The more I hear from Dr. Cornel West, the less I can distinguish him from Kanye West. The arc of their influence is similar, although the scale for Kanye is understandably a million times greater. While both of these men have talent, they are both purely derivative figures, mainly sampling and remixing the original works of true creators that came before them to boost their own careers. But it makes perfect sense because evidently Cornel West just wants to be an entertainer anyway. How else do you explain that silly costume he insists on wearing all the time? He looks like a character from a Quinten Tarantino movie that wound up on the cutting room floor. I can understand that on some level he may have wanted to channel the spirit of an authentic black American hero and activist like Frederick Douglass, but co-opting his clothes and hairstyle is mawkish and corny. It is the kind of gambit that makes him seem smart to people who just don’t know any better. In that respect, he is a lot more like Newt Gingrich than he is like Frederick Douglass. And most of us know Newt is a phony crusader masking his self-promotion and opportunism as scholarly insight. Sounding smart to stupid people can be quite a lucrative racket. Just ask our president-elect.
Since Dr. West has obviously decided that his path to greater and more lasting fame is to become the chief assailant of President Obama’s legacy from the left, my assessment of him will begin by stating the simple truth that he has never accomplished a damned thing with all of his posturing, protesting and pontificating. He does not have a legacy to defend or attack. Considering he has been on the scene with a platform for about 30 years now, that is unimpressive.
He is the type of media whoring scandal jockey that undermines the cause of progressivism by making it into a business. I understand that he will be returning to Harvard to teach this year after getting dumped almost 15 years ago for failing to carry the weight required to be a working professor at an elite institution. Instead of teaching students and producing scholarly work, he wanted to go Hollywood- inexplicably showing up in a bit role in The Matrix movies. But I suppose all of the noise he made during the Obama presidency opened up the door for him to attract enough media attention to lure students to his classes again. Dr. West may be under the impression that he is fooling people with his phony baloney “speaking truth to power” bulls#it. But my suspicion is that many people know instinctively that he is as fake as a plastic banana- or that ridiculous national “poverty bus tour” that he and Tavis Smiley embarked on as President Obama’s was preparing for re-election. Does anybody know who funded that circus side-show designed to signal the world that the bloom was off Barack’s rose right before he hit the trail to maintain his seat in the Oval Office? Anytime you hold yourself out as a progressive activist and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are hyping your protests for you, you are doing something dreadfully wrong.
I’d bet my check that most people can see that Cornel West is deeply jealous of Barack Obama. Quite frankly, a lot of older black men are and they have been caught expressing it a time or two over the last ten years. Here is the shot: Men like Dr. West, Dr. Ben Carson, Tavis Smiley and even Rev. Jesse Jackson used to be a much bigger deal in black America than they are today. When Barack Obama exploded onto the scene, these men shrunk in significance instantly. And none of them took it well. It really is that simple. Whatever they had achieved was less significant because it paled in comparison to what Barack had done. It’s rough but it’s real. Barack reached heights that these guys literally never imagined were possible and he turned the world on its ear.
Of course, Jesse ran for President but he was making a statement. His appearance on the ballot was purely symbolic and victory was never in the realm of possibility. The fact is that while these men had committed themselves to fighting the power, Barack committed himself to becoming the power. That is a different proposition altogether and it was paradigm shifting because he succeeded. Black men in the public arena can no longer expect to define themselves purely in terms of the effectiveness of their protests. Because of Barack Obama, black men are now properly on the hook to produce solutions in a way that we haven’t been in decades and that is his greatest achievement of all. Some noteworthy black men were smart when they saw the Obama train coming and jumped on board (give it up to Reverend Sharpton). Some were dumb and tried to derail it. And some switched gears midstream (nicely played Reverend Jackson). To a man, those that went the derail route, like Cornel West, have effectively cashed in their credibility amongst black people to maximize their profile and profits, even at the cost of becoming a pariah.
Perhaps the worst thing about Cornel West’s latest attack on President Obama’s tenure is that under close inspection, it is nothing more than nonsensical word salad, peppered with words like “neoliberal,” “soulcraft” and “gangsterization”. WTF? And perhaps this Princeton educated man of the ivory tower is unaware, but presidents do not “reign.” His use of such terms reflects a hysterical and reactionary thought process that cannot be taken seriously. His latest offering is all sound and fury with no substance reflecting an understanding that the Presidency is not a platform for protests- which is evidently all Dr. West can understand or relate to. The American Presidency is the top official position in the world- representing all Americans with complete and total accountability.
This man’s complaints against President Obama amount to bitter ravings that he didn’t support protestors all across the country by putting Wall Street executives and police officers in jail. Meanwhile he closes his ridiculous diatribe with the phrase “even as we warriors go down swinging in the fading names of truth and justice” reflecting the depth of his megalomania and delusion. Dr. West, do yourself and the world a favor: go sit down and shut up. Enough is enough. You aren’t saying anything worth hearing and nobody gives a damn anymore. You are a Socialist, for God’s sake, so you cannot be laboring under the misimpression that serious policy makers or conscientious citizens give a damn what you think. So take a note from Kanye, the most culturally significant West on the scene today, and abandon all pretense that you care about anything as much as you care about the media attention you can generate and whatever benefit it can bring you. I grudgingly admit that Kanye’s mastery of that exercise in candor may be fairly described as his genius. At least he is being real in that regard which is much more than anyone can say about you.