Saturday, June 17, 2006

Coult, Coulter, Coultest

Lawrence Auster and some of his readers have the knives out for Ann Coulter and her new book, Godless. The subject of his and others' denunciation is not her now much-publicized trashing of the New Jersey Black Widows, but -- are you ready for this? -- the book cover. I'd write him directly but there are already so many entries around this post that I doubt he wants to add any more.

Auster:
... Why, oh why, on the cover of a book criticizing the “Godless” religion of liberalism, does she put this excessively revealing photo of herself?

Coulter godless.jpg
If Coulter’s purpose is to support God and religion against the attacks of modern irreligion, why the arrogant pose that seems emblematic of modern irreligion? What is Coulter’s message? To me she is saying that her free expression of herself, i.e., her liberalism, trumps anything she may have to say in the book against liberalism. True, she doesn’t like the liberal attack on traditional belief in God. But what she herself really believes in is her own half-naked self.
A correspondent named Ben writes:
There you go again Mr. Auster, hitting the nail on the head. She seems to be promoting her body more than God. It’s her arrogance, her complete love of herself, and this is what makes her in my book irrelevant to our cause.
Another, identified as J., cranks up the volume:
As far as I can tell, Coulter plays to two audiences without whom she would not be so well-known.

First, aging, Playboy-era, country club Republican men who like to hole up in their fairway retirement developments and congratulate themselves on what a success they and their Republican politics have been. These men are just frightened enough of their slide into old age, and of their dim sense that their world is increasingly bubble-like, that they cling desperately to younger, mildly attractive exhibitionist women like Coulter who reaffirm what a success they and their Republican politics have been.

Second, the bewildered children of the first group, who grew up in this self-congratulatory but somewhat delusional atmosphere while unknowingly imbibing most of the liberalism in which they have been immersed. ...
Oh, come along, folks.

I am aging -- as I suspect "J." is as well -- and even worse, old enough to remember when Playboy supposedly was a cultural icon. (I am not a Republican, nor as far as I can remember have I ever darkened the door of a country club, let alone belonged to one.) But I submit that Larry Auster, for whom I have no end of respect, and his readers are huffing and puffing about sweet nothing.

Look: Ann Coulter is on the book cover for the same reason that a the cover of a title by any celebrity has an author photo, viz., she has her fan club and they will buy her book. And although I have not read Godless and I doubt that I will, I feel confident in saying that it is not literature but a political and social argument, written in hot colors without a lot of shading, and laced with her characteristic wit.

Therefore, given its nature and style, as well as its intended audience, the publisher would have been daft to have commissioned an artist to produce erudite, subtle cover art (perhaps a quattrocento Italian painting of the Trinity with God the Father replaced by Oprah).

As for her "promoting her body more than God," I say ish kabibble.

For my taste, Ann Coulter isn't strikingly attractive, but perhaps she thinks she is and there are blokes who think she is. What's wrong with that? If this be treason make the most of it. Are Larry and his acolytes saying that we can't take on board Coulter's writing because she's showing some skin? Why is her "free expression of herself," if that's what it is, liberalism? Would she be a true conservative if she showed up on her book covers wearing a hideous pants suit, à la Hillary?

Coulter is an agent provocateur, whose style is to savage liberal pieties with cutting, funny, in-your-face rhetoric. She is a verbal exhibitionist and it would be surprising if her persona were anything different. You can claim that some of the things she says are overheated or plain nutty, but that's a whole different level of discourse. It is demeaning to attack her on the grounds that she is somehow violating a sacred trust by being pictured in a cocktail dress that is less peek-a-boo than what you can see on the cover of any number of supermarket magazines.

Larry Auster is a profound political thinker who has struggled long and hard -- and shown immense moral courage in the process -- to rescue traditional conservatism from the pseudo-conservatism that has unconsciously absorbed the liberal mind set. Not being particularly given to politics myself, I owe a great deal to this man who has plumbed much farther beneath the surface than I have.

But why must he bash people whose style is different from his, but who are nevertheless on his side, and very effective into the bargain? I'm thinking not only of Ann Coulter but Mark Steyn. And I even agree with him when he complains that Steyn seems more interested in getting off a good line than in calling attention to the devastating effects of mass immigration in the United States, and that he seems at times to take Europe's procession toward dhimmitude as a joke rather than as a tragedy.

But in their own way, Coulter and Steyn -- whatever their idiosyncrasies or limitations -- have done immense good, even helping to bring Austerity closer to the "center" of the political spectrum. For literally millions of people, they've scuppered the idea that conservatives are long-faced, bow-tied, owlish miserableists. They've conveyed that conservatism can be whip-crackingly snappy and fun, and opened countless minds in the process.

Taking down the Liberal Establishment needs all kinds of people. It needs Larry Auster to remind us that a society, to be humane and truly nurturing, has to be grounded in the wisdom of the ages and the spiritual impulse. It also needs court jesters. The political correctness bully, like other forms of tyrant, fears the laugh more than the assassin's bullet.

2 comments:

Michaelcd said...

I have to agree with you Rick.

There are many admirable things about Larry Auster, but is Coulter really wearing trashy clothing? Personally, I think she looks reasonably classy. IMO if we are talking about decorum, then simply showing a bit of flesh is hardly the worst sin. Its far worse to see an overweight woman in overly tight jeans!

Lawrence Auster said...

While I appreciate Mr. Darby's compliments, I must say that his criticisms of my criticism of the cover of Godless are off the mark, epitomized by his suggestion that the only alternative to an excessively revealing outfit is a sexless Hillary Clinton-type pants suit. I respectfully suggest that Mr. Darby read the discussion again, and see what I actually said. My central point is that if you're publishing a book attacking the modern liberal godless culture, you don't put a picture of yourself on the cover looking like the epitome of that culture. And this reflects a deeper problem in modern conservatism, which is that it opposes liberalism on some political issues, while unconsciously accepting and subscribing to a whole range of unspoken liberal tastes, attitudes, and values. Since such unspoken values determine to a great extent what we are and what we think, modern conservatism is hamstrung in fighting against liberalism.

The proof of what I just said is seen in the displeasure various critics including Mr. Darby have expressed about my criticism of Coulter. The notion that we should take exception to the way anyone dresses seems silly and ridiculous. The attitude is, "People can dress the way they like! It's a free world. It's my business how I dress! What's your problem, man?" The conservatives raising these objections to me do not realize the extent to which they unconsciously share the modern liberal sensibility.

I also made clear that I am interested in Coulter's book, and that the parts of it I've read are terrific. The notion that I am saying that the cover photo "disqualifies" the book is false, a further result of people failing to read what I actually said.