In Tom Frank's funny and chilling analysis of backlash in the heartland, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, the author unpacks the conundrums of a political era in which people eschew their own economic interests to vote on "cultural" issues like abortion, gun control and stem-cell research. Of course, part of this discussion is about about language and historical revisionism. A disturbing tidbit: Anti-abortion leaders everywhere are found comparing themselves to abolitionists and civil rights leaders of the past--much to the civil rights leaders of the present. Mainstream historians of the movement also repeat the analogy, comparing the struggle over abortion to the controversy of the pre-Civil War years, with, presumably, the anti-abortion crusaders taking the role of abolitionists. On Saturday, the Washington Post examined President Bush's elusive chief speechwriter Michael Gerson's defense of the president's references to God.Some people, Gerson said, seem to think that all references to God should be banished from presidential speeches."As a writer, I think this attitude would flatten political rhetoric and make it less moving and interesting," he said. "But even more, I think the reality here is that scrubbing public discourse of religious ideas would remove one of the main sources of social justice in our history. Without an appeal to justice rooted in faith, there would be no abolition movement or civil rights movement or pro-life movement." This reminds me of another jaw-dropping quote I read earlier in the week from Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News:[Melik Kaylan of The Wall Street Journal] compared [Ann] Coulter's alleged "humor" to that of Lenny Bruce, Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers. Have we ceded that much control over the discourse that these comparisons are possible? At least my horror was slightly tempered by Frank's and Alterman's humor. Alterman rejoins Kaylan's observation with a quote by Charles Pierce:Too bad, therefore, [Ann Coulter]… has yet to be "arrested and jailed for what she said (Lenny Bruce), prosecuted in federal court (Angela Davis), or shot to ribbons in her bed (the Black Panthers)."
Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show “Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.