I came across Ann Coulter’s face and voice on TV the other day, and in the 3.7 seconds it took me to change the channel (damn you, painfully slow DirecTV remote), a repressed memory was triggered in my mind, or somewhere in the back of my mind, of the first time I encountered Ms. Coulter’s unforgettable prose style.
It was in letter to the University of Michigan law school student newspaper, and it was, as I recalled, or thought I recalled, some sort of bizarre rant about the law school’s “beach boy Dean,” who, while wearing fashionable sunglasses and working up a tan, had refused to expel or even seriously discipline some students who had protested the decision to allow the CIA to interview students at the law school (the protests had involved chanting and slamming file drawers and the like if I recall correctly which I probably don’t).
The dean in question was Lee Bollinger, who, it must be admitted was and is as handsome as Buffalo Bill, and who went on to be the president of the university as a whole, before taking over the top job at Columbia, where even now he resides in administrative splendor.
And I wondered, can I somehow find this exceedingly arcane text? And lo, within less than a minute the Google searched the Library of Babel, and found the very thing I sought:
To the Editor:
The Gang of Six who took time off from the Mao Youth League to write a ringing endorsement of our Beach Boy Dean gone native (letter March 16) can rest assured that their collective letter will not be perceived as a defense of “Authority.”
But that is only because spineless capitulation to a chi chi cause is not likely to be confused with authority, not because the writers’ stance is particularly iconoclastic. As an aside,this feigned courageous opposition to authority is frankly irritating to true iconoclasts, and the true iconoclasts in this environment are conservatives. None of the writers hail from West Point or even the University of Chicago: precisely which Incarnation of “authority” has been oppressing the Young Radicals’ consciousnesses?
Their schoolmarm lecture on courtesy, restraint, and process and chastising of Mr. Pinn for daring to suggest that his interest in interviewing with the C.I.A rose to the level of a “‘right” (a rather odd criticism coming from the people who make their careers off the proliferation of “rights”) could be dismissed as your garden-variety law student pomposity except for the rhetorical twist taken in the second half of the letter. That’s the part where the erstwhile purely earnest letter writers give the game away by mentioning that-by the way, we think the C.I.A. is a terrorist organization that probably shouldn’t be allowed to recruit here anyway. Oh, well, big surprise that they have nothing but adulation for the Dean’s caving in to the protesters. But, really, we could have done without the disingenuous lecture on humility and manners.
The remaining question is not obscured by self-righteous blithering about courtesy: Is anyone who supports national defense – defined as the protection of the free world as opposed to the establishment of homosexual rap groups –similarly enraptured with the Dean’s conduct? That I doubt.
So the Beach Boy opted to side with the herd of individualists, adjusting his Ray-Bans so as to eclipse those of us who favor national defense. The Young Republicans and Federalist Society are unlikely, after all, to be staging die-ins outside the Dean’s office. Congratulations to the Young Revolutionaries, your team won, but don’t expect us to applaud this as a victory for all in the name of “courtesy and restraint.”
Ann H. Coulter
Let me be outraged and annihilated, but for one instant, in one being, let Your enormous Library be justified. The impious maintain that nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception. They speak (I know) of the “feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity.” These words, which not only denounce the disorder but exemplify it as well, notoriously prove their authors’ abominable taste and desperate ignorance. In truth, the Library includes all verbal structures, all variations permitted by the twenty-five orthographical symbols, but not a single example of absolute nonsense. It is useless to observe that the best volume of the many hexagons under my administration is entitled The Combed Thunderclap and another The Plaster Cramp and another Axaxaxas mlö. These phrases, at first glance incoherent, can no doubt be justified in a cryptographical or allegorical manner; such a justification is verbal and, ex hypothesi, already figures in the Library.
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”