Bloggers as Handmaidens of True Public Intellectuals?

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Anne Applebaum, Barbara Ehrenreich, Malcolm Gladwell, Christopher Hitchens, Fareed Zakaria, Paul Berman, Debra Dickerson, Rick Perlstein, David Rieff, Robert Wright, William A. Galston, Robert Kagan, Brink Lindsey, Walter Russell Mead, Eric Alterman, Michael Bérubé, Joshua Cohen, Tyler Cowen, Jared Diamond, Stanley Fish, Francis Fukuyama, Jacob Hacker, George Lakoff, Mark Lilla, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Louis Menand, Martha Nussbaum, Steven Pinker, Robert Putnam, Eric Rauchway, Robert Reich, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Lawrence H. Summers, and Cass R. Sunstein — these are the “public intellectuals”  Daniel W. Drezner (Tufts) names in his article “Public Intellectual 2.0”  in the November 14, 2008 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education (here – subscription site; sorry).  Notice anything about this list?  Not too many people of color.  And women are not even close to 50% of those listed.  

In his article, Drezner argues that blogs play some role in bringing academic ideas to the larger public, but that bloggers are most useful as quality-control monitors of public intellectuals.  (Harrumpf!  The indignity of it all!)  He also hints at the possible  “emergence of what Irving Howe called a ‘phalanx of solidarity’ among prominent bloggers might retard public debate.”  At least among law bloggers, I haven’t yet seen a significant movement toward solidarity.  I would surmise that is due, at least in part, to the fact that law bloggers who do accept paid ads on their sites derive most of their income from non-blog sources (i.e., university salaries).  That allows law bloggers a certain level of freedom in comparison to, say, a freelance blogger trying to support herself with ad revenue.

-Bridget Crawford

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