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Why Peggy Noonan Is Dead Right In Diagnosing House of Cards‘ Decadence

Yes, it's troubling to see politicians celebrate the idea that they're all nihilistic, cold blooded murderers. But Camille Paglia prophesied this decades ago...

Dave Swindle


February 19, 2014 - 12:00 pm

A great Peggy Noonan blog post today hits the mark, “Our Decadent Elites“:  

Watching Season 2 of “House of Cards.” Not to be a scold or humorless, but do Washington politicians understand how they make themselves look when they embrace the show and become part of its promotion by spouting its famous lines? Congressmen only work three days a week. Each shot must have taken two hours or so—the setup, the crew, the rehearsal, the learning the line. How do they have time for that? Why do they think it’s good for them? “House of Cards” very famously does nothing to enhance Washington’s reputation. It reinforces the idea that the capital has no room for clean people. The earnest, the diligent, the idealistic, they have no place there. Why would powerful members of Congress align themselves with this message? Why do they become part of it? I guess they think they’re showing they’re in on the joke and hip to the culture. I guess they think they’re impressing people with their surprising groovelocity. Or maybe they’re just stupid. But it’s all vaguely decadent, no? Or maybe not vaguely. America sees Washington as the capital of vacant, empty souls, chattering among the pillars. Suggesting this perception is valid is helpful in what way?

Read the whole thing. April and I are six episodes in to the second season and I’ve grown bored with it. Real life is so much more interesting. Some of my tweets in protest:   

“Decadent” really is the correct word to describe the show and what it symbolizes: the cultural twilight of Baby Boomer Liberalism.

Last year I began analyzing Camille Paglia’s books and cultural criticism. More than 20 years ago she predicted what we’re seeing now. Here’s an excerpt from page 3 of Sexual Personae:

“Romanticism always turns into decadence. Nature is a hard taskmaster. It is the hammer and the anvil, crushing individuality. Perfect freedom would be to die by earth, air, water, and fire.”

Where sexual liberation is demanded will sexual cruelty inevitably follow?Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia, pg 3.

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.

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All Comments   (5)
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Paglia's right: at the end of the Civil Rights era we had a balanced hierarchy based on simply reality. A half century on, it has been replaced by unreality.

Audacity, confidence, intellectual aggressiveness and curiosity and tools to enable self-criticism have been replaced with coulda, woulda, shoulda, blame, complaint, excuses and self-pity as institutional orthodoxy.

This current culture has no use for our Constitution other than to data-mine it for useful exploitation.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
If we bear in mind that Washington and its environs is a City State and that Congress and the Executive branches are criminal enterprises that occasionally gets their danders up when one trespasses on the other's territory and sometime cooperate with one another when fleecing the American public, then we can see we brought this on ourselves; we permitted it to happen, and it is beyond our control, short of starting all over, having learned from our mistakes. We're not going to reign in government, it's too far gone; indeed, it is totally corrupt. In fact, it is rotten to the core.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I work in it, and it's not rotten - it's inept. Not criminal - lost. Not malicious - deluded. I can't answer for senators, judges, or the President. I do know the bureaucrats. Everything bad you've ever heard about government bureaucrats is true. You wouldn't believe what goes on here. The DOJ's antics give you a taste. Trust me, it's in every agency. Elections don't solve anything. The culture goes on...forever.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
As an apparent insider, what would you do to fix it? Or is it even possible to fix the bureaucracy? Perhaps bureaucracies are inevitable as is the ineptness that goes with it....

Think big and don't take anything off the table. Would firing every single government employee and building a new bureaucracy from scratch solve the problem if the appropriate rules were put into place? What would those appropriate rules be?

Or do we need to abandon the idea of government doing much beyond the core functions of defending the nation and administering law and just accept that this portion of national life will inevitably be dysfunctional? At least if we have government doing less - MUCH less - the total amount of ineptness will be reduced. Of course newly privatized functions formerly handled by government will inevitably have their own problems. Bureaucracies in private companies can be ludicrous too.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The culture goes on...forever."

Forever is a long time.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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