Brainless: Ann Coulter?

I honestly tried to like Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter by Joe Maguire. I am not saying that because I am in some way addicted to or affiliated with Ann Coulter, I promise; I am not a fan of anyone with the massive record of demeaning quotes Coulter has to her name. Unfortunately, Maguire’s book forgets to rehash her most maddening remarks and instead he merely mumbles about how much he really hates her.

Few of the just over 200 pages of this book are actually spent dealing with the inaccuracies, possible plagiarism, and misconstrued facts that Coulter has produced in her more than 10 years as a political figure. Coulter has, in many ways, redefined the political punditry landscape. She has described herself as someone who likes to “stir up the pot,” and in doing so she has made myriad controversial statements across her five best-selling books.

Maguire even thanks Coulter in the acknowledgements for being “such an easy target,” and honestly, she is. From her comments on women (“[T]he problem with women voting — and your Communitists will back me up on this — is that, you know, women have no capacity to understand how money is earned,”) to her views on Senator Joe McCarthy’s policies (“[He had] a gift for appealing to the great common sense of the American people” and “Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism.... They’ve had intellectual terror on the campus for years.... It’s time for a new McCarthyism,”) she has certainly expressed her extreme opinions. Worst of all might be her comments towards the family members of 9/11 victims: “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.”

While Maguire does get around to blasting apart one of Coulter’s “lies,” the book focuses on her “lunacy” and, specifically, on sarcastically and back-handedly insulting her at any opportunity he gets. The sarcasm becomes so thick it is hard to handle at times, and even the language dries up — any book that uses the phrase “Pete’s sake” twice in the first 18 pages is one I want to put down.

At times it seems that Maguire has simply run out of material. In the middle of his chapter “Ann on Women,” he goes off on a tangent discussing the three things you say when you want to make a woman hate you: “You’re a bad mother. You’re a slut. You act like a man.” At which point he discusses how Coulter “probably would be a bad mother,” going further to say “she’d probably be the absolute worst — absentee, simultaneously neglectful and domineering, and with nothing but white wine in the fridge.”

This is cracked! Maguire forms this book around the thesis that Coulter distorts the truth or simply avoids it by distracting people with outlandish and attention-getting statements, and yet he does the same thing; this book is, ultimately, really a tribute to the method Coulter has developed. The writing style reminds me of something a bitter ex-boyfriend might write about his bereaved ex-lover. I believe it is possible that Maguire is secretly in love with Coulter... and then she broke up with him, so he wrote a book about her. This makes perfect sense: He can call her an awful, horrible person, but at the same time compliment her for being a brilliant writer. I only wish he would have picked up some of those writing skills.

Now, Mr. Maguire, please explain to me the chart which takes up half of page 129 called “Nicknames for Ann Found on the Internet.” There are only seven names on this chart, and I could do better than that in five minutes. Though maybe this was the right direction to head in. Overall the best way to improve this book would be to have simply created a list of Coulter’s outright lies, misleading statements, and hypocritical quotes, with citations that show they are false. Yes, I believe this whole book could have been reduced to a chart. A really giant chart.

Maguire was an editor at Reuters until they saw this book. According to a piece in The New York Times, a Reuters company statement states: “Our editorial policy and The Reuters Trust Principles are prominently displayed for all to see on www.about.reuters.com. Mr. Maguire’s book will soon be available. Both speak for themselves.”

Brainless suffers from a few major problems. The pacing is off. The second chapter of the book, “Ann on Beauty, Race, and Culture” is 42 pages, more than double most of the other chapters, which really slows down his argument. This, coupled with the fact that there is no real conclusion to the book, completes the impression that this whole exercise is simply a tirade that fades off into nothingness. Also as mentioned earlier, the language is not compelling, and it is often too informal. Finally, the humor isn’t there. Maguire is not a comedian; he is (was?) a journalist, and he often fails when trying to go for laughs.

In conclusion: Don’t read this book. It is easy enough to make fun of Ann Coulter without a guided tutorial.