Thursday, December 30, 2004


Over at That Liberal Media, Dave wrote a piece criticizing media coverage of Susan Sontag's death. It prompted some very dignified comments from the less evolved members of our species:

"Ding Dong the bitch is dead, the wicked witch, the mean old witch."

"Well, by Ms. Sontag's definition, her death was an appropriate response to her chemotherapy. After all, as a white American, she was truly a cancerous b*tch."

"Sontag is garbage, pure and simple. The world is a better place with her death; we should be cheering that her deluded presence no longer pollutes us."

I responded harshly in the comments, and would condemn anyone who spoke similarly about the death of any person. But I'll respond real quickly about the merits of Dave's argument -- that Sontag said controversial things from the left, and that a conservative who did the same wouldn't receive such glowing obits. Among his specific complaints was that it wasn't until the ninth paragraph of the widely-circulated AP story that it mentioned her 1960's quote about the white race being the "cancer of human history."

First, (correct me if I'm wrong -- I know you will!) it was always my understanding that Sontag's politics were a rather small part of her work. I don't think that's just a construction of these obituaries. Her contributions to other areas -- fiction, culture, film, theater -- were simply more important, even if they didn't make certain people as angry. In the context of her career as a whole, is it really so far off? Novelist and social commentator Tom Wolfe has extensive links to right-wing think tanks and has been part of the right-wing propaganda machine for a long time. But should that be high up in his obituary?

Second: at least Sontag's controversial remarks were mentioned. A mention is more than we saw in Reggie White's obits, which virtually ignored his racist and gay-baiting remarks in the late 90's that cost him television jobs and briefly made him the subject of much scorn. I personally think Reggie was, at heart, a good man, and that he meant well. But does that mean his remarks should be ignored? No. They should be mentioned, but given only a proportionate mention taking into account his whole life. Sontag's obit seemed to do that.

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