CARNEYS KNOWLEDGE! When Coulter called Hillary Clinton pond scum, Jay Carney knew how to play it:
FRIDAY, APRIL15, 2005
CARNEYS KNOWLEDGE: For all we know, it may be true! It may be true that flamboyant public crackpot Ann Coulter is one of the worlds most influential people, as Time magazine judges this week in its annual hackery issue. Indeed, thats precisely the problem weve discussed here for years, most recently in yesterdays post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/14/05). Its true: Kooky-con pundits like prime nutcase Coulter do gain influence in the culture when liberal spokesmen act like cowards, refusing to challenge their absurd, phony work. When the mainstream press corps takes a pass on discussing Coulters bad faith, average Americans remain uninformed. And her influence grows in the culture.
And uh-oh! Coulters kookery goes undiscussed when self-dealing journalists like Times Jay Carney are assigned to discuss her great work. Carneys profile of Coulter in this weeks mag is a perfect study in journalistic bad faith. Heres the way the brilliant fellow begins his three-paragraph portrait:
CARNEY (4/18/05): To Ann Coulter, liberals are worse than wrong; they are traitors out to destroy the American way of life. That view is at the core of her columns, her TV appearances and her best-selling books. But it is not just her perspective that has made Coulter, 43, an icon to her fans and malice incarnate to her critics. It is the way she delivers itin ferocious, lucid, hyperbolic bursts of invective. It helps too that she is a tall, thin, attractive blond who favors miniskirts and furs. Coulter is the right-wing pinup of partisan vitriol.Note the oddness of that opening sentencea sentence which is perfectly accurate. At present, about twenty percent of American adults identify themselves as liberal. But according to Coulter, these peopleone-fifth of the nations populationare a group of traitors who are out to destroy the American way of life! Obviously, this is the view of a raving lunatic, if the view is sincerely held. But Carneys magazine wants to pander to people who find themselves drawn to Coulter. Therefore, Carney is paid a very good wage to type a paragraph like the one that follows. Yes, this actually is the way he ends his three-paragraph profile:
CARNEY: In her books, Coulter can be erudite and persuasive, as when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism. But her signature is her gleeful willingness to taunt liberals and Democrats, to say out loud what some other conservatives dare only thinkthat Bill Clinton is a "horny hick," for example, and his wife "pond scum." It's what makes Coulter irresistible and influential, whether you like it or not.According to Carney, Coulterwho thinks that twenty percent of the public are traitorsis frequently erudite and persuasive, as when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism. But as Digby pointed out earlier this week, Carney is cleaning up for Coulter when he presents this mild construction. What does Coulter actually say in Treason, the book to which Carney alludes? As Digby notes, this is the way she starts her critique of the lefts great softness on Communism:
COULTER: Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love American, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence. The Lefts obsession with the crimes of the West and their Rousseauian respect for Third World savages all flow from this subversive goal. If anyone has the gaucherie to point out the left's nearly unblemished record of rooting against American, liberals turn around and scream "McCarthyism!Is Coulter sincereor is she just playing the rubes, separating them from their money? We dont have the slightest idea. (For what its worth, she has always struck us as the one public figure who may well be mentally ill.) But as almost any sane person can see, that is the work of a screaming nutcase if we assume that Coulter is sincere. Indeed, Treason was such a nut-cake book that a long string of major conservative writers stepped forward to denounce it when it appeared. But not Carney! Carney pretends that Coulter made an erudite presentation, a presentation that was quite persuasive. In fact, Treason was denounced as the work of a crackpot all across the conservative world. But Carney is playing Times readers for fools. So Times readers dont have to be told.
Why did Carney write this odd profile, ending with this odd summation? After all, a person like Coulter can be quite influential without being erudite (or persuasive, if judged by normal standards); why did Carney feel he had to pretend that Coulter makes perfect good sense? Simple answer! Like Coulter, Carney is being paid good money to play the rubes for total fools. His owners want to sell them mags, and they want Carney to keep them happy. So Carney typed what he was told. Hes paid good money for typing this drekand like good boys throughout human history, he was willing to work for the dough.
Here we see a bit of the pattern discussed by Dahlia Lithwick last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/05). Lithwick read Mark Levins crackpot book, Men in Blackand she seemed surprised to find that the book was a complete, total joke. And she seemed surprised by something elseshe seemed surprised that the mainstream press wasnt debunking the pseudo-book, a book she presumed to be influential because of its current best-seller status. But as we noted several times last week, this behavior has long been the norm among Lithwicks class, although she didnt seem to know it. For decades, her powdered cohortthose serious journalistshave agreed to give a string of free passes to a long list of kooky best-sellers. Members in standing still dont seem to know it. But crackpot books like Levins have long been ignoredor pimped, as Carney has done.
Yes, Carney has those Millionaire Pundit Values, and hes willing to type what hes told. (Put it another way: Carneys a right-leaning dinner-party centrist. Just see our next item.) And oh yes! The perfect last sentence!! When Coulter describes Hillary Clinton as pond scum, hes even willing to speak up for that! Indeed: It's what makes Coulter irresistible, he says, luring conservative dollars to Time. Our question: When will cowardly liberal spokesmen stand and fight this corruption of our culture? When will they challenge these crackpot booksand describe the way their mainstream press corps ignores, enables, and sometimes pimps them? When will they be honorable enough to confront the Jay Carneys by name?
WHY GOOD BOYS DO WHAT THEYRE TOLD: Why does Carney type what hes told? Have we mentioned his cohorts Millionaire Pundit Values? Fellows like Carney do what theyre told so they can stay within the circle. Less than two years ago, for example, this item appeared in the Washington Posts gossip column, Names and Faces:
NAMES AND FACES (9/5/03): Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya, kicked off the season with their own bash at FedEx Field. Among the 65 VIPs in the owner's box for last night's opener against the Jets: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, Cablevision Chairman Chuck Dolan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his wife, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Sens. George Allen, John Sununu and John Ensign, and Mayor Tony Williams, reports The Post's Roxanne Roberts.Good boy! Scribes like Carney do what theyre told so they can stay within the circleamong the 65. By the way, when Shipman left CNN in 2001, USA Todays Peter Johnson wrote that her new network, ABC, will pay Shipman big moneymore than $700,000 a yearand plans to make her a big player. Throughout the course of human history, good boys and girls have done what theyre told when confronted with pay-days likes that. So lets close with an irresistible question. Hey Claire! When you married your fair-haired boy, did you know hed find it irresistible when female public figures were referred to as pond scum? Or was that always part of the bargain? Was that always the way the lovebirds agreed to keep themselves inside the circle?
PAINTONS KNOWLEDGE: On Monday night, Bill OReilly questioned Times executive editor, Priscilla Painton, about the most influential list. Fairly quickly, he challenged the choice of Coulter. And viewers learned an important fact: Priscilla Painton will do and say anything:
OREILLY (4/11/05): All rightAnn Coulter. Wow! Ann Coulter?You see? When Coulter called Hillary Clinton pond scum, that was just another of her funny, amusing, outrageous quips! It was just the latest example of the wonderful way she summarizes issues and treats them with humor! We dont know how much dough Painton makes, but we can be fairly sure of one thing: Its more than she could ever earn doing a job that did not involve soul-selling. Result? Monday night, she showed the world that shell do and say anything to keep her big fat pay-days in place. Does somebody want to call up Lithwick and explain how her tribe really works?
IN FAIRNESS, LITHWICK WAS RIGHT: To be fair, Lithwick was right on target when she complained about the major free pass being given to Men in Black. To her vast credit, she complained about something that no one else within her class ever mentions! Her basic reactions were right on the money, even if she was weirdly unaware of the prevalence of this press corps conduct. We hope shell write about this type of misconduct again. And dont worry! The next time a kooky best-seller appears, serious journalists will give her the chance.
ONE LAST POINT: Oh yes, one last point. Nicholas Kristof thinks its grossly unfair when people think ill of the mainstream press corps! To put a humorous point on the matter, people who think such things are pond scumtraitors to their great country.
APPARENTLY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS: Sorry. Thanks to Carney, we had to postpone our promised Smile-a-while feature. Well plan to tack it on Monday.