Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Thought Leaders & Writers of Originality

The term “Thought Leader” sounds quite like a business buzzword to me…

Image Courtesy of Eylem Culculoglu ~

“Writer of Originality” might sound a bit haughty; but, I think it’s preferable to “Writer Who Copies from Others”…


There’s an article I’m going to feature today, written by David Sessions: “…a doctoral student in modern European history at Boston College and a visiting student at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. He is a former editor at The Daily Beast, and his writing has appeared in Jacobin and Newsweek.”

The article is called, The Rise of the Thought Leader: How the super rich have funded a new class of intellectual.

This post will be a bit longer than usual because, just like a writer’s research can get way down deep, I want to provide enough of the article’s thoughts so you can get way down deep with your own thinking about the originality of Your thoughts…

You might even consider reading the entire article………

While it focuses on how the super rich pay to change the public’s opinions, I hope considering it’s ideas can help some writerly folks break their research habits and discover completely original ideas to feed their writing endeavors…

I’ll start with this excerpt:

“Great minds, we are told, no longer captivate the public as they once did, because the university is too insular and academic thinking is too narrow….[certain writers] attribute this sorry state of affairs to the culture of Ph.D. programs…which have glorified ‘arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience'”.

And, an excerpt that, to me, establishes one of the main points of the article:

“The rich have…empowered a new kind of thinker—the ‘thought leader’—at the expense of the much-fretted-over ‘public intellectual’…While public intellectuals traffic in complexity and criticism, thought leaders burst with the evangelist’s desire to ‘change the world’….In a marketplace of ideas awash in plutocrat cash, it has become ‘increasingly profitable for thought leaders to hawk their wares to both billionaires and a broader public’, to become ‘superstars with their own brands, sharing a space previously reserved for moguls, celebrities, and athletes.’”

I must say, this starkly reminds me of the authors who conduct research on what seems to hold a large percentage of readers in thrall (perhaps, finding two or three main ideas they can mash-up…) and writing books in a style that can be easily “branded” as “ground-breaking”; then, work their butts off to promote their books as “Breakthroughs” in “Literature”, or “Reader Satisfaction”, or “Guilty Pleasure”…

The real crime isn’t authors who tailor their writing to appeal to folks who buy on impulse and read only for the purpose of escaping reality.

The real crime is that publishers seek out such writers…

Back to the article under consideration, with an excerpt that’s followed by specific examples:

Drezner traces how the pursuit of money in the new corporate ideas industry—through television shows, high-dollar speeches, and lavish book advances—pushes thought leaders to bloat their expertise and hustle in so many markets that they end up selling fakes.”

Another important point in the article’s message:

“The influx of plutocrat money has done much more than produce a handful of hollow thinkers. The institutions that enable intellectuals to conduct meaningful research are also being radically remade by their new sponsors. Over the past few decades, as funding from government sources and philanthropic organizations has dried up, think tanks have tried to make up the deficits by courting donations from corporations, foreign governments, and politically minded elites. These donors, however, are less interested in supporting intellectually prestigious, nonpartisan work than they are in manufacturing political support for their preferred ideas. In other words, they want a return on their investment.”

This excerpt helps uncover the motivation of “thought leaders”:

“Whether it’s a foreign policy expert insisting on military intervention, a business-school prophet proclaiming the virtues of disruption, a Silicon Valley genius reducing politics to engineering, or a Times columnist championing the ineluctable march of autonomous technology, today’s thought leaders all share a core worldview: that extreme wealth and the channels by which it was obtained are not only legitimate but heroic.”

One final excerpt:

“What intellectuals need is the same as what everyone else needs: a society that prioritizes human flourishing over private profit, and strong political networks that guard public goods against the prophets of an atomized, high-tech future. However difficult that society may be to achieve, one thing about the present gives hope. We are finally getting clear about who its enemies are.”

I do hope certain writers among my readers will work to translate this article’s ideas into a plan to make their work more truly Original…
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2 responses to “Thought Leaders & Writers of Originality

  1. D. Wallace Peach August 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    The last excerpt seems to wrap up the danger and call to action well. There are certainly writers who jump on every bandwagon to take advantage of trends and feed off the latest best seller, but there are also authors who’ve been incorporating egalitarian and humanitarian values into their prose for centuries. The income/ideology/values gap gets wider and wider regardless. Original writers are refreshing and important, but it is probably original thinkers that we need the most.

    Liked by 1 person

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