Ann Coulter is fortunate that she is thin, blonde, pretty, professional, and glib. Those qualities make her immune to attacks that Liberals sometimes foist on inconvenient women. Despite the fact that Liberals claim to be thoughtful and compassionate feminists concerned that women be treated seriously, their attacks on troublesome women would make Archie Bunker blush. Paula Jones, President Clinton’s accuser, was portrayed as a “sleazy” woman from the “trailer parks.” [1] While Left-wing columnist Julianne Malveaux speculated that, Linda Tripp, the woman who taped incriminating conversations with Clinton’s girl friend Monica Lewinsky, had been beaten with an “ugly stick.” Coulter is too attractive, too academically pedigreed, and too smart for charges of being low class or ugly to be plausible. No, she gets to be labeled a “shrew.” [2]

Ann Coulter is a skilled polemicist of the first rank. In her recent book, Slander, she documents Liberal “slander” against Conservatives. She is certainly not above calling names being herself adept at creative descriptions. Her primary problem is not with invective, but slander, the deliberate use of false characterizations. This is especially disconcerting when the slander comes not from Left-wing polemicist but from purportedly objective news sources.

Coulter’s style is brash and over-the-top. Although Slander provides plenty of red meat for true believers, her shrillness will turnoff the neutral, and inflame her enemies. Nonetheless, the book is an almost infinite source of delicious nuggets of information for Conservatives. If she had been more academic in her prose she would have been even more persuasive, but she certainly would not have garnered as much attention. Some of her themes deserve special attention.

There are Conservatives on the radio waves and conspicuous commentators, but, as Coulter explains, the news divisions of the major networks are dominated by former Liberal politicos. Tim Russert, of Meet the Press, worked for Governor Mario Cuomo and Senator Patrick Moyihan. Jeff Greenfield wrote speeches for Robert Kennedy, the same role Chris Matthews filled for President Jimmy Carter and former Speaker of the House Tip 0’Neill. Brian Williams worked in the Carter Administration. Rick Inderfurth went from the Carter Administration to ABC News and back through the revolving door to the Clinton Administration without skipping a beat. A senior vice president of NBC News was a Clinton special assistant. And, of course, Clinton’s famous advisor, George Stephanopoulos, now helps to host ABC’s This Week. Other members of the Clinton Administration have found their way to US News and World Report, Nightline, and Time magazine. However, when Susan Molinari, the attractive Republican Congresswoman from New York, became a Saturday morning news anchor for CBS (a job that lasted about a year), the New York Times gravely intoned about the “potentially awkward transition from being one the nation’s best known advocates of Republican ideology to being a CBS News anchor.”

It is not so much that these people necessarily do incompetent or overtly biased jobs. Tim Russert asks notoriously difficult questions of both sides. However, when a certain unquestioned perspective permeates the newsroom, it governs the unspoken assumptions about which stories to cover and how to cover them. Is it any wonder that, when a gun was used to stop a shooting spree, this fact was ignored in the press because of its inconsistency with calls for gun control? Is it any wonder, that the press protected Clinton’s goof on not understanding the function of a Patriot missile? Is it any wonder, that while the press was making snide comments on what they considered Reagan’s lack of mental acuity during the 1984 election, that year magazines published more general articles on senility than in all the other election years in the last quarter-of-a-century combined? Is it any wonder that the press treated Gore as the “smartest kid in the class,” despite the fact that Bush got higher grades than Gore in college? Though neither Gore or Bush could lay claim to being the smartest in their class, after college Bush earned a Harvard MBA, while Gore failed out of divinity school and dropped out of law school.

Coulter also documents that in the 2000 elections, individual states were called for Gore faster than comparable states were called for Bush. For example, “Gore won Maine by 5 percentage points and was declared the winner within 10 minutes of the polls closing.” By contrast, when “Bush won Colorado by 9 points, it took CNN 2 hours and 41 minutes to make the call.” Throughout election night, Gore’s states were called earlier, despite the fact that, on average, Bush won his states by larger percentage margins.

Fortunately, in the freer market of the Internet, Conservative political web sites do considerably better than Liberal ones. Moreover, ever since books have been sold over the Internet and not through stores where books can be prominently displayed or hidden based on the outlook of booksellers, Conservatives having been winning on the bestsellers lists. Once such books reach there, they are usually deemed “surprise bestsellers.” It is unclear whether this success is because Conservatives write better books or Conservatives just read more.

This success is surprising given the systematic efforts of the major publishing houses to avoid Conservative books and for major newspaper reviewers to ignore them, at least when they are not panning them. In addition, major publishing houses grant generous advances to Liberal authors and not to Conservative ones. For example, Naomi Wolf (the feminist writer who famously lectured Gore on the necessity of becoming the “alpha male”) has had mediocre publishing success, despite rave reviews in the New York Times. By contrast, the critically ignored Illiberal Education, a critique of political correctness on campuses, by Dinesh D’Souza, sold far better than Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and spent five times longer on the bestseller list. On their next books, Wolf received a $600,000 advance, while D’Souza received $160,000.

One wonders why these publishing houses cannot even act in their own economic self-interest. The brilliant editorial minds at Random House have lost $50 million on advances that did not reap adequate sales. As Coulter concludes, “Conservative books may be snubbed in the elite media, hidden by book stores, and regularly spurned by major publishers, but at least we know who the public wants to read.” Coulter’s book has done well is sales. Mainstream reviews of it have been mostly negative. These reviews whine that Coulter complains that Conservatives are being called names, while she does the same thing. She counters that her descriptions are true. A better response would be to attempt to debunk her or find inaccuracies, but that would be hard work and perhaps not yield fruit.

  1. Evan Thomas, Newsweek.
  2. Richard Cohen, Washington Post.

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