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Ta-Nehisi Coates Praises 'Joyous Heretic' Andrew Sullivan's Blog

02/03/2015 04:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 03, 2015
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Last week, Andrew Sullivan announced he would be shuttering his pioneering political blog, The Dish, after 15 years of near-daily musings. The reasons for Sullivan's exit from the blogosphere were clearly laid out: health issues brought on by "years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress," and a general fatigue with the unrelenting, hair-trigger pace of digital life.

Monday, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates -- whose cover story "The Case for Reparations" was a finalist for a 2015 National Magazine Award -- penned a thoughtful piece on Sullivan's legacy as a public intellectual, crediting the former blogger as a guiding influence on his own work.

"I started reading Andrew during the run-up to the Iraq War and thus bore witness to one of the most amazing real-time about-faces in recent memory," Coates wrote of Sullivan's decision to no longer support the war. "But it was a sincere about-face and it taught me something about writing, and particularly writing on the Internet, which guides me even today -- namely, that error is an essential part of any real intellectual pursuit."

Despite the praise, Coates and Sullivan have butted heads in the past. In December, while writing about the spotted history of The New Republic following a massive staff exodus at the magazine, Coates blasted a decision by Sullivan -- a former editor of TNR -- to publish excerpts from Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, a book widely castigated for making erroneous links between intelligence and race. Sullivan later responded to the article on his blog, calling Coates' attack an "incendiary and hurtful critique."

Still, in Coates' current piece, the writer lauded Sullivan for his dedication "to the work of being honest" and ability to humbly take ownership of his errors.

"Andrew has never been a prophet, so much as a joyous heretic," Coates wrote. "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.'"

Coates concluded by stating he will miss Sullivan's blogging no matter how much the two have disagreed.

"When I read Andrew, I generally thought he was dedicated to the work of being honest," Coates wrote. "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."

To read Ta-Nehisi Coates' full piece, head over to The Atlantic.

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