Saturday 26 October 2019

Big Bad Wolf

I never took the American feminist Naomi Wolf seriously for a moment. Not simply because she was an American feminist (Camille Paglia is the only one I like) but because even by feminist standards she was so very silly (though very beautiful in her twenties). 

Her latest book said many Englishmen and boys were hanged for sodomy in Victorian England. She was wrong and was politely but irrefutably corrected in a live radio programme.  One has to feel for her for that. 

I had no idea how appalling she was until I read this lovely little piece by the wonderful Douglas Murray

In her first book, The Beauty Myth, that came out in 1991 she
"infamously claimed that 150,000 women were dying from anorexia-related
eating disorders each year in America. As the writer Christina Hoff Sommers subsequently showed (in her 1995 book Who Stole Feminism?), the actual figure had been exaggerated several hundred times over by Wolf, and the actual figure was between 100 and 400."
How could such a person have become a famous and respected writer? Her publisher has dropped her from his list now but why wasn't she dropped in 1995?

It turns out that she thought George W. Bush intended to impose a dictatorship. 

'Among Wolf’s claims were that the Bush administration was in the process of coercing not only the media but also American academia to their dastardly plans. As anybody with even the slightest knowledge of either institution would know, if the Bush administration ever had sought to coerce the entirety of the US media and Academy then it was — against some competition — the least successful effort of that administration.
'...Even though George Bush miraculously stood down and allowed Barack Obama to enter the Oval Office, Wolf’s warnings of an imminent fascist coup in America continued unabated.'
The accomplished historian Timothy Snyder thinks Donald Trump intends to do the same thing. 

These predictions are taken very seriously by people who complain about right-wing conspiracy theories. The same people thought that a Russian conspiracy explained the election of President Trump. When the American Department of Justice two days ago launched a criminal investigation into the US intelligence gathering that sparked the Russia investigation, these people said that this was Donald Trump on the way to creating a dictatorship.

I suppose, being an American, Miss Wolf could believe that sodomites were regularly hanged in the late nineteenth century. British people know better instinctively. 

I once read a fascinating book on the subject called 'Byron and Greek Love', when it came out in 1984, because the subject seemed so recherché. Now it is the least recherché area of history there is.

I was very saddened to read the story of James Pratt and John Smith, who were the last men to be executed for sodomy in the UK in November 1835, which is not what Miss Wolf said.

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