Despite the fact that in an act of petty malice and politically-motivated spite, Leon Wieseltier has banned me (or mention of my work) from The New Republic for twenty-five years, I have always regarded the literary pages that he edits as the best “back of the book” section in the opinion magazine business. No more.
The current issue of The New Republic contains a vapid, mean-spirited, and indefensible attack on one of the most important intellectual figures of our time. Alan Wolfe’s review of Thomas Sowell’s new book, Intellectuals and Society, is not even a review. Not a single idea presented in the book is addressed in Wolfe’s text, which is simply a lengthy ad hominem attack on Sowell that displays astounding ignorance of both Sowell and his important intellectual oeuvre.
Wolfe begins with a self-revealing attack on Sowell for writing a book about intellectuals that,
“offers no discussion of literature, music and the arts.”
One wonders if Wolfe has read even the first pages of Sowell’s book, particularly p. 2 and the section called “Defining Intellectuals” where Sowell explains that,
“Here, ‘intellectuals’ refers to an occupational category, people whose occupation deals primarily with ideas — writers, academics and the like.”
In other words, it does not include musicians and artists and writers of fiction whose occupations do not deal primarily with ideas. This is just an indication of the intellectual sloppiness and vacuousness of Wolfe’s “review” which is really just an expression of inarticulate rage against an intellectual superior who has written a work skewering progressive idea-smiths like himself. Shame on Alan for writing this and on Leon for publishing it. It can be taken as another indication of the fact that we now live in a country so divided there are two Americas and two cultures which speak a different language.