About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Open letter to Leonard Lopate
I often listen to your and other WNYC shows, being a member since I moved to the New York area three years ago. I rarely write to the media, but your segment this morning featuring Russell Simmons really got me worried.
I do understand that Mr. Simmons has somehow "helped transform hip-hop from a New York subculture to an international phenomenon" (which, apparently, is a good thing, though there is considerable room for disagreement), but that doesn't seem to justify devoting 40 minutes of airtime to his quasi-incomprehensible rants.
Mr. Simmons, who seemed primarily interested in letting your audience know that his book is on the top 10 bestsellers list, talked about a single prophet that established all the major religions of the world -- a statement that would find Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims alike understandably baffled. He also kept referring to the alleged fact that "there is only one world," apparently not understanding that your question referred to being "in another world" in a metaphorical and cultural -- not literal or spiritual -- sense. Was he even paying
Moreover, Mr. Simmons praised "The Secret," a book that is a rare example of nonsense on stilts, and which is selling simply because it tells people that they can get whatever they want just because they want it (both you and Simmons failed to point out that the author of the same book also blames the victims of events such as the Holocaust for not having maintained a positive enough attitude toward the world).
And as icing on the cake, Simmons kept heaping praise on Deepak Chopra, a charlatan with few equals in contemporary culture, who has written books full of pseudoscientific language that try to sell people on methods for remaining forever young (with the general public so blinded by the flimflammery that it doesn't seem to have noticed that Chopra himself has visibly aged since his first book came out).
Really, Mr. Lopate, don't we have more insightful people and interesting topics to put on our beloved public radio?