PULSE: 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009

December 16, 2009 § 39 Comments

On 30 November 2009 Foreign Policy magazine published its ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers’ list. We were naturally skeptical since the selection included Dick Cheney, General Petraeus, Larry Summers, Thomas Friedman, Bernard-Henri Lévy, David Kilcullen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salam Fayyad, The Kagan Family (yes, all of them) and Ahmed Rashid among others.  We don’t consider any of these people thinkers, let alone having global significance, and we couldn’t help but notice that the main thrust of all their work aligns with the global military and economic agenda of the US government. In response we asked twelve of our writers and editors to nominate their Top 20 global thinkers of 2009.  Our criteria included choosing those who inspire critical thinking, as well as those who have been able to buck received wisdom and shape public debate.  Always agreeing with their statements and positions was not a requisite, but in all cases our selections involved nominating those who have spurred people to challenge or enhance their own thinking in different ways.  The following is our unranked list.

Update: See Foreign Policy’s response, our rejoinder, and our reflections on the debate. (Also see our 20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009)

Arundhati Roy

The top nominee when it came to number of votes among PULSE contributors, Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy is as much known for her non-fictional political work as she is for her award-winning fiction. She is a spokesperson of the alter-globalization movement and a critic of hegemonial US foreign policy, as well as vocal on behalf of the anti-nuclear and environmental movements both in India and abroad. She is also a staunch critic of the repressive Indian policies in Kashmir. Most recently a contributor to We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (October 2009), Roy continues to be passionately engaged and eloquently outspoken in building a social movement towards developing alternatives. Her latest book is Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt went public with their opposition to war at a time when most in the mainstream were cowering under the neoconservative propaganda assault, first with a paid advert in the New York Times on 26 September 2002 followed by an op-ed piece on 2 February 2003. They returned in 2006 with an explosive article in the London Review of Books published after it had been turned down by every publication in the United States, including the Atlantic Monthly which had first commissioned it. They had finally broken what the late Edward Said called ‘the last taboo’ — the causes of the so-called ‘special relationship’ between the United States and Israel: the Israel lobby. For the first time the power of the lobby was subjected to the scrutiny it had hitherto escaped — as much due to the complicity of the mainstream as due to leftist orthodoxy which has frequently given AIPAC and the neocons a free pass. The article was subsequently turned into a bestselling book, and both Mearsheimer and Walt have remained engaged with the subject since, both in their writings and on the lecture circuit. The impact that these two individuals have had in shifting the debate on the US relationship with Israel in the past few years is palpable in the new, more focused, activism it has inspired, directly challenging the institutions responsible for sustaining Israeli rejectionism. Walt’s blog is an essential daily stop for anyone with interest in US foreign policy, and Mearsheimer continues to write for the London Review of Books and others.

Mahmood Mamdani

Mamdani is one of the world’s most respected public intellectuals, and the leading authority on Africa. He has been a dynamic figure since his days at Harvard when he led a student strike against tuition hikes in the 1970s. He has written many important and timely books on the colonial legacy and state formation in Africa, citizenship, identity, the politics of the War on Terror, Islamophobia, and humanitarian intervention among other issues. In 2009 he made yet another splash with his explosive new book Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, a book in which he unraveled the politics of the Save Darfur Coalition and the quasi humanitarian rationales marshaled in support of the expanding ‘war on terror’. Mamdani is also an impressive public speaker, with a confident, deliberate and engaging manner which, coupled with his impressive command of the various subjects he lectures on, rarely leaves an audience unpersuaded. Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University and he is married to the filmmaker Mira Nair (director, most recently, of the excellent Amelia, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere).

Shlomo Sand

Professor of history at Tel Aviv University, Shlomo Sand has written one of this year’s most important books. The Invention of the Jewish People shows that the notion of the Jews as a race, and the direct descendants of the ‘chosen people’ of the Old Testament, is a myth developed in the nationalist-fascist environment of 19th Century Europe. The closest relatives of the ancient Israelites are today’s Palestinians; and today’s Jews are the descendants of converts from southern Russia and North Africa. A crucial contribution, Sand’s work undermines the blood-and-soil aspects of Zionism as well as the fantasies of Christian Zionism.

Pankaj Mishra

Novelist, journalist, historian of ideas and social commentator Pankaj Mishra continues to analyse change in South Asia and Europe. A polymath, his “An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World” integrates the rise of the Indian middle class, Nietzsche, the Taliban, and Mishra’s own life story in a seamless whole. The Kashmir chapter of “Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond” should be a compulsory text on journalism courses. Mishra’s criticism is refreshingly aware of class, but also refreshingly free of the leftist approach which degrades culture to ‘superstructure’. His “Culture of Fear”, an important essay on contemporary Islamophobia and a riposte to Christopher Caldwell, was published in the Guardian (and here at PULSE) this year.

Vandana Shiva

When one thinks of deep ecology, eco-feminism and seed sovereignty, the name Vandana Siva is never far away. This Indian-born physicist, philosopher and alterglobalisation activist has been active in environmental sustainability, food security and global justice movements and has advocated for many traditional practices. Shiva’s globally influential thinking is a powerful amalgam of her work on the environment, agriculture, spirituality, and women’s rights. Presently she is in Copenhagen calling on world leaders to deliver on their promises on climate justice. It is also apt that 4 (with Pakistani-born Tariq Ali) of the top 10 thinkers writing in English should hail from the sub-continent, with over a billion of the world’s population.

John Pilger

Expatriate Australia journalist, author and documentary-maker John Pilger has been, since his early years as a war correspondent in Vietnam, a trenchant critic of the foreign policy of many Western countries, including Australia. In a number of books and documentaries he has developed his ideas about Western imperialism and motivations for war. His courage as a foreign and war correspondent, his citation for the 2009 Sydney Peace Prize in part reads, has enabled the voices of the powerless to be heard. He is the author of several influential books that engage with investigative journalism, power, displaced peoples, and imperialism, including most recently, Freedom Next Time (2006). He also writes a regular column published in the New Statesman.

Chris Hedges

In 2003, shortly after the United States had launched its illegal war of aggression against Iraq, Chris Hedges drew the ire of the right by delivering a stirring denunciation of the war. Shortly after when the New York Times tried to muzzle him he left the paper which he had served as the Middle East bureau chief for more than 10 years. He has been prolific as a writer since, and has emerged as one of the leading public intellectuals of our time. His book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is already ranked as a classic. He has written many more since, several of them New York Times bestsellers. His weekly columns for TruthDig are always a tour de force which combine solid reportage with phenomenal erudition and aphoristic eloquence. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Tariq Ali

British-Pakistani writer, novelist and filmmaker Tariq Ali has been campaigning for peace and social justice for more than 40 years. He gained prominence as an icon of the New Left when he publicly engaged in debate about the Vietnam War with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Michael Stewart, as well as travelled to conflict zones as a member of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and journalist. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books, The Guardian, and many other progressive publications. Ali has also authored several books and novels focused on politics and history, including a collection of essays entitled The Clash of Fundamentalisms, which helped spur desperately needed debate about the events of 9/11.  Ali continues to appear at events endorsing progressive and peace-promoting initiatives and is among the world’s top living public intellectuals.  More recently Ali’s political commentary has been focused on unravelling the rhetoric of those who advocate for continued occupation of Afghanistan and military strategies in Pakistan.  A contributing editor of the popular New Left Review, Ali is also the editorial director of London publishers Verso and is responsible for helping many new progressive journalists and writers find platforms through which to make their voices heard.

Amartya Sen

Nobel laureate development economist (‘The Mother Teresa of Economics’) and academic Amartya Sen hails from India and has been globally influential for his work on poverty and famine, human development theory, welfare economics. His innovative work on the underlying mechanisms of poverty, gender inequality, freedom and capacity has developed the thesis that inequality of power matters as much as inequality of resources or income, and that gender equality is an important requisite of development, not a consequence of it. Though an expatriate, he still spends the academic winters in India every year.

Ilan Pappe

Author of several books including the ground-breaking The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli-born historian Ilan Pappe has spent much of his academic career dissecting and disputing Zionist propaganda about the creation of Israel and Zionist policies against Palestinians.  Born to parents who fled Nazi Germany and a former member of the IDF (he served during the Yom Kippur War), Pappe’s research into the Nakba of 1948 helped confirm that at least 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes through various means by Zionists.  Like the late Tanya Reinhart, Pappe left Israel in 2008 after finding it increasingly difficult to live a normal life due to the increasingly hostile treatment he was forced to endure by his fellow Israelis, which included death threats and attacks against his teaching position by a member of the Israeli Knesset.  More recently Pappe has focused on what he has called Israel’s genocidal policy against Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, and was a staunch critic of the Israeli government’s assault on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 which took the lives of an estimated 1,400 Palestinians in less than one month.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss’s impact in shifting the public debate on Israel inside the United States is second only to Mearsheimer and Walt’s. Mondoweiss.net has emerged as the most influential, provocative and lively place for debate on the Israel Palestine conflict and the US role in it. Weiss has subjected the lobby, and the permissive culture within which it had until now flourished, to intense scrutiny, but he has done it in a rational, measured tone which encourages engagement without alienating anyone except the most hardened of Zionists. Weiss’s musings are passionate, cerebral, and infused with humanity. His site has also become the focus of dissent within the US Jewish community. Weiss is an inspiration to us and has shown us the potential of citizen journalism to change discourses and to hold the mainstream media accountable.

Ali Abunimah

Founder of the Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (2006), Ali Abunimah is perhaps Palestine’s most articulate contemporary voice. His universalist, rights-based approach to justice in Israel-Palestine has the potential to make as many allies as did the South African anti-apartheid campaign. Many more people realised over the course of 2009 that a viable two-state solution isn’t going to happen; as a result, Ali Abunimah’s vision of an inclusive one-state future becomes steadily more relevant. This year Abunimah has tirelessly campaigned for BDS and responded in the media to the Gaza massacre and Obama’s theatrics.

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk shuns adulation and insists that he be seen as only a “journalist,” but in our view, despite the fact we take him to task on occasion, he is among the most important journalists of all time. Stationed in the Middle East for more than 30 years, Fisk has reported some of the most important stories from the region, providing context and a deeper level of analysis than one finds in mainstream journalism. Fisk has also used his years of relevant study and experience to comment on the origin of conflicts by providing a broader context in such classic works as Pity the Nation, and  The Great War for Civilization.  In addition to monitoring the “centers of power,” Fisk has always attempted to unravel stories beyond the standard and often limited frames within which mainstream journalism operates. He is the archetype of the scholar-reporter, and his work emphasizes that if there is a solution to be found, one must first endeavour to understand the cause of the problem.

Naomi Klein

Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein writes on a number of social justice issues, from corporate dominance, threats to the environment, to human rights abuses by governments in conflict zones.  Early in 2009 Klein publicly endorsed calls to boycott Israel for its abhorrent policies against and abuses of Palestinian human rights and more recently spear-headed the ‘Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation’ initiative. This resulted in an open letter with over 1,000 signatories (with the names of prominent public figures and celebrities) protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s City-to-City Spotlight on Tel Aviv after Israel’s recent murderous month-long assault on the Gaza Strip in December 2008.  Klein’s contributions to the fight for social justice are particularly important in part because, herself a Jew, she has allowed her own evolution of thought about the Israel-Palestine conflict to become a point of public focus.

Eduardo Galeano

Uruguayan journalist and author Eduardo Galeano began making political commentary publicly at the age of 14 when one of his political cartoons was published in a socialist magazine in 1954.  He was imprisoned and forced to flee Uruguay after the military coup that overtook the country in 1973 and has committed himself to battling the “amnesia” that Latin America has been “condemned” to suffer from ever since.  Never one to write without passion or vigour, Galeano’s way with his pen propels readers into feeling—there is no way to ignore his descriptions of injustice or suffering or to dismiss his retelling of history, whether he chooses to relay it through a journalistic article or a story.  In 2008 (the same year that Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone was first published in Spanish), Galeano publicly commented on the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency by stating: “The White House will be Barack Obama’s house in the time coming, but this White House was built by black slaves. And I’d like, I hope, that he never, never forgets this.”  One year later Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was photographed giving President Obama a copy of Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (considered a must-read by Latin American history scholars) with the written inscription: “For Obama, with affection.”  The American president called it a “nice gesture.”

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian researcher and human rights activist who, like Abunimah, advocates an ethical vision for a secular democratic state in historic Palestine. Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and a leader of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Combining activism with writing, he has written extensively on political and cultural affairs, including a contribution to the philosophical volume, Controversies and Subjectivity (2005) and to The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid ( 2001).

Slavoj Žižek

In the age of reality TV, Guitar Hero and nonsense, it is no mean feat to make philosophy popular and entertaining without compromising its complexities. With his eccentric public persona, an inimitable speaking style, and prolific writings on subjects as diverse as psychoanalysis, Marxism, postmodernism, violence, torture, revolution to pop culture, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has infused intellectual debates with a vigor which most thought had vanished with the Cold War. He may get a few things wrong, but his ideas remain fresh due to his unrelenting assault on orthodoxies of both left and right. Following the Gaza war he also proved himself as good as his words by joining the call for the boycott of Israel. His latest book is First As Tragedy, Then As Farce.

John Gray

As fierce a critic of humanism as Schopenhauer was of Christianity, philosopher, writer and social commentator John Gray continues to deflate the lazy assumptions of the mainstream. Gray’s Anatomy, a collection of his work, was published this year. Previous books include Al-Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern (2003), which confronted the triumphalist version of modernity, Straw Dogs (2003), which attacked the notion of human volition, and Black Mass (2008), in which Marxism, neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism and even ‘new atheism’ are shown to have been vehicles for apocalyptic religious discourses. Gray is always provocative and – unusually for a philosopher – he writes very well indeed.

Tariq Ramadan

A Swiss philosopher of Egyptian origin, Ramadan writes on Islam, citizenship, law, immigration and integration. Enormously influential amongst British Muslims, he remains unpopular with establishments the world over. He has been forbidden entry to the US, is not welcome in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and in August was dismissed from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University for the crime of presenting a debate programme on Press TV. What I Believe and Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation were published this year. The latter calls for a revitalised Islamic ethics which puts contemporary cultural and scientific knowledge on an equal footing with scripture.

And our list wouldn’t be complete without the following honorable mentions:

Alice Walker, Andrew Bacevich,  Azmi Bishara, Bill McKibben, Breyten Breytenbach, David Harvey, Germaine Greer, Gore Vidal, Ha-Joon Chang, Howard Zinn, James Hansen, Joseph Stiglitz, Karen Armstrong, Ralph Nader, Richard Falk, Stephen Hawking, and Walden Bello.

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UPDATE See also Foreign Policy shoots back on Global Thinkers and Hello Resistance, Meet Resistance.

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§ 39 Responses to PULSE: 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009

  • Christian Avard says:

    So Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn didn’t make the list! Interesting.

    • m.idrees says:

      The list is for 2009. Had Zinn’s People Speak come out earlier, he would certainly be on the list. He’s a person I have great admiration for. As regards Chomsky, has he done anything in 2009 to change people’s minds? As far as I can see he has trouble changing his own. He has got the Middle East seriously wrong, and his message is ultimately deterministic and demoralizing. It only encourages self-righeous, complacent fatalism if everything is determined by structural forces that we are powerless to change. On Israel-Palestine he opposes BDS (the most effective tactic), the One-State solution (the most effective strategy), and thinks UNGAR 194 is no longer relevant so Palestinians should forego the Right of Return. Worst of all his persistent denial of the significance of the lobby. I also wasn’t impressed by the fact that while for the past 4 years he has been denying that the lobby had anything to do with US belligerence against Iran, now that the war didn’t happen, he is admitting that the lobby indeed pushed for it, but uses that as an example of its powerlessness. Now that’s disingenuous.

      • Christian Avard says:

        Well put Idrees. That took care of that! : )

      • Max Ajl says:

        He has Idrees. He’s probably touched tens or hundreds of thousands–or millions–through his e-mailing and lectures and articles and books, many of whom emerged less ignorant than they had been before. He works as a popular educator in an amazing way. He’s not perfect but just because his work hasn’t changed your mind in the past year doesn’t mean he hasn’t changed the minds of many.

        • steven says:

          idrees,

          maybe not for 2009 (his wife of 60 yrs died recently and the guy’s 80 yrs old), but Chomsky spoke out on Israel before most of the list-makers were even born. He’s not wrong on the middle wast at all btw. Fisk would say the same, unless he too is “fatally deterministic”. BDS is just a tactic. It may be effective, but only if people know about the issue of Palestine, and it’s far away from being a mainstream issue in the West. South Africa was mainstream and got Congress and business support. UNGAR 194 is relevant only when achievable, and why should anyone make it a pre-condition for ENDNG THE OCCUPATION, esp. if they are not Palestinian? Fact is, Chomsky’s influence is huge, and any person on the list would tell you that, no matter how sectarian they on the BDS issue. Also, if your so big on UN resolutions, how about UN res. 242 or even the UN Partition Plan of 1947? It’s a hit-and-miss body depending on the circumstances buddy. But it’s only a 2009 list; so be it.

          • Dan says:

            For more information on how Chomsky has misled so many on the left, see Jeffrey Blankfort’s writings, especially “The Israel Lobby and the Left: Uneasy Questions.”

            http://www.leftcurve.org/LC27WebPages/IsraelLobby.html

            Mr. Blankfort is a regular contributor to Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz’ site, Mondoweiss, a must-read for those interested in learning about the insidious nature of Zionism and the Israel Lobby in the United States and around the world.

  • Theodore Leo says:

    Chomsky did make the list

  • Amerikagulag says:

    Chomsky and Zinn don’t hold a candle to people like Sand, Hedges, Ali and Pilger.

  • Ali ally says:

    This alternative list by Pulse is adagial :)

    However, inclusion of names like “Dick” Chenny and Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Foreign Policy’s list does not come as a surprise but calling them “Global Thinkers” is absolutely risible.

    In another report we are further advised that in order to make this world a better place, we should listen to Samuel Huntington, Angela Merkel, and Franklin D. Roosevelt and , west’s holy darling , Dalai Lama. I think they missed out on Britney spears ;p

  • Mara says:

    For the future, you could consider looking here to see what some women are thinking and doing in the world: http://www.rightlivelihood.org/laureates.html?&no_cache=1.

    In addition to the wonderful women and men on your global thinkers list, and to the women listed on the Right Livelihood laureates webpage, off the top of my head I can also think of the following intellectual luminaries: Barbara Ehrenreich, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Jacqui M. Alexander, Amy Goodman, Radhika Desai, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Marilyn Waring, Cynthia Enloe, Brooksley Born, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Mimi Abramowitz, Michaela Di Leonardo, Angela Y. Davis, Nancy Folbre, Elaine Scarry, Marianne A. Ferber, Julie A. Nelson, Jan Jindy Pettman, Charlotte Bunch, Medea Benjamin, etc. This is in no way an exhaustive list. These are probably not all fellow travelers to Pulse, and they might not all fit the “global thinkers” criteria, but perhaps the suggestions will jog your memories.

    • Christian Avard says:

      Well put Mara. Thank you for the important suggestion!

    • m.idrees says:

      Thanks for the suggestions Mara. However, our criteria was rather specific. It was not about people ‘thinking and doing in the world’. It was rather about thinkers who through their words (mainly) and actions (secondarily) have made an impact globally in 2009. We did not specify gender, race or ethnicity as a criteria. (You could for example justifiably accuse us of excluding black Africans.) The 20 were chosen based on a pool of nominees suggested by 12 writers (five of them women) and we decided not to rank them (which would have been the cause of yet more disputes). So while all of the women you list have great achievements — and we admire them all — they are not in our list because they don’t meet the specific criteria.

    • Vanessa K. says:

      ….Bell Hooks. :)

  • Mara says:

    Sorry. That response was following the Pulse facebook thread.

  • Troy Nkrumah says:

    I mean… Interesting… so Alice Walker “over” Cynthia McKinney? Because we all know you cannot have more than 1 black person on that list… gtf out of here with that corny attempt at making a progressive list. Seriously, participating in such list making is typical white supremacist elitism! A list such as this is inherently elitist. You should be smarter than play that game!

    • m.idrees says:

      We actually love Cynthia McKinney and respect her for what she is: a courageous and uncompromising politician with principle and rare integrity. This however is a list of thinkers in the strict sense of the word: people who are primarily engaged in intellectual endeavors.

      As regards elitism, that’s a fatuous claim. I regard Frantz Fanon as one of the 5 most important thinkers of the 20th century. Does that make me elitist?

      Finally a word of caution. There is real racism in the world which we all must counter. But if you hurl accusaions of ‘white supremacism’ with such ease, you will so devalue the label that it will be dismissed as over-reaction even where it is merited.

      • Jennifer says:

        Good point. Throwing around name-calling terminology is not only detrimental, but also quite presumptuous. This is an intellectual discussion and examination of our world as a contrast to the selling and buying of political rhetoric. You don’t have to agree with the selections and anyone can make suggestions and explain criticisms so that others can consider and make up their own minds.

  • steven says:

    I think Norman Finkelstein should have made it, the same with Noam Chomsky. I think the latter is “going out of fashion” amoung young BDS-ers due to age and a stalwart vision for a 2-state solution for Palestine. However, it’s only a list for 2009. Finkelstein’s writings on Gaza and his initiation of the Gaza Freedom March (before dropping out) should have earned him a spot though. No one is more vicious an enemy to the Israel Lobby than Finkelstein–just ask John Mearesheimer, a huge supporter of Finkelstein’s work. Tariq Ali also thought Noam Chomsky deserves the Nobel for 2009, but it’s just wishful thinking. Thanks for the list.

  • 99 says:

    Notwithstanding his dedication, insight, integrity, commitment to truth and life of hard work, Norman Finkelstein is currently unpopular with too many in this crowd, steven.

    Never mind that he is probably the only major public figure since Martin Luther King to bother with the difficulty of studying Gandhi carefully, poring over his mountains of journals, to reach for real effectiveness, he had the temerity to back out of his own march because others couldn’t see the imperatives and were ruining the enterprise… ruining what would have worked like nothing else any have tried in all these agonizing years.

    The shit hit the fan around here over that, to be sure. Some horrific accusations were being slung around very liberally, completely heedless of just WHO it is they were snarking about. They could not see it the way he saw it, decided to forget entirely who Norman Finkelstein is, and treat him as though he were some egomaniacal shithead for doing the ONE thing available to him to salvage another chance for it someday.

    Too many heedless fighters could not grasp the imperatives, the kinds of, evidently recondite, but none the less vital, imperatives Gandhi himself had to sometimes go on hunger strike to get through people’s heads… or to make them at least fall in line if they could not exactly understand. So Norman’s pristine Gandhian vision turned into a circus and his only course, since, clearly, a hunger strike wouldn’t have worked, was to bow out, and to do it precisely as he did.

    Norman isn’t Gandhi… but he’s going there… or trying… if it’s even possible on this planet anymore. Or maybe you just have to have the spiritual component going for you to pull it off at all… but Norman’s vision was impeccable and moved a lot of people, even if it didn’t fly this time.

    In the meantime his punishment for forcing people to confront their own idiocy, when so many lives depend on it, is to be glaringly left off this stupid list. I don’t think it’ll daunt him.

  • qunfuz says:

    99, Gandhi wasn’t ‘Gandhi’ either. Norman’s ‘pristine’ and ‘spiritual’ ‘vision’ (why do you have to call him by his first name all the time? Do you refer to the late Mr Jackson as ‘Michael’?) clearly means a lot to you. You have clearly understood the truth that Norman’s predestined role counts for a hell of a lot more than the wishes of the Palestinians, the necessity of BDS, the fact that a two-state solution isn’t going to happen, the necessity of exposing the Israel lobby. You see, Norman is godly. The other things are mundane.

    What Norman needs is a temple dedicated to him. Chomsky too.

  • qunfuz says:

    Was about to write something amusing about just WHO Norman is and how he has access to the ONE answer, but then reread your nonsense about ‘confronting their own idiocy.’ Basically, you are calling the leaders of Palestinian civil society, who know a hell of a lot more about their struggle than you, idiots, because they dared to disagree with the shoddy, egomaniacal thinking and rage for control shown by Finkelstein.

    Why don’t you think about exactly WHO you’re insulting.

  • mike says:

    Chomsky is undoubtedly as worthy as those on the list here. Despite the wild commentary attempting to discredit him (a simple google search would correct these inane assertions), the funny thing is that most on that list would credit Chomsky as probably the most important intellectual alive. I know Ali, Klein, Fisk, Roy, and Pilger hold Chomsky in very high esteem and are big supporters of his work.

    He offers countless lectures and interviews, all the whilst publishing excellent articles. He gave the Edward Said lecture this year, for example. He’s also just publishing his book on South America and its struggle for independence from US hegemony, and is working on a new book, Hope and Prospects. I don’t think this intellectual activity, nor the size of the constituency, can be matched by any on this list.

    Idrees, please elaborate on Chomsky’s ineptitude in Middle East studies. Nonsense. Again, Fisk, Tariq and Pilger all endorse Chomsky’s work. Hell, they probably utilize it themselves.

    • m.idrees says:

      Idrees, please elaborate on Chomsky’s ineptitude in Middle East studies.

      I am not talking about ineptitude. I am talking about his political position which I disagree with for reasons mentioned earlier. There are also problems with his analysis, which unfortunately is quite a-historical, and it ignores all evidence that undermines his thesis. M. Shahid Alam has already addressed some in this post but that’s not the extent of it. I’ll be addressing the rest in my forthcoming book. Chomsky is a great thinker, a moralist par-excellence, but he is not a political scientist or a historian.

      Feel free though to carry out out that simple google search that you are confident would correct my ‘inane assertions’? I am sure readers would find that more useful.

  • Jonathan says:

    The over-riding impression one gets of the list is that the only “global” issue of great significance (or the one of GREATEST significance) is the israeli-palestinian conflict, and, more specifically, that the intellectual task par excellence is refuting the dishonest assertions of israeli propagandists. set aside israel-palestine, and the list shrinks by half. (you’d take out sand, pappe, fisk, abunimah, mearsheimer and walt, weiss and barghouti.)

    i admire almost everyone on this list, and i know four or five of them personally or professionally. but if we know that zionism is bad news, then i’m not sure that reiterating this fact in the media is a job for “thinkers”, or a job that makes one a “thinker”.

  • [...] Foreign Policy editor Joshua Keating is generous in referring to PULSE’s 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009 list as ‘a welcome addition to the conversation‘. However, he misses our point, and in part [...]

  • qunfuz says:

    Jonathan – We at PULSE certainly have a focus on the Israel-Palestine issue. Our site was set up during, and partly in response to, last winter’s Gaza massacre and our perception that events were being poorly reported in the mainstream media. Many of our team are specially focused on the issue, and we are unapologetic about it. Having said that, we have also focused intensely on Iran and the Honduras, and have tried to keep a global reach.

    But specific to your comment, I think those on our list related to Israel-Palestine have made relevant contributions to ‘thought’. This is why they are there. Sand has written a provocative work of history of direct relevance to today’s myths. Pappe has done groundbreaking historical wor and then unashamedly and efficiently put it to political use. Abunimah has articulately proposed an inclusive vision for the future. etc.

    Beyond our personal concerns, one reason our team would advance for our focus on Israel-Palestine is that in this conflict come togther so many strands – cultural, ethnic and national as well as economic and geo-strategic, that the traditional left is left confused. The Israel-Palestine issue profoundly influences policies and discourses in the US, Europe, and anywhere affected by the ‘war on terror’. And in microcosm in Palestine we find the cultural conflicts that animate the West and the Muslim world alike – issues of religion and state, nationalism and inequality, and of law and international intervention. We do believe that it is a central issue.

  • John Danziger says:

    Why do you not send your list of 20 to the list of 20 plus to the list of honorable mentions, include all the above comments and then invite them all to comment.
    In this way we might get a better insight into the rationale for your producing such a list in the first place. Certainly some of the replies to comments seem inconsistent with the criteria supposedly used.

  • Vanessa K. says:

    One name i wish would have been included….Norman Finklestein. But i am quite impressed with the list…refreshing!
    SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!!

  • Sean Brooks says:

    In his book, Mahmood Mamdani explains away the conflict in Darfur by calling it Bashir’s “own little war on terror.” He also never interviewed anyone from the Save Darfur Coalition, yet wrote over 100 pages about their campaigns. For a review of Saviors and Survivors that details Mamdani’s exagerrated and distorted claims see my: “When Killers Vecome Victims: Darfur in Context,” http://bit.ly/8AwOzm.

  • Morgaine Pendragon says:

    No George Monbiot?

    No Wangari Maathai?

    So the Global Environmental Crisis gets no more than a sideways nod? Doesn’t matter if we stop US imperialism, end the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, stop the military-industrial complex’s devastation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and have Israelis and Palestinians hugging each other like they’re all on Ecstacy, if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water, if all the food is contaminated, if the ice age covers the entire Northern Hemisphere, it really won’t matter, will it?

  • [...] we published our list of 20 Top Global Thinkers, we thought we would be remiss if we did not also honor those media figures and institutions who [...]

  • [...] PULSE: 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009 Pulse, December 16, 2009 [...]

  • teafoe2 says:

    Dear Editors: Sir, you’re weird.

    What a strange list to come from a site radical enough not to buy into the Chomsky myth.

    Liberals & social democrats.

    Where is the name of James Petras? Who is certainly more of a “thinker” than Messrs Walt & Mearsheimer, whose excellent work exposing the most visible aspects of “The Lobby” remains within the Liberal Capitalist paradigm, while Petras penetrates to the actual heart of the matter.

    I find the response to “why Alice Walker instead of Cynthia McKinney” hypocritical, since so many of your selections are really journalists, not “thinkers”.

    That you couldn’t find more African American thinkers worth of inclusion seems to me to reflect a certain “narrowness of focus”…

    For instance you could have included Glen Ford and Black Agenda Report associates Bruce Dixon & M. Kimberley whose early in-depth diagnosis and continued exposure of Obamania certainly qualifies in my mind as reflecting some of the best thinking on the planet.

  • Deadbeat says:

    Klein’s contributions to the fight for social justice are particularly important in part because, herself a Jew, she has allowed her own evolution of thought about the Israel-Palestine conflict to become a point of public focus.

    The fact that her “Jewishness” is given such prominence may be the reason why her book Shock Doctrine was written to divert attention of the Iraq War from Zionism to neoliberalism as the “War for Oil” ™ explanation was being challenged by the likes of James Petras and Mearsheimer and Walt.

    Her listening is an obvious nod to “chomskyism”.

  • Finebeer says:

    teafoe2, absolutely agree about James Petras and the Black Commentator editor-authors. Next year ….

    Deadbeat, interesting theory. Do you think it was unconscious or deliberate? And I think you mean “listing” not “listening”?

  • Deadbeat says:

    Thanks Finebeer! That should have read “listing”, The timing of Ms. Klein’s book was right after her visit to Iraq. However it was just before the collapse of Wall Street. Ms. Klein admits to this during her CSpan interview with Brian Lamb. In other words her book was not written with the intentions of the looming economic crisis. It was written as a cover for Zionism.

    This leads to several key questions to ask…

    1. Why would the Bush Administration permit a “leftist” a travel visa to Iraq.

    2. The “War for Oil” was undergoing a great deal of stress and scrutiny and thus the chomskyites had to offer a new reason. Klein offered up neoliberalism and Milton Friedman in particular. The problem however was that Friedman himself was against the war. That in turns contradicts her primary her thesis.

    3. Klein claims to have developed her thesis during her visit to Iraq which implies she failed to analyze the politics that led to the war. The fact that the Bush Administration was heavily laden with Zionists that pushed for the war is totally ignored by this “thinker”.

    Yes I am inclined to think that it was deliberate. The fact that her “Jewishness” is given such prominence pretty much convinces me that I was correct about my suspicions.

  • teafoe2 says:

    thank you deadbeat, and you too finebeer. I was conscious of omitting Klein from my earlier post but wanted to keep it short, not try the editor’s patience any more than I already had.

    Thanks also to the editors for letting my critical comment appear. To me that one decision says a lot about the degree of integrity you bring to the job; my compliments!

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