Paglia on Talk Radio and Culture

May 23rd, 2009

As anyone who frequently reads Opinion Forum knows, Camille Paglia is one of my favorite columnists and one of my favorite people. 

Her only on-line presence is at Salon.com, where she writes a monthly column.  Each column addresses a variety of issues, with her witty and insightful commentary putting meat on the bones.

In this month’s column, she wrote about the decline in talk radio and the increasing rancor in political discourse; Obama’s right moves on National Prayer Day and wrong moves on Air Force One’s flyby of the Statue of Liberty; cultural issues and the arts; and a not-so-positive comparison of Madonna and Daniela Mercury.  The whole column is a great read, as usual.  Some quotes:

On talk radio, which Paglia used to enjoy listening to:

Talk radio has been seething with such intensity since Barack Obama’s first week in office that I am finding it very hard to listen to it. How many times do we have to be told the sky is falling? The major talk show hosts, in my opinion, made a strategic error in failing to reset at lower volume after Obama’s election. When the default mode is feverish crisis pitch, there’s nowhere to go, and monotony sets in. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of tuning in and impatiently tuning out. As a longtime fan of talk radio, I don’t think this bodes well for the long-term broad appeal of the medium. I want stimulation and expansion of my thinking — not shrill, numbing hectoring and partisan undermining of the authority and dignity of the presidency. Rabidly Bush-bashing Democrats shouldn’t have done it to the last president either, but that’s no excuse for conservatives, who claim to revere our institutions, to play schoolyard tit for tat.

Not that Obama’s policies and conduct shouldn’t receive sharp scrutiny. Despite my disgust at the grotesquely bloated stimulus package which did severe early damage to this administration, I am generally happy with Obama’s eagerness to tackle long-entrenched social problems, although there is sometimes a curious disconnect between what he says and what he does. The degree to which Obama is or is not a stealth socialist remains to be seen. But it’s about time an ambitious young leader shook up the stale status quo. The sepulchral, doom-obsessed and megalomaniacal Dick Cheney’s self-intrusion into the news last weekend was a nice demonstration of just what a fresh new breeze Obama represents in Washington.

 On National Prayer Day and Air Force One terrorizing New York City:

I applauded the low profile taken by the Obamas on National Prayer Day, when they enjoyed family time in the White House instead of parading their piety around in front of TV cameras. This is a very positive first step toward detaching the American presidency from the heavy religious baggage that has complicated our politics for far too long. …

I am still steamed, however, by the blunders made by the administration in its first response to the colossally stupid buzzing of New York City two weeks ago by a presidential plane and military jet. Press secretary Robert Gibbs should have been fired for the simpering, shrugging way he dismissed queries about this outrageous and terrifying event, which had occurred many hours earlier.

On Madonna:

Now behold Madonna, arriving muscular and veiny-armed at the Vanity Fair party after this year’s Oscars in Los Angeles. Trying to be fair, I am not posting the horror candids of a skeletal Madonna in gym rags, nor am I showing her glassy-eyed at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Awards last year, when she was reeling through a bad pre-divorce patch. But Madonna, like Joan Crawford or the late Marlene Dietrich, has become a mask whose eyes see nothing but itself. Her life, for all her globe-hopping, has become rigid, predetermined, suspicious and claustrophobic. Despite her spiritual talk, Madonna is a voracious materialist and status-monger who is as addicted as Leni Riefenstahl to her triumph of the will. Persons have become mere instruments to her — which is why she cannot communicate with them heart-to-heart. And it is why Madonna’s creativity has tragically withered.

I have two coveted VIP tickets to the Madonna open-air concert in Belgrade in late August.  I’ve never seen her live before, and I’m hoping for an old Madonna-style rock ’em, sock ’em “Like a Virgin” concert.  What we’ll probably see is a muscular skeleton with popping veins prancing around in front of a first-class band.  Ah, well—hope springs eternal.  I’ll let you know how it went.

Finally, Paglia reports that she’s been watching Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” kid show with her six-year-old son.  She says it’s very entertaining, and I have to agree.  I’ve watched it a few times recently with my nieces, and I have to admit that I like it, too.  Read her review, then check it out.


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3 Responses to “Paglia on Talk Radio and Culture”



  1. Harvey |

    Tom,

    Paglia is, do doubt a great communicator — she uses words very effectively and makes many good points — but her characterization of Dick Cheney as “sepulchral, doom-obsessed and megalomaniacal” is typical Liberal bile. It turns my assessment of her from “great communicator” to “Liberal hack.”

    Dick Cheney’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute (See part 1 of Cheney’s speech to the AEI HERE)was an honest interpretation (and defense) of events by someone who was actually there and living though their unraveling. Paglia’s characterizations and Keith Olbermann’s rage at this speech (see Olbermann’s attack on Cheney HERE) are an excellent demonstration of just how much these people have withdrawn from reality and how much Cheney’s truth hurt. And when Paglia calls President Obama “a fresh new breeze” in Washington I gag — its obvious she has her eyes closed and iTunes plugged into her ears.

    When the war was on, when it was important to bring the country together, people Olbermann (I don’t follow Paglia so I’m not sure what she said) sought a faux-moral high-ground when they should have been down in the ditches with the administration and should have been loudly applauding the efforts of Bush/Cheney and the others in the administration for their SUCCESSFUL and dogged determination to not allow another 9/11. There is no moral high ground in a war — its either win by whatever means that are necessary or loose at a terrible cost; the only other choice is to not go to war and just submit to the enemy.

    Were Bush/Cheney perfect? Of course not! Did they make mistakes? Yes, they were in a position where it is impossible NOT to make mistakes. Were they negligent as charged? How can one be called negligent when they will (and did) do and say anything that will get the job done; that’s not negligence, that’s success rule #1.


  2. Carla Axtman |

    One of the few things that Paglia has managed to get correct of late is her assessment of Dick Cheney.

    Well done, Camille.


  3. Tom |

    Carla, one of the things I most admire about her is that while her liberal credentials are impeccable, she’s flexible enough to call each issue the way she sees it. She’s also open-minded enough to listen to opposing points of view, and that’s something relatively uncommon these days. It’s the same kind of thing I try to do, and I think she’s a good example for everyone.


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