The Coulter Curve

What’s the opposite of a bell curve? How about a Coulter curve, where all of the numbers are either wonderful or terrible. Check out the Amazon reviews for Ann Coulter’s latest book, Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America:


Yes, that’s right. Out of 124 votes cast so far, 116 have been either ones or fives, and these have split almost perfectly down the middle (59 fives to 57 ones). Over 90% of people reviewing this book think that it’s either the worst book imaginable, or the best.

And the result of this crowdsourcing (to two very different crowds) is an average rating of three — which really seems oddly appropriate. Yes, you can put me in the 6% who probably wouldn’t give Coulter either a one or a five. I haven’t yet read this book as of yet, but if it’s anything like her others — and reviews indicate that it’s quite similar — then a three seems just about right.

Why neither a one nor a five? Because Colter’s books tend to be neither wonderful nor terrible. Coulter is a witty polemicist (like many polemicists, her perceived wittiness often correlates with the degree of agreement one has for her substantive views) with real talent for phrasing and timing. She’s quite gifted with many others of the polemicist’s tools, including zingers, one-liners, and cruel labels.

At the same time, Coulter’s writing is limited. She tends to stick to polemics only. Even within polemics, she typically chooses to go for easy laughs — how many gratuitous Teddy Kennedy references can a person make? — rather than more in-depth analysis. Also, not unusual for a polemicist, she tends to present starkly one-sided analysis and turn molehills into mountains.

Given those pluses and minuses, a three sounds about right. It looks like Amazon’s crowdsourcing gets it right — albeit through a very odd and circuitous route.

You may also like...

51 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    My oh my, Hardin’s most useful insight, that the commons are inevitably abused, has been around since 1968, and yet you can’t seem to lay a glove on it… Probably because it is obviously true, but its cute to watch you try.

    > the fatal problems with Hardin’s argument (actually, for analytical purposes we might distinguish the claims involving ‘carrying capacity’ from the wider argument that concludes with the putative ‘tragedy of the commons’) are well-known

    But you aren’t going to state them. Are they well known among the same imaginary friends you mentioned?

    > The assumption of short-term rationality by the agents involved is problematic and often empirically refuted in practice.

    Practice? Anyone who has ever picked up a public school (K-12) textbook knows about how tragic the commons can be.

    That’s why you assert it has been refuted in practice, but in fact even describe in what way it has been refuted. Did your imaginary friend refute it in practice for you?

    > Hardin is quick to resort to coercion

    I didn’t cite him for everything he ever thought or said, just for the notion that communism doesn’t have a chance because of what happens in the commons.

    > Rather than Hardin, you’d be better served by reading Kaushik Basu’s…

    Why? Hardin tells a basic and undeniable truth. Which is why you haven’t done a particularly good job denying it. You first talk about everything but the central issue which is the inefficiency of the commons and its application to non-authoritarian communism. You get into Malthus, which has nothing to do with that, and so on. You mention supposed failures in practice, but every person in reality sees what happens in practice. You cite 50 million books by people I never heard of and whom you gave me no reason to respect. I cite your 11th grade textbook, scribbled on, cut up and otherwise destroyed not necessarily by you, but by people who don’t care because they 1) did nothing to get what they were receiving and 2) will pay no price for the book’s destruction. In other words, you cite the content of books and I cite the reality of collective ownership of textbooks.

    By comparison, see how things change when you get to college and you have to buy each book, and you will often sell it back at the end of the semester. Those books are treated kindly, gently. Keeping what you create, and earning what you receive, is the cure for the shortcomings of the commons. In other words, the problem is the commons itself; the commons always becomes, well, tragic. And getting all communist with our labor only has tragic results.

    And don’t even get me started on how our socialized educations system in the k-12 levels cause educational quality to degrade, and breeds inequality, not equality.

    But go on, please tell me why impractical treatises should trump common reality that every person can observe. It should be amusing.

    By the way, clearly you didn’t read my whole list before getting back with me. Why not? I gave you an instruction and you should follow like a zombie, right? Or does that rule only apply to those you talk to, because you are so clearly a wise man who of course already knows everything. You have gone to the Yale Library and read all 4 million books, including those on my list, right?

    If I tell you an imaginary friend wrote to me praising my bibliography, would you read them, then?

    Or are you going to finally admit you don’t really find a reading list a useful tool in this kind of discussion? Oh, except you hope to intimidate with it.

    Btw, is it beginning to dawn on you that as cocksure as you are, as snotty as you are, you are actually quite thoroughly outmatched?