Friday, July 12, 2002
The Coulter Interview: The Back Story, by Scoobie Davis
On July 11, 2002, I interviewed Ann Coulter. I had a blast. Actually, it was more of a media prank than an interview because I posed as someone else during most of the interview.
I’ve been blogging since February and I’ve critiqued many on the right, but I only mentioned Ann Coulter a few times. I viewed her as a rather unremarkable right-wing pundit (and still do). A couple articles I read by her in the past irked me. One was a column that falsely accused Jesse Jackson of rioting in the aftermath of Election 2000. The other was a scurrilous column berating Al Gore’s military service; in the article, she compared Vietnam vet Gore negatively with Air National Guard veteran George W. Bush--whom she called “a fighter pilot” (who was Bush fighting in Texas? New Mexico?). However, these articles were from 2000 and old news, so I never commented on them on my web site.
Recently, I heard about Slander from the Drudge Report and got an early taste of it when I read a critique of one of Coulter’s media analyses in the Daily Howler (the most recent Howler has some informative articles on Slander). I found it amusing that someone whose column appears in WorldNetDaily.com (a repository of wingnut conspiracy theories) would make the argument that the coarseness in political debate is “all liberals’ fault.”
I wanted to get a jump on reading the book so that I could publish critiques for my blog site Scoobie Davis Online (SDO). So I had a friend who has mainstream media ties obtain a review copy from the publisher. I also was curious about Coulter’s media itinerary and had my friend contact Coulter’s publicist. Ironically, they didn’t have the itinerary but they called him back and offered to let him do a phone interview with Coulter for radio. He didn’t want any part of it but I thought it would be cool to ask her about some of the misrepresentations and distortions in the book.
Some Potential Objections Answered
1. The ethical objection. I did use deception at the beginning of the interview by portraying myself as someone else (I used the name Terry Green at the beginning of the interview).
1) I did attempt to go the conventional route. Coulter was recently a guest on the Dennis Prager radio show (Prager is a Los Angeles Rush-clone). I called in and addressed her ridiculous media content analysis (see SDO 6/29). Coulter responded to my criticism and when I responded to what she said, I found that Prager muted my response--leading to several seconds of dead air (it seems that I get muted a lot when I get onto talk radio; see SDO 7/8).
2) The nature of my questions was such that they could only be achieved by a one-on-one interview situation. Specifically, I wanted to ask her about the distortions of two New York Times articles by Frank Rich and Bruce Ackerman. She grievously misrepresented these columns. My goal was to read both columns and have her stop me at the point in which these writers wrote the things she accuses them of writing.
3) Media pranks are as American as apple pie. As Gareth Branwyn writes in Jamming The Media: “[Media] pranksters...are dedicated to offering antidotes to media mesmerism. The commercial media are undoubtedly the biggest cultural hypnotists of them all. Everything is cordoned off into neat little compartments and labeled like guests on a daytime talk show. Diversity, ambiguity, and complexity do not exist long in the mediascape before they’re wrestled into a category, relegated to a sound bite, and sold back to us as the flavor of the week.” Jello Biafra said it more succinctly: “a prank a day keeps the psychiatrist away.”
4) Having been one of the elves in the Paula Jones case, Coulter can appreciate the art of being sneaky.
2. The objection that I’m a stalker. In the interview, Coulter accused me of being a stalker. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just wanted to do an interview/media prank. In the interview, Coulter mentioned that she has several stalkers. It is my sincere hope that anyone who stalks another person be prosecuted for such misdeeds.
3. The objection that I’m rude. In the heat of argument, I did say, “Give it a rest, Coulter.” This was rude and uncalled for. I apologize.
Goals of the interview.
The main goal of the interview was to address Coulter’s portrayals of two New York Times articles (by Frank Rich and Bruce Ackerman) that I believe Coulter distorted on page 5 of Slander. With the Rich column, my goal was to read the actual column and have her stop me at the point in which Rich demanded that Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists. The goal with the Ackerman column was similar: I wanted to read through the entire column and have Coulter stop at the point in which Ackerman claimed that we should concentrate on “home-grown extremists.”
In the interview, I erred when I said that the Rich column was published in November 2001; Coulter was correct when she said it was October. However, Coulter was incorrect when she said that I was reading the wrong column. I was reading from Rich’s column, “How To Lose a War.”
One Final Note
A transcript doesn’t do justice to our conversation. Both the audio (as well as the video of me asking the questions over the telephone) give a better indication of what was going on. It looks funny early on in the interview having a guy who looks like Spicoli acting like a Rush-clone.
The Ann Coulter Interview
SCOOBIE: This is Terry Green for “WHAT’S YOUR BEEF?” Today on “WHAT’S YOUR BEEF?” we have a special guest on the line. Ann Coulter is the author of the breakaway best-selling “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right”. Welcome to “WHAT’S YOUR BEEF?”, Ann.
ANN: Thank you, good to be here.
SCOOBIE: I have to tell you I read the book, I loved it. To paraphrase Austin Powers, it is “smashing”!
ANN: Thank you, thank you. I’ve noticed the interviews are much more smooth with interviewers who have read the book (giggles).
SCOOBIE: Yes. Well I always try to be prepared on that. Last week “Slander” hit the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. Did you have any idea how well the book would sell?
ANN: Uh, I, I don’t think any author anticipates that so I, I did think, um, it would sell reasonably well but the first week out and only on a partial week going straight to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, uh, is more than any author could have hoped for.
SCOOBIE: Absolutely. Tell us the premise of “Slander”.
ANN: It is that political debate in this country is impossible, um, because while conservatives are trying to make arguments, engage in ideas and actually there is quite a fertile debate going on, um, among various um, um, stripes of the right wing: libertarians, traditionalists, Wall Street Journal Republicans, um, it is impossible from like right to left because, um, arguing with a liberal is like trying to engage in conversation with Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”-- (Scoobie chortles) you just get people screaming at you, these crazed fanatic zealots: “You’re stupid, you’re, you’re an idiot, you’re mean, you’re nuts, you wanna throw women and children off welfare, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic. Liberals are afraid of allowing the American people to hear an articulate statement of a conservative position and instead they try to portray us as nuts or stupid. Their instructions are “don’t listen to these people, don’t listen to this person, he’s a idiot, laugh at him, laugh at Reagan, laugh at Bush and everyone else is crazy on the right.”
SCOOBIE: Yeah, absolutely and speaking of which, in the first chapter you document how many in the Left attack the physical appearance of conservative women. Could you elaborate on this?
ANN: Yes, thank you for mentioning it. That hasn’t come up very much but I think it is one of the most telling aspects of the hate speech coming from the Left. I mean, I document a lot of their hate speech in Chapter One. And by the way that, that had to be cut down. Even my liberal editor in New York got to the point that he was saying “okay, okay, I get the point, can’t we just limit it to three examples and move on?” Um, but, but, it it was quite a thorough examination of some of the hideous things liberals say and um, as you mentioned, I think one of, one that tells you more than anything else about them is their regularity with which they attack women for their looks. Uh, attacking a woman for her looks is always inherently vicious. It’s a nasty thing to do. Uh, these are not comments that are meant to be funny, they’re meant to make their victims hurt. And if you were a blind man in America, you would think the ugliest women ever to darken the planet were Linda Tripp Paula Jones and Kathryn Harris, the Secretary of State of Florida. Uh, there is no equivalent of that on the Right, um, not even among as far as I can tell and I, and I, and I looked. Even among polemicists and humorists, whereas, uh, the front page of the Style section in the Washington Post in the middle of the, uh, re-election battle in Florida was just a vicious, sneering attack on Kathryn Harris, uh, for her looks, how her make-up was applied with a trowel. Everyone else followed suit: the Boston Globe, um, you heard it over and over again. And that’s for a beautiful accomplished woman, a Harvard graduate, um, wealthy, classy, um, according to every male I’ve checked with--quite attractive in fact. Imagine if you’re not so attractive, uh, look at what they did to Linda Tripp and Paula Jones. Both of them ended up getting plastic surgery. Both of them ended up apologizing to the nation for how ugly they were. That is a vicious, ugly thing and it tells you everything you need to know about liberals.
SCOOBIE: Absolutely. Now you also discuss the way in which attacks by the Left get a free ride from the mainstream media.
ANN: (Laughs) Oh yeah, of course, that is, that is one of the most neurotic aspects of liberals. They, um, you know, compare Republicans to Down Syndrome children as, as Al Gore did of Oliver North supporters in Virginia. They wished Clarence Thomas dead of a cholesterol-induced
heart attack. They accused us of trying to bring back lynching or supporting being, you know, near complicity in the dragging death of James Byrd as Katie Couric did. Uh, and also they say we’re mean. (Snigger) I think maybe there’s a little projection in all this. (Scoobie laughs) It really is stunning how they can, uh, how they can say the most vicious things and waltz right away from it. Um, I’ve looked and looked and looked and I don’t know, maybe there is some little known talk radio hosts out there who have said some vicious things, no one prominent, no United States Senator, no Dan Rather, no Katie Courics.
SCOOBIE: Great, great. Now you devote an entire chapter to the Left’s boogeyman on, you know, the religious right. Um, why do you think the religious right is such a target?
ANN: (Chortles) That really was I think one of the most interesting chapters, um, and in the clinical sense. I originally had planned just to write, you know, I don’t know, five or six pages on how the Left goes crazy at any mention “the religious right, the religious right.” Uh and the more I looked at it, I just looked up basically every mention of religious right, um, over the past ten years or even longer than that. The religious right is the equivalent of Emmanuel Goldstein in Orwell’s “1984”. And if you haven’t read ,uh, Orwell’s “1984”, um, for the listeners, you won’t need to—I quote the relevant passages. The religious right is this apocryphal organization, um, the masses are trained reflexively to hate, hate it while laughing at it. Interestingly enough, we never hear about the atheist Left. It’s always “the religious right, the religious right.” Just trying to figure out who, who the members are, the leaders of this vast terrifying organization is like trying to nail Jello to a wall. I mean, it either comes down to one man: Pat Robertson, or it’s, you know, 70% of America. On the New York Times careful definition, uh, it’s anyone who believes in God and wants his taxes cut.
SCOOBIE: Yes, now you would view this as an attack on actually just people of faith in general then.
ANN: Anyone who believes in a being even higher than the New York Times. (Both titter)
SCOOBIE: Absolutely. Let’s change gears a little bit. I mean, so far there’s been surprisingly little criticism of the book from the political Left. Uh, there was a negative review in the Washington Post and it looks like the American Prospect’s website is doing some criticism, uh, but there is very little else.
ANN: Uh, yeah, but maybe that I’ve achieved um, some status now, when you’ve really made it as a right-winger, they ignore you, as they finally broke down and did with Phyllis Schlafly and Rush Limbaugh. Um, once they realize they’re not going to be able to turn you into Jim Jeffords or a Christy Todd Whitman, um, you’ll basically be ignored by the major media, um, when they’re not, uh, deploying their trademark elitist sneers. Um, the review in the Washington Post (giggles) I just Brian Lamb’s
Booknotes yesterday and uh, he mentioned it to me (inaudible) said “I don’t know when the venerable practice of reading a book before reviewing it was dropped at the Washington Post.” Um, it’s a very strange review for its, for how obvious it is that he has not read my book. Um, claiming I don’t discuss things I’ve devoted entire chapters to—I mean, you would think he would flip through and at least read the chapter titles. Uh, I, I also note that the author of that book review reviewed my friend Frank Bruni’s book. Um, Frank Bruni was the uh, lead reporter on the White House for the New York Times and he just wrote a book that just came out about six months ago about George Bush. Um, I think he is the best writer, best reporter in America today. He just has an amazing writing style. I was out at dinner with him and a bunch of his New York Times colleagues, um, just two nights ago and they were all remarking how brilliant he is and a stunningly good writer. Uh, the same reviewer said that Frank Bruni did not write well. (Chortles) So I’m not really that worried about that review.
SCOOBIE: Oh absolutely, I mean, yeah, there’s just is so little criticism it looks like just doing an internet keyword search, it looks like your main critic is some surfer named Scoobie.
ANN: (Laughs loudly) Somehow I have missed the important writings of Scoobie. (Laughs)
SCOOBIE: Oh, okay, actually, this guy I guess he’s kind of on your track. He actually emailed me some questions for me to ask you.
ANN: I have, I should probably warn you I’ve a lot of stalkers out there. You might not want to reply to people who email you. (Titters)
SCOOBIE: Well, let’s just see what he has to say. I mean, let’s look at his first question. It’s kind of dripping with sarcasm. Here’s Scoobie’s first question: um, in “Slander”, you write Quote liberals have absolutely no contact with the society they decry from their Park Avenue redoubts. Unquote. Aside from being a gross generalization, isn’t that a rather hollow attempt at populism from someone from foo-foo New Canaan, Connecticut?
ANN: Um, this, this does sound like a stalker. (Scoobie chuckles) Um, I, I, I, I’m not sure where I, I am from has anything to do with my book. Perhaps I should retract it because I’m from New Canaan, write a different book instead. I don’t, I don’t really get the point of that.
SCOOBIE: Yeah, I, I, I have to tell you I, I enjoyed, you know, the New Canaan, Greenwich, Connecticut area: great people. Um, also, just another question. He writes--
ANN: Uh, I think we might just want to skip the stalker’s questions. I
SCOOBIE: Oh, okay, uh--
ANN: Unless any of them are interesting but if--
SCOOBIE: Well actually--
ANN: If they’re attacks on me for growing up in New Canaan. Look, this is precisely my point, I, I, I suggest that people read my book if that want to know what I have to say. Um, to say “how dare you say this, you’re from New Canaan. I mean, these gotcha moments don’t really work with someone like me. I’ve just written a book. I’ve just written a book with 35 pages of footnotes, um, with probably thousands of facts and quotes. Um, if, if the suggestion is that I don’t back my facts up, well that’s demonstrably false but it seems to me the implication here is “don’t listen to what this person has to say because (lower voice) she is from New Canaan.” (Scoobie chuckles) Well, okay, that’s not a good argument. That’s what my book is about that liberals are incapable of formulating good arguments. They argue with the level of a six year old deprived of the capacity to mount a logical counter-argument. “Oh, you’re from New Canaan, you’re from New Canaan!” I mean that isn’t like how a thirteen year old argues—that’s like an eight year old argues.
SCOOBIE: (Laughs) Yeah, actually though he has a couple substantive questions I did want to ask you. Um, he writes: you write for WorldNetDaily.com, an internet journal that has columns that support various conspiracy theories such as the Clinton body count and conspiracies about Vince Foster’s death. Doesn’t that refute your premise that the decline in political discourse is all liberals’ fault.
ANN: Um, ah! The famous guilt-by-association. This is um, in, in liberal’s lurid nightmares, this is pretty much how McCarthyism works. I write for “Human Events”, my flagship newspaper and Ronald Reagan’s favorite newspaper. Um, I have a syndicated column that LOTS of people buy I’m proud to say including five to six sites on the internet. Um, uh, if people pay me for my column, um, that’s all I’m really interested in. Why don’t you find something I’ve said?
SCOOBIE: Okay. Yeah, well, he actually writes: four times in “Slander”, you accuse Al Gore of lying about being the inspiration for Love Story. Yet Erich Segal said this is the case. Will you offer a retraction and apology?
ANN: No, I will add this to my list of liberal lies. That is not true.
SCOOBIE: Okay, uh, looks like you really, uh, slam Scoobie. Also, it says: on page five of “Slander”, you cited a New York Times column by Frank Rich in which you accused Rich of demanding “that Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists.” Nowhere in the column you cited does Rich make any such demand. Can you explain this?
ANN: (Giggles) I love this. This is why I told my editor you have to footnote everything. I will, I will invite the listeners to look the column up. Yes, of course he does. He goes on and on about what an outrage it is that Ashcroft is refusing to meet with head of Planned Parenthood. In fact I think I, um, devoted more attention to this in one of my early columns after September 11th. Um, but wow, liberals will even lie about things you have footnoted and, and quotes from. Well, I invite the listener to look it up and make a decision for yourself. I’ve described the column, there it is.
SCOOBIE: Ok, yeah. Actually he has a follow-up question that says: I’m assuming that Coulter will respond as she did when Alan Colmes asked a similar question and she responded that she, what she wrote was a correct paraphrase. If she does, read the Rich column and tell her to stop you at the point in which Rich demands that Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists. Hey, I’m game. I have the actual article right here. Um, so the article is “How to Lose a War” by Frank Rich.
ANN: Are you going to read the full column here?
SCOOBIE: Oh yeah, we have plenty of time.
ANN: (Giggles) Maybe you do.
SCOOBIE: Well. Welcome back to Sept. 10. The "America Strikes Back" optimism that surged after Sept. 11 has now been stricken by the multitude of ways we're losing the war at home. The F.B.I. has proved more effective in waging turf battles against Rudy Giuliani than waging war on terrorism. Of the more than 900 suspects arrested, exactly zero have been criminally charged in the World Trade Center attack (though one has died of natural causes, we're told, in a New Jersey jail cell). The Bush team didn't fully recognize that a second attack on America had begun until more than a week after the first casualty. The most highly trumpeted breakthrough in the hunt for anthrax terrorists — Tom Ridge's announcement that "the site where the letters were mailed" had been found in New Jersey — proved a dead end. And now the president is posing with elementary-school children again.
Given that this is the administration that was touted as being run with C.E.O. clockwork, perhaps it should be added to the growing list of Things That Have Changed Forever since Sept. 11. But let's not be so hasty. Not everything changes that fast — least of all Washington. The White House's home-front failures are not sudden, unpredictable products of wartime confusion but direct products of an ethos that has been in place since Jan. 20. This is an administration that will let its--
ANN: What’s, what’s the date of this column?
SCOOBIE: Um, this is the, uh, the one from November.
ANN: Well, that’s funny since that’s not the column I cited. It’s called “Frank Rich, How to Lose a War”, New York Times, October 27th. That Rich claimed abortion clinic—this is in the footnotes of my book. I don’t have to go to the trouble of reading, you know, all of Frank Rich’s archives because thankfully, I footnoted it.
Uh, that Rich claimed abortion clinic’s have plenty of experience with “homegrown Talibans” and thus Planned Parenthood could have provided leads on “the convergence of international and domestic terrorism”. No anthrax had ever been sent to an abortion clinic though white powder had been. The mailer of the harmless white powder was a bank robber-cum-anti-abortionist who’s already on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Among the critical advice, Rich said Planned Parenthood could have imparted to Ashcroft was that offering a reward for the capture of terrorists would have never worked.
“The sight of Mr. Ashcroft and other federal Keystone Cops offering a one million dollar reward for anthrax terrorists was a laughable indication of how little grasp they have of the enemy. He’s quoting, um, referring to the statement of a Planned Parenthood worker there. The mailer—this is me now telling you the follow-up to that white powder case—the mailer of the white powder was captured by the FBI about one month later in response to a widely circulated wanted poster offering a fifty thousand dollar reward.
So the column is footnoted, it is quoted from—you’re reading the wrong column.
SCOOBIE: Um, are you sure about that—it’s “How to Lose a War”?
ANN: Um, it’s in my book. Do you have my book? Aren’t we talking about my book?
SCOOBIE: Yeah, yeah but you know--
ANN: It’s right here in the notes. Chapter One: Liberals Unhinged.
SCOOBIE: But the, but the argument was--
ANN: Footnote 20 and footnote 21. That was the part I was referring to.
SCOOBIE: But the argument was that you accused, uh, Ashcroft of demanding that Ashcroft stop monkeying around with terrorists.
ANN: That’s Frank Rich.
SCOOBIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah Frank Rich supposedly accused Ashcroft of doing this but--
ANN: By the way, if George Bush had made a slip of tongue like you just made, we would have heard about it on ABC and NBC the rest of the week.
SCOOBIE: (Laughs heartily) Yeah probably but anyway, I mean, but I read the column. I didn’t see anywhere where--
ANN: You read the wrong column.
SCOOBIE: No, no. It’s “How to Lose a War” by Frank Rich.
ANN: You just gave me a different column and the wrong date. I don’t know whatever somebody sends you but it’s footnoted and it’s quoted in my book. And I just read to you here that the problem is he wasn’t talking to Planned Parenthood and Frank Rich was indignant with this because of Planned Parenthood’s vast experience with homegrown Talibans. I’m assuming these are the little old ladies saying the rosary beads outside abortion clinics. Homegrown Talibans!
SCOOBIE: Okay now here’s another question. It says--
ANN: Is this from my stalker again?
SCOOBIE: Yeah. Also on page five, you claim that in a New York Times column, Bruce Ackerman claimed that law enforcement should Quote concentrate on homegrown extremists Unquote. Is this correct?
ANN: Yes, it is correct. It’s also footnoted.
SCOOBIE: Okay. Now also, I, I read the Ackerman column “On the Home Front: A Winnable War”. Um, nowhere doe she say that we should concentrate on homegrown terrorists.
ANN: He absolutely does. And he says “by all means, finish off the war in Afghanistan but declare victory at the soonest opportunity!”
SCOOBIE: Yeah, I know, that’s, that’s with the war abroad but in terms of the war at home, he said to, that we should actually go for the foreign terrorists. He didn’t say anything about homegrown terrorists except in passing.
ANN: He absolutely did! That was why he said we should bring it home!
SCOOBIE: Um hmm.
ANN: His direct quote is “homegrown extremists”. You’re looking at the wrong article again.
SCOOBIE: No, no “On the Home Front: A Winnable War”. You know, tell me where, where--
ANN: (Inaudible) at the first decent opportunity--
SCOOBIE: Where does he say in that article that we should focus on “homegrown extremists”? I mean, do you have the article in front of you? I do. I’d be, I’d be willing to read the entire article--
ANN: I have the book in front of me! You were just citing the wrong article!
SCOOBIE: No “On the Home Front: A Winnable War” by Bruce Ackerman.
ANN: You gotta send this tape to Crown Books so I can tell them how preposterous this is. Look, you put in footnotes, they actually want like--
SCOOBIE: I read your footnotes, Ann. I read the footnotes, Ann! Oh, speaking of which, I gotta tell ya this is a media prank. This IS Scoobie Davis you’re talking to! (Silence) That’s pretty funny don’t you think? But the fact is--
ANN: My, my publicist is setting me up with a stalker?
SCOOBIE: I’m not a stalker; I’m a mocker! You are a ridiculous person, Ann! You know I read your book. It’s a joke. I mean--
ANN: That’s an excellent argument. I think you--
SCOOBIE: Yeah, I read your book and I read your footnotes and your footnotes don’t match what you say and what you accuse people of.
ANN: Sir, your articles don’t match my footnotes. (Inaudible) you know I’m against big federal government but I would support an emergency federal program that teaches logic to liberals.
SCOOBIE: Oh give it a rest, Coulter! You know, you’re going around—You’re just--
ANN: Nice chatting stalker, get back to investigating, gotta go.
SCOOBIE: I’m not a stalker! (laughs)Oh, come on
ANN: Bye. Nice chatting.
SCOOBIE: Okay (laughs)
[Coulter hangs up]
The main thing I wanted to do was to ask Coulter about the way she misrepresented the columns by Frank Rich and Bruce Ackerman. My goal was to read through the columns and have Coulter stop me where she thinks both writers wrote the things she said they wrote The Rich and Ackerman articles were printed one after another and the date at the top of the Ackerman article--November 6--at a quick glance appeared to be at the bottom of the Rich article. This gave Coulter enough wiggle room to avoid answering the question about Rich. This is regrettable.
I’d like Coulter defenders to look over the columns and tell me: 1) where in Rich’s article he demanded that Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists? And 2) where in Ackerman’s article, he said we should “concentrate on ‘home-grown extremists.’” So far nobody has been able to point out where these columnists communicated these ideas.
A couple people have noted that they are insignificant citations. I disagree. These mischaracterizations were used to support the conclusion that ““[i]n lieu of a military response against terrorists abroad and security precautions at home, liberals wanted to get the whole thing over with and just throw conservatives in jail.” This would a gross caricature even if she had accurately characterized the two articles.
One reason I took umbrage at Coulter’s remark that she “would support an emergency federal program that teaches logic to liberals.” The formal logic course I took in college taught me to make distinctions between “some” and “all.” (Click here for an amusing article on the subject by Robert Anton Wilson). A case in point, one of the more recent demonstrations that included flag-burning was by Cuban-American Republicans (following Elian Gonzalez being taken away to his father). However, it would be incorrect to conclude that all Republicans or Republicans in general are flag-burners.
This kind of sloppy thinking permeates the book. To prove her contention that “[p]redators are great fun for liberals,” Coulter cites Norman Mailer’s embrace of killer Jack Henry Abbott back in the 1970’s. However, just because Coulter views the Branch Davidians as “harmless American citizens wouldn’t make it fair to accuse all of the American right of having the same views about a group that had members who killed 80 of their own people and who sanctioned 13 year-old brides.
The questions that I asked before these questions were throwaway questions—ones I didn’t want to follow-up on--I just wanted to hear what she had to say. She was clearly wrong about Al Gore and Love Story. As for Worldnetdaily.com, I’m glad she’s getting paid by WND for her column. However, I wouldn’t want to be affiliated with them, especially if it my view that the left is solely responsible for political mudslinging.
On the surface, my most frivolous question was about how she portrayed liberals as elitist New Yorkers but that she herself is from the posh suburb of New Canaan. This is actually part of a larger phenomenon that I and many others find amusing: right-wing pseudo-populism. The affected manner that urban sophisticates on the right try to act like regular people makes for very good entertainment for a lot of people I know.
Slander is full of pseudo-populist tripe. In order to support her contention that "Democrats actually hate working-class people," Coulter asks, “Who would be more likely to have a beer with a trucker: Tom DeLay or Barbara Boxer?” Answer: Truckers are not a monolithic bunch, but most of the truckers I have met might not be comfortable rubbing elbows with Boxer but they are not particularly fond of humorless sectarian right-wingers like DeLay either.
Pseudo-populism of right-wing elites takes several forms. They include acting like one is working class and what I call “cornballization,” which is when upper class urban sophisticates take on the social characteristics of the working classes. Being a working class poser is Bill O’Reilly’s big thing. In this month’s GQ, Terence Rafferty has a good take on O’Reilly's autobiographical revisionism regarding his working class background (his father was an accountant). Fudging on one’s class background is common is the US, but usually it is in the other direction. Working class people tend to view themselves as middle class. Middle class people tend to view themselves as upper middle class, and so forth. Where I grew up, real working class people identified themselves as middle class. A good rule of thumb is that unless a person has a strong family history in the union movement, when person talks repeatedly about being working class, that person is a poser.
Another example of this phenomenon is Pat Buchanan's peasants-with-pitchforks routine. Also, back in 1993, Rush Limbaugh told his TV viewers, “All these rich guys—like the Kennedy family and Perot—pretending to live just like we do and pretending to understand our trials and tribulations and pretending to represent us, and they get away with it” (Limbaugh made 15 million dollars that year).
The spectacle of right-wing elites acting like cornballs is a more amusing phenomenon. People on the right who do the cracker-barrel routine are a good source of entertainment for people like me. They are especially fun to mock because they are doing unintentional straight camp. They are like the anthropologist who “goes native.” Let me give a recent example: Michael Medved, who lived in Santa Monica for years, wrote a column in which he used the redundant and fogeyish term “marijuana joint.” If that isn’t funny enough, later in the column Medved informs the reader that a “fatty” is a “bulging marijuana joint.” Being from LA, I know that nobody from Santa Monica uses the term “marijuana joint.”
The GOP’s Southern Strategy has accelerated this phenomenon. It used to be that the Right would mock rustic people. For example, before Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration, National Review wondered if Billy Carter would wear a tire pressure gauge in his cummerbund. R. Emmett Tyrell spoke of Carter being from “jerkwater America.” Now right-wing elites are apologists for the Confederate flag. Perhaps I’m the one who is isolated but when I lived in the Midwest, the types of people who displayed the Confederate flag were the kind of people my Republican parents taught me to reject. For example, whenever I went to swap meets in the Midwest, booths that sold confederate material without exception had mockingly racist material. Common were shirts, bumper stickers that had the following: a drawing with the White House with the stars and bars flying over it with the caption “I have a dream”; and a cartoon of a Klansman driving a pickup truck with noose notches on the side with the caption, "Here comes da judge."
George W. Bush is an expert at aping working-class social characteristics. He is much better at the cracker-barrel routine than his father. The patrician Bush the Elder was largely mocked when he said that his favorite food was pork rinds and his favorite television show was Hee Haw. To Dubya, who had little interest in rural life, class identity is a prop—the most elaborate being the ranch in Crawford. He does a great homespun act.
Note Read my interview with Sean Hannity.