January 2004

Michael Schaub

propaganda

2003: The Year in Propaganda!

If there's one thing you can count on in the world of magazine publishing, it's that the January issue will always contain some sort of asinine year-end retrospective. Actually, I think most magazines do this in December, but then, most magazines have columnists less lazy than me. No matter. Some of you might recall that in my last column, I asked the readers of this magazine to submit nominations for "Propagandist of the Year," thereby ensuring that a bunch of strangers would basically write this column for me.

Well, I meant to. But as it turns out, I didn't get around to that either.

But luckily for me, and for anyone else obsessed with the rantings of the seriously wrongheaded, 2003 was positively chock full of books written by (and for) the insane, stupid, and just plain evil. Just keep in mind, you won't find a year-end retrospective like this in the pages of Book magazine -- which, in 2003, insulted the publisher and editor of Bookslut in print, then folded days later. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

If I actually had gone through with the whole "Propagandist of the Year" thing, the winner probably would have been everyone's favorite Fascist sex symbol, Ann Coulter, who in June unveiled Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism. Although many people, liberal and conservative alike, suspected that Coulter was seriously losing her shit long before Treason came out, this book sealed the deal with its attacks on every Democrat from Truman to Clinton, and its defense of Joseph McCarthy. The great thing about Coulter is that she's still capable of surprising people. Sure, she had previously advocated invading Muslim nations, killing their leaders, and converting their citizens to Christianity. But somehow the Tailgunner Joe thing managed to shock those of us on the left. And our friends on the right. And, you know, everyone with a fucking soul. Coulter sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden would if he were Christian and American. If only Ann would find an underground cave to hide out in...

As crazy and soulless as Coulter is, she had some stiff competition from fellow right-wing nutcases Michael Savage and Bernard Goldberg. Savage released The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language and Culture last January, shortly before he was fired from his television show on MSNBC for telling a gay caller, "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. ... You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it." Savage just released a second effort, The Enemy Within: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Schools, Faith, and Military, which may or may not address the contentious issue of homosexuality, and may or may not contain weird references to sausage. Goldberg really couldn't compete with Savage's naked bigotry (and here I apologize for mentioning "Savage" and "naked" in the same sentence, which may conjure up unpleasant images in the minds of my readers), but he gave it the ol' college try (that college being Bob Jones University, one presumes) with Arrogance: Rescuing America From the Media Elite. Goldberg got extensive media attention for his first book, Bias, which seems to disprove his theory that the media (whatever that means) are in the thrall of the political left (whatever that means).

There were some other minor players in the field of right-wing book publishing this year, most notably David Limbaugh, who gave his book the Coulteresque title of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity. David, of course, is Rush's little brother, so you know his year probably hasn't been so good. I just wish I knew how he managed to catch on to our evil plan to destroy Christianity. Curse this Limbaugh, and the light of truth he has shone upon our wicked plans! I guess we liberals will have to rethink Operation Destroy All Christians and Convert Their Kids to Homosexuality and Also Make Sure That Abortions Become More Common and Pornography is Made Widely Available to Children. Damn!

That's not to say there weren't propagandists on the left, doing their thing. Michael Moore released a book unaccountably titled Dude, Where's My Country? not long after it was revealed that he had staged some scenes in his documentary Bowling for Columbine. The Booker Prize was awarded to a dreadful little novel called Vernon God Little by an Australian criminal with the rock-stupid pen name of D. B. C. Pierre. Pierre's novel was billed as an answer to the mysteries of American school shootings. Pierre's experience with American culture seems to be limited to having once changed planes in Houston or something. Giving a major literary award to crap like Pierre's novel seriously undermines the importance of the Booker, but what else is new? (Oddly enough, Moore's previous book, Stupid White Men, was a huge bestseller in the U.K.)

The last part of the year also brought forth a host of books by would-be presidential candidates, including Howard Dean, John Edwards, and everyone's favorite anti-choice vegan, Dennis Kucinich. You'll read more about these books in this column in the next month or two. But for now, take the time to savor the best of last year's wonderful propaganda.

God, I love America.