The species' last few gasps: Marjoleine Kars is an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She got her Ph.D. at Duke. She's been on the faculty at UMBC for twenty-four years.
According to this official speaker's bureau bio, Kars is also "a specialist in the history of rebellion and dissent."
In all honesty, we didn't see those values emerge in the piece she wrote for the Outlook section of yesterday's Washington Post. We saw values and instincts which were much different, which were much, much worse.
In yesterday's Post, Kars offered a review of Alexis Coe's peculiar new book, You Always Remember Your First: A Biography of Geroge Washington. In our view, Coe's extremely strange new book is also highly instructive.
In its remarkable weirdness, Coe's book helps us understand the demise of modern upper-end mainstream discourse—the failing discourse whose sheer inanity finally succeeded, after decades of clownishness, in giving us Donald J. Trump.
Is Kars "a specialist in dissent?" In her review, she seems more like a spokesperson for the culture which has grown in our upper-end press corps over the past thirty-plus years—a culture in which no claim is too inane or too bogus to applaud and repeat, just so long as it may seem to support some prevailing approved tribal narrative.
Coe's book is remarkably strange, but Kars won't tell you that. Silly/ridiculous headline included, her review starts in the manner shown below.
Warning! As in Coe's ridiculous book, the fraudulence here is general:
KARS (3/1/20): A Washington biography that skips the manliness and give us the manThe review continues downhill from there. But let's consider what has already been said.
George Washington always smiled with his mouth closed. His bad teeth deeply embarrassed him. His ill-fitting dentures, he complained, “for[ced] the lip out just under the nose,” Alexis Coe tells us in “You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington.” The prosthetic devices were fashioned out of his own dead teeth (which he carefully kept), bits of ivory, and teeth from cows, horses and his slaves. Washington paid his enslaved workers for their teeth—well below market value.
Washington’s teeth, with which Coe opens her book, hold a special fascination for America’s children, but they are generally deemed too trivial by his male biographers, who have focused more on his masculine thighs than his dental ensemble. These “Thigh Men of Dad History,” as Coe playfully anoints them, have obsessed over Washington’s manliness: his imposing physique, his impressive self-control, his imperviousness to microbes and bullets. Were they, she slyly suggests, compensating for the one aspect of manhood that Washington conspicuously lacked? “The father of this country was no father,” she points out, though, as she chronicles, he unselfishly parented many children.
Quite correctly, Kars notes that Coe opens her book with several pages of weird, accusatory piffle concerning Washington's teeth.
(In fact, Coe even seems to pretend to be debunking the claim that Washington's teeth were wooden. That notion died in 1973. Kars skips this plainly nonsensical part of Coe's ridiculous text.)
That statement by Kars is actually true. It's true that "Alexis Coe tells us," in her book, that Washington once complained that his ill-fitting dentures “for[ced] the lip out just under the nose." (He did so in a latter to a dentist.)
Technically, that statement is actually true! Might it also be perhaps a bit misleading?
It's true! Coe does "tell us" in her crackpot book that Washington made that statement. That said, the same statement was quoted by Ron Chernow in his Pulitzer-winning biography, Washington: A Life (2010).
Chernow's book includes many other statements by Washington along the same lines—and Chernow is most-reviled among the "Thigh Men" whom Coe weirdly attacks at the start of her extremely strange book.
It's true. Coe does "tell us" that Washington made the statement in question. But so did the leading "Thigh Man," ten years ago, despite the subsequent claim that people like him have reverentially avoided this topic.
Chernow told us ten years ago! Tomorrow, we'll summarize his voluminous treatment of Washington's very bad teeth.
Professor Kars is on the public payroll as a history professor. Did it ever occur to her to fact-check the various weird attacks which Coe "playfully" lodges against Chernow and the other "Thigh Men?"
Like other reviewers of Coe's bizarre book, Kars sanitizes its peculiar text, failing to quote the array of strange sexualized claims lodged against these earlier biographers (see Friday's report). The professor also fails to tell us what the simplest fact check would have disclosed:
To the extent that they can be paraphrased at all, Coe's very strange claims and insinuations are quite hard to sustain. For the most part, they're simply false. They can't be sustained at all.
Fellow citizens of a dying republic, is it actually true? Is it true that Washington's teeth "are generally deemed too trivial by his male biographers, who have focused more on his masculine thighs than his dental ensemble?"
It certainly isn't true in the case of Chernow, who barely mentions Washington's thighs but discusses Washington's "defective teeth" and "ungainly dentures" at enormous length, starting in his Prelude. Meanwhile, did we mention the fact that Chernow includes the very statement by Washington which Kars cites in her opening paragraph, almost seeming to suggest that Coe has unearthed it for us?
In fact, the most offensive Thigh Man of all discusses Washington's teeth at great length. Along with the other Thigh Men in question, he barely mentions Washington's thighs, a point we'll discuss in pointless detail later in the week.
Just this once, might we talk? Again and again, then again and again, Coe's book seems to the work of a disordered being, a fact which would have been apparent to Kars if she'd done any checking at all.
With that in mind, might we talk once again? If we were in charge at UMBC, we'd wonder why a person like Kars was a faculty member. On the other hand, if we'd been following the demise of the American discourse over the past forty years, we'd see the professor's absurd review as a product of an age.
Weirdos like Coe have been pimping weird claims for decades now, almost always with the lusty support of assorted camp followers.
Once it was Rush, and then it was Newt. But now, increasingly, the craziness and the disorder is emanating from our own failing "liberal" tribe. Coe's book, which has become a New York Times best-seller, is a perfect example of this.
Frankly, Coe seems a little bit smutty and perhaps a substantial bit nutty. She tosses off weird sexualized claims which, after sanitation, do attract a lot of attention, but which turn out to be absurdly false upon even the simplest checking.
Meanwhile, much of her book seems to have been borrowed from easy reader sources, not excluding the voluminous web site of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, another place where a person can read the statement by Washington about his teeth which opens the Kars review.
Coe's book is remarkably bogus. But it's blurbed on the back by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and on the jacket by Irin Carmon. It's been serially pimped by the Post and the New York Times.
It was weirdly pimped by Brian Williams, who said his favorite part of the book was the ridiculous passage about the "hinky" behavior and interests of the so-called "Thigh Men."
In fairness, Williams is no stranger to invented tales; he got himself canned, not long ago, for inventing ridiculous tales about his own glorious self. But as we've noted here for the past twenty years, our upper-end discourse is increasingly a welter of invented claims—and professors are ready to step to the fore to praise such disordered behavior.
Coe's book has become a best-seller; it's also a sign of the times. Professor Kars defines the era too, a point we'll be noting all week, even as we explain where we'll be heading in the next few weeks, as we decide to say goodbye to a great deal of all this.
(Hint: We'll be taking you directly into The Rational Animal's Lair.)
Alexis Coe's very strange book is trivial in itself. The instruction comes when we see the way upper-end figures stand in line to endorse the author's bogus claims and her strange, disordered behavior.
We'll fact-check Coe's strange claims all week; the professor didn't bother. If we were running UMBC, we'd wonder why a scholar like that was on a major university's staff—but then too, we'd know all too well.
Coe is pimping a simple-minded narrative which meets broad tribal approval. The fact that her claims and insinuations are smutty and factually bogus can't stand in the way of the tribal pleasure her strange disorder provides.
Doris Kearns Goodwin applauds her work. Professor Kars repeats her silly claims in her own voice. Our culture has functioned this way for decades.
Can such a nation expect to survive? Should we ask Donald J. trump?
Tomorrow: What Alexis Coe's most heinous "Thigh Man" wrote about Washington's teeth
Also this week: Washington's childlessness, Washington's thighs, and did he shtup other women? Also, the occasional questions which emerge concerning Coe's possible sources
Coe's book strikes us as highly disordered. Did Kars check any facts?