Thomas Chatterton Williams interviewed in The Financial Times.

Political Observer comments on the ‘political transcendentalist’.

This newspaper employs one of the most interesting writers and political commentators, of the political present, in Janan Ganesh! I read many different publications on the internet, I spend my days reading! Conduct an interview with Mr. Ganesh, one of the real talents, to emerge from the Neo-Liberal Age gone bust! I will never agree with Mr. Ganesh’s politics, no matter how engagingly framed!

Define respectable bourgeois, jejune political chatter: The New York Times!

What  ‘we’ get in this interview from a New York Times regular contributor is the warmed-over political hysterics, of Mr. Thomas Chatterton Williams and its ensuing victimology melodrama:

In July 2020, Williams was one of the organisers of “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate”, an open letter signed by 152 scholars and writers, published in Harper’s magazine. It warned of an “intolerant climate that has set in on all sides” across cultural institutions and a “vogue for public shaming and ostracism”, and stressed the need “to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences”.

Although its authors were careful to not use the phrase “cancel culture”, it was obvious this was the letter’s target, and it provoked a backlash from the progressive left, who argued that such a culture does not exist — or at least is nothing new — and who criticised the choice of signatories, such as JK Rowling, who has been accused of being “anti-trans”.

“I lost a couple of people that I had been very good to on an interpersonal level because of the Harper’s letter — people who unfollowed me and blocked me with no explanation. They actually know me. That’s crazy,” says Williams, clearly upset by this. “The details of what’s right or wrong don’t matter, it’s that ‘you’re not with us’. I never thought ideas or writing were about signalling allegiance.”

What appeals to the Financial Times is that Mr. Williams made ‘enemies’ of both ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, he is a ‘political transcendentalist’ :

“I never thought ideas or writing were about signalling allegiance.”

This last quote is an astoundingly naïve assertion for a cosmopolitan, engaged in the endeavor of political/cultural commentary!

Political Observer


 Replying to Tench

On the question of ‘“I never thought ideas or writing were about signalling allegiance.” : I have four books on my desk. ‘Rorty and his critics’ published by Blackwell, ‘Statecraft as Soulcraft’ by George F. Will, published by Touchstone, ‘Homo Juridicus’ by Alain Supiot published by Verso. ‘Kant : Biography’ by Manfred Kuehn published by Cambridge University Press: Call all these ‘signalling allegiance’. Kant, in The Critique of Pure Reason: ‘Our age is the genuine age of criticism, to which everything must submit.’, pages 100/101 of the Cambridge Edition.

Mr. Chatterton knows were he is and where he is going, and he knows all about self-promotion. His special knowledge of these bad political actors enables him rebuff them, even though they possess a power, to shame the writer of Harry Potter, and commit other political felonies of bad etiquette. Chatterton lacks the ingrained paranoia of Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, his self-conception of being a Cosmopolitan does not allow that political exercise.

As for :

‘that Jemima Kelly didn’t warm to Thomas Chatterton Williams, despite having much sympathy for the substance of his political and intellectual stance on these issues. She can write with great warmth (look up her interview with David Spiegelhalter) and that’s absent here.’


Yes, Janan Ganesh is always fun, but though I often find myself agreeing with his observations I do sometimes feel he’s a bit too by his own cleverness. Did you ever catch him writing movingly, or with palpable warmth?

Its almost ‘as if’ the Television/Radio Psychologist, armed with Neo-Freudian Kitsch hadn’t utterly disappeared!

Thank you for your comment,


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.