Books: the dying frontier. Endless. Silent. Waiting. This is Adventures in Poor Taste’s reoccurring dueling review set to remind everyone books are still relevant.
Its mission: books fight to the death to see what is worth reading. To seek out and contact words that form sentences that form paragraphs that form chapters that form novels. To explore. To travel the vast published books, and make your search cut in half, and boldly go where no man has gone before. A dueling book review.
It’s interesting that these books are similar but different in so many ways. Examples: The titles are long and self-righteous, but seem to suggest polar opposites on topics as science versus faith; one is harshly slanted against liberals the other shines a negative light on conservatives; both are filled with quotes proving their points; and both are filled with emotionally charged language to sway the reader. The battle between argumentative non-fiction…begins!
Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America
by Ann Coulter
Hardcover, First, 304 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Crown Forum (first published May 28th 2011)
Ann Coulter is an amazing herald of our time. Many people make this point, not least of which is Coulter herself. She brings together a great ability to tie quotes and opinions together in order to create credible arguments. Unfortunately, many of her arguments are not very believable.
I find many of her “points” schoolyard in nature. She brings in many good quotes and good evidence to back up her arguments, but more times than not she tends to belittle the subjects she doesn’t agree with in order to defame their point of view. This is a false way of proving a point. It’s especially true when some of her arguments are thin and are padded with emotionally charged language so people fail to see the argument isn’t very strong. I understand her intentions, but I like to hear an opinion that has clear minded points of view.
An example I can give is page 257 when a “Boston radio host” that is not named stumps George W. Bush on the names of “obscure” foreign political leaders. She frames this interaction as a “no name” host, as if it doesn’t matter, and ends the paragraph stating,
He was a star for a week…and then was never heard from again. But for a brief shining moment this punk was part of the herd! The joy.
The language she uses is very angry; very manipulative. I understand her intentions are to persuade her audience, but to do so without facts and haughty language is unnerving. This is precisely why I disliked parts of The Wrecking Crew, a political nonfiction on the history of conservatives and their “evil” intentions. I want facts and quotes, not persuasive language as it wrongfully attempts to manipulate my reasoning with peer pressure speak.
The overall point of this book though, is one to almost laugh at. Quoting Mark 5:2-9, Coulter explains:
The Demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic. It is the nihilistic mob of the French Revolution…
She then gives examples of nihilistic mobs in history which lead to how the Democratic Party is defined ultimately as a mob . Thus, if you’re following along with this logic, anyone in the Democratic Party is a demon. I’m not sure how literal she’s thinking when it comes to demons, but she definitely intends to demonize the Democratic Party.
Its an interesting argument, mostly because it’s a crazy, far-out imaginative way to think about a group of people. Unfortunately it all serves as a front to rant about Democrats sucking for 250 pages. There comes a point where the reader realizes that even though she spends a lot of time setting up her argument, it’s not the point of the book, and that weakens its impact.
I’m sure most fans of her writing are looking for a political book that will get them hot and bothered about the issues, and it does that very well. This book is not a good source for political ammo. If someone took these arguments into a debate most of them could be refuted with some simple questions or evidence. She frames her subjects and arguments well, but much of her evidence is empty. I like my political commentary with no spin.
Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality
by John Grant
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by Prometheus Books
This is the first Dueling Book Review where one author refers to another. This battle sure must strike some close to home! At the start of one chapter, author John Grant quotes Ann Coulter before responding to her scathing view of liberal propagandist environmentalism by saying:
Ann Coulter’s view on environmentalism and environmentalists may seem extreme, but they lie on the same spectrum as those of many other commentators and many members of the public.
Okay, so it’s not a middle finger, but that’s why this book is so good. It’s level-headed, calm under pressure, and adequately explains why certain arguments are very wrong, and why his arguments are very right. This book is a great way to hear the other side of popular scientific topics that have hit the news in the last five years. With FOX news and media outlets focusing on the big controversial story over actual scientific fact, this book is a necessary response everyone should read. The strongest elements in this book utilize very little persuasive language but simply good references.
The greenhouse effect, autism linked to vaccinations, creationism and AIDS controversies are just a few of the topics discussed in the book. With 38 pages of citations and a huge bibliography the book has its fair share of sources and proof. The book reads like a very good essay on each subject that culls together many bits and pieces to strengthen the author’s arguments. Grant not only points out scientific fact, but scientific fiction, at one point quoting Representative John Shimkus’ (R-IL) view of the greenhouse effect:
There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon.
Grant responds to the quote, saying:
It’s interesting Shimkus used the term “theological debate” in connection with climate science. Theology has absolutely no relevance to considerations of the ideal level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere.
He doesn’t stop there though, as he uses cold, hard numbers to prove why so many politicians and so-called experts are wrong. The fact that it’s so chock full of data ensures that the reader is getting real information and not just opinion. With so many citations one wonders how much the author has contributed in the field, but it’s necessary in order to speak towards such edgy issues of today.
This is a quick read that doesn’t spend much time on issues, but rather lays down an argument and slam dunks it. At times though, Grant’s slam dunk is not without a bit of attitude. The attitude comes few and far between, but it puffs himself up and makes the proof, however sound, feel slanted. One example of his bias shining through comes when speaking about global warning deniers who used a bin Laden public statement about global warming being an important issue:
Evident the truth might be, but immediately rightwing US commentators, logic be damned, seized on the support of the bin Laden as yet further “proof that global warming was a conspiracy.”
He doesn’t name names, nor says only a few or quantifies them at all. In a way, the above statement is chastising all right-wingers, which isn’t very fair. He doesn’t necessarily use emotionally-charged language as proof as Coulter does, but he’s using language that suggests he’s biased. One might argue this is simply language to convey confidence and assure the point, but the tone at times tends to get too snarky for its own good.
I think this book shouldn’t be read as a definitive conclusion on every issue discussed, but as a primer it brings up some great points many are unaware of.
Much like The Wrecking Crew or other political spin books, this book does ridicule and the use of an insulting tone hurts the arguments made at times. I tended to read them as funny knocks for entertainment value rather than debasing comments to strengthen the argument. Straying from just the facts to a deriding tone unfortunately makes the book lose some of its argumentative strength.
So Who Wins?
Both books use emotionally charged language mixed with fact to complete their points. This language sells books, but at the end of the day if you believe in what you’re writing about you shouldn’t stray from the topic too often or it will weaken the argument. Coulter and Grant use quotes and factual events to prove their points, and added up Grant offers many more irrefutable facts to sway his audience than Coulter can offer. Grant never strays too far from the facts either, where as Coulter uses some laugh out loud connections to prove her points. The facts delivered cannot be refuted, and I’d be hard-pressed to not recommend Denying Science.
Meanwhile, many Americans argue over important issues like which fruit is best for clothing.