Last week, I talked about Ann Coulter’s new book Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama.
Like all her books, this one is difficult to write about in a thousand words or less.
They’re always packed with quotable quotes, shocking discoveries from MSM archives, little-known historical nuggets — and infuriating stylistic tics (like speed-bumping serious arguments with sarcastic, and sometimes obtuse, jokes).
So I’m back with more about Mugged, along with an investigation into what I call Coulter Derangement Syndrome, or CDS.
You know what I mean:
Ann Coulter’s very existence sets millions of folks off.
(Some of those people even call themselves conservative.)
What’s that about?
And how does CDS impact the reception for, and potential impact of, Mugged?
We’re often informed that Ann Coulter’s public image (supposedly) prevents many people from actually reading her columns and books.
If so, then surely the fault is with those closed-minded liberal idiots, not Coulter.
(These are the same geniuses who’ve turned “Rush Limbaugh” into a convenient curse word but will, when pressed, usually have the decency to admit that they’ve never listened to his show. The worst of them have the indecency to brag about it.)
Then we have those conservative snobs who complain that our side has too many polemicists already; that the troops occasionally need to be educated, not just entertained.
Both groups miss the point.
Coulter’s consistent placement on the bestseller lists proves that thousands of people do read her books, many of whom might have remained otherwise ignorant of conservative philosophy and long-buried historical facts.
Come on: Do we honestly expect the average 21st century American to curl up with Russell Kirk for an evening? I’m not stupid, but dutifully making it to the last page of The Conservative Mind — in the early days of my conversion — gave me a new appreciation for the Frozen Chosin.
Arguing with all these Coulter-haters is futile, however, because their reaction to her is visceral, not logical.
I’ve said for years that if you took Coulter’s books and columns and stuck a man’s name on them (preferably P.J. O’Rourke’s), at least half of the auto-Ann-haters (right and left) would pronounce them well-researched, soundly argued, and entertaining.
So, yes, I think she gets picked on for being female.
(And no, outraged commenters: That’s not “liberal identity politics” or “feminism” talking. That’s human nature. Something conservatives are supposed to be realistic about.)
The fact is, O’Rourke has been as searingly cruel as Coulter.
For instance, see if you can track down — then dare to read — his illustrated National Lampoon-era guide to “Foreigners Around The World” (or, as I like to call it, “How Normal People Used to Talk About Each Other”).
And his “Thoughts on the Prospect of a Sixties Revival” was one of my early writing models:
People Who Died During the 1960s: 4 students at Kent State.
People Who Were Allowed to Live: All the other students at Kent State.
So why doesn’t O’Rourke get picketed or pied in the face? Well, he gets away with a great deal because he often mocks his younger, dumber self and the bewildered aging hipster he’s become.
Coulter, however, has never to my knowledge shed a tear in public, or joked about having a bad hair day or craving a cheeseburger. She was apparently born without the self-deprecation gene. This blunts her appeal in our Oprah-ized society.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the quality of O’Rourke’s writing has declined as he’s gotten older, probably due to a drop in testosterone and draining distractions like cancer and children. (One exception: His diabolical “obit” for arch-liberal courtier-hack Arthur Schlesinger is another one for the time capsules.)
Worst of all, O’Rourke tends to chicken out and turn liberal just as things are getting exciting, like a boyfriend who suddenly blurts out his old girlfriend’s name at the worst possible time.
Coulter, on the other hand, untouched by toddlers and tumors, rarely resorts to the modern conservative’s abiding flaw: that desperate need to be liked which inspires otherwise intelligent right wingers to heap unadulterated (pun intended) praise on Martin Luther King Jr. or “hard-working Mexicans” or “moderate Muslims” or whoever this week’s liberal-approved human unicorn happens to be, in the middle of an otherwise laudable, cliche-free column.
I said “rarely.”
That’s what makes her rare lapses all the more infuriating.
Take Coulter’s look back at the 1989 murder of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst, NY.
Hawkins was a sixteen-year-old African-American, and his killers were white. His death “set off massive protests led by Al Sharpton, who was looking for a new gig a year after his work on the Tawana Brawley hoax had concluded so triumphantly.”
Coulter relates that the white youths had been “lying in wait to attack a romantic rival — a black or Hispanic youth allegedly dating a neighborhood girl. It was Yusef’s bad luck that he happened to be walking past the girl’s house that night….”
Coulter’s next paragraph is astonishing:
“No one — not the responding police officers, the witnesses, the black commissioner of police (…), not the girl who had inspired the attack — believed there was a racial element to the shooting.” She brings in Shelby Steele here for backup.
All those people are either lying or delusional, perhaps trying (unsuccessfully as it turned out) to avoid another racial shakedown circus. I feel confident saying this because in her next paragraph Coulter describes the residents of Bensonhurst as “mostly Italian American.”
I don’t pretend to understand the deep-seated animosity between many blacks and Italians, but denying the part it must have played in this crime beggars belief — especially since we’d been told earlier that the white kids were on the lookout for “a black or Hispanic youth.”
I realize Coulter is simply reporting the opinions of those on the scene, but I’d have appreciated her questioning their honesty, too.
When well-intentioned people take sound arguments one step too far, they undermine their own credibility.
We can argue about how often race plays a role in crime — but not that it never does. To do so is to become as blindly ideological as the race-obsessed progressives we criticize.
If we can’t rely on Ann Coulter — and sometimes, not even El Rushbo himself — to be 100% fearless and candid, we may be doomed to another hundred years of equivocation, butt-covering, and the very racial demagoguery she rightly decries.
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