A clarification

Responses to my challenge at the end of this article are trickling in, but so far, none of them are filling the bill. Let me explain what is not an appropriate reply:

  • Cackling that Coulter must be right because she’s got “liberal panties in a twist” is not cogent.
  • Telling me that the “WHOLE BOOK PROVES LIBERALS ARE THE PROBLEM WITH AMERICA” is not cogent.
  • Promising to pray for me, or assuring me that I will burn in hell, is not cogent.
  • Explicit details about how Ann Coulter is sexier than “fat harry hippie jew girls” is not cogent.

Here’s the simple summary. Ann Coulter has written this long book full of creationist gobbledygook. I can’t possibly take the whole thing apart, so I’m asking the Coulter fans to get specific in their support. Pick a paragraph that you agree with and that you believe makes a strong, supportable point about science—anything from chapters 8-11 will do. Don’t be vague, be specific. I’ll reply with details of my disagreement (or heck, maybe you’ll find some innocuous paragraph that I agree with—I’ll mention that here, too.)

Because the letters I am getting suggest that those fans have some comprehension problems, I’ll spell it out.

  1. Read Coulter’s book, Godless. (uh-oh, I may have just filtered out 90% of her fans with that first word.)
  2. Pick ONE paragraph from chapters 8-11 that you think is just wonderfully insightful, and that you agree with entirely.
  3. Open up your email software, and compose a message to me. You can use a pseudonym, but please do use a valid email address. I won’t publish your address, but I’m not going to reply to people I can’t contact.
  4. Type in the paragraph that you think is solid and believable. Yeah, it’s a tiny bit of work, but it’ll save me the trouble of typing it in myself. You’re a believer, it’s worth it, right?
  5. Explain briefly why you think this paragraph is good stuff. If you want to explain a little bit of the context in justification, that’s good too.
  6. Send it to me.

That’s not so hard now, is it? I’m finding that Coulter fans are fervent and enthusiastic and insistent, so asking them to take baby steps with me and show me the simplest first fragments that will lead to my comprehension of the wit and insight of the faboo Ms Coulter shouldn’t be too much to ask.

I promise to post any submissions that meet those criteria, with my reply, as long as I don’t get too many cut&paste jobs at once.

By the way, would Coulter critics please stop focusing on her appearance and dress, or speculating about her sexuality? I don’t find that any more appropriate than the guy who wrote to me about all those liberal women with armpit hair.


  1. Bachalon says

    I know this might be opening a can of worms, but would you mind posting the most out there of your e-mails? It would make easy filler material (and be fun to read besides).

  2. says

    There’s so much that I have to be spare with it. I get criticism for mentioning Coulter too often as it is — if I did open that can of worms, there’d be a dozen hate mail posts a day published here, and I guarantee you, it would get old.

    Besides, after you’ve read a few, they get really boring fast. I’m getting quick with the delete key.

  3. says

    You have my sympathies, Professor. The worst I’ve ever had to deal with were loony supporters of the Bogdanov brothers. They rival creationists and Coulterites for poor logic and self-expression skills, but they come in smaller numbers.

    Keep exercising that Delete key!

  4. Paul S says

    Better still, post what you feel to be the best of the lot of replies. The worst of the lot are easy pickings. There’s no sport in shooting a sitting duck.

  5. Hoyt Pollard says

    While I agree that the godless should refrain from commenting on Ms. Coulter’s appearance, isn’t that the primary reason for her popularity? Isn’t that what keeps her phone ringing with requests to appear on Jay Leno?

  6. PaulC says

    I agree that Coulter’s appearance should be irrelevant, but Coulter herself makes it part of the discussion with her own taunts about liberal women. Personally, I think she’s not intrinsically terrible looking, but she’s not the supermodel she apparently thinks she is. I guess if you’re just going over a checklist: blonde, tall, rake-thin, you might mistake her for being attractive if that’s what you’re into. The icy stare kind of ruins it, even if you don’t know the hate she spews.

    While I would never admit to watching America’s Top Model, I think Tyra Banks could give Coulter a serious dressing down. That is one Coulter interview I might be willing to watch.

  7. Dianne says

    There’s no sport in shooting a sitting duck.

    There’s a Cheney joke in there somewhere, but I’m not sure where and it’s probably tasteless anyway.

  8. Scott H says

    I rather agree with PaulC that Coulter herself can’t stop talking about her appearance (as if an eye-catching woman has to remind people).

    But what I would really like to see is some interviewer quiz her on the peppered moth experiments. Because I’m sure that she put no more thought into her typing than any other stenographer and probably doesn’t even remember, let alone understand, what she wrote.

  9. BlueIndependent says

    PZ, I think if you make a big list of the positive affects society has had from studying evolution, it would enlighten a few people. Sometimes I think the religious types that are calling for evolution’s “reassessment” (to put it mildly) are really asking for quantification on what it’s done for our society.

    A post that outlines these things would silence critics I think.

  10. MikeM says

    Coulter definitely makes her physical appearance one of the issues. She admits to this freely. But this definitely does not justify some of the comments I’ve read here. This is one of the things she brings up I choose to ignore.

    I think we’re all responding to baiting, though. Look… She’s a conservative, and much of what I’ve heard and read her say regarding Arabs is just plain ol’ bigotry. I can’t excuse that. I take racism seriously and personally, for my own reasons. I don’t care who it’s directed towards.

    But she’s only doing this to make us mad. We’re her best publicity. Yes, it’s kind of fun forcing her defenders to defend her specific comments, but you wonder how serious the emails you’re going to get will be.

    Understand that this is her schtick. She doesn’t care how mad we get. The madder, the better, I’m sure.

    She’s anti-academic. She’s preaching to the 20% who will never, ever, be convinced that evolution is scientifically valid.

    I admire what you’re doing here, PZ, and look forward to seeing some of the truly silly defenses you’ll get.

  11. Sexy Sadie says

    But she’s only doing this to make us mad. We’re her best publicity.

    I am a very liberal woman and proud of it. Ms. Coulter would probably hate me. But I don’t care–I don’t take her seriously at all. I would no more take her words to heart than I would the words of an angry four-year-old.

  12. PaulC says


    But she’s only doing this to make us mad. We’re her best publicity.

    Here’s where I disagree. She’s not doing her thing to make “us” mad; it’s to make her groupies feel superior and keep buying her spew. She doesn’t care how “we” react. If liberals greeted Coulter with a collective yawn, she’d invent ones that were mad. She invents all the other ones.

    The best publicity for Coulter is not blogs like PZ’s, which are known only to a small if influential segment of the population, but mainstream shows–e.g. the Today show, the Tonight show–which give her a platform, treat her respectfully, and suggest that she has some kind of contribution to make to the public dialogue. As long as they keep doing this, it really doesn’t matter what we do.

  13. PaulC says

    Don’t get me wrong, though. I agree with everybody that it’d be nice if Coulter were like that Jack-The-Ripper fear-feeding creature in the old Star Trek episode and if we had the power to wish her away just by refusing to take her seriously. Sadly, though, I’m pretty sure that assumption is little more than magical thinking.

  14. Kagehi says

    Cackling that Coulter must be right because she’s got “liberal panties in a twist” is not cogent.

    We have had the conservatives panties in a twist since Galileo and Capernicus first suggested that the earth wasn’t in fact the literal center of the universe. By their own bizarre assumptions that would make us like Vulcans at least of maybe the sons of the Greek god Apollo, instead of Adam or something. lol I mean if the guage of how “right” you are is based on how many people you piss off, we must be so right in our views that libraries will start collapsing into singularities any day now from the shear mass of the “rightness”. Yeah… I know, but it is “their” cartoon logic we are talking about here, not scientific logic, so in their universe its not impossible to reach a critical mass of knowledge and implode. It might even explain why some of them are so ignorant, they must have started off with a lot of high gravity cosmic string in their brain tissue and well, you add a bit more matter and… ;) lol

  15. Unstable Isotope says

    Challenge Ann to back up her claims. IMO, if you’re going to write that science is wrong, you need to back up your claims. She claims “evidence doesn’t support evolution.” Which evidence is that? If she is going to opine on the validity of science, she’s obviously claiming an expertise in the field. Now, that’s an interview I’d like to see, Ann trying to win a scientific debate.

  16. Molly, NYC says

    I’m with PaulC and Scott H. I appreciate the need to keep these threads from rolling straight into the gutter, and that Coulter’s appearance, etc. aren’t really germaine to her Alice-in-Wonderland science opinions.

    However, discussing Coulter’s looks isn’t like discussing, say, Laura Bush or Hillary Clinton in that vein. Bush and Clinton don’t make a big deal about their looks. Their careers aren’t particularly wrapped up in their looks.

    And Bush and Clinton don’t denigrate other women’s looks–Coulter is the only female in public life I can think of who does that. Nor are there any American political commentators, Left or Right, male or female, with anywhere near as much riding on their appearence. (1)

    So she’s the one who brought it up, and not in a nice way. And Coulter doesn’t just call other women ugly–when she does so, she usually contrasts herself as a major babe.

    So what happens to her when she’s not?

    Alas, age is to physical beauty what Alzheimer’s is to brains. Most women, as their looks fade, have (or hope to have) people in their lives who love them, and who they love, independantly of their beauty. Most women also get that prettiness is such a transient (and usually artificial) quality that there’s no point in putting much stock in it. Coulter has none of these going for her, and the next decade is going to be far crueler to her than anything anyone on the Left can say.

    It’s going to be fun to watch.

    (1) Good colorists don’t come cheap, and Coulter’s is obviously excellent (I don’t mean that as snippage–say what you will about Coulter, her hair always looks great). OTOH, someone seems to have oversold her on the universal appropriateness of a Little Black Dress.

  17. cm says

    the next decade is going to be far crueler to her than anything anyone on the Left can say. It’s going to be fun to watch.

    No, no–rise above it, sister.

  18. Graculus says

    By the way, would Coulter critics please stop focusing on her appearance and dress, or speculating about her sexuality?

    Am I still free to speculate on her species?

  19. PaulC says

    Eh… I’m a realist. Probably, nothing’s gonna be cruel to Coulter for the next few decades. Having tons of money really does smooth over life’s little annoyances. In the best case, events may conspire to push her out of the public eye. I don’t think aging alone will do it–that’s why they have plastic surgery, make-up, lights, and camera angles. I’d like to think it’ll eventually catch up to her that she’s a one trick pony whose only talent is expressing hate for liberals in ever more hateful ways.

  20. says

    Ou, this sounds like a great project to use a wiki for. People start by just contributing one paragraph, but others can then refine it. Also, another nice thing is then you PZ don’t become a bottle neck in the process.

  21. says

    How ’bout a separate blog that is wholly dedicated to debunking the claims all the politicos make about science? …Call it “Punting the Pundits” or something like that. (For all I know, there’s probably already other sites like that out there.)

  22. Caledonian says

    Here’s where I disagree. She’s not doing her thing to make “us” mad; it’s to make her groupies feel superior and keep buying her spew. She doesn’t care how “we” react.

    Has it never occurred to you that those two states are related? That your reactions are part of what determines how her groupies feel?

  23. PaulC says


    Has it never occurred to you that those two states are related? That your reactions are part of what determines how her groupies feel?

    Yes, it occurred briefly to me and was easily dismissed. Coulter and her fans have a vivid fantasy life about liberals. Whether or not they “make liberals mad” in any particular case, they have no trouble imagining that they made liberals mad. Thus, my reaction is largely irrelevant. I suppose it helps that Coulter has gotten a reaction in the past, but she has probably built up a sufficient reserve to last the rest of her life.

    I dunno. Maybe you were never bullied as a kid and don’t understand how this kind of bullying works. For instance, I was always pretty comfortable being something of a loner nerd. This did not stop people who thought this was bad from attempting to make it an issue and emerging from the situation apparently satisfied and ready to do it again, largely independent of my reaction.

    Coulter attacks a certain stereotype of liberal women for the way they dress. There are indeed liberal women who dress and otherwise present themselves very differently from Coulter, don’t consider it an insult, and if they have any sense are probably more befuddled than actually angry at her. Or, for instance, in an unusual case, it has sunk through to Coulter that “Godless” is not taken as an insult by many liberals, who are quite comfortable with not being religious. Despite that, I think is still probably not a bad title for her book. It still gets her base charged up.

    I’m kind of amazed by the pervasiveness of magical thinking regarding Coulter. She’s not a product of liberal fears. She’s a real person with a following of real people that are absolutely beyond our control. We can laugh at her or get angry at her, but the process that enables her is the fact that publishers are willing to promote her books and publishers are willing to buy them. They exist independent of us and our feelings do not effect whether or not they exist.

  24. PaulC says

    BTW, I am inclined to Coulter more credit than her fans. Coulter may not care if she really makes liberals mad, provided she can sell her books and get treated as an important person by the media. Her fans may actually want to make liberals mad and be disappointed if they fail. But actual success or failure is irrelevant provided Coulter can assure them that she made liberals mad.

  25. Caledonian says

    Whether or not they “make liberals mad” in any particular case, they have no trouble imagining that they made liberals mad. Thus, my reaction is largely irrelevant.

    Um, no. Imagining that you’re receiving a lot of attention and actually receiving a lot of attention are two very different things. When so many people are enraged by Coulter that she’s put on national television, that’s actual reinforcement.

    You’re just “demonstrating” the conclusions you want to be true to justify what you want to do.

  26. PaulC says

    Um, no. Imagining that you’re receiving a lot of attention and actually receiving a lot of attention are two very different things.

    Yes, but that wasn’t what I said. In reality, Coulter receives a lot of attention from the media (which is largely fawning and not “mad”). That part is real, and you’re right that it wouldn’t do her much good if she were just imagining it.

    The immediate cause for that attention is not that she makes liberals mad, but that she makes her base happy. I concede that the satisfaction of her base is dependent to some degree on the extent to which she makes liberals mad, but I think it’s not nearly as important as the original poster suggested. Actually, I’m more “mad” at the Today show and Leno for treating Coulter as other than a pariah. I’m not really any angrier at Coulter than I am at some street person hurling insults at me; in both cases, I’m a little stunned and sort of wonder what their problem is. I had never even heard of her until her article right after 9/11 and kind of figured she was driven to hysterics by the death of Barbara Olson. Since then, I’ve been repeatedly amazed that she is treated as a serious pundit instead of a sad, angry woman driven to incoherence

    You’re just “demonstrating” the conclusions you want to be true to justify what you want to do.

    Actually, I was just expressing an opinion. I’m not sure what “demonstrating” means, even when you put it in quotes like this. I have no data on the actual extent to which liberal reaction enables Coulter, but I don’t really think it would kill her or her act if it wasn’t there. I definitely would not personalize it to the point of imagining Coulter cares (which was kind of the tone I took from the first posting, possibility incorrectly).

    I also haven’t suggested what I want to do, so please tell me what you think my plan is. I’m not sure there is much to be done about Coulter–the only thing that strikes me as remotely effective would be an advertising boycott like the rightwingers do in response to exposed nipples and so forth, but unfortunately liberals can’t seem to muster the organizational discipline to pull it off.

  27. Caledonian says

    Lots of people make crazy statements. It is the attention given Coulter by mainstream forces that makes Coulter into an equal. Bullies often find bullying itself to be satisfying, but the victims’ reactions can amplify that immensely.

  28. ryanb says


    I think a big problem is too many of us are clumped into the liberal group. Liberal right now basically means non-conservative.

    Conservatives have a narrow and well-defined set of policies/beliefs, and (mostly) everyone in that group is like-minded on those issues, or can at least talk the party line when needed.

    Liberals are everyone not of the conservative mind-set. We are victims of our own open attitude. As a whole we agree on very few things and actually represent many many points of view.

    There isn’t just one liberal viewpoint on any policy. That’s why organizing is so tough. It screws us up in politics too. In the republican party it’s easy to have a core set of values that will appeal to most of that party. Very hard to appease all the democrats.

  29. says

    Sorry PZ, I am not one to take up this challenge.

    Paul Callan has been pointing out in several comments that the machinery that keeps this harpy in business is some unholy combination of outrage and ratings…it all looks like success to the sponsors that advertize on shows where she is heard or papers where her columns appear.

    I have a little challenge of my own: to find out if any portion of we who complain so loudly about the toxic misrepresentations of Coulter and her ilk would resort to some sort of letter writing campaign, not to curtail her freedom to speak but to curb the sick attraction that she offers to sponsors.

    There is also the possibility that her artless claims and calumnies against science will backfire.

  30. PaulC says


    Coulter and her ilk would resort to some sort of letter writing campaign, not to curtail her freedom to speak but to curb the sick attraction that she offers to sponsors.

    I was just thinking this over and hit on the following formula. I’m not asking for censorship, just truth in labeling. If the networks want to have a new show called The Screeching Harpy Hour they can invite Coulter on every night for all I care. But when she appears on Today, she is misrepresented as news. When she appears on Tonight, she is misrepresented as entertainment. Pardon me if I was expecting to see something that was newsworthy or entertaining.

    Of course, we don’t have a truth in labeling law for broadcasting, nor should we in my view. But if Glade were to sell me an “air freshener” that made the room smell like dirty socks, I would be entitled to complain. When networks portray Coulter as something other than some kind of screeching harpy who hates people like me, then I likewise have the right to complain that this was not the product they advertised.

  31. says

    You can use a pseudonym, but please do use a valid email address. I won’t publish your address, but I’m not going to reply to people I can’t contact.

    Are you sure you don’t mean “write something I agree with or I will ban you or put you on moderation so that I can mock everything you write before I even post it”?

    Oh wait… that’s something only the desperately insecure would do.

  32. Carlie says

    “Are you sure you don’t mean “write something I agree with or I will ban you or put you on moderation so that I can mock everything you write before I even post it”?
    Oh wait… that’s something only the desperately insecure would do.”

    Awwww… you know, it’s almost cute when they try to talk about subjects they’re completely clueless about.

  33. Carlie says

    Jess – if you want to put your two cents’ in on that side of the aisle, then follow the directions and try posting something of actual substance.

  34. SkookumPlanet says

    “Everyone who advocates pressure/complaint/boycott/threat, etc., being brought to bear on media outlets is living in a world that disappeared three decades ago. Media outlets crave, and need, controversy like she brings. If they thought it was doable, they’d be happy to pay MizCee to appear on their broadcasts.” From my comment at PZ’s MizCee & Evolution thread.

    You’re out of touch with the evolving economics and demographics of mainstream media. 2% of the country listens to NPR, 98% don’t. That loud, nation-wide sucking sound is newspaper revenue streams disappearing down drains as bewildered publishers helplessly watch.

    “But when she appears on Today, she is misrepresented as news. When she appears on Tonight, she is misrepresented as entertainment.”

    No, she IS!

    She’s the very definition of news and entertainment. A campaign mounted to pressure MSM will simply be further evidence and so will result in more of MizCee, not less. Perhaps there’s an assumption that contemporary broadcasting is concerned about “truth” or faithfully representing reality. Nah. Dare I say that brands one as part of the “reality-based” community, which Rove’s pathfinding at visualizing demographics has show the radical right how to ignore in electoral politics.

    Challenging [not countering “for the record”, that’s different] MizCee with the truth, in any form, is useless because it’s irrelevant to her and her success. Exactly as the radical right is not about the truth in any way. Period. Both — all — are about accomplishing goals, means to an end.

    MizCee and her effects could be neutralized, however, and I created a short how-to in the same comment linked above, mostly to illustrate the reality of mass communication and politics in the U.S. today.

    The far right has carefully analyzed how the media works and devised ways to leverage that knowledge. Among many are —

    — using talk radio and blogs to put ethical pressure on political coverage;
    — spreading propaganda and lies through news-media columnists, who aren’t fact-bound like reporters;
    — using ratings competition to skew away from issue discussion and into shouting matches;
    — the White House releasing negative environmental news to the press on Friday afternoons, so when the full media staffs return to work on Monday, it’s old news and not covered;
    — using venues like talk radio as labs for testing audience reactions to mass reprogramming scripts;
    — creating artificial popularity/buzz for targeted books by first, through sophisticated research, ascertaining which bookstores are surveyed by bestseller lists, closely guarded data, then second, buying thousands of copies of the specific title immeadiately on publication to put them on/near the lists.

    This type of process manipulation is well researched, well thought-out, and expertly executed. No one on the left seems even to think this way, which in itself has become old, boring news. Consumer initiatives like letter writing will fail because the overwhelming majority of viewers could care less. They are who advertisers care about, not us.

    As I’ve harped in the past, if you’re riled up enough about MizCee’s sleeze to contemplate this sort of effort, instead take a scientific approach to defining the problem and ferretting out solutions. It works in most other areas, why not here? You’ll find in the last several decades a science-based technology has developed for subconsciously building reality in peoples minds, an approach which allows persuaders to, in essence, pre-condition how people treat new incoming information.

    MizCee is only one drip of a steady, 30-year drip, drip, drip from the rightwing. That’s how they’ve succeeded. Well, they combined it with being 100% amoral. It’s irrational to conclude that ad hoc, incident-specific counter tactics will succeed against such a massive, long-term, science-based mobilization.

  35. PaulC says


    “But when she appears on Today, she is misrepresented as news. When she appears on Tonight, she is misrepresented as entertainment.” No, she IS!

    You might be right. My only point was that such pressure, if successful, would not be censorship in letter or spirit. I have every right as a consumer to consider Today and Leno to be defective products if they include Coulter as a guest, and would like if possible to bring broadcast media around to the same view.

    I do kind of wonder what you propose. Your analysis is reasonable, but it has kind of resistance-is-futile-you-will-be-assimilated tone to it. Do you have any ideas about what to do to improve matters?

  36. SkookumPlanet says

    No, resistance isn’t futile, resistance is mandatory for survival. I’m a fighter. But there are ways to fight back that will be effective, and there are ways that won’t, primarily because the problem gets misdefined.

    I’ll come back later today with some specifics, more likely links. I talked about it a great deal a few months ago. Right now I gotta go.

    [PZ’s post on talk radio, a bit above this, contains a little discussion that’s relevant because it’s about using media to communicate. There are good suggestions that deal with the realities of this, and there are poor ones more likely to be counterproductive.]

  37. SkookumPlanet says

    I need a bit more time, but I will post again here. Probably tommorrow.

    Meanwhile, here’s the most comprehensive statement of information I was trying to convey to SciBlog readers in March and April. It’s a very long, I think generally informative, thread with many people participating; a Chris Mooney post about Global Warming political communication, or at least it turned into that.

    I have 11 comments there, but the entire thread is worth reading and some of it contextual to my comments, and is applicable more broadly than GW. Coulter, GW, ID, it’s all the same war. There are a few links to some other comments of mine, but the thread itself is plenty to get through.

    Perhaps it will generate some questions.

  38. says


    If liberals greeted Coulter with a collective yawn, she’d invent ones that were mad.

    That’s probably true. I’ve seen conservatives refer to Barbra Streisand as if liberals hung on her every word. I don’t know about anyone else, but the last time I gave her any thought was when I saw her name on a marquee in Vegas. The extent of my thought was that I had better things to spend $50 on.

  39. SkookumPlanet says

    PaulC and arensb amd spike
    This is a pastiche when I set out to produce a review. But I got distracted by two trolls of the latter part of the week. Reeaaallly distracted. Links below. I hope at least some of this is interesting and useful, but it’s not as targeted to this thread as I intended it to be. If I don’t post this as is, it won’t ever get posted. I’m so wiped, I’m not even double checking to make certain I haven’t repeated something here from PZ’s posts earlier in the week. Please excuse such if you come upon it.

    I’m pressed for time for awhile. I’ll try to make contact. If I don’t, please ask again. I’ll be around discontinuously and at some point I’ll have time. Nagging me is OK! I do it to myself all the time. I haven’t even had time to look beyond your specific note, but I keep everything.

    I appreciate the endorsement. A few people are certainly paying attention, the venue alone assures that. Our motivation best comes from the desire to act properly, to do the right thing, rather than attachment tangible results. And science and scientists are great models for such consciousness.

    Imagine, say, a dendrochronologist teaching at a tiny, rural American college, office in a basement, who through circumstances spends twenty summers, quite happily but entirely obscurely, pulling cores from a scraggly, maybe dying forest high in a turkish mountain range nobody outside Turkey has even heard of. Then global warming research blooms and his twenty years of work are in every summary report. [There is such a forest in such a place with such a connection. Because I don’t know the details, the rest is fiction.] How’s the insurance biz?

    Yes, Streisand is a perennial wingnut icon. I just received a conservative bookclub promotional catalog and her image is on multiple dustjackets.

    These references “to Barbra Streisand as if liberals hung on every word” is just one more drip of the right’s manufactured reality, here specifically for the care and feeding of their constituency. Only true idiots among them [there are many] suck this up as real. She’s simply tic-off on a long list that’s consciously used to get them hot and bothered, a traget for anger about.

    While there are plenty of angry people on the left, the only ongoing, organized operation in the U.S. for generating anger among citizens, an endless stream for decades, is the far right. When you next listen to talk radio, ignore the political content, the subjects being discussed, and focus solely on the emotional content. Callers universally exhibit a negative, frustrated, jealous, petty view of life.

    The only “happiness” present is a single, characteristic note, a combination of gloating and crowing and parading of rightieousness, which with increasing exposure feels increasingly neurotic and distant from the vicinity of happy. This tends to be defined in terms of their political opponents. In a free-association test, joie-de-vivre and rightwing must be nearly the least frequent pair to appear.

    [Psych grad students: there’s gotta be a dissertation or two in comparing the media humor of righties and lefties, especially on-line. Much is the same. But some on the left, like often here at PZ’s, has personal, vulnerable, self-depricating, and non-angressive characteristics I’ve almost never see from the right. There should be reams of data available.]

    The emotional toll, not politics, keeps me from listening. The producers [of the overall campaign] could care less about the miserable country they are creating. Nor do they consider the negative consequences of a perpetually angry superpower. They seek two things only — 1) getting control of all the important institutions of the U.S. and 2) keeping it.

    And so from that there’s something specific the left can do. Psychiatric professionals should start doing precise, highly professional surveys and analyses of the psychodynamics involved, and disseminating the data. I’d be surprised if the right doesn’t have years and years of such data. That’s an intial step in figuring how to devise effective countermeasures. MizCee is just another iteration of this anger machine.

    Within the last six months somewhere a writer speaking of current politics mentioned his laissez-faire-libetarian neighbors, a couple who, despite doing exceptionally well in physical possessions, vacations, great jobs, etc. were constantly angry about a long list of problems in the politics, the country, and life. They never interacted with him in any other emotional state. And always the specifics were on the radical right’s manufactured laundry list.

    This isn’t natural. Those two aren’t neurotic nor sociopathic, nor the product of a convoluted childhoods. None of this I’m referencing — talk radio, Coulter, the 30-year-long shift in American politics, the ballooning anti-science movement, etc. — none of it is a natural social phenomenon. It’s all manufactured. With cold precision it’s been funded, researched, activated, executed, reviewed, resynthesized, and pumped back into the cycle. All very consciously.

    Paul, I understood your point about censorship. At the risk of offending you, not my intention so please allow me for dramatic effect, in trying to come up with a way to describe your concern about this, the only two words my brain would offer up is “quaint” and “irrelevant.” Let me explain.

    Our political environment is way, way past any real concern about these issues. Do you really believe the current crop of Republicans running Congress would hesitate, if the opportunity arose, to use government to shut up the left? And, of course, need I mention Dub and Vee-Dub. We now have an Attorney General who has serioulsy argued, openly, before Congress, that once the Prez punches the “War” button, the only, only, arbitrar of what he may or may not do, to you, is the Prez. It’s not a ploy; they’re deadly serious.

    I’ve heard/read several rightwing activists, the only one I’m half-way certain of is Grover Norquist, overtly discuss their assault on the funding sources of liberal/left groups. The really radical ones like the A.A.R.P. One doesn’t contemplate such, let alone do it, in the interests of democracy or the “marketplace of ideas.” One does so if one wants to extinguish one’s opposition. Without funding, a point of view cannot be effectively heard in the U.S., ergo it disappears in a political sense.

    It’s one thing to aggressively compete to win a debate. It’s an entirely different matter to cut out your opponent’s tongue before the next one. They will cut your tongue out if it will bring in the votes that will keep them in power.

    In a few words — the oppostion has proven itself a craven, anti-democracy, power-hungry group of amoral Straussian idealouges. They operate on a wartime footing so we must also. In such emergency times some “principles” of democracy, and concern for them, are temporarily set aside. Any failure to “psychologically” operate on this basis will be remorselessly taken advantage of by these people.

    In other words, the left’s instinctive concern for “listening”, “debate”, “diversity of views”, “non-censorship”, “civic discourse”, indeed, interest in civic culture, doesn’t apply in this particular fight. The impulse is correct, but it needs to been universally understood this concern is being temporarily set aside in order to successfully prosecute a war. Otherwise, these grotesque creatures we oppose will use every bit of those concerns against the left whenever they can. Ya gotta understand, they literally don’t believe in ANY of this. They feel NO moral restraints on their behavior, they do not believe in any of the civic rights and responsibilties our country is built on. What we see is different, it’s a front, it’s a marketing identity, it’s a lie. Even then, when was the last time you saw a genuine, uncalculated deferal of political advantage to national [even moral] principles by the players with real power?

    [I reference the leadership only. Much of the rank and file are different, simply blinded by anger, revenge, and triumph. And a quick note that here is still another resource squandered by the left’s refusal to adopt a systematic, analytical approach — this inherent disparaty between leaders and followers. I would love someone to point out a well-researched, well-funded, ongoing campaign to work this angle. Yeah, riiiight. See?]

    The left debating, even just thinking in terms of, Coulter’s “free speech rights” is giving them another victory in another skirmish. The operational question is, “How does one go about permanently mitigating, or neutralizing MizCee’s influence.” Censorship is immaterial.

    I think there’s a kind of prejudice on the left that people make important decisions rationally based on reality. Science tells us otherwise. It’s a very difficult obstacle to overcome. This doesn’t mean the answer has to be lies. It means that political appeals to rationality and logic, by themselves, are insufficent in and often uncommunicable through mass communications, which is the only tool available. So, the starting point is the necessity of analyzing, understanding, then accepting the actual way mass-decision is done in America today.

    The practically is that salient issues are addressed and campaigned on a national level. One creates long-term, national psychological campaigns that build environments/realities in citizens’ minds, that are then activated, specified, adapted, and used locally. ID is a prime example. This is how the winners do it now in the U.S. Lucid, intelligent, persuasion-based, knowledgable counter-campaigns must start somewhere, and the leadership of the left, and the Dems, are still arguing about whether this so-called “framing” approach is correct, or the traditional one focusing on policies and programs is.

    That’s a very depressing waste of time. It’s simple.

    1) Start by collecting data, real data, about how this splinter group of Republicans has taken over the country. The left’s leadership seems to have little data.

    2) Then analyze the data using the best scientific tools and ideas relevant to the data. This must be done as scientifically as possible, which means the left must be psychologically prepared for the actual results. I anticipate this is a sticky point, because the left’s beliefs do not match reality.

    3) Using the data and results, and every other scientific, technical, and professional tool available [i.e. the persuasion industry], devise two long-term, decades-long, strategies. One to use against the rightwing. The other to overcome the internal block the left has to this type of approach. Failure at either one will result in tongues being cut out.

    4) Begin a [much smaller] campaign among left philanthropist to fund all this. That is another group that’s been inexcusably retrograde in the face of the country’s slow-motion coup-de-etats. [sp]

    5) Eventually the tools and tactics filter out to you and me to use. When they get here, us them assiduously.

    6) In the meantime, everyone who “gets it” has an immediate job to do. None of this will happen until a critical mass of footsoldiers support this approach, and demand it of the leadership. The right could, for various reasons, do this top-down. What they couldn’t do top-down, they patiently worked at for three decades. The left can’t do top-down, and do you want to wait 30 years? If we wait thirty years, all public university teaching positions, hiring and firing, will be controlled by state legislatures, to give just one example. We—don’t—have—thiry—years — even if our political leadership was on top of matters, which they aren’t. There’s only one option, it’s gotta be grass-roots driven.

    [NOTE — to those affecting the cynical posture there’s another option, just wait for wingnuts to drive America off a cliff and pick up the pieces. I’ve considered this in some depth and concluded it’s only sophisticated version of the global leftie inability to deal with reality. There’s a built-in blind spot which no one I’ve heard espouse this option ever discusses. The same failings in the left that have gotten us to this point nullify this crash-and-burn strategy. Unless the left accepts the new communications reality in America, and masters it, the far right could [and may] drive America right off an economic, or other, cliff and still, afterwards, in the emergency room they’ll convince enough voters the left put the cliff there “because they hate America”, and so be more firmly installed. We’ll stand by and watch. It’s a scenario that’s a simple extension of the current dynamics.]

    Contemporary America is ALL MESSAGE, all the time. Talk about survival of the fittest. Citizens are so overwhelmed with messages that just to GET THEIR ATTENTION LONG ENOUGH to deliver your message is a brutal, highly competitive, junkyard-dog struggle. Americans live in an artificial, virtually 100% manipulated environment. Our brains don’t know any better and process the information the same way environmental information was proccessed by human brains 50,000 years ago. Only difference is our current environment is manufactured.

    Specifically applied to Coulter I won’t to pretend I know what to do this month. To be honest, I think’s it’s way too late. As I’ve mentioned before she [and rightwing mouthpieces] have an obvious vulnerability, their relationship with their audience. For me, the fact that nobody in these discussions mentions this is diagnostic of the left’s problem — no one is thinking in these terms. No one is interested enough in neutralizing her to devise an effective method to do so. One obvious thing is one can’t wait until the book comes out.

    Coulter is a very slow-motion, highly-telegraphed, repetitive phenonomenon. There’s been ample time to analyze the dynamics and doing something effective about it. Combine the failure to do that with the obvious emotional reactions to her sleeze, and the indication is we should be focusing our attention on ourselves. Something profound in the left’s psychology is preventing a rational read of the political reality in America.

    This inability to confront how U.S. mass-decision making is actually done, in smart, analytical, politically-oriented people is so naive and so counterproductive that I’ve had to conclude it’s the result of a fundamental, unexamined emotional response to reality. It’s preventing successful approaches to many emerging political issues. The data is there, the applications are there, the results are there, the analysis of it all is there, yet it’s being ignored by virtually everyone outside the upper-echelon strategists of the radical right.

    What’s really frustrating for me here at ScienceBlogs, is I’m simply advocating treating the problem as any other scientific problem. Do good science and follow it where ever it leads you. Eventually you’ll find truth.

    I’ve gotta stop. This is way too much already. If you’ve got specific questions, I’ll be glad to respond although it might take time. I’ve probably already posted the answer, and if so that’s easy to point to. I’m supposedly retired from this level and intensity of commenting but I let my guard slip over the last week. Three books did it. MizCee’s, or more accurately the reaction to it. And two books about feathered dinosaurs I just read, and reviewed here [[http://scienceblogs[dot]com/grrlscientist/2006/06/the_rise_of_the_feathered_drag_1[dot]phplink]], where I also opened my relief-valve and deconstructed the psychology of an anti-evolution troll. At the extreme end of this I’ll comment I’ll put links to any other relevant from the last week.

    The amoral rightwing ringleaders — The Cadre — is a group so saturated with Machiavellian lying it drips black from their fingertips, their chins, and the tips of their noses. Few in number, they easily convinced themselves this application of American science and buisness tools to politics was the ticket to success. Still, with so little true support, even this fundamentally superior approach it took them a third of a century to achieve success.

    We have numbers, we have truth. Don’t give up. Be smart. Success is achievable. The hurdle, while high, is surprisingly simple. The left has to convince themselves the same tools will work for them.
    ….imagine MizCee…dripping oily black from her chin, her nose tip, every time she opens her mouth and speaks….
    Below are some paragraphs I extracted from earlier posts of mine to use as notes and construction pieces. There’s some amount of this that’s repetitive, and the flow isn’t great, but I’ll include them, as is, as random notes.

    There’s been large amounts of money put into basic research in several fields over decades to better understand how humans process information. There’s been, and continues to be, progress and it’s being increasingly applied by the “persuasion industry” with increasing success and understanding. It seems to me that these applications tend to very metrics oriented, so they get better at it.

    The result is that, by necessity, the persuaders are getting into people’s minds unconsciously in very sophisticated ways. And that is designed to by-pass the conscious gate-keeper. In other words, people don’t have the option of accepting or rejecting messages because they have no way of knowing they’re being subtly influenced. It’s all science. And it works even when people “tune it out”.

    I’ll mention George Lakoff as someone who has applied his field [linguistics] to the political arena and is attempting to communicate with the non-radical-right public. I’m reluctant to do that, however, because most of the reactions to him I’ve seen by that public shows they misunderstand him.

    The radical right has, over a couple decades and very slowly, manufactured a social/political environment condusive to their tactical success — think of it as very long-term agenda setting by shaping a public’s collective unconscious mind. The results speak for themselves.

    Out of necessity the only way into people’s minds en masse is through sophisticated mass communication tools that are derived from half a century of applications of growing, sophisticated scientific knowledge of how humans process information. It has to be emotional, persuasion-based communication and there is immense competition to do this. There is no other alternative. Period. The apparently widespread belief that things can be changed without getting immersed in the persuasion game is doomed, doomed, doomed.

    Psychomarketing has become so powerful in the political arena, and it’s use so one-sided, that standard approaches to countering these trends will always be outmaneuvered. It’s the equivilant of going up against machine guns with flintlocks. Sophisticated political forces in America are using science-derived technology to manipulate a constituency. If they need to defund or even wreck areas of science to get and maintain political power, they’ll do it without a second thought. We live in the most powerful, richest, most abundant and magical nation that has ever existed on the planet. Leading and directing this nation politically puts one at the pinnacle of history and power [so far]. They’ll screw science in a heartbeat.

    How often, here at SciBlogs, does one see an truely joyous Christian show up to take on evolution? The closest I’ve seen is the stereotypical, unconvincing, pro forma, scripted concern. Just below the surface, on the surface in others, are their exclusivley negative motivations and egotistical concern with personally being right. Even the brightest, very bright, fail to live up to the common assumptions of honest debate, such things as defining terms. Winning is the end-all, be-all for these indivduals, and the individual psychology is reflective of the macro in the political arena. Fairness, honesty, etc. have value as tactics only. The whole lot is of this type, few of them comprehend it, none can admit to it.

    That last paragraph was meant for the arensb discussion about emotional sequale of the right’s campaign. It was written before my full exposure to tumbler, perhaps the most un-joyous Christians [and clueless] I’ve come across online. One question that popped up because of tumbler is, if there were Christians, pro/anti/neutral on evolution, following tumbler in some of his postings [apparently he was in several threads], why they would passively watch as someone spewed such indiscriminate negativity and false witness in the name of their religion? [Assuming, of course, they did so, but it’s a question of larger significance.]

    tumbler is at pz’s
    I’m not even spellchecking this
    bed beckons

  40. American_Angst says


    You make a very compelling argument (which I agree with). Have you thought of creating a diary on DailyKOS and other “reality-based” blogs to spread the word to the masses?


  41. Watchman says

    Great stuff, Skookum, plenty of food for thought. I, as well as many of my friends and colleagues, share your concerns, and our general inability to really understand what’s happening creates a general feeling of frustration and impotency. You’ve addressed this nicely, but the feeling that the 30-year head start may be insurmountable saps energy and weakens the spirit. What to do?