Capitalism, doleful trickster

There’s a nice moment in Holson’s recent article on Ann Coulter.

Coulter sends her drafts out to a small circle of friends, and there is one reaction she particularly prizes.

“Whenever I have hysterical messages on my answering machine telling me not to release my column, I think, ‘This is going to be a good one,’ ”

And this tells us she is, to use the handy anthropological term, a trickster.  The first order of business is a reaction.  Preferably outrage.

And this puts Coulter in a camp with Sarah Silverman, Tom Green, Sacha Baron Cohen, and even Johnny Knoxville.  Perhaps also Nick Denton.

Anthropologists like tricksters because they operate as culture detectors.  When Sarah Silverman says something outrageous, it is outrageous because she has broken a cultural rule.  These rules are normally embedded in social life and deeply assumed by cultural actors.  They become visible more in the breach than the observation.

So it is far to say that tricksters create a substantial social good.  They help surface things that would otherwise remain obscure.  But we should also note that for many Americans even a few second of a Sarah Silverman routine is vivid proof that American culture is in a tailspin.  Between them these tricksters are responsible for creating as much horror as illumination.  Which is, I guess, where Coulter comes in.  If Cohen beards the Right, Coulter provokes the Left.  And thus do the tectonic plates of ideology move ever farther apart.

Tricksters, can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.  


Holson, Laura M. 2010. “Ann Coulter: Not Done Yet.” The New York Times, October 8 (Accessed October 27, 2010).

Kornfeld, Leora (2002) "The Teletrickster’s Way: Transcending the Rational and Reconstituting Media Discourse," Trickster’s Way.Volume 1, Issue 1, Article 3.  Available at:

5 thoughts on “Capitalism, doleful trickster

  1. David Reid

    Ann Coulter has the spine to speak to the destructive forces in our culture in ways that expose their self-deceived, self-seeking agendas. Has anyone noticed that her satire and broadsword wit is not about herself? Miss Coulter is not arrogant. She is deeply concerned about values that mean are precious to her and, if we will stop drinking kool-aid, values that are precious to the vast majority of American. Read her books before you start slinging mud at her personally. Ann has the facts and makes important points about important issues. And she is really funny!!

    1. wolfe

      “Don’t drink the koolaid! But drink this koolaid over here! It’s Adam’s Apple flavor.”

      She’s deeply concerned with getting that attention and approval daddy never gave her.

  2. Michael Margolis

    Tricksters make the world. Its their ability to see the sacred in the profane, and the profane in the sacred that makes them so special.

    Grant – thanks for identifying the mythic role that Ann Coulter and others are playing in thei vein. They are here to push the boundaries, and in the triggering of emotion, even outrage — lila, the dance of life beckons.

    Otherwise, without our tricksters – culture becomes static, stuck, and myopic. While some of us might not like the edge or message that comes with the trickster turning things upside down, they are just playing their part. They deserve our heartfelt appreciation. Now, I better go practice standing on my head.

    1. Grant Post author

      great comment, thanks, and a great debating point, does novelty come only from tricksters. I would have thought that we could say it comes from all of Richard Florida’s creatives, virtually, and not only from tricksters. Unless we say Florida’s “people” are all tricksters. Which would be interesting but it would expand the term dramatically. I think you are a trickster and that begins to expand the term, so maybe I’m wrong. Something more to talk about over drinks before the snow flies!

      1. Michael Margolis

        Hi Grant – Would love to continue this conversation. You never fail to inspire and provoke in your wisdom.

        The trickster archetype has always called to me too, and feel that there is an evolution to this archetype, especially emerging amongst change-makers and innovators.

        I think you can provoke and expand the boundaries without needing to attack and antagonize the status quo. That is a new evolving approach to culture change. Which is more reinvention than revolution.

        The fastest way to move from the periphery to the core it’s create something that the dominant culture wants and seeks to embrace. It’s the trickster that plays at that threshold and bridges the worlds.

        Excited to explore this some more again soon.
        Before the snow falls, sounds like a plan. December?

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