The Right Coast
May 25, 2004
Susan Sontag in an intellectually lazy bore
By Tom Smith
When I was in my twenties, I thought wildly imaginative, i.e. implausible, leaps of logic from one cultural thing to another were cool. Now I think they're mostly stupid. Strip malls and cluster bombs. Freeways and imperialism. Nixon's beard and Chile. No, they don't have anything to do with each other. It's just an illustration.
So is Sontag's approach to Abu Ghraib. Hers and all the other left wing hyper-ventilation about Abu Ghraib is beyond tedious. The deep meaning of the prison scandal is, you don't want to be a prisoner in a military prison while your compatriots are busy killing American soldiers, while being guarded by not exactly the cream of American society. It would probably be a long night in the drunk tank in El Paso too. Or trapped in the 92nd Street Y having to listen to Susan Sontag explain how we had 9/11 coming and it's all about American imperialism. All torture is relative. OK, what do you want to know? I'll give you my Ebay password if you'll just shut up!
But my point is, it's not even thinking to do what Sontag does. Anybody can throw together associations between things they don't like. Maybe it comes from watching too many art films. Cut to football game. Cut to torture pic. Fade to Bush at religious service. Cut to testing of missile defense system. See? Anybody can do it. Don't you see?! It's like all, connected!! No, it's not all connected. It's just what's left of the left wing imagination after all the theory has been embarrassed into little academic havens and a few parts of a few big cities. Which reminds me, Susan, do you have your evacuation plans in order? Water? Gas mask? Arabic for dummies? Maybe she should identify herself so the NYFD can go to the next apartment and save some nice orthodontist.
And what if American culture is corrupt, uses too much oil, oppresses all and sundry and doesn't appreciate intellectuals enough, as Sontag suggests? So we should blow up our skyscrapers and put our women-folk in parachutes? As I've said before, America in the 1940's had a lot of problems. That doesn't mean should have gone all gooey on the Nazis. Seriously, if al Quaeda had German physics instead of the Koran, we'd all be digging bomb shelters and Sontag would be telling us we deserved to die (while making arrangements for the south of France). Unless of course intellectual fashion changed and it became cool to be pro-American, the new intellectual black, as it were. That would be the way to change Sontag's "mind". Arguments are a waste of breath when it's fashion you're really talking about. Hypothetical: Sontag realizes her bloviations, which on the margin increase the likelihood that lots of innocent Americans will die and that lots of innocent Arabs will go back to living or continue living under corrupt dictatorships, might also negatively impact her status as giant girl intellectual; Result: time to reconsider views! Then after doing so, exchange praise with other intellectuals for being so courageous. But I'm a little cynical about intellectuals. IMHO, Sontag is not worthy to dish out hash to the lowliest Marine, whose head is less stuffed with falsehoods and whose courage is not a self-promoting pose.
Andrew Sullivan does yeoman work fisking Sontag, who is approaching self-fisking anyway.