I Want A New Ann, One That Does What It Should

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Slate's Tim Noah asks why, five years after being curb-kicked by National Review Online, Ann Coulter exerts such an influence over the tenor of conservative punditry.

Maybe it's sheer greed; Coulter has certainly demonstrated that extremism sells books. Maybe it's the reward structure of cable-news shows, which love to sic right-wing mad dogs on seemingly clueless moderate liberals. But I'm inclined to think the main driving force is the bankruptcy of contemporary conservatism as represented by the Bush administration

Noah wonders which journalist will be the new Coulter, and which book will be the new Slander. Obviously, it's going to be Jonah Goldberg and Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Goldberg's book shares Coulter's fail-safe device for getting free publicity—a specific target. It doesn't just bait liberals, but Hillary Clinton, who's shown she'll respond to any attack if she thinks it can turn her into a righteous victim. (Witness her response to a TV ad by no-hope New York Senate candidate John Spencer.) Coulter hasn't just made right-wing punditry shriller—she's helped redefine the terms of Red Team-Blue Team debate, prioritizing umbrage and victimization ("Howard Dean says Republicans are evil! Ouch, my feelings!") even on issues where Dems and GOPers don't much disagree. This is good for book sales, and for boring the hell out of the rest of us.

UPDATE: I missed this somehow… Gawker tracks Coulter's more obviously planned "outrages" along with her book sales.

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  1. Pretty much most of the right-wing books are exercises in a quote-mining view of history: if you pick all your examples very carefully, leave out any contradictory evidence, and so forth, you can build a case for almost anything. When his book screams “exhaustively researched” what it really amounts to is a ton of Google and Lexus searches for anything that supports his contention.

    That’s not how even the sloppiest historian does history. But it apparently works.

    Once Goldberg canned Coulter. Now he, Ramesh, Malkin and all the rest are sucking up to her tactics to make a quick buck selling their integrity.

  2. “Coulter hasn’t just made right-wing punditry shriller”

    As opposed to all of the rational left wing punditry going on. Fahrenheit 9-11 was certainly the height restrained rhetoric. Add to that cesspools of anti-Semitism and crackpot conspiracy theories that are KOS, Atrios and DU. How about Reason? Let see, how about hoping American soldiers come home in disgrace? Got that

    “Unless I missed it, I’m surprised I didn’t see an obvious fake news item: “Democrats End Funding For Iraq War: Troops Come Home In Disgrace.” Maybe they’re worried that would be too appealing a scenario, even for Republicans.”

    How about gross hyperbole about political enemies? Got that Ronald Bailey. https://www.reason.com/9-11atfiveyears/rbailey.shtml

    “Unless the public, the Congress, and the courts resist the president’s sweeping assertion of executive authority, the future of the American Republic may also be similarly at risk by the middle of the 21st century.”

    Nope no shrill punditry going on here. It is all those evil righties over at NRO.

  3. I doubt that Goldberg will be as shrill and over the top as Coulter. In his columns, he’s pretty intelligent, even if I don’t agree with him, which I generally don’t. He also has a great ability to laugh at himself, which Ms. Coulter lacks. That said, it does seem that the books that sell these days are pretty much partisan screeds, alas.

  4. I doubt that Goldberg will be as shrill and over the top as Coulter. In his columns, he’s pretty intelligent, even if I don’t agree with him, which I generally don’t. He also has a great ability to laugh at himself, which Ms. Coulter lacks. That said, it does seem that the books that sell these days are pretty much partisan screeds, alas.

  5. I wouldn’t lump Ramesh in with Coulter, Goldbert and Malkin. I don’t get the time to even peruse NRO anymore, but Ramesh always stood apart to me, typically more rational that the rest, always seems to have thought things through, etc.

  6. if you pick all your examples very carefully, leave out any contradictory evidence, and so forth, you can build a case for almost anything.

    I use to sneak into a pol sci class at UW and this was exactly what the professor said for the class to do when writting thier papers.

    It is of little suprise that conservatives have adopted methods of arguement which long ago had been developed and vetted by the left.

    This is good for book sales, and for boring the hell out of the rest of us.

    jesus H Christ…”oh the left and the right won’t listen to us if they keep argueing…whaaaaa!” Libertarian self pity is only funny when ferrets are involved…or horse fucking.

  7. I thought everyone knew why A-n C—–r is influential. Her deal with Satan explicitly states that every time someone writes or speaks her name, her time in the limelight will be extended another five minutes.

    To avoid abuses, the devil added a caveat: Every time she says her name, her Adam’s apple grows a centimeter.

  8. Emmajane,

    I doubt it to. I don’t always agree with Goldberg but he can be very funny and he can laugh at himself. That said, it might be nice if people waited until his book was finished and published before they slandered Goldberg as being another Ann Coulter. But hey, this is Reason 2006, pesky things like that don’t really matter when you can score points against the evil republicans.

  9. John – are you tired of playing victim yet?

    The Republicans are in power right now and are spending like drunken sailors and fighting excursionary wars against countries that posed little threat to us.

    Both things that most libertarians are against. What in the fuck do you expect Reason to write about?

  10. hey john, thought experiment:

    if hillary clinton was president, do you really want her presiding over an imperial presidency? would you excuse her attempts at building one?

    obviously not.

    the difference here, john, is that mr. bailey and other likeminded folk feel that neither bush nor hillarity nor anyone else can be trusted with that kind of power, and it leads to Bad Things (TM).

  11. We already had a pretty imperial presidency under Bill and the world survived. I didn’t think the Republic was going to end over Bill Clinton getting blowjobs and getting rich off of crooked land deals in Arkansas and I don’t think it will end of Bush water boarding KSM. For the record, I don’t think Hillary is that bad, especially when compared to the real clowns in the Democratic party like Pelosi and Feingold. I think she would stand up as President and do the right thing and get about half the flack for it she would have gotten had she been a Republican.

    That said, if she is elected and does engage in an Imperial Presidency (whatever that is), if you think the current staff of Reason is going to discover a backbone and start seriously criticizing Democrats more than Republicans, I have a bridge to sell you.

    If telling the Reason staff and their sycophants who post here they are full of shit to slander Goldberg or anyone as the next Ann Coulter before their book is even finished makes me a victim, then I guess I am.

  12. I wouldn’t lump Goldberg in with Coulter or Malkin. He’s often a fun read.

    The only people I know that actually read or watch Coulter are pretty hardcore lefties who want something to be angry and indignant about.

  13. if you think the current staff of Reason is going to discover a backbone and start seriously criticizing Democrats more than Republicans, I have a bridge to sell you.

    I have faith in the Reason staff…I am new here so i don’t have a history to look back on but the slightly greater focus they put on critisiing republicans I think comes from the fact that libertarians tend to critisize those in power.

    If the dems get into power again i think there will be a noticeable shift.

  14. John,

    I would agree with you to the extent that anybody’s critiquing the content of Goldberg’s book without having read it; however, I think what everyone’s reacting to here is the title. I mean, for F’s sake, the title might as well read, “Liberal Hilary is like Mussolini.”

    It’s odd that you question the meaningfulness of the phrase “Imperial Presidency” but then claim that the Clinton presidency was “pretty Imperial.” What does THAT mean? Anyway, as has been noted here many times, Clinton was restrained from doing most of what he wanted by the Republican congress. Hell, he couldn’t even lob a couple of missiles at Osama without having a near-Congressional revolt on his hands, while W has led us into two wars. I really don’t think there’s much of a comparison.

    Do you honestly believe that, if we had a Democratic President and Democratic Congress, Reason writers would not be just as incensed (if not more so) about what our government was doing?

  15. Perhaps Mariyah Moten becomes a pundit, and I follow whatever she tells me to do?

  16. “Do you honestly believe that, if we had a Democratic President and Democratic Congress, Reason writers would not be just as incensed (if not more so) about what our government was doing?”

    I think they would totally roll over and find other things to talk about. They would still bitch and moan about the drug war, but it would be in a less partisan manner. Hell, the drug war really hit its stride under Clinton. Yet, I never see Clinton being held up as much of a villain in the whole matter. I think it is more of a cultural thing. The culture in Washington and in the media outside of a very few publications (Weekly Standard, National Review) is that everyone on the good side is a Dem and everyone on the bad side is a Republican. Reason is no different. I have zero faith in the Reason sans Michael Young to have much of anything bad to say about a Democratic Administration. They were critical of Clinton back in the day, but it was a different staff back then. I will have some faith in this Reason staff when they get half as angry and committed to the 2nd Amendment and the right of self defense as they are about NSA wiretaps. I hate to point to one person, but I really think Reason stopped being non-partisan when Postrel left. I would love to see her come back to Reason some day.

  17. UPDATE: I missed this somehow… Gawker tracks Coulter’s more obviously planned “outrages” along with her book sales.

    one look at that graph implys that Culter’s magic has begun to fade…he outrages have skyrocketed yet her book sales seem comparativly lack luster.

  18. Joshua,

    Colter was a one trick pony. She was an okay writer who figured out she could say crazy stuff and sell a lot of books. Eventually, that gets old. I kind of look at her as the Morton Downey Jr. of the publishing world.

  19. I used the word victim because you seem so sure that Reason is only bashing Republicans for being Republicans.

    But I can think of any number of reasons to bash republicans…I already outlined two, but how about another one – the Republicans also claim to be free-marketers and claim to believe in smaller gov’t – both of those they’ve also shown to be absolutely false. Then they wonder why libertarian-leaning folks don’t flock to vote for them.

    My lord, is it really that hard to see?

    And if you don’t think that Reason won’t bash Democrats, or that they don’t bash Democrats, you can’t read. And again, they don’t have any power to do anything right now, so why go all-out against them?

  20. They were critical of Clinton back in the day, but it was a different staff back then.

    Well that is completly unfair…you have new people who came into the magazine under or just before Bush came to power…presumabley hired by Nick who pre 2004 was defending Bush’s “ownership sociaty” on C-span.

    I mean this is Bush we are talking about…the isolationist governer who promised a smaller government and then turned around and spent more then the johnson administration…what do you expect any libertarian columnist, young or old, to fucking write about? The Clinton administration!?!?!

  21. Well John, I certainly don’t have any evidence of this, but I think the writers at H&R are pretty much anti-power and their writings reflect that. Since the Dems haven’t passed any laws or enacted any federal policies in 6 years, they haven’t provided much to criticize.

    btw, I’d say the drug war “hit its stride” under Nixon, though Reagan’s creation of the Drug Czar was a big milestone. I can’t think of anything Clinton did beyond carrying on the (bad) policies of his predecessors, but maybe you can enlighten me.

  22. The only people I know that actually read or watch Coulter are pretty hardcore lefties who want something to be angry and indignant about.

    The only person that I know who reads Coulter is a libertarian who is verrry fond of the Republican party. He believes what she writes, too. Scary.

  23. The only person that I know who reads Coulter is a libertarian who is verrry fond of the Republican party. He believes what she writes, too. Scary.

    Not really…conservative or republican columninist have been borrowing small government libertarian ideas for some time…i am sure there is stuff in Culters books i agree with.

    It goes something like this.

    culter: Small government is good.

    libertarian reader: Ok

    Culter: Liberals want to take your money and spend it.

    lib reader: OK the left and statism are often mislabeled as liberals tell me more.

    Culter: Therefore we should dump tons of money into a police state and hang everyone we disagree with…jesus rules!

    Lib reader: *put head into his hands and sighs* Oh fuck.

  24. Brian 24,

    The drug war hit its stride with the Minimum Mandatories and that was in 86. For some reason I thought they were passed under Bush I not Reagan. Yes, you are right Clinton just continued some very bad policies.

    I will curious to see if they start really going after the Dems when they return to power. I hope I am wrong, but I am sketpical. I just can’t see them ever using the kind of over the top rethoric against Democrats. The day Democrats do something they object to, I am sure they will bob and weave about how the Republicans are just as responsible and would certainly never claim that a Democrat is a threat to the Republic.

  25. What a convenient coincidence. Just last week, I wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review complaining about both Coulter and Goldberg misrepresenting their political opponents. I posted it on my blog…click on my name below for a link.

    Coulter’s type just plays the “lesser of two evils” card–they paint “the other side” as pure evil, leaving poor voters no other option than to vote for the pundit’s favored candidate.

    There’s some indication that preference balots (Instant Runoff Voting) reduce negative campaigning. I wonder if it would also discourage punditry like Coulter’s.

  26. I think the posters on Hit and Run might be lean more left than the magazine itself does.

  27. I am sure they will bob and weave about how the Republicans are just as responsible and would certainly never claim that a Democrat is a threat to the Republic.

    I’d call some of the anti-Elliot Spitzer rhetoric I’ve read here pretty over-the-top.

  28. Coulter is popular not because of anything conservative but because she’s a good writer, particularly in crafting insults, mostly near the mark.

    Like Mencken, or the early R Emmett Tyrrell before he became an old woman.

    People who are afraid of writing tend not to like Coulter.

  29. For the record: Jacob joined the Reason staff during the first Bush administration; Nick, Brian, Ron, and I joined during the Clinton administration.

  30. Great skit above, Joshua Corning. Today we agree, for tommorrow we joust. Isaiah 22:13 (New Lamar Translation).

  31. “Coulter is popular not because of anything conservative but because she’s a good writer”
    Let’s not forget the two T’s and one A.

  32. Coulter is popular not because of anything conservative but because she’s a good writer, particularly in crafting insults, mostly near the mark.

    Like Mencken, or the early R Emmett Tyrrell before he became an old woman.

    People who are afraid of writing tend not to like Coulter.

    No, no, no. We have been through this before.

    Mencken was an iconoclast. Coulter is a hack.

    Mencken was able to write about politics, society, music, literature, religion, psychology, medicine…the list could go on. Coulter is a one-trick pony (please, no horse face jokes).

    This is not even worth spending any more time on. Google “Mencken quotes” and google “Coulter quotes” in another tab, then switch back and forth comparing quotes at random. Mencken: droll, caustic, precise wit. Coulter: sledgehammer pounding exclusively on liberal “enemies.”

  33. Lamar, is on to something re Coulter. I get the impression, from conservative friends, that if Coulter was a dumpy old plain looking and flat chested broad, she would have been dismissed by most conservatives. But she’s “hot” so she’s not.

  34. Noah wonders which journalist will be the new Coulter, and which book will be the new Slander. Obviously, it’s going to be Jonah Goldberg and Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Goldberg’s book shares Coulter’s fail-safe device for getting free publicity – a specific target.

    weigel, what brand of crack are you smoking? Coulter may/may not have the testicles to go with her Adam’s Apple, but I would still punish that behind for hours upon end. Jonah Goldberg? Pudgy, balding, shmuck that he is? I’d sooner chew on my own vomit.

    It’s all about being a masturbation aid with a “respectable” dust jacket.

  35. “Coulter is popular not because of anything conservative but because she’s a good writer, particularly in crafting insults, mostly near the mark.”

    Pure crack smokin. Coulter is schoolyard-level “witty” who says dumb stuff just to get a rise out of people. To even compare her to Mencken is just plain sad. Mencken’s writing was precise and went for the jugular, but in a way that took real thought and craft. Coulter just googles a bunch of shit and adds insults. Whole different universe.

  36. “Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton”

    LOL.

    That is a hilarious send-up of the genre of silly, overwrought right-wing attack books, but why would you pick Jonah Goldberg, who’s generally fairly tame, to be the supposed author.

    Here, I’ve got one: “From Stalin to Al Gore: Dirty Commies Who Want to Steal Your Money” by Michael Savage.

  37. Wait a second, that’s a real book?

    You’ve got to be effing kidding me.

  38. Here is a question: what was Reason’s take on Reagan while he was president? He escalated the war on drugs, spent loads of cash, ran an imperial military operation and actively paid to destabilize sovereign states. Yet he is seen as a hero in many circles. I don’t get it. But I am truly interested in what Reason’s take was then.

  39. John:

    Add to that cesspools of anti-Semitism and crackpot conspiracy theories that are KOS, Atrios..

    I’m no fan of the collectivist/liberal KOS and Atrios, but remember that criticism of the Israeli government and its supporters is not anti-Semitism, and also note that political conspiracies do indeed happen.

    Let see, how about hoping American soldiers come home in disgrace?

    What a spin! You know what the conjectured appeal is; it’s the troops coming home, not the disgrace. The very real disgrace is that they went there at all and that they are still there.

    How about gross hyperbole about political enemies? Got that Ronald Bailey.

    You made a similar empty characterization of Ron’s well-argued piece in the attendant thread. I criticized your “don’t bother to defend individual liberty” attitude. But you didn’t respond:

    https://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/09/new_at_reason_1339.shtml#comments

  40. Brett-I think he’s referencing Ramesh’s recent book, titled “The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life,” not exactly even-handed, I’d say.

  41. John attacks more straw in a single day of posting than most cows do in an entire year.

  42. Boy, it’s a good thing John’s looking out for Jewish people with his super-duper sensitive anti-semitism detector. Because they don’t seem to be noticing this “cesspool of anti-Semitism,” and continue to vote for the Jew-hating Democrats by about 3:1.

    “Let see, how about hoping American soldiers come home in disgrace?” Apparently, John thinks that the honor or disgrace of American soldiers depends on the decisions made by the career politicians in Washington. I have to say, I don’t know any Democrats who think this.

    Our troops have performed magnificently, under the impossible conditions that the incompetents and crooks who control our government have placed them, and when they come home next year, the only disgrace will attach to the chickenhawks who sent them to Iraq, those who kept them there long after there ceased to be any legitimate reason to do so, and those who decided that ending and destroying a few thousand more of their lives was a small price to pay to prevent the Republicans from losing face before an election.

  43. A radio programmer of my acquaintence named Holland Cooke comments on you-know-who at his website:

    The only reason Coulter can profit from her witchy hatemongering is because the media let her. Cable news channels know you’ll stop channel surfing when you land on her wild-eyed snarling. And Talk radio, always eager to ape cable topics, welcomes her carefully crafted book tour script, and generally lets her control the interview.

    I think Holland pretty much nails it. BTW: If you’ve had-it-up-to-here with her shtick, wait’ll you hear Adam Carolla hang up on her on-air.

  44. thedifferentphil:

    Here is a question: what was Reason’s take on Reagan while he was president?

    I’ve liked Reason since the early/mid 70’s and Reagan since the mid 70’s. Reagan talked a better small government game then he played and the governing result was a mixed bag, but still there was real progress for liberty during his administration. You could read some pieces in Reason during the Reagan years, the essence of which was; “good move but not nearly far enough”. Sounds like heaven compared to our current liberal/big government administration, huh? There were also articles containing outright praise and of outright criticism.

    As I said, it was a mixed bag but as to the real progress under Reagan, his administrations saw an actual decrease in discretionary spending. The rate of growth in total spending fell off drastically from Carter. And the Federal Register, a monitor of all federal regulations and regulatory activity actually shrank! There were REAL cuts in some government departments, and programs that were eliminated. The rates of job growth and personal wealth accumulation responded by setting new records.

    Reagan warned of the harms of curtailing civil liberties in order to fight the Soviet slave state. He asked why we should surrender to them by adopting their ways. The battle against the Soviet Union was a real struggle for liberty-far different than this ridiculously overblown “war on terror”.

    Reagan did an interview with Reason in ’75 where he famously said: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism…The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”

    https://reason.com/7507/int_reagan.shtml

    Reagan read and enjoyed Reason. I know cuz he and Nancy told me when I met them at a speech here in Colorado in 1976. Here’s my account of that brief meeting (12:02 PM comment):

    https://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2003/11/gipper_clipped.shtml

    Disclosure: I’m proud to say that Reason used my comment in a fund raising letter a couple of years ago.

  45. Oh, one other thing for John: In addition to the fact that the GOP is in power, there’s another good reason for a libertarian magazine to go after them. Republicans try to pass themselves off as good libertarians. If you’re writing about libertarianism, you’re probably going to give more attention to politicians who claim to be libertarians. And if they come up wanting, you’re probably going to write that they were lying.

  46. Rick,

    I don’t think you understand liberalism. You assume that “big government” is the essence of liberalism, and therefore, that the current big-government righties are somehow liberals. This is foolish.

    That you advocate your positions based on a desire for smaller government does not mean that your opponents are motivated by a desire for bigger government. It is merely self-serving flattery to say so, along the lines of those anti-racists who opposed welfare reform declaring that the reformers were therefore racists.

    Or, perhaps closer to home for you, it is comparable to Israel hawks, who are motivated by philo-Semitism, to declare that their opponents in political debates are therefore anti-Semites.

    Liberals’ opinion on the size of government is based not on any principles about that particular question. Whether to grow or shrink any particular government function is merely a means to achieve their ends of justice, opportunity, equality, environmental protection, or what have you.

    This administration is philosophically opposed to almost all of the core beliefs of liberalism. That Bush works to achieve conservative ends through big-government means doesn’t make him a liberal, just a different kind of conservative.

  47. Also, Rick, if you replace “Carter” with “Bush” in this quote:

    “The rate of growth in total spending fell off drastically from Carter. And the Federal Register, a monitor of all federal regulations and regulatory activity actually shrank! There were REAL cuts in some government departments, and programs that were eliminated. The rates of job growth and personal wealth accumulation responded by setting new records.”

    You’ve just described the Clinton/Gore administration. Conservatives?

  48. Whether to grow or shrink any particular government function is merely a means to achieve their ends of justice, opportunity, equality, environmental protection, or what have you.

    This administration is philosophically opposed to almost all of the core beliefs of liberalism.

    jesus chirst joe…do you just say whatever comes into your head no matter how absured? Yeah bush is philosophically opposed to justice, opportunity, equality and enviornmental protectionism…he hates puppies too.

  49. You’ve just described the Clinton/Gore administration. Conservatives?

    Don’t you mean the 94′ though 98′ republican controlled house.

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