She’s the author of 13 NYT bestselling books, including Adios, America. I know, I know. A lot of you are going to get mad at me for this one. If you’re a longtime Dishhead, you may even remember that we once had a Malkin Award every year, and this is how we described it:
The Malkin Award, named after blogger Michelle Malkin, is for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric. Ann Coulter is ineligible — to give others a chance.
I once described Coulter as a “drag queen posing as a fascist.” But, I’ll be honest, I’ve come to admire her the last couple of years for taking on Trump — for breaking his promises on immigration. Agree or disagree, that took a certain amount of courage, given her audience. I also met her, and found her much more intriguing than you’d expect from the public image. I’m not sure I grilled her hard enough in this podcast, but I did try to flush out some inconsistencies.
You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app,” which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. For two clips of my conversation with Ann — on our differing views on diversity, and how she underestimated Trump’s intelligence — head over to our YouTube page.
A reader writes:
I just finished your episode with Briahna Joy Gray on race and class in America, and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for bringing on guests you don't necessarily agree with. Too many podcasters use the platform to simply promote their ideas and bring on guests who don’t challenge them. Even though I could sense frustration and struggle on your side from time to time, I enjoyed the dialogue.
The dialogue continues this week on Briahna’s pod — teaser below. God I look tired.
Meanwhile, many readers continue to respond to our episode with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. One writes, “Intended or not, you and the Bobs managed to scare the living shit out of me just in time for Halloween”:
As a perennial supporter of outsiders — Howard Dean, local libertarians, Tulsi Gabbard, et al — I was embarrassed to vote for Joe Biden in 2020. And on January 6, I merely rolled my eyes at the wannabe cast of Idiocracy that stormed the Capitol, thinking I was witnessing a ridiculous but somewhat understandable temper tantrum within a heated historical moment.
But thanks to the book Peril, I realize I was gravely in error. We were instead, on January 6, watching people cheer on an aspiring demagogue who was planning a case through the rule of law that we could and should overturn a free and fair election — and we are about to watch him do it again. There is absolutely nothing more plausibly dangerous to our country in our near future.
During your closing minutes with the Bobs, you more or less label Trump as the one exceptional danger that ought to command our attention more than Wokeism. I agree — and surely far more dangerous than Biden. Even if we were to grant that the riots and crime sprees that took place alongside BLM protests were more dangerous than a mob attempting to capture or kill a vice president and/or members of our legislature, there’s little evidence Biden would further such riots beyond, perhaps, a misguided speech on race. Whereas we now know that President Trump would have done anything he could, including tactics bearing the weight of law, to further enable January 6.
We have to ask what likely coming transgressions to laws and norms are most likely to damage us irreparably: Biden and the Wokesters castigating us on Twitter for watching Dave Chappelle, or Trump’s lawyers aiming to discard popular votes? Indeed, the Woke may want to shame us, coerce us, and tell us what to think, but should what the Bobs report come to pass, the Right will have functionally stripped the right to vote. To me, that sounds as though the American experiment will have ended.
Another reader “watched this clip of your interview with the Bobs”:
I wondered why you changed from saying at the beginning that Trump was crazy but rational to saying he was crazy and irrational at the end. Could you parse this please?
I tried to explain above: you can be out of your mind, yet brutally rational in assessing your own narcissistic interests. From a reader in Portland, Oregon:
I’m a long-time reader — all the way back to your days at TNR. Judging from your newsletters at the current Dish, however, I just can’t follow. While on the one hand I don’t want to unsubscribe from your freebie version, I often find it hard to read. Not because I agree or disagree with your take on current issues — that’s mixed, as one would expect in a sane world — but more about your apparent understanding, or lack thereof, about the hierarchy of cultural threats surrounding us, and where the dangers in these threats really lie.
If you haven’t read this story from the WaPo about a Texas principal suspended for supposedly embracing CRT, I suggest you do. Cancel culture has been a feature of conservative America from the beginning. Right-wing cancel culture is the social force that chases millions of young people out of flyover country into the big coastal cities. I fought cancel culture when I was a teenager in Tulsa in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It was made clear to me then that someone with my views — atheist, left of center — would be happier somewhere else. And I’m a white guy from the middle class.
Bellyaching by conservatives in Trump country about being condescended to by coastal elites is a hilarious irony. It was their condescension to their own kids, their own refusal to be respectful human beings to their kids and neighbors, that chased so many of their children into the ranks of this “elite.” They act the way they do because they’re comfortable treating people who aren’t like them like crap. And now, finally, we’ve reached a cultural reckoning. The revolution is here, and no, it isn’t pretty.
I’m against the mentality of cancel culture, whether from the right or left. But I think your analysis of the gap between the cities and the rest is, shall we say, a little crude. The contempt goes both ways.
Next up, a reader pushes back on the “Email Of The Week” written by the Virginia mother, whom the reader assumes “has totally not read or understood the ADL materials”:
I took a close look at the provided links and saw nothing wrong or indoctrinating about them. The Reparations section is for 11th and 12th graders, for Pete’s sake. Don’t you think such students are capable of having an informed discussion on this issue? I read the original piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates and thought it interesting and worthy of debate. Ultimately, I come down against reparations and in favor of making sure schools have enough resources to lift up everyone.
My wife spent six years working on anti-bullying educational materials for middle schools as part of a long-term consulting job. They came up with syllabi that were similar to the ADL materials your reader links to and this was 14 years ago, before CRT and wokeness were even on the radar screen. I think that people are being fed “CRT cookies” as if this is an evil so big that we need to do everything in our power to destroy it. Don’t forget that it was not that long ago that the gay community was being savaged in a similar way.
You can go ahead and support Youngkin, who is a “Trump lite” candidate, but he won’t do anything to set this country or even the state of Virginia on the track it needs to be. With the emerging takeover of elections and school boards, we are on the road to a very dystopian future. Yes, we will ban Toni Morrison; yes, we will ban Margaret Atwood; yes, we will ban Mark Twain; and so it goes. Let’s enshrine the rule of the white male in perpetuity because that is the end game here.
Secession is beginning to look better and better to me!
I was with you until you degenerated into a rant against “the rule of the white male.” That racially essentialist generalization is exactly why the ADL has lost its way on this.
On a very different note, this last reader has an epic dissent against the Dish linking to a Substack piece entitled, “Anthony Fauci Has Been Abusing Animals for 40 Years”:
In reading your newsletter for some time now, I have come to see you as the epitome of rationality (validated by last week’s discussion with Steven Pinker). I am thus dismayed to see you jumping in with the lynch mob going after Anthony Fauci for the unfortunately named “beagle-gate” by linking to that Substack piece by Leighton Woodhouse. Perhaps you can be forgiven for an emotional reaction to this, given your devotion to animals and this breed of dog in particular. But the only thing ghastly about the article by Woodhouse is the lack of any kind of objective journalistic standard contained within it.
Let me start by providing some bona fides. I am a veterinarian who entered my career because of, fundamentally, a love of animals. I am also a research scientist that works for a pharmaceutical company. I work with hundreds of other such people that are lovers of animal and human life and devoted to making the world a better place — just like Anthony Fauci. Nobody I know in this field loves the animal aspect of animal research. In fact, I work with scores of colleagues whose main job is to ensure that our animal heroes are treated with kindness, compassion and respect — and provided as much comfort and freedom from pain as humanly possible, contrary to the implications of the Woodhouse piece.
The use of animals is an unfortunate but wholly necessary part of the advancement of scientific knowledge and, by extension, human health and welfare. Despite what Woodhouse claims, and while the entire field works tirelessly to improve methods that do not rely on animals, there is simply no truth to the notion that we can do without animal research and hope to continue the pace of remarkable innovation in medicine that we as a society expect and demand.
Woodhouse cherrypicks quotes from animal rights advocates and anecdotes that serve his argument while leaving aside the fact that nearly every single industrial and academic biomedical research laboratory or institution uses animals in their research. Animals are expensive, difficult to house and maintain and, as I mentioned previously, the objects of sympathy and respect. There is no rational scientist who would use an animal in her work if it were not absolutely the best way forward. Woodhouse’s “evidence” that animal research is optional is akin to the climate deniers who cite the single climate scientist out of a hundred that still thinks anthropomorphic influence on climate is still “unsettled.” It is very easy to sit back from a distance, while enjoying a quality and length of life and an understanding of biology unheard of even 50 years ago, and sling arrows at the entire endeavor.
In another stroke of fallacy, Woodhouse claims animal research is fundamentally flawed and should be abandoned because it often fails. This is a “false cause” fallacy, misapplying the difficulty of the scientific endeavor to the methods that are being used. On the contrary, it is the difficulty of the scientific questions that we as a community are trying to answer that is responsible for the failure rate. Science is hard! Most experiments — and this would, by definition, include those employing animals — fail. The failure rate would be extraordinarily higher if we were to abandon our use of animal models which, although far from perfect, allow us to mimic and test complex biological phenomena far more accurately than any in vitro or in silico approach available today.
It is a baseless claim, unsupported by data, that there is a cabal of incestuous animal testers that only fund research that employs animals. In fact, most grant submissions require strong justification for the use of animal models and a thorough examination of alternative methods.
Woodhouse states that FDA does not mandate that human drugs be studied in dogs. While this statement is technically true, it is grossly misleading in that it hides a small but important nuance: the FDA mandates that human drugs be studied in dogs OR MONKEYS. But why let inconvenient facts detract from a point you are trying to make?
And the propaganda about organs on a chip and AI is the same fodder fed to legions of PETA activists for the last 25 years. Yes, we are working very hard on these technologies. In fact, my lab is on the cutting edge of this research and we are incredibly excited about the advances that we are making. But make no mistake, these are still very rudimentary models that are flawed in modeling the unbelievable intricacy of a complex, multicellular organism. They are useful in answering certain very well-defined research problems but utterly fail in addressing other, more complex questions.
It is easy to convince a lay person that this is trivial stuff that we can just answer with computers and parlor tricks, but I think few biologists would agree. I’d like to point out that the weather is predicted by only three key variables and yet, with the most powerful supercomputers, we can reliably predict it only three days in advance, maybe five if I’m being generous. In contrast, a human being has 20,000-25,000 genes and many times more epigenetic and environmental variables influencing how it responds to an event, be it an injury, a mutation or an infectious organism. Yes, there are differences between animal and human physiology. However, no organ on a chip or computer simulation will come close to approaching the modeling power that another closely-related multicellular organism provides.
Woodhouse relies on shameful appeals to emotion to make his case. This manipulation is the last resort of a flawed argument. He takes a page from the pro-life crowd, screaming the equivalent of pictures of D&C’d 12-week old fetuses. His article is full of heartrending imagery of the most awful, gruesome things that one could imagine. I am sure that he did not sensationalize anything, such as “FORCE-fed…PUPPIES,” dogs being “CUT OPEN,” “brains DESTROYED,” “AGONIZING pain,” etc.
But guess what? Animal research involves death. Just like eating bacon. There is no way to sugarcoat this, and while I am sure there are plenty of people who will be ready to sign a petition to ban animal research after reading these accounts, I wonder what their perspective will be if their loved one dies after taking an experimental drug that had never been tested in animals and was thought to be safe.
If you think this is only a theoretical scenario, I would encourage you to spend some time learning about the lives of the thousands of babies born without normal limbs to mothers that took thalidomide while pregnant. This is a birth defect that was later shown to be predicted by testing in rabbits (and is the reason that these FDA testing requirements exist today). And this is still, in 2021, not an effect that we can predict in anything other than a whole, living animal (I know this, as this is a subject of the research in my lab).
Finally, and most offensively, the article makes an ad hominem attack on Anthony Fauci as somehow an evil leader of this heinous cabal of animal torturers. Even the title of the article (“Anthony Fauci Has Been Abusing Animals for 40 Years”) conjures an evil, cruel Fauci laughing as he personally administers the torture to his subjects, like a crazed Torquemada. These are shameful tactics being employed by anti-vaxxer, mask-resenting Trumpers who see Fauci as the meddling, come-to-take-away-all-my-rights government, personified. The vile that is spewed at this honorable, intelligent servant of our country is disgusting. Unlike most of the talking heads in the public arena, he is someone who is not seeking power or prestige, has been honest and forthright and, by all evidence, is a caring individual who wants to do the right thing.
No matter what one’s views are on animal research, to paint Fauci in this way is disgusting. Argue against animal testing if you wish (it is a debate I think you will lose), but make no mistake, this type of research is, for the time being, broadly accepted in our society. Anthony Fauci is no more responsible for the culture of animal testing than the surgeon general is responsible for abortions.
Sorry for the long diatribe, but this one touched a nerve. I hope you can place your very admirable love and affection for your beagle aside and recognize both the complexity of this subject as well as the gaping flaws in that awful op-ed in Substack.
Well, we’re very happy to air your arguments. I completely agree with you about Fauci, and I didn’t write the piece — just linked to it. But there are trade-offs with respect to the use of animals in scientific research. I find the whole concept of ripping out their vocal chords to silence their screams and howls as they are experimented upon to be, well, evil. I hope you do too.
Bodenner and I are currently brainstorming guest ideas to discuss animal rights on the pod, so if anyone has a good suggestion, hit us up: firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, a reader sees a beaglegänger:
The reader writes:
I am very curious to know where your rescue beagle came from. I’ve attached some small photos of Charlie, who is now almost 8 and so greyer, but they capture him well enough. He looks to be if not a sibling, then a pretty close cousin, to your Bowie.
I adopted Charlie in March 2014, when he was judged to be between 1 and 2 years old (I picked December as his birthday for insurance purposes, but that’s been backed up by his vet looking at his teeth). His paperwork, such as it is, starts in the dog pound in Newport, TN, which is in Appalachia, just north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He came patched up with some scars, one much the length of his leg, and is in blind in his left eye from some trauma. I speculate that he was abandoned and then hit by a car and found by some Good Samaritan. He is terrified of bangs — over and above fireworks phobia. I wonder if he was a failed hunter and abandoned for that reason, or if there was a hunting accident.
Anyway, he now lives in some style in New York, and you can perhaps see that two photos are from a cross-country road trip, in the Petrified Forest en route to Malibu, so, while it must have been a horrible experience, he landed on his paws. He is also my second beagle and I relate to everything you have ever written on the subject. But I know so little about Bowie, and based on this photo you posted of her, she has the same blue tick colouring as Charlie’s, and same patterns, and I note her hair is also a little longer. The tummy and tail look identical. It would be fascinating to hear of any history he knows.
I don’t think they’re related, since Bowie arrived via a Dish reader who was fostering her, and we were told she was originally from New York State. The thing about rescue dogs is that there is always a mystery about their origins. But they sure do look alike!