Imagine a writer/playwright/intellectual whose most famous single
remark was “the black race is the cancer of human history”. Who said
“The Pinochet revolution is astonishingly free of repression
and bureaucratization.” Who praised the attack on Pearl Harber as a
brave deed. Do you suppose such a person would collect laudatory
tributes and glowing obituaries on the occasion of her death?
Substitute “white” for “black”, “Cuban” for “Pinochet”, and “9/11”
for “Pearl Harbor” and you’ll have remarks Susan Sontag actually did
make, and never retracted. (She later glossed her equation of white
people with cancer as a slander on cancer patients). Her equally
abominable expressions of racism, tyrannophilia, and anti-American
hatred have either gone totally unmentioned in the New York
Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and AP wire service
stories, or else been surrounded by exculpatory verbiage about
Sontag’s alleged devotion to high ideals.
Sontag’s willingness to say in 1982 on the occasion of the
anti-communist Polish worker’s revolution that “Communism is Fascism
with a human face” has been much feted. In fact the utter
anti-humanity of Communism had already been demonstrated by the
Kronstadt massacre and other atrocities years before Sontag was born.
Her failure to absorb that lesson forty years sooner than she did led
her to utter a great deal of toxic garbage, and should neither be
forgotten nor forgiven.
George Orwell once said that “There are some ideas so wrong that
only a very intelligent person could believe in them.” In the AP
obituary, author author Francine Prose says Sontag “represents
something that I’m afraid that’s passing, I don’t think that many
people these days say, `Oh, I want to be an intellectual when I grow
up.'” Not the least of Sontag’s crimes is that Prose is right —
by repeatedly living out Orwell’s observation throughout her lifetime,
Sontag is one of the people who taught Americans by her example to hold
intellectuals in contempt.
I have spoken ill of the dead here in order to make a point about
the living. The damage Sontag did is in the past, but the
muddleheadedness of her eulogists and their willingness to embrace
the same evils she did is a problem for the present and the future.
Only by confronting and condemning those evils can we excise the
true cancers of human history.