Culture

Camille Paglia: A Lefty's Advice for the Left

Such a logical and objective approach to controversial subjects is rare from left-leaning folk, but is certainly welcome.

James Shott · Jun. 28, 2017

In today’s sharply divided political atmosphere, where a huge and widening gulf exists between the Right and the Left, it is both surprising and refreshing when someone identified with the Left renders ideas that are at least somewhat thoughtful, objective and balanced. Such an occasion occurred when Jonathan V. Last recently published an interview he conducted by email with lefty feminist, author and college professor Camille Paglia.

While characterizing herself as a libertarian, she confesses that she is a registered Democrat, but not always a supporter of Democrats. For example, she recalled that in the 2000 presidential election she voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader because “I detest the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democrat Party, with which I remain stubbornly registered.”

Beginning the interview with a statement of her political affiliations, Paglia noted that she voted for Socialist Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election. She now has her eye on newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), hoping to vote for her in the next presidential primary.

With the political spectrum identifiers out of the way, the Paglia-Last interview focused on three topics: the election and early presidency of Donald Trump, Islamic/Islamist terrorism, and feminism vs. transgenderism.

Like millions of others, she did not take Trump’s candidacy seriously, but attributes his win to “the startling incompetence and mediocrity of his GOP opponents.”

She was no more kind to some Democrats, noting that Hillary Clinton, “with her supercilious, Marie Antoinette-style entitlement, was a disastrously wrong candidate for 2016 and that she secured the nomination only through overt chicanery by the Democratic National Committee.” And, “Despite his history of embarrassing gaffes, the affable, plain-spoken Joe Biden, in my view, could … have defeated Trump, but he was blocked from running at literally the last moment by President Barack Obama, for reasons that the major media refused to explore.”

While criticizing the Trump administration’s handling of the temporary ban of travelers from predominantly Muslim countries tied to terrorism on the one hand, she then defended the administration, saying, “I fail to see the ‘chaos’ in the White House that the mainstream media (as well as conservative Never Trumpers) keep harping on — or rather, I see no more chaos than was abundantly present during the first six months of both the Clinton and Obama administrations.” She also noted that Trump was “going about his business” while the media was “consumed with their preposterous Russian fantasies.”

A 1950s-60s liberal, she contrasted the exalted civil liberties, individualism and dissident thought and speech of that time with what she termed the “grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian” nature of liberalism today. “It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates,” she said.

Turning to how today’s liberals regard terrorism, she explained, “The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity.” Paglia also suggested that some liberals have a racial perspective and therefore “Islam remains beyond criticism because it is largely a religion of non-whites whose two holy cities occupy territory once oppressed by Western imperialism.”

She criticizes liberals “paternalistic condescension” toward Islam, which she said is done from a distance, without really engaging in its “intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact.”

When Last posited an expected showdown in the U.S. between feminism and transgenderism that has not developed, Paglia responded that this occurs more publicly in the United Kingdom than in the U.S. She cited two instances where public programs featuring opponents of transgenderism as a legitimate concept drew spirited protests from activists.

Both programs eventually went forward against the same sort of opposition that conservative speakers experience on American college campuses. In the U.S, transgenderism is one of many things that are off limits for public discussion, and such programs would likely have produced riotous behavior.

She called attention to American leftists’ interesting contradictory views of science. When it comes to their acceptance of climate change theory, science is just fine, although Paglia described it as “a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence.” Where transgenderism is concerned, however, leftists “flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender.”

“The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible,” Paglia stated. “Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.”

Paglia takes a common sense stand on the treatment of transgender folks, seeking to protect them from harassment and abuse that may be aimed at them just because they are “nonconformist or eccentric.” But she said that whether the rest of us must identify a transgender person as a man or a woman based solely on that person’s “subjective feeling” does not fly: “it is our choice alone,” she concluded.

Such a logical and objective approach to controversial subjects is rare from left-leaning folk, but is certainly refreshing and productive — and it’s not the first time Paglia has had erudite things to say. That said, it’s no doubt too much to hope for an outbreak of this sort of thinking among other leftists that reaches epidemic proportions.

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