Having conversations with polemicists

How does a right-winger go about having a conversation with that extremist fellow of the left, Michael Moore?

Maloney began his film career by "staking out" Michael Moore "for four days," hoping to confront him and "provok[e] a flustered reaction," which he would then post on his weblog Brain-terminal.com. Moore didn't flinch; instead he told Maloney that documentary filmmaking "should be open to all people of all political persuasions." "It should not just be people who are liberal, or left-of-center, or whatever," the Oscar-winner said. "Make your movies, and then the people will respond or not respond to them."

Sounds to me like Michael's a pretty reasonable kind of guy, one who believes in free speech, the legitimacy of political opposition, etc. Eric Alterman takes some grief from the author of the execrable Time Magazine piece for being mean to Ann Coulter:

I think a pertinent thing about Alterman is that he has said publicly that he will not engage Ann Coulter in debate. He won't go on television with her. So his solution to Ann Coulter is to act as though she doesn't exist ... I don't agree with that approach to people that we don't necessarily like. I think you engage those people in open debate, you get those people to talk about their ideas, and then you weigh those ideas.

Sounds like an eminently reasonable position. But I wonder how to debate someone like Coulter:

COULTER (Slander; page 205): Except for occasional exotic safaris to Wal-Mart or forays into enemy territory at a Christian Coalition dinner, liberals do not know any conservatives. It makes it easier to demonize them that way. It’s well and good for Andrew Sullivan to talk about a “truce.” But conservatives aren’t the ones who need to be jolted into the discovery that the “bogeyman” of their imagination are “not quite as terrifying as they thought.” Conservatives already know that people they disagree with politically can be “charming.” Also savagely cruel bigots who hate ordinary Americans and lie for sport. (emphasis added by DailyHowler.com)

Is this really someone that one can possibly hope to have a reasonable discussion with?

COULTER (Treason; page 1): Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love American, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence.

Keep in mind that liberals, according to how one defines the term, compose somewhere between 50 and 120 million Americans! I agree with Alterman, publicly debating Ann Coulter sounds to me like a complete waste of time. When someone begins her argument by claiming you're a traitor who sides with "the enemy", there's simply nothing more to say.

The DailyHowler piece goes on to describe how Ann's hysterically rude and coarse comments are all meant in jest, Sorry, but I agree with the Daily Howler folks I saw the clip where Ann is interviewed by Katie Couric on the Today Show and Coulter is completely drop-dead serious. There's absolutely no question that she means every single word. Eric Alterman specifies

Coulter has twice either wished for, or joked about the mass murder of American journalists. She has called for, or joked about, the assassination of a sitting American president. She has called for, or joked about, the mass murder of entire populations of Moslem nations. She has referred to the president of the United States and his wife as “pond scum,” among many other things. She has called Christie Todd Whitman a "birdbrain" and a "dimwit"; Jim Jeffords a "half-wit"; and Gloria Steinem a "deeply ridiculous figure" who "had to sleep" with a rich liberal to fund Ms. magazine--all of which makes her "a termagant."

Coulter humourous? Huh? On what planet?

UPDATE: Michael Berube reproduces Coulter's view on the Oklahoma City bombing of 10 years back.

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