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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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Chris Hedges is a prolific columnist, a bold opinion editorial writer with a flare for writing and allegory that few writers on the Internet today can match. Hedges conducted an interview with philosopher and author Cornel West. (It can be read in Hedges' latest column, "The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic.") 

Melissa Harris-Perry, a contributor to The Nation, chose to critique the words of Cornel West. Her critique was one of the top articles published yesterday.

Notably, Harris-Perry does not criticize Hedges for choosing to do an interview with West. She doesn't explicitly address Hedges' choice to anoint Cornel West a "moral philosopher" in a "morality play" depicting "Barack Obama's ascent to power." She, instead, excises an interview from Hedges' article and addresses West's criticisms in the context of her knowledge of the patronage model of politics that hampers black communities today.


Harris-Perry claims West has offered "thin criticism." Rather than pick apart his many critiques of Obama, she opts to attack his right to be outraged. She chooses to assess his association with his friend Tavis Smiley, host of "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS. And, she decides to cast his political transformation as a result of his delicate ego being damaged.


There is little reason to take issue with Harris-Perry's publishing of a critique of what West said. However, she doesn't really bother to address how West's criticism is the result of his ego and not because he is concerned for the "health of American democracy."


In her critique, she glosses over the appointment of his "neoliberal economic team," which included Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner. She doesn't address the appointment of neo-imperial elites like Dennis Ross. She ignores one of his most damning charges, which is that President Obama, like former President Bill Clinton, has helped to renew Americans' faith in the American project--presumably the same project the Bush Administration was expanding--through the use and exploitative manipulation of progressive populist language.


The urgency to West's words is disregarded entirely. That West appears to be genuinely distressed by the fact the greed of "Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats" persists and a "serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment" hasn't happened seems to be of little concern to Harris-Perry.


There would be little reason to mention these details, which are overlooked, if it weren't for the fact that it is articles like this, especially ones coming from respectable and well-educated individuals like Harris-Perry, that have the power to turn people like West into a pariah. And, turning outspoken critics on the left into pariahs when they become too critical of power is something the liberal class in this country has managed to do for the past decades.

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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 OpEdNews.com
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