War on the Palaces! Peace to the Cottages!

I drafted this week's column on Monday -- but given the publication cycle it only appears now, after lots of other places have covered the egg on Bernard-Henri Lévy's face.

On reflection, it would have been worth making clear that this is by no means the first time that the architecture of BHL's "thought" has been shown to be constructed out of toothpicks and paper mache. The classicist Pierre Vidal-Naquet listed any number of howlers about ancient history and philosophy from one of his books in the late 1970s. It turned out that BHL's major source was a survey book used by high-school students.

Then again, that interview with the editor of the Caribbean Review of Books last month was 3000 words long. This time I wanted to bend the stick towards brevity.

PS. Thanks to Henry for the post at Crooked Timber. A couple of months ago, someone at CT quoted my Nation piece, which said of BHL that "his books are so stylish, and his haircuts so thoughtful." I was taken to task for making fun of his appearance. How do you respond to someone who so utterly misses the point?
February 10, 2010 6:32 AM | | Comments (5)



Concerning BHL, I had never thought of him as having anything particular in common with Ayn Rand, but they apparently do share a few characteristics. Rand, like BHL, had an insane hatred for Immanuel Kant, who she characterized as having been an "evil" man who promoted an "evil" philosophy, that she contended, promoted a hatred of reason, life, and man. He was seen by Rand as a promoter of altruism, which for Rand was the source of most of the evil in the world.

Also, BHL and Rand apparently share a proclivity for dubious scholarship. Rand famously wrote a review of John Rawls's book, "A Theory of Justice," which, by her own admission, she never read. On the other hand, I am not aware of her falling for an obvious hoax the way BHL did.

So perhaps Ayn Rand equals Bernard-Henri Levy plus Jean-Baptiste Botul minus a sense of humor.

By the way, I've just learned that Botul has a Facebook page. He was born in 1896.

Away with Rand and Bernard-Henri Levy, Jean-Baptiste Botul is the only true philosopher. Long live Botulism!

One of your best pieces, Scott - I mean, in terms of your own style! The end sentence is one of those rare finds that, as we reviewers and interviewers - wordcount men all - know, clicks on like a blinding light in your head just before you go to sleep,and that usually look a little more bruised, haggard, and not so damn witty in the light of day - except this one was perfect. Chapeau!

Thanks, though in this case it was more a matter of using the wit built into the situation by someone else, rather than my own....

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