Robert Stacy McCain’s main point in his review of Ann Coulter’s Godless: The Church of Liberalism (“Is Ann Coulter Among the Prophets?” September) seems to be that those of us who are not blonde and blue-eyed should not envy those who are.  (“But we all cannot be blue-eyed blondes, and, in the Age of Media, many must toil in thankless obscurity while a favored few reap fame and fortune.”)

The question is not whether Chronicles editors and contributors sit around pouting because they are not called upon to be pundits on television.  The question is why such people as Coulter, with scant credentials, receive such fortunate attention, while others who are well established do not—and, indeed, would “toil in thankless obscurity” or be forgotten altogether, were it not for Chronicles.

Ann Coulter was just another East Coast lawyer when, in 1996, for some reason, she got her first gig on the fledgling MSNBC as a “legal analyst.”  What influential paper had she written on law, or what famous case was she part of that merited this promotion into the world of celebrity punditry?  Her vaulting into prominence over people who have far more distinguished legal careers strikes at the heart of the popular conservative argument that hard work and talent are all it takes to achieve success in society.

Coulter belongs to a group of “conservative” celebrity pundits who emerged in the 1990’s on cable television and talk shows.  They used personal, family, and celebrity connections to get jobs as writers for well-known conservative publications or as fellows at think tanks, or to become regular guests on Sunday-morning news programs.  And, while these people were enjoying their newfound fame, such scholars as M.E. Bradford, Murray Rothbard, Samuel Francis, and Paul Gottfried were ignored.

McCain claims that Coulter’s notoriety enables her to reach many thousands who would never read a Berkeley law professor’s book, let alone anything by Joe Sobran or Peter Brimelow.  At this moment, thousands who have access to the internet can order a book by Joe Sobran or Peter Brimelow or read their articles on the web.  It’s not as though such works are kept hidden in vaults away from the general public.  What gives Coulter notoriety is a general media culture that affords her every opportunity to put outlandish statements in print or to say them on the air (like claiming, after September 11, that Al Qaeda was planting nukes in Manhattan), which generates more notoriety, which creates more demand for her talk-show presence and her books.  The idea, as McCain says, that a “friendly editor would take the time to talk her out of the most egregious of her excesses” is silly.  Miss Coulter would undoubtedly tell the editor to go to hell, as she did National Review’s editors, because she knows full well that such “egregious excesses” provide her with the publicity that she craves.

        —Sean Scallon
Arkansaw, WI

Whether or not one concurs with Robert Stacy McCain’s appreciation of Ann Coulter, we must agree that the icon is wrong.  Miss Coulter should not be displayed in the modest robes of the maiden who is the Mother of God but as the icon she has chosen for herself—in a leather vest with a golden cross dangling in ample cleavage.  Such “cross in the cleavage” Christianity better conveys the sense of religion as ornament.  It is not that I object to the ornaments of religion; indeed, as one who loves Christian art, I recognize the connection between the cosmos and the cosmetic, between ornament and order.  Nevertheless, a religion that is entirely cosmetic calls for no conversion; it is entirely a matter of denouncing one’s enemies—except, of course, the enemy one sees in the mirror.

McCain is correct that Coulter identifies some serious targets.  Given the nature of political liberalism, the game is simply too easy, and too overworked.  Further, it is not the most important game in town, even if it is the most profitable.  The liberals who identify themselves as such are not really the problem anymore.  Rather, it is the liberals who call themselves “conservatives,” neo- or otherwise, who pose the real and present danger.  Critiquing them requires some self-examination, however, just as authentic Christianity does.  Coulter and the high-decibel talk-show hosts (if a term connected with hospitality can really apply) critique all liberalisms but their own and their party’s.  The task of self-examination has been relegated to a few cultural outliers, such as Chronicles and the American Conservative.

In the kinky Christianity of Coulter, the small cross dangles among, er, larger concerns and is subordinate to them, both visually and actually.  Now that’s good iconography.  Miss Coulter’s cover-art icon accurately conveys her true concerns, and we, as conservative gentlemen, ought to respect the lady’s wishes.

        —John C. Médaille
Irving, TX

Mr. McCain Replies:

I entirely sympathize with the concerns of both Mr. Scallon and Mr. Médaille.

Perhaps I did not make it sufficiently clear that—in referencing the fact that Miss Coulter’s telegenic blondeness has aided her rise in the Age of Media—I was lamenting the way in which ideas are not judged on merit but by the camera-readiness of the ideologues.  Some good ideas do not reduce easily to 30-second sound bites, and some admirable thinkers do not come across well on TV.  And I hope that Mr. Scallon understands that there was some self-deprecating humor involved, as I myself have the proverbial “face for radio.”

As for Mr. Médaille’s concerns about Miss Coulter’s display of the cross amid her cleavage—well, this is how fashionable young women dress today, and Miss Coulter does not consult me about her wardrobe choices.  Nor do TV producers consult me about the rancorous “shout show” format, which is a terrible way to present ideas; for some strange reason, it is very popular with audiences.

At any rate, if I failed to distill my review into a thesis, I will now: It is good when a popular and prominent conservative figure dares to fraternize with us rogues who don’t blindly follow the Movement herd.