Michael Ignatieff belongs to a genus which is common in France, occasional in Germany, and extinct in the United States: the intellectual as television journalist. In this country we have only one prominent example, and that is Ignatieff himself.
In the usual way, television reduces those who appear on it to two-dimensional figures, like characters in Restoration comedy, renowned for single, easily identifiable qualities: today’s Sir Politick Would-bes and Sir Fopling Flutters. Presenters of programmes about physics or astronomy are encouraged to turn themselves into loony boffins; presenters of news programmes are invested with heroic or deeply moral qualities, and so on.
Ignatieff has managed to avoid this kind of self-reductionism. There is much of George Orwell about him. He wants to show us things as they are, not as we would like them to be. He is the reporter of the uncomfortable, and, unlike his counterparts in France and Germany, he