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the comedo-political spectrum

Books discussed in this essay:

Rall, Ted. Wake Up, You're Liberal!: How We Can Take America Back from the Right (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2004) (Amazon link, my review)

Rall, Ted. Generalissimo El Busho: Essays and Cartoons on the Bush Years (New York: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing, 2004) (Amazon link, my review)

Coulter, Ann. Godless: The Church of Liberalism (New York: Crown Forum, 2006) (Amazon link, my review)

After reading a slew of books on liberalism last month, I spent a little time on the (mostly) lighter side of the liberal-vs.-conservative divide. At first glance, it might seem unfair to discuss two of Rall's books along with one of Coulter's; however, this doesn't begin to remedy the disparity in media coverage the two authors have received. While both Coulter and Rall are political provocateurs, Coulter is often considered newsworthy for penning her slanted screeds while Rall is usually pilloried for his political incorrectness. In the small (to some) area of accuracy, there is no question that Rall does a far better job than Coulter at expressing positions that are backed up by facts. She may be the more flamboyant and successful pundit, but he has more than mere opinion on his side.

I previously noted the errors in Rall's Wake Up and Generalissimo el Busho in my reviews, but they were outweighed by at least one order of magnitude by Coulter's outright lies in Godless. In addition being much less frequent, Rall's mistakes were generally misattribution of quotes, where accuracy was not central to his arguments. Coulter's errors, on the other hand, were such that removing them from consideration destroyed the carefully knit fabric of distortions upon which her conclusions rely.

MediaMatters takes issue with Coulter's misinformation on evolution, which she charmingly parodied as the "Flatulent Raccoon Theory," citing factual errors in ten different subject areas:

Coulter devotes two whole chapters to the discussion of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Throughout, she offers falsehoods, misleading statements, and distortions of evolutionary theory, all packaged with smears of prominent progressive and Democratic figures as well as news reporters and media personalities.

Media Matters also notes that Coulter's endnotes are, as usual, "rife with distortions and falsehoods." They cite fourteen errors of documentation, concluding that:

Coulter routinely misrepresented the information of her sources, as well as omitted inconvenient information within those same sources that refuted her claims. Coulter relied upon secondary sources to support many of her claims, as well as unreliable or outdated information.

In addition to demonstrating her poor scholarship, this analysis also made clear Coulter's lack of respect for her readers, who she clearly assumed would believe anything she wrote, as long as there was a citation attached to it.

PZ Myers at Pharyngula examines Coulter's "No Evidence for Evolution" claim and, echoing MediaMatters' criticisms, is "at a loss to say in words how abysmally awful this book is:"

This far right-wing political pundit with no knowledge of science at all has written a lengthy tract that is wall-to-wall error: To cover it all would require a sentence-by-sentence dissection that would generate another book, ten times longer than Coulter's, all merely to point out that her book is pure garbage. So I'm stumped. I'm not interested in writing such a lengthy rebuttal, and I'm sure this is exactly what Coulter is counting on--tell enough lazy lies, and no one in the world will have time enough to correct them conscientiously. She's a shameless fraud.

Betty Bowers' review gives Coulter's book the treatment it really deserves; perhaps--if I had a greater gift for comedy--I should do the same in the future rather than refuting her falsehoods. Despite the tedium involved in documenting the never-ending stream of right-wing hypocrisies, Raw Story did some investigating and discovered that Ms Coulter is "unknown at [the] church she claims to attend." The Communications and Media Director of the church Coulter claimed to attend, New York's Redeemer Presbyterian Church, commented:

"The only thing I have heard is hearsay that she is an attender. Our database shows that she is not a member. [...] And I don't know anybody that would have seen Ann Coulter. We don't really know her."

Being a godless liberal, I might be completely off-base here...but isn't there a biblical prohibition against lying?

In all fairness, some of the criticisms levied against Coulter by her detractors are also valid in respect to Rall: Each is prone to callous insensitivity in the search for humor, each has quite an appetite for publicity, and each is both infuriating and entertaining--although partisans will disagree about which is which.

What separates them (besides the black cocktail dress) is that Ted Rall isn't full of shit.

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