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Those Sophisticates at Salon

Smug, horny, unedited panderers!


Posted Monday, June 28, 1999

        If you want to understand what's wrong with Salon magazine, read Thor Hesla's smug, juvenile piece on right-wing pundette Ann Coulter. Coulter recently wrote a column for George in which, according to Salon, she complained "that she was having trouble getting dates in the nation's capital." Salon's piece purports to give Coulter dating tips.

        The problem isn't just that Salon takes this promising premise and turns it into an extended, locker-room style sexual mockery of Coulter. (Sample witty advice: "Stop being a mean bitch," "Get your head out of your ass"). Nor is the problem that it's high school-level humor. Actually, it isn't high school humor. It's grade school humor, horny eighth-graders gathered under the bleachers to make fun of Coulter's "quest for tube steak."

        The problem isn't just that the piece seems virtually unedited.

        The problem isn't just that, while the endless beating-up of Coulter ("Buy a vibrator," "Quit injecting yourself with your own urine," "Men Don't Want to Date Castrating Bitches," "I think you need to rack up some quick orgasms" etc.) may or may not by misogynistic, it is certainly sadistic.

        The problem isn't the obligatory dumb white inferiority complex, in which Hesla advises Coulter to "quit being white" and investigate the "overwhelming" majority of people in Washington who "aren't white" and "have excellent social lives."

        The problem isn't just that Hesla doesn't know what he's talking about -- for example, D.C. has been getting whiter for several years, as African-Americans flee to the suburbs. Whites are rapidly approaching 40 percent of the D.C. population. (And how the fuck does Hesla know that D.C.'s non-whites " have excellent social lives?")

        The problem isn't even that the piece isn't funny (it actually has one or two good bits).

        The problem -- what makes it the apotheosis of the editorial sensibility established by Salon editor David "Ugly-Times-Call-for-Ugly-Tactics" Talbot -- is that it expends all its effort making its readers feel self-satisfied in the opinions and prejudices they bring to the piece, and zero effort changing the minds of anyone who might not share the requisite array of Salon biases (anti-Starr, pro-sex, guilty white, don't-know-much-about-politics but vaguely left, etc.). Certainly there's nothing in the piece that might show someone who didn't already despise Coulter that there was something wrong with her. The assumption, more or less, is that nobody who doesn't share this prejudice will be reading the piece anyway. Those who hate Coulter can chuckle, consider themselves very sexy (in contrast to Coulter's alleged need for a good stiff one) and surf on their way.

        But then Salon rarely challenges its target audience. "Ann Coulter has a point, you know" -- now there's a thesis Talbot's magazine won't advance. I know, I know, Talbot publishes David Horowitz's right-wing column, but in the vast majority of its pages, and when the magazine is speaking with its own editorial voice, Salon prefers to pander. This pandering problem is larger than Salon, of course -- The Weekly Standard, for example, caters excessively to those in the self-contained, mirror-image, paranoid world of Clinton-hatred. But Salon is more than simply symptomatic, having helped create its own little hermetic community of Starr-bashing self-congratulation during the Lewinsky scandal. A friend of mine in the zine business says she dislikes Salon because (to paraphrase) it "aims for the mediocre and hits it every time." Maybe it will make a lot of money.

        P.S.: Thinking that maybe Coulter's original George article deserved Salon's mockery -- that maybe she 'was asking for it' -- I went back and read it. (Never say doesn't do its homework!) The verdict: Coulter wasn't asking for it. Her June George piece is an amusing rant about the unwillingness of D.C. men to follow time-tested, conservative dating conventions (in contrast to rich New York men). It's well-written. It's not self-pitying and doesn't really "lament" any inability to get a date. Coulter even makes some vaguely egalitarian points (about how minimum-wage Senate staffers buy Christmas gifts for their bosses, instead of the other way around). Salon should apologize.

        Ugly pieces call for ugly tactics.

Copyright 1999 Mickey Kaus.