Prospect is running its feature again on the world’s top public intellectuals. It seems as though a third of them have already written articles for Prospect, though I doubt that influenced the selection criteria.
Some people say it is a silly thing to make a list in ranked order of these people. I agree, but so what? Why shouldn’t top public intellectuals get listed and discussed in roughly the same way as top risqué comedy moments from children’s TV programmes, or top places to get laid in Paris? It’s not as if people like Alain Finkielkraut or Mario Vargas Llosa are there to be taken seriously.
My only complaint is, if you’re going to present intellectuals in such terms, at least be a bit more than just half-arsed about it. If Thomas Friedman is an intellectual (he writes books and newspaper columns), I’m an accomplished formula one driver (I drive cars).
Here are my votes, and why.
- Bernard Lewis, Orientalist, for looking like Baron Greenback.
- Malcolm Gladwell, Blinker, for writing the worst book I have ever read. And I’ve read books by Marian Keyes.
- Joseph Ratzinger, Pope, for services to the Hitler Youth
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Caged Virgin, for services to the American Enterprise Institute
- David Petraeus, General, for killing loads of Iraqi civilians, quietly and thoughtfully.