Home Arts Intellectuals with attitude:

Intellectuals with attitude:

by Archives November 13, 2002

“Only a god can save us. Well, maybe. But we might want to take a cue or two in our moral lives from movies, poetry and even baseball… .”

“What is jihad? Self-purification? An inner moral struggle? An attempt to be true to the will of God? Apparently it means anything but a holy war…”

“Dear Mad magazine: “What you publish is cheap, miserable trash! Fortunately, I also am cheap, miserable trash!” So many years, so much mail…”

These are some of the taglines for links to articles you may find on the weblog Arts and Letters Daily (www.aldaily.com). It is a site that updates links to the best essays, op-ed’s and book-reviews on-line six days a week.

The weblog, which also provides links to all the major intellectual Internet magazines, newspapers and columnists (ranging from inveterate lefties like Noam Chomsky to conservative hawks like Charles Krauthammer), is a crucible for contemporary debate.

Well-written articles, notable for their historical references and lack of jargon, often debate such topics as the implications of US foreign policy, the status of truth in a post-modern world, and human freedom in view of evolutionary psychology.

The site was founded in 1998 by Dennis Dutton, a philosophy professor in New Zealand, to give people easy access to the “golden nuggets” of substantial writing on the web often lost in a minefield full of mediocrity.

The graceful text-only layout of A&LD borrows its style from enlightenment broadsheets read by subversive elements in eighteenth century London coffeehouses.

Yet, a magazine as wide-ranging, witty and accessible as A&LD could only happen on-line. Before the Internet, magazines and newspapers would refuse to have their articles freely reprinted in other sources only a few days after they were originally published. But now they encourage readers to post links to their articles because they want people to visit their sites.

Obviously the Internet also allows for great speed in delivering information, crucial to a site like A&LD’s whose motto is “truth hates delay”.

A column written in Sydney, Australia can be available anywhere in the world only hours after it was written. The fact that Dutton edits the e-magazine (which is read worldwide) from New Zealand with Tran Huu Dung, an economics professor who lives in Dayton, Ohio, helps prove Marshall Mcluhan’s dictum; “In the global village the centre is everywhere and the periphery is nowhere.”

A few days ago I was reminded why Arts and Letters Daily is my favorite site on the web. They had just posted three new polemics, which artfully took to task anti globalizationist Naomi Klein, famed essayist Gore Vidal for accusing a “Bush-Junta” of coordinating 9/11 and Trotskyite turned terror-hunter Christopher Hitchens for betraying the left.

It being my favorite site, I was quite disappointed recently when A&LD was temporarily shut down, due to its parent magazine “Lingua Franca” going bankrupt (there were no ads and the editors put it together voluntarily).

As someone who is very interested in philosophy, history and politics, A&LD provided me with a sense of community. A group of people shared many of the same ideas I did, which can be relieving. Others on the site didn’t agree but I could take their thoughtful criticisms seriously and learn from them.

Did others feel the same way about A&LD? Fortunately yes. Days after the shutdown, the prestigious “Chronicle of Higher Education” took financial responsibility over the site allowing the magazine to continue. About 60,000 devoted readers were pleased.

At Concordia, where shouting matches often pass for legitimate debate, so was I.

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