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09 January 2014 @ 06:52 am
The champion  
There is no such thing as America's Foremost Public Intellectual. I can't even begin to imagine how they'd do the brackets. But naming one seems a harmless form of sport, and when Ta-Nehisi Coates made a suggestion, it didn't bother me. But he named a black woman, and someone whose name I probably should know was shocked and said Coates obviously should have picked one of a few specific white men, or perhaps a particular dead white woman if she hadn't been dead. That doesn't make the guy America's Foremost Public Asshole (for the same reason and because the competition is even fiercer), but it isn't good. Coates discusses.

ETA: Charles Pierce joins in the fun.
Kalimac: puzzlekalimac on January 9th, 2014 02:25 pm (UTC)
Several things bother me about this:

1) There's a world of difference between "America's foremost public intellectual" and "one of America's foremost public intellectuals," even if the title is just some guy spouting off. When you say the former, you're not only boosting your candidate, you're denigrating everyone else.

2) TNC identifies the assholery as "the idea that considering Harris-Perry an intellectual is somehow evidence of inferior thinking." That is NOT what Byers said, and it's staggeringly dishonest to morph it that way. If TNC wants something that undermines his intellectual cred, that'll do it.

3) That not responding to a tweet for an hour and a half seems to be considered unacceptably deep radio silence. An hour and a half? Sometimes I shut off my computer and go to sleep for 5 or 6 times that long! Shocking.
Johnjohnpalmer on January 12th, 2014 04:47 pm (UTC)
Did you read the article in question? He actually explained why he said she was "most foremost":
"There may well be intellectuals with more insight. And there are surely public figures with a greater audience. But there is no one who ...."

I don't see the denigration myself.

I don't see "staggeringly dishonest" either, (but I do see potential for simply being incorrect about the intention of Byers) nor see how that line, alone, is undermining. I see something that ticks off a person, who then makes a comment that can't be supported by the evidence, which means being potentially incorrect. Oh, wait - by some standards, that's staggeringly dishonest, isn't it?

Kalimackalimac on January 12th, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, I saw TNC's reasons. They seemed to me not good reasons for picking "foremost", but whether they are or not, there's still a world of difference between saying "foremost" and "one of the foremost." It's denigrating, because if you say "foremost" that means you've considered everybody else and concluded that they are definitely NOT.

What was staggeringly dishonest is that, while Byers said that calling MHP the foremost damaged TNC's credibility, TNC claimed that Byers was criticizing him for calling MHP a public intellectual at all. He said nothing of the sort.

TNC alling MHP "the foremost" was precipitate, but not dishonest. Byers saying it damaged TNC's credibility was snide and condescending, but not dishonest. TNC lying about what Byers said - THAT's staggeringly dishonest.
Johnjohnpalmer on January 12th, 2014 05:57 pm (UTC)
So, you're saying that Byers *could not* have been saying that MHP was not a significant intellectual? That he somehow ruled it out, and that TNC was therefore excluded (if he has any intellectual credibility) from believing that was his intention?

That'd be pretty impressive to do on Twitter, but I don't see it. Since it's not ruled out, TNC is not forbidden to guess (possibly incorrectly) that this is the intent, and it is not dishonest, much less staggeringly so. Now, if Byers were to say "I agree that MHP is an outstanding intellectual, but not in the running for foremost" and, subsequent to that being brought to TNC's attention, were he to deliberately state that he saw Byers as claiming she was not, *that* is when "dishonesty" would begin.

Of course, it is entirely possible that Byers thinks MHP is a fine, outstanding intellectual, TNC knows this, and nevertheless made his claim - but that would require mindreading ability which isn't present, leaving us without evidence to differentiate dishonesty from misunderstanding or incorrect guesswork. I can't accept "staggeringly dishonest" as a viable descriptor.

As to denigration, TNC *did not* call her "the foremost" but the "most foremost" and explained why he felt that was the case, rendering it an opinion, and his explanation did not leave grounds for denigration; I think you dislike what he said (or dislike him) and are finding justification.
Kalimackalimac on January 12th, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
So, you're saying that Byers *could not* have been saying that MHP was not a significant intellectual?

Absolutely. Because that's not what he said.

As to denigration, TNC *did not* call her "the foremost" but the "most foremost"

"Most foremost" means "more foremost than anyone else." So does "the foremost." Same thing.

rendering it an opinion

It was already an opinion before he gave his reasons. His reasons actually attempt to make it more objective. Byers thinks it a dubious opinion.

I think you dislike what he said (or dislike him) and are finding justification.

Actually, up until this I've been a great admirer of TNC. Now I see why you are defending TNC's ludicrously dishonest reading of Byers' tweet. You're prone to ludicrously dishonest readings of others' intent yourself. (Is that unfair of me to say? No more unfair than you and TNC are being.)
Johnjohnpalmer on January 19th, 2014 10:16 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. Because that's not what he said.

I see.

So everyone speaks with perfect precision? No, you're not that stupid. You know better.

So you're in an argument akin to the kinds of arguments I recall from siblings where the important thing is someone else being wrong. Please, enjoy yourself; I was having an honest (if somewhat pointed) discussion.
Kalimackalimac on January 19th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
No, the important thing is that Byers did not say what TNC claimed he said. There's no matter of imperfect precision about it.

Once again, I see, you are claiming a remarkable - and remarkably inaccurate - insight into other people's minds.

Edited at 2014-01-19 11:03 pm (UTC)