Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Ann Coulter autopsy

Dissecting the public persona

The right-wing cultural phenomenon known as Ann Coulter has another book on the New York Times bestseller list. We can dismiss the inflated sales figures all we like (for example, NewsMax gave away hardcover copies at $4.99 in a promotion to acquire new magazine subscribers), but we must face the fact that a lot of people are actually buying the book. Even my mother, to my lasting shame, has purchased a Coulter book.

Facts and reality have never been Ann's friends (nor she theirs), although her usefulness to the extremist agenda in American politics has encouraged many people to overlook her mendacity. It's not an easy thing to overlook, either, especially as her diligent detractors have done a splendid job of demolishing her specious arguments and exposing her factual errors. I do not propose to carry further coals to Newcastle by piling on additional evidence of her fondness for falsehood, although I will certainly have occasion to cite specific instances. My purpose instead is to take a scalpel to Coulter's public persona, the wind-up avatar that haunts the precincts of Fox and CNN, and examine the cogs and gears of its entrails. While I doubt that the public Coulter is the same as the private Coulter, it matters not whether she is a true believer or merely a highly successful hypocrite.

Let's take her at face value and ask some questions. The answers will be documented in the most responsible manner possible—with her own words.

Question: Is Ann Coulter a Christian?

Answer: No. She is not. Yes, I know the risk of running afoul of Matthew 7:1. (Okay, for you heathens out there, Mt. 7:1 is “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” I'm quoting from the King James Version, of course, the big gay edition authorized by the big gay king.) I am not, however, Coulter's judge and I disavow any presumption that I can see into her “heart” (or whatever bionic device thumps in her chest). I merely cite the public record and refer to Mt. 7:16 (“Ye shall know them by their fruits”).

Coulter told Human Events Online that, “Christianity fuels everything I write.” Thus her claim to be Christian is explicit. However, she also told Geraldo Rivera, “Let's say I go out every night, I meet a guy and have sex with him. Good for me. I'm not married.” Unrepentant fornication is not an attribute of the genuine Christian.

Neither is bearing false witness, famously barred in one of the Ten Commandments. False witness, however, has never troubled Coulter. The title of her book Slander is as much a description of its contents as anything it purports to report. When the Columbia Journalism Review examined some of the challenged claims contained in Coulter's book, it found that she seemed quite comfortable in ignoring or twisting the truth. Here's one example:
Coulter Claim: She introduces a New York Times editorial on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas headlined the youngest, cruelest justice, then writes: “Thomas is not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy. He is called ‘a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests,’ ‘race traitor,’ ‘black snake,’ ‘chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom’ ....” (p. 12)

Footnote: The passage is constructed to suggest that the Times authored these epithets, but the footnote refers readers to comments made in a Playboy article, which goes unmentioned in the book's text.
Is it at all credible that such a misrepresentation should have occurred by accident? No, it's clearly a lie by implication. She may have left herself a fig-leaf of deniability and claim to have been misconstrued if challenged on the veracity of her statement, but false witness is not diminished by the provision of an alibi. If Jimmy Carter can lust in his heart, Coulter can just as clearly lie in her books.

We can search all we like for evidence of Christian fruits in Coulter's work, but all we find are fleurs du mal.

Question: Is Ann Coulter pretty?

Answer: Yes and no. Normally this is a question that is properly considered out of bounds whenever the topic is something other than a beauty pageant. Coulter herself, however, has specifically made this part of her stock in trade. Her long blonde hair is a cherished trademark and her regular features are conventionally attractive. Skin deep, anyway. Coulter's website features a glamor-puss portfolio of pin-up pictures for her devotees. She even told TV Guide, “I am emboldened by my looks to say things Republican men wouldn't.” Sadly, though, Coulter is boxing herself in by relying on an evanescent asset. She bragged about her looks to TV Guide in 1997, and it's been downhill all the way since then. You can keep your brains in top condition for decades, but the blonde bombshell look is highly perishable. At 44 years of age, Ann is coming to the end of her shelf-life as a professional beauty.

Question: Is Ann Coulter smart?

Answer: She clearly is. A stupid person could not have built herself into such a success. Besides, she's a cum laude university graduate. That takes brains. While she may prostitute her intelligence in the cause of making a living as the flame-tongued goddess of the wacko right, the intelligence is clearly there. She might even be smart enough to have a hearty contempt for the wingnuts who have fallen under her spell, but that's speculation.

Question: Is Ann Coulter conservative?

Answer: No, not in any meaningful sense. Coulter is an extremist who uses the unbridled language of the anarchist. Her excuse, if she bothers to give one, is that she is “joking” when she makes outrageous statements. Her defenders think that people should be able to perceive the puckish humor when she declares that domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times, “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” However, when asked if she had been kidding, Coulter said, “No, I think the Timothy McVeigh line was merely prescient,” claiming that the newspaper was treasonous and deserved wanton destruction. Perhaps that was supposed to be a joke, too.

Coulter loves to employ the eliminationist rhetoric that characterizes the extremist fringe, the hate groups that nibble at the edges of American society. David Neiwert of Orcinus cited Coulter's witticism about the senior justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee. That's just a joke, for you in the media.” Yeah, pretty funny. Neiwert pondered her ostensibly funny remark:
Although, perhaps, Ann could explain just what was supposed to be humorous about it. Perhaps I'm just dense, but assassinations have never been very funny matters in my experience. Is this a new hip thing?

No, David, you're right. Ann is just a stone bitch. In addition to lacking the Christian virtue of charity, she displays no real talent for wit or humor. It's just nastiness, eaten up raw by her acolytes, who confuse pandering with cleverness.

Question: Does Ann Coulter support traditional family values?

Answer: She only claims to. In terms of political rhetoric, she does as much gay-bashing as the Christian right could pray for, but Coulter is a childless spinster. Traditional families are apparently for other people, not bachelorette Ann.

Question: Does Ann Coulter understand science?

Answer: Maybe. I'm not sure. It depends on whether she means what she says in her most recent book, Godless. If her chapters on evolution are not merely more of her pandering schtick, if she really believes what they contain, then Coulter does not understand science at all. She writes that evolution is simply an excuse for atheism, although it is entirely independent of atheism. It's an example of bad reasoning on her part, a chain of bastardized logic that runs like this: The theory of evolution does not require God as part of its explanation for the development of life on earth, therefore it is inimically opposed to the very idea of God. If Coulter thinks that's valid reasoning, then her brain doesn't work right. Her anti-evolution arguments are merely the reheated leftovers of such isolated and retrograde thinkers as Dembski and Berlinski, two mathematically trained men who are fond of spouting symbolic gibberish in defense of Intelligent Design.

Coulter writes like someone who hasn't the faintest notion what science is, possesses no pertinent ideas of her own, and regards the entire enterprise with contempt. This is probably the reason that scientists tend to return the favor.

Question: Is Ann Coulter honest?

Answer: No. God, no! Haven't you been paying any attention?


RUFUS said...

no entiendo muy bien su blog.
en que idioma está escrito?

gracias por todo

Zeno said...

Obrigado para sua mensagem. Eu sou português, mas meu blog é escrito em inglês.

Anonymous said...

I think one has to consider the possibility that Coulter is a cynical entertainer. She says and writes to be noticed... and profits when she sells a book or is invited to speak.

Reed said...

Awesome article. I wish I had half of your ability to write.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of Coulter, but I have to disagree with your conclusion that she isn't a Christian. Being a Christian doesn't mean you subscribe to a particular pattern of behavior, grew up with a cultural experience, or even hold specific beliefs--it just means that you identify as a Christian when asked.

The same is true for any other religion--so when you say Coulter does X,Y,Z, therefore she is not a true Christian, it isn't much different from when pundits say Obama does X,Y,Z therefore he is truly a Muslim.