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A self-described "Liberal," who actually read the book with an open mind
on July 19, 2006
I'm a liberal, but often I read books by conservative authors such as Robert H. Bork ("Slouching Towards Gomorrah"), Thomas Sowell ("Black Rednecks and White Liberals"; "Economics Politics"; and "Race and Culture: Around the World"), Walter Williams, and Shelby Steele. I jokingly say to my friends, "It's good to know what the enemy's thinking." But on a serious note, some of these more illuminating conservative writers have very good arguments concerning the various political and social problems of the day and arguments, which are grounded in logic, experience, and reason.
That bring us to Ann Coulter's book, "Godless". I read it because of the controversy surrounding the book. I'm a native New Yorker, so it was interesting to read her book coupled with her public comments. In conclusion, I must say that the book is full of witty satirical prose, but the book is very short on arguments. Instead, it delves into ranting, at times, downright hatred of liberals. The arguments are very one-sided, which is disappointing because it seems that Coulter engages in a classic "strawman" argument: setting up the opposition and their positions in the weakest manner possible and then countering them, not with logical arguments: premise, premise, conclusion; but rather straight to conclusions--very outrageous and particularly harsh ones at that. In addition, the number of times she engages in the logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem (appeal to ridicule) is unforgivable, particularly for a writer and scholar of her supposed ability and stature (this is the first Coulter book I've read). For the few arguments that may be somewhat logical and convincing, Coulter's ability to jump to dubious universally applicable conclusions based on skewed facts and quotations paired with the unbelievably harsh prose at times, is a real turn-off for a person approaching the book with an open mind or politcally moderate. Further, the book seems to ignore examples that stand contrary to Coulter's standard liberal caricature, as if Coulter casted the liberal ideology accurately and confronted them head-on, the book might have been decent--but I find Coulter's intellectual honesty inherently suspect throughout the book. If one does get this book, I would suggest checking the sources, as I did (particularly concerning the 9/11 widows and the 9/11 commission--I won't supply my findings here, I suggest you read the book and draw your own conclusions), and even the Biblical quotations are skewed and crudely interpreted to imply divine hatred of liberals.
In this book, there is no debunking of a somewhat accurate liberal belief system, with straight analysis and facts, that you might find in Bork, Sowell, Williams, or Steele. While those aforementioned authors can be harsh writiers as well, their analysis is clear and logical. Certainly, Sowell and Steele in particular, made me reconsider and challenge some of the political and social perceptions concerning my race--a mea culpa of sorts (I'm an African-American male). I didn't become greatly more conservative as a result, but those authors added more clarity to the political discourse concerning race in our country. It was a refreshing intellectual experience, and I was well-rewarding for reading those who challenged my preconceived notions of how the world operates. However, if you are looking for such an experience in this "Godless," I would emphatically urge you to look elsewhere. But, if you want to fill your head with at times, nonsensical ranting, unsupported facts, and virulent hatred then read the book. The other conservative authors I listed above, I would recommend you reading instead, regardless of your political ideology. In conclusion, I would simply chalk Coulter's book as another step in the decline of reasonable and civil political discourse in this country.