on the Reemergence of American Intellectualism

This piece is about the future. The author describes how pundits like Hannity, Coulter, and the rest of those bloviating dullards on Fox (and its imitators) get face time on the TeeVee, and how the emergence of blogs and blogging will act as a crucible, separating out truly valuable analysis (Berubes, Wolcott, Gitlins) from mere noise (Limbaugh, Chris Matthews, armpit-farts, etc.).

I like speculation about the future, articles about blogging and hope and is all three.

Let me put that in context…

Perhaps one of the side benefits of the blogs will be the re-emergence of the public intellectual.  Such people, usually specialists in one field but writing much more generally, once provided a great deal of the context for public debate.  You might say that they provided the parameters for the public sphere (if you can stand the alliteration).  Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, John Dewey, B.F. Skinner–just to create a random quartet–all had influence on the debates going on in diners and living rooms.  In many ways, their influence was greater outside of their areas of expertise, though it was those that gave them the gravitas needed in those days in order to be taken seriously elsewhere.

Today's pale imitations of the old public intellectual are not people who have proven themselves in particular pursuits.  Chris Matthews, on his Hardball TV show in late July, kept telling Ann Coulter that she writes well.  So do David Horowitz, George Will, and the dozens of others who have taken upon themselves what really have become public pseudo-intellectual roles.  Unlike the real public intellectuals of bygone years, their achievements rest only on facility of comment.  Few of them show accomplishment elsewhere.

That's the advantage of coming into the public sphere with a reputation already established in intellectual pursuits: one has something to protect, so is a bit more careful with what one says than, say, Ann Coulter or David Horowitz.  The reputations of these pseudos come through media only, and not through contributions to any fields of study.

Over the next few years, such pundits should start to find themselves pushed aside, as the Michael Berubes, Todd Gitlins, Juan Coles, and more start to have greater influence within the public sphere, providing a real intellectual background to the debates.  The blogs are the perfect arena for the new public intellectuals, for they for a contextual web themselves, something the real intellectuals are quite comfortable working with.

The blogs: providing once again the context for our discussions that public intellectuals gave us in the days before the rise of the professional media punditocracy.

(Read complete post here.)

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