Ed Driscoll

When Susan Sontag Met Fascism Up Close And Personal

Last week, when I began assembling the B-roll footage and still photos for Wednesday’s Philip Johnson video, I had a pretty good handle on what was readily available on the ‘Net (and had ready access to any still photos I’d need from my own collection of books on modern architecture, if they weren’t already online). Last July, I linked to a video containing shots of the Glass House, and I knew that clips of Charlie Rose interviewing Johnson were online. But stumbling across this YouTube clip was quite a moment of serendipity:


Sontag’s arch Beat Poet-style patter, overdubbed as she’s filmed driving through Manhattan, is a scream. But what a fox she was in the early 1960s, in her New Frontier Jackie Kennedy togs and hairstyle. She was right around 30 at the time; her much harsher looking appearance a decade or so later is a reminder of this John Derbyshire truism regarding how women of the far left often age.

Sontag’s 1975 essay, “Fascinating Fascism“, was a necessary attack on Leni Riefenstahl’s attempt to rehabilitate her image 30 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. But did Sontag know, when she was standing next to Johnson on top of the world in his Seagram Building offices, that she was standing next to someone who would have been thrilled to be another Albert Speer?