Reading is FUN-damental! Everybody’s talking about the Ann Coulter Great Books Program©, “Reading for Right-Wingers,” a tastes-great, less-filling curriculum hand-picked by our favorite intellectual ectomorph.
While I and my hopelessly literary fellow travelers—the effete-snob neo-Marxists sapping this great nation’s precious bodily fluids—trudge joylessly through the canon, the Elizabeth Bathory of the Sound Bite is light years ahead of us, on the cultural curve. Hey! Immanuel Goldstein! Pull your head out of the scriptorium and read the writing on the wall: We’re living in a postliterate age, Grammatology Man.
Maybe Coulter’s Zen-like empty bookshelf was inspired by the new Kaiser study, which notes that kids 8 to 18 spend about 43 minutes a day reading for pleasure, on average, as opposed to roughly four hours a day watching TV, videos, DVDs, and Tivo’d programs; 1 and 3/4 hours a day listening to the radio or music; a little over one hour a day using computers for non-schoolwork activities; and about 50 minutes a day playing video games.
Or maybe Coulter knows, better than most, that digging into the historical record or excavating the facts from the public press is for the clueless Captain Earnests of the egghead left. Why bother, when spinning whole-cloth fabrications can land you on the bestseller list and make your invincible, vulpine smile a Fox News fixture? Facts, as Coulter crush Ronald Reagan famously observed, are stupid things. There were no lines upon the tranquil Reagan brow, happily uncreased by troubling ideas from weighty tomes. When an incredulous James Baker asked the president, in 1983, why he hadn’t read the briefing book for a momentous economic summit, the Sage of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was philosophical: “Well, Jim, The Sound of Music was on last night.” These things happen. Besides, who needs Facts on File in a photo-op world? According to David Gergen, Bonzo was just “boffo” at the summit: “He stayed above the forest of facts we had provided and focused on the larger goals he wanted to pursue.”
Clear-cutting the “forest of facts” is standard practice for Coulter and attacking heads like her, well-skilled in the Rove-ian art of chum-bucket realpolitik, whose first rule is never to let empirical truth or intellectual nuance stand in the way of sliming the enemy. These are people for whom winning is everything: they stoop to conquer, lower than a shitfaced Kissinger in a limbo contest. Not for them the op cits and ibids of the academic left, so concerned with covering its flanks with scrupulous research. Facticity—hell, even big words like “facticity”—went out with leather elbow-pads and those beard-pulling think pieces about the Social Responsibility of the Intellectual in back issues of Dissent magazine.
Coulter has learned to make the media’s repetition compulsion work for her. She knows that no lie is too big to be transmuted, through the alchemy of Fox News quoting conservative pundits quoting right-wing radio cranks quoting right-wing bloggers quoting her, into Goebbels-ian truth. In such a climate, stuffing your head full of book-learning only muddles the mind with inconvenient facts, grit in the wind-up mind of a right-wing fembot. Just hit your mark, stay on message, and charm the toothless “dragons of the press,” as Gergen called them, right out of their pants. And be sure to show plenty of leg. Besides, reading makes your lips numb.