2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”
Ann Coulter begins her newest polemic with this quotation from the Gospel of Mark, immediately capturing the reader’s attention and setting the tone for her most elegant, sophisticated, and literary work to date. Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America is Coulter’s exorcism of the dark spirits hidden within the political Left. The bestselling author combines insights in mob psychology, the history of the French Revolution, and the theology of evil to illuminate the political challenges of the day. Even those who have studied the Left in depth will be startled by the clarity and originality of the argument she methodically demonstrates over 300 packed pages.
Coulter uses Gustave Le Bon’s 1896 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind as the foundation of her analysis. She notes as evidence of the book’s accuracy that both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini used the text not to understand mobs but to incite them. Throughout Demonic she returns to the influential text and applies its analysis to the union mobs of Ohio, the Obamacare mobs, the progressive conspiracy mobs, and the Bush Derangement mobs. World War II’s totalitarian dictators aren’t the only ones reading from Le Bon’s playbook to harness the power of a mob to push forward an intolerable political agenda.
Referencing the prevalence of leftist sloganeering, Coulter turns to Le Bon who understood “Hope and Change” long before Barack Obama arrived:
[L]iberals thrive on jargon as a substitute for thought. According to Le Bon, the more dramatic and devoid of logic a chant is, the better it works to rile up a mob: “Given to exaggeration in its feelings, a crowd is only impressed by excessive sentiments. An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use of violent affirmations. To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings.”
After developing and establishing this line of analysis over Part I’s hundred pages, Coulter shifts to show how these themes apply beyond the back-and-forths of the last two years’ partisan political fights. Part II, “The Historical Context of the Liberal,” begins with two frightening chapters on the French Revolution.
It’s here that Coulter as prose stylist shines through more than ever. Removed from the standard subjects we’re accustomed to hearing from her on – the political nonsense of the day – Coulter’s ability to craft a powerful paragraph is more noticeable. Consider her description of the execution of Marie Antoinette, a victim of the mob:
To protect France against a beaten, half-starved, prematurely gray, tuberculosis-ridden, hemorrhaging widow, the full cavalry was called out and the streets and bridges throughout Paris were lined with cannon and bayonet-toting soldiers. Shackled to a rope held by the executioner and surrounded by armed guards, Antoinette rode to the guillotine on a rough cart used to transport hardened criminals. The drive was long and slow, the better to allow the mob to taunt her. Her face was placid, as she continued to pray quietly, showing neither fear nor defiance. On the scaffold, Marie Antoinette uttered her last words after accidentally stepping on the executioner’s foot: “Monsieur, I beg your pardon.”
After the guillotine fell, the executioner lifted Antoinette’s head from the basket and the crowd cheered, “Vive la Republique!”
Coulter then juxtaposes this horror show (and it gets even worse) with our own country’s revolution, which most certainly did not involve inciting mobs to murder innocent women and destroy property.
Coulter uses the most certain terms possible: “The French Revolution is the godless antithesis to the founding of America.” She then goes down the line comparing the symbols and events of each revolution, comparing the Jacobins’ brutality and lawlessness to our founders’ caution and respect for the individual. It is in this comparison of origins that the vital concept of American Exceptionalism takes on a new understanding. The unique greatness of the United States is simply the logical product of centuries in which the American Idea, enshrined in law by the founders, has been permitted to (mostly) run its course, producing wealth and prosperity. Compare that to France, a country so fragile that it would have been swallowed whole by Nazi totalitarianism if we had not stepped in to win World War II.
This same parallel emerges as Coulter transitions into an era she regards as the closest our nation has gotten to the Reign of Terror: the 1960s.
Coulter’s chapter on the Civil Rights Movement is a brilliant rhetorical construction: she picks two civil rights icons beloved by the Left and pits them against each other to argue for conservatives’ political principles. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mob tactics vs. Thurgood Marshall’s legal victories. Coulter argues that Marshall’s approach was not only the morally correct one, but also far more effective. She even quotes Marshall himself identifying King as an “opportunist,” “first-rate rabble-rouser,” and even “a boy on a man’s errand.”
Civil rights scholar Juan Williams agrees with Coulter’s characterization:
Coulter and I disagree most of the time, especially on her regular use of harsh, partisan hyperbolic language to caricature people. Her tirades against liberals get lots of media attention and sell books but they overshadow the serious insights she has into American history. And when Ann is right, Ann can be devastatingly right.
Coulter concludes with a return to her demonic theme. She draws from the work of one of my favorite writers – psychologist M. Scott Peck – who observes that there is no creativity to be found in the devil; all he seeks is annihilation. Then the pieces Coulter has laid out – ACORN riots, SEIU thugs, the French Revolution, the ‘60s New Left, the poisoning of the national debate with ad hominem slurs, an administration loading up the deficit higher than all his predecessors combined – fall into place and her exorcism is complete.
Coulter’s broad integration of these universal themes is important. In infusing her political analysis with historical, psychological, and spiritual layers she reminds her readers of the depth and seriousness of the problems at hand. These are not just political contests and policy debates. In many instances the root problem is far deeper: the pain that comes from being free and having to think for yourself.