Ann Coulter is a guilty pleasure (no pun intended!). I always enjoy reading her since she’s unmatched in her flair for marshaling anecdotes and statistics to defend her conservative take on the world. Reading her, I invariably wish more liberals would take her seriously and accept the challenges to their assumptions implied in her bold assertions.
But it’s not to be, because Coulter is also our nation’s most blistering satirist, loading each page of her books with punishing sarcasm so intense that anyone on the business side of it is likely to get hurt. (With this book, the third of hers that I’ve read, I finally noticed just how often she’ll develop a paragraph with unflinching facts to make a case, cite a source, and then throw away the last line of the paragraph on a snarky taunt. As humor, it works and she’s good at it.)
So Coulter’s not looking to make any converts here, which is good if our priority is to be entertained while having our understanding of the world reinforced, but not so much if we want to win over the hearts of those who might be contributing to the problems she laments so that we might actually improve things.
Coulter’s thesis in Guilty is substantially similar to that of her second book, Slander: the media is heavily biased against Republicans and in favor of Democrats. However, Guilty updates the examples and focuses on more specific areas of the double standard, such as the fixation with claiming victimhood and decrying the “Republican attack machine.”
As in Coulter’s other work, she is at her weakest as she composes with a frenetic, rambling energy. When I read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, my most consistent thought was how impressed I was by his rigorous organization: each thought clearly connected to all others in a series, each flowing together and supporting his points in balanced, logical order. I wanted to outline it, which would be a natural application of Mill’s text.
Outlining Coulter would be much harder. She often jumps trains of thought sans transitions, obsesses over relatively minor episodes that clearly fascinate her even if the reader would probably prefer to see more discussion of the major events that she sometimes gives short shrift, and even ends her book with a peremptory conclusion compacted into a single paragraph, as if she ran out of time and needed to wrap things up with only a rough recapitulation.
The best thing about the book is what makes those idiosyncratic flaws tolerable. The second chapter, the already famous one about single mothers, is jaw dropping. Coulter lays out the facts: children raised by single mothers account for the vast majority of all social dysfunction in our country, and we encourage it in the name of self-fulfillment for adults.
I saw Coulter on a segment of Dr. Phil recently, and he laid into her about it. She defended the facts, but he came back with the excuses that one would expect: not all women choose to be in that position, and not all children from that environment turn out bad.
Actually, Coulter’s chapter mentioned multiple times that, while divorced women do tend to have problem children, the worst demographic, and the target of her criticism, are the increasing numbers of women who choose to have children without having ever been married at all. No matter how many “heroic” women Dr. Phil trots out to dish about their abusive ex husbands and their struggle to make ends meet for their honors student, it won’t cancel out the fact that most of America’s ills have their roots in such homes, and that they’re a substandard substitute for a loving, two parent nuclear family.
Finally, one more thought. In a later chapter, Coulter contrasts the many hypocritical “victims” lionized by the liberal media establishment with those conservatives who have actually been harassed and even attacked. I was surprised that, despite several public incidents of violence against her, Coulter left herself out of the list. I credit this to her dignity and desire to not indulge in the kind of self promotion she scorns throughout her book.
Good for her.