Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why I have a great deal of respect for Camille Paglia

Because although she is a liberal, she is mistaken, not either foolish nor craven, nor pharasiacal. She is intellectually honest, and generally rigorous in her thought, rather than dogmatic or reactionary.

I disagree with her analysis, and in some cases her principles; but she respects facts, and THINKS about things rather than simply feeling and reacting; and then she writes about them, generally quite well (though sometimes she's a bit overblown).

She is the type of liberal you can actually debate with.

I present two extended quotes from her most recent responses to reader mail on the RIDICULOUSLY liberal web site (which still features some excellent writing by the way) Salon (it's four pages, these are from page 2):
I am a conservative lesbian living in New York. I would love you to address how the Fairness Doctrine has become a viable possibility for the liberal agenda, given that it is simply modern-day censorship, and also taking into account the undeniably left-leaning media. How can the left not see its hypocrisy?

Kara McGee

If there's anything that demonstrates the straying of the Democratic Party leadership from basic liberal principles, it's this blasted Fairness Doctrine -- which should be fiercely opposed by all defenders of free speech. Except when national security is at risk, government should never be involved in the surveillance of speech or in measuring the ideological content of books, movies or radio and TV programs.

Broadcasters must adhere to reasonable FCC regulations restricting obscenity, but despite the outlandish claims of Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer, there is no analogy whatever between pornography and political opinion. Nor do privately owned radio stations have any obligation to be politically "balanced." They are commercial enterprises that follow the market and directly respond to audience demand. The Fairness Doctrine is bullying Big Brother tyranny, full of contempt for the very public it pretends to protect.

As a fan of AM radio since childhood, I adore the proliferation of political talk shows spurred by Rush Limbaugh's pioneering rise to national syndication in the late 1980s. It represented a maturation of the late-night coast-to-coast radio programs that I had been listening to in the 1970s, such as Herb Jepko (broadcasting from Salt Lake City), Long John Nebel (from New York) and Larry King (from Miami).

However, I do lament the gradual disappearance of small, quirky local shows due to the trend toward national syndication. And I often get bored and impatient with the same arch-conservative message being drummed out 24/7. But let's get real: Liberals have been pathetic flops on national radio -- for reasons that have yet to be identified. Air America, for example, despite retchingly sycophantic major media coverage, never got traction and has dwindled to a humiliating handful of markets. The Democrats are the party of Hollywood, for heaven's sake -- so what's their problem in mastering radio?

Instead of bleating for paternalistic government intervention, liberals should get their own act together. Radio is a populist medium where liberals come across as snide, superior scolds. One can instantly recognize a liberal caller to a conservative show by his or her catty, obnoxious tone. The leading talk radio hosts are personalities and entertainers with huge rhetorical energy and a bluff, engaging manner. Even the seething ranters can be extremely funny. Last summer, for example, I laughed uproariously in my car when WABC's Mark Levin said furiously about Katie Couric, "What do these people do? Open fortune cookies and read them on air?"

The best hosts combine a welcoming master of ceremonies manner with a vaudevillian brashness. Liberal imitators haven't made a dent on talk radio because they think it's all about politics, when it isn't. Top hosts are life questers and individualists who explore a wide range of thought and emotion and who skillfully work the mike like jazz vocalists. Talk radio is a major genre of popular culture that deserves the protection accorded to other branches of the performing and fine arts. Liberals, who go all hushed and pious at Hays Code censorship in classic Hollywood, should lay off the lynch-mob mentality. Keep the feds out of radio!

Have you noticed how much the call for combating global warming crusade has in common with how we got into the Iraq war?

In both cases, there are "experts" who tell us that evidence justifying action is undeniable. They say, "The risk of doing nothing is too great for us to do nothing." And as a fallback position they say, "Even if we're wrong, we'll still be doing some good in the world."

Kind of makes me think man-made CO2 emissions will turn out to be the biggest case of nonexistent WMD since Saddam Hussein's nukes. (Or maybe even bigger!) What do you think?

Jim Carroll

Wonderful letter! I became a vocal opponent of the onrushing Iraq incursion when I was shocked by the flimsiness of evidence presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations in 2003. Similarly, I have been highly skeptical about the claims for global warming because of their overreliance on speculative computer modeling and because of the woeful patchiness of records for world temperatures before the 20th century.

In the 1980s, I was similarly skeptical about media-trumpeted predictions about a world epidemic of heterosexual AIDS. And I remain skeptical about the media's carelessly undifferentiated use of the term "AIDS" for what is often a complex of wasting diseases in Africa. We should all be concerned about environmental despoliation and pollution, but the global warming crusade has become a hallucinatory cult. Until I see stronger evidence, I will continue to believe that climate change is primarily driven by solar phenomena and that it is normal for the earth to pass through major cooling and warming phases.

And here's two more from back in 2007:

I know you are a Democrat, but you certainly have very strong libertarian opinions. I was wondering where you stand on the Second Amendment. I'm a registered Independent who, the older I get, leans more toward libertarianism. Ideally there would never have been a Bill of Rights, and all freedoms would be understood to be the rights of every American. But since we have one, the rights listed, to me at least, are sacrosanct -- all of them, not just the first and third through the tenth!

I am pro-gun ownership. I have never been arrested, and the sum total of my criminal activity amounts to a pair of moving violations when I was still in my 20s. However, since I live in New York City, I need to either be rich and famous or navigate a confusing legal process if I want to acquire a permit.

We are always reminded, not least by Mayor Bloomberg (whom I generally like and voted for) that illegal guns kill. The problem is, there is no real means to get a gun legally, and those in the world who are anti-gun want to make it harder. The thing that leaves me scratching my head is when people say, Mayor Mike among 'em, that we need stricter laws to crack down on illegal guns! Exactly what needs to be in place to make an illegal gun more illegal!

I know there are bigger issues right now facing our presidential candidates, but this speaks to personal freedom as much as any other issue. Just wondering how you see it.

Dave Hunt

As a Salon columnist (dating back to the founding of Salon in 1995), I have tried to provide a forum for defenders of the Second Amendment to make their case. The Northeastern major media, which remain heavily liberal, rarely permit these voices to be heard.

I do not own guns and have no interest in them. (Swords, those Homeric and chivalric emblems, have always attracted me more.) But as a libertarian, I read the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights as granting to private citizens the right to bear arms against the potential abuses of a government turned tyrannous. Furthermore, should police authority evaporate after a cataclysm of storm, flood, earthquake or terrorism, citizens have a right to defend their families and property against criminals and looters. If food and water are in short supply over a protracted period, expect predators and violence.

The horrendous problem of illegal guns now rampant among the urban underclass cannot be solved by depriving all American citizens of their Second Amendment rights. Major cities must address their internal problems, which include improving public education and vocational training, creating job-rich public works projects, and instituting on-the-street neighborhood policing. The major media, concentrated in their metropolises, should stop extrapolating their local issues to the nation as a whole.

Just wondering what your thoughts are on the global warming issue. Have you seen the Al Gore movie? Any thoughts on the current debate on climate science?

Many thanks,

Oh, great, here comes the hornet's nest!

As a native of upstate New York, whose dramatic landscape was carved by the receding North American glacier 10,000 years ago, I have been contemplating the principle of climate change since I was a child. Niagara Falls, as well as the even bigger dry escarpment of Clark Reservation near Syracuse, is a memento left by the glacier. So is nearby Green Lakes State Park, with its mysteriously deep glacial pools. When I was 10, I lived with my family at the foot of a drumlin -- a long, undulating hill of moraine formed by eddies of the ancient glacier melt.

Geology and meteorology are fields that have always interested me and that I might well have entered, had I not been more attracted to art and culture. (My geology professor in college, in fact, asked me to consider geology as a career.) To conflate vast time frames with volatile daily change is a sublime exercise, bordering on the metaphysical.

However, I am a skeptic about what is currently called global warming. I have been highly suspicious for years about the political agenda that has slowly accrued around this issue. As a lapsed Catholic, I detest dogma in any area. Too many of my fellow Democrats seem peculiarly credulous at the moment, as if, having ground down organized religion into nonjudgmental, feel-good therapy, they are hungry for visions of apocalypse. From my perspective, virtually all of the major claims about global warming and its causes still remain to be proved.

Climate change, keyed to solar cycles, is built into Earth's system. Cooling and warming will go on forever. Slowly rising sea levels will at some point doubtless flood lower Manhattan and seaside houses everywhere from Cape Cod to Florida -- as happened to Native American encampments on those very shores. Human habitation is always fragile and provisional. People will migrate for the hills, as they have always done.

Who is impious enough to believe that Earth's contours are permanent? Our eyes are simply too slow to see the shift of tectonic plates that has raised the Himalayas and is dangling Los Angeles over an unstable fault. I began "Sexual Personae" (parodying the New Testament): "In the beginning was nature." And nature will survive us all. Man is too weak to permanently affect nature, which includes infinitely more than this tiny globe.

I voted for Ralph Nader for president in the 2000 election because I feel that the United States needs a strong Green Party. However, when I tried to watch Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" on cable TV recently, I wasn't able to get past the first 10 minutes. I was snorting with disgust at its manipulations and distortions and laughing at Gore's lugubrious sentimentality, which was painfully revelatory of his indecisive, self-thwarting character. When Gore told a congressional hearing last month that there is a universal consensus among scientists about global warming -- which is blatantly untrue -- he forfeited his own credibility.

Environmentalism is a noble cause. It is damaged by propaganda and half-truths. Every industrialized society needs heightened consciousness about its past, present and future effects on the biosphere. Though I am a libertarian, I am a strong supporter of vigilant scrutiny and regulation of industry by local, state and federal agencies. But there must be a balance with the equally vital need for economic development, especially in the Third World.

Here's a terrible episode from my region that made the news just last year. A bankrupt thermometer factory in Franklin Township, N.J., vacated its building in 1994 but ignored a directive to clean the premises of residual mercury toxins. There was a total failure of oversight and follow-through at the state and local levels. The result: In 2004, a daycare center opened in the renovated building and for two years subjected children and pregnant women to a dangerously high level of mercury vapors from the contaminated site.

The degree of permanent health effects on those children is still unknown. This kind of outrageous negligence should not be tolerated in a civilized nation.

How many liberals today would admit the facts here, and address them rationally?

Plus, she hates the French, and pisses off other liberals and feminists.

So I may disagree with her frequently, but I always respect her.