Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is something of a public intellectual himself, today declares that MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry is "America's foremost public intellectual." Hmm.
The knee jerk answer to "Who is America's foremost public intellectual?" could be anyone from Malcolm Gladwell to Michael Sandel to Rick Warren to Suze Orman. Here is the gist of Coates' case for MHP:
There may well be intellectuals with more insight. And there are surely public figures with a greater audience. But there is no one who communicates the work of thinking to more people with more rigor and effect than Harris-Perry. Her show brings a broad audience into a classroom without using dead academic language and tortured abstractions.
So, for the sake of argument here, let's stick to the criteria of "one who communicates the work of thinking to the most people with the most rigor and effect." I'm going to humbly say that, by that standard, the answer still is not "MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry."
I would say the answer is Noam Chomsky. Who would you say?
[Photos: Getty, AP]