LATEST IN THE TWILIGHT SERIES: Twilight of the philosophers of math!

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

Who taught Chris Hayes how to talk: On Sunday, the New York Times did a profile of Chris Hayes, who hosts an MSNBC show on weekend mornings.

Hayes strikes us as a smart, sincere person. We look forward to reading his new book. But in our reaction to the following news, we differed from Kevin Drum, who normally serves as our lodestar:
WILLIAMS (6/24/12): At a table of wonks, Mr. Hayes, who studied the philosophy of mathematics at Brown, came off as the wonkiest as he deconstructed the budgetary implications of tax arbitrage.
Drum thought that was a cool field of study, perhaps even the coolest. Here at THE HOWLER, our reaction differed. Incomparably, we focused on what surrounded that news:
WILLIAMS: Mr. Hayes, who studied the philosophy of mathematics at Brown, came off as the wonkiest as he deconstructed the budgetary implications of tax arbitrage. Opinions were varied and passionate, but there was no sniping, no partisan grandstanding.

“I like the fact that it’s dialogic, small-d ‘democratic,’ ” Mr. Hayes said of his show. “We’re all sitting at the same table, we’re creating the public sphere in miniature. I was going to say, ‘We’re going to model Habermasian communicative action,’ but that’s excessively pretentious.”
Is “dialogic” even a word? Yes it is, but just barely. In the Times, the word has appeared only one other time in the past twelve months; it hasn’t appeared in the Washington Post during that time at all. Meanwhile, what about Hayes’ crack about modeling Habermasian communicative action?

Hayes said the thought was pretentious; rolling our eyes, we quickly agreed. And sure enough! Things only got worse when we clicked the Times link, which whisked us to this destination.

Before long, we were observing Habermasian communication in action! This is the opening paragraph of the book to which the Times linked:
HABERMAS (1981): The rationality of beliefs and actions is a theme usually dealt with in philosophy. One could even say that philosophical thought originates in reflections on the reason embodied in cognition, speech and action; and reason remains its basic theme. From the beginning, philosophy has endeavored to explain the world as a whole, the unity in the multiplicity of appearances, with principles to be discovered in reason, and not in communication with a divinity beyond the world nor, strictly speaking, even in returning to the ground of a cosmos encompassing nature and society. Greek thought did not aim at a theology nor at an ethical cosmology, as the great religions did, but at an ontology. If there is anything common to philosophical theories, it is the intention of thinking being or the unity of the world by way of explicating reason’s experience of itself.
Habermas is right. You could say that, and others things like it. But you probably shouldn’t.

(You may think we’ve mistranscribed some of that passage—for example, the final sentence. We haven’t. In fairness, we’re dealing with a translation.)

Is philosophy of any kind a cool field of study? It can be, but there is a downfall to reading a text like this—you may end up talking like that! This is an occasional problem for Hayes, although some of us liberals mistake this sort of thing for the big major smarts we insist that our tribe possesses. When Hayes got in trouble on Memorial Day, it wasn’t simply because he chose a strange time to have an extremely narrow discussion with a very poorly-selected panel. It was partly due to the Habermasian way he chose to be dialogic:
HAYES (5/27/12): Thinking today and observing Memorial Day. That will be happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lieutenant Colonel Steve Burke, an officer with the Marines. Had to tell people— “Beck,” sorry.

I think it’s interesting, because it is, I think very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the word “heroes.” And why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word “hero?”

I feel uncomfortable about the world “hero” because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. And I don`t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that's fallen and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine tremendous heroism, you know, in a hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that.

But it seems to me we marshal this word in a way that’s problematic. Maybe I’m wrong.
For ourselves, we don’t think he was wrong in his basic reaction. But that was a poorly selected time to have this very narrow discussion. And good God! The way he expressed himself!

Given the way our culture works, that probably wasn’t the best time for this discussion. But people! When Hayes said that calling the fallen “heroes” was “rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war,” he absolutely guaranteed that people were going to land on his ass.

Translation: He guaranteed that he’d seem like an elitist.

You may think that isn’t fair. But that is basic reality in the real world of actual people.

People don’t talk like Habermas, nor would we recommend that they start. Sometimes, Hayes tends to talk that way when he goes dialogic.

As for the philosophy of mathematics, Drum’s comment and those of his readers caused us to pull out the most recent such work we have perused—Mario Livio’s 2010 page-turner, Is God a Mathematician?

By all accounts, Livio is a superb mathematician—but he simply isn’t a competent “philosopher.” That said, a great deal of the philosophy of mathematics comes remarkably close to recalling the debate about that tree which falls in the forest when you have your ear plugs in. As Wittgenstein basically said, the reason to study such disciplines is to learn how to make them stop.

Chris Hayes seems like a good decent smart sincere person. Aside from all those professors at Brown, who taught Chris Hayes how to talk?

This isn’t the way to win: We don’t agree with the following judgment. But again, this is what a (favorable) Times reporter thought about a recent Hayes program, apparently the one of May 26:
WILLIAMS: An hour later, as the cameras rolled, Mr. Hayes and his guests waded thigh-deep into an analysis of private equity and whether it is bad for the economy. At a table of wonks, Mr. Hayes, who studied the philosophy of mathematics at Brown, came off as the wonkiest as he deconstructed the budgetary implications of tax arbitrage. Opinions were varied and passionate, but there was no sniping, no partisan grandstanding.
After reviewing the transcript, we don’t necessarily agree with that judgment. But however much we liberals like to flatter ourselves about our brilliance, coming off as the wonkiest wonk in the tank is not the way to win.


  1. Shorter Somerby: "Stop tryin' t'talk smart! Yer jus' gonna piss ever'body off!"

    When you watched A Face in the Crowd, Bob, did you realize Andy Griffith was playing the villain? Or did you think, "Boy, that plain-spoken fella's really onto something?"

    For someone who's always harping on about the failures of the education system, you sure do spend a lot of time wishing that public figures would act more ignorant than they actually are.

    1. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      Strange bedfellows indeed:

      "There are college students at this conference who are reading Burke and Hayek. When I was your age, you could have told me they were infielders for the Detroit Tigers." —Mitt Romney

      "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.” —Rick Santorum

      "The place where Satan was "the most successful and first—first successful­—was in academia. ... And so academia a long time ago fell." —Rick Santorum

      "A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." —Spiro T. Agnew

      ""Pointy-head college professors who can't even park a bicycle straight ... " —George Wallace

    2. That comment shows you to be more predisposed to a tribal sentiment much akin to the nationalism that Hayes haplessly bemoaned.

      It shows you (not Somerby) to be more warrior than philosopher or academe.

    3. Sorry, I just figured out the name thing. The above is my post.

    4. Not "stop trying to talk smart," but, "Start talking in ways that the people you need to reach -- you know, VOTERS? -- will be interested and follow along. That is, if you actually want to reach voters. Personally, I'd rather look smart than win elections any day. Winning elections is so cheap, so common, and anyone can do it, anyway. Plus, when you lose, you get to complain even more loudly about how dumb the other guys are.

      Chris Hayes, BTW, has always struck me as a dumb person's idea of what a smart person is, just as Drum has always struck me as a non-wonk's idea of what a wonk is.

    5. "Start talking in ways that the people you need to reach -- you know, VOTERS? -- will be interested and follow along."

      Chris has long intelligent discussions about various topics, but what Bob did here was zero in on a couple of missteps. I really can't tell if Bob wants long intelligent discussions or not--in this post he seems to be more interested in political effectiveness and he evidently has some ideal show in his head that would make progressive points, disprove conservative idiocy, win white working class votes, and do all of this without offending anybody. Other times, when criticizing Maddow or O'Donnell or Collins, he seems to want accuracy, which isn't necessarily the same thing. Bob never seems to ask himself whether his various criticisms of different parts of the press are compatible with each other. Frankly, I have no idea what Bob wants or even whether it is possible. Here's one problem--as someone else pointed out in this thread, if you tell the Tea Party types what is wrong with their views, they are likely to be offended, because in the real world people with passionate views see disagreement and criticism of those views as criticisms of themselves. I don't think Bob could do a show like this.

      I don't like the MSNBC evening lineup at all and mostly side with Bob on that, but after this Chris Hayes attack I'm not sure I know what Bob is for. If Chris never mentioned Habermas (which is fine with me) and never made a single comment for which he had to apologize, would that be good enough for Bob? Or would he have to be successful in appealing to white working class voters?

      Why doesn't Bob just start writing the kind of material he thinks would win people over? Not all the time--just some of the time, so we'd know what he is for.


  2. "Maybe I'm wrong."

    Yeah, how dare Hayes express himself like that.

    1. Not "How dare!", but "How effective?".

    2. Effective at what?

      Isn't it what someone who authors a certain blog might call "tribalism" to expect pundits and talk show hosts to carry certain ideological water and be effective at it?

    3. That makes sense only if you view the fundamental desire to persuade as solely being a partisan politic act.

    4. "Isn't it what someone who authors a certain blog might call "tribalism" to expect pundits and talk show hosts to carry certain ideological water and be effective at it?"

      Nothing to do with this Hayes cases, really, but:

      No, you dunce.

      It's not the partisanism.

      It's the refusal to acknowledge (or even see) certain facts, coupled with the willingness to invent "facts" that is called tribalism.

      But you've got your straw Somerby, so you just keep whacking (off)...

    5. We used to term "the refusal to acknowledge (or even see) certain facts, coupled with the willingness to invent "facts"' as being extreme partisanship.

      It's a good point that partisanship is not synonymous with extremism.

    6. No, 7:04, "tribalism" is clinging to your gods and your sacredly held beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary, while dismissing all who disagree with you as dunces.

  3. The phrase "jumping the shark" kept coming to mind as I read this.

    How dare he express himself like that indeed!

  4. You HAVE to understand who your audience is. If you're in the business of communicating, you HAVE to articulate your message effectively. That's so mind-boggingly simple as to be obvious to everyone but the three commenters above.

    And for the record - speaking in the gobbledygook of academia is not a sign of intelligence. It's a sign of having trained as an academic. There's a huge difference.

    1. Since Hayes is doing fairly well, maybe he does understand who his audience is. I don't think it's ordinary Americans who could be swayed to vote for either Romney or Obama depending on what sort of TV show they watch. Perhaps it is stereotyping on my part, but I doubt very many ordinary Americans will watch a show that discusses the rights and wrongs of Obama's drone program for an hour or so.

      I'm a Hayes fan myself, but if I thought of his show as something designed to sway millions of ordinary Americans into voting Democratic then yeah, the show probably doesn't do its job. But maybe not every show is for every viewer. I could do without the references to Habermas myself, but anyone who would refuse to watch the show because of that probably wouldn't be watching it for long anyway.

    2. I was trained as an academic, and I gotta say, oldmancoyote is right.

      Oh, and by the way, you've hit a new low Real Anonymous. Congrats.

    3. Well, if you were truly trained as an academic, then you would recognize how rarely you can say that something that falls well withing the realm of opinion can be definitively "right."

      Which is why Hayes himself, that pointy-headed, over-educated, Satanic, effete snob of an intellectual even said, "Maybe I'm wrong."

      So please, in the future, cacambo, don't try to gloss yourself with credentials you don't have. Saying you are an academic, and then proving you aren't with your next words only makes you look, well, dumb.

    4. On the contrary, cacambo was expressing the oh-so-unreasonable opinion... that an elucidation of the scintillating philosophy behind tax policy, might be best accomplished on tv with fewer utterances of esoteric terms.

      On the other hand, all you have done here is to pronounce that you find some "image" to more persuasive than actual discussion, and to typecast cacambo with a partisan stereotype.

      Who is the intellectual here?

    5. Oh, I make no claim to be an intellectual. I'll leave that to you.

      Still find it odd, however, how a "trained academic" is so closed to the possibility that a matter of opinion might not be "right."

      One would think that an educated person would be open to the possibilities of new evidence emerging that might cast doubt upon such certainty.

    6. You are the "Anonymous" who just accused someone of lying about their academic credentials because of their expressed opinion, are you not?

      Harsh and judgmental words over the expression of something that you find so subjective?

    7. No, I am the one who accused a person of lying about their academnic credentials when he called a matter opinion that should be open to debate and discussion closed and "right", because that opinion matched his own.

      Such closed-mindedness hardly reflects the intellectual curiosity necessary for an academic.

    8. Now you've mischaracterized cacambo as having pronounced the discussion as being "closed", simply by venturing forth a judgment as to which position is the reasoned one.

      I suppose your being one of a plethora of Anonymices will shield you from scrutiny when you are inevitably inconsistent with your own craptastically false formulation.

    9. Well sorry, but when someone proclaims an opinion to be "right" that repeats rampant anti-intellectualism (that academicians talk in, and I quote, "gobbledygook", then he isn't leaving much room for discussion, but plenty of clues of his opinion of people he disdains for their intelligence, while claiming to be one of them.

    10. No, I'm afraid that even academics would not find it anti-intellectual or inflammatory for anyone to suggest that being the "wonkiest wonk at the table" is not the gold-standard for tv political show hosts.

  5. "Is “dialogic” even a word? Yes it is, but just barely."

    Barely a word? It either is or isn't.

    I think what Bob meant to say -- judging from his search for the word in those long-time arbiters of what is and isn't a word, the Times and Post -- that it is a rarely used word, not "barely a word" which is absolutely silly.

    In other words, who taught Somerby how to write?

    1. Funny, I knew exactly what Bob meant when he said it was barely a word.

  6. Okay, Bob, bash Maddow all you want--I'm with you most of the time there. She doesn't get her facts right and she'd rather score cheap debating points instead of getting into serious issues.

    But now you're nitpicking to death the one guy on MSNBC who actually tries to have intelligent conversation on his show and usually succeeds. His sin--he might offend people with his elitist talk, plus you have some anti-intellectual notions on whether people should study certain disciplines.

    Chris's sin--he sometimes uses big words. Well, Bob, not everyone should have a TV show geared to persuading the white working class voter to vote Democratic. That seems to be what you want and it's a fine thing to wish for, but who said Chris Hayes has to run his show according to your desires?

    1. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 2:04 PM

      Who needs Viagra when you can criticize the NY Times and MSNBC in the same blog posting?

    2. He sure does sound like a stand-up comic who has run out of material.

    3. I am old enough to recall William F. Buckley, Jr.'s frequent displays of erudition, and those did not appear to prevent him from having a huge foundational role in the conservative worldview.

      It's true he did more writing than television, yet he probably had a greater reach and influence through his old PBS show 'Firing Line.' And that influence was not achieved by dumbing down his ideas or speaking vocabulary as I recall.

      Now if Hayes began to discuss the philosophical foundations of mathematics on his show, that would be indeed another story.

    4. Actually, if Hayes had discussed THAT he WOULD be more in line with what Buckley did.

      W.F. Buckley was more an expounder on the philosophical underpinnings of political ideology, than he was a policy man.

      Let alone his ever having been the "wonkiest" of wonks.

  7. "not *everyone* should have a TV show geared to persuading the white working class voter to vote Democratic"

    Probably true.

    But, just maybe, *someone* should have such a TV show?

    Is it Ed Schultz, god help us?

  8. Hi, I'm Chris Hayes. And you know, Bob may have a point.

    There's what-you-say and then there's how-you-say-it.

    Sometimes it is dangerously easy to alienate people with the how-you-say-it.

    (Something I'm sure our host knows only too well.)

    I'm sure I wouldn't change my point about about heroism, but it may be true I could have made it better.

    1. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      Yeah, and when someone like Bill Clinton, who people still feel a connection with, shows up he's immediately branded "Slick Willie" by the 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to-border right wing echo machine Mr. Somerby says doesn't exist except as a false equivalent to the NY Times and MSNBC.

    2. "fantasyland" is right cuz nobody from msnbc would dignify this blog with a self identified and civil comment like fantasyland's after the way somerby has treated msnbc people odonnell and wa;lsh and mathews.

  9. Holy moly, it would appear we've entered a new paradigm here at The Howler, even forgetting "new paradigm" is the pabulum of eggheads:

    "But however much we liberals like to flatter ourselves about our brilliance, coming off as the wonkiest wonk in the tank is not the way to win."

    So after being told by The Howler, forever and a day, that "we liberals" don't play any fairer than the Fox crowd, and our reptile brains are no better, now the idea, suddenly, is "TO WIN"?

    Heavens to Betsy! No longer will we be burdened by The Daily Howler Guide to Acceptable Political Discourse As Vetted and Approved by America's Corporation!

    Now we're allowed to play to win! Granted, it's not at all clear why Bob thinks MSNBC would employ anyone who's capable of winning the propaganda war, when "winning" might have unpleasant consequences for the owners of MSNBC.

    One might also inquire if Bob Somerby *knows* about winning -- is this blog a good guide to effective rhetorical tactics? Also, one might ask if Bob Somerby actually IS a liberal and actually wants to win (there are other possibilities, you know). But what the hell, just stay away from those $10 words.

    1. Hmmmm, don't treat the Tea Party types like they are stupid, but don't use big words either.

      Got it.

    2. Anon 3:01 PM

      I think I get it now. If only Democrats were nicer and less partisan (Obama hasn't compromised enough! Democrats need to embrace at least half of the Tea Party agenda!) and didn't use big words, they'd control the country.

      I mean, hell, it's not the other party wins by deceit and exploiting the Southern Strategy. Just play fair, and you'll be rewarded. I guess that's what Bob learned in 2000(?)

      I wonder why I never thought of that?

    3. Precisely. The Marquis de Somerby Rules, which, of course, apply to only one side.

    4. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      Yeah, if only the Times and MSNBC explained things better the 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to border echo chamber would roll over and paid dead issuing in a new age of enlightment!

    5. Bob's point: if you want to "win", i.e. convince others, use plain language.

    6. Gee. You said that in 11 words. How many did Bob use.

      But his real point is that he will criticize MSNBC talk hosts regardless of what language they use.
      They are either playing their audience for rubes, or showing off their intellect.

    7. "Bob's point: if you want to "win", i.e. convince others, use plain language."

      Yeah, because we all know how stupid and uneducated the great unwashed masses are.

    8. "Bob's point: if you want to "win", i.e. convince others, use plain language."

      Really? Then why complain about the language Hayes used to explain himself in an interview which isn't intended to persuade anyone of anything -- even assuming, quite absurdly, that Chris Hayes has the national profile, and media access, to actually persuade "tea party types" of anything.

      One might also speculate what, exactly, it means, to show respect to people, when you despise what they believe, or pity them for believing it. If "respect" actually means anything, then you better be prepared to give tea-party types something of what they want. And it you're not willing to do that, what then does your "respect" consist of, and do you really expect to fool people into thinking you think the world of them, when you don't?

      One would truly like to see Bob Somerby engaging a Tea-Party type on, say, Bain Capital, or the stimulative effects of tax cuts, or the wonders of Charter Schools. Or maybe just trying to persuade that person that Obama isn't a Marxist or a Muslim.

      I think we might conclude that anyone with a regular pulpit, which these days means a blog, ends up not only as his own most passionate admirer but, eventually, his only admirer.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 3:08 PM

      We need someone with no exposure and without the paycheck that exposure brings!!!

      Wait a second.....

  11. Habermas: Sounds like Alfred Korzybski as interpreted by Albert Ellis.

    What Hayes says about honoring war dead is a delicate and extremely relevant issue.
    Calling a soldier in a war a hero does give legitimacy to that war.
    The obverse of his message is that people that condemn the wars that our troops fight in also condemn the troops themselves.
    This concept, that people that support a war are more patriotic than those that decry the war, goes back a long way.
    Perhaps Samuel Johnson was commenting on this very phenomenon when he said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
    Except now, it is the first refuge.

    Since the opening salvoes of operation "Shock and Awe", the blogs and E-mails have been filled with tributes to our troops, and most of them contained a zinger aimed at Democrats or liberals.
    The more recent patriotic e-mails seem to have let up a little on liberals.
    I don’t know if this is universal trend or a trend in just the ones I still receive, but the "Support our Troops" messages I got on or about the last Memorial Day were pretty much non-partisan.

    I have to agree that language has a lot to do with people’s perception of reality.
    Remember this from 2008?
    Barack Obama, April 6, 2008 Private fundraiser at the Getty Mansion, San Francisco, speaking about unemployment in Pennsylvania.

    "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

    Compare that to this:

    "Hard times do in fact spur people to cling more fiercely to their faith, and become more nationalistic, militaristic, and more xenophobic."

    The people in the room all understood what Obama meant. If Obama had phrased it the second way, in more academic language, there would not have been as much ado.
    Of course, he would still have been charged with being an elitist talking to a room full of elitists.
    Because he was.

    But so what? Obama is what he is, and he can’t stop political ads from harping on the theme that "my opponent is not like you and me."
    And the current theme from both sides is, “"I’m in touch with real Americans, and my opponent is not!"
    Many Americans seem to have accepted Barack Obama as the persona he has presented to them.
    To many of us, Mitt Romney is still an unknown quantity.
    We can hope the “Etch a Sketch” tagline carries into November.

    You have to go to the polls with the candidate you have – not the candidate you might want or wish to have at a later time.

    1. And Obama's statement of April 6, 2008, cost him exactly what?

      You see, this is where Somerby goes off the rails, obsessing over and parsing every word out of MSNBC or the NYT, then treating them like crimes against humanity.

    2. "parsing every word out of MSNBC or the NYT, then treating them like crimes against humanity"

      We resort to this absurd hyperbole, only because the shorter version of our case sounds, yes, even stupider: "Please stop criticizing MSNBC and NYT."

      The Anonymous Idiots

    3. Anon 6:41
      It didn't cost Obama the Pennsylvania electoral votes, if that's your point.
      I don't know what it cost Obama elsewhere.

      One of the most discussed issues in politics today is that pointy-headed elites have a disadvantage compared with joetheplumber types.

      You know: Real Americans would much rather hang out with (and presumably vote for) a beer and pretzel buddy than a Chardonnay and Brie elitist snob.

      I don't know if any of thats that's true, and I suspect none of the pundits, talking heads, or even campaign managers know either, but it is the official script.

      This is the point Bob Somerby makes ad nauseum to those that refer to his site regularly.

      It may not make newcomers sick to their stomachs.

      If fact, they may feel pleasurably enlightened.

    4. Well, it not only didn't cost him Pennsylvania electoral votes, it didn't cost him Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida or Michigan either. Not to mention Nevada, New Mexico or Colorado -- all "battleground" states that McCain pretty much had to win.

      Meanwhile, McCain not only had "Joe the Plumber," on his side, but the "Hockey Mom" as well, who famously said she was glad to be in the part of Virginia where the "real Americans" were.

      Goodbye, Va.

  12. It's not exactly the usual thing -- and never a healthy thing, I think -- for someone in a good American university to have studied philosophy of math, even at the undergraduate level, while being interested simultaneously in the old obscurantist Habermas.

    1. If only I had known about a Philosophy of Math class!

      I could have avoided algebra!

  13. Afterthought:
    Joe The Plumber and his fans may be SOL if Paul Begala is right. He reduces the elitism argument to the absurd.
    Not surprisingly, Begala likes Obama better.

  14. Somerby regularly makes the same point, across many of his posts:

    The only way that people on the Left (whatever that means these days) will persuade anyone on the other side, or the undecided, is by talking to them.

    We don't talk to them often enough. Many of us prefer our own echo chamber, in which we persuade no one who isn't already persuaded. Instead, we just reinforce tribal boundaries.

    When we do talk to them, we don't make ourselves clear or compelling. Look back at his excellent posts on the health care debate, and how many times Obama and his supporters blew the chance to boil the issue down to something simple like, "We pay twice as much as other countries, and get less for it."

    So, he's right to be concerned about people who might have something to say to people on the other side, or undecideds, who lapse into obscure language only known among people who collect bubble gum cards of critical theorists like Habermas, Marcuse, and Horkheimer. Words like "dialogic" may be words, but only a very thin slice of humanity understand them, or would ever use them -- which does make them "barely words."

    1. "Words like "dialogic" may be words, but only a very thin slice of humanity understand them."

      Isn't this the blog that just hates it when the intelligence of the masses is not respected?

      Except, of course, when it's author sees another opportunity to bash another MSNBC host.

      Then we got to dumb it down so all those ordinary, stupid people out there can understand.

  15. "however much we liberals like to flatter ourselves about our brilliance, coming off as the wonkiest wonk in the tank is not the way to win."

    So you finally agree with the punditocracy on the reason for Al Gore's defeat!

  16. I agree with Daily Howler's post here, and I disagree with those who feel he's engaged in anti-intellecual grandstanding. These matters tend to be a case by case judgement calls, and I can't help but think of the number of middlebrow liberals overly impressed by the late flyweight Christopher Hitchens, and defended his crappy work in terms of style.

    That aside, we are at our old bugaboo: matters of war and defense. Most rational people would agree that the word hero has become as devalued as the word "genius" is every time we walk into the Apple Store. But to even raise such a commonplace notion is to set off alarms in our Country, who's real problem is it's "Military Correctness."