,” “poverty,” “drug addiction,” “his gun dropped,” “mental illness,” “learning disabilities,” “he made a mistake” and “prison doesn’t work” in relation to criminals. Therefore democrats want to excuse all crime and probably give criminals a home in my neighbourhood! Surely, surely, Ann Coulter knows very well that when Democrats, researchers and advocates speak of issues such as poverty, root causes and intergenerational trauma to in relation to crime, they're speaking of factors which explain why a person is more, likely to engage in criminal behaviour, they're looking to explain it, not excuse it. But more importantly, they're asking "how can we as a society improve things so these young people are less likely to engage in criminal behaviour in the first place?"

Those of us on the left want to prevent crime at an early stage. Not give violent criminals fulfilling lives. These issues are complicated though.All evidence shows early intervention - housing, education, diversion programs, trauma therapy, urban renewal that works with the community instead of displacing them - at a structural level can reduce crime. But it's expensive (although not as expensive as mass incarceration) and takes time for the benefits to show, and is often politically unpopular at the early stages. And it can't be turned into a slogan or summed up in a sound bite. Although one point should be fairly easy to deal with - that prison doesn't work. The right find this idea morally repugnant.

 Conservatives have been trying to punish crime away for centuries, without success; it only makes them want to try harder. Show them an 12 year old caught joy riding in a stolen car, who kicked out as police tried to arrest them, and they don't want to know why a kid that age was in that situation, other than to blame the parents; they want the kid locked up as long as possible, in conditions as harsh as possible. Point the kid in that situation will be placed with much older, more experienced criminals, and their only response will be "they should have thought of that before they stole the car". Tell them the best thing for the kid would be a diversionary program, counselling, early intervention with the, family at a holistic level, and if a custodial sentence is required, that it should take place where the focus is on on education, creativity, sport, expression and healing, and they'll alternate between disbelieving laughter and anger. "But we know what works in reducing recidivism-" we start to say and they say "I don't care, lock them up and throw away the key".

As I said, we've been trying that approach for hundreds of years, and it doesn't work, and I'd like us to all agree to help support families before he kid even gets in that car. We know - social science has tonnes of evidence - of measures that prevent crime; its not more police, more jails and harsher punishments. It's supporting families at risk before their kids get involved in crime. Support in culturally appropriate ways, that keeps families together, respects neighbourhood networks, works with communities in developing and implementing programs. What is doesn't do is respect conservatives' desire to punish, to stamp out any outrage against the way things ought to be. There comes a time though when they have to ask themselves, do you want to prevent crime or do you just enjoy the outrage and superiority you feel when you hear of crimes that have already happened? 

Deep down, though, I doubt Ms Coulter actually wants to prevent crime. Crime is bread and butter, or at least C and crudités, for writers, like her and without it, she'd be even more irrelevant than she already is.