Skip to comments.Andrew Sullivan: It’s all getting a little hysterical (Ann Coulter = Michael Moore)
Posted on 07/05/2003 4:28:35 PM PDT by Pokey78
Few would dispute that shes a babe. Lanky, skinny, with long blonde hair tumbling down to her breasts, Ann Coulter has been photographed in a shiny black latex dress. Shes whip-sharp in public debates, has done a fair amount of homework and has made a lot of the right enemies.
If much of modern American conservatism has made headway because of its media savvy, compelling personalities and shameless provocation, then Coulter deserves some pride of place in its vanguard.
But that, of course, is also the problem. In the ever-competitive marketplace of political ideas in a world of blogs and talk radio and cable news it is increasingly hard to stand out. Coulters answer to that dilemma is twofold: look amazing and ratchet up the rhetoric against the left until it has the subtlety and nuance of a car alarm. The left, in turn, has learnt the lesson, which is why the attack dog Michael Moore has done so well.
In fact, its worth thinking of Coulter as a kind of inverse Moore: whereas hes ugly and ill-kempt, shes glamorous and impeccably turned out. (Her web page, anncoulter.org, has a gallery of sexy images.) But what they have in common is more significant: a hysterical hatred of their political opponents and an ability to say anything to advance their causes (and extremely lucrative careers).
Coulters modus operandi is rhetorical extremity. She was fired from the conservative National Review magazine when, in the wake of 9/11, she urged the invasion of all Muslim nations and the forcible conversion of their citizens to Christianity.
As Brendan Nyhan, the media critic, has documented, her flights of fancy go back a long way. No punches are pulled. Ted Kennedy is an adulterous drunk. President Clinton had crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree. You get the idea.
In Coulters world there are two types of people: conservatives and liberals. These are not groups of people with competing ideas. They are the repositories of good and evil. There are no distinctions among conservatives or among liberals. To admit the complexity of political discourse would immediately require Coulter to think, explain, argue. But why bother when you can earn millions by being insulting? Here are a few comments about liberals that Coulter has deployed over the years: Liberals are fanatical liars. Liberals are devoted to class warfare, ethnic hatred and intolerance. Liberals hate democracy because democracy requires persuasion and compromise rather than brute political force.
Some of this is obvious hyperbole designed for a partisan audience. Some of it could be explained as good, dirty fun. It was this formula that gained her enormous sales for her last book, Slander, which detailed, in sometimes hilarious prose, the liberal bias in much of the American media.
Her latest tome ups the ante even further. If biased liberal editors are busy slandering conservatives, liberals more generally are dedicated to the subversion of their own country. They are guilty of yes treason.
A few nuggets: As a rule of thumb, Democrats opposed anything opposed by their cherished Soviet Union. The Soviet Union did not like the idea of a militarily strong America. Neither did the Democrats! Earlier in the same vein: Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America. They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of Americas self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant.
And then: The myth of McCarthyism is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. The portrayal of Senator Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals werent hiding under the bed during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nations ability to defend itself, while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthys name.
Coulter does not seek to complicate her view of liberals with any serious treatment of the many Democrats and liberals who were ferociously anti-communist. Scoop Jackson? Harry Truman? John F Kennedy? Lyndon Vietnam Johnson? She doesnt substantively deal with those Democrats today from Senator Joe Lieberman to The New Republic magazine who were anti-Saddam before many Republicans were.
She is absolutely right to insist that many on the left are in denial about the complicity of some Americans in Soviet evil, the guilt of true traitors such as Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs, who helped Stalin and his heirs in their murderous pursuits.
Part of the frustration of reading Coulter is that her basic causes are the right ones: the American media truly is biased to the left; some liberals and Democrats were bona fide traitors during the cold war; many on the far left today are essentially anti-American and hope for the defeat of their country in foreign wars.
But by making huge and sweeping generalisations about all liberals, Coulter undermines her own arguments and comes close to making them meaningless. If you condemn good and bad liberals alike, how can you be trusted to make any moral distinctions of any kind? And by defending the tactics of McCarthy, she actually plays directly into the hands of the left.
What she wont concede is that it is possible to be clear-headed about the role that some liberals and Democrats played in supporting the Soviet Union, while reviling the kind of tactics that McCarthy used.
In fact, when liberals taunt conservatives with being McCarthyites, conservatives now have to concede that some of their allies, namely Coulter, obviously are McCarthyites and proud of it.
Ron Radosh, one of the most reputable scholars who has studied the McCarthy era in great detail, is appalled at the damage Coulter has done to the work he and many others have painstakingly done over the years.
I am furious and upset about her book, he told me last week. I am reading it she uses my stuff, Harvey Klehr and John Haynes, Allen Weinstein etc, to distort what we actually say and to make ludicrous and historically incorrect arguments.
You might recall my lengthy and negative review in The New Republic a few years ago of (Arthur) Hermans book on McCarthy; well, she is 10 times worse than Herman. At least he tried to use bona fide historical methods of research and argument.
Radosh has endured ostracism and abuse for insisting that many of McCarthys victims were indeed communist spies or agents. But he draws the line at Coulters crude and inflammatory defence of McCarthy: I think it is important that those who are considered critics of left/liberalism dont stop using our critical faculties when self-proclaimed conservatives start producing crap.
Amen. American politics has been badly damaged by the scruple-free tactics of those like Moore and Coulter. In some ways, of course, these shameless hucksters of ideological hate deserve each other. But America surely deserves better.
The reason is that while they both draw the ire of the other side, Dumbo does it by lying and Ann does it with the cold hard facts.
Sullivan is off the wall on this and several other things lately.
Uh.. comparing the scruples of Coulter and Moore is like comparing apples to a**holes.
Can I post this?
He thinks there are good liberals. Idiot! Some are just better actors than others. Andrew Sullivan's act is the one that's getting old ...
Count me as one of the few.
Hmmm. So, what's Sullivan's beef?
in a world of blogs and talk radio and cable news it is increasingly hard to stand out. Coulters answer to that dilemma is twofold: look amazing and ratchet up the rhetoric against the left until it has the subtlety and nuance of a car alarm.
The arrogance and selfishness shines in Ann! Alas, someone that plays the game and in so doing fights fire with fire!
More of the likes of Ann Coulter should be seen as a benifit to all!
Is Sullivan complaining because it is false to say this or because it is impolite to say this? I don't know about Andrew, but if I was married and drove off a bridge with a galpal inside my car who was not my wife and I then left her to drown while I got together with my family to figure out how to do damage control, I would be damn happy if all I was called was an 'adulterous drunk.'
The fanatics's role in history is a long and honorable one. <johnwayne> It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.</johnwayne>
Notice how the liberals aren't screaming about that reactionary extremist Rush Limbaugh anymore? He's practically a moderate now. Heh heh.
Iow, she's a straight shooter.
Yes, Andrew, it does. America deserves someone much better that you. Ann Coulter will do for starters. Then there is Starr Parker. And all the other Republican Babes!
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