Last fall, Tobi Haslett, a young writer and critic with Marxist leanings, noticed a shift in the contours of popular intellectual debate. “Something is happening out there in the dark fields of ‘the discourse,’ ” Haslett wrote in Bookforum. “Incoherence is now a virtue.”
By incoherence I don’t mean an “extreme” position or the shriek of the provocateur, but a specific genre of chin-stroking, brow-furrowing, “eye opening” sophistry that’s now robustly represented in mainstream newspapers and magazines. Fluttering near the political center (they refuse to be pinned down!), the exponents of the new incoherence look at the Right’s mushrooming despotism, then at the enfeebled, regrouping Left—and, with theatrical exasperation, declare that both are a bit tyrannical. These pundits are the opposite of adherents; all hail the Incoherents!