Supplemental: Our choice for current most interesting scribe!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2014

Which isn’t exactly a compliment:
We’ve begun to think that Salon’s Katie McDonough is the most interesting writer out there.

We don’t mean that as a compliment, though there are several things we like about McDonough’s work. We like her values, and her aggressive pursuit of those values. We like the way she seems to walk the walk, which we won’t even try to explain.

But good God! On balance, McDonough’s writing is awful. Along with her positioning at Salon, that explains why we think her work is so interesting.

We don’t know when we’ve seen a writer with such a strong sense of entitlement. By that, we mean the following:

McDonough seems to feel no obligation to paraphrase other people with any degree of fairness or care. Consider her treatment of a recent piece at Time by the admittedly annoying and obscure Camille Paglia.

Paglia starts with the recent disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. With that disappearance as her base, she discusses “the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder.” Along the way, she tosses off all sorts of received wisdom which she doesn’t bother to argue for, as she typically does.

Can you figure out what Paglia is saying?
To the extent that you can, you can agree with her or not.

As always, Paglia is a bit hard to decipher. That said, we feel fairly sure that this is not what she said in her piece:
MCDONOUGH (9/30/14): It’s plenty weird that Paglia thinks that all men are born with rape buttons inside them that are automatically switched on when they see cleavage, but it is equally weird that lots of men seem to really support this concept of men’s “nature.”
It’s almost always hard to figure out what Paglia is saying. But fairly plainly, she isn’t saying that “all men are born with rape buttons inside them that are automatically switched on when they see cleavage.”

As noted, Paglia is specifically talking about the most heinous possible crimes—“extreme sex crimes like rape-murder [which] emanate from a primitive level that even practical psychology no longer has a language for.” At one point, she specifically refers to the misinterpretations of women’s behavior which may be made by “psychotics.”

There’s no sign that she’s discussing types of behavior which will emanate from “all men.” That said, we’ve never seen anyone who is so cavalier about paraphrasing other writers as McDonough is.

As usual, Paglia is a bit hard to follow. Things get no better when other writers start their critiques in the manner shown below, which is typical of McDonough’s work:
MCDONOUGH: I get lots of unsolicited emails from men who want to tell me things. Often, these men will just want to tell me that I am wrong, but sometimes they will also want to tell me about someone else—someone who is right, so that I might learn from them. One such man emailed me on Monday to let me know that I should read Camille Paglia’s latest for Time because she is “someone who has a clue.”

According to Paglia, any talk of rape culture is “hysterical propaganda,” and claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses are “wildly overblown.” Instead, the real problem women need to contend with is “the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.”

Men, it seems, are hard-wired to do ancient sex crimes. Or something.
In that opening passage, McDonough makes the tiniest attempt to paraphrase Paglia. She then throws off her trademark putdown: “Or something,” she says.

Later, she does it again:
MCDONOUGH: After establishing that she thinks that rape is intrinsic to men’s nature, a nature that can’t be changed, Paglia advises women to try to understand “evil” and then stop wearing short skirts because those short skirts activate men’s intrinsic primitive violence boners or something. “[Women] assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic,” according to Paglia. “They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.”
In that passage, we get more of the snark and the snide—and we get another “or something.” In the process, McDonough seems to slide right past the difference between “some” and “all.”

As noted, Paglia is almost always hard to follow. That said, it’s fairly clear that she isn’t discussing “all men” in this piece; she’s mainly talking about the reactions of those “psychotics.” She seems to be talking about “the sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures” and “is motivated by an atavistic hunting reflex. He is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey.”

To our ear, it doesn’t sound like Paglia is talking about “all men.” But as is often the case with McDonough, she has employed her first “or something” by the end of paragraph 3. From there, she proceeds to this:
MCDONOUGH: Men, it seems, are hard-wired to do ancient sex crimes. Or something.

“The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will,” Paglia explains. “The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.”

So I am having a hard time engaging with this as a serious idea, so instead let’s casually discuss it as something that is very weird. And then let’s talk about the positive response to the piece from men who are usually like #NotAllMen any time a woman tries to write about violence. And then let’s all take a nap or maybe watch a movie.
By paragraph 5, McDonough is lazily throwing the piece aside as something she can’t take seriously—and she’s snarking hard.

We’re inclined to like McDonough for her values and her ardor. That said, her attitude is amazingly flip; perhaps for this reason, her analytical skills often seem non-existent. She writes about very serious topics, but does so in a profoundly undisciplined, flippant way.

In this case, Paglia seemed to be writing about “psychotics.” Psychotics do exist in the world. For people unfortunate enough to engage them, their existence can be a deadly problem.

McDonough has very good values, but she writes in a flippant, lazy way. Can a winning gender politics really get built this way?

Tomorrow: The most fascinating piece of all

Concerning the phrase “all men:” Hey, wait a minute! In the passage quoted above, Paglia specifically cites “all men!”

Let’s review the passage:
MCDONOUGH: Men, it seems, are hard-wired to do ancient sex crimes. Or something.

“The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will,” Paglia explains. “The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.”
There! Doesn’t that mean that “Paglia thinks that all men are born with rape buttons inside them that are automatically switched on when they see cleavage?”

Or something?

No. That passage seems to mean that complaints and protests will affect some men, but they won't affect all men. In particular, they won’t affect the psychotic or the “the sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures” and “is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey.”

Paglia is almost always annoyingly hard to read. In this case, it seems fairly clear that she is talking about the irredeemable “evil” of some exceptionally dangerous men, not of all men.

At the new Salon, such things don’t seem to matter much. We tend to throw off a few paragraphs, then turn to the snark and the snide.

48 comments:

  1. Camille Katie McDongough squares off with Camille Paglia as filtered by Bob Somerby.

    Well, it could be something highbrow like 20 minutes of video of Ferguson protesters confronting the smoking section outside the Cardinals game in St.Louis. That's over at Stalking Points Memo.

    The Internet just isn't quite what we thought it would be when Al took the initiative in creating it. That said, it has followed in television's staggering footsteps.

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    1. Snark and snide without a preliminary teaser of substance here.

      Pretend you don't know that newspapers and magazines are now all online. Pretend our media is just one big mass of entertainment outlets, so why should anyone be held accountable for anything they write.

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    2. There! Demand without verb.

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    3. Snark can be a verb.

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    4. Well, television really without feet.

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  2. Paglia is a gay, female liberal who thinks for herself and doesn't always hold the "proper" positions on issues. Can't have that!

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    1. Paglia is not a liberal. She is reactionary.

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    2. Whatever label fits, she said nothing untrue in this piece.

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    3. She has been telling women the way it is for a long time.

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    4. She was made an honorary MRA member.

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    5. "She has been telling women the way it is for a long time."

      But women are just too dumb to listen to her. There she is, ceaselessly spouting The Truth, and being largely ignored except by segments of the media and fat, middle-aged-and-older, angry white men. It's a fucking outrage, is what it is.

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    6. Paglia used to write for the old Salon. The one Somerby liked.

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    7. "There she is, ceaselessly spouting The Truth, and being largely ignored"

      With frequent, tragic consequences progressives don't care about until it happens to them or theirs.

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  3. I don't read Camille Paglia. I'll now make it a point not to read Katie McDonough. I've stopped reading ZKoD, but I haven't made a decision about David in Cal.

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    1. You seem to have made a choice. Of something.

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  4. the last American virginOctober 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    The thing that jumped out at me was Katie's complaint "I get unsolicited emails from men". So it's a terrible thing when your readers write to you? Or is it only terrible when those readers are a) male and b) daring to disagree with you?

    Unsolicited.

    So the men first disagree, and then ask her out?

    Or something.

    n.b. If I get any unsolicited replies to this comment from women, I am taking that as an invitation to ask you out.

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    1. People here assume every comment is written by a man.

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    2. Women are too smart to read this blog.

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  5. How many people are going to parse this column the way Bob does here? Almost no one. So in answer to Bob's question, these sorts of things can't hurt, and CAN help, by rallying the troops, and subjecting Paglia (bizarrely enough -- or not -- a left-wing bashing media darling for decades; there is no greater indictment I can think of) to well-deserved ridicule. If Paglia does not want people to misunderstand, or deliberately mis-state, what she says, she ought to man up and write in such a way that she can't retreat behind a wall of "that's not what I said/you don't understands" in the future. This is Bob nitpicking the left on the grounds that it "doesn't help win," without demonstrating how, exactly, it hurts. Taking a stand and passionately pushing for it is how you get shit done, not wringing your hands that someone will come along later and parse your writing to hell and back. Nobody but cranks and academics actually parse like that that, and nobody pays attention to cranks and academics. Ask Paglia -- she knows better than anyone.

    Another day without Maddow at the Howler.

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    1. Truth matters, among other values.

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    2. On balance it ranks right up there.

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    3. Sure it does. Conservative ideology, including things like global warming is a hoax, you cut taxes to raise revenue, there is no growth in income inequality, you can achieve prosperity for all by not regulating polluters and giant financial institutions, poor people are parasites, and so on, and so on, and so on, rule the day because of their manifest truthness. Or thruthiness. Or truth. Something like that.

      This is the attitude of losers, and people who are happy to lose, because their interests are better represented by the other side of the discussion, and deep down, they know it. Or just don't care, beyond getting the fleeting joy from self-righteously thinking, "Sure, I lose over and over again, but who cares about that? I'm on the side of TRUTH!. Besides, every time I lose, my taxes get cut, heh heh."

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    4. Oh, and I was wrong. Bob drug Maddow into something earlier. So it is now ZERO days since the last Maddow sighting on the Howler. I bet you her wife, or girlfriend -- something like that -- isn't as addicted to her as Bob is.

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    5. Paglia ... ought to man up...

      Heh, heh. I saw what you did there.

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    6. That deadrat! Such a parser.

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  6. That "or something" is a snarky, dismissive catchall used by millennials to indicate contempt. It's easier than actually writing something meaningful.

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  7. Every word of Paglia's piece was correct and reasoned. Progressives will fail to warn their daughters about brutal realities and the result will be tragic for some of them. "You shouldn't have to (dress a certain way or avoid going to men's apartments alone)" will be small comfort.

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    1. I agree. Paglia has been correct ever since rejecting males as worthwhile sexual partners.

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    2. To be safe, women should wear burkas and never leave home without a male protector. That is only common sense.

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    3. No they won't. Because only SOME men are psychotics. Or something like that.

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    4. @12:33, you replaced the extreme end of the "manner of dress" spectrum with the other extreme because you knew your point could not be credible otherwise. You admit Paglia is correct.

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    5. No, she is not. Do you never carry a wallet because someone might steal it? You don't radically change behavior to prevent statistically infrequent crimes that you in no way provoked by being an available victim.

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  8. No, Bob, this post is a swing and a miss. Paglia was exposed to the contempt and ridicule her unsupported views on campus crimes deserve. Paglia used to have a pretty good market for her line of baloney, but it hasn't aged well.

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    1. Creeping Broderism. You can smell it in the writing.
      Here too.

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  9. I applaud Bob for ending two days in a row with hard hitting pieces on ineffectual nattering that demeans women.

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  10. Liberalism lacks a profound sense of evil — but so does conservatism these days. We're fu&*ed. So be armed.

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  11. Welcome to the new Howler. Faced with a debate over sexual assault BOB chooses to quibble over syntax instead of substance. Maybe to some he seems to take the man's side of things. We don't know.

    We remember when the old Howler took a firm stand against the growing problem of rampant political correctness on campus and the efforts of Time to stem that tide. Remember when they published an essay by a freshman on the plague of privilege checking? Sure, BOB quickly labeled the piece sophmoric. Yes, he used the word "fuzzy" to describe the essay and reminded readers Tal Fortang was a freshman half a dozen times in one piece.

    But good Lord! He did not act like an English Composition TA when taking on the response of Salon. No whining about winning on gender politcs in that battle. They wrote eight pieces on Tal, BOB leveled them back with eight posts on privilege.

    He called them Maoist. Stalinist. Salonistas!

    The old BOB could man up. Here he gets squishy. Krugmanesque.

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  12. Probably here too late for anyone's eyes, but I'll opine nonetheless.

    Everyone I've seen who has expressed an opinion on the Paglia article misses the point (willfully?) that she so clearly states. It is not difficult to follow or understand. I'll summarize in three sentences.

    Psychotic rapists are motivated by their own evil.
    "Progressives" prefer to blame rape on societal failures which can be cured with campaigning and lecturing on college campuses, leaving their own disciples woefully unprepared to protect themselves from evil psychotic rapists who would love nothing more than to find a young woman wandering alone drunk and scantily-clad.
    Since progressives cannot comprehend evil, they think that their campaigns will change "rape culture" and the psychotic rapists will accordingly have been cured, a position wholeheartedly supported by psychotic rapists out to find their next easy target.


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    1. "Psychotic rapists are motivated by their own evil."

      Yeah, it takes a genius like Paglia to point something like this out. What a profound insight she had, and -- I am eternally grateful -- deigned to share with us deluded fools.

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    2. Well, it sounds like Camile has everyone figured out and everything solved.

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    3. Psychotic rapists don't commit most of the rapes. More women are raped by dates or at frat parties. That's what the education campaigns are about. They are the more frequent and more preventable part of the problem. The other kind of rape is a police problem addressed by trying to catch these guys early on before they become serial rapists.

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    4. "More women are raped by dates or at frat parties. That's what the education campaigns are about."

      Shut that shit up. Everyone knows liberals are too head-in-the-clouds to pursue anything but 100% solutions that have no chance of working, and never try to improve things incrementally. And women are the stupidest liberals of all, unable to comprehend much of anything. It's the makeup they wear, which blocks oxygen from reaching their brains. Or something. They need Camille Paglia, and her small, but angry, base of fans to tell them basic things and provide coping strategies. Personally, I think burqas are an excellent beginning. Plus, if they're wearing burqas, they won't need makeup, and might become smarter. so they won't put themselves in dangerous situations with psychotic rapists.

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    5. Women who wear burkas tend to wear khol around their eyes. I've never understood why emphasizing the eyes like that is OK when the rest of the body must be totally hidden. But, that is makeup.

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