Thursday, August 07, 2003

Coulter vs. Moore

Carl Lewis writes in from Down Under, responding to the "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" essay:
I live in Sydney, Australia, but of course we need to understand what the U.S. is up to like everyone else on the planet. The similarity of current U.S. regime and society to fascism always seems to come up but I had not read a decent exploration of this till now. I don't know all the historical theory which you go through, which made it hard to judge. I definitely started to worry when I saw a speech by Mr. Bush prior to the war to sailors at the USS Philippine Sea, which came off as a bit "Nuremburg Rally" style for my tastes.

No doubt you know (although it is not mentioned in the essay) that some conservatives have distanced themselves from Ann Coulter, including Andrew Sullivan, and there have been some negative comments in papers.

Anne Applebaum [in the Washington Post] writes:

As I say, it's easy to explain why this book [Coulter's Treason] is bad. What is much, much harder to explain is why so many people think this book is good, or at least why so many people are buying it.

I really wanted to know this too! Unfortunately Applebaum then wanders off the question and in the end seems to put it down to:

The real question, then, is not what makes so many people buy books by Ann Coulter, but what makes so many people lap up the Coulter-Bruce-Moore formula. Perhaps it's a longing for clarity, a reflection of the deep human need to find a straight path through the modern jungle of information. Perhaps it's laziness.

The "Coulter is the opposite of Mike Moore" meme (which Sullivan also mentions) seems to have some traction but personally I find it a bit limp in terms of explanatory power. The great thing about your essay it that it eschews this simplistic ideological interpretation and instead puts things into a framework that makes sense, and does go some way to explaining her popularity. There probably are some things to be learned from a Coulter/Moore comparison, apart from the obvious one of their preference for self-promotion over fact-checking, but I have yet to hear someone make the case.

I was asked about the Coulter/Moore comparison during the WNUR interview. It is, frankly, part of the kind of easy symmetry that conservatives love -- to wit, for every right-wing extremist, there's a left-wing one doing the same thing.

Of course, most of these analogies blithely overlook such things as volume, breadth, reach and influence of the respective extremists, not to mention the violence quotient. And in the Coulter/Moore case, there are even more significant differences.

Moore is not an extremist. He has never defended, for example, famous Communists or left-wing radicals. He has not evinced a sympathy for Ted Kaczynski, nor suggested he should have bombed the Washington Times. He has never transmitted extreme-left ideas, nor has he intimitated any sympathy for them. Coulter, conversely, is an extremist who is now attempting to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy's reputation, and who has repeatedly indicated sympathy for violent right-wing radicals.

Moreover, Moore makes errors -- about four or five a book, but sometimes serious enough to undermine his credibility. Coulter, at the same time, seems incapable of publishing a single paragraph without lying or committing an egregious (and after awhile, transparently intentional) factual error. That she enjoys any credibility whatsoever -- let alone is invited to appear on national TV with great regularity -- is evidence of the failure of nearly anyone in the media to concern themselves with such things as truthful reporting.

Michael Moore is a mainstream left-winger whose attention to factual detail is weak. Ann Coulter is a right-wing extremist who lies and commits factual errors at an astonishing rate.

Where, exactly, is the analogy in that?

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