Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler (today and Tuesday's)

There was a Tuesday Daily Howler. I didn't see it and in e-mails with Dallas, we both assumed Bob Somerby was taking the day off. Apparently several people missed it because there's a note on today's Howler about it.

From Tuesday's Daily Howler:

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.
[. . .]
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.

There is a lot more to Tuesday's entry (there always is), both on Coulter and also social security.

Let's move on to today's Howler:

But then, Cloud seems to be on a larger mission; he seems determined to peddle the scripts that are now being built around Coulter. One of those scripts we've already seen: Coulter's mistakes are exaggerated. This script, as we've said, is amazingly bogus, but Cloud seems eager to type it. But this is hardly the only script currently being built around Coulter--and it's hardly the only script on active display in Cloud's profile. After all, Coulter has a second large problem--her amazingly large and nasty mouth. Aside from her endless "error"-mongering, Coulter is pathologically nasty. And a second script is being crafted to smooth that problem--a script John Cloud adopts well.
Just how nasty is Coulter's big mouth? Let's return to the end of Slander--to that "one mistake" she strangely makes, the one about Dale Earnhardt. Yesterday, we saw the next-to-last paragraph in her book, the graf in which she falsely claimed that the New York Times ignored Earnhardt's death. And yes, that was a blatant "mistake" about the Times' actual coverage. But with Coulter, "error" typically paves the way to explosions of nasty venting. And so it was after her "error" on Earnhardt. Believe it or not, this is the way she closes her crackpot book:
COULTER (Slander; page 205): Except for occasional exotic safaris to Wal-Mart or forays into enemy territory at a Christian Coalition dinner, liberals do not know any conservatives. It makes it easier to demonize them that way. It's well and good for Andrew Sullivan to talk about a "truce." But conservatives aren't the ones who need to be jolted into the discovery that the "bogeyman" of their imagination are "not quite as terrifying as they thought." Conservatives already know that people they disagree with politically can be "charming." Also savagely cruel bigots who hate ordinary Americans and lie for sport.

Amazing, isn't it? Because the New York Times failed to honor Earnhardt's death, Coulter says that "liberals" are "savagely cruel bigots who hate ordinary Americans and lie for sport." Except that the Times did honor Earnhardt's death in the very way Coulter prescribed--and except that it was Coulter herself who had just misstated this fact. But this is classic clowning by Coulter--the kind Cloud couldn't seem to locate. For the record, this crackpot passage refers back to a rumination on page 204, in which Coulter says, without qualification, that "liberals impute inhumanity to their political opponents and are unfathomably hateful and vicious." In her next book, Treason, Coulter moved on, bizarrely typing this:
COULTER (Treason; page 1): 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.

So liberals "side with the enemy," are "savagely cruel bigots," "lie for sport" and are "unfathomably vicious." Obviously, no functioning person could actually believe such idiotic generalizations. But these are the sorts of things Coulter types, joining them to the string of small insults that define her dim-witted public persona. Hillary Clinton? She's "pond scum," says Coulter (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/15/05). And of course, Clinton is also “unfathomably vicious," as we learn from Coulter's broader remarks.
Remarks like this create a problem for those who want to mainstream Coulter. Though America's talk-show pseudo-conservatives find these bizarre remarks appealing, most people will see them for what they are, unless they're handed some sort of way to air-brush the lunacy away.

I really hate doing a cutting of Somerby because it never does the writing justice. (For instance, Dallas and I exchanged four e-mails today -- a busy day for both of us -- about today's Howler only.) So please considering making The Daily Howler a regular stop when you're online.

If you read a cutting and think, "Eh, what's so great?" realize that I've screwed up and chosen the wrong thing to highlight.

One thought Dallas had was, "Would Newsweek have been so quick to print such a valentine on a woman who regularly compared Katie Couric to Eva Braun?" I don't think so (I could be wrong). Which isn't to say (and Dallas wasn't suggesting this) that "syngery" at work allows AOL TIME WARNER DISNEY ABC et al to lift up an attacker of a host of Today to benefit Good Morning America.

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