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.

More like this

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?


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

"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."

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?

By rijkswaanvijand (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

I would never call Camille Paglia an idiot.

I've always thought she was fucking insane.

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

By rijkswaanvijand (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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

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?


@9: A duck!


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

And what else floats?

Very small rocks!

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.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

Incidentally, "Paglia" is Italian for hay and hay floats!

Throw her into the pond!

By Lars Karlsson (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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

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.)

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

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

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:
âthe lineal descendant of Ayn Randâ âBig flashing red light right there!
Rand was the disciple of Sumner, âan enormously successful popularizer of social Darwinismâ and âin turn a disciple of Herbert Spencerâ (the guy who came up with the idea that it is OK if inferior races get exterminated, my comment).

and âMs. 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.â

Hmmâ¦.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.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

"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.

By Jim Eager (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

Drowning polar bears worry researchers

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

DAMN, I miss Molly Ivins.

Molly Ivins almost made up for the rest of Texas ...

By (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.).

By Majorajam (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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!

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

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.

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 . . .

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.

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.


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...

By Donald Oats (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

Well I award 4 internets to Michael @16!

By James Haughton (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

Polar bears can swim, alright. Swim ... forever.

"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.

By German Santanilla (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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

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 thereâs 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.

By Watchingtheden… (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

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.

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]*

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?

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.

"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.


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.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink


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?

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

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

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

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: "Sheâs heard of pier-reviewed papers, but she thinks theyâre stupid because, duh, piers arenât that smart."

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 :).


'To which chrisd replies: "Sheâs heard of pier-reviewed papers, but she thinks theyâre stupid because, duh, piers arenât that smart."'

Maybe she was thinking of Piers Ackerman.

By Don Wigan (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

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

By Daniel J. Andrews (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

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

By Daniel J. Andrews (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

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.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink


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

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 13 May 2010 #permalink

> 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.


By Lotharsson (not verified) on 13 May 2010 #permalink

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.

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

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 14 May 2010 #permalink

Rattus Norvegicus,


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

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 14 May 2010 #permalink


You are a singularly unhumorous person!

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 14 May 2010 #permalink

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.

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

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

Why did you then post?

Must be because you're a moron.

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 â Kreuger, it's Dunning â Kruger. You can't even C&P accurately.

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.

Paglia has her problems, no doubt.

Anybody here know the integral of 2x ?

Yep. You guys are REAL smart.

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!

By auspiciousbunny (not verified) on 14 Jul 2011 #permalink