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OK, but "Bias" was better
on February 13, 2003
This is, like most recent books on politics, an obvious case of preaching to the choir. If you want to see liberals get trashed, it doesn't get much better than this. Most books of this genre seem to come from radio talk show hosts and it shows in the writing, which is often chatty and lacking in depth (as if their authors, befitting their trade, simply dictated the text into a microphone) but Coulter is a skilled writer and it shows. This is PJ O'Rourke on PMS, and when she sharpens her poison pen, look out! This book is loaded with zingers, early on we get this about the war on terror: "Here the country had finally given liberals a war against fundamentalism and they didn't want to fight it. They would have, except it would have put them on the same side as the United States." For 205 pages Coulter launches a relentless attack on the Left, focusing the bulk of her ire on the liberal media. She makes many of the same points as Bernard Goldberg does in "Bias", only she does so with considerably more gusto. People who are tired of feeling that the media elites sneer at them and their values will find much to like here, she channels their anger and focuses it like a laser beam on her targets. Their vacuousness, mendacity, and one-sidedness are exposed for all to see.
Of course, much of her book simply backs up pre-existing views. The notion that the media tilts left is hardly new; she simply provides evidence to back it up. If nothing else, she certainly didn't slack off when it came to research, the book contains something like 800 footnotes, so it's obvious that she did her homework. It is enlightening to learn, for example, that conservative authors vastly outsell books by liberals, yet publishers routinely offer the latter much larger advances, the implication being that publishers are willing to let ideology trump basic business sense. And she performs the valuable service of debunking the notion that the success of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative pundits are "proof" of a lack of media bias because this fails to make the distinction between the "opinion" media versus the "hard news" media. After all, Rush and his ilk make no bones about their political leaning whereas liberals like Dan Rather insist on calling themselves "objective" when they simply aren't. All in all, Coulter, like the lawyer she is, argues a convincing case.
Of course, the counter to this book is to say that, as an author playing the role of advocate, it's obvious she's only doing what a good lawyer does, namely argue the best case for her cause, which naturally means that only facts that support her point of view will be given. Informed readers will take that as a given, and judge accordingly. The down side, however, is this means authors like Coulter (and left wing counterparts like Mike Moore) simply contribute, not enlightenment, but further polarization. Coulter's acerbic wit is quite capable of becoming shrill, even bitter at times. Her fans love her for this, but in addition to antagonizing her foes, she also runs the risk of alienating centrists who might otherwise be persuaded to see things her way. In contrast, readers of Bernard Goldberg's "Bias" are also presented with a strong case for the notion of liberal bias in the media, but he's much less strident and he's willing to appeal to both moderates and liberals. The other night he was on Hardball with Chris Matthews doing a live show on a college campus. With a combination of facts and solid arguments delivered with a serious, yet pleasant, demeanor, he worked the crowd like the media pro he is. The audience, which was mostly young and liberal, listened respectfully to his points. He may not have changed many people's minds outright, but I'll bet more than a few students at least will give the matter some thought. In contrast, it's a fair bet that, had Coulter been on that show instead, she would have succeeded primarily in convincing the majority of that audience to reject her views while winning little, if any, support.