The Good: It is short.
The Bad: Largely made up of pointless namecalling, Factually suspect, Shaky logic, Underdeveloped, Not funny or witty.
The Basics: Ann Coulter's latest argument, Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America, hypocritically asserts that liberals are whiners and phony victims while attempting to argue that conservatives are the real victims.
Unlike Ann Coulter, I shall open my review by taking a moment to define "liberal." "Liberals" are those who fight for the freedom and ability for self-determination of all people, not just the ones we agree with. That simple act, even taking a stab at defining what makes a liberal a "liberal" is more than Ann Coulter does in her new novel, er, political discourse entitled Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America. As a true liberal, I do not contest Ann Coulter's right to write such a book, her publisher for publishing it or the right of any of her legion of fans to purchase and read it. I do, however, deny that she is a remotely worthwhile writer, illustrates any ability in this latest work to make a salient point and that she has developed at all into anything resembling a better defender of her side's views and values since her last book. If anything, Guilty seems to have Coulter well over the shark she jumped; at only two hundred sixty-four well-spaced pages plus an additional forty-seven pages of citations and indexes this is one of her thinner books.
And as a liberal, it is worth noting that I have read Coulter's other works, so I can say with some authority that she has not grown in terms of style, form or ability in any noticeable way. I'm not saying that because as yet she and her staff have not confirmed the reference to me in If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans. Side note: If you want to meet a bunch of VERY friendly people, go register at the Ann Coulter website and ask non-leading questions about sources! Coulter has fans who make her look levelheaded, kind and intellectual. Regardless, I figure there are very few Star Trek collectibles dealers who are also critiquing Ann Coulter's works on the internet, so I feel pretty secure in assuming she was alluding to me in her forward to that prior book.
Moving on to Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America, Coulter's premise is remarkably simple: liberals have created a culture of victimhood and that to be successful as a liberal one needs to declare themselves a victim. These fake victims, Coulter posits, are not real victims and just out for attention. Her arguments throughout the book almost always - rather ironically - decry those who declare themselves victims, then attempts to argue that liberal victims are not victims, but the Republicans and conservatives are legitimate victims ("To find the most authentic victims . . . one can simply refer to the people the mainstream media urge us to hate, beasts such as George Bush. . . Joe McCarthy, Jesse Helms, . . . and Sarah Palin" on page 2). After that, she brazenly declares that groups like "the poor" are not truly victims. This is a tough argument to make when one is starving and the Federal funding for social programs like getting food to them is diverted to things like killing people overseas. One suspects that the Michigan autoworker who clocked in to work each day and lost their job while the CEO of their company flew to Washington in a private jet to ask for money after cashing exceptional year-end bonuses has a right to feel like they have been victimized; the social contract they were a part of has clearly failed them.
The irony is that, yet again, Coulter dishes out what she accuses the other side of doing to conservatives, when she summarizes "These counterfeit victims are so full of their own self-righteousness, they believe they can do anything, lie shamelessly, commit wanton violence, steal from their neighbors, and claim they were acting out of some bizarre sense of self-defense" (264). The thing is, Coulter is doing all of these things in Guilty and moreover, she neglects the real problems of how the Bush Administration had been self-righteous, monomaniacal, violent liars (save Scott McClellen, whom she does mention) who plundered the national treasuries for their own purposes.
But to stick to Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America, perhaps the best example of Coulter's hypocrisy is in her own inability to follow her own rules. So, for example, she derides Bill Clinton (a popular target for her as ever) by noting Clinton's anger from an interview "This was a decade after Ken Starr wrapped up his investigation and eight years after Clinton was out of office, but Clinton was still babbling about Starr in moments of stress" (244). To clarify, Coulter is kvetching about Clinton bringing up old issues. This, despite the fact that Coulter references Clinton - usually in derogatory terms - the same eight years after Clinton is no longer in officer on sixty-one pages of the book, which is on par with George Bush (also sixty-one) and more than Sarah Palin (thirty-five), John McCain (twenty-five). The only person more referenced in this book - again usually in smug and demeaning ways - is Barack Obama, who has eighty pages that make reference to him. The point of this, of course, is to illustrate that Ann Coulter's arguments are often hypocritical in nature; arguing that people like former President Clinton have little right to bring up issues in regard to attacks made upon him after so much time while devoting quite a bit of space to making attacks against Bill Clinton.
This is largely how Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America reads, though. Liberals are classified as "victims" who are actually victimizing conservatives. Arguably, conservatives are being attacked; by Coulter herself. For example, in describing Scott McClellan's tell-all on the Bush White House, Coulter notes "The media accuse Republicans of playing dirty pool, but they turn to the retarded press secretary for an attack on his former boss" (118). In addition to fine ad hominem attacks like "retarded" for the conservative McClellen, Coulter makes broad statements that have no bearing on reality. When McClellen wrote his tell-all on the Bush Administration, liberals (real liberals, not Coulter's broad-based term for anyone she does not like) did not believe him any more than they did when he was press secretary. Coulter makes out that liberals are self-serving dimwits who will change their minds about a person based upon political expediency, like suddenly embracing liars who have lied to them for years. Liberals did not fall for this ploy any more than women rushed to vote for Sarah Palin en masse under some misguided notion that just because she was a woman she represented core women's rights issues.
Like all of Coulter's books, this volume is packed with ad hominem attacks that detract from anything resembling a legitimate point Coulter might be trying to make. She likens liberal journalists to Nazis (165), the media is decried as "deceptive" (212), and political assassins are regarded as liberals or "random nuts" (258). Liberals are "losers" (113), single mothers are referenced as "future strippers" (36) and such blatant disregard for the rules of debate prevent Coulter from making any points that legitimately stick. Liberals are liars, not to be trusted and phony victims in Coulter's worldview, while their Republican counterparts are only wrong when they leave the party.
As well, when it suits Coulter's purposes, she simply mentions facts, but then ignores the implications of them. So, for example, she properly references that the Council Of Conservative Citizens has a history of directors who were white supremacists, but then she denies that the organization still stands for such values. This is rather baffling in sentences that contradict themselves like "There is no evidence on its Web page that the modern incarnation of the CCC supports segregation, though its 'Statement of Principles' offers that the organization opposes 'forced integration' and 'efforts to mix the races of mankind'" (24). Yes, the problem is not the forced integration, but resisting mixing "races" is pretty much the definition of segregation. But who cares about facts when they are so inconvenient anyway? Similarly, on 165 and 166, she decries how the "liberal" media addressed Allen using the racist term "macaca" without actually addressing the fact that the term is a pejorative. Instead, she essentially writes the comment off because it went over the heads of the audience - ". . . Allen had called the liberal pill [again, ad hominem] a 'monkey' in a foreign language, which no one in his audience would have understood . . ." (167). Apparently, it's all right to be racist or sexist so long as your audience is too stupid to understand that you are being racist or sexist. Well argued, Ann Coulter!
Moreover, Coulter makes a lot of false implications to make her points. For example, after describing the mainstream media as tools for the liberals (pages 14 - 18), she comments on how Fox News must be the most fair and balanced because it now has the highest viewership of any cable news network. This is a fallacious argument, even by her own standards; if Fox News is truly the only "conservative" news source on cable and conservatives would only watch it for their news sources, the liberals would still be split between watching several other networks. So, of course, Fox would be huge, by Coulter's standards, half of the population would be watching one network while the other half was spread among about eight other news stations! And, as always, Coulter trots out Alan Colmes as evidence of Fox's fair and balanced perspective (page 15), though I've yet to meet a single liberal who considers Colmes liberal.
But moreover, Coulter's tone is tiresome and she creates the very sense of victimization she decries in the "liberals" when she writes things like "Our incompetent press secretaries go bad, theirs never do. The weakest of the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices always go bad; Democrat-appointed justices never do. Our soporific pundits go bad; theirs appear regularly on Larry King Live" (113). It is hard to see why the liberals are so bad when even Coulter paints the worst of them as having more integrity than the worst of the conservatives. It is because of arguments like this that Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America seems far more sloppy than actually possessing anything akin to wit.
Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America explores the premise of "victims" in the media, single mothers, the Republican Attack Machine (which Coulter denies flatly exists), media and Republicans. Published in January 2009, arguably finished before Barack Obama won the election, Coulter's writing is an attempt to reinvigorate fear and division in the populace when one might easily argue that the election of Barack Obama was the triumph of hope politics over fear. Littered with factual errors that are troubling - "Lewis Libby was the only perpetrator Bush likely had ever met . . ." (185) despite Libby implicating Dick Cheney - makes it difficult to take Coulter's arguments seriously.
As well, Coulter makes herself into a troubling authority on matters which she does not have any training or experience. So, for example, in discussing Terri Schiavo, Coulter writes "It was not true that Terri was on 'life support' - anymore than a child up to about age four is on 'life support' because he needs help to eat" (212). This, despite both medical experts declaring otherwise and there being a legal definition for "life support." Much of Coulter's Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America boils down to "this is fact because I say it is" without much (or anything) to back it up.
For liberals, the solution is easy: don't buy the book, do not read it and do not succumb to Coulter's talk that we or they are all trying (or are actually) victims. No liberal is missing out on a relevant and powerful voice in the debate by not incorporating the voice of Ann Coulter (stick to the well-argued conservative positions for ammunition in debate!). For conservatives, by all means, read Ann Coulter's latest work and then improve upon it. There are plenty of educated, well-reasoned conservatives that might be able to take the kernel of argument Coulter introduces and run with it to make it into an articulate, thoughtful debate. Guilty: Liberal "Victims" And Their Assault On America is not that argument and Ann Coulter is not the a-team mind needed to make it, at least not in this volume.
For other books by Ann Coulter, please check out my reviews of:
If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans
How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must)
High Crimes And Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton
For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.