Sunday, February 14, 2010

What is an Intellectual?

Not a bad week here at the Notes Taken, as Devin had a chance to satirize the Texas State Board of Education for its decision making process and the shoddy research skills of Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Matt had a chance to post our first 'reading' of a movie, which concerned Lars von Trier's The Antichrist.

We also had a chance to catch up with what is going on elsewhere on the net:

1. A friend of mine brought, through a very indirect way, a recent statement by the president of the MLA about dissertation monographs, in which she questions whether or not its current 'book-form' is outdated in a rapidly changing world. I don't want to sound cynical but inspirational passages such as "Future faculty ... will require flexible and improvisational habits and collaborative skills to bring their scholarship to fruition" doesn't make me think of new technologies and research skills; it makes me think of non-tenure track employment.

2. It seemed inevitable after J.D. Salinger's death that his letters would start turning up. This week his correspondence with E. Michael Mitchell, who designed the cover of Catcher in the Rye, has been made public. It also seemed inevitable that some wannabe would claim a correspondence that could not be produced (see here or here). That would be Taki Theodoracopulos, who said he exchanged hundreds of letter with Salinger, in which the recently deceased declared his hatred for Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis and VS Naipaul. Reading the "excerpts" that Theodoracopulos produced on his site, should make it pretty obvious that it's a hoax.

3. Then, to return to topics related to the recently deceased, it appears that National Public Radio's obituary on Howard Zinn included rousing tributes from Noam Chomsky, Julian Bond and....wait for it...David Horowitz? I can understand the first two, friends and fellow travelers of Zinn's but so far as I can tell, the only reason that Horowitz was on the show was to 'balance' the reporting by contrasting the first two with a dissenting opinion. Here's some of Horowitz's comments that didn't make the cut (so, in case you are wondering, it is reproduced on his website; don't worry, that link right there is to Alternet, not Horowitz's site):
According to the account he published on his Web site, he told Keyes that Zinn was responsible for "helping Stalin" to "slaughter" and "enslave" Eastern Europe; that he "never flagged in his political commitment to freedom's enemies"; and that he "supported every enemy of the United States in every war...including the Islamic Nazis whose first agenda is to finish the job that Hitler started."
Those remarks didn't make the cut because, of course, they are beyond ridiculous. Here's what made the show:
"There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn's intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect," he explained. "Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse."
N.P.R was rightly scolded for including this garbage. Not only is Horowitz a charlatan, but as far as I can tell his only expertise is self-aggrandizement at the cost of others. Here, it's no different, but it's a well paying shtick. Unfortunately.

4. We can't end on that note. If you've made it this far, you might as well watch this debate, from 1969, between Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley (this is part one, I'm sure you can find part two).

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