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Last updated on March 5th, 2018 at 01:40 pm

Susan Sontag has died aged 71. We’ll remember her for these words, written after September 11:

Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): Whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.

BBC posters mourn the yawning vacuum left by this departed admirer of courage:

Derrida and Sontag, that’s too big of a loss for one year. And I am sad to say, I don’t see a hopeful new generation to replace such geniuses …Karoly Aliotti, New York, NY

She will be greatly missed. I agree with Karoly. The loss of Derrida and Sontag within a few months has left a yawning vacuum which looks like it won’t be filled. The “intellectuals” of the 21st Century are more focused on building search engines than writing books. Sad.Nadeem Azam, London, UK

I am devastated. Susan Sontag was a heroine to me. I’ve read every book she’s written except for The Benefactor, and it’s in the queue. I wish I could have met her, and talked to her about things like punk rock, and needing an erotics of art.Josh Humphries, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

James Wolcott pens a 50-word tribute:

One by one the lights go out. First, Edward Said and now Susan Sontag, dead at 71. Both were engaged intellectuals and cosmopolitan sensibilities, committed to art and justice with consciences that seldom slept, and with their loss the cultural life of the city becomes even more pallid and gray.

That’s 50 more words than Wolcott has written about the tsunami disaster. Of course, after writing this, I doubt Wolcott has the … what’s the word? … courage to go near that particular subject.

UPDATE. Trevino at Red State aims to be fair. Nice essay.

UPDATE II. James Taranto takes another look at Sontag: “On rereading this brief essay, what most struck us was that Sontag actually saw a connection between Iraq and Sept. 11, something her fellow travelers on the left have been at pains to deny.”

Posted by Tim B. on 12/29/2004 at 05:02 PM
    1. Yeah like 99.9% of people in the world have even heard of these people, or give a stuff about them.or there thoughts.

      Posted by raider580 on 2004 12 29 at 06:23 PM • permalink


    1. With an outlook like Wolcott`s why is he bothering to stay on this earth.

      Posted by raider580 on 2004 12 29 at 06:27 PM • permalink


    1. Well, I doubt if I will be published but I just added my two cents to the BBC boo hoo fest for Sontag.  Although expressed in acceptable BBC English, my gist was that another piece of shit has been flushed down the dunny of history.


      Posted by TFK on 2004 12 29 at 06:53 PM • permalink


    1. Another blow to the redundosphere.  Wolcott’s pretention-on-a-stick scrabbling is really quite funny.  Here’s to pallid & gray philosophers.

      Can we start a dead pool on the next “intellectual”?

      Posted by Craig Mc on 2004 12 29 at 07:07 PM • permalink


    1. >One by one the lights go out.

      I prefer “Slowly the clouds are lifting”.

      >needing an erotics of art.

      I can’t deny this, though.

      And surely we also need an erotics of quantum physics, and who will take on such a mighty task?

      Posted by Blithering Bunny on 2004 12 29 at 07:08 PM • permalink


    1. i think suze needed a good shag. what was with that morticia gray/black hairdo anyway ?

      Posted by Lucky Nutsacks on 2004 12 29 at 07:33 PM • permalink


    1. an erotics of art.

      (Is this what you call a load of wank?)

      one by one these losers are dropping off the perch – derrida, arafat, now sontag. hussein soon to go at the barrels of a couple of AK47s no doubt.

      clouds are lifting allright

      Posted by bensonski on 2004 12 29 at 07:40 PM • permalink


    1. Said, Derrida, Sontag and Arafat dead. Howard and Bush re-elected. What a great year it’s been – and still two days to go.

      Posted by graboy on 2004 12 29 at 08:04 PM • permalink


    1. Well vale Susan Sontag I guess.  At the moment it seems cruddy to be making jokes.

      Thanks Josh Humphries for the inspiration for the following though:

      “I am not really upset. Susan Sontag meant bugger all to me. I’ve never looked at anything she’s written including The Benefactor, and it’s not on my list – although nothing else is either. I couldn’t have cared less if I met her, and talked to her about things like punk rock (what the?), and needing an erotics of art (try buying Picture magazine, Josh)”.

      Posted by Major Anya on 2004 12 29 at 08:07 PM • permalink


    1. Well said, graboy!

      Posted by jorgen on 2004 12 29 at 08:12 PM • permalink


    1. Were they cowards? Not really, but not heroes either.
      Murdering the unescorted children and so many others was the work of people with no underpinning moral values.
      The same applies to those who cheered them on.
      Goodbye Susan. Don’t come back.

      Posted by davidb on 2004 12 29 at 08:20 PM • permalink


    1. Noam Chomsky is not another imminent departure is he? or he is enjoying a robust health and we must wait a while.

      But Vale Sontag.

      Posted by Louis on 2004 12 29 at 08:24 PM • permalink


    1. The subtext of some of the woeful extreme lamentations is that these utter igmoramuses will not be replaced.  But I’m afraid they are wrong again!

      Posted by J. Peden on 2004 12 29 at 08:50 PM • permalink


    1. two days to go? with any luck foucalt will start ‘pining for the fjords’ before new years as well.

      Posted by Lucky Nutsacks on 2004 12 29 at 09:36 PM • permalink


    1. >two days to go? with any luck foucalt will start ‘pining for the fjords’ before new years as well.

      Foucault died twenty years ago, Rosceo.

      Posted by Blithering Bunny on 2004 12 29 at 09:56 PM • permalink


    1. Susan Sontag had exactly one bright shining moment of clarity, when she decried the Soviet Union as “succesful fascism” in the early 1980’s.

      And yet, this stupid bint was pro Ho Chi Minh/North Vietnam, pro Fidel Castro, and against everything the U.S. was trying to accomplish in central America during the 1980’s.

      How one could get one issue so absolutely right, and yet be so friggin’ wrong about everything other goddamned thing else they commented upon is beyond me.  She was the left’s version of “Rainman”, I guess.

      Posted by David Crawford on 2004 12 29 at 10:16 PM • permalink


    1. OK, I feel for her family. Doubtless they loved her, and I do feel for them as I feel for anyone who loses a loved one.

      That said, Sontag was a moral vacuum, a fantasist, and a prime member of the echo chamber of what has become the garbage bin of history. The power of her delusions was staggering; no matter what happened, no matter how blatantly it was the act of some third-world despot, it was all the fault of the West.

      Even over 11Sep01, she confused courage with fanaticism and fatalism. Do not get me wrong, I am in a profession that examines such things, I have an ice-cold professional admiration for the audacity and planning that went in to those airliner kamikaze missions. Their mission planners used our weaknesses against us in a very elegant manner. I can admire that – but I despise them.

      But were they ‘courageous?’, no. Not at all. Courage is rooted in moral behaviour, it is a deeply moral thing. The most courageous people include those who deliberately choose greater risk for themselves in order to PRESERVE innocent lives. Look at the average US, UK, or even Australian military person in Iraq. Our people deliberately accept higher risks for themselves so as not to cause unnecessary civilian casualties.

      THAT is courage, based on the moral imperative to protect the innocent.

      A ‘man’ who chooses to expend his life to murder the innocent is a coward, a criminal, a terrorist, but he is not courageous, merely a fanatic. And fanatics are moral vacuums, amoral monsters.

      And Sontag could not tell the difference.

      That speaks volumes for the ‘intellectual heart’ of the left.


      Posted by MarkL on 2004 12 29 at 10:31 PM • permalink


    1. Those driven by fanaticism to extreme brutality and destruction may not be cowards, but they are the human face of evil, not heroes, not Courage Personified. The guys who faced up to some of them, and said “Let’s Roll”, then brought down the fourth airliner before it could cause further havoc, they are forever Heroes. They were able to rise at short notice and take down the scumbags who had no respect for innocent lives, and whose mechanistic and hate-filled “courage” stands as a warning to all of us that we take this threat seriously or suffer the dismantling of our society. Susan Sontag was no help and will not be missed.

      Posted by blogstrop on 2004 12 29 at 10:41 PM • permalink


    1. Another left-wing slimeball dead…oh well, let us hope we never see her vile type again. Her comment about 9/11 is a suitable epitaph.

      Posted by Andrew Ian Dodge on 2004 12 30 at 12:53 AM • permalink


    1. i can’t add anything to what graboy said.

      Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2004 12 30 at 01:05 AM • permalink


    1. YAWN……………

      Posted by crash on 2004 12 30 at 02:51 AM • permalink


    1. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!

      Posted by effoff on 2004 12 30 at 03:08 AM • permalink


    1. Here is a link to an obit by Roger Kimball that shines a bit more light on Ms. Sontag’s “memorable” writing over the years.  A must read for Sontag acolytes.

      Posted by joeh on 2004 12 30 at 03:14 AM • permalink


    1. “Courage is rooted in moral behaviour.”

      That’s absolutely right, MarkL, and what a shame it is that Sontag and her comrades on the Left cannot see that.

      Posted by Lawrence on 2004 12 30 at 03:36 AM • permalink


    1. Well said, MarkL.

      Posted by ak on 2004 12 30 at 03:45 AM • permalink


    1. I hope they remember to stuff her head with garlic.

      Wouldn’t want her to come back. y’know.

      Posted by big un on 2004 12 30 at 04:01 AM • permalink


    1. Sontag on… Sontag?

      “Any critic is entitled to wrong judgments, of course. But certain lapses of judgment indicate the radical failure of an entire sensibility.”

      Sontag on… Sontag?

      “Sanity is a cozy lie.”

      Posted by DANEgerus on 2004 12 30 at 04:08 AM • permalink


    1. My best friend met her and told me his experience.  He was part of the University of Georgia�s speakers forum.  They asked her to speak on �AIDS as a Metaphor.� She objected to being picked up by the university van and not a limo.  She complained about her accommodation as not swank enough.  To cap it off, when she got up to speak she refused to talk on the topic and rambled on about some nonsense.  After having pasted those signs about �AIDS as a Metaphor� all over the very large campus not to mention having paid her, they were furious.  When she left, they had a huge �I hate Susan Sontag� party and burned her in effigy.  He says that it was a great party.

      Posted by amelia on 2004 12 30 at 04:23 AM • permalink


    1. Sontag once said “the white race is the cancer of human history.”

      Only in America could a psycho-bitch like her become wealthy and famous by bad-mouthing America and Americans.  But, we’ve got quite a lot of those people here…

      This reminds me of an episode from my misspent youth.  On election eve, 1968, I went to hear Eldridge Cleaver (a Black Panther leader and candidate for president of the Peace and Freedom party) speak.  At the end of his obscene and belligerent speech, there was a question and answer period.  A white woman in her fifties, an ageing Berkeley radical caricature, wearing birkinstocks, a bright peasant dress and a Mexican serape asked Cleaver: “What can I do, as a white person, to help the black liberation movement?” Cleaver’s response was “Kill yourself.” I guess Sontag never got the message…

      Posted by Mystery Meat on 2004 12 30 at 05:29 AM • permalink


    1. Sontag’s gone.  Boo hoo.

      Might we hope that the likes of James Wolcott will soon join the other great lights in that yawning vacuum?

      Oops.  Did I say that out loud?

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2004 12 30 at 08:39 AM • permalink


    1. Much like Michael Moore, Sontag was one of those people who Europeans looked to for reliable America-bashing, deluding themselves that her “authenticity” (i.e. the fact that she happened to be American) meant that she must be right. “Intellectuals” and lazy op-ed writers all over Europe (and probably in the US, too) must be in quite a funk right now, seeing as her inane comments always provided a nice springboard for a round of unthinking bleating. Beyond them and their acolytes, I doubt all that many people are going to miss her. Ashheap of history.

      Posted by PW on 2004 12 30 at 10:24 AM • permalink


    1. Mark eLoquent,

      thank you.

      Posted by guinsPen on 2004 12 30 at 01:07 PM • permalink


  1. On Amelia on her friend’s experience of Sontag on campus:

    Sounds familiar.  Only in that hall of reflecting empty mirrors known as academe (read: schools that commodify their prestige, sell it as a cure for being an oppressed minority, and call it “affirmative action”) do intellectual stars like Sontag receive the kind of mindless adoration that allows her to believe her foul manners are indicative of intellectual consequence.

    I hope some people on that particular campus learned that simple truth.  Tell people like Sontage that they are thinkers of significance, and they’ll believe you every time.

    Posted by Michael McCanles on 2004 12 30 at 02:11 PM • permalink