Florid Wagnerian similes aside, there are many amazing, startling, completely counterintuitive assertions and non-sequiturs trudging aimlessly shoulder-to-shoulder in just those two paragraphs. (No slacker she, Paglia manages to keep up the brisk pace throughout. She's a veritable Michael Phelps of pseudo-contrarian posturing, truly championship-grade nonsense.)
But here, let's take just the most egregious examples. First is her ludicrous assertion about "highly-educated Americans". Most Americans have no historical or cultural consciousness to speak of, outside of pop-culture commonalities, but Persons of Breeding and/or Achievement -- well, they have nothing but such a consciousness. That's why they got those big-money degrees and gated communities, to differentiate themselves from les peons. However, that was not at all Cavett's point; his point was that Palin's oratorical scrambling was each and every time a failure of her ability to say anything meaningful. This has only been in dispute among the more reality-challenged bloggerati of the rightard stripe.
Second, Paglia's observation that English has changed is both inane and irrelevant. American English is in a near-constant state of flux, because of the variety of elements constantly infused by immigrants and regional speakers (unlike, say, Iceland, whose geographic isolation has rendered its language largely static since Viking times), and because we don't have self-styled linguistic solons "protecting" our sacred heritage in legislative amber (as opposed to, for example, France).
But one thing that has not changed, at least insofar as serious people speak purposefully to one another, is a familiarity with the conventions of fundamentals such as grammar, spelling, and usage. This is a country where HR tools will tell you, for god's sake, don't fuck up your cover letter, much less your résumé, with so much as a typo. The transcripts of Palin's interviews and speeches read like a collection of free-form brain-farts.
This has fuck-all to do with Palin's transparent wheel-spinning, something that, if she weren't trying so damned hard to flash her contrarian quals and crack her knuckles, Paglia would recognize at once. Instead she treats us to a completely irrelevant anecdote about some asshole professor from her Yale days (forty fucking years ago) as evidence.
Finally, no, despite his pedantry, Cavett does not appear to intend to offer himself as "linguistic gatekeeper", he merely expressed the same measures of bemusement and irritation that one party has such seething contempt for the American people that after eight years of epic failure, they found someone even less qualified than George W. Bush to play a primary role in their electoral campaign. This was made more and more evident every time Palin opened that hot 'n' nasty piehole of hers.
Has nothing to do with "street slang" or "colloquial locutions", as if Paglia had any more than an academic's acquaintance with either of those things. It's bad enough when a politician wraps empty slogans and moronic ideas in pretty words and phrases, but Palin couldn't even be bothered to make her happy horseshit halfway articulate, even after most of her stage patter was proven to be false. Only a true believer or an ivory-tower dipshit would fail to make this simple connection. And Paglia's incessant pro-forma disclaimers that "I support Obama but...." or "I'm pro-choice and pro-gay-rights but...." do not exactly discount the possibility of the former instance in addition to the latter.
But it's the trifecta of her irrelevant Yale anecdote, her tedious attempts to read Dick Cavett's mind, and her return to the belabored "Sarah Palin's just a misunderstood be-bop saxophonist" metaphor that kills this thing good and dead:
Well, Palin is certainly every bit as inarticulate and incoherent as any random wall-eyed dipshit showing off his leopard-print-and-chinchilla-fur Hennessy shelf on Cribs, but again, Flavor Flav wasn't running for vice-president behind an old man with a closely-guarded medical record. And rap, like be-bop saxophone, is a musical style that is deceptively chaotic and improvisational, but actually has schematic precision and structure at its core, when done well.
I've gone on about this before, but I'm genuinely perplexed by Paglia's incessant refusal to believe her lyin' eyes and ears when it comes to Palin. One of the precious few things that Palin did make abundantly clear in her barnstorming campaign tour is that she, Palin, aggressively disagrees with virtually every political precept Paglia claims to believe in, and would do everything she could to keep the Cheney Doctrine well in place, and add to it wherever possible. Which makes you wonder what Paglia actually believes in, besides undue attention.
I'm not sure which is more confusing -- that Paglia would rather keep quibbling over imaginary style points, or that she appears genuinely ignorant about those points, forever comparing an out-of-her-depth dingbat with complicated forms of music, illustrating in the process that she knows nothing about either.