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Michelle Malkin:
The Radical Right's Asian Pitbull


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Michelle Malkin:
The Radical Right's Asian
Pitbull

     Once it was learned that the attacks had been carried out in part by foreigners who had entered the U.S. illegally, Malkin quickly saw that she had in hand a golden opportunity to turn herself into a right-wing prophet.

     “September 11 was obviously a galvanizing event for me,” she told CSPAN, “seeing the lapses in our immigration system that allowed the September 11 hijackers to come in, exploit our weak enforcement, work underground and live here comfortably.” She didn't miss the chance to connect the recent horrors to her earlier cries of wolf. “And that is a theme that I've been talking a lot about over my career in journalism, for more than a decade. I started out in Los Angeles, and it's hard to ignore the negative consequences of lax immigration enforcement when you're in the middle of it in Los Angeles. So over the years, you know, I've written a number of stories about so many aspects of the immigration system from top to bottom -- the front door, the back door, the side door.”

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     And she didn't overlook the obvious advantages — from the political perspective — of having the threat being decried by someone of her immigrant background.

     “I often talk about how I myself am the child of legal immigrants who came here from the Philippines. And one of the themes that I've always talked about is something that they've reminded me... that entry into this country and residence in this country, and ultimately, citizenship in this country is an absolute privilege, and it ought not to be treated as some sort of natural right or entitlement. But over the years, our immigration system has abandoned that principle. And that's how we find ourselves with so many problems that we're dealing today.” Malkin

     She lost no time pounding out a book called Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores (Regnery, September 2002).

     “It took seven months and no sleep and I don't know when I'm going to do it again,” she sighed in December of 2002, just months before beginning work on her second book.

     Invasion was released around the anniversary of the 9/11 attack. Despite the total absence of reviews from major newspaper or magazines, it reached number 14 on The New York Times non-fiction best-seller list. The book secured Malkin's credentials as a right-wing prophet — no longer was she just a raving maniac, she was now a topical raving maniac with sexy hair and a book credential. Fox Network put her under exclusive contract as a guest commentator for the right-wing gabfests The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes. By 2003 Malkin's bi-weekly column was syndicated in over 100 newspapers. She was even beginning to enjoy a bit of demand as a paid speaker at $10,000 a pop.

     Malkin's success wasn't unprecedented. She had been following doggedly in the footsteps of another female columnist who had become wealthy as a rightwing attack dog. Since the mid-1990s the radical right's top poster girl had been the forty-something Ann Coulter, a onetime corporate lawyer with a cruel eye, firm grasp of wingnut psychology and enough vampish blonde hair to pass for telegenic among older, more conservative audiences. Coulter had cut her teeth on the Clintons and terrorized politicians with names like “pimp”, “gigolo” and “poodle”. Her columns were studies in hyperbole. “Eight More Thomases!”, “Attack France!” and “Affirmative Action for Osama” are typical titles. Her major appeal for the far right is revealed by the photos covering the dust jackets of her four best-selling books: big blonde hair, little black leather outfits, pancake makeup. Coulter's restraint was diminishing in inverse proportion to her success. Recently, even publishers and networks positioned for right-wing audiences have been forced to ban her from time to time to keep from losing advertisers.

     Until the summer of 2004 Michelle Malkin might have been considered Ann Coulter's understudy, learning to sneer, snarl, attack and blow-dry hair. That changed with the publication of Malkin's second book In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror (Regnery, August 2004) The book's central argument did more than voice a belief that even the most rabid right-winger didn't like to utter on record. It turned Malkin into a sociological phenomenon.

     Had Internment been written by a white woman, it would have been studiously ignored as racist extremism — even if it offered up stronger evidence than does Malkin. But the titillation and political cover offered by an Asian female author was too good to ignore, even though the evidence Malkin offers had long been dismissed, by military as well as civilian experts, as too inchoate to justify the mass incarceration of 110,000 west-coast Japanese Americans. The decoded military intelligence intercepts (MAGIC) cited by Malkin's book proves that the Japanese military hoped to turn a number of connections with Japanese American business and cultural societies into espionage links. In fact, however, they never amounted to the basis for even one concrete espionage prosecution. The strongest evidence Malkin provides is the account of the help rendered a downed Zero pilot by a Japanese couple on the remote Hawaiian island of Niihau. None of it was new, but it was just enough fodder with which Malkin could make a publishing splash. The real attraction was the sideshow factor: why is this Asian American woman trying to justify Japanese American internment?



     Whatever may be the ultimate judgment passed on Malkin's motives, as of late September of 2004 Internment seemed unlikely to reprise the success of her first. The book's media tour accomplished something that may be just as profitable — qudruple the traffic to Malkin's website, catapulting it past Ann Coulter's. No doubt part of that jump is from curiosity seekers who are aghast at Malkin's political views. Yet they will be surprised to find that Malkin's output shows a hard-working writer who makes more than occasional sense but undercuts herself with the unrelenting quality of her free-floating hatred and scorn. To hear Malkin tell it, the world swarms with evil people out to do in the American way of life and, what's more, Americans are too dumb to see it.

     The rest of her new visitors will find in Malkin's columns a gleeful sort of pleasure in seeing their distate for liberal weenies and pushy minorities articulated by a hot little Asian woman full of bitchy putdowns worth repeating over beers. They may well find strength in seeing the principles of their eroding way of life being shored up by a woman who looks like the enemy. Some may accuse Malkin of dispensing phony outrage, but her core audience will find it all the more gratifying that an Asian woman has found them worth catering to at a time when they've been pushed to the margins of society by members of their own race.

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“It took seven months and no sleep and I don't know when I'm going to do it again.”


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