March 9, 2007

Great Insulters Of World History

Print More

Ann Coulter ’84 is the kind of girl who gives witless dragon-women a bad name.

Since helping found our beloved Cornell Review as an undergraduate, Coulter has almost made a career of insulting people. She makes headlines, and she sells books. But she doesn’t do it very well.

There is great sport in insults. Conceiving and delivering a witty and incisive insult can be the ultimate intellectual exercise — sort of the thinking man’s 40-yard dash. The masters — Plutarch, Shakespeare and Churchill — are the Gretzkys of verbal abuse.

Coulter is no Gretzky. She may fancy herself as the new Lady Macbeth, but she really is more of a Mrs. Bumble on crack.

She recently reached perhaps her personal nadir, when at a convention of right-wing nut-baskets she called John Edwards a “faggot.”

Coulter has all the grace and charm of a schoolyard bully. If you heard the word “faggot” from a fifth-grader, you would be mortified. You’d be embarrassed for the kid’s parents.

Yet, from a graduate of Cornell University?

The right-wing Republicans love her. They whoop for her graceless inanities.

They’re the same people you hear cheering at a NASCAR crash or a Nazi book-burning.

Coulter comes from the school of people who led the Roman death mob at the old Coliseum and do genocide dances in Darfur.

She makes Joe McCarthy look like he had “a sense of decency.” She makes Roy Cohn or Scooter Libby look like Thomas More.

And she makes Ezra Cornell spin in his grave.

Coulter has no sense of history. If she did, she would know if you’re going to be a hatemonger, at least do it with style.

It’s ok to be vulgar. Lyndon Johnson was famously vulgar when he said Gerald Ford was so dumb he couldn’t “walk and fart at the same time.” Johnson also said Ford the football star had played “one too many games without his helmet.”

Richard Nixon, never one for subtlety, said Idi Amin was “a cannibal asshole” who would “eat his own grandmother.” Admittedly, Dick was almost at Coulter’s level, but with a touch of panache.

Winston Churchill was a master of the sport. He once said Neville Chamberlain was nothing more than “an old town clerk looking at European affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe.”

John Randolph, an early American senator from Virginia, said of an adversary: “Never was ability so much below mediocrity so well rewarded; no, not even when Caligula’s horse was made a consul.”

Randolph also said of Edward Livingstone: “He was a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks.”

And the best our Cornell graduate can do is “faggot.” It is as feeble and ill-advised as the recent Swiss invasion of Liechtenstein.

The idea of sharing an alma mater with her is about as appealing as sitting with the contemptible Gary Bettman ’74 at a Cornell hockey game.

We do not know if Coulter went to class much at Cornell. She might have spent her time at back-alley cockfights in Mexico City.

But if she did go to class, she might have heard what Plutarch said of Aristophanes:

“The language of Aristophanes reeks of his miserable quackery; it is made up of the lowest and most miserable puns. He doesn’t even please the people and to men of judgment and honor he is intolerable; his arrogance is insufferable and all honest men detest his malice.”

Perhaps now it will strike a chord.

Kyle Sheahen is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. The Ultimate Trip will appear every other Friday this semester.