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THINGS FALL APART (PART 1)! Time’s latest store-bought pimps Ann Coulter. As he does, what is loosed on the world?: // link // print // previous // next //

NOT REALLY STUBBORN AT ALL: As we’ve told you again and again, basic facts play almost no role in modern press corps culture. Somebody once praised facts as “stubborn things.” But he didn’t reckon with the Washington Post’s Jim VandeHei, tickling the keys in this morning’s paper about Bush’s “plan” for SS:
VANDEHEI (4/18/05): Almost every congressional Democrat opposes the plan, in part because it would also cost the government at least $2 trillion to transition from the current, pay-as-you-go system to one featuring private accounts.
As we’ve noted time and again, even the White House has agreed that transition would actually cost more than VandeHei says today. (In February, Dick Cheney acknowledged that the transition would cost $800 billion in the first ten years, then “trillions more after that.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/2/05). Indeed, how much might the transition cost? Let’s go ahead and print it again—Paul Krugman’s three-month-old post on this seminal matter:
KRUGMAN (1/11/05): Advocates of privatization almost always pretend that all we have to do is borrow a bit of money up front, and then the system will become self-sustaining. The [White House] memo talks of borrowing $1 trillion to $2 trillion ''to cover transition costs.'' Similar numbers have been widely reported in the news media.

But that's just the borrowing over the next decade. Privatization would cost an additional $3 trillion in its second decade, $5 trillion in the decade after that and another $5 trillion in the decade after that. By the time privatization started to save money, if it ever did, the federal government would have run up around $15 trillion in extra debt.

These numbers are based on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of Plan2, which was devised by a special presidential commission in 2001 and is widely expected to be the basis for President Bush's plan.

Perfect, isn’t it? According to Krugman, VandeHei types the number Bush shills use when they want to “pretend” about transition costs. But so what! Today’s Post offers the number again, even though Cheney himself has said that the costs will be higher. “Similar numbers have been widely reported in the media,” Krugman said—three months before today’s Post.

How much would transition cost? This is hardly a tangential matter. Polling shows that support for Bush’s plan drops fast when voters are told about these costs. Is Krugman’s CBO number right? Would transition really cost $15 trillion? We don’t have the slightest idea. Three months after Krugman’s post, the VandeHeis are still presenting numbers that everyone seems to know are wrong. Meanwhile, has any big news org sorted this out? This is a very basic matter—and we have seen no one examine it.

Facts mean nothing to this crew—to this crew that slouches toward future disaster. As it turns out, facts aren’t stubborn at all; they’re an artefact of a lost age. The very concept barely exists in today’s dinner-party press culture.

THINGS FALL APART (PART 1): Let’s state the obvious: It’s hard to find a bigger crackpot than pseudo-conservative crackpot Ann Coulter. But don’t tell that to Time’s John Cloud, the latest scripted, overpaid boy assigned to make Coulter seem sensible. Just how big a fool is Coulter? It’s not as if major mountains of evidence aren’t staring Cloud right in the face. In his 5800-word profile of Coulter in the current Time, for example, he does find time to include this small clue:

CLOUD (4/25/05): To be sure, Coulter's historical efforts can be highly amateurish. Her writings on the Civil War—she calls Confederate soldiers "a romantic army of legend"—could only be penned by a (Northern) dilettante. And although she has admiringly cited the work of cold war historian Ronald Radosh, he says she misinterpreted that period in Treason. "There were Soviet spies in postwar America," he says. "But McCarthy was really a nutcase ...She's like the McCarthy-era journalists in a way. She's just repeating what they said, that the only patriotic Americans are on the right." Radosh, a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, also says Coulter has exaggerated his own troubles as a conservative in academia. "She called me a victim of the left and the academy. That's partially true, but I've had plenty of jobs in academia." Coulter responded that Radosh had complained to reporters in the past about being blacklisted. She also called him "a chickens___."
Classic Coulter! She doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s talking about—and then, of course, she calls Radosh names for daring to mention this fact. But store-bought Cloud just can’t seem to see it. He fails to say what he surely must know—that an army of historians, libs and cons, savaged Coulter’s historical rantings in Treason. And by the way—did Coulter “misinterpret the cold war period” in that book? Uh-oh! That’s what the bulk of the book was about! But Cloud is too polite to say so. Yes, the store-bought fellow is deep in the bag, trying to avoid the merely obvious. For example, try to believe that the timid Timesman actually typed this prime cant:
CLOUD: Coulter has a reputation for carelessness with facts, and if you Google the words "Ann Coulter lies," you will drown in results. But I didn't find many outright Coulter errors.
He knew about Coulter’s bad reputation—but he couldn’t find outright errors! But then, store-bought fellows like Cloud can be like that. How hard is it to find Coulter’s “errors?” Back in 2002, we spent weeks describing the endless “errors” that virtually define Coulter’s second book, Slander. Indeed, we only stopped listing them out of sheer boredom; it’s hard to find a page in that book which doesn’t contain such groaning “mistakes,” if you bother to look up the sources she lists in her clownish “footnotes.” (“Footnotes” for which the New York Times praised her in a review.) And surely, Cloud is aware of our work; he explains how hard he hunted for Coulter’s mistakes, and the One Big Error he does discuss was first described right here in THE HOWLER (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/23/02). But we’ll get to all that in tomorrow’s post. For today, we’ll simply take a moment to marvel at the blindness of today’s store-bought man.

Cloud just couldn’t find many errors when he went through Coulter’s work! It’s odd to think that he had such a problem. On yesterday’s Imus, for example, Jonathan Alter was able to think of a big one, working off the top of his head:

ALTER (4/18/05): The problem is that—I mean, she’s bad for America. Just take, for instance, saying that twenty percent of the American public—which is what liberals make up these days, maybe a little bit less, but it’s still a reasonably large percentage—that all these people are traitors. And that’s what she says, that’s not an exaggeration. And she goes on televison and says it over and over and over again. Now does that help us understand where this country needs to go or how we need to get out of our problems, that kind of just insane name-calling?
Twenty percent of your neighbors are traitors! Somehow, Alter managed to recall this “mistake,” the very “mistake” which came to our minds when we reviewed Carney’s profile of Coulter last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/15/05). To tell the truth, it’s an easy “mistake” to remember, because it’s such a big, whopping screamer. Indeed, Alter used an appropriate word to describe it: he called it “insane.” Indeed, this is the “error” which virtually defines the crackpot nature of Coulter’s work. But go ahead—search Cloud’s profile. Time let him type almost 6000 words—and he somehow forgot to include it! Does Coulter really say—over and over—that twenty percent of your neighbors are traitors? Yes she does—but search Cloud’s work. The store-bought fellow typed 6000 words, lamenting his failure to find her mistakes. And somehow, despite all his dogged research, he somehow didn’t stumble on this one! Somehow, he didn’t recall Coulter’s trademark mistake—the ludicrous, blatantly crackpot claim which makes her work seem almost insane. Somehow, Alter recalled this mistake. But though Cloud wracked his brain, he forgot it.

Yes, store-boughts have been typing at Time for two weeks, trying to make Coulter seem mainstream, seem pleasing. The reason? Time’s owners want pseudo-conservative talk-show rubes to go out and buy their mag, and they’re paying their store-boughts big, major cash, which persuades them to go with that flow. Indeed, Carney and Cloud are paid excellent scratch—money they never could earn on their merits—and so they’re willing to type what they’re told; they know they’re being paid, not for insight, but for their abject compliance. (Why else do they feel they can type what they’re told? Because they’ll never see their names mentioned by good little “liberals” on the web.) And now we see, in Cloud’s long profile, the shape of things to come for our country as a store-bought, dinner-party press elite bows to reactionary power. Coulter is plainly our craziest writer—a woman who openly seems to be ill—but they are working as hard as they can to make her seem reasonable, misunderstood, cheerful. We’ll examine Cloud’s scripts for the rest of the week, and we’ll try to share a few mordant laughs. But don’t worry—his scripts will be quite familiar. And store-boughts like Cloud know them well.

But make no mistake. When they put the craziest on their covers, they turn a rough beast loose on our culture. How disturbed is your press corps elite? In the campaign which changed our politics, they worked for two years to make Gore seem crazy; now they work to make Coulter seem sane. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” the bard wrote. We don’t know what he was talking about. But his words make us think of the tough-talking beast who is now being pimped to our culture.

More tomorrow on the clownish ways the store-boughts are working to mainstream Ann Coulter. And by the way—the names of these store-boughts are Carney and Cloud. You’ll pretty much have to come here to read them. Polite little fellows on your brave “liberal” web all know that they mustn’t name colleagues.