Saturday, June 04, 2011

Stop the funeral music

Can peace academics influence public opinion? Who listens to them? Who reads them in the op-ed pages? Who watches them on tv?

Apparently, it's decided. There are no more public intellectuals, let alone public peace intellectuals. Stephen Bates (2011) notes that there has not been even one intellectual on the cover of Time magazine in more than a decade. Richard Posner wrote an entire book proving that public intellectuals are a washed-out breed. End of story. Stick to your classrooms, professors, and your academic journal articles. No one wants you on tv, radio or in the op-ed pages.

I guess that covers one strand, then, of the five main strands in our braided public fora. After all, there is local media, alternative media, the blogosphere, and social media. Are they worth considering? Ask Hosni Mubarak. Ask Ben Ali. Before that, ask Slobodan Milosevic--whoops, too late. In Mubarak's and Ali's cases, social media greatly hastened their downfall. In the case of Milosevic--long, long ago, before Facebook, waaay back in 2000--his Achilles heel was local media.

Look at those four arrays of outlets for your public peace intellectuals. They are in play. I can't keep up. Michael Nagler and Cynthia Boaz of the Metta Center for Nonviolence just put up pieces in Facebook on their recent workshop on nonviolence in the infamous San Quentin prison in California. It's spreading around Facebook and off onto digests of interesting pieces. Alternet, Common Dreams, Truthout, Antiwar, and numerous other alternative media digests are shipping out provocative pieces from an array of public intellectuals, including peace intellectuals, many of whom are lighting up the blogosphere constantly. Small town media are not quite as active in utilizing the voices of public peace intellectuals, but some are and the numbers are growing.

So the reports of the death of the public peace intellectuals are greatly exaggerated. The obstacles are sometimes quite formidable, but those peace academics just keep plugging away. Let's give them a listen.


BATES, S. (2011). Public Intellectuals on Time's Covers. Journalism History, 37(1), 39-50. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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