TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2002
SOMETIMES YOU FEEL LIKE YOURE READING A NUT: To his credit, Christopher Caldwell didnt play nice in his review of Ann Coulters new Slander. [S]he has produced a piece of political hackwork, he says, writing in Sundays Washington Post. The deeper into her subject she gets, the more she resorts to the tools of calumny and propaganda she professes to critique. Caldwell hails from the Weekly Standard, but hes willing to play it straight about Coulters pathologically inaccurate book. How hard-hitting is Caldwells critique? He finally turns to the type of language a person must use to describe Coulters work. At one point in Slander, according to Caldwell, Coulter enter[s] the territory of those leftist nuts who say were living in a dictatorship because Noam Chomsky isnt on the front page of the New York Times every single day
No, he doesnt quite say that Coulters a nutbut he comes admirably close. Indeed, there is no polite way to describe the nonsense found throughout Coulters book. Simply put, Coulters accounts of all matters, large and small, are almost pathologically bogus. Unfortunately, cable producersalways pleased to make a joke of our discoursehave no present plans to take notice.
Consider just one of the ludicrous moments in Slander. In Chapter 9, Coulter complains about the press corps use of the terms Christian conservative and religious right. According to Coulter, [t]he point of the phrase religious right or Christian conservative is not to define but to belittle. And lefties, of course, get a pass:
COULTER (page 166): Despite the constant threat of the religious right in America, there is evidently no such thing as the atheist left. In a typical year, the New York Times refers to either Christian conservatives or the religious right almost two hundred times. But in a Lexis/Nexis search of the entire New York Times archives, the phrases atheist liberals or the atheist left do not appear once. Only deviations from the left-wing norm merit labels.
In a footnote, Coulter extends her complaint. In a one year period (roughly corresponding to calendar year 2000), the New York Times found occasion to mention either Christian conservatives or the religious right 187 times. Not once did the paper refer to atheist liberals or the atheist left. To Coulter, of course, this is all a sign of gruesome bias. She goes on to claim that the terms religious right and Christian conservative are now used [j]ust as some people once spat out the term Jew as an insult.
It certainly makes for high excitement, but does it make any sense? Do newspapers use Christian conservative as an emblem of hatred, and avoid atheist left due to liberal bias? If so, we have big news to share. If Coulters NEXIS search has proven these things, then the once-conservative Washington Times is spilling with lib bias, too.
In the calendar year 2000, how often did the New York Times refer to Christian conservatives or the religious right? A NEXIS search of that year presents 182 references. But the Washington Timesa much slimmer paperhad 151 such cites that same year. And how about those other termsatheist liberals or the atheist left? Incredibly, Coulter was right in one of her claims; the New York Times never used either term. But guess what? The Washington Times never used the terms, either. If Coulter has sniffed out a vast left-wing plot, Wes Pruden is in on it too.
Why do newspapers write about Christian conservatives? Because they exist, and because theyre important. And why dont we read about the atheist left? Because the group doesnt exist. Thats why the New York Times doesnt mention the group; thats why the Washington Times doesnt mention it, either. Everyone in America knows this is trueuntil they read Coulters cracked book.
But then, such nonsense fills every page of this book. There is no other punditof the left, right or centerwho engages in such pathological foolishness. Caldwell, a conservative, was prepared to say Nut. Why wont Mickey Kaus say it also?
TOMORROW: Mickey Kaus spent ten seconds, tops, researching Katie Courics recent catfight.
STRAWMEN OF THE WORLD, COLLAPSE: As weve often said, the power to paraphrase is the power to spin. Andrew Sullivan employs the tool in his eponymous website this morning. He improves what Nicholas Kristof says in todays New York Times:
SULLIVAN: Nick Kristof, after yet another murder of Jews by a Muslim hater, worries about American religious bigotry. If we want Saudi princes to confront their societys hate-mongers, our own leaders should confront ours, he preaches. Our bigotry is as bad as theirs, he opines. Excuse me? When conservative Christians start murdering thousands of Muslim and Jewish civilians in the Middle East, it will be. Until then, there is simply no equivalence between anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S. and anti-Western and anti-Semitic terrorism in the Arab world.
Can you spot the inventive paraphrase? Just to help, we put it in bold. But where exactly in Kristofs column does he say that our bigotry is as bad as that in the Arab world? The answer is simplehe doesnt say it at all. Lets face it: If Kristof actually said such a thing, Sully would rush you the quote.
By the way, inventive paraphrase dominates Slander. Coulters the reigning queen of the two-word quote, which she then surrounds with absurd accounts of what the person in question supposedly said. Its a favored technique of dissemblers worldwide. Absurd examples from Coulters book will appear here as soon as tomorrow.