[Paleopsych] Chronicles: Srdja Trifkovic: Susan Sontag and the Evil of Banality

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Srdja Trifkovic: Susan Sontag and the Evil of Banality
December 30, 2004

    Susan Sontag died of leukaemia in New York on December 29 at the age
    of 71. The obituarists described her as "one of America's most
    influential intellectuals, internationally renowned for the passionate
    engagement and breadth of her critical intelligence and her ardent
    activism in the cause of human rights." ([3]The Financial Times, Dec.
    30) Her essays "expanded the universe of subjects it was 'all right'
    for intellectuals to take seriously," such as drugs, porn, and pop,
    ensuring that we'd "[4]get used to these as intellectual topics."
    All of which is one way of saying that Ms. Sontag has made a solid
    contribution to the degrading of our cultural and intellectual
    standards over the past four decades. But unlike some other purveyors
    of bad ideas, such as Voltaire, who could present them in eloquent
    prose, Sontag was unable to write a decent sentence. Take this gem for
    style and contents:
    "The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare,
    parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation
    of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballet et al., don't redeem what this
    particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is
    the cancer of human history. It is the white race and it alone--its
    ideologies and inventions--which eradicates autonomous civilizations
    wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the
    planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself"
    (Partisan Review, winter 1967, p. 57).
    A week after the non-whites struck at the cancer's epicenter on
    September 11, 2001, Ms. Sontag asserted in [5]The New Yorker, that
    this "monstrous dose of reality" was squarely a consequence of
    specific American actions, and paid tribute to the courage of those
    willing to sacrifice their lives in order to kill others: "In the
    matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of
    the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards."
    Courage means doing the right thing in the face of fear. Ms. Sontag's
    standard of "courage," based on an actor's readiness to die in pursuit
    of his objectives, makes sense only in the universe of an atheistic
    adorer of the self who cannot face the thought of self-annihilation.
    On that form she would have to admit that, "whatever may be said of
    their activities in Eastern Europe, the Waffen SS were not cowards."
    She was equally unaware that the word "coward" also designates a
    person who attacks defenseless victims, as in "Bringing the murderous
    coward to the stake" (Gloucester in King Lear, Act II, Scene 1). Ergo
    the terrorists were brave and therefore virtuous men, but Sontag's
    oxymoronic claim that courage is a "morally neutral virtue" was
    supposed to make that assertion less unpalatable.
    More seriously, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 and thereafter Ms.
    Sontag was reluctant to address the phenomenon of Islam in general
    and, in particular, to note the difference between "secular"
    terrorism--which may be closely correlated to the intended target's
    "specific actions"--and the Islamic variety of the phenomenon. Her
    reluctance was understandable: a hater of Western Civilization could
    not but feel the corresponding urge to justify those attacking it,
    especially if the attackers can be depicted as victims of the victim.
    Hence her enthusiastic support for the Muslim side in the Bosnian war.
    Hence her attempt to remove moral authority from the terrorists'
    "courage" and at the same time to make their motives understandable
    strictly through the prism of the target's "specific actions."
    That Ms. Sontag felt no sympathy for the victims of 9-11, for those
    thousands of her fellow citizens on whose tax dollars, philanthropic
    largesse, and buying habits her own existence had depended for most of
    her life, or for the city of her birth which she called home, goes
    without saying. The gap between Ms. Sontag's heart and mind was total,
    reflecting the soul of a rootless purveyor of self-hate. The leading
    advocate of "human rights" was not only a hypocrite and a fraud to
    boot, she was also a moral degenerate terminally devoid of human
    compassion and common decency.
    Ms. Sontag's absence of sympathy for the "wrong" victims of any crime
    was on full display a generation earlier, two years after the fall of
    Saigon, when [6]she wrote that "one can only be glad about the victory
    of the DRV [i.e. the "Democratic Republic of Vietnam"] and the PRG
    [Viet Cong], but there seems little taste for rejoicing." Such
    melancholy note was not due to the Communist reign of terror unleashed
    on South Vietnam, exemplified in tens of thousands of ad-hoc
    executions, the unspeakable "re-education camps," or the plight of
    hundreds of thousands of perfectly innocent and ordinary "boat
    people." No, Ms. Sontag's sole reason for lamentation was the loss of
    vigor of the anti-war crowd here in the United States: "For while
    'they' won, 'we' did not. The 'we' who wanted 'us' to lose had long
    since been disbanded. The domestic convulsion set off by the Vietnam
    War had subsided long before the peoples of Indochina were liberated
    from the American murder machine."
    Ms. Sontag's qualities were on full display during the war in
    Bosnia-Herzegovina. She supported the Muslim side and was a leading
    purveyor of the Muslim-fabricated myth of the Serbian "rape camps"
    where she asserted that "tens of thousands of women" were raped "by
    military order." Writing in the Nation on Christmas Day 1995 she
    likened her trips to Sarajevo--comfortable, safe, and
    well-publicized--to the struggle of the Lincoln Brigade in Spain. Ms.
    Sontag's a-priori assumptions, that the Serbs were Fascist monsters,
    the Muslims innocent victims of a brutal aggression, were beyond
    dispute. Her smug self-depiction as a brave voice of intellectual and
    moral integrity in a cynical world was laughable.
    Ms. Sontag was an enthusiastic supporter of Clinton's war against the
    Serbs in 1999. She ridiculed the objection that the war is ("wonderful
    word") illegal" with the usual reductio ad Hitlerum: "Imagine that
    Nazi Germany had had no expansionist ambitions but had simply made it
    a policy in the late 1930's and early 1940's to slaughter all the
    German Jews. Do we think a government has the right to do whatever it
    wants on its own territory? Maybe the governments of Europe would have
    said that 60 years ago. But would we approve now of their decision?"
    Writing in The New York Times in May 1999 she reasserted the lie of
    the Kosovo genocide, then repeated the already discredited claim that
    its prevention was the reason for Clinton's war, and [7]finally
    dehumanized the victims of that war:
    "it is grotesque to equate the casualties inflicted by the NATO
    bombing with the mayhem inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people
    in the last eight years by the Serb programs of ethnic cleansing. Not
    all violence is equally reprehensible; not all wars are equally unjust
    . . . There is radical evil in the world, which is why there are just
    wars. And this is a just war . . . The Milosevic Government has
    finally brought on Serbia a small portion of the suffering it has
    inflicted on neighboring peoples."
    Sontag's view of the Balkans provides an apt summary of her opus. As
    The New York Times obituarist has noted, [8]she championed style over
    content: "She was concerned, in short, with sensation, in both
    meanings of the term." In short she was not concerned with the truth.
    She dabbled in ideas but she could not think. Her lies, dishonesty,
    absence of moral sense and self-deceptions amounted to a sustained
    exercise in counter-realism, which is the essence of post-modernism.
    In the post-modernist vein Susan Sontag was also a plagiarist who
    routinely stole words written by other people and presented them as
    her own. She inserted 12 segments totaling four pages written by
    others into her 387-page historical novel "In America," and did so
    without credit or attribution. The New York Times--a sympathetic
    source that has given Ms. Sontag thousands of column-inches over the
    years--[9]wrote that "in some passages the language itself is taken
    almost verbatim from other authors." But Ms. Sontag blithely responded
    that the historical novel is an evolving new genre that does not
    require the rigor of footnotes and attributions: "All of us who deal
    with real characters in history transcribe and adopt original sources
    in the original domain? I've used these sources and I've completely
    transformed them? There's a larger argument to be made that all of
    literature is a series of references and allusions."
    It defies belief that someone of Susan Sontag's talent, literacy,
    integrity, education, moral sense, and beliefs could be taken
    seriously by any segment of any country's educated public for any
    period of time. That this was so in America is as sad as the fact that
    Bernard-Henri Lévy is widely regarded as France's foremost
    contemporary philosopher. But "BHL" is Sontag's twin brother in almost
    every field imaginable: a media personality, an "intellectual," a
    hater of Western civilization, a Christophobe, an "essayist," an
    enthusiastic promoter of homosexuality, an admirer of Sartre, an
    outspoken advocate of the Muslim side in the Bosnian war and in
    Kosovo. In Sontag's and Levy's lunatic account of world affairs the
    Christians are always at fault and their enemies are always innocent
    of any wrongdoing. For both of them the "siege" of Sarajevo became a
    stage for countless self-serving media appearances, as well as the
    symbol of their decisive move beyond truth and reality and beyond the
    limits of the aesthetic.
    Thanks to Susan Sontag and Bernard-Henri Lévy and their ilk, New York
    and Paris--until not so long ago two intellectual capitals of the
    world--have succumbed to the culture of depravity, victimology and
    self-hate. Financed by George Soros, the MacArthur Foundation & Co.,
    lionized by the likes of the New Yorker and Liberation, they have done
    the best to destroy the civilization they hate while feeding the minds
    of future suicide bombers with a political pap that nourishes their
    hate and legitimizes their rage.
    Susan Sontag's death at 71 was at least four decades overdue.


    3. http://news.ft.com/cms/s/03e587e8-5a08-11d9-ba09-00000e2511c8.html
    4. http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/10527401.htm?1c
    5. http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/?010924ta_talk_wtc
    6. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/9160
    7. http://www.nbi.dk/%7epredrag/projects/SontagKosovo.html
    8. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/28/books/28cnd-sont.html
    9. http://www.nytimes.com/library/books/052700sontag-america.html

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