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Hornswaggle is an alternate spelling of hornswoggle, an archaic word that means to bamboozle or hoodwink. I take my pronunciation from the late Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles" --

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Cloud Cover

So I have now read John Cloud's TIME piece on Ann Coulter and I certainly agree with liberal bloggers' main contention with the piece: That Cloud glosses over Coulter's penchant for inaccuracy, inaccuracy that is made far worse by the hateful content of which it's in service.

But the first thing I noticed about Cloud has to do with his writing style, and which leads me to a little armchair psychology about what makes this guy tick. If you read the piece, you may have noticed that Cloud has a David Foster Wallace complex (without any of the attending genuis), insofar as he loves to use Big Words. Here are samples:

-Cloud writes that, to some Coulter fans, her "willowy, sex-kitten pulchritude is vertiginous."

-Coulter, Cloud writes, tends towards "apothegmatic commentary."

-Cloud found, in Coulter, "a personality far more labile and human than the umbrageous harridan I had expected." Oh, really? How perspicacious of you. (I don't think I've ever seen anyone use the adjective form of "umbrage" in my life.)

-This isn't an example of a big word, but an odd word choice: Cloud says he adopted at one point a "moistly liberal formulation" regarding Coulter's rhetoric. What is this plainly perjorative modifier "moist" supposed to mean, exactly?

-To top it off, Cloud uses the word "argybargy." No kidding. Which means, according to Dictionary.com, "a lively or disputatious discussion."

So Cloud fancies himself a Smart Writer. He also sees himself, apparently, as a bit of a thinker, someone who can look at the terms and cliches used to describe the political landscape and say, "this one's right" and "that one is all wrong."

For example, to Cloud, the red state-blue state distinction is "overcooked." Really? Arguably the most astonishing paradigm of American politics, this way in which the tectonic plates of the electorate have shifted and locked into position in a manner that makes national elections as predictable as a game of tic-tac-toe? Hogwash. It's overblown. No big deal. I have sundry, nay! myriad, nay! plethoric other ways to describe the present political situation that are just as pithy but far more elucidative.

Cloud shows his decision-making powers in one other revealing way (in addition to the red-blue distinction -- Verdict: Overcooked! Coulter makes mistakes -- Verdict: I don't care!). Showing a sequence from a television exchange in which Coulter bests an opponent by saying, regarding the environment, that God gave us the Earth and that it's ours to do with it what we will and we should therefore "rape it," Cloud writes that some liberals got their panties in a bunch on this one because they looked at Coulter's "rape it" remark "wrenched from context." But looking at the transcript, there is no context for it be wrenched from. She simply says it, and she appears to mean it.

Cloud does add that some people "get" Coulter's jokes but just don't find them funny. But his (actually) intriguing formulation that Coulter may be a "hard-right ironist," taxonomically, is undercut by this phrase from his closing paragraph, that disagree with Coulter or no, you've got to admit "you can be sure she will speak from her heart." Which, first of all, ouch. Talk about cliches. But more importantly, if she's always kind of just joking, if Coulter is in fact an ironist, then she is ipso facto not speaking from the heart.

In short, Cloud to me is a guy who overrates his own intellect and acumen, who is a bit of a show-off, who thinks he has the goods to overturn popular bromides, e.g. that Coulter is bad for our political discourse. He strikes me as someone who is moderately conservative politically but whose greatest bias is a common kind of journalistic hubris, that though he is not an intellectual, he fancies himself one, and therefore has the authority to arbitrate in public discussions.

.: posted by hornswaggler 1:25 PM

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