A joyous heretic: More on Andrew Sullivan

A couple of days ago I wrote an obituary for Andrew Sullivan’s blogging career. Over at his blog on the Atlantic Ta-Nehisi Coates also mourns. The two men had an interesting relationship. Coates was exceedingly critical of Sullivan’s decision as editor of the New Republic to publish extracts of a book positing a correlation between race and IQ. Yet the two men became colleagues and Coates writes that:

“when I first started blogging, I had two models in mind—Matthew Yglesias and Andrew Sullivan, and I only knew about Matt because of Andrew.”

And goes on to write of his influence that:

“…Andrew has never been a prophet, so much as a joyous heretic. Andrew taught me that you do not have to pretend to be smarter than you are. And when you have made the error of pretending to be smarter, or when you simply have been wrong, you can say so and you can say it straight—without self-apology, without self-justifying garnish, without “if I have offended.” And there is a large body of deeply curious readers who accept this, who want this, who do not so much expect you to be right, as they expect you to be honest. When I read Andrew, I generally thought he was dedicated to the work of being honest. I did not think he was always honest. I don’t think anyone can be. But I thought he held “honesty” as a standard—something can’t be said of the large number of charlatans in this business.

Honesty demands not just that you accept your errors, but that your errors are integral to developing a rigorous sense of study. I have found this to be true in, well, just about everything in life. But it was from Andrew that I learned to apply it in this particular form of writing. I am indebted to him. And I will miss him—no matter how much I think he’s wrong, no matter the future of blogging.”


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