What Is the Role of “Public Intellectuals” Today?

Slate has an insightful interview with Glenn Greenwald whose thoughts about the current politics (and the role of “public intellectuals”–he says journalists, but the same logic applies much more broadly, I think).

The money quote is the following:

“…who the fuck needs me to say that? Do you think anyone is going to be influenced by my endorsement? I am not so self-important that I think it matters for me to come out and endorse a candidate.

…I see my role as being a corrective to whatever consensus emerges that I don’t think is being subjected to enough critical scrutiny. Just pushing back against that is the most you can hope to do as a journalist, against unquestioned assumptions embedded within the conventional wisdom.”

But this is not a popular role:  court historians, those who embellish and glorify the conventional wisdom get to live in palaces.  Greenwald is in exile, living in Brazil, having left both the US and UK where he previously lived as he turned to journalism.  Echo chambers are a natural phenomenon:  in order to gain wisdom, Odin had to hang himself from a tree for a week and give up an eye, after all.


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