Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dear Jeff Bernard

Your link this past week was the final item in the Full Metal Jacket Saturday roundup (which Smitty compiles by deploying his army of clonebots and which will go online shortly). This brought to my attention your criticism of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter:
Demagogues like Limbaugh and Coulter are not "conservatives." . . . [T]hese media figures have no real ideology or agenda beyond their wallets. It's the tragedy of the century that true conservatives have had their party hijacked by such loudmouthed jackals.
Well, who are "true conservatives"? And who are the "true conservative" spokesmen who are not "demagogues"? What is it about the "loudmouthed jackals" that makes them offensive to "true conservatives" like yourself?

Whatever their faults, Limbaugh and Coulter are successful and popular. Rush is the No. 1 radio personality in America and Coulter is the author of six bestselling books (which are, BTW, much more informative and readable than you'd suspect if all you know is her reputation as a Fox News flamethrower). In a free-market society, successful and popular communicators tend to be rewarded with wealth and fame.

Successful, popular, wealthy, famous -- well, one can either admire or resent such phenomena. If you have some specific criticism of the form or content of their discourse, Limbaugh and Coulter are fair game. But to assert that neither has a "real ideology beyond their wallets" is . . . peculiar.

As I have often said, I Write For Money. I am a capitalist writer, and proudly so. Some writers actually get paid to bash capitalism, but that's a dollar I'll gladly do without. Capitalism rocks. Washington is full of phonies who collect fat incomes by carefully maintaining their public image as earnest humanitarians devoted to some great cause. Screw that pretentious bullshit. I'm trying to make a buck, pal.

While my shameless pursuit of income-maximization hasn't (yet) been successful on a Limbaughesque scale, my professional trajectory has tended generally upward, despite my many personal shortcomings and career blunders. Does "talent" explain this? No.

Talented writers are a dime a dozen, and I'm certainly less "talented" than other writers who don't even write as full-time professionals, but who instead pursue trades more lucrative and secure than freelance journalism. (The blogosphere has gone a long way toward disabusing professional journalists of the delusion that they are the only people who know how to write English prose. Drunkards, morons and lesbians can write, too. Even law school professors have shown a knack for it.)

Yet at a time when New Media competition has driven major newspapers into meltdown mode, when journalists are being laid off by the scores and hundreds, I walked away from a secure newspaper job, staked out a place in the blogosphere, and generated a million hits in my first year of full-time blogging (and a quarter-million more hits since Feb. 13). How does a middle-aged Old Media dinosaur become a promising New Media mammal? Two basic points:
  • Strive for continual improvement -- Some guys graduate college as good writers and never get any better. When I started out in journalism, I sucked, and spent the next 22 years trying to get better every day. The same principle applies in blogging.
  • Don't envy success, emulate success -- Failure is easy, and the only thing easier than failure is the comforting rationalization that successful people succeed because they've got some unfair advantage. There are pitiful wretches shuffling around downtown D.C. panhandling spare change because of that attitude. And over the past 20 years there have been a thousand Rush Limbaugh wannabes who've failed in the talk-radio business, who tell themselves that their failure is somehow unfair and who resent Limbaugh's success.
It is their success that has made Rush and Ann such big targets for the resentful complaints of other, less successful, conservative communicators. Whatever their real shortcomings -- either ideological or methodological -- Limbaugh and Coulter wouldn't be sniped at all the time if they weren't so famously successful.

And for you, Jeff Bernard, to say that they're only in it for the money -- WTF? Limbaugh does 15 hours a week of the top-rated radio show in America. You want him to do that as a charity, to become the Mother Teresa of Talk Radio? You want Coulter to give away her books like government cheese?

If "demagogues" and "loudmouthed jackals" like Limbaugh and Coulter are offensive to "true conservatives" like you, what's stopping you from supporting some other broadcast personality or writer whom you like better? For that matter, what's stopping you from launching your own broadcasting or journalism venture and tapping into untapped market for "true conservative" discourse? The world eagerly awaits the "Jeff Bernard Radio Hour" and the Jeff Bernard weekly column.

Hey, I've got it: Why not start a blog?

Oh, wait. You did that already. Let me know when you crack a million hits. And don't forget where you got the inspiration. We call it Rule 4.


  1. "Drunkards, morons and lesbians can write, too. Even law school professors have shown a knack for it."

    What about moms?

  2. LOL. Didn't know you'd mind being omitted from that rogue's gallery. Us archetypes of hyperfecundity have to stick together! Heard any good "big family" jokes lately?

  3. "Whatever their faults, Limbaugh and Coulter are successful and popular."

    Ann Coulter said: "When I'm making love, I think about Ahmad Tanveer, an immigration detainee who died of a heart attack because he got no medical attention in a New Jersey prison; Ana Romero Rivera, a 44-year-old Salvadoran cleaning woman who was found hanged in 2008 in an isolation cell in a county jail in Frankfort, KY, where she was awaiting deportation; and an 18-year-old Haitian woman, known only as 'Mari Rosa,' coughing up blood for hours without medical attention in 2007 at the Glades County Jail in Moore Haven, FL."

  4. Coulter has 7 NY Times bestsellers.