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Friday, October 15, 2004

The Treason of the Pundits

Intellectuals, who needs them? Actually we all do, if only to have a level of public debate worth having and not reduced to banal technical 'solutions', like forcing adults to go to parenting classes. There is an audience for ideas (of sorts), hence the soaking wet queues at the European Social Forum, even if the ideas on offer either say little or would make matters worse.

It's disappointing when potentially inspiring figures back down and retreat into reaction, as an article in the latest issue of Logos points out. One minute they're backing Bush - Saddam being Satan, after all - the next they get a bit apologetic about having been 'misled' so easily. The Logos folk take it a bit far, by likening Bush's ex-liberal 'camp followers' to the Webbs and other fellow travelers in the 1930s, for whom the Soviet Union and its bountiful junkets represented the wave of the future. Both groups are wrong and unprincipled, but after that you can only make them similar by throwing away all that is distinct about them and their historical moments. After all, they came to the stances that made them admirable in specific social and historical conditions, so unfortunately they can find particular and peculiar rationales for ditching their youthful radicalism too.

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