UPDATED (12/8/2023): Monopolizers And Flyters (November 23, 2005)

Culture,English,Intellectualism,Intelligence,Literature,Media,The Zeitgeist


On the flyting that flew between the two, Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway

Who monopolizes the market place of ideas in the Guardian’s view? The answer is assorted activists, liberal-leftists, statists, feminists, and other lightweights. Read the paper’s top 100 intellectuals and tell me it doesn’t distress.

I don’t profess to have heard of all the characters on the list. Far from it. But of those I recognize, I guess I’d go with German philosopher Jurgen Habermas. This is not to say I endorse his views or all his influences (the unlovely Theodor Adorno comes to mind). But this is not about agreeing with a thinker, only acknowledging his place on this list.

I’d also go with Pope Benedict XVI, and the marvelous Australian art critic Robert Hughes whose profundity, knowledge, and critical faculties are a credit to his Jesuit teachers.

I see Newsweek‘s wishy-washy Fareed Zakaria is considered an intellectual giant. Woe is me! Amos Oz is a popular writer (and not a good one when compared with Meir Shalev or Shy Agnon), but hardly one of the top intellectuals around. But if one is of the Left, one has an advantage in the selection process.

Now hold your horses, will you, because I also admire Christopher Hitchens as a stylist, conversationalist, and an extraordinary flyter. What is flyting, you ask? It’s an ancient Scottish form of invective, a true master of which is the MP George Galloway. I don’t care for his or Hitchens’ ever-shifting views, but I loved the flyting that flew between the two. Galloway called Hitchens a drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay. Hitchens responded over the pages of an august publication by likening the lickspittle praise Galloway once bestowed on him to spittle flung in place of argument. Later on, the two dueled deliciously on C-Span, where, I’m afraid, Hitchens proved his uncontested superiority in this spontaneous rhetorical art.

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