Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Explaining Coulter

So the library finally got me a copy of Ann Coulter's latest excretion, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" (I refuse to buy it). Like all her books, it's a collection of semi-focused potshots at an imagined class of "liberal". These fabulous "liberals" hate science as much as they hate Christianity; they are equally responsible for "ugly feminists" as for "Hollywood ideals of beauty"; they are familars of both Hitler and Stalin. It's not worthwhile to attempt to engage the Coulter's extraordinarily consistent levels of distortion and misrepresentation-- others with more patience than I have already done so. Nor is it really worthwhile listing her cute little outrages -- the insults to 9/11 widows have been well publicized, but there's also a whole chapter attacking public school teachers ("taxpayer-supported parasites...inculcating students in the precepts of the Socialist Party of America"). Pages and pages of this stuff.

Coulter's prose bears an uncanny resemblence to that of another master propagandist, Adolf Hitler. Coulter of course hasn't committed any genocides, but neither had Hitler when he wrote Mein Kampf. Coulter has called for the bombing of the New York Times, the murder of Michael Moore, John Murtha, and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and threatened liberals in general with violent death. All in fun of course. Both propagandists work to create a demonic Other, a class that is wholly evil and pollutes the healthy body of society in general. The formal resemblences are remarkable.

The question often arises as to whether Coulter sincerely means the crap that comes out of her mouth. Is she just working a shtick as an entertainer, or does she really believe that everyone in the Democratic party is a traitor, that liberals favor murder and bestiality, etc? Of course I have no way of ascertaining her internal mental state (nor would I care to) but she's an apparently educated and intelligent woman, which suggests that it's all a big act. What's worse -- to be an actively conscious liar, or to be deranged?

Thinking about this made me recall Ron Rosenbaum's excellent book Explaining Hitler, which is something of a meta-study of the various historical studies of Hitler, and the vast varieties of conflicting frameworks that have been erected to try to come to terms with the embodiment of evil in our time. One of the main dividing lines among historians is whether Hitler was, in his own mind, doing good or evil. Was he "convinced of his own rectitude" (in the words of Hugh Trevor-Roper) or was he knowingly evil, an actor feigning anti-semitic passion in order to further his own power? Obviously this is impossible to answer, but the search for clues is fascinating. The actor theory, promoted by Alan Bullock, appeals to me more somehow, it seems more true to the facts than the alternative view, that Hitler's acts were insane efforts to do good. Hitler as a faker, a charlatan, a small-time grifter who made it big. A mountebank -- there's a word you don't see everyday, but it seems to fit.

It fits Coulter as well. She's got a grift and she's milking it for all it's worth. She seems willing to take it over the top, and her consistent rise to the top of the bestseller list is alarming in that it indicates a certain desire in the populace to go along with her. Fortunately I think the US does not have the ignition potential of Nazi Germany, and Coulter for all her success is a genuine small-timer, a minor-league political insult comic, without the mesmeric powers of a Hitler. If Hitler was a fraud, he was so good at it that he fooled a country and continues to baffle scholars, but Coulter is not at that level, her constant sniggering gives her away -- it's pretty obvious her main goal is to attract attention and live off the celebrity. Which makes her evil rather than deranged.

And there's the fact that her book was released on 6/6/6.

1 comment:

goatchowder said...

Great review! Points for having stomach enough to actually read Coulter's dreck... so we don't have to.

The USA does not have the ignition potential of Germany... YET. Remember that Weimar Germany's economy collapsed in a pile of rubble, and that is what emitted the great ball of flammable aerosol which Hitler ignited.

IIRC he was widely ridiculed as a mentally-unbalanced clown in his Mein Kampf and beirhall putsch days. The Great Depression, added to Germany's already troubled economy, turned him into a "leader". When Germany went insane, there was a madman already walking the streets and ready to take over the asylum.

Along with Coulter, there are already way to many of those around here these days. My biggest fear is that when the real estate bubble bursts and the dollar collapses, well, I don't want to go there.