Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Putting Words in His Mouth

A sharp reader writes to alert me to what can only be called a boneheaded error of the first degree.

In an August 18 post, “The Terrorist Attack on AndrewSullivan.com,” I attributed this statement, “I nearly always agree with Camille’s political viewpoints, but this one stumped me,” to Andrew Sullivan.

In fact, the statement was made not by Sullivan but by the reader who submitted the question for Camille Paglia’s consideration.

So, in many respects the August 18 post, in which I searched for remarks made by Paglia that might have confused Sullivan, is off the mark. I sincerely regret the error.

Of course the larger questions remain.

First, since Sullivan expressed no discomfort with the rambling discourse that constitutes Paglia’s response to the reader’s inquiry, should we all assume he agrees with the inane remarks included therein?

And second, why does Sullivan consort with the likes of Paglia in the first place?

Either way, I’m comfortable pointing out my error for everyone to see, a practice Sullivan might consider taking up himself.
Sunday, August 18, 2002
The Terrorist Attack on AndrewSullivan.com

Andrew Sullivan aids and abets terrorism. There are no two ways about it. The evidence: He has during his much needed vacation allowed his eponymous web site to be hijacked by a crazed lunatic, namely, Camille Paglia.

It’s not clear, however, that he is happy having done so. “I nearly always agree with Camille’s political viewpoints, but this one stumped me,” says Sullivan, in a statement that, at least in its initial clause, tells us all we need know about his mental stability.

“This one,” of course, refers to Paglia’s deranged tirade published at Sullivan’s site late last week.

Whatever could Paglia have said to stump the learned Sullivan?

Is it this?

Paglia: “I find specious the common argument that Arab states are to blame for not resettling dispossessed Palestinian refugees after the creation of Israel.”

I wonder whether Paglia is aware that such statements are heresy among her newfound neoconservatives allies. Sullivan, surely, is aware that a remark like that effectively ends any hope the writer thereof might have of being published in the New Republic. Martin Peretz does not put up with such…such…common sense.

Or this?

Paglia: “Though Italian Catholicism is my cultural heritage, I am an atheist who passionately identifies with ancient Mediterranean paganism. Since I am not a Christian, I have little interest in the sacred sites of Jerusalem, aside from their archaeology. (I subscribe to Biblical Archaeology magazine, in fact.) That detachment from the religious basis of Judeo-Christianity also means I do not understand the rationale for Zionism. By the same logic, my people, descended from fierce Volscian tribesmen, could lay claim to most of the region between Rome and Naples.”

Perhaps the gay right’s self-appointed theologian chafes at this disarmingly blatant display of happy ignorance, this posturing stupidity, the irrelevant self-referential parenthetical, and the stunning non sequitur with which the paragraph concludes.

Or maybe this?

Paglia: “Over a decade ago, I began arguing for a global core curriculum - an education based on world religions (which I respect and admire as profound symbol systems far more complex than poststructuralism). Mutual understanding, I hoped, would be a basis for world peace. I proposed that Hinduism and Buddhism be taught and that the Koran, as well as the Bible, be made central texts in public schools.”

I’ll have to check my files on this one, since I cannot recall Paglia advocating such a curriculum. She very well may have, of course, but toward what end? Does Paglia really trust public school teachers in this country, let alone “global[ly],” to use the Bible and the Qu’ran in a manner that promotes “mutual understanding”? And is Paglia not yet aware that Sullivan & Co. do not believe there can be peace between the West and Islam?

Or this?

Paglia: “My reading of history - based on the rise and fall of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Rome, and Byzantium - is that the world has embarked on a long period of uncertainty, a century or more of grotesque contrasts. There will be years, even decades of Western affluence and peace, then scattered outbreaks of violence and chaos, put down by assertions of military and police power, verging on the fascist.”

Clearly, Paglia has veered away from the party line here. “Fascist”? Military and police power used to put down scattered outbreaks of violence could verge “on the fascist”? No, no, Camille. Repeat after me: American military power is good, always good, no matter how or where it is employed, and the more such power is exercised, even if arrogantly unilaterally, the better.

Then maybe this?

Paglia: “The hopes of my 1960s generation for a progressive, ethical politics have been dashed. We’re back to realpolitik--which requires the mind and not the heart.”

I think the stupidity here is self-evident. And no doubt Sullivan gets the willies when Paglia speaks nostalgically, albeit self-centeredly, about the 1960s, that despite the fact that his ability to live as an openly gay man in a foreign country owes much to the social changes played out in the U.S. during that decade.

Or this?

Paglia: “No matter what the flaws and misjudgments of the Israeli government (including its winking enabling of settlements in Palestinian territory), the West has common cause with Israel.”

Surely Sullivan knows, even if Paglia doesn’t, that the Israeli government has done quite a bit more than winkingly enable the illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel, and by extension, the American taxpayer, has subsidized an aggressive expansion into these areas in complete defiance of international law. And Sullivan, of course, will have to pull Paglia aside and remind her that the party line doesn’t allow for criticism of the settlements in any event.

Or perhaps this striking piece of idiocy?

Paglia: “Europeans find it difficult to understand the intricate interconnection of American politics with Israel. Indeed, over the past three decades, there has been an intensification of simmering resentments among working-class African-Americans about what is perceived as Jewish power in media and business. This should have been more directly addressed in the 1980s, when members of the black Nation of Islam were blocked from appearing on American campuses. That decade’s speech codes (banning ‘offensive’ speech) proved foolishly counterproductive in this case, since it allowed anti-Semitic ideas and outright myths to spread unchecked under the national radar screen.”

Which newspapers and magazines, if any, does Paglia read? How clueless can a person be to think that the Nation of Islam’s ideas, to the extent they are anti-Semitic, have gone unnoticed during the past twenty years?

Paglia’s essay is a sad, yet for her all too typical, display of intellectual incoherence and historical and cultural ignorance. Sullivan asked for it, his pathetic distancing from Paglia’s schizoid tirade notwithstanding. Had I opened my site to such abuse, I would be embarrassed too.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Is Andrew Sullivan Abusing Drugs?

A licensed and board-certified physician with a substantial practice treating AIDS and HIV-positive patients writes in response to my August 4th post, “Written With a Copy of Honcho by His Side,” in which I expressed distaste with Andrew Sullivan’s onanistic paean to Androgel.

Here’s the main text of the letter:

“I am tired of hearing about the virtues of testosterone from a man who obviously takes more than is needed.

“You could make the argument that the ‘marvelous feeling’ he describes is just a lesser version of the psychosis that has been well documented from anabolic steroid abuse.

“If one uses testosterone replacement properly, then one only replaces a hormone that is at below-normal levels, bringing the hormone into proper balance. Therefore one using Androgel should only feel ‘normal’ not ‘marvelous.’

“As such one might assume that Sullivan is using dosages that are higher than are necessary to replace his natural testosterone deficit.

“As for his motives in doing so, I cannot comment.”
Sunday, August 04, 2002
Written With a Copy of Honcho by His Side

Did anyone else find this post (July 26) from Andrew Sullivan to be a little too onanistic to fall within the boundaries of good taste? Personally, I felt the need to bathe after reading it.

“T-TIME: I’d already smeared my Androgel over my upper torso when I sat down to read Jerry Groopman’s New Yorker piece on hormones for ‘andropausal’ men. . . . Even Jerry concedes that we don’t really know the long-term effects of men taking testosterone in modest doses. But we do know the short-term effects. It makes you feel marvelous. In lots of men with low testosterone, the extra boost makes them feel stronger, sexier, healthier, and more mentally alert.”

Of course, this doesn’t explain why his web site and newspaper columns suck.
Friday, August 02, 2002
Sullivan Publishes AOL Chat With Paglia

Andrew Sullivan has published what he says is the first installment of a conversation apparently conducted by way of e-mail messages swapped between Camille Paglia and himself.