Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SPEED-WALKING WITH CAMILLE. I see Salon is still publishing Camille Paglia. Why, I wonder? It can't be respect for her prose, which reads like yammerings that a cranked-up MFA candidate might read into a digital recorder for her overdue thesis as she speed-walks around the quad. The only sane reason I can imagine they do it is to throw Republican yahoos some pointy-head bait, as the Times does with David Brooks and John Tierney, to get themselves links from rightwing blogs. Don't they realize they could get Ann Althouse to do the same thing for much less money?

This week the first half of Paglia's catecholamine cascade is devoted to current events, mainly "the orchestrated attack on radio host Rush Limbaugh, which has made the White House look like an oafish bunch of drunken frat boys." Don't linger too much over this image of Obama's Ivy League lieutenants pounding brewskis as they sing Coldplay from a speeding Lexus and head to the outskirts to go Rush-tipping, because as she rounds the student union Paglia is onto the "shrill duo of slick geeks (Timothy Geithner and Peter Orszag) as the administration's weirdly adolescent spokesmen on economics." Dekes and geeks! But wait, Paglia's heading for the tennis courts: "the White House is starting to look like Raphael's scathing portrait of a pampered, passive Pope Leo X and his materialistic cardinals... Do those shifty, beady-eyed guys needing a shave remind you of anyone? Yes, it's bare-knuckles Chicago pugilism, transplanted to Washington." So now they're Daley aldermen; turn down Coldplay, turn up "Oh Danny Boy." "The charitably well-meaning but hopelessly extravagant Leo X, by the way," adds Paglia, "managed to mishandle the birth of the Protestant Reformation, which permanently split Christianity." At this point Paglia has trampled the nets and is heading for the open road.

It's certainly an unflattering picture, but what about their policies? "First it was that chaotic pig rut of a stimulus package, which let House Democrats throw a thousand crazy kitchen sinks into what should have been a focused blueprint for economic recovery." Pigs, nerds and frat boys chaotically rutting among kitchen sinks! May we put Ms. Paglia down for a donation to the impeachment fund? No, in Obama "I still have great hope and confidence." One wonders why, but Paglia has left the campus and is headed down to where the townies pound boilermakers and listen to talk radio:
This entire fracas was set off by the president himself, who lowered his office by targeting a private citizen by name. Limbaugh had every right to counterattack, which he did with gusto. Why have so many Democrats abandoned the hallowed principle of free speech? Limbaugh, like our own liberal culture hero Lenny Bruce, is a professional commentator who can be as rude and crude as he wants.
Yes, we can see the resemblances: Rush Limbaugh is addicted to drugs, and Lenny Bruce was pretty chunky toward the end. Also, Bruce played to houses shrunken by his persecutions, and Limbaugh says his ratings are "through the roof," which is just his way of saying that his free speech rights are being trampled. Also, as Paglia said previously, "Lenny Bruce, when he recited all those dirty words, was trying to offend liberals, not conservatives," which is why William F. Buckley defended Pat Buchanan against Bruce and prosecutors tried to put him in prison.

But Limbaugh's closest relationship to free-speech rebels is Paglia's approbation: "As a student of radio and a longtime listener of Rush's show, I have gotten a wealth of pleasure and insight from him over the years." Then -- while charging down Main Street, where townies gawk at her haircut, to which she responds with a quick wave as she mutters into her recorder -- "To attack Rush Limbaugh is to attack his audience -- and to intensify the loyalty of his fan base." Why she thinks this classic triangulation -- whereby a Party that until recently was capable of winning national elections is heat-glued to a radio clown whose devoted following represents a fraction of the electorate -- is a blunder, we can only imagine.

By page two of the offending essay her dictation has turned to Brazilian Carnival. It's okay; this too may be fodder for her thesis, soon to be a thousand-page book. Now, still gibbering, she's headed for the bright line of the horizon. Thank God her publishers put that chip in her neck, so that she may be tracked down the next time her imprint is needed to show conservatives they have a friend in the academy.

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