March 10, 2007

The trick of "insulting upward."

Ann Coulter uses it, and so does that lawprof columnist Paul Campos -- who went to University of Michigan Law School with her -- Dave Kopel observes.
[P]ick 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....

His column ... 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.

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
Kopel notes that Campos also tried the insulting upward trick on Coulter but she used the correct response of ignoring it, while Glenn and I fell into the trap by responding. Well, it's not as if I don't know not to ignore an insulter who stands to gain from the attention. I do ignore insults every day. Some days, like yesterday, I ignore a whole slew of insults. But I choose some to respond to for various reasons. One reason I responded to Campos is that he's a fellow law professor. Another is, I actually know him. Also, he's got a column in a major newspaper.

Hey, I guess I should perceive Kopel as using the trick of defending upward! He got me to write about his damn Rocky Mountain News column.... at 3 a.m....

(Can you trust your own judgment, blogging at 3 a.m.?)


hdhouse said...


Don't you think that Ann Coulter's potential for insulting upward is virtually unlimited?

One observation is that in rising to a higher level as a result of someone upward responding, to stay at that higher place, Coulter usually gathers support or in some cases sympathy from the likes of Hannity or OReally who use her like a rented mule to gain the attention that they, as well, crave.

A "trick" it may be but a cheap one and I am amazed that so many fall for the gambit.

Ron said...

3 am is the best to blog/comment! Lucid enough to type, while not having your 'editing' mind squish any interesting thoughts!

Omaha1 said...

behold the frightful power of the vortex
o'er the powerless cerebral cortex
Marcotte, Campos, professors of the law
mere puppets, sucked into its cold, dead maw
Althouse! Althouse! the dreadful siren song
no blogger can resist a force so strong
no democrat is she, if she is for
Chimpy McHitlerburton's Iraq "war"

I know you already have an official Althouse historian, can I be the Althouse poet laureate?

Ann Althouse said...

Omaha, that reminds me. Whatever happened to Lonely Donut Man? And then there are Sippican's song parodies. Those might count as poetry. This is a hard question! But I do love the vortex/cortex rhyme!

Omaha1 said...

I guess I haven't been reading here long enough to remember the Lonely Donut Man. I do love Sippican Cottage though. His comments are quite poetic all the time, whether he intends it or not. Competition is good! I will work on some appropriate poetic comments for other threads so that you can decide whether or not I am worthy.

On the topic of insulting upward, this is an interesting theory. Perhaps media attention is a new form of currency in our society. The idea of "how low can you go" is hardly new, but perhaps there is a certain artfulness involved in being noticed and "rewarded" by the right insultee.

Ann Althouse said...

"I guess I haven't been reading here long enough to remember the Lonely Donut Man."

I'll see if I can dig some up. He wrote in a faux archaic style using words like "do'st" a lot -- in a way that was very funny.

"I do love Sippican Cottage though. His comments are quite poetic all the time, whether he intends it or not."

Oh, he intends it.

Bissage said...

Omaha1, you've got the skills, and I know you’ve pledged your loyalty to Dame Althouse, but still, you might want to consider our little local theater group.

The pay’s not good. Just sandwiches and coffee. And you’ll have to work blue because, well, because it’s the only way we can get anybody to pay actual legal tender for a ticket. (We’ve had to stop accepting eggs, produce and homemade baked goods ever since Licenses & Inspections stopped by.)

But think about it. When you’re with us, there’s nowhere to go but up.

That’s our motto.

And Althouse, I know it’s bad form to try to steal away your talent, but come on, we’re desperate down here!!!

Gotta run, it smells like one of the gels has caught fire again.

See ya!

Fen said...

Kopel Campos/Coulter demean themselves and degrade our civic culture with their outlandish rhetoric. They would do better to aim their writing and speeches at the adult, accurate level which they have each achieved many times in the past.

Agreed, but if Coulter had chosen a different style and never engaged in outlandish rhetoric, we wouldn't be having this discussion about how partisans degrade our civic culture.

I think its part of human nature - a bully/admin syndrome that shows us everywhere in society. From Columbine to Kaplan, and even to blogs like this. Admin-types are more inclined to "keep the peace" than punish the bully. Only when the other side finally pushes back [and the "peace" is threatened] do the admin-types address the problem of bullying [and "both sides" are guilty].

Ron said...

Maybe if you get bedeviled by that crazy woman from Yale again, you can rhyme "vortex" with "whore text!"

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ross said...

Oh, Ann Coulter insults the famous and the obscure and the non-existent alike. She is an equal-opportunity insulter.

If you're going for laughs, though, it obviously helps to insult someone your audience has heard of.

California Dog said...

You're so famous, Ann. That is why so many different people insult you. They are all - amazingly - attention seekers.

I think "projection" is the appropriate word here.

Fen said...

I think "projection" is the appropriate word here.

And Kopel's Theory is proved. Too funny.

Maxine Weiss said...

So the yardstick of fame is scholarly publication?

Not an insult, just a question.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

Althouse never sleeps.

I have this vision of her furiously plugging away, plotting...while others doze...

Can't lose that edge, even at 3 a.m she must trudge on!

Peace, Maxine

Simon said...

Maxine Weiss said...
"So the yardstick of fame is scholarly publication?"

That'd be nice - I just submitted a paper. LOL.

Re never sleeping - it's the segmented sleeping thing, I suspect.

Omaha1 said...
"Perhaps media attention is a new form of currency in our society."

I tend to think that the proliferation of reality TV indicates that there is a significant part of the population that regards appearing on television as having some kind of cachet independent of why you were on television.

Brian Doyle said...

"Exalted Queen of the Dipshits"

via Atrios. In case your Google Alert missed it.

Omaha1 said...


Look at me! Look at me! I'm debasing myself!
I'll go lower than low, don't put me on the shelf!
I'll eat bugs, take my clothes off, the whole world to see!
Anything to be famous, please, please, look at me!

It really is sad that people will do ANYTHING to get their fifteen minutes of fame. I can see why this kind of attention is seductive but I can't picture myself stooping so low for any amount of money.

Simon said...

Omaha- Heh. I think your poem's closer to the mark than the conclusion in your comment: I don't think it's the money, it's the "Anything to be famous, please, please, look at me!"

Everyone is damaged. That's my view, and it's why I'm not much sympathetic to people who use their damage as an excuse for bad conduct. Everyone is damaged in some way to some degree or another, by trauma real or merely perceived, and our conscious and unconscious attempts to cope with and compensate for that damage in large part define our personas. But even having said that, I cannot imagine the level of damage it takes to have such an overriding, compelling, desparate desire for attention by anonymous strangers. I can imagine jumping through hoops for the affections of a stranger, but for the mere attention of the faceless multitudes? That's just... Really out there.

I'm enjoying an email conversation with someone at the moment, and he brought up something that made me think of something I read suggesting that we're built with a God-shaped hole in our heart, which is meant to incline us towards finding Him, but I think people who reject religion look for other ways to fill that hole. They often seem to settle into political groups that provide analogs to religious institutions, that provide similar structures -- spiritually and temporally.

I've thought a lot about that "hole" theory over the last few years (four thousand holes in blackburn, lancashire, you know!) and about how those who don't believe (of which I'm one) often search (indeed, often search with something approaching desparation) for something to fill the hole, and will follow with single-minded devotion anything they believe will fix the hole, dull the ache. (This is the leftosphere and people of that ilk in a nutshell, BTW.)

Now, people who are by inclination political, particularly those raised amidst rationalism, who are nonreligious, and particularly people who are atheists, seem to like to believe that their views are pure consequences of rational thought, that they don't rest their views on faith. I think that's wrong (and impossible - drill down far enough, and everyone's views ultimately rest on ipse dixit of one kind of another), but if you're someone who has that mindset, and you have this hole in your heart, you need to fill it, but your head won't let you use the round peg because that requires faith. Far better to use the square peg, because although it doesn't fit as well, your unconscious mind can fool your conscious mind into believing that you are being rational, that you are not being faith-based. This leads some people to grasp for political entities and views that function as a religion.

But what if you're not political? What if you think that a moment, rather than a belief, will fix you? Perhaps reality TV contestants believe that "fame" - the fleeting attention of anonymous strangers - will fix the hole (hey, that's two Beatles allusions in one comment! LOL).

Unknown said...

The Exalted Queen wrote:

"Can you trust your own judgment, blogging at 3 a.m.?"

Based upon what you wrote here Anne, I would have to say, in your case, the answer is no.


Monkey Faced Liberal

P.S. I know it is spelled Ann with no e. I am just messing with your head a bit. :-)

Ti-Guy said...

Oh, come on. Insulting Ann Althouse is simply fun...and usually unavoidable. She is, after all, an incredibly ridiculous person.

"Exalted Queen of the Dipshits." Heh. Indeed.

blogagog said...

You lost me at the first rule. Is John Edwards more famous than Ann Coulter? I doubt it. Running for VP does not a famous person make.

Heck, even WINNING the spot doesn't do much for you, famously speaking.

Charlie Martin said...

Don't you think that Ann Coulter's potential for insulting upward is virtually unlimited?

That line really deserves some kind of prize.