Camille Paglia is an idiot

The Editors report

Camille Paglia, professor of humanities, worries about “a landscape of death in the humanities.” I would agree with that, had it actually made any sense, although probably for different reasons:

This whole thing about global warming – I am absolutely incredulous at the gullibility of people. What is this hysteria over drowning polar bears? And finally I realized, people don’t know polar bears can swim! For me, the answer is always more facts, more basic information, presented without sentimentality and without drama.

Take that, marine biologists!

Update: More Paglia

First of all, I reject the idea that the “birther” campaign is motivated by racism. There may be racism among it, but there are legitimate questions about the documentation of Obama’s birth certificate. I’m sorry, I’ve been following this closely from the start. To assume that all those signs about the birth controversy were motivated by racism, that is simply wrong.


  1. #1 AmandaS
    May 11, 2010

    I’m so glad she’s found her fact. She can cuddle it to her and it will make her feel better. She has a fact! It’s a great fact! Polar bears can swim! Therefore there is no global warming! That’s the bestest fact ever! She certainly doesn’t need any other facts!

    So, what are the odds that “polar bears can swim” will take over from “Al Gore is fat” as the final, triumphant point in any denialist meme?


  2. #2 Dave H
    May 11, 2010

    More to the point, can Al Gore swim? Or is he buoyant enough to float unaided?

  3. #3 vagueofgodalming
    May 11, 2010

    “So, Ms Paglia, what do you think of narcissism?”

    “I’m all for it. But it’s a great scourge. Kids today are so self-absorbed we can’t teach them it. Look, a cuckoo! Did you know Canadians are shallow? These fusty old liberal professors, stuck in their ways. Not like when I was young.”

  4. #4 rijkswaanvijand
    May 11, 2010

    Al surely floats, like any other stuffed pig..
    Jep, mammals can swim. I wonder if the professor has any kids; these can swim as well, -maybe not as well as a polar bear-, but they can swim, so she couldn’t object to us dumping them in the middle of the atlantic now would she?

  5. #5 marcusj
    May 11, 2010

    I would never call Camille Paglia an idiot.

    I’ve always thought she was fucking insane.

  6. #6 Paul Crowley
    May 11, 2010

    From a friend: “Can Camile Paglia swim? If so we could allow her to test her own theory.”

  7. #7 MartinM
    May 11, 2010

    Required reading on Paglia.

  8. #8 rijkswaanvijand
    May 11, 2010

    All mammals can swim up to some degree; I vote yea

  9. #9 Michael
    May 11, 2010

    But why do polar bears float?…………what else floats?…..

  10. #10 AmandaS
    May 11, 2010

    Comparison testing maybe? Who can float longer in the Arctic Ocean: a polar bear, Al Gore or Camille Paglia?

    And if Camille drowns first does that prove that global warming exists? Is that a basic fact? A really facty fact with extra factness?


  11. #11 AmandaS
    May 11, 2010

    @9: A duck!


  12. #12 MartinM
    May 11, 2010

    Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?

  13. #13 Michael
    May 11, 2010

    And what else floats?

  14. #14 AmandaS
    May 11, 2010

    Very small rocks!

  15. #15 Birger Johansson
    May 11, 2010

    Polar bears will drown just like humans if they have no shore or ice floe to climb up on.
    Polar bears can swim for a long time, but they cannot float, nor can they rest in water like the seals they hunt.

    If polar bears were fully aquatic animals, they would long ago have colonised Iceland, but the pack ice border is too far to the north for a bear to survive such a swim. The same goes for northern Scandinavia.

  16. #16 Michael
    May 11, 2010

    So, if a polar bear floats and so do very small rocks, it stands to reason that Camille Paglia’s head must be filled with very small rocks.

  17. #17 Lars Karlsson
    May 11, 2010

    Incidentally, “Paglia” is Italian for hay and hay floats!

    Throw her into the pond!

  18. #18 JG
    May 11, 2010

    Thank you, MartinM @7. That’s made my day!

  19. #19 frank
    May 11, 2010

    Camille Paglia:

    > “Critical thinking” sounds great. […] At the primary level, what kids need is facts.

    I think Paglia’s Facts? look like these:

    Fact #1: In the beginning, there was Aristotle, who created Logic.

    Fact #2. According to Logic, A is A, therefore All Hail Capitalism.

    Fact #3: According to Logic, if Polar Bears can swim, then Global Warming is a Myth.

    Fact #4: Polar Bears can swim. Therefore, said Aristotle, Global Warming is a Myth.

    Fact #5: Then came Karl Marx. Karl Marx is the Great Satan.

    Fact #6: Karl Marx the Great Satan wants you to “question” things. Therefore, anyone who wants you to “question” anything is just like Karl Marx, who is the Great Satan. So said Aristotle, for A is A.

    Fact #7: To fight Karl Marx the Great Satan, God Capitalism created America and Jazz.

    Fact #8: In retaliation, Karl Marx the Great Satan created Feminism and Laptops. Oh, and Global Warming.

    Fact #9: And therefore, we need Camille Paglia to restore the Order of “A is A all hail Captialism” to the World. Amen.

    I think commenter Mbl453 sums it up well:

    > “Global warming is not the point of this article. It’s only being used as an example of the dearth of depth in education.” How true! Paglia illustrates this important point all too well. (I guess Wente does too, since she never demurs. To her this is like interviewing Stephen Hawking.)

  20. #20 Birger Johansson
    May 11, 2010

    It took me forever to get the Monthy Python reference :-)

  21. #21 frank
    May 11, 2010

    Actually the Paglia quote above should be

    > “Critical thinking” sounds great. But it’s a Marxist approach to culture. […] At the primary level, what kids need is facts.

  22. #22 Birger Johansson
    May 11, 2010

    I have read the article. She claims an odd mixture of things that are feasible, and things that are just plain wrong, a bit like my own world-view when I was a teenager. Then I read enough to fill in (some of) the gaps in my knowledge, and realised just how complex the world really is.

    From the link @7 , Excerpt:
    “the lineal descendant of Ayn Rand” –Big flashing red light right there!
    Rand was the disciple of Sumner, “an enormously successful popularizer of social Darwinism” and “in turn a disciple of Herbert Spencer” (the guy who came up with the idea that it is OK if inferior races get exterminated, my comment).

    and “Ms. Paglia believes that all her personal experiences are Seminal. Indeed, Definitive. She credits a large part of her supposed wisdom to having been born post-World War II and thus having been raised on television. Damn me, so was I.”

    Hmm….As I grew up, I was frustrated to learn that most of my great insights were merely duplicating insights others had had, sometimes as early as the 18th century, and usually formulated in more eloquent writing than I could ever have done. Professor Paglia certainly does not lack self-esteem. It fits with the assumption that no one else has considered the swimming abilities of polar bears.

  23. #23 Jim Eager
    May 11, 2010

    “And what else floats?”


    The lagoons of the intertubes are full of them. Makes it hard for the rest of us to enjoy the swimming.

  24. #24 John Mashey
    May 11, 2010

    As we know Dunning-Kruger is a curable condition, if the afflictee is ignorant by accident and willing to learn.

    In 2007, in response to some previous silliness she wrote on AGW, I had Amazon send her a copy of Ruddiman’s Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum.
    There was some discussion of her in this thread at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub (a fine blog).

    I sent PPP in the faint hope that in her circles, she had had not bee exposed to a well-written general-audience book on the topic, and that exposed to such, she might realize that she perhaps did not know as much as she thought.

    Sadly, it appears not.

  25. #25 Raging Bee
    May 11, 2010

    Three Internets to vagueofgodalming @3: You’ve nailed Paglia almost as solidly as Tina Fey nailed Palin. Just throw in something smug about the ancient Greeks — and maybe something about American football being a Pagan ritual — and you’ll have the perfect description of that shining bubble-verse known as Amazing Pagliaspace.

    The noise in her head is starting to bother me. I suspect her sole purpose in life is to make jaw-droppingly incoherent statements that insult everyone’s intelligence without having to take a real stand, and thus draw maximum attention to her publishers’ ad-space with minimum responsibility or consequence. And if her statements are truly as random as they sound, she’ll be right just often enough to justify her existence, at least to the advertizers.

  26. #26 Raging Bee
    May 11, 2010

    What we have here, fellow citizens, is a crassly egocentric, raving twit. The Norman Podhoretz of our gender. That this woman is actually taken seriously as a thinker in New York intellectual circles is a clear sign of decandence, decay, and hopeless pinheadedness.

    DAMN, I miss Molly Ivins.

  27. #27 Sortition
    May 11, 2010

    Drowning polar bears worry researchers

    You are making her point for her. Clearly, the “researchers” are not “without sentimentality and without drama.”

  28. #28
    May 11, 2010

    DAMN, I miss Molly Ivins.

    Molly Ivins almost made up for the rest of Texas …

  29. #29 Majorajam
    May 11, 2010

    While vagueofgodalming and Molly Ivins know their subject matter, we shouldn’t underestimate the motive of self-promotion, as ever, in all things denialism. From the wingnuttiness of Mcyntyre and Monckton to the nitwitiness of Paglia, none of these types have done poorly for themselves by adhereing too rigidly to their stupidity.

    In the last case, the woman routinely gets prime real estate on Drudge, in no small part due to their shared exploitation and immersion in climate science ignorance (and the fact that Drudge can claim Paglia to be a liberal. Never mind why of course, he just can.).

  30. #30 Dave Andrews
    May 11, 2010

    John Mashey,

    You are very fond of throwing around the Dunning – Kreuger effect. But the corollary is, as Bertrand Russell said, it is the intelligentsia that is full of doubt.

    Yet that is not at all apparent from climate scientists – I am assuming you would consider them the intelligentsia on AGW.They are the ones who assert there is a consensus and the science is settled. It is the skeptics who express doubts.

    Seems like you have your D-K back to front!

  31. #31 Lee
    May 11, 2010

    Dave Andrews:

    Have you freaking READ the IPCC Assessment reports? Have you read any of the AGW peer-reviewed literature? Much of that is directly concerned with assessing and quantifying the uncertainty in what we know, and assessing the impact of that uncertainty on the conclusions taht can be drawn from the mature and well-developed theory of atmospheric radiative transfer and the impact of grenhouse gasses.

    Stop being an idiot. Please.

  32. #32 Muzz
    May 11, 2010

    There’s D-K all over, but it fits the climate skeptic community like a glove. They only express doubts one way; towards their precieved opponents. They regurgitate reams of mistakes and misinformation as if it were conclusive, where the vast bulk of it is fairly easily refuted by people who actually know the ins and outs of climate science. Yet they do not self correct this criticism very often, merely stick to their sophistic arguments and repeat, crying about elitists and closed shops etc. The precise kind of intellectual vanity the D-K effect is made of.

  33. #33 Ed Darrell
    May 11, 2010

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stage a debate between Monckton and Paglia?

    Perhaps in a stuck elevator, on video, to get the full effect . . .

  34. #34 MartinM
    May 11, 2010

    Looks like we can add the D-K effect to the list of scientific concepts Dave Andrews thinks he understands, but doesn’t. How ironic.

  35. #35 jakerman
    May 11, 2010

    Shorter Dave Andrews:

    >Evidence be damned if there is any doubt at all.

    Which means we should toss the enlightenment project into the fire and cede our understanding to the imbalanced (concentrated) power relations that are BAU.

    I.e. doubt exists therefore we must not change in spite of overwhelming evidence that indicates the extreme risk of BAU.

    BAU is Dave’s friend and any doubt seems recruitable for his cause of standing up for vested interested in our unsustainable BAU.


  36. #36 Donald Oats
    May 11, 2010

    This is one time I won’t follow the link and read the article. As if we need yet another individual who thinks that “the enlightenment” is a new type of low energy globe or something…

  37. #37 ChrisC
    May 11, 2010

    Dave Andrews has said some silly things on this blog, but can I nominate #30 for some award for stupidity?

    Oh yeah… Paglia… what a maroon.

  38. #38 James Haughton
    May 11, 2010

    Well I award 4 internets to Michael @16!

  39. #39 mrcreosote
    May 11, 2010

    Dear Ms Paglia

    Here are some facts for you.

    Yours, etc.

  40. #40 pough
    May 11, 2010

    Polar bears can swim, alright. Swim … forever.

  41. #41 German Santanilla
    May 12, 2010

    “Camille Paglia is an Idiot.” I have thought this at least twice a day since I read her 1996 Guitar World critique of Stairway to Heaven. Poor scholarship and bitchiness parading as iconoclasm. Thank you.

  42. #42 John
    May 12, 2010

    Dave doesn’t know what the scientists say about global warming. He knows what the denialosaurs say the scientists say.

  43. #43
    May 12, 2010

    There is another lovely part of her article:

    *But instead of that, the kids get ideology. They’re taught that global warming has been caused by factories. They have no idea there’s been climate change throughout history. And they’re scared into thinking that tsunamis are coming to drown New York.*

    I call it the “Once-was-relevant-now-needs-to-make-controversial-statements-for-press” syndrome.

  44. #44 Paul UK
    May 12, 2010

    It is a fact that the arts culture is basically taught to be skeptical about science.

    Despite my engineering degree, later I did a masters in an arts faculty and the lecturers viewed science with skeptical eyes. In some respects this is so that the creative mind can interpret science and the world around us from a different point of view.

    This can be positive, with the creation of graphic visualisations of scientific concepts that would not be obvious to a scientist.

    However it can also go the other way, with cynical skepticism from critiques of science.

  45. #45 Bernard J.
    May 12, 2010

    Did someone say “[duck](”?

  46. #46 AmandaS
    May 12, 2010

    [He has a wife you know](

    Whoops, sorry, wrong movie…


  47. #47 AmandaS
    May 12, 2010

    Damn. Link didn’t work. But I did what the comments told me…

    Cut and paste, damn it. You know how.

    *[Fixed it for you. You had a space between the ‘]’ and the ‘(‘. Tim]*

  48. #48 duckster
    May 12, 2010

    I just had a quick look through the Camille Paglia Wikipedia

    Umm.. there’s no chance she wrote it herself, is there? It just all sounds so deliberately wickedly irreverent! I wonder if I should write an author bias allegation into the comments?

  49. #49 John
    May 12, 2010

    Duckster, a look through the contributor history shows it’s probably unlikely. There are far too many for one single person to make an impact. Mostly it seems to be the work of slavish fans of hers.

  50. #50 Tamarron
    May 12, 2010

    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stage a debate between Monckton and Paglia?
    Perhaps in a stuck elevator, on video, to get the full effect . . .”

    Dear lord, keep your awful porn ideas to yourself.


  51. #51 Dave Andrews
    May 12, 2010

    So the IPCC is full of doubt is it? Strange how that hasn’t seemed to get across to the politicians and the general public.

  52. #52 Dave Andrews
    May 12, 2010


    So that hugely expensive, CO2 transport heavy meeting in Copenhagen last December was designed to point out the areas of doubt in the science. Who would have believed it?

  53. #53 Dave Andrews
    May 12, 2010

    PS, just so you know where I am coming from, I have long thought that Paglia is full of bullsh*t

  54. #54 JasonW
    May 12, 2010

    To give this comment thread the proper gravitas, I don’t want to keep this little gem exchange from the poorman blog:

    Davis Says: “Has she ever read a peer-reviewed scientific paper? Has she ever even heard of such a thing?”

    To which chrisd replies: “She’s heard of pier-reviewed papers, but she thinks they’re stupid because, duh, piers aren’t that smart.”

  55. #55 AmandaS
    May 12, 2010

    Tim @47. Thank you. I thought that might have been the problem, but I’d just finished the bottle of wine, so it was all too much for me :).


  56. #56 Don Wigan
    May 12, 2010

    ‘To which chrisd replies: “She’s heard of pier-reviewed papers, but she thinks they’re stupid because, duh, piers aren’t that smart.”‘

    Maybe she was thinking of Piers Ackerman.

  57. #57 Daniel J. Andrews
    May 12, 2010

    Dave Andrews hasn’t even read Betrand Russell–or at least the part he miquotes, never mind the IPCC report.

  58. #58 Daniel J. Andrews
    May 12, 2010

    oops–finger fail in last post. Don’t type while lying down with feet propped up on wall.

  59. #59 John Mashey
    May 12, 2010

    re: #48,#49
    So, someone with the time & motivation might well collect her sayings on global warming and add a section to Wikipedia….
    nothing nasty, just straightforward quotes.

  60. #60 Dave Andrews
    May 13, 2010


    And I can tell you have never read ‘War and Peace’ from the way you type.

  61. #61 jakerman
    May 13, 2010

    >*And I can tell you have never read ‘War and Peace’ from the way you type*

    More empty trash from Dave Andrews.

    Readers please note, Dave Andrews has a [long and ugly record]( of disregard for the truth seeking practices and a similar long record of misrepresentation and smear.

  62. #62 Lotharsson
    May 13, 2010

    > And I can tell you have never read ‘War and Peace’ from the way you type.

    I await with bated breath the publication of your original research on the causal link between perusal of “War and Peace” and typing skill. I do so hope you have finally disproved the popular alternative hypotheses, including the cherished misconception that “Anna Karenina” is responsible for the skill acquisition, and the equally silly but nevertheless persistent trope that exposure to Dostoevsky is the key. However it’s a shame that you won’t have had the time to debunk the ludicrous claims of those “typing schools” that their “training” improves skill – even though it seems like a waste of time, it would seem to require someone of your immense stature in the field to finally get through to people that despite their immense advertising budgets and anecdotal “evidence”, their claims simply do not stand up to scrutiny when readership of Russian classics is controlled for.


  63. #63 Pacal
    May 13, 2010

    Camille Paglia is one of the many poster girls for the anti-pc crowd that shrieks and screams at a million decibels about the tyranny of pc that has been oppresing them for 20+ years, and of course through millions and millions of various media stories they shriek at a billion decibels that they are being silenced. The anti-pc meme has been throughly pc for quite some time and Camille Paglia as been an hysterical practitioner of it, relentlessly promoted by the the anti-pc hysterics. Camille’s anti-Feminist hysteria as also played very well also. It is no surprise she is playing to the same crowd as per usual.

  64. #64 Rattus Norvegicus
    May 14, 2010

    I cna ellt you taht Doestoevsky si ont teh resaon I cna tpey!

  65. #65 Dave Andrews
    May 14, 2010

    Rattus Norvegicus,


    Obviously though something has affected your ability to type Dostoyevsky :-)

  66. #66 Dave Andrews
    May 14, 2010


    You are a singularly unhumorous person!

  67. #67 running
    December 8, 2010

    camille paglia is a useless, gutless, idea free, frightened little squirrel who has made a career out of sycophantic praise to a deluded right wing in the hope of converting them.
    What a hero. Without her, we’d all be really divided one against another, left versus right.
    She isn’t just a performer for the anti pc crowd. She’s genuinely dumb enough to think that only that and that alone is enough to convert them into liberals.
    If america had even one intellectual who could provide an interesting take on modern life in all its aspects, instead of a bunch of specialists peppered everywhere, Paglia would’ve been absolutely nothing years ago. But here we are.
    Desperate, ugly little times that we live.

  68. #68 running
    December 9, 2010

    What a horrible writer molly ivins, was, huh?
    Mixed tones and registers, muddled vocabulary…
    just awful.

  69. #69 Sandra
    December 15, 2010

    Judging by this thread and his own posts, Tim Lambert is a total, clinical moron. Why did I bother to read this crap before bed? what a nightmare

  70. #70 Wow
    December 15, 2010

    Why did you then post?

    Must be because you’re a moron.

  71. #71 Amoeba
    December 15, 2010

    Dave Andrews @ 30

    You are very fond of throwing around the Dunning – Kreuger effect. But the corollary is, as Bertrand Russell said, it is the intelligentsia that is full of doubt….

    Nice quote-mine!
    What Bertrand Russell actually said was:

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

    Which is the exact reverse of your deliberately bogus claim.

    Which makes your taunt is such sweet irony:

    Seems like you have your D-K back to front!

    PS Dr. Mashey was correct.
    PPS It isn’t Dunning – Kreuger, it’s Dunning – Kruger. You can’t even C&P accurately.

  72. #72 Amoeba
    December 15, 2010

    Sandra @ 69

    …..Tim Lambert is a total, clinical moron. Why did I bother to read this crap before bed?…e

    Anyone with half a brain would soon realise that TL is an intelligent person of high integrity. Which means that you are either an idiot, a liar, or both.

  73. #73 douch
    March 16, 2011

    Paglia has her problems, no doubt.

    Anybody here know the integral of 2x ?

    Yep. You guys are REAL smart.

  74. #74 auspiciousbunny
    July 14, 2011

    I thought Camille Paglia was an idiot when I saw her talk back in the 1980s. Yep, tho I was a blue-haired punk rock 19-year-old, Paglia caused my idiot alarm to go off. But for some people Salon mag could tell them anything is hip and glib and they’ll drool for it.

    She was always so anti-feminist and kept downplaying and harping on how we should just pretend there wasn’t any discrimination, meanwhile a friend of mine got raped, and the male professors were aw’fly touchy-feely. Then I got out of school and got a journalism job and my boss called me on the phone from home when I was at my desk at night and offered lewd propositions. I sued the bastid! No thanks to lol, paglia. But thank you Charlotte Prozan!