Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 95 E300
Location: Inside my head
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Well-known rightwing anti-gay hate monger weighs in on Foley.
Not really. Paglia is anything but anti-gay. She is most definitely an independent thinker.
Salon Interview: Camille Paglia
Oct. 27, 2006 | It's been a while since Salon last heard from our favorite intellectual and one of our founding contributors, Camille Paglia. But with so much tumult in the air, we felt the need to ask her to survey the strange tectonic shifts in our political and cultural landscape, and interpret as much as she could. As usual she didn't disappoint, sounding off to Salon's Kerry Lauerman about the Foley follies, the Bill Clinton blitzkrieg, the amazing Republican meltdown and a most consistent object of her love and scorn: the Democrats.
What has been your reaction to the huge uproar over Rep. Mark Foley, which was on the front pages of newspapers in Europe as well as the U.S. for two straight weeks?
Foley is obviously a moral degenerate, and the Republican House leadership has come across as pathetically bumbling and ineffectual. But the idea that this is some sort of major scandal in the history of American politics is ludicrous. This was a story that needed to be told for, you know, like two days.
Mark Foley was never on the radar of anyone outside the small circle of news junkies. So his fall and banishment from Washington were nothing but a drip in the torrential flood of current geopolitical problems. The way the Democratic leadership was in clear collusion with the major media to push this story in the month before the midterm election seems to me to have been a big fat gift to Ann Coulter and the other conservative commentators who say the mainstream media are simply the lapdogs of the Democrats. Every time I turned on the news it was "Foley, Foley, Foley!" -- and in suspiciously similar language and repetitive talking points.
After three or four days of it, as soon as I heard Foley's name, I turned the sound off or switched channels. It was gargantuan overkill, and I felt the Democrats were shooting themselves in the foot. I was especially repulsed by the manipulative use of a gay issue for political purposes by my own party. I think it was not only poor judgment but positively evil. Whatever short-term political gain there is, it can only have a negative impact on gay men. When a moralistic, buttoned-up Republican like Foley is revealed to have a secret, seamy gay life, it simply casts all gay men under a shadow and makes people distrust them. Why don't the Democratic strategists see this? These tactics are extremely foolish. Gay men through history have always been more vulnerable to public hysteria than are lesbians, who -- unless they're out there parading around in all-leather bull-dyke drag -- simply fit more easily into the cultural landscape than do gay men, who generally lead a more adventurous, pickup-oriented sex life.
Not only has the public image of gay men been tarnished by the over-promotion of the Foley scandal, but they have actually been put into physical danger. It's already starting with news items about teenage boys using online sites to lure gay men on dates to attack and rob them. What in the world are the Democrats thinking? We saw the beginning of this in that grotesque moment in the last presidential debates when John Kerry came out with that clearly prefab line identifying Mary Cheney as a lesbian. Since when does the Democratic Party use any gay issue in this coldblooded way as a token on the chessboard? You'd expect this stuff from right-wing ideologues, not progressives.
It's also been interesting how both sides -- but the Democrats early on -- characterized Foley as a pederast. He's a dirty old man in the classic Washington tradition, going after teenagers. But there's no proof that he's a child molester.
I kept hearing on the radio the stentorian voices of Democratic women politicians saying that Foley was "preying on children." When will this stop? This blurring of the line between teenagers and children -- who should be vigilantly protected by any society.
And in Washington, the age of legal consent is 16.
Exactly! Therefore if it wasn't absolutely clear at the start who exactly Foley was flirting with, the Democrats should have been far more cautious about what they said. All that's been accomplished by this scandal is to call into question one of the central erotic archetypes of gay male tradition -- the ephebic beauty of boys at their muscular peak between the ages of 16 and 18. It goes back through Western iconography from Michelangelo's nudes to Hadrian's Antinous and beyond that to Greek sculpture. It's a formula at the heart of Plato's dialogues, as in the Symposium, which shows Socrates in love with but also declining sex with the handsome young Alcibiades. In ancient Greek culture, an adult man could publicly profess his love for a young man without necessarily having sexual contact with him.
The Foley scandal exploded without any proof of a documented sex act -- unlike the case of the late congressman Gerry Studds, who had sex with a page and who was literally applauded by fellow Democrats when they refused to vote for his censure. In the Foley case, there was far more ambiguous evidence -- suggestive e-mails and instant messages. Matt Drudge, to his great credit, began hitting this issue right off the bat on his Web site and radio show. What does it mean for Democrats to be agitating over Web communications, which in my view fall under the province of free speech? It's a civil liberties issue. We can say that what Foley was doing was utterly inappropriate, professionally irresponsible, and in bad taste, but why were liberals fomenting a scandal day after day after day over words being used? And why didn't Democrats notice that they were drifting into an area which has been the province of the right wing -- that is, the attempt to gain authoritarian control over interpersonal communications on the Web? It's very worrisome and yet more proof that the Democrats have lost their way.
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