It’s hard
to imagine that John Howard is a Camille Paglia fan. At the same time, it seems
unlikely that he’s a Monty Python bore. Yet his go at post-modern teaching falls somewhere between Paglia’s denunciation of “Lacanderridaandfocault” and
the old East Ender in the Piranha Brothers sketch complaining about the end of an age of innocence: “All the kids were
like that then, they didn’t have their heads stuffed with all this Cartesian
dualism.”

Paglia’s
complained about her intellectual compatriots’ fondness for demolishing their
own popular culture – genuine popular culture, not just pop culture – with
“ugly, imported foreign machinery”, people who “need to use the word
‘transgressive’ and ‘subversive’ and ‘Lacanian subtext’ and all that crap”.

The PM is
on a winner here. Anything foreign – French – and fond of fancy phraseology is
an easy target. But so is the Western cultural canon. Or was. Shooting at the
dead white males is so old hat. It should be regarded as an academic equivalent
of Rubik’s cubes – a brief, imported fad that required some intelligence, had a
few people obsessed for while, but long since stopped being anything other than
a dated toy.

Clive James
declared back in the eighties “Satre is a w*nker. Un plus grand w*nker.” One can go a step further and say “you
shouldn’t sh*t in your own cultural nest”.

The
philosopher Roger Scruton observed recently “Since the early twentieth century,
Western society has been in the grip of a culture of repudiation – rejecting
one by one the institutions, offices, traditions and achievements of the past,
while having often little but sentimental emptiness with which to replace
them.”

Postmodernism
does just that. It shuns our intellectual inheritance and offers nothing but
vapid verbology in its place. Vapid verbology only understood by a few self
proclaimed and self-perpetuating high priests of the movement.

John Howard
knows that. And he knows by attacking it he can win support, not just from its
intellectual opponents but peoples whose views on modernism, post modernism,
structuralism, post structuralism, any ism are ever only likely to inchoate, sensed,
not seen – and sceptical.

Conservatism
often has cultural common sense on its side – and this is one of those
occasions. Our natural, inbuilt bullsh*t detectors tell us something is shonky.
We just latch onto it and express our concerns differently. Hence the varied ways
in which John Howard, Camille Paglia and Michael Palin in drag give us the same
message: crap is crap.

PS We enjoyed The Advertiser‘s contribution to the debate on this morning’s front page:

Peter Fray

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