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Lies About the American Right
In praise of Slander
By Adam Daifallah
For years, liberals (and William Kristol) have held that conservatives' claims of a liberal bias in the mainstream media are nothing more than an unsubstantiated canard, opportunistically used as an excuse whenever conservatives blunder. They claim that no proof of such bias exists - that in fact, the media has a "conservative" bias because of the big corporate interests that control news dissemination.
But anyone who reads Ann Coulter's devastating new account of the media's incessant leftwing distortions, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, will come away asking themselves how anyone with an IQ over 10 could ever claim that the media is anything close to objective in its coverage of politics and the daily news.
Coulter is well known to American political junkies as the rightwing blond bombshell of the talking head circuit and an outspoken Clinton basher. Her first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanours, presented a strong case in favour of impeaching the then-president, and was a New York Times bestseller.
Since the release of this book in June, reviews by liberal journalists have been (unsurprisingly) unanimously negative. In true liberal form, they have avoided tackling the arguments she presents in the text. Instead, they focus mainly on semantics, or attacking her brash writing style and research methodology. A favourite claim is that Coulter uses frivolous research techniques to back up her contentions, such as relying on news database search programs like LexisNexis to demonstrate how frequently or infrequently certain buzz words are used in articles. Please! Liberal book reviewers just can't intelligently refute her arguments.
The underlying premise of Slander is that liberals hate America. Although this may be slightly embellished, Coulter's claim of liberal media bias is substantiated by an abundance of documentation (the book contains over 35 pages of detailed footnotes). Example after example demonstrates how the media's thought-controllers use underhanded and subtle tactics and words to influence unsuspecting watchers.
Of the innumerable examples throughout the text, one that sticks out in my mind is her direct comparison of the media treatment of conservative maven Phyllis Schlafly, as opposed to her ideological opposite, washed-up feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
Schlafly, a septuagenarian and still the head of one of Washington's most active lobby groups, Eagle Forum, has had a stellar career: she graduated from Harvard Law School where she attended on scholarship. (She was admitted despite the school's men-only policy at the time.) She has written ten books, including the legendary manifesto A Choice, Not an Echo, which has sold three million copies and led to Barry Goldwater's nomination for president in 1964. She nearly single-handedly brought down the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s and early 80s and has won countless political battles inside the Republican Party and at large. As Coulter states, "There is no important political debate for nearly half a century in which Schlafly's influence has not been felt." (p. 37)
Yet how many people have heard of Schlafly compared to Steinem, whose curriculum vitae consists of losing the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment, founding Ms. magazine (which turned out to be a financial boondoggle requiring a massive bailout) and launching a failed anti-man campaign headlined by her famous (infamous?) slogan "A Woman Without a Man is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle"? Despite Steinem's abysmal record, feminist writers continue to pen obsequious articles about her and her dismal legacy, while Schlafly is relegated to the ash heap. Schlafly would be lucky even to get a one-night gig on a political panel on some obscure cable news show.
Coulter's ferocious, no-holds-barred style had me in stitches. I have always noticed a bias in the media, but the sheer magnitude of the liberal news hegemony only hit me when reading through Slander. They control ever aspect of news dissemination in America: all three major networks, all major magazines, all major newspapers the Hollywood entertainment industry. Conservative opinions, Coulter points out, are essentially confined to the Fox News Channel, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times.
At first glance, readers might assume that this book offers nothing substantially new given that it explores an old thesis that has been previously examined in great detail. Such is not the case. One of the most interesting new ideas that Coulter advances is that where there is consumer choice in media, Americans always choose the conservative option. There is market choice in talk radio, and nearly all of the top rated shows are conservative: Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Reagan, and many others. Conservative political books do extremely well, despite the fact that mainstream publishing houses hardly ever publish rightwing manuscripts, conservative authors receive puny advances compared to liberal colleagues and do not receive fawning reviews or the free promotion leftwing books do.
Coulter demonstrates there is basically only one publishing house, Regnery, that always publishes conservative books, and they persistently become bestsellers, such as Bernard Goldberg's Bias, Barbara Olson's Hell to Pay, Pat Buchanan's A Republic, Not an Empire and countless others. (Interestingly, however, Coulter's book was published by Crown, a major New York outfit under the Random House umbrella, and it debuted as #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and is still there three weeks later. Her first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanours, was published by Regnery and was also a bestseller.) Where there is no consumer choice (network news) there is liberal domination.
Coulter examines in great detail the liberal tactic of avoiding arguments over ideas with their opponents by labelling them "dumb" and "stupid". She demonstrates with excruciating detail how the liberal construct of the "religious right" is a phoney apocrypha used to scare voters, even though, as Coulter points out, such religious nuts as Pat Robertson are against the death penalty, in favour of Most Favoured Nation trading status for China, against President Bush's "faith based" initiatives, and speaks favourably of China's "one child" policy (p. 176). Coulter totally discredits one liberal myth after another.
The media had nearly the entire breathing world thinking George W. Bush was a complete simpleton during the 2000 presidential campaign, but who would have ever thought that Al Gore actually had lower marks than Bush? Gore got one D, one C-minus, two Cs and one B- in his second year at Harvard, placing him in the bottom fifth of his class for the first two years. (p. 156) Bush earned an M.B.A. from Harvard after earning an undergraduate degree from Yale, yet Gore failed out of divinity school (failing five of his eight classes) and then dropped out of Vanderbilt Law School. Yet Bush is the "dumb" one?
This book is most definitely for political junkies. Coulter's shock writing style will at times make the reader laugh, at others make you want to vomit. Those who do not follow the day-to-day ruminations and intricacies of elite American politics may not enjoy this book, simply because of its excruciating attention to small detail. A very high level of knowledge of nearly all the players in punditry, news and political journalism is required to fully appreciate the book.
Judging by its sale numbers, Slander is going to be one of the highest grossing books of the year: yet another conservative book that became a "surprise bestseller." This will irritate liberals to the core and for that reason alone; everyone should pick up at least two copies.
Adam Daifallah is a freelance writer and co-author of Gritlock: Are the Liberals in Forever?
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