Coulter, Ann. Godless: The Church of Liberalism (New York: Crown Forum, 2006)
The words "partisan" and "hack" often join to form the clichéd term "partisan hack" that identifies the conflation of ideological blindness and partisan fervor; although I strive to avoid overused phrases, nowhere is that trite term more appropriate than when discussing Ann Coulter. As the ever-witty Christopher Hitchens observes in his review of Godless in the UK magazine Liberal:
"Since her books always pull enough of a crowd to put them on the bestseller list, the editors and fact-checkers at her publishing house evidently go on vacation when the manuscripts float in. [...] Coulter finds herself inventing new ways in which to be wrong. As it goes on, the book begins to seem more like typing than writing, and its demonstration of the relationship between poor language and crude ideas becomes more overt."
Her publisher's website has an excerpt of Godless that was no doubt fashioned to showcase her undeniable talent for infuriating liberals, while simultaneously obscuring the fact that her ideological edifice is built on misrepresentations and outright falsehoods. Here is the opening paragraph:
Liberals love to boast that they are not "religious," which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview, and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as "religion."
The most difficult aspect of reviewing a book by any infotainer (a category in which I include Al Franken and Michael Moore as well as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter) is in distinguishing the hyperbole from the humor, the arguments from jokes. (This is not an issue of missing subtleties, but in trying to gauge the gullibility of her wingnut fans; I had the same problem while writing my review of Coulter's Treason and Slander, and I felt compelled to tally each and every inconsistency, misrepresentation, and falsehood, which was both time-consuming and pointless.) I've been much more lenient on Coulter this time, although her arguments are as unconvincing and her jokes as unfunny as ever.
It's a sad commentary on American political discourse that she has any audience at all. Here are some passages from Coulter's book, followed by my commentary along with factual rebuttals. I have not attempted to completely correct Godless, but have chosen a representative sample of Coulter's assertions (in bold) that are easily disproved. (Even so, I feel it is necessary to apologize for the sheer length of this review.)
Although they are Druids, liberals masquerade as rationalists, adopting a sneering tone of scientific sophistication, which is a little like being condescended to by a tarot card reader. Liberals hate science and react badly to it. (p. 3)
Thanks to Ms Coulter's wisdom, I now understand why liberals are hostile to teaching evolution in biology classes, geology and cosmology in science classes, understanding climate change, promoting sex education programs, recommending STD/cancer vaccines, and funding stem cell research. Oh, wait...it's actually conservatives who are against those things. It looks as if Coulter's projection has struck again.
Throughout this book, I often refer to Christians and Christianity because I am a Christian and I have a fairly good idea of what they believe, but the term is intended to include anyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others. (p. 3, footnote)
Jews "and others?" Since Muslims also worship the Abrahamic deity, they must also be "Christians" under Coulter's definition. (Her Islamophobic readers either skipped this footnote or don't realize the lineage of Islam.)
Water. Liberals are worried we're going to run out of something that literally falls from the sky. Here's an idea: Just wait. It will rain. (p. 8)
Here's an idea: Look up "drought" in the dictionary. Then look up "aquifer" in an encyclopedia. Dumbass.
Liberals are constantly accusing Christians of monumental self-righteousness for daring to engage in free speech or for voting in accordance with their religious beliefs. (p. 18)
No, we don't have any objection to your self-righteousness; we just don't want it funded with our tax dollars. (It's that pesky First Amendment again!)
Throughout the 2004 campaign, the Democrats were looking for a Democrat who believed in God--a pursuit similar to a woman searching for a boyfriend in a room full of choreographers. (p. 19)
Virtually any Democrat would have fulfilled the "believed in God" criterion, both then and now. At the time Coulter wrote Godless, there were no non-religious national politicians. At present, there is only one: Pete Stark (D-CA).
"NARAL is an acronym for something with "abortion" in the title, but we don't know what because the NARAL webpage won't use the word abortion. (p. 20)
I used the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to see what the NARAL website looked like in January 2006, a full five months before Coulter's book was released. The site opened to a petition which mentioned the word "abortion," went to a homepage that mentioned "abortion," and also linked to an "About" page--the most likely destination for someone who claims to be unfamiliar with the acronym NARAL--which mentioned "abortion" seven times in as many paragraphs.
He [liberal minister Jim Wallis] leapt into the breach. He proposed to teach the Democrats how to "reframe" their language to make people think they believe in God. (pp. 20-1)
Coulter cites Matt Bai's "The Framing Wars," (NYT, 17 July 2005) which observed:
Wallis wrote a memo to the Democratic Policy Committee titled ''Budgets Are Moral Documents,'' in which he laid out his argument that Democrats needed to ''reframe'' the budget in spiritual terms.
Wallis quoted Proverbs 31:8-9 ("Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.") in his criticism of Bush's budgetary slaps in the face to millions of the poor and needy in America; there is no indication that he urged Democrats to bear false witness about their beliefs.
When Democrats were running the show, their idea for fighting crime was to spend $40 million to set up midnight basketball leagues... (p. 42)
I am *so* sick of conservatives ridiculing "midnight basketball" as a loopy liberal idea that I could...I don't know...point out that they're full of shit. Here's a passage from the relevant presidential address:
"Midnight Basketball has become a real community institution. And people come to play and to watch and to cheer and to find new hope and to shape their lives. Streets once littered with drugs and plagued by violence have become peaceful and passable. Not surprisingly, the crime rate has dropped by 60 percent since this program began."
Speaker: George H.W. Bush, discussing his 124th "Point of Light" (1991-04-12)
Source: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Even after Giuliani's triumphant success, liberals demean his accomplishment. Those who won't believe will never believe. They say the crime rate was already falling, as if the drop in the number of murders during the Dinkins administration from 2,154 murders in 1991 to 1,995 murders in 1992 was the equivalent of the Battle of Midway. It was probably a bookkeeping error. (p. 46)
According to the NYPD statistics on murders in NYC (available here in appendix table 4), murders under Dinkins (1990-1993) declined from 2,245 in 1990 to 1,946 in 1993 (the rate dropped from .307 to .265). Under Giuliani (1994-2001), murders continued to decline (from 1,561 to 649) and rates continued to drop (from .213 to .081). (The data curves for raw numbers and rates are nearly identical.)
Was the murder rate already declining when Giuliani took the reins from Dinkins? Yes. Did the rate's decline accelerate under Giuliani? Also yes. It's hardly "demeaning" to note the first fact, although it disproves Coulter's assertion.
To this day, Democrats demand that we credit Clinton for the plunging crime rate in the nineties--which did not begin to plunge until Giuliani became mayor of New York. Clinton may have tried to socialize health care, presided over a phony Internet bubble, spurned Sudan when it offered him Osama bin Laden on a silver platter... (p. 49)
How many inaccuracies can Coulter cram into a single sentence? Let's just look at the first few. First, is she seriously claiming that Giuliani's election to the NYC mayor's office had an effect on crime nationwide? She can't be serious. According to the US DOJ, the national violent crime rate peaked in 1991. (The rates for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault peaked in 1980, 1992, 1991, and 1992 respectively.) Thus, by Coulter's logic, Giuliani (amazingly!) caused crime rates to drop nationwide several years before he took office on 1 January 1994. If you're going to demean someone, at least get your facts straight.
The managed competition model used in crafting Clinton's "Health Security Act" was not socialized medicine, except perhaps by defining socialism as "whatever conservatives don't like."
The dot-com bubble can hardly be laid at Clinton's feet--at least not any more than the housing bubble can be blamed on Dubya. Has Coulter never heard of the Federal Reserve? Wall Street? Venture capital? IPOs?
About the Clinton/Sudan/bin Laden claim: Please, don't make me refute that steaming pile of bull-slander again. One wishes Coulter (and the other conservatives who repeat this lie ad nauseum) would bother to read the 9/11 Commission Report; this claim was debunked in Chapter 4:
In late 1995, when Bin Ladin was still in Sudan, the State Department and the CIA learned that Sudanese officials were discussing with the Saudi government the possibility of expelling Bin Ladin. U.S. Ambassador Timothy Carney encouraged the Sudanese to pursue this course. The Saudis, however, did not want Bin Ladin, giving as their reason their revocation of his citizenship.
Sudan's minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so.
Most people have trouble seeing the divine spark in people who take our parking spots. [Ashley] Smith could see God's hand in a multiple murderer holding her hostage. By showing [Brian] Nichols genuine Christian love, Smith turned him from a beast to a fellow sinner, still deserving of punishment, but also of forgiveness. This phenomenon, utterly unknown to liberals, is what's known as a "miracle." That's how a real religion responds to rapists and murderers. In the liberal religion, there is no grace, only lies and death, some of it everlasting. (p. 59)
This paragraph is borderline nonsensical, following as it does her paean to the death penalty as "the deliberative, sane act of an advanced civilization protecting itself from predators" (p. 27). In Coulter's upside-down world, the death penalty is a grace-filled miracle of forgiveness while rehabilitation (something at which she scoffs) is actually a barbaric practice. Huh?
And a lot fewer people saw the victim's Willie Horton ad than the NAACP's ad during the 2000 campaign assigning responsibility to George Bush for the murder of James Byrd. (p. 66)
The voiceover of the NAACP's TV ad does not blame Bush for Byrd's death, only for refusing to support a Texas hate-crime bill:
I'm Renee Mullins, James Byrd's daughter. On June 7, 1998 in Texas my father was killed. He was beaten, chained, and then dragged 3 miles to his death, all because he was black.
So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again. Call Governor George W. Bush and tell him to support hate-crime legislation. We won't be dragged away from our future.
The transmitter of all liberal idiocy, Michael Moore, summarized what liberals think of Americans in Bowling for Columbine when he said, "[W]hether you're a psychotic killer or running for president of the United States, the one thing you can always count on is white America's fear of the black man"--as evidenced by Michael Moore, who has done everything possible to avoid contact with them. (p. 72)
Here is a passage from Moore's book Stupid White Men, where he laments the absence of African-Americans from his business life:
When I leave New York to go to Los Angeles for a few days to work and meet with people in the business [...] I can go days and never encounter a single African-American unless it's someone to whom I'm handing a tip. How can that happen? [...] For once I'd love to see a black person in the seat next to me at a Knicks game--or within twenty rows of me in any direction (players and Spike Lee excluded). For once I'd like to walk onto an airplane and see it filled with only black passengers instead of a bunch of complaining white jerks who feel a sense of entitlement in demanding that I give up my lap so they can put their seat in it. (p. 69)
Moore later proclaims "I'm done hiring white people" (p. 73) and issues this offer:
So if you're African-American and you'd like to work in the media--or already do but haven't been able to get out from behind that damn reception desk--then I encourage you to drop me a line and send me your resume. (p. 74)
That doesn't sound like someone who's trying to "avoid contact" with blacks.
At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, which nominated Bill Clinton, the Democrats wouldn't even allow a pro-life Democrat governor of a large swing state to speak. Governor Robert Casey was the enormously popular governor of Pennsylvania. But the Democrats wouldn't let him speak because of his pro-life views. (pp. 85-6)
This is false. Casey was denied a speaking slot at the convention because he hadn't endorsed the Clinton/Gore ticket. As noted in Wikipedia, "Other pro-life Democrats such as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senators John Breaux and Howell Heflin, and five pro-life Democratic governors did speak" at the convention.
In 2005, the New York Times triumphantly announced that the word abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. [...] It doesn't have words like child rape either, but that doesn't mean Christianity is ambiguous on the subject. (p. 93)
One only wishes that some churches were less ambiguous on the subject, instead of coddling numerous child molesters and covering up their crimes for years if not decades.
The most important value to liberals is destroying human life. (p. 97)
Now it makes perfect sense: the reason why so many liberals are pacifists, object to wars of aggression, and oppose the death penalty is that they want to destroy human life. (As opposed to conservatives, who believe in the sanctity of human life...at least from conception to birth.)
It was treason to respond to Joe Wilson, who accused the Bush administration of lying about the case for war with Iraq based on Wilson's trip to Niger. [...] But no one could say Wilson's alleged expertise was based on a nepotistic junket he was sent on because his wife worked at the CIA. (p. 101)
No, it was treason to respond to Wilson by vindictively outing his wife as a CIA covert operative. (See the note for p. 112)
Conforming to a pattern, when a commission was convened to investigate intelligence failures that preceded 9/11, Republicans mistakenly imagined that the purpose of the commission was to investigate intelligence failures, not to be a partisan game for the Democrats to rewrite history. [...] The "Clinton Whitewash Commission" covered up a classified military data-mining project known as "Able Danger," for example. (p. 106)
The 9/11 Commission was a scam and a fraud, the sole purpose of which was to cover up the disasters of the Clinton administration and distract the nation's leaders during wartime. (p. 108)
The 9/11 Commission's flaws involved, among other things, whitewashing intelligence failures from the administrations of both Bill Clinton (who didn't do enough to stop al Qaeda) and George Bush (who did nothing until 9/11).
The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the "Able Danger" program (which, in fairness to Coulter, had not been released at the time Godless was published) debunks several conspiracy theories and explicitly states the following:
...prior to September 11, 2001, Able Danger team members did not identify Mohammed Atta or any other 9/11 hijacker. (p. 8)
If this PDB was so important, why has the media shied away from printing it? (p. 109)
Why didn't the media ever see fit to reveal the full text of the August 6 PDB? [...] The media deliberately prevented Americans from seeing the memo in order to attack Condoleezza Rice for saying the document contained only "historical information"--which it did. (p. 111)
The media didn't "see fit to reveal the full text" of the PDB because the Bush administration redacted portions of it. The unclassified portions were widely disseminated in April 2004, including (for example) CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even Fox "News." The PDB was also printed in Chapter 8 (pp. 261-262) of the 9/11 Commission Report.
That's "deliberate prevention?"
The man the Democrats wanted to be commander in chief, Senator John Kerry, said, "it's an 'act of treason' to reveal the identity of intelligence sources." (p. 118)
Here's a video clip of Bush I stating that, "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." (The CIA website has the full transcript.)
How does a published react to some pompous jerk who wants to call his book The Politics of Truth? Okay, seriously, what are you going to call it? (p. 121)
Are titles such as Slander, Treason, Godless, and If Democrats Had Any Brains They'd Be Republicans not examples of authorial pomposity?
Even if we skip over the absurd logic that because documents are forged, what they purport to show has been proved false--an old spy trick--it would later turn out Wilson had never seen the forged documents. (p. 123)
One wonders if Coulter would be willing to apply this supposition to the Killian documents discussing Bush's (not quite enough) time served in the National Guard.
Tellingly, liberals' one example of The Republican War on Science, as one book title puts it, is the Christian objection to Nazi experimentation on human embryos. (p. 192)
Coulter once again falls prey to Godwin's Law. Judging by these photos, where German Christians seemed to be rather supportive of Hitler (Christian) and the rest of the (also Christian) Nazi regime, I have to ask: what objection is Coulter talking about?
Coulter has obviously not read Chris Mooney's book, which gives numerous examples of right-wing obstruction of scientific inquiry and suppression of religiously incorrect conclusions. For anyone who wishes to be more informed than Coulter, the book's website is here, and much of it is available from Google Book Search here.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has put forth other examples as well, from their "A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science:"
In recent years, scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, distorted, while agencies have systematically limited public and policy maker access to critical scientific information.
Liberals creation myth is Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which is about one notch above Scientology in scientific rigor. It's a make-believe story, based on a theory that is a tautology, with no proof in the scientist's laboratory or the fossil record--and that's after 150 years of very determined looking. (p. 199)
...atheists need evolution to be true. [...] That is why there is mass panic on the left whenever someone mentions the vast and accumulating evidence against evolution. (p. 200)
This "vast and accumulating" evidence never makes an appearance in Coulter's argument; perhaps this is because it doesn't exist?
The only reason a lot of Christians reject evolution is that we are taught to abjure big fat lies. You can look it up--we have an entire commandment about the importance of not lying. (p. 200)
...the fact that the eye has been cited as an argument against natural selection for 200 years is true, but this is hardly an argument in favor of evolution. Despite having 200 years to work on it, evolutionists still don't have an answer. (p. 207)
Coulter is right: We don't have an answer. Over the past 150--not 200--years, however, we have developed an extraordinarily well-supported theory, which is infinitely more than creationists have managed to cobble together in the past several millennia.
For the last time, "God did it" is not an answer!
They ridicule us for saying, "The Bible is true because it says so right in the Bible"--which I've never said, by the way. (p. 215)
You don't need to say it, Ann, when so many of your allies are saying it for you. (By the way, the relevant passage is 2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.") I look forward to hearing Coulter disavow this circular sentiment the next time it is expressed by a right-wing biblical literalist.
From Marx to Hitler, the men responsible for the greatest mass murders of the twentieth century were avid Darwinists. (p. 268)
Marx died before the twentieth century dawned, making the assignation of blame for Soviet atrocities rather tenuous (even more tenuous than that of Darwin). Mao and Stalin were probably the two most directly responsible for twentieth-century deaths, and those are due more to Lysenkoism than evolutionary biology.
The eugenics movement wasn't a wild, irrational perversion of Darwinism. It was a perfectly logical extension. (p. 269)
Sure it was, in the same way that the Auschwitz gas chambers were a "perfectly logical extension" of pesticide development. (The term for this rhetorical tactic is "guilt by association.")
Hitler's embrace of Darwinism is not a random fact, unrelated to the reason we know his name. It is impossible to understand Hitler's monstrous views apart from his belief in natural selection applied to races. He believed Darwin's theory of natural selection showed that "science" justified the extermination of the Jews. (p. 271)
It is impossible to understand Hitler's monstrous views apart from his belief in the anti-Semitism endemic within German's Christianity in general and Lutheranism in particular (see here and here).
Once man's connection to the divine is denied, you can reason yourself from here to anywhere. As Jean-Paul Sartre said, "If God is dead, everything is permitted." (p. 277)
Sorry, Ann. I believe Dostoyevsky is the author you're looking for, who put the questions "But what will become of men then, without God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?" in the mouth of Mitya in The Brothers Karamazov. (Coulter may have misjudged her audience by mentioning Sartre. He and Dostoyevsky wrote dense, meaningful books that will never be bulk-purchased by right-wing groups in order to create the illusion of best-seller status.)
Given Coulter's extreme problems with telling the truth, it is not too much of an exaggeration to re-use Mary McCarthy's quip about Lillian Hellman: "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."