Both of these books are written by young, self-styled conservatives; both demonstrate indisputably the unfounded charges made against the “right” by the media and academics; both easily devastate the biased and factually inaccurate statements about Republicans, conservatives, and the American past and present that emanate from the cultural left.  The TV personalities Ann Coulter goes after, such as the simpering pinheads Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, treat Republican centrists as if they were closet members of the “extreme right.”  And the intellectual left’s lies about the United States (which attribute to it a racist, sexist, and “homophobic” character) can be refuted—as, indeed, Flynn does—with minimal difficulty, as nearly all of them involve judging American life by angelic multicultural standards that no society outside of the contemporary Western world could hope to approach.

While understanding that what Coulter and Flynn deplore is widespread in all Western “democracies,” I am left nevertheless to wonder why the cultural-political left behaves in the manner they describe, since—from where I stand—it has already won its wars.  If John Gray and John O’Sullivan are correct, the United States represents the “utopia of the left,” the instantiation of political correctness and the social reconstruction by state managers for which every post-Marxist leftist yearns.  The Republican Party feverishly pursues Democratic constituencies: Having given us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and affirmative action, it is now trying to outdo the Democrats by advocating bilingualism and Hispanic immigration.  Why do misnamed liberals bother to attack these wussies at all?  I am not denying that what Coulter and Flynn tell us about biased reporting is true: I am merely perplexed as to why the “slanders” and “lies” they address are issued in the first place.

A possible answer is suggested by Coulter’s recurrent complaint—starting with the first sentence of her book—that “political ‘debate’ in this country is insufferable.”  The insufferability, of course, is deliberate: Intemperate assaults are a tactic by which the established left and the neoconservatives keep conservative opinion from being heard and considered.  Although certifiable lightweights can be found in this crowd, most of the media left see verbal intimidation as useful for advancing their agenda—and preventing American politics from veering rightward.  The media find it useful as well to have me-too Republicans occasionally alternating with liberal Democrats, and they incessantly slobber over George Will and Bill Kristol; nevertheless, they understand the need to keep things under control by treating Rush Limbaugh as a far-right personality—as if to indicate that anyone to the right of this Republican shill will feel the full brunt of their anger.  Thus the “slander” and the “hate America” language that Coulter and Flynn attack are guardrails set up to restrict political discourse and political policy to the left side of the field.

A year ago last September (obviously before December 2002’s Lottgate), David Broder labeled Jesse Helms—who had just announced his impending retirement—“the last racist senator.”  The evidence Broder adduced for his accusation is that Helms had voted against Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as a national holiday and had made an issue in his 1983 senatorial race of the fact that his black liberal opponent had grown rich on racial set asides.  Broder, who is now in his 70’s, must remember that many congressmen, as well as President Reagan, expressed strong reservations about the King holiday for nonracial reasons (e.g., King’s less than honorable past).  Moreover, challenging the merits of affirmative action, or criticizing the material advantages that one’s opponent obtained from this arrange-ment, is not the equivalent of teaching or practicing a doctrine of racial inequality.  What Broder was really saying is that those who control the communications business will not tolerate those who move right—even as far to the right as where a Humphrey Democrat once stood.  His real message was, Republicans had better accept the changes we have brought about, or we’ll bring out the heavy artillery, the way we did against Helms and Buchanan.

Convincing as their illustrations of leftist splenetics are, both Flynn and Coulter slip at times into the rigidity of movement conservatism.  Flynn’s concluding chapter, “America’s True Legacy,” reads like a spin-off from a Dinesh D’Souza lecture series at the Heritage Foundation, while Coulter feels obliged to compliment neoconservatives who have been coddled by the media empire.  Should conservatives take grave offense that the media refuse to treat Bill Bennett as a serious scholar or that they have taken notice of the repetitiveness of his anthologies (the sales of which are as inexplicable to me as they are to the New York Times)?

Coulter devotes several paragraphs to complaining about the insufficient regard that the publishing world has accorded Dinesh D’Souza, who received an advance of $150,000 on his last book, compared with the $600,000 payment made to feminist author Naomi Wolf for hers.  She never mentions that authentic conservatives of an earlier period frequently died in apostolic poverty.


[Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, by Ann Coulter (New York: Crown Publishers) 256 pp., $25.95]

[Why the Left Hates America, by Daniel J. Flynn (Roseville, California: Prima-Crown Publishers) 223 pp., $23.95]