Ann Coulter: extreme satire

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Life is hard for satirists. Like high school poets or

people who get aroused when they put on furry mascot costumes, no one

understands them.

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

skirmish.

Today, of course, "A Modest Proposal" is considered one of the greatest

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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

satirist.

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

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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").

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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'

deaths."

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

arch commentary it really is. On "Larry King Live," David Horowitz, president

of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, declared Coulter "much funnier"

than Bill Maher and Al Franken combined and decreed her book "absolutely" a

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.

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