December 29, 2004

Oh, Stop It.

Why is it that whenever a "public intellectual" dies, we must be subjected to overwrought hand-wringing crap like this:

"One of the things so sad about her death is she represents something that I'm afraid that's passing," said fellow author Francine Prose. "I don't think that many people these days say, `Oh, I want to be an intellectual when I grow up.'"

Right. The barbarians are at the gates, Francine! The last champion of terrorists as "courageous" has perished, and no one's lining up to take her place. It's the death of culture! The death of intellect! The death of D33P Thoughts! OMGWTFBBQ!

Maybe it's just the death of an execrable set of ideas by a person who was so enamored of her own intellect that she became immune to such "abstruse concepts" as morality. And maybe no one's trying to take her place because they've figured out that "intellectual" isn't necessarily a noble title anymore.

But I have faith that the void left by Ms. Sontag will soon be filled to overflowing. Guess I'm just a cock-eyed optimist.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at December 29, 2004 08:45 AM

What void???

I figured it was one less person vying for the position.

The newspapers and main-stream media are full of people like Sontag, either as the reporters or the reportees.

But what do I know?!

I'm just one of them idiots in p.j.s who doesn't have a real understanding of the world outside of my own little basement ;)

Posted by: di at December 29, 2004 09:31 AM

What makes you think she had no sense of morality?

Posted by: Chris at December 29, 2004 11:05 AM

She filled a much-needed gap.

There's finally an apparent use for that line.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at December 29, 2004 09:08 PM

Chris, there's a great post over at IWF's blog on Sontag:

It doesn't directly address the issue of morality, but morality is definitely implicated in the discussion.

Posted by: Julia Smith at December 30, 2004 11:21 AM

Well I didn't really want to read that past the second paragraph when we get this gem:

"sontag's notion that the terrorists who plowed the planes into the World Trade Center towers, deserves
a hero’s medal."

which is not at all what she said. She said that courage was morally neutral and that the terrorists were not cowards, which they weren't. She also made the neutral statement that the terrorist act was in response to specific American policies, which is also true. She most definitely did not say that it was a good response to bad policies.

If she was very critical of America, it was because she was an American. Most social critics are from within. She criticized aspects of America because she cared about America.

If you cherry pick the worst moments of a person's career, you can obviously write a essay like the iwf one about anyone. The truth is that Sontag wrote profusely about many subjects, and some of her views like those of most intellectuals were controversial.

Posted by: Chris at December 30, 2004 11:38 AM

Chris -

Of course there's cherrypicking, but for me the major sticking point is that courage is morally neutral. The most interesting thing about that line was that it was a parenthetical throwaway--as though everyone recognized that fact.

I found this letter, though old, makes a good point or two to the contrary.

Posted by: BAW at December 30, 2004 03:34 PM

According to several dictionaries (mine, my sons', and online), "courage" involves "morality."

And "morality" is an internalized code of right versus wrong -- an absolute relationship, not a relativistic one.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: di at December 30, 2004 06:12 PM

Chris, the IWF blog can certainly be snarky at times, but if you had kept reading, you would have found this, for example:

"One of the few spots of light [in America], she tells us, is Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, which teaches that ’America’s psychic survival entails her transformation through a political revolution.’ (It also teaches that, for blacks, rape can be a noble ’insurrectionary act,’ a ’defying and trampling on the white man’s laws,’ but Sontag doesn’t bother with that detail.)

Talk about cherry-picking. Don't be guilty of the same thing, my friend.

Posted by: Julia Smith at January 2, 2005 11:48 AM