This list is often dead in the water, so it's good to get hot under
the collar once in a while.  Twain got agitated about war and
politics and injustice, so it's in the grand tradition.  Twain also
felt that he had to penetrate an atmosphere of lies, distortions, and
self-delusions.  I don't think there's much argument that the Bush
administration has demonstrated all of those characteristics,
particularly but not exclusively in relation to the Iraq
war.  However, I don't expect that this list will debate all the
issues too much -- we don't have much of a basis.  Still, it's worth
examining Coulter because of her use of the techniques of satire --
and how such techniques are similar or not to Twain's.  Since Twain
is the standard for so many, at least for so many in US culture, we
should understand how he pulled off his satires, and how others
follow in that tradition or veer from it.  That is certainly a
literary topic.  Coulter operates within already establish
traditions.  I haven't analyzed Coulter's writing, but I could tell
from the outrageous publicized instances, that she could be well
served by getting married to someone like Livy who could read over
her material as an editor of good taste.  "Dear, are you truly going
to insult widows to make your point?"  Twain would grumble, then
withdraw the piece and re-write it.  As for Michael Moore, he is
aware that he is producing polemics, that he manipulates images and
ideas to make his point.  He mocks but doesn't insult -- something
close to Twain.  But he also stages things -- I would say a variation
of the tradition of the Nevada hoax.  The events are not necessarily
fake, but they are set-ups.  I think, if people focused on a
satirical piece by Twain, "To a Person Sitting in Darkness," for
example, and compared his techniques to Coulter's or Moore's, we
would see a lot of similarities -- and differences.  The bottom line,
for Twain, despite his venom -- e.g. Gen. Funston, who carried out
massacres in Philippines, is excoriated as "satire incarnate" -- he
operates within a general context of compassion.

Hilton Obenzinger
Stanford University