Today's College Students Worship Authority and That's Destroying American Universities

Q&A with Camille Paglia


"This generation of young people have been trained throughout middle school, high school, and college to be subservient to authority," Camille Paglia, the noted cultural critic, university professor, and Salon columnist, told Reason's Nick Gillespie in a recent interview. "[It's] everything my generation stood against."

The conversation, which took place in late April at Reason Weekend 2016, also covered Beyonce's Lemonade, Prince's career, and why she Paglia prefers early Madonna.

Watch the video:

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  1. Camille and Gillespie should just get married already.

    1. Welch would be an adorable flower person.

  2. My three takeaways from the Bill Weld interview with Jake Trapper:

    – He said he’s been a libertarian all of his life.
    – He said Israel has never had a better friend.
    – His gun-control answer really needs some work. Just say you were misguided and learned the error of your ways, Bill.

    1. “”” He said Israel has never had a better friend”‘

      So he’s running for office in Israel?

      1. They all are

  3. No Camille, it’s everything your generation claimed to stand against. They mostly were against the draft and wearing their hair short. But once they got hold of some political power, they cranked up the authoritarian dial.

    1. Yeah, one has to wonder if Paglia is living on the same planet as the rest of us.

    2. You could benefit from reading Strouse’s and Howes’ Generations.

      The Boom generation is an idealistic one while Millennials are a civic one. In many ways they are opposites. That’s why there was so much talk in the 1950s and 1060s of a generation gap between the GI generation (civic) and the Boomers (idealistic). Strouse and Howe posit that generations affect history and history affects generations. This effect creates differences that then create other differences. But what am I saying?

      Civic generations are builders. They build in many areas including bureaucracy. Idealists, on the other hand, take things apart. The current civic (millennial) generation is building its structures which includes busy-body strictures to control thought. They are replacing that which the boomers deconstructed. It’s a cycle.

      1. It’s also no surprise that most of the commenters here are Gen X. We’re the nomad generation in the cycle, so societal alienation is pretty much our hat.

      2. I agree that Millennials are builders. I am one, and most of the folks my age are unashamed authoritarians. They wouldn’t call themselves that, but, by and large, we are.

        However, I disagree that Boomers aren’t ALSO builders and authoritarians. The boomers have built much of the authoritarian structure that we are dealing with now. They might think about themselves differently, but is that really so different in action?

        Of course, the Boomers are also the ones who teach that intention matters more than outcome, so maybe it is what matters. They tell themselves that, as long as their intentions are good the outcomes are find and “unforeseeable.” This is, obviously, shit.

    3. But once they got hold of some political power, they cranked up the authoritarian dial.

      If you think that boomers are authoritarian, just wait until the millennials (civic) come into power. They will push majority rule to new heights. Think War on Poverty, War on Drugs, and Great Society levels of intrusion. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

      1. War on Thought will be fun

        1. Already happening bruh!

  4. I’m glad to see her taken to task for her ignorant dismissal of those French post structuralists. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the movement is its rejection of Marxism, something a Reason editor should be celebrating. What little I know of Derrida can be summed in one sentence: there is no final reading to a text. There is always the possibility for an alternate reading. Paglia and non Libertarians find this threatening. To me it’s liberating.

    1. “there is no final reading to a text.”

      So then, mtrueman, be prepared for an infinite number of interpretations of the text you just wrote!

      I take it, then, that you are in favor of puppy-strangling, but only after getting said puppies drunk (and therefor slightly less likely to feel pain) on Mad Dog 20-20, or another high-quality wine or spirit.

      Then after strangling said puppies, you are in favor of feeding them to your orphans, but only if they do their own cooking.

      All non-judgmental-type persons should now give equal weight to my interpretation of your text, as the next bloke’s interpretation!

      1. This is fun!

        I interpret mtruman’s posts to mean he is a Mao apologist and Holocaust denier. Wait a minute, that’s not interpretation, that just plain reading!

        1. I thought his text was a euphemism for masterbation.

          1. …are we really doing this again?

        2. “A Text may allow multiple vaild interpretations” is not the same as “all interpretations of a text are equally valid”

          1. “all interpretations of a text are equally valid”

            Again, I’m in no position to speak on behalf of Derrida. My take on it is this:

            “all interpretations of a text are equally potentially valid”

            I think that’s a nice post structuralist summation. I think this “all interpretations of a text are equally valid” stuff is a caricature. Though you are more than welcome to show me otherwise. I have much to learn in these matters.

            1. My comment was in response to SilentCal and SQRLSY misrepresenting your position. I actually agree with you.

              1. I disagree. It is casual to the oblivious observatory (or lavatory, for that matter) that

                ‘A) In postmodest theological matters, mtrueman dearly holds to his inclination of strangling puppies drunken on Mad Dog 20-20;

                … and …
                ‘B) Not only does he make his army of orphans cook their own dead puppies, he steadfastly REFUSES to even let them attend cooking classes; not even at their own expense!

                And I resemble your calubrious insinuations that I indulge in “ad valorem, ex hominoid” villifications! I don’t think I have to listen to what you have to say, because you have greasy hair!

                1. “I disagree. ”

                  And I’m not interested.

                  1. And I’m not interested in your lack of interest in my response to “Stormy Gringo-Gone”. That’s why I am NOT responding to your response! So please NOTICE my lack of response; it indicates just HOW little I care!

                    No seriously, I do care? I care at least barely enough to look out for you? That’s why I have to warn you about too deep of an association between you and Stormy Gringo-Gone? I have heard that his hair is SOOOO greasy, that Exxon Mobile and BP are in a bidding war for drilling rights to his scalp. When one of them wins the bidding war, and breaks on through the thickened geological strata below his receding hairline, there will be SUCH a big blow-out, un-constrainable by ANY “blowout prevention device”, that ALL, for miles and miles around, will be in grave danger! Just a word to the wise!

                    1. Can you guys just tell me which one of your arguments is correct.

        3. “This is fun!”

          Sure. But I’m not 12 years old.

      2. ” an infinite number of interpretations of the text you just wrote!”

        True, interpretations are a dime a dozen. You wanna stand out? you gotta be prepared to defend your interpretation, and do it well.

        You’ve made your interpretation, now defend it. Show the steps that lead you to it.

      3. For an obvious example of mtrueman’s point, consider the sonnet Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

        I met a traveller from an antique land
        Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
        Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
        Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
        And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
        Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
        Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
        The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
        And on the pedestal these words appear:
        ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
        Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
        Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
        Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
        The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

        The entire point of the poem is an inscription on a statue that means something completely different to someone reading it now than it meant to the person who built the statue because of the change in context in which the inscription is presented.

        1. “The entire point of the poem…”

          Now, if you can say that in book-length form with a shit-load of footnotes, you’ve got yourself a PhD in English.

    2. There is always the possibility for an alternate reading. Paglia and non Libertarians find this threatening. To me it’s liberating.

      Only a writer/philosopher could convince themselves that language is all there is. The rest of us know that language comes after physical reality. Animals have little to no language, yet they have thrived for millions of years. Language describes the real world. It doesn’t work the other way around. Derrida took Deconstruction past its logical end and made a fool of himself.

      You are liberated from reality. Congratulations, mtrueman.

      1. “Language describes the real world.”

        I agree. Problem is, it does so imperfectly, and that opens up a whole can of philosophical worms. I’m really not in a position to speak for Derrida. That’s my own take on the issue you raise.

        “Animals have little to no language, yet they have thrived for millions of years. ”

        I’d go further than that. Humans have also had vast stretches of existence with little or no symbolic language.

        “Derrida took Deconstruction past its logical end and made a fool of himself.”

        I don’t really care about Derrida. I was pointing out his early break over Marxism. I admire some of the causes that these post structuralists have taken up. Prisoners’ rights for example. When was the last time you heard a Marxist speaking up on behalf of prisoners rights? Rarely if ever, but post structuralists did. The only others to join them were anarchists and (non Reason reading) libertarians.

        1. I grant that the post-structuralists were not orthodox Marxists of the Lenin/Stalin sort, but I think they have pretty strong connections with the Frankfurt School.

          1. Paglia mentioned Derrida, Foucault and Lacan by name if I recall. None of them are Marxists of any school.

            1. School or not, there are many connections. From Wikipedia:

              On some occasions, Derrida referred to deconstruction as a radicalization of a certain spirit of Marxism.

              Lacan saw himself as loyal to and rescuing Freud’s legacy. Lacan’s influence has created a new cross-fertilization of Freudian and Marxist ideas.

              [Foucault] left the Communist Party in 1953, but remained Althusser’s friend and defender for the rest of his life. […] Becoming a tenured professor of Vincennes, Foucault’s desire was to obtain “the best in French philosophy today” for his department, employing Michel Serres, Judith Miller, Alain Badiou, Jacques Ranci?re, Fran?ois Regnault, Henri Weber, ?tienne Balibar, and Fran?ois Ch?telet; most of them were Marxists or ultra-left activists. […] Such actions marked Foucault’s embrace of the ultra-left, undoubtedly influenced by Defert, who had gained a job at Vincennes’ sociology department and who had become a Maoist. Most of the courses at Foucault’s philosophy department were Marxist-Leninist oriented

              1. These are social connections. When I said “rejection of Marxism” that’s what I meant. I didn’t mean they had rejected Marxists. Look up the causes these people have taken up. They are not Marxist causes.

                1. Well, there are different ways of “rejecting Marxism.” Max Eastman and Thomas Sowell certainly rejected Marxism. These three, though, all ended up on the left, all still swam in that general end of the ideological pool, and today’s cultural Marxists/SJWs draw from them in various ways. So forgive me if I don’t put them in the same category as Eastman and Sowell.

                  1. ” and today’s cultural Marxists/SJWs draw from them in various ways.”

                    That comes with being an influential philosopher. They have friends and acquaintances, some of whom are Marxists, and they influence others intellectually who are Marxists. This doesn’t make them Marxists. In fact they all reject Marxism philosophically and don’t identify themselves as Marxists, though at one point they did. Look closely and you will find people on the right who have been influenced by them. I’ve pointed out earlier that arguably the most politically active of the 3, Foucault, took up several causes, the Iranian revolution, prisoners rights etc that Marxists or the Left in general never take up and support.

                    “So forgive me if I don’t put them in the same category as Eastman and Sowell.”

                    I wasn’t asking you to put them in the same category as Eastman or Sowell. I was pointing out that as post structuralists, their rejection of Marxism was implicit. The ‘post’ means rejection of Marxism, among other things.

                    1. I understand what you are saying, but I still think they all can be fairly classed as “post-Marxists” who rejected some of Marx, but also kept a lot of him.

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  6. RE: Today’s College Students Worship Authority and That’s Destroying American Universities

    As we all know, there’s nothing wrong with worshiping authority as long as it’s socialist authority.
    Any Doctor Dingleberry teaching in an American re-education camp of higher education will tell you that.

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  8. God bless Camille Paglia…

    1. I wouldn’t even mind hardly being able to get a word in talking to her ’cause what she says is interesting and it’s good stuff…though I’m pretty frenetic myself, so both sides of the equation might actually balance or at the very least I’d imagine the conversation would be pretty entertaining 😛

  9. I like Paglia, but it seems she did a few rails of blow before doing this talk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  10. “…something built into the governmental structure”.

    There is, Camille, it’s just that no one pays attention to it.

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