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Thursday, July 09, 2009
The Silent Coup Hoax
When Ann Coulter claimed in her 2002 book Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right that the overwhelming majority of literary frauds were found on the left, I responded with a blog post with a far-from-exhaustive list of recent right-wing hoax books (e.g., I failed to mention Inquisition, Carlton Sherwood's apologia for Sun Myung Moon's criminal activity).
Another book that deserved to be in the list was 1991's Silent Coup by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin. Although Colodny has left-of-center politics (he writes for CounterPunch), I consider it a right-wing literary hoax because the premise of the book benefited the right and prominent members of the right endorsed the book. At the time I wrote the blog post, I was somewhat familiar with the book and its outlandish premise but didn't know enough about it to put it on the list. I was familiar with the book because G. Gordon Liddy heavily promoted the book on his radio show during the 1990's.
I got the full story when I finally had the chance to read John Dean's book Conservatives Without Conscience recently (I had previously read Bob Altemayer's online book The Authoritarians; Dean based his book on Altemayer's research). In the preface of Conservatives Without Conscience, Dean gives the story behind Silent Coup. The premise of Silent Coup is that the Watergate burglaries were masterminded by Dean, then Nixon White House Counsel, to remove evidence at DNC headquarter that Dean's soon-to-be wife was involved in an escort agency that provided women to prominent Democrats. This premise is libelous and manifestly absurd; it contradicts extensive testimony and documentation culled from numerous investigations. In short, if Silent Coup's premise were accepted, the history of the Watergate scandal would have to be re-written.
One of Silent Coup's biggest promoters was Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, who used the controversy to get back in the limelight and parlay the publicity into a talk radio program. Liddy knew the claims in Silent Coup were false but presented them as fact to his radio audience throughout the 1990's (this illustrates the contempt that right-wing talk radio hosts like Liddy have for the people who put money in their pockets; not surprisingly, Liddy, along with Rush, was a major proponent of the conspiracy theory that held that Bill and Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster).
Why discuss a book from 1991? Because the contrast in approaches to Liddy and the Silent Coup hoaxers is applicable to the current scene.
John Dean's Effective Response to The Silent Coup Hoax
Dean, then an investment banker who eschewed politics, didn't take this libel lying down. He not only sued the authors, Liddy, and the publisher (resulting in undisclosed settlements) but he pointed out to media outlets that had planned to provide publicity for the book that the book premises were false; this resulted in negative publicity for the book. Although the book sold well due to wing-nut publicity on Liddy's radio show and other far-right outlets, the book didn't sell as well as predicted and was a critical failure. Dean has gone on to write several acclaimed books on the anti-intellectualism, authoritarianism, and know-nothingism of the contemporary American right.
The Clinton Administration's Weak Approach to Liddy
When Liddy and on the talk radio scene were broadcasting lies about the Clinton administration, the Clinton administration response was feckless and weak. Keep in mind that Liddy was not only a Watergate conspirator, but he was an unrepentant terrorist who had planned to firebomb the Brookings Institute. In addition, Liddy has written about his fondness for eugenics and the Horst-Wessel-Lied. In short, discrediting and marginalizing Liddy is a no-brainer because Liddy is a Nazi-loving nutjob and terrorist.
The Clinton administration instead chose to legitimize Liddy and provided Liddy with an on-air punching bag, Lanny Davis (I have an extensive post on the disastrous effects of Davis and his dysfunctional relationship with Liddy). This would all be ancient history were it not for the fact that, to this day, Davis and other Clintonites, such as Terry McAuliffe and Howard Wolfson, are providing legitimacy to the Fox News Channel. Some people never learn.
UPDATE: Liddy is also a Birther. This performance with Chris Matthews on Hardball was so embarrassing that I almost felt sorry for him.