Liberal Fascism

Speaking of Craptacular

The book is mentioned in the lead paragraph of this week’s Newsweek cover story:

Ann Coulter has made controversy her currency, outrage her oeuvre. And a lot of currency it is: over the past decade, Coulter’s earned a huge amount of money from an unbroken streak of six best sellers, each an angry diatribe against liberals, most featuring her slim blond figure on the cover. Coulter Inc. has helped inspire a cottage industry of imitators, books that all seem designed to feed off the frustrations of the angry right. (“Liberal Fascism,” by Jonah Goldberg, is the latest to hit it big.) But Coulter has a subspecialty all her own: uttering remarks so off the charts, so contrary to every norm of civil discourse, that they attract national news coverage. A few months ago she declared on TV that Jews need “to be perfected,” and suggested that America would be better off if it were all Christian. Last week Coulter attacked her own party’s presumptive nominee. John McCain, Coulter said, was a traitor to conservatives, so much so that she’d campaign for Hillary Clinton if he were nominated. Was there anything the Arizona senator could do, NEWSWEEK e-mailed her later, to change her mind? Would she really stump for Clinton? “I don’t know,” she wrote. Then she added: “McCain could invent a time machine, travel back in time” and take back all his liberal-leaning votes in Congress. “Short of that,” she said, “the only thing that would work is if he put a gun to my head, but since McCain is also against gun rights, that’s out.” (McCain backed a measure to close a gun-show loophole on background checks, but is otherwise supportive of gun rights.)

Me: Sigh.

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham is apparently exasperated by the  fact that people don’t take his magazine as seriously as he’d like. I’m sure he’s got good reasons to think this is unfair. But I think the above is a good (though very, very small) example of why so many people don’t look to Newsweek for anything surprising. I don’t mind the three authors saying that my book “feeds” off the frustrations of the right. I think that’s largely true, though I wouldn’t phrase it that way. Nor am I remotely surprised that they think I’m an Ann Coulter imitator. 

But that’s sort of the point. It’s not surprising because Newsweek is so completely conventional that  anyone can predict how it will interpret the news. I would bet a bundle that not one of the co-authors of this story actually read the book, or even cracked it open because they already know what they think about it, just as they already know what they think about most everything else. Whatever the books demerits may be, even The New York Times and Slate’s Tim Noah conceded it’s not what they consider an “Ann Coulter book.”  Indeed, the whole Ann Coulter-as-prism-on-the-right trope is largely an invention of magazines like Time and Newsweek. In other words, the guys at Newsweek came up with the storyline they wanted and then cast about for evidence that fits their preconceived vision of how American politics works. Superficially, my book seemed a useful enough example to tell the story they wanted to tell, and so they used it without much caring about its accuracy. Indeed, the fact that I’m not part of the anti-McCain chorus  they’re setting up is small proof that things are more complicated than they suggest. But simplified and superficial liberal conventional wisdom is what what people have come to expect from Newsweek, and they deliver far too often.

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