The Decline of Thought

I find myself transfixed by the continuing decline of Naomi Wolf. The journalist stands, still riding on the success of a well-researched, successful and thought-provoking book The Beauty Myth, just after her anticlimactic assault on Harold Bloom. Faced with the prospect of triumphantly rebounding from this abyss with another thought-provoking article on gender relations, she tackles the recent Iraq torture photos. All of which would be shocking enough, of course, were the journalist in question not trying to apply gender roles to an inexcusable moral disintegration that defies such easy dichotomies.

If Lynndie R. England, the woman photographed next to the prisoners, were a reasonable human being, if she did not insist that she was doing a good job, if the trailer park minx did not justify her barbarism, photographed or unphotographed, with the understatement of the decade, ” Mom, I was in the wrong place in the wrong time,”, then perhaps a reflective essay along Wolf’s lines would be necessary. If Wolf had, for example, compared England with Private Jessica Lynch, a figure used as casus belli and conveniently forgotten by the current crowd, in her essay, she may have had more credence. But like most pundits, Wolf clings to the innocence that Kurt Vonnegut recently wrote about and, as a result, remains tragically ridiculous.

That Wolf is just as capable as Maureen Dowd of hyperbole shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this generation of journalists is more likely to engage in jejune deconstructions of barbarism than actual reporting and analysis. Why bother to explain when the American public and their media mouthpieces are so willing to keep their heads in the sand? Why bother to demand accountability when there’s the latest reality television show to cling to? And why bother to get inside atrocity when you can drag up the porn argument?

Naomi Wolf has transmuted into that impassive grad student who would respond with ideology instead of revulsion. Being detached is one thing. One expects a journalist to do her best objective work under ugly circumstances. But when theory is promulgated and porn is summoned up as the magical reason why (much like video games and movies were used to justify Columbine), one wonders whether America is capable of taking responsibility for its own representative behavior. Does the feeling of helplessness beget a feeling of removal? I leave greater minds to speculate on this troubling question.


  1. I find it interesting that rather than comment directly on the torture of Iraqi prisoners, Wolf seems to be more interested in using the event to take down other feminists. I must admit I’m out of touch with mainstream feminism, but aren’t they beyond gender superiority by now? Surely, in all that talk about equality, it must have occured to them that such an attitude would be awfully hypocritical.

    Then again, maybe not. Television is rife with dopey husbands married to long-suffering, superior wives. But on TV, we all know it’s a joke. We don’t need female soldiers to torture prisoners to remind us that women can be evil, and we certainly don’t need Naomi Wolf to use such instances to grind her axes.

    Honestly, she’s on the hook to write for a living. I have to believe that she’s not really paying attention at this point and just banging these columns out.

  2. Camille Paglia–and you, Ed and rasputin–nailed her (though not literally, I don’t think). Wolf is simply incapable of venturing outside of her little porn and college-men-harassing-coeds narrative box. I think she has cultivated the role of victim and that this role dovetails nicely with her narcissism and martyr complex. And in turn, those fuel her need to perpetuate the Naomi Wolf industry and keep her name in magazines and her beautiful face on cable TV talk shows. Remember Eddie Murphy on SNL? “I’m Gumby, dammit!” Gumby, meet Naomi.

  3. Another truly sad aspect of this is that Wolf’s is just one of MANY op-ed pieces from across the media spectrum to take as its starting point shock and awe that women, being made of sugar and spice and everything nice, could possibly engage in militarized torture, leading up to disappointment with the display of ultimately violent behavior. The further unoriginality of blaming porn is just icing on the cake–but I bet she and Book Babe Ellen would get along fabulously.

  4. Edward

    I think the rule is you are allowed to use the word ‘jejune’ only once a month.

    Also, I think Maureen Dowd has been down-right down with it on the Bushite regime world historical fuck ups…are we talking about the same Dowd?

    Might you remove the scales from my eyes.

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