Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Palin and Paglia

I've been amused to watch the debate between Camille Paglia and, well, the rest of the world about Sarah Palin. Paglia is the social critic who seems to enjoy stirring things up, who revels in her contradictions and her sometimes-odd fascinations. I've read rather more of Paglia than I probably should, but I find her a fascinating example of "Hey, look at me" coupled with an academic veneer that often makes her oddities appear more profound than they are.

At any rate, she believes that Sarah Palin, rather than being incoherent, is actually painting brilliant, jazz-like word pictures:
I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into
the more traditional Third World.
She also has gone toe to toe with Dick Cavett, outraged that he would have a problem with her mangling of the language. She still stands behind her friend from Alaska:
Sarah Palin's rehabilitation has been well launched. Step by step over the past five weeks since the election, headlines about Palin in the mainstream media and some Web news sites have become more neutral and even laudatory, signifying that a shift toward reality is already at hand. My confidence about Palin's political future continues, as does my disgust at the provincial snobbery and amoral trashing of her reputation by the media and liberal elite, along with some conservative insiders.
Daniel Larison takes this apart (via Patrick Appel guesting at Andrew Sullivan's place):
Cavett’s criticisms of Palin’s use of language were entirely accurate, but are supposedly too fusty and outmoded for the hip blogspeaking kids…and Camille Paglia. Does she think that it is a tribute to Palin to say that her “exuberant” way of speaking is “closer to street rapping than to the smug bourgeois cadences of the affluent professional class”? To hear Paglia tell it, Amy Poehler did not need to perform a Palin rap song on SNL–we need only listen to Palin’s interview excerpts to hear the sounds of the street…or are they the sounds of Wasilla’s Super Wal-Mart parking lot?

Reading Paglia’s descriptions of Palin’s language, I am reminded of newspaper articles that describe crime-ridden neighborhoods as “vibrant.” This is the hyper-condescension of the anti-bien pensant person, who in this case makes a grand show of her sympathy for a target of conventional ridicule to show how even more enlightened and thoughtful she is than the merely “provincial” bourgeoisie. Paglia is worldly-wise, and she appreciates the wonderful “exuberance” of Palin, in much the same way that outsiders might praise the “warmth” of “charming” and “colorful” ethnic neighborhoods as a way of subtly reasserting their superiority while pretending to praise the people who live there. Let us hope that Palin does not make a comeback, if only to spare us more of Paglia’s Palinophilia.

I can't add much to that, but I am enjoying it.

1 comment:

JohnDiddler said...

used to turn me on when I was 22, but she was a freak, like Palin.

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