Noted author and historian Tony Judt has died after a long battle with ALS, according to a growing chorus of online mourning, though his death has yet to be confirmed by his family or a traditional news outlet. That’s not to say the reports should be doubted — and may Judt rest in peace — though in death we see a clear example of the way in which information travels online and news is subsequently reported. Judt, 62, was a scholar of European history, currently working as a professor in European Studies at New York University, respected for his willingness to continue to speak publicly, and brilliantly, despite being paralyzed from the neck down since 2009. (Update: The Times comes through with the sad confirmation.)
And yet, despite Judt’s long term illness, no confirmation was provided, no obituaries delivered as of 11 a.m. Saturday morning. In fact, during the writing of this post, Judt’s Wikipedia was updated, sourcing New York‘s Daily Intel, which also sourced Twitter.
Probably picking up on the online buzz, the New York Times is likely working to confirm and may very well be the first with an official obituary. Though as this sort of information spreading indicates, “official” may have lost its meaning. Maybe not, says Bill Cosby. All of which is not meant to trivialize the death of such an influence mind. Learn more about Judt here.
Judt was also recently in the news when he and his son published a touching, thoughtful Times op-ed only to have blowhard media pundit Michael Wolff taint the whole thing by throwing around baseless accusations about the piece’s validity. So now, as the web and world mourn — assume Judt has indeed passed — please Michael Wolff, keep your mouth shut.
Update 2: And here is the New York Times obituary.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 7, 2010