Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dear Abby and Paul Berman and Andrew Delbanco: Who is Really a Public Intellectual?


After discovering the circumstances of Paul Berman’s Self-Anointing as a Public Intellectual (see MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE) and living with Andrew Delbanco’s slandering me in denying the reality of Melville’s POEMS (see MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE) I wonder if we should start looking hard at  Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers and Michael Moore and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as the true public intellectuals of our time.

Pauline Phillips: Born: 1918-07-04 - Died: 2013-01-16
Pauline Phillips, 94, was perhaps better known as Abigail Van Buren. Under the pseudonym, she wrote the popular “Dear Abby” advice column that first appeared in 1956. The “Dear Abby” column began at the San Francisco Chronicle after Phillips called in to the paper saying she could do a better job than the current advice . . . .

Just yesterday there was an excellent book review in ReligionDispatches by Bruce B. Lawrence, a Humanities professor and director of the Islamic studies program at Duke University. In it he reviews two books, one is Paul Berman’s, Flight of the Intellectual and the other is Andrew Shyrocks, Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the Politics of Enemy and Friend.
His review is thoughtful, insightful and a must read for those truly interested in the topic of contemporary Islam and Muslims. It obliterates the shallow discourse that many pseudo-Intellectuals and their patrons engage in while at the same time giving a much a needed nuanced perspective sorely missing from the discussion.
Lauded by Foreign Affairs as “one of America’s leading public intellectuals,” Paul Berman was recently identified in a flattering New York Times review as “a man who identifies ‘with the liberal left.’” If Berman inhabits and projects the liberal left, then the conservative right has lost its claim to being at the forefront of Islamophobia.
The huge mistake of the Times (and almost every outlet of mainstream media reporting) is to assume that Berman is a public intellectual who can speak about Islam, that his is an authoritative voice to be heeded, his insights accepted and thus, perhaps most importantly, his warnings followed. In fact, the message in Flight of the Intellectuals, Berman’s latest polemic which hit the bookstores last month, is so insidious, his knowledge of Islam so shallow, that it must be addressed through the one major category of public discourse into which it fits: Islamophobia/Islamophilia.

Awards & Honors: 2011 National Humanities Medalist
Andrew Delbanco
For many people, Andrew Delbanco is the definition of a public intellectual. With a combination of deep learning, eloquence, and a deft, original way of considering our national history and literature, he documents the human mise-en-scène in a way that matters today. Delbanco frequently speaks throughout the country, appears in television documentaries, and many of his books are found on the New York Times Notable Books lists. [by Randall Fuller]
Christopher Hitchens: Born: 1949-04-13 - Died: 2011-12-15
Hitchens was an author, essayist, and journalist for over forty years. He had columns in Free Inquiry, The Nation, World Affairs, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic. He was a staple of the lecture and talk show circuits, and was voted the fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect/Foreign Policy poll.

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