Cornel West’s Impermissible Opinions

negroes-beware-croppedSo the smear campaign against Cornel West continues apace, and still far too many people — including people I like and respect —  are talking about envy, grudges and ambition, Michael Dyson’s motives etc. This is a minimizing, individualizing approach to what seems like a widespread, ruthless, possibly even coordinated, campaign to ostracize and silence West and reassert the usual limits on Black and left politics. Michael Dyson is a mere cipher. He’s a cudgel with which a mostly white, wealthy, liberal political establishment attempts to fend off the political threat — a class conscious anti-racism — posed primarily by Black Lives Matter and its most influential spokesperson.

I will likely write more about this, including, for much-needed laughs, the ridiculous lengths to which West is driving people like Joan Walsh, Jamil Smith and Ta-hanesi Coates. But first I want to express my gratitude to Michael Dyson and the liberal establishment that’s hired him as a bag man, for giving me the impetus to reconsider West, someone who, due to his Kool-Aid drinking in 2008, I had pretty much written off. As part of this reconsideration, I’ve watched some of West’s more recent, high-profile appearances and as a result, I’m somewhat surprised — shocked even — that the political establishment has let him get as far as he has.

For the moment, I just want to signal boost two of West’s more recent appearances because, one, they’re really great and two, they demonstrate very clearly why the political establishment, including professional Black Democrats, want to render him a ghost. Below are transcriptions of the bulk of two appearances: West’s March 22 appearance on David Letterman’s show, and an interview on CNN he did specifically about Ferguson the previous November. In these two interviews, West packs taboo opinions into relatively short segments with an eloquent efficiency the likes of which I’ve rarely, if ever, seen on programs of this kind. Videos are embedded and linked below the transcripts.

From David Letterman:

West: When you talk about about race relations in America, you’re really talking about a legacy of white supremacy, not just Black folks. Starts with indigenous people. Then you got brown, then you got yellow…and then you got Black folk and of course white brothers and sisters too, who are in many ways dehumanized by dehumanizing others.  So they need to be liberated from this false sense of undeserved access to privilege and benefit in order for democracy to be what it oughta be.

Letterman: ….The culmination of [race relations] getting so much better was we have a Black president now. People thought that might never happen and yet, here it is.

West: Yes, that is a problem, brother, there’s no doubt about it. Because at the symbolic level it’s a magnificent achievement in terms of both having access to the most powerful office in the world and secondly the impact that it has on our precious young people of all colors so that you actually see a (unintelligible) and charismatic Black man who’s there wielding power.  But there’s a difference between substance and symbol. 

Every 28 hours there’s a black youth or brown youth who’s shot by the police. We’ve got a Black president and a Black attorney general, and not one Federal prosecution of a policeman for killing or murdering those folk. So the young people are asking, wait a minute, we got Black faces in high places but it doesn’t deliver when it comes to justice. What’s going on? That’s why it’s a question of what kind of persons do you have, not just the Black faces.

Letterman: Now that’s a stunning statistic…ok so we have a Black president, how does it then get down to where this violence is occurring? When will it come down?

West: The fundamental question is always, first, not being in denial and recognizing that if you have a love for anybody let alone poor people, working people, Black people or whatever, you have a hatred of them being treated unjustly and a loathing of them being treated unfairly and that has to do with courage, integrity, honesty and willingness to tell the truth. Right now we live in an age of the sellout. We live in an age of cupidity and a love of money, money, money…we got too many people who are simply in love with money and assets and power and it’s true when it comes to mainstream leadership, it’s true when it comes to our president.

I mean the president, you got 500 Palestinian babies killed in 50 days, did he say a bumblin’ word? Political calculation. Not moral conviction. Same is true of poor people. You got 40% of children of people of color living in poverty in the richest nation in the world. It’s a moral abomination. Where are the voices? President says, Fox news is gonna get me. Right wing is gonna get me. Neoliberal opportunists, they say it’s not a big issue because they’ve got political calculation. Who’s gonna tell the truth? The condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak, regardless of your popularity, where’s your integrity? We don’t have enough folk with integrity, brother. And that’s true across the board, whatever the color.

Letterman: But is that an indictment of the man or of the political system?

West: Both. Both. Because we have to take personal responsibility. There’s not doubt about it. When you come into office and you bring in Wall Street people, and you got drones, and you’ve still got mass surveillance, you say wait a minute, these are choices you’ve got to make! You gotta be accountable for your choices, but you don’t demonize a brother, you criticize a brother. Gets you in trouble but that’s all right.

Letterman: Since I was born in 1947, many conditions in American [race relations] have improved…what is the evaluation now?

West: It has certainly improved, but you have to recognize that it was so bad to begin with.

Letter: Well you’re starting from slavery…

West: and Jim Crow, too. I mean Jim Crow senior. We got Jim Crow junior in our prison system, segregation in our residential system, and our school system which is decrepit still in so many ways. But socially, personally we have magnificent breakthroughs and that’s important, but the system itself, the structure…

Letterman (interrupting): Explain to me the amount of money spent on prisoners versus on kids in school.

West: Oh yes, we’ve got warped priorities, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve spent a trillion dollars expanding the prison-industrial complex since 1970 and quadrupled the population and the crime rate’s gone down since the 1990s but the prison system still expands! You say what’s goin on? Somebody’s making money! Back to cupidity, back to love of money. Love of money is the root of all evil. I’m not a Christian for nothing. It’s just wrong! It’s wrong! It’s wrong!

Letterman: It must please you but does it surprise you that finally the acceptance of people in the gay community has come to be an awareness for people in this country. The relationship with gays, is it ahead of the relationship between blacks and whites?

West: Oh, no, no, no. I think we’ve got a long way to go to fully appreciate humanity and my precious gay brothers and lesbian sisters as well as bisexual and trans but what they have to recognize is as they get positions in the system, the system is still structured in such a way that one percent of the population owns 43% of the wealth, you end up with an embrace of Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters, especially upper middle class and above, but the Gay poor, the Lesbian poor, they’re still catching hell.  It reminds me in some ways of my precious brothers and sisters in India, you got the Dalit community, great, great people and Ambedkar a great, towering figure, they’ve had a Dalit president, an Untouchable president, but the masses of Dalit brothers and sisters are still catching hell.

Same is true in America. We got all these Black people at the top, high faces, wonderful, like peacocks, look at me, look at me, you say, well, peacocks strut because they can’t fly. The question is, are you keeping track of those stuck in the basement, and it’s more and more all the time, it’s not just black, it’s white, it’s brown…it’s the structure of a system…that’s what Martin King was talking about…

Letterman: (interrupting) These people in the basement, is the light of attention brighter now than ever?

West: It’s worse. It’s worse. If you look at the souls of our precious young folk, and you see it in Ferguson with magnificent leaders there, Ashley Yates, Tef Poe, Tory Russell and others, Black folk there who are leading. They come from weaker families, feeble communities, a corporate media that’s obsessed with titillation, stimulation, to be human is to gain access to power, to become well-adjusted to injustice, to become well-adapted to  indifference, so you end up with a spiritual blackout, even though you got big money because you haven’t cultivated the capacity of what John Coltrane taught us, Love Supreme: Do you know how to love?

From CNN:

West: Ferguson signifies the end of the age of Obama. It’s a very sad end. We began with tremendous hope and we end with great despair. Why? Because we have a Jim Crow criminal justice system that does not deliver justice for black and brown people and especially black and brown poor people. It’s sad that Wall Street executives can go free, and drone droppers can go free, torturers can go free. Police who kill our precious children walk free. And we weep and we do fight back, but there’s been a class war and a kind of racial war against black and brown youth. And when you get a case like Ferguson, only one out of 11,000…11,000 cases have Grand Juries that do not deliver an indictment. Here you have one out of 11,000.

But that’s just the peak of an iceberg. You’ve got Clinton Allen in Dallas. Tanisha Anderson in Cleveland. You’ve got Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains. Eric Garner in New York. Oscar Grant. We can go on on and on. This has been going on and the sad thing is we have a Black president, we have a Black attorney general, we have a Black head of Homeland Security, but not one federal prosecution of a case against a policeman killing a Black youth under the five and a half years when we’ve had all-black folk in place…this is a major…

Hala Gorani: (interrupting) Dr. West, if I could jump in…I remember personally being outside the United States when President Obama was elected. People were crying in Europe. They saw this as the dawn of a new era that would also set an example for the rest of the world. You’ve had some very harsh words for President Obama. You actually tweeted, “Obama’s empty neutrality, moral bankruptcy and political cowardice is now undeniable to even his most loyal cheerleaders…” why are you so harsh on the President? He has spoken of his difficult past as a young Black man. He’s launched initiatives for young Black men as well to better their lives. Why are you so harsh on him?

West: I have a deep commitment to the truth and the condition of the truth is to always allow the suffering to speak and I have a profound love of those persons known as the wretched of the earth and you talk about persons who are suffering and I don’t care if they’re being bombed by Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, I don’t care if they’re being subordinated in Russia, I don’t care if they’re being mistreated in Guatemala, and I don’t care if they’re black, white or red in the United States. Poor and working class people need to be at the center, and unfortunately President Obama chose a Wall Street presidency rather than Main Street, he chose a drone presidency rather than cutting back on the drones. He chose massive surveillance that Edward Snowden and others have revealed rather than protecting rights and liberties, and he chose not to even give one speech focusing on the Jim Crow criminal justice system that’s been targeting poor black and brown youth, saying the era of police impunity is over, the era of lack of accountability of police is over, I am going to insure as president that every American citizen, especially black and poor and brown is going to be treated well. We never got that. At all. This is almost six years. Not really harsh on my part. I’m just gonna tell the truth, bear witness, expose the lies. There’s a connection between the crimes on the one hand and the evading and avoiding the truth on the other.

Gorani: What does the world not necessarily understand. What does it need to know about race relations in the United States, do you think? What is it still not aware of that it should be.

West: Well, one, you have to understand the history. The United States began with the invasion and dispossession of the land of precious indigenous people, which began as a white supremacist enterprise, and then brought in Africans and enslaved Africans for 244 years. Now we have had great breakthroughs. Abe Lincoln, 1860s. 1960s Martin King. President Johnson following through on progressive legislation. But that progress, that breakthrough has affected primarily a Black upper middle class and above. But the Black working class is devastated. The Black poor is rendered more and more demonized as was brother Michael Brown by the policeman, he said he saw a demon…well there’s a long history of demonizing Black people, so that the issues of economic status and class are fundamental here.

A complete version of the CNN interview is not available for embedding. Here’s the link to it.


Michael Eric Dyson’s Hatchet Eulogy for Cornel West

White Supremacy and Magic Paper Part 4: The White Supremacy Difference

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46 Responses to Cornel West’s Impermissible Opinions

  1. b-psycho says:

    The way he consistently brings it back to systemic analysis, class, & pointing out the dodge of symbolism… nails it. Establishment (especially Dems) live off the idea that the game can be tweaked, a view that suggests flipping the table would be more productive is deadly indeed.

    As for Obama & race issues specifically, I recall in my least cynical moments figuring that at times he thought “if I do or say blah blah blah, then These Crackers Would Kill Me”. Those moments stopped coming altogether fairly quick once I realized that such feeling of actual ethnic solidarity even under the surface is for non sociopaths. Him not giving a shit is feature, not bug, the power is all that matters, he joined the club and we’re just ants in the yard.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yup. I think his attacks on symbolism and how it’s tied to the erasure of class are likely what makes him such a provocative figure, especially as we head into an election where the coronation of another sociopath is going to be extolled for its symbolism. Wow! First woman president and just after the first Black president! Ain’t the US great???

      Even if Obama did have a conscience and was just trying to stay alive, it would still be reasonable to call him out. If the condition of remaining alive as a president is screwing over everyone but the rich — and it well may be — it’s time to call bullshit entirely. You can’t just continue to say, well, you know, this is an oligarchy after all and expect people to just live with it.

      • b-psycho says:

        If you think THAT symbolism woo is bad, imagine how unbearable media coverage would be if it ended up Hillary v Rubio…

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah. Maybe that’s just what this kind of politics needs to finally end it. Embrace by Republican fascists.

      • nomad says:

        Still, he went much further than he had to, even if he was just trying to stay alive. The attack on social security was completely uncalled for along with the grand bargain/fiscal cliff con. But his persistence in the heinous drone murder program betrays this supposition anyway. He apparently has no conscience.

      • Tarzie says:

        Good points. There’s no way one can simply hang it on fear of assassination.

      • babaganusz says:

        continue to … and expect people to just live with it

        i’m afraid (no pun) too many* assuming it’s either living with it or dying with it. (and maybe don’t feel much resonance with Patrick Henry’s 14 syllables o’fame after high school.)

        *would it help (presuming feasibility) to have numbers on this? i think any technology that resembles mind-reading should be mandatory for public ‘servants’. seems privacy is just as shallowly construed as free speech – even transparency, though i don’t even know how aged that concept is)

        was just listening to some of the latest N-Chomsk (tsk-tsking Occupy’s ahistoricality – perhaps the only thing [if granted] that i could concede was occasionally too … diffusely? imaginative for just about any media organ to ‘substantiate’. anyway, maybe not as bad (other than in scale) as shitting on Aaron Swartz) and reminded myself to check the archive as to whether you’ve ever shed any e-ink over C-Hitch.

      • babaganusz says:

        NINE syllables of fame. i need to stop counting on all three hands.

      • Henry Larsen says:

        >> Wow! First woman president and just after
        >> the first Black president! Ain’t the US great???

        I am somewhat older than many of you. Back in 1976 I heard a socialist candidate for president speak in Madison. Fella by the name of Peter Camejo. He had a great line that I remember to this day. He said, “America is a great nation! Every four years all the people — rich and poor, black and white, men and women — ALL the people get to decide who will be the next … rich … white … man … to run the country!”

        Well, the form may have changed but obviously (Barry, Hillary) the content remains exactly the same.

        PS: I voted for Peter Camejo but as you may know from history he didn’t win. 🙂 Some years later I learned that he became a stockbroker. By that point, though, my cynicism gauge was already well in the red.

  2. wendyedavis says:

    Thanks again, Tarzie. I confess my eyes brimmed over a couple times listening to him channel the best of radical Martin Luther King: a revolution of love and values. As to this nation being born from genocide of First Americans, and growing out of slavery, the second part of this I just learned recently; most everyone knows the first. The origins of police were slave patrols, the first ones created in the Carolina Colony in 1704, but they soon spread widely, including North, and apparently Constable Associations were formed to protect citizens from disgruntled Indians in New England and even St. Louis.

    How wonderful of him to challenge Letterman’s lazy thinking on things being so fine for gays, lesbians, and trans, too. No, not fine at all, as the #BlackLivesMatter folks have been reminded in the past six months or so.

    Cripes, I got on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Twitter page, and was grievously disappointed at his Dyson gatekeeping defense, and skewering of Brother Cornell. I’m tempted to bring Springstein’s ’41 shots’ (murder of Amadou Diallo), but in honor of the good Brother, may I offer this one instead?

    • Tarzie says:

      I confess my eyes brimmed over a couple times listening to him channel the best of radical Martin Luther King

      Yeah, it’s great stuff. It draws attention to how empty and unserious mainstream political discourse is. Letterman was a bit of a dolt, but I give him props at least for having West on and allowing him to speak at length. I found it interesting that both times West mentioned structure, Letterman cut him off. I don’t consider Letterman politically conscious enough to have done that deliberately, but it is an interesting coincidence.

      • wendyedavis says:

        Thank you for embedding the video; it speaks to West’s Desmond Tutu’s, and MLK’s credos that in each of us love is present, if hidden, and bringing that into the light is key. When enough of us do, it *will be* revolutionary as global consciousness evolves. It’s easy to believe that most of the comfortable class will need dire privations to jolt them into such epiphanies, as in: seeing that the 99% are increasingly becoming Third World Citizens, and we’ll need to share with our neighbors just to survive, create alternatives to every entity that keep us wage slaves, without access to clean water, healthy food, renewable energy, worthy jobs, and more. But it is happening in the background, thankfully.

        It finally dawned on me to check the date of Brother West’s interview: holy crow; it was just in mid-March! So yes I give him props as well.

        Funny, though; I’ve never even heard of a couple of the ‘leaders’ of the movement he named. Ah well, we move in different circles. By the way, folks are trying to shut down Baltimore right now over the grisly police assassination of Freddie Gray. Not the 10,000 they’d hoped for, but plenty of people angry as hell.

      • Tarzie says:

        The love part of the prophetic tradition appeals to me as rhetoric more than as political practice.

        All three of the leaders he named seem fairly well-known.

      • wendyedavis says:

        I’m not entirely sure how one separates them, really. In most times, they mirror each other, imo, but thne again: I am an apatheist hippie throw-back, hoping for a better world, and finding wisdom where I find it, even among the religious.

      • Tarzie says:

        As rhetoric I think they can move people to action and reintroduce a moral element. I don’t think love is what changes things for the better in revolutionary terms. And I find the idea that everyone has some light in them unsound based on the evidence. Some people are absolutely vile and that is all they’ll ever be. We’re animals. Predators as a matter of fact. Not proto-angels.

        I like wisdom too. I just don’t find talk about love revolutions particularly nutritious. I don’t think that’s what the Black visionaries are proposing anyway. I think West is well aware that some people aren’t capable of loving in a communal sense.

      • wendyedavis says:

        While West is a jazzman, bluesman rooted in pain and pragmatism and ‘not an optimitst’, he’s also spoken of lovingkindness/empathy translating as justice for all. “Justice is what love looks like in public, and “And democracy is what justice looks like in practice.”

        MLK believed that people had more than a spark of goodness in them (which is more than I do for some), but wanted us to acknowledge our own shadow selves (in Jungian terms).

        But your position is entirely defensible and represented in the number of books I’ve read on evil in the past. But I’m reminded of Desmond Tutu having said soething like: “Be nice to white people; it may remind them of their humanity”.

      • Tarzie says:

        That’s a great reply, Wendy.

        I think maybe I overstated. Certainly love, compassion, community and selflessness are required for any enterprise as thankless and dangerous as restructuring society on more just terms. It’s when that’s the program — a love revolution — that I start getting hives. The idea that we change ourselves and society will change with us is very counterproductive. I feel that the US left approaches things too much like a religion already, and additional attention to tactics, organization, game theory etc wouldn’t go amiss. I think there’s a technical side to revolt that is sorely overlooked.

        I have to disagree with Tutu about being nice to white people. Black people are already shockingly nice to white people all things considered. It’s only when they’ve scared white people that things have ever changed for the better.

      • wendyedavis says:

        That you say the US left approaches things too much like a religion already, is a new thought to me, so I’ll try to imagine that through, as well a your implication that some number of folks are touting revolt; I don’t run across it much, past passing references to ‘after the revolution’. It may be that I link evolving consciousness in aid of justice for all to revolution due to my major concern that when things get worse in this nation, as they will, some fundie Christianist demagogue will come along and create a revolution that will be more odious than this current Empirical nightmare(although I have a friend who believes that there has already been a rightist revolution in the US). Given that, I like the building blocks of caring and community that came out of Occupy Wall Street, for instance, and coming out of the BlackLivesMatter and the many Indigenous sovereignty movements in Canada.

        Um, Tutu was jesting when he said that; he knows exactly what it took in his country of birth to even finally be able to vote. Maybe akin to Gandhi-like quip about ‘Yes, Western Ciilization would be a very good idea’.

        And yes, in the late ’60’s I lived near the Hough Avenue district near Cleveland when blacks burned it down. Once online, I poked around for remnants of post-riot Hough, and discovered that many of the residents’ demands had indeed been met, but way off: local banks, good transportaion, water infrastructure improvements, and by gawd, even actual grocery stores.

        But as an example of my musings, I went and dug this quote out as sort of exemplifying my hope for post-revolution socialism written by Barbara Kingsolver in ‘Animal Dreams’. I sobbed upon reading it, and still tear up at its elegant simplicity:

        “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.”

        And thank you kindly for the discussion, Tarzie.

      • Tarzie says:

        When I say Left politics are too much like a religion, I mean they’re preoccupied with who’s Good and who’s Bad and they have a bunch of rituals that they perform whether or not they advance anything or not. Hence, there are no benchmarks against which to weigh, say, the merit of anything Noam Chomsky or Glenn Greenwald say or do. It is supposed to be enough that they do it. The magical Snowden statues that keep appearing all over the place are very much in harmony with politics of this kind. All of this prevents people from a thorough-going consideration of how power works and how it can be undermined. Like a lot of religion, its infantilizing.

        It seemed to me your were invoking Tutu earnestly in support of your spiritually inflected politics. Hence, an earnest reply.

        I regard Occupy as a complete failure precisely because it was as much a religious movement as a political awakening if not moreso. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Yeah that’ll work. Gandhi said it so it must be true. That community shit left me cold, especially given that Occupy was the most atomized political movement one could possibly imagine, everyone to their own politics doing their own little thing in it, more intent on self-realization seemingly than anything else. That people talk about it as if it weren’t an abject failure is indicative of what was most wrong with it.

        I don’t place any value on hope at all except as a coping mechanism, though I think it’s a good idea for people to know what they want in the world and what they think the world is capable of giving.

      • wendyedavis says:

        Agreed; my quoting Tutu without explanation, was confusing. And yes, the putative Left indeed loves heroes, and once anointed, few are able to recalibrate once their clay feet become obvious. Re: the holograms; under a current post about Snowden and the holograms at FDL, one woman said: ‘Think Snowden is a hologram’; I crowed out loud. Chomsky: I can’t even remember why I’d turned off to him. But Old Sourpuss Hedges (forest’s link an exception) and his ‘The Cancer in Occupy’ (US version) sure did cause the movement/s (including UnOccupy, DeColonize, both key concepts, imo) to nationally falter nationally for too long, and I regret that he chose himself as the national spokesperson.

        You may be right that the movement was spiritual, but it was also socially/economically pragmatic, what with the Move Your Money, Buy Student Debt, Occupy Sandy relief, Don’t Shop, worker-owned businesses, anti-capitalism, supporting wage slave and teacher strikes, and the like. But I don’t agree that it failed; *publicly*, it was crushed, as DHS organized the week or two when every encampment across the nation was evicted, and often very violently. But the movement still lives, both under the radar and in Popular Resistance (formerly the October 2011 movement). The concept of horizontal democracy, while unwieldy, likely frightened the PTB, as did the many GAs feeding and advocating for the homeless and mentally ill. In some ways, knowingly or not, they were recreating the Zapatista revolution and movement, which is one of my ‘benchmarks’, I guess I’d say; bottom to top government, cooperative education and arts, sustainable agriculture, gender equality (new to them) and more.

        But no, most GAs were adamant that no lists of demands be made, lest they not be representative of all, no peeps should run for office as ‘Occupy candidates’, etc.

        I’d have thought that calling out the dark and the evil in the realm, whether by Black Prophetic Tradition, art, poetry, and literature…almost implied a modicum of visionary hope, even if just planting seeds that may grow later, echoed by this from Chris Floyd, (with echoes of Lech Walesa, iirc):

        “”But there’s nothing else for it. We must keep sounding the alarm, even in the face of almost certain defeat. What else is our humanity worth if we don’t do that? And if, in the end, all that we’ve accomplished is to keep the smallest spark of light alive, to help smuggle it through an age of darkness to some better, brighter time ahead, is that not worth the full measure of struggle? ”
        Not that it’s any major point, but the end of Brother West’s quote about not being an optimist, was “…but I am a prisoner of hope”. Guess on my good days, I still have some.
        Ha, I just got email notification that a commenter at my home website just clipped a couple paragraphs of Henry Giroux’s new post on Dyson’s hit piece on Cornell. (I’d posted your link on one recent thread)
        Accept my apologies for taking up so much of your bandwidth on this.

      • Tarzie says:

        Don’t worry about taking up bandwidth. I like long comments and people who comment a lot.

        I see what you mean about the practical side of Occupy, but there’s also a problem of spreading oneself thin. I respected Occupy Sandy a lot, and participated in it, but I don’t think filling in for a negligent state accomplishes much in the long run, though it’s good to do, just as all low overhead charity work is. Generally I think this pragmatic side of Occupy was a very small part of the whole thing. I think its most conspicuous effect was appropriating a rare upsurge in class resentment and running it into the ground, while keeping the political system almost entirely free from attack.

        We’ll remain at an impasse over Occupy and prophetic politics and we’ve both said a lot so probably best to move on to other topics.

      • wendyedavis says:

        Yes, we seem to have exhausted it, except for – – – (no, just teasing). Thanks for your indulgence.

      • babaganusz says:

        Letterman politically conscious enough

        i always wonder whether someone in big media for that long is exactly as politically conscious as they are willing to be:
        the Truman [Show] Filter?
        i would give many comedians extra credit in this department as well, but i’ve had no exposure to Dave’s off-air work (nor caught him much since the ’80s, really).

  3. AnonMahn says:

    I also had largely discounted West on account of past subservience in the Chomsky vein and even when agreeing with his assessments regarded him, as one said, as “a mile wide and an inch deep”. I participated in street actions on Ferguson, in St. Louis city, in October 2014 (the events became known as “Occupy SLU”), and he indeed has been not holding punches and increasingly aligning himself with the Black Lives Matter movement. At some point, he became aligned with The Stop Mass Incarceration Network (and Carl Dix), which although it does good work, is suspect due to it being an arm of the RevCom (the Revolutionary Communist Party) , which largely is a cult of Bob Avakian.

    Although not a statist, I share a Marxian critique of capitalism, so my criticism is of the statism and provincialism of communists in general and of the cult status of RevCom in specifics. Anyway, imagine the ire of The Establishment if West’s affiliation were more widely known. It must be known already among some political operators and I wouldn’t be surprised that something is made of it eventually. This comment may increase exposure of the affiliation, as I think it’s more widely read than you may think, but it would be figured out eventually. I agree there’s an incipient collaborative take down campaign of West in the works. Either the conclusion is West can be cajoled back into the fold or is too far gone and muse be erased.

    • Tarzie says:

      I think they’re aware of the Avakian connection. I saw someone mention it to Michael Dyson to illustrate how generous he was for not bringing it up. They may be holding some smears in abeyance for later release or they’re could be other reasons they’re not introducing that. A lot of people like Carl Dix are tactical Democrats. It could be that they don’t want to antagonize them, or they may not wish to give them any attention at all.

  4. Chris Floyd says:

    This is great stuff. It seems obvious that it’s been decided that West has gone too far — talking that way on Letterman, for god’s sake, with millions of impressionable youth watching! Nice catch, too, on the way Letterman — as you say, probably unconsciously — cut off any move toward systemic criticism. This is another function the Dyson attack serves: “personalizing” the issues, turning into a catfight. Anyway, thanks very much for pointing these out. — And “anguished suffering”! That really nailed the whole lib-prog dance with power.

  5. haptic says:

    No time to comment, just, thank you for writing these, Tarzie. Dyson piece was deeply dispiriting to read. The cruelty of the liberal auto-immune response is astonishing. Your essential issue has always been how ideology protects itself, and you have nailed it with these. Please write more.

  6. shelley says:


    • Tarzie says:

      Substantive. Thanks. Always great when people from elite private universities stop by. How are things at NYU?

      • shelley says:

        Double yuck. Yucky yucky yucky. I liked your earlier series on free speech. Too bad.

      • Tarzie says:

        Well you can’t please everyone, but if you’re gonna hang around could you offer something useful? This is literally 6th grade stuff. No, second grade. I don’t mind actual criticism but this is just stupid. Pay your way around here or fuck off.

        What is it about West’s spiel that you find so objectionable?

      • shelley says:

        Pay my own way? Would that be by telling you how great a thinker you are, oh non elite mr Tarzan of the street cred intelligentsia ! That’s the zeitgeist of your commenters!

        Cornel West says that Obama didn’t make a single speech about the outsized inequality in America because it was, in the non elite Dr West’s words, “political calculation”. The President of the United States is an eager pawn out for himself and a racist serving the 1%. It all comes down to Jews in the end anyway, as West claims Obama prefers the company of Whites and Jews, when it should be the concept of the president’s alliance with Whiteness that is at issue.

      • Tarzie says:

        Oh fuck’s sake. I think I’m within my rights to expect more from ostensible adult commenters than yuck yuck yuckety yuck. It’s really not that much to ask is it? I was encouraging you not to embarrass yourself a third time.

        As to your comment, you do seem to have identified some muddiness in West’s thinking, on one hand saying Obama’s just making political calculations and on the other crediting Obama’s politics to kinship with whiteness. But few of us are free of that kind of sloppiness. It’s not like one entirely contradicts the other.

        I find West’s spiel about political calculation and Fox News and the right-wing overly generous and I wish he’d dispense with it. Seems like residue from when he was a supporter, akin to Ralph Nader’s periodic letters to Democrats, exhorting them to stop capitulating. West is closer to the mark when he talks about Obama’s ambition and lack of integrity.

        Still not quite clear on what your beef is with West. I don’t think the remark about Whites and Jews was anti-semitic, though it was poorly worded and not one of his better moments.

  7. Abonilox says:

    Thanks as always. Frankly Obama has brought out the best in West. I’ve always liked him but pre-Obama he came off as loopy. Thank the heavens for tenure. This is one black man that the libs wish would shut the fuck up.

  8. forest says:

    “It is a spiritual issue,” West said. “What kind of person do you choose to be? People say, ‘Well, Brother West, since the mass of black folk will never be free then let me just get mine.’ That is the dominant response. ‘I am wasting my time fighting a battle that can’t be won.’

  9. robertmstahl says:

    Thank you, once more! There is one thing, only, that Cornel West is absolutely wrong about, not that almost everyone else is not, that about Lincoln:

    • Tarzie says:

      I think you can see the end of slavery over which Lincoln presided as progress regardless of what you think of him as a person.

      • babaganusz says:

        attribution? ‘credit where credit is due’? … hard to inject any nuance when more and more folks seem to mistake the map for the territory.

      • robertmstahl says:

        Since evolution is tendency or drift, I tend to think slavery would have ended in due course (without the bloodshed) instead of having matriculated to where it is today, so dominantly asymmetric while the elevated gestalt continually positions the strong over the weak, and wherever they may lie, a monkey wrench psychology with the power over flipping a switch, just, wherever stereotypical and racist elements can remain lodged in Nazi-perpetuating times we reside.

        Just as the Berlin Wall would have come down on its own because everyone knew that Russia, beforehand was, just, the country mouse of capitalism and where so much corruption ensued vis a vis the profiteering of any collapse; then, as anything UNDENIABLY liberal right now, the only perspective that I retain about it at the moment is in David Cronenberg’s latest movie, “Maps to the Stars.” That WOULD describe the territory… this cultural landscape, or the ignorance about how the spiral really cannot be right-handed to be liberal.

        Considering how Right Lincoln was, how can one have been such a war monger so long ago and, still today, get credit for solving slavery? Does the Moon “preside” over the Sun rising and setting? Are we agreeing with Letterman just because of the larger point you make, or West makes, which is so true?

      • I think that slavery was sufficiently evil that, even if its dissolution was inevitable, reducing its duration even a small amount counts as a good thing. I’m assuming you wouldn’t disagree and are instead arguing that Lincoln’s actions just prolonged slavery by driving it to take a different form? And that therefore, the benefits did not outweigh the costs?

        I suppose this could be arguable, but I wouldn’t want to argue it. First the assumption that the evolution of which you speak would have led to a better outcome is highly speculative and unsupported by any direct evidence or comparable developments elsewhere in history.

        Additionally your calculation is flawed by the implication that the continuation of slavery in its antebellum form would not involve bloodshed comparable to the war itself. Aside from the unquatifiable evil of simply owning people, however well they could be hypothetically treated, the slave trade killed far more people than the civil war (20 million IIRC) in simply bringing the slaves to the New World. Once here, the amount of violence involved in the discipline and exploitation of human beings in bondage was extremely high, not to mention the casual violence, such as rape, which while incidental to the economic exploitation, was nevertheless an inevitable result of deeming some people to be less human property.

      • robertmstahl says:

        I think that “liberal” has everything to do with spinning things in a direction that is nature’s, that the whole universe has “directional spin” and a timeline that goes with it, and that the opposite to this “spin” does more damage than just confusing the direction. Liberal is a direction and being a step in time.

        If you think there is a timeline to evolution, then, (where I could cite atrocity after atrocity ad infinitim, not just this stereotyping issue – the rape of Nanking, Gengis Kahn, Christopher Columbus, perhaps “Maps to the Stars” in the future, etc.) there is development along the way, but always convergence, simply because there is convergent mathematics, and chaos that dooms the formal laws of attraction, that tendency, or drift.

        Today, that “development” is (or, is not) taking the form of being more open to the processes of life, not violence, and in a lot of ways more closed to controversy simply because to get “there” there shouldn’t be anything that deliberately gets in the way of thought when there just isn’t any controversy to begin with. This is where science really belongs, but has failed up to now. Really, it is the definition of the Fog of War, the controversy.

        The object is to be more capable of moving your personal electrons across the fissure between the hemispheres, thus the membranes of all the cells in question (a bit ideal…), provided it is supported by the landscape of culture, of development and not chaos. If Lincoln is the opposite of this “spin” and a total war monger, then I do not want to start believing in opposite world, particularly because of all the atrocities of history, not just this band in the spectrum.

        Rudolf Steiner said that evil in our day would be more of a 50/50 proposition than the concept of 100%, more Ahriman-like than Lucifer-like. In any event, Lucifer was Jesus’s big brother, so I know what I am stepping into here.

  10. RUKidding says:

    Thanks, Tarzie, for continuing to inform about the smear campaign against Cornell West. I don’t own a tv, so I read with interest the commentary from West on Letterman and CNN. In a word, I was pretty blown away by what he said, and it points to, in my pea brain, a reason for Dyson’s attack. Well, didn’t “they” really go after MLK once he started questioning US Imperialism, the VN war (which was killing a larger number of young black males, than other races, not to mention the unmentionable VN citizens, soldiers, etc), plus other issues of class/economics in the USA? The PTB were rather more sanguine when MLK was initially attempting to improve the plight of blacks in America, but please do not question authority about money, War, etc.

    Like some others have posited, I, too, sometimes find West a bit difficult to follow (a failing on my part, no doubt). I had less of a personal opinion about his political stance/whatever vis Obama (in the initial days of Obama’s tenure as Pres). That West may have been praising O at first seems, well, kind of what someone like West might do. I’m not sure how long West kept up his praise. I guess I’ve tuned into West more after he became more critical, which was a huge relief! At least one black leader was speaking the truth. Must get lonely.

    The recent discussions on more mainstream tv are impressive, albeit I’m sad to admit that such viewpoints are so rarely expressed almost anywhere but esp out in the M$M. Shouldn’t be that way, but it is so. And it explains a lot .

    Many talk about Obama wanting to “burnish his image/legacy” and have “history” remember him as way more progressive than he is. I don’t know. Perhaps that is true. To me, O just seems like the Sell Out of all Sell Outs, who’s in it for the money, power, fame, adulation, whatever. O is utterly secure in going down in history as the first black POTUS, so what else does he care about? I could be wrong.

    It seems obvious that West has to be shut up, though, in these waning days of O’s tenure. IMO, it’s more about the cross-over to the coronation of HRC (should the 1% make it so). After all, HRC’s hubby was originally deemed the first black Pres, so there’s that tie-in. If West is going after Obama, what will he do vis Clinton? I’m sure the PTB simply don’t like it, anyway, so STFU.

    I hope West stays safe. MLK did not. Will end there… hoping for the best.

  11. Pingback: “Kill your idols”: Chelsea Manning and the reactionary “left” – Leftist Critic

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