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Welcome to Ann Coulter's World
August 1, 2003
By Mark Harris

"We need to execute people like John Walker [Lindh] in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors."

—Ann Coulter, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, January 2002.

Ann Coulter is this summer's publishing equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest Terminator movie. In her most recent best-seller, Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terror (Crown Forum, 2003), the cable TV commentator turned author reveals herself as an almost robotic fabricator of lies, distortion, and insult toward any and all things not right-wing Republican. With Coulter, it's the honest, rational discourse that's consistently terminated.

In Treason, Coulter has discovered what is apparently either the scoop of the new millennium, or evidence of her own budding inner fascist emerging from the closet of her mainstream Republicanism. How else can you characterize someone who seriously believes that tens of millions of Americans now are literally "traitors," guilty of treason? But who exactly are all these traitors? Are we talking sinister Stalinist spies in positions of high influence? Evil drug cartels pushing poison in America's schoolyards? Not quite. In the world according to Coulter, the subversives are none other than—take a deep breath!—The Liberals!

If the thought of Hilary Clinton in a Che-style beret, rifle-in-hand, leading the League of Women Voters in an armed assault on the Bush family ranch has Coulter's fans in a panic, they should relax. This writer upon whom conservative groups like to bestow various journalist of the year awards has just the antidote for the spreading plague of liberal subversion. Yes, it's none other than the historic figure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (the fellow who gave us McCarthyism!). The old mid-century red-baiter emerges now from the smoke and vitriol of Coulter's rhetoric as an action hero for our age, a renegade brawler of vision and courage who in his day feared not the term witch hunt.

It's revealing that a leading Republican commentator, a woman whose photo appears on the front page of the web site for the American Conservative Political Union (along with Vice President Cheney) chooses now to resurrect McCarthy's anti-democratic legacy. It's as if Coulter wants to proclaim to anyone within earshot that the Republican right plays by its own rules now, "respectable politics" be damned. Here's rule number one: "We Republicans Alone Stand for God, Moral Virtue, Love of Country and All Things Righteous, and a New Generation of Tactical 'Bunker-Buster' Mini-Nukes!" Praise Be to Osama Bin Bush!

As for all other unfortunates, Coulter offers nothing but unrelenting insults, signifying nothing but her own pathological hostilities. Liberals? Democrats? They believe only in themselves, or at most the New York Times. They're also a pathetic posse of liars, weaklings, cowards, drug abusers, girly-boys, buffoons, and moral degenerates. And they hate their country. Despise it, actually. They're also wrong about everything. You almost wonder why the Democratic Party didn't long ago just come clean and rename itself the Shining Path of Revolutionary International Liberation Democratic Party. Or something like that.

Treason itself is a slurapalooza of personal vindictive and abuse, page after unrelenting page of wild hatred toward all evil liberal-doers, which in Coulter's world view appear to be defined as anyone slightly to the left of Ivan the Terrible. On that score, Coulter's embrace of the old persecutor McCarthy at least makes a kind of twisted sense. But what should we expect from a woman who refuses to condemn the assassination of doctors who perform medical abortions, as Coulter told a student audience in December 2001 at the University of Washington? Or who thinks "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh should have been executed, if only to scare liberals. Or who seriously believes Jimmy Carter could be tried for treason for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on the eve of the Iraq war! (the reasoning having something to do with a prize committee member's remark that Carter's award was an implicit rebuke of President Bush). Naturally, that's aid and comfort to the enemy!

Most of Coulter's liberal critics are content to dismiss her as a malevolent side show on the loopy track of contemporary politics. To large degree that is just what she is. She's an intellectual fake and a bully, a media "entertainer" fond of using insulting references to her own gender as attention-grabbing soundbite. Liberals in general are a "womanly" bunch, she taunts, obviously unfit for the kind of he-man behavior Coulter drools over, like rogue invasions of Countries Run by Dictators We Once Supported and Armed But Have Since Discovered to be Evil Monsters. This is a woman who studies the history of the Vietnam War, with all its blood and lies, anguish and allegory, only to conclude that the single lesson of this entire monumental chapter in mass human suffering is that "Democrats lose wars."

Such narrow partisan "scholarship" would be laughable, were it not for the insidious totalitarian logic at work here. If the Democratic Party is a traitor party, then what will Coulter and her friends on the far Republican right advocate next? A one-party system? An ever more draconian series of Patriot Acts? Will the FBI soon not only be able to conduct clandestine searches of library records, but detain citizens on the basis of "pre-emptive concerns" about suspect book habits? Perhaps the United States will finally have to launch a full-force invasion of Cuba, if only to turn the entire island into an expanded version of Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray, a dumping ground for the legions of vile liberals and subscribers to The Nation who will need to be put away for the duration of our endless "War on Terror"?

Last year, when Phil Donahue interviewed her on his MSNBC show, Coulter got miffed because Donahue didn't want to focus on her latest book, instead grilling her more generally over various views she's espoused. Coulter's irritation implied the attitude that Donahue was somehow obliged to play his role in her publicist's marketing agenda.

Unfortunately, that's how it is in these jingoism-as-product-and-marketing-strategy days. Rush Limbaugh rants to his radio listeners about why the United States should invade Iran, and a moment later he's giving you an 800 number to order delicious live lobsters. As for Coulter, she's just one among a growing cottage industry of highly paid right-wing celebrities used by the media conglomerates as a form of perverse mass entertainment masquerading as political commentary. Loud. Pushy. Snarly. Sarcastic. Egocentric. Bombastic. Photogenic. Argument as 30-second, I Can Shout Louder Than You, sound bite.

Undoubtedly, it's all a screeching assault on our nerves and intellects. But it would be a mistake to dismiss Coulter and her type as just cuckoo. The Bush Administration sold its lies about an imminent Iraqi military threat to the American public with great help from this new breed of media savvy, right-wing totalitarians. The Coulter crowd are shock and awe mouthpieces for the ramped-up, "With-Us-Or-Against Us" propaganda of crude, triumphal jingoism otherwise known as U.S. foreign policy. They not only manufacture reality, they take it to the level of a drunken alley brawl. It's a place where hysteria and hyperbole rule and all sorts of official government nonsense is given a pass by distracted bystanders too busy wiping the spit from their eyes.

Welcome to public discourse in Ann Coulter country, courtesy of her many corporate sponsors on cable TV, Talk Radio, and in big publishing.

 
Mark Harris is a Chicago-area journalist. You can write to him at TheEditorPage@aol.com.

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