Camille Paglia is always good for an orthogonal view on current pieties, and this interview with her (warning: Salon) is no different. She also has a gift for intellectual putdowns that work at a much higher level of reference than Maureen Dowd’s.
Take, for example, her take on Anthony Weiner:
Two words: pathetic dork. How sickeningly debased our politics have become that this jabbering cartoon weasel could be taken seriously for a second as a candidate for mayor of New York.
Hillary Clinton and Benghazi:
It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.
I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.
Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win.
Oh, feminism is still alive? Thanks for the tip! It sure is invisible, except for the random whine from some maleducated product of the elite schools who’s found a plush berth in glossy magazines. It’s hard to remember those bad old days when paleofeminist pashas ruled the roost. In the late ‘80s, the media would routinely turn to Gloria Steinem or the head of NOW for “the women’s view” on every issue — when of course it was just the Manhattan/D.C. insider’s take, with a Democratic activist spin. Their shameless partisanship eventually doomed those Stalinist feminists, who were trampled by the pro-sex feminist stampede of the early ‘90s (in which I am proud to have played a vocal role). That insurgency began in San Francisco in the mid-‘80s and went national throughout the following decade. They keep dusting Steinem off and trotting her out to pin awards on her, but she’s the walking dead. Her anointed heirs (like Susan Faludi) sure didn’t pan out, did they?
While it’s a big relief not to have feminist bullies sermonizing from every news show anymore, the leadership vacuum is alarming. It’s very distressing, for example, that the atrocities against women in India — the shocking series of gang rapes, which seem never to end — have not been aggressively condemned in a sustained way by feminist organizations in the U.S. I wanted to hear someone going crazy about it in the media and not letting up, day after day, week after week. The true mission of feminism today is not to carp about the woes of affluent Western career women but to turn the spotlight on life-and-death issues affecting women in the Third World, particularly in rural areas where they have little protection against exploitation and injustice.
And one need not share her fascination with bondage and discipline to enjoy her artful takedown of the Cult of Foucault:
My principal complaint about those three books, all from university presses, was that their intriguing firsthand documentation of the BDSM community was pointlessly shot through with turgid, pretentious theorizing, drawn from the slavishly idolized but hopelessly inaccurate and unreliable Michel Foucault.
In this tight job market, young scholars are in a terrible bind. They have to cater to and flatter the academic establishment if they hope to survive. Furthermore, they have not been taught basic skills in historical investigation, weighing of evidence, and argumentation. There has been a collapse in basic academic standards during the theory era that will take universities decades to recover from. I was incensed that none of those three authors had read a page of the Marquis de Sade, one of the most original and influential writers of the past three centuries. Sade had a major impact on Nietzsche, whom Foucault vainly tried to model himself on. Nor had the three authors read “The Story of O” or explored a host of other crucial landmarks in modern sadomasochism. No, it was Foucault, Foucault, Foucault — a con artist who will one day be a mere footnote in the bulging chronicle of academic follies.
Paglia can still be spectacularly wrong (such as her neo-Freudian take on Weiner later in that section), but she’s always thought-provoking and never dull. Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip: Ace.)