Williams on Wagner & Politics

New York Review of Books November 2, 2000.

My point here is not to reinstate the distinction between the work and the man, which I have already said is not a helpful device in Wagner’s case. The point is just that one cannot decide in advance, either positively or negatively, what facts about the man, his views, and their history may be relevant to responding to a given work.

Compare the quality of the writing and subtlety and depth of analysis here to the new breed of smug, shrill and self-righteous wannabe public intellectual hack whose stance is merely functional to professional aggrandizement, the innumerable outlets complicitous in their relentless quest for content and click-bait and most importantly knowing how easy it is to tap the vanity of the self-branded “intellectual”. On this, Richard Posner’s Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline might be worth taking a look at. Part of the blurb:

. . . commenting on topics outside their ken. The resulting scene—one of off-the-cuff pronouncements, erroneous predictions, and ignorant policy proposals—compares poorly with the performance of earlier public intellectuals, largely nonacademics whose erudition and breadth of knowledge were well suited to public discourse.