Life is hard for satirists. Like high school poets or
people who get aroused when they put on furry mascot costumes, no one
Back in 1729, Jonathan Swift was almost universally reviled when he
suggested, in "A Modest Proposal," that the antidote to urban squalor was to
eat the children of poor Irish immigrants and use their skin to make "admirable
gloves for ladies and summer boots for fine gentlemen." If only Fox News had
been around; Sean Hannity would have dined out (so to speak) for weeks on the
Today, of course, "A Modest Proposal" is considered one of the greatest
works of political satire in the English language. But isn't that always the
way? Comedy is tragedy plus time, which may explain why Ann Coulter, the
Cruella De Vil of blond, ectomorphic wonkdom, is getting such a beating by the
liberal and (more important) tragically literal mainstream media. Such is the
price of being in the cultural vanguard. If you think Swift was cutting-edge,
imagine having a wit so dry that even you haven't yet realized you're a
Coulter's new book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," debuted Sunday on
The New York Times bestseller list at No. 1. Topics discussed include liberals'
attitudes toward crime ("Assuming you aren't a fetus, the left's most
dangerous religious belief is their adoration of violent criminals"); education
("Most public schools are - at best - expensive baby-sitting arrangements. At
worse, they are criminal training labs, where teachers sexually abuse the
children between drinking binges and acts of grand larceny"); and evolution
("The only evidence for Darwin's theory of evolution is fake evidence").
Then, there's her assessment of the four 9/11 widows who gained national
attention for demanding an investigation into how the Bush administration might
have prevented the attacks. Assuming you aren't a fetus, you've heard that
Coulter referred to the widows as "witches" who are "enjoying their husbands'
But we mustn't despair over Americans' diminishing appreciation for irony.
There are, mercifully, a sophisticated few who see Coulter's work as the subtly
of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, declared Coulter "much funnier"
work of satire. And Republican strategist Karen Hanretty appeared on "The
O'Reilly Factor" and characterized Coulter's work as "tongue-in-cheek."
Duh, people! The woman isn't a pariah, she's a comic genius, an
anthropologist with an edge. As Jonathan Swift knew too well, the public's
understanding of satire follows a steep learning curve. And as hard as he had
it, imagine how it must be for Coulter, who, like many funny women, is clearly
too oppressed by the male patriarchy to recognize the scope of her own talents.
As millions of readers are discovering, all that's standing between Coulter
and a writing job on "The Simpsons" are testicles and a Harvard degree.
If only the 9/11 widows, Darwinians and public educators were as
sophisticated as the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, they might not be
so bruised. But it's hard to look past Coulter's great legs. Let's be honest.
Humor, even the unfunny kind, usually runs in inverse proportion to physical
hotness, and that's quadruply true for women, who often don't bother trying to
be funny unless they're still upset about missing the prom.
Coulter, with her lucky genes and shrewd marketing instincts, isn't
self-loathing enough to be a comedienne, but she's a brilliant satirist in
spite of herself. She can add tragedy to time, subtract actual humor, divide by
the lowest common denominator and come up with "A Modest Proposal, 2006."
Listen up, America: If you're not in on the joke, the joke's on you.