Paglia on Palin, Hate Crimes

July 9th, 2009

Camille Paglia answers questions submitted by readers in her monthly column at Slate.com.  The questions and answers are on Sarah Palin, loose comments on assassinations of and attacks on political figures, President Obama’s apparent attitude toward women’s rights, the power and limits of language, hate crimes legislation, perceptions of art as pornography, and commentary on several issues related to the arts.  Finally, if you’re of a Puritan bent, don’t read the last page — you were warned! 

If you’re not already a reader of Paglia’s columns, give it a try.  Her only online presence is the column at Slate.com, and it appears only once a month, on the second Wednesday.

Here are excerpts of Paglia’s response to a reader who asked if she thinks “Sarah Palin is ready for the big stage:”

Good question! And very timely after Palin’s shock resignation as governor of Alaska this past Fourth of July weekend. I assume that family priorities — personal as well as financial — had become all-consuming. Given her success with finalizing the massive Alaska pipeline project, I think Palin should have stuck it out, but of course she is master of her own fate. What certainly was blameworthy was the chaotic and rushed statement itself. Something so politically consequential needed more careful composition and rehearsal. Why provide more fodder for the vultures and harpies of the Northeastern media? …

Of course you’d never know [about Palin’s grassroots popularity] from reading hit jobs like Todd Purdum’s sepulchral piece on Palin in the current Vanity Fair. Scurrying around Alaska with his notepad, Purdum still managed to find comically little to indict her with. Anyone with a gripe is given the floor; fans are shut out. This exercise in faux objectivity is exposed at key points such as Purdum’s failure to identify the actual instigator of Palin’s extravagant clothing bills (a crazed, credit-card-abusing stylist appointed by the McCain campaign) and his prissy characterization of Palin’s performance at the vice-presidential debate as merely “adequate.” Hey, wake up — Palin cleaned Biden’s clock! By the end, Biden was sighing and itching to split. …

The vicious double standard is pretty obvious. Only the tabloids, for example, ran the photos of a piss-drunk Chelsea Clinton, panties exposed, falling into her car outside London clubs a few years ago. If Chelsea had been the scion of Republican bigwigs, those tacky scenes would have been trumpeted from pillar to post in the U.S. as signals of parental failures or turmoil in clan Clinton. As a Democrat, I detest the partisan machinations that have become standard in Northeastern news management and that are detectable in editorial decisions at major metropolitan newspapers nationwide. It’s why I, like a host of others, have shifted my news gathering to the Web.

Another readers asked about “the concept of a ‘hate crime.’ If I am murdered, is that less heinous than a member of a protected class being murdered?” Paglia’s answer:

I have been on the record since the 1990s as strongly opposing hate crimes legislation. I think it is a totalitarian intrusion into citizens’ thought processes. Government functionaries should not be ceded the dangerous authority to make decisions about motivation. They aren’t novelists, psychologists or sibyls! Furthermore, there should be no special privileged class of protected groups in a democracy. A crime is a crime — period.

The barbaric acts that led to the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 deserved a very severe penalty, which has been applied. Although I am a supporter of the death penalty in extreme cases, I think there were ambiguities here: The aimless hooligans who beat Shepard and tied him to a fence perhaps didn’t necessarily mean to kill him. Despite my abhorrence of the crime, I was a dissenter about the sanctification of Shepard, a charming young man with a troubled family background who had faced many difficulties in life because of his frailty and lack of conventional masculinity.

Only a week before, Shepard had expressed fears about being killed. Given that apprehension, it is still inexplicable — if the case is examined only through a political lens — why Shepard would leave a public place in the company of such blatant thugs. A hate crimes law that claims to be able to penetrate the mind of the perpetrator should be equally open to questions about the victim. If, out of fairness or pity, one avenue of inquiry is shut down, then the other must be too.

This just a small part of the column.  Read the whole thing — including page four, if you’re up to it.


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One Response to “Paglia on Palin, Hate Crimes”



  1. Larry |

    Tom
    I’d read this piece earlier. I was hoping you’d see it as well. Paglia’s opinion on Sarah Palin is as honest and middle of the road as any now in circulation. Of course time will tell but Ms. Palin in my opinion is still a force to be reckoned with.


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