The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, July 10, 2002  

Inquirer Gives Slander a Glowing Review

The liberal media are at it again, attacking books written by conservatives who have been virtually silenced by a conspiracy hatched by the left-wing ideologues that control this country’s television and cable networks, major daily newspapers (particularly those in the Northeast), newsweeklies, radio stations, and publishing houses.

The victim this time? Ann Coulter. And this despite the fact -- the footnote-able fact -- that Coulter’s book sits on top of the bestsellers lists.

Oh . . . wait a minute. Scratch that. We got it wrong.

How wrong? Well, the Philadelphia Inquirer, its books section providing still more evidence of its precipitous decline, today reviews Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, the satirical (or at least we thought so at first) send-up of liberals and the media by Coulter, perhaps the most famous female talking stick-figure on the scene today.

And the review, “Attack on Liberal Media Bitter, Never Dull,” penned by someone named Beth Gillin, is, well, absolutely fawning in its praise.

Here’s Gillin: “[Coulter’s] attack on the American media, by turns caustic, witty, and maddening (but never for a moment dull) goes for the jugular, from Chapter 1 (‘Liberals Unhinged’) to concluding sentence: ‘Liberals don’t have to emerge from the hot tub and start attending NASCAR races or -- God forbid -- church, but it would be nice if they’d stop lying all the time.’” [Ed.: “They’d”? Yes, we know it’s a valid contraction, but any editor worth his salt or salary would have defaced it with a bright red pen.]

Of course, the review isn’t all sweetness and light. Gillin for a moment puts the gloves on and sends Coulter to the mat with lines like this one: “Perhaps she goes too far in calling America’s sweetheart Katie Couric ‘the affable Eva Braun of morning TV.’” And this one: “Conservative diva Ann Coulter is no fan of nuance.”

Whoa . . . Them’s fightin’ words!

But Gillin’s most egregious fault, and one for which she should be ashamed to show her face at 400 N. Broad St., is her acceptance, at face value, of a pair of Coulter’s most ridiculous assertions:

“[H]er book is useful when it forces readers to question such long-held assumptions as the alleged brilliance of Al Gore and the purported existence of an entity called The Religious Right.

“Both concepts, Coulter insists, are media creations that, by sheer force of repetition, have become part of the conventional wisdom. Similarly, Coulter says, the liberal media concocted the myth of Ronald Reagan as airhead and George W. Bush as amiable dunce.

“In Coulter’s view, the religious right does not exist except as an invented scapegoat, ‘a totemic symbol, a permanent terrorizing influence on the brainwashed masses.’”

To this wholly unsubstantiated drivel, Gillen responds:

“Indeed, the religious right has never been quantified or precisely defined. Does the term refer to followers of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson? How does it differ from the vast majority of Americans, who define themselves as Christians?

“When 90 percent of respondents to a recent poll disagreed with a federal court decision declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because it mentions God, perhaps it is time to reconsider which viewpoint is mainstream and which is out of step.”

What on earth is Gillin saying here? What planet is she on? Which Washington liberals are cheering the pledge ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit? If God-hating liberals are so powerful, why do they only constitute 10 percent of the cited survey’s sample?

Gillin also falls for -- indeed, embellishes -- Coulter’s absurd observations of the comparative intellectual capacities of President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore:

“Similarly, Coulter attacks as a media fabrication the idea that Al Gore is cerebral. . . . Here, Coulter notes, are the facts: Gore, after an undistinguished academic career at Harvard, flunked out of divinity school, failing five out of eight classes. He then dropped out of law school at Vanderbilt University. Bush, on the other hand, while no genius at Yale, never pretended to be, and went on to earn his MBA from Harvard.

“And yet, as Coulter observes, it was candidate Bush who was mercilessly pounded by the media for gaffes, mispronunciations and lack of syntax, while Gore was given a pass for such outright whoppers as claiming to have invented the Internet, saying he discovered pollution at Love Canal, citing himself as the inspiration for the stoic hero of the novel Love Story, and describing a childhood spent ‘cleaning out hog waste’ and ‘plowing hillsides with a team of mules,’ when in truth he grew up in a penthouse apartment in Washington’s Fairfax Hotel.”

One can scarcely believe Gillin wrote this without giggling behind her editor’s back. It was no surprise that Coulter’s publisher, Crown, didn’t hire a decent team of fact-checkers -- Imagine the budget that would have required! -- but it’s a disgrace that the Inquirer, widely regarded as one of this country’s best newspapers, let this collection of half-truths and misleading assertions -- most of them already demolished by astute bloggers and traditional media outlets -- stand unchallenged.

For our part, may we ask, Ms. Gillin: Have seen the President’s report card from Yale? Are you not familiar with the term “legacy” as it is used in the admissions offices of the Ivy League? Can you point to a single academic, professional, or political accomplishment of the current President that cannot be traced to his family’s connections? Can you name any aspect of his military career to which he could point with genuine pride?

Gillin’s review does approach its conclusion with a touch of gentle criticism, but on the whole, the final paragraph is one with which Coulter must be well pleased: “Slander is a polemic, not a fair and balanced news report. In blaming reports of a vast right wing conspiracy on media conspirators of the left, it doesn’t exactly elevate political debate,” Gillin writes. “Occasionally strident, often deliciously catty, never less than provocative, it is, at the very least, a fast-paced and entertaining read.”

Of course, Coulter & Co. will find some way to turn this paean into a vicious attack from “the Eastern establishment,” or if a tinge of anti-Semitism is thought fitting, from “the media elites of New York and Hollywood.” And the wing-nuts will believe every word of it.

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