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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/18/11

Cornel West's Disgust with Obama Should Not Make Him a Pariah

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As Hedges writes in his book The Death of the Liberal Class:


The liberal class' disposal of its most independent and courageous members has long been part of its pathology. The liberal class could afford this rate of attrition as long as the power elite remained accountable to the citizenry, managed power with a degree of responsibility and justice, governed so that it could still respond to the common good, and accepted some of the piecemeal reforms proposed by the liberal class. But as the state was slowly hijacked by corporations, a process that began after World War I, accelerated after World War II and was completed with ruthless efficiency over the past thirty years, the liberal class purged itself of the only members who had the fortitude and vision to save it from irrelevance.


Hedges calls out the "liberal class" for its complicity during "the rise of a new global oligarchy and the crushing poverty visited in globalization's wake on the poor and the working class." He suggests that a number of people in the "liberal class" have been "seduced by careerism." And, he goes through examples of individuals who have been turned into pariahs like Sydney Schanberg, Richard Goldstone, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Father Daniel Berrigan, I.F. Stone, and Howard Zinn.


The liberal class is expected to mask the brutality of imperial war and corporate malfeasance by deploring the most egregious excesses whiles studiously refusing to question the legitimacy of the power elite's actions and structures. When dissidents step outside these boundaries, they become pariahs. Specific actions can be criticized, but motives, intentions, and the moral probity of the power elite cannot be questioned.


That is not to say that Harris-Perry is a "careerist." That is not to say that Harris-Perry wrote her criticism of West with the intention of turning him into a pariah. But, her post published on The Nation's website yesterday quickly became one of the most read articles and, Wednesday morning, it is the most read post on right now. And, not only that: Harris-Perry's critique of West managed to push MSNBC host Ed Schultz to do a segment on his show on what West said in Hedges' interview and whether West is onto something in his analysis of Obama and his presidency.


Harris-Perry condemns West for getting personal but West doesn't get personal because he has a beef with President Obama. He becomes personal because he is genuinely distressed by the lack of access that he has to power. And, Harris-Perry should explain why citizens especially someone like West should have to accept the moneyed elites--those who can fill the campaign coffers for elections--are the first people the president dials.  


Finally, the loftiness of Harris-Perry's words in regards to West's suggestion that America's "last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens" and, perhaps, to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested "to galvanize attention to the plight of those in prisons, in the hoods, in poor white communities" is bothersome.


What would Harris-Perry suggest citizens do instead? Better, why does Harris-Perry so loftily react to West's suggestion that the only hope society has is rebellion?

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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