|Jul/Aug 2006 Salon|
This past Saturday I made the mistake of reading the liner notes of Ann Coulter's newest book, Godless Religion. I say it was a mistake, because I should have known what I was going to get. What I got was a mild headache as I tried for the next hour or two to cleanse my mind of illogic, untruth, and discord.
No, I didn't read the book, and this is not a review or critique of its contents. This is one self-professed liberal's opinion that Ann Coulter is a bony, blonde version of Tony Snow's tar baby. There is no reason to argue with her, because to do so would be to play into what I suppose are her three reasons for publishing this book in the first place: to confuse well-meaning liberals and distract them from trying to make our world a better place*; to fire up the conservative base for the upcoming mid-term elections with tried and true hot-button issues**; and to produce more money and fame for Coulter herself.
Notice I didn't mention the goals of making a sincere contribution to the ongoing dialogue of what is best for America or of making a sincere effort to convince anyone who a) doesn't already agree with her or b) isn't a complete idiot--because as the cover makes abundently clear, those are not goals of this book.
Ann Coulter is a smart, highly educated person. Ergo, she is not stupid and ignorant. Ergo, she doesn't really believe that "evolution's proponents have failed utterly to substantiate its claims," nor is she so lacking in intellectual capacity as to think that freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, and what she calls the "liberal hostility to traditional religion" are mutually exclusive.
The points she makes may be illogical, and the claims she makes may be untrue, but saying this stuff creates discord, and discord incites her political friends and foes and fuels her fame and fortune. It's what makes Godless "her most explosive book yet" (from the aforementioned liner notes), explosiveness being exactly and solely what she was shooting for, explosive and shooting both being appropriate terms for a pundit who says things like, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity... We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war." If people agree with statements like this, I suspect the only way one could change their minds would be to put a gun to their heads. Which would, of course, be as self-defeating as Coulter's arguments are in the first place.
And so, while I'd like to call Ann Coulter what she is--a cynically divisive mouthpiece--and tell her to shut the hell up, a much wiser tactic would be to shut myself up instead. Too late to escape completely tar free, but soon enough to catch another episode of The Daily Show, where a political "personality" of a different sort will not attempt to pass himself off as anything more than an entertainer, and who will nonetheless engage people from both sides of the political spectrum in what actually amounts to (on most nights) constructive dialogue.
* Not to say that all liberals are so high-minded, but I take as a general tenet of liberalism that government as a science can and should be harnessed to improve the quality of life for all citizens, as opposed to the generally accepted (and self-perpetuating) conservative tenet that government can be neither efficient nor beneficial.
** Anti flag burning, anti homosexuality, anti intellectualism, anti separation of church and state, anti public education, anti abortion, anti immigration, anti...