Apr 09

No Guru, No Method, No Teacher

FT + The Brown Wedge28 comments • 838 views

I am writing a piece for a market research mag on the current “hottest thinkers” that industry people like to namecheck. Inevitably many of these people are as much derided as loved, so I decided to ‘crowdsource’ a list of the most overpraised intellectuals, using Twitter and LJ. Here it is, and YOU can decide on the worst intellectual of all using the power of votes. (You get 3 each).

A couple of people were excluded for not fitting any reasonable definition of intellectual, and a couple more were excluded for being dead (also, if I’d put Ayn Rand in it would have been a one-horse race). Otherwise what you see is everyone nominated. So: VOTE! (For up to three people)

Worst Living Intellectual

  • Alain De Botton 36%
  • Malcolm Gladwell 30%
  • Noam Chomsky 22%
  • Guy Kawasaki 22%
  • Seth Godin 18%
  • Edward De Bono 16%
  • Michael Ignatieff 14%
  • Dan Snow 5%
  • Richard Florida 4%
  • John Gray 4%
  • Jakob Nielsen 3%
  • Charles Handy 3%
  • Nicholas Nassim Taleb 3%
  • Dan Ariely 1%

Total Voters: 74

Poll closes: 10 Apr 2009 @ 10:42

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  1. 1
    Lennie on 8 Apr 2009 #

    Sign of the times, no Francis Fukuyama.

  2. 2
    Tom on 8 Apr 2009 #

    Or Thomas Friedman now I think of it.

  3. 3
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Apr 2009 #

    de bono still alive! (not even as old as i expected)

    (btw claude levi strauss is 100! well done him)

  4. 4
    Angus Gordon on 8 Apr 2009 #

    Oh, Friedman is an absolute must. Also John Ralston Saul. Basically anybody who has ever been keynote speaker at a “Festival of Ideas”. And much as I adore the little Slovenian munchkin myself, I suspect Slavoj Zizek would garner a few votes.

  5. 5
    pink champale on 8 Apr 2009 #

    except in the field of pop music (see thom yorke) having heard of some intellectuals does not mean you are an intellectual. so that’s de botton out. (er, also not sure what having not heard of some of the people on your list means…..).
    subject to the above, thomas friedman would surely win by a mile – one of the world’s leading public idiots.

  6. 6
    Tom on 8 Apr 2009 #

    If you’ve not heard of them it’s probably because they are a social media dork.

  7. 7
    masonic boom on 8 Apr 2009 #

    Wait, which John Gray are you talking about?

    Straw Dogs or Mars/Venus?

  8. 8
    nick peters on 8 Apr 2009 #

    50% of this list makes me feel ignorant (I have no idea who they are). However, Malcom Gladwell is not an intellectual – I love his books, but only as works of fiction – he applies zero intellectual rigour to his interesting ideas. Can I give all three of my votes to him please.

  9. 9
    Tom on 8 Apr 2009 #

    I had to look some of them up too.

    #7 – they are the same! Well OK no, I SUSPECT it’s Straw Dogs, knowing who nominated it.

  10. 10
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Apr 2009 #

    i am a public idiot — i only voted once

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 8 Apr 2009 #

    re #1: am I taking the Alan Davies route by saying Francis Fukuyama is history?

  12. 12
    c on 8 Apr 2009 #

    i once had an awesome drunken conversation with a very earnest young german university student who explained to me that he was in correspondence with noam chomsky and had been for some time and the problem was that no-one understood him: and it was almost exactly like those interviews you see on television of women who develop relationships with men on death row.

    that said i actually quite like the chomsk.

  13. 13
    byebyepride on 8 Apr 2009 #

    When nominating I did indeed have the John Gray of Black Mass, Straw Dogs etc etc in mind, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him in the face of all these other asshats.

  14. 14
    Alan on 8 Apr 2009 #

    JG still worst cos he doesn’t make any sense on his own terms.

  15. 15
    koganbot on 8 Apr 2009 #

    I have not heard of most of these, and the only one I’ve read a book by is Chomsky. I voted Gladwell on the basis of some article of his I read once and don’t remember and of what someone once said about him. I was going to nominate Taleb over on lj until I surmised that the poll was already up. I don’t know Taleb’s ideas well enough to like/dislike, just thought he needed to be on the ballot; he seems to be something of an asshole but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad intellectual. (Cf. Meltzer.)

  16. 16
    Julie Brendan on 8 Apr 2009 #

    I wanted to vote against Alain de Botton and then I read one of his books (The pleasures and Sorrows of Work) and discovered it was actually good. Oh no… what a shame. It’s always so much easier to hate.

  17. 17
    DV on 8 Apr 2009 #

    apart from that pompous twunt Ignatieff, I like all the other guys I had heard of, so I had to vote on the basis of people’s names.

  18. 18
    H. on 9 Apr 2009 #

    I voted for the one Charlie Brooker once described as “an absolute pair-of-aching-balls of a man – a slapheaded, ruby-lipped pop philosopher who’s forged a lucrative career stating the bleeding obvious in a series of poncey, lighter-than-air books aimed at smug Sunday supplement pseuds looking for something clever-looking to read on the plane.”

  19. 19
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Apr 2009 #

    THAT’S ALL OF THEM (merely to slap the heads of the glabrous as a deplorable bennyhillism)

    (besides: camille paglia is secretly bald — why is she not on this list, at the top?)

  20. 20
    Mark M on 9 Apr 2009 #

    Surely Camille is terribly 1994… but then Ignatieff is terribly 1988 (although isn’t he a David Mamet*/Martin Amis-style born-again rightist? Has that given him topicality).

    *Mamet’s belated announcement that he has ‘become’ a conservative was a classic; rather like a colleague expecting a shock reaction when they finally tell they are gay and you’re too polite to go “well, everyone assumes that when they meet you…”

  21. 21
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Apr 2009 #

    IDIOCY IS TIMELESS (also, they are both still around: why?)

  22. 22
    Tom on 9 Apr 2009 #

    It looks like a potentially decisive late surge for De Botton there.

  23. 23
    Tom on 10 Apr 2009 #

    De Botton it is then!

  24. 24
    mario on 10 Apr 2009 #

    Noam Chomsky in 3rd place?… just glad this is obviously unrepresentative (hah!) given the tiny sample size etc.. otherwise I’d be worried.

  25. 25
    xyzzzz__ on 11 Apr 2009 #

    “Actor Viggo Mortensen with avant-garde guitarrist Buckethead dedicated their 2006 album, called Pandemoniumfromamerica to Chomsky.”

    Track Listing

    1. “Den gang jeg drog afsted”
    2. “Back to Babylon”
    3. “Pandemoniumfromamerica”
    4. “Gone”
    5. “They ate your family”
    6. “I want mami”
    7. “Red river valley”
    8. “Leave it”
    9. “Holyhead”
    10. “Fall of Troy”
    11. “Shadow”
    12. “Cuba on paper”
    13. “Maybe”
    14. “Half fling”

    “Cuba on paper” – Noam Chomsky (words, vocals), Rumi (words), Buckethead (guitars), Havana (streets), Viggo Mortensen (vocals, drums, harmonica)

  26. 26
    burkesworks on 14 Apr 2009 #

    I can only assume Zizek is missing here because he fails on the “intellectual” part of “worst living intellectual”. Then again, it’s pushing the envelope somewhat to include Ignatieff as an intellectual, while had this been the “worst living pedant” contest Jakob Nielsen would have won by a mile; reading him is like being stuck in a lift with a sysadmin suffering from Asperger’s and OCD. Quite unusable.

    On the other hand, Chomsky and Kawasaki have no business being on a worst *anything* list.

  27. 27
    Tom on 14 Apr 2009 #

    Zizek is missing because nobody nominated him! The ones I excluded as not being viable intellectuals were Janet Street-Porter and Piers Morgan.

  28. 28
    scarpe ugg bambini on 24 Feb 2012 #

    You must join in a contest for one of the best personal blogs on the internet. I’m going to recommend it site!

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