Cornel West’s Slow Slide Into Darkness

“I love you now but I’ll hate you later.”

There used to a half-serious joke that once Michael Jackson’s skin turned White and his nose started falling off, it wasn’t the real Michael Jackson.   The real Michael was sick or locked away somewhere and this freakish clone of him was the one being wheeled out to the public.

Is that what happened to Cornel West?   There’s a guy running around who looks like him.   He sort of sounds like him if Cornel West only talked about how much he despises President Obama.    He even wears the only suit in West’s closet.   It’s too bad it isn’t a clone of Cornel West trashing his own rep while he trashes the president.   It would be even easier to dismiss him as a bitter hater than it already is.

West’s latest in a series of tiresome tirades short of any intellectual insights, but long on street-level smack talk came in an interview with Tavis “Sub-Prime” Smiley, the Iago to West’s Othello:

Smiley:  “What’s your sense of how the media, and not just Fox News but beyond that, your read as you’ve been watching this, how the media handled this case?”

West:  “I think that it’s been decrepit though, brother. I mean, you get a focus on some of the upper middle class folk. I mean, what I call the ‘rent-a-negro’ phenomenon on MSNBC.”

This is almost funny.   West snipes at his former allies, Rev. Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson (and longtime adversary, Melissa Harris-Perry) for appearing on MSNBC  (a network that has given West plenty of face time) while his best buddy Smiley has whored himself out to such corporations as Wal-Mart, Exxon, Wells-Fargo and McDonald’s.  This does not trouble West as he is represented by Smiley for book publishing and speaking engagements (West earns up to $25,000  to speak).

In other words, if you got the cash, you can rent West and Smiley’s ashy asses.    If MSNBC came calling and offered West and Smiley a show, how fast would they run not walk to sign on the dotted line?

The dizzying descent of West as an intellectual has been rapid and sad to behold.  West has permitted the unscrupulous  Smiley to co-opt him into a sustained and relentless campaign of negativity and baseless criticism of President Obama and any Black person who doesn’t share West and Smiley’s opinion.

“Eff me? Eff YOU! My dear brother.”

The roots of West’s rage trace back to when Obama’s first inauguration.  West was angry Obama hadn’t personally thanked him for his support and  ensuring West was invited to the inauguration.

“There is the personal level,” he says. “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.”

“What it said to me on a personal level,” he goes on, “was that brother Barack Obama had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to? That was on a personal level.”

What that says to me is the only thing bigger on Cornel West than the gap between his teeth and his busted-ass Afro is his ego. It’s as big as outdoors and Dear Brother Cornel likes to have his ego stroked frequently and often.

I respect Dear Brother West. I bought Race Matters by the Dear Brother because race does matter and so did his observations.. I watched the Dear Brother on television and heard the Dear Brother speak when he came to town. I believe the Dear Brother is one of our greatest thinkers.

When the Dear Brother bothers to think. He stopped doing that when he let his ego, the only thing larger than his ‘fro, slip off the leash and he turned himself into a vicious, hypocritical, small-minded hater and it seems to be no coincidence the descent from renowned intellectual to annoying crank came when another blood enemy of Obama began whispering sweet nothing in the acclaimed academic’s ears.

The Enabled and the Enabler.

West hasn’t written a meaningful book, penned a useful article or expressed an original thought since 2008 when he got butthurt over Obama not kissing his ass or give him a position of prominence in his administration as he did with West’s nemesis from Harvard, Larry Summers.

Seriously, isn’t Cornel West starting to look like a hip-hop Hobbit?

It seems the longer West hangs around Smiley the crazier he sounds.   Smiley’s enemies (Obama, Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Eric Dyson) have become West’s enemies.  By lending his diminishing clout to Smiley, West only diminishes his own reputation and enhances Smiley.

West needs to put several time zones of distance between himself and Sub-Prime Smiley and get back to thinking like an intellectual instead of babbling like a damn fool.   If West were as smart as he believes himself to be, he’d realize Smiley is playing him the way a pimp plays a ho.

Sharpton, West, Dyson: Once friends, now foes.

15 thoughts on “Cornel West’s Slow Slide Into Darkness

  1. Several points:

    1. I’m stunned that the author believes West is “one of our greatest thinkers.” West is loud and visible but not very deep.

    2. The genesis of West’s problem with Obama is pretty petty.

    3. All this being said, the suggestion that criticism of Obama is unwarranted is silly. Prior to the Zimmerman verdict, Obama was MIA in regard to African-American concerns. He insulted tblack people generally at a CBC dinner, threw Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod under the bus, and is constantly advising blacks to exercise personal responsibilty, most recently at Morehouse’s commencement. I dont see him telling hispaniscs or gay people or tea partiers to exercise personal responsibility.


    • So on one hand you say Obama has been “MIA in regard to African-American concerns” (which isn’t true, but we’ll table that discussion), but is constantly advising Blacks to exercise personal responsibility (is that a bad thing?) and not telling Hispanics, gay people or Tea Partiers to do likewise.

      Well, I don’t think the issues facing Blacks are exactly the same thing as the ones facing Hispanics (illegal immigration and a path to citizenship) or gay people (same-sex marriage, “don’t ask, don’t tell), but I see where you’re going, Georgia Litigator.

      I just don’t agree with you on that part. 😎


      • Yet what has Obama done? And since when is the exercise of personsal responsibility solely the burden of black people? Obama made that crack about whites in the Bible Belt clinging to their guns and religion, was called out by the press, and hasnt said anything about them since. But these people live in states that suck resources out of the North and what does Obama have to say about them? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. But he’s gotta tell a class of college graduates at an HBCU to be responsible? Really?

        While white unemployment has decreased considerably, black unemployment has barely budged. Moreover, he’s recycled the same cabinet members Clinton used. No African Americans except Holder? C’mon son, you tell me what he’s done.

        Look, I appreciate the fine line O has to walk given the present political clime and the issue of race. But making your bona fides on the backs of African Americans in order to show how willing you are to stand up to your own constituencies is pretty lame.


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  4. I almost agreed with some of the points in this op-ed until the author decided to criticize Dr. West, a man the author claims to consider one of the ‘greatest thinkers of our time,’ for his trademark appearance.

    The irony is that the very petty name calling that is being criticized her is also hypocritically being utilized. So the arguments them become baseless. Do better next time.


    • This is simply fighting fire with fire. Petty? Sure but when West does better so will I. This is a man who has called into question Obama’s Blackness and neither he nor I am qualified to attempt such a thing.

      Oh, and I seriously doubt there is any need to “trademark” West’s look. Who else would want it? 🙄


  5. Sorry, maybe I’m completely off-base and will stand alone when I say this but, Dr. West’s words on the poor, the working class, and the “so-called war on terror” connect with me. His criticisms about Obama are spot on. Just because something is unfortunate and inconvenient doesn’t make it any less true.


    • True. But Cornel West simply being critical doesn’t make it any more valid either. West acts as if there isn’t a Republican-controlled House, a Senate tied into knots by Republican obstructionism, a Tea Party that is even more rabidly anti-Obama than West and a right-wing noise machine through blogs, talk radio and Fox News haven’t joined forces to make President Obama less popular than George Zimmerman with Republicans.

      West’s lopsided criticism of the president while pointedly ignoring the political realities of the forces aligned against him makes for both poor analysis and an obvious sign of someone operating on a grudge, not looking out for Black people.

      Nothing about West’s criticisms are “spot on” as they are coming from a place of petty, personal animus.


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  7. I support Dr West in his many well thought out positions exposing the President lack of commitment to the poor and those who voted for him 90% + in the first and second elections- i voted for Obama once but after he threw his Pastor Rev Wright under the bus i knew who i was dealing with and my observations were not incorrect


  8. I agree with you Jeff. Folks seem to forget that Obama is the President of the United States not President of black people or the black community. We elected him to run the country and represent America to the World. Also, folks overlook how much he has done for poor and minority people. Remember the Republicans were yelling let the automotive industry go bankrupt while Obama fought for the industry. A majority of people who work in the auto industry are working class people (which includes black people). Also, he passed the Healthcare law, revamped the student loan system, and spoke up for Trayvon Martin and the teenage black girl who was killed in a Chicago Park. He is also fighting for a job’s bill. West and Smiley are a huge disappointment. Smiley issue is that he and Bob Johnson threw their support behind H. Clinton and she lost. After the election, Smiley expects Obama to overlook this and embrace him as an ally. Obama gave Smiley the Heisman (the straight arm that is) and kept it pushing. That’s politics! West is just dated and bitter. West needs to spend more time teaching, publishing, and directing dissertations for young black scholars as opposed to simply talking– saying the samething he was saying back in the 90s.


  9. The problem I have with this sort of opinion piece is that it relies almost entirely on two truly egregious, and unfortunately widely used, logical fallacies: the AD HOMINEM attack (in this case, going so far as assailing West’s physical appearance, such as the gap in his teeth and his hair) and the APPEAL TO MOTIVE (a variation on the ad hominem attack, claiming that some ulterior motive is the only possible explanation for West’s position). Both of these are tried and true tactics designed to distract attention from someone’s actual argument and thus avoid confronting it, typically because the counter-argument is quite weak. In fact, nowhere in this piece does Mr. Winbush even address West’s substantive criticisms of the Obama administration’s policies.

    Even if it were true that West is hurt on a personal level for what he perceives as slights by Obama, that does not exclude the possibility that he is also genuinely outraged by the Obama administration’s policies. I am fairly certain that most everyone of us feels that way toward someone we once worked with – a personal falling out combined with a growing distance on matters related to politics/morals/values. I also know that West is not alone in being outraged by the administration’s policies, whether with respect to the economy and trade, education, civil liberties, the environment, foreign policy, among others. Nor is it accurate to say that these policies have been forced on the administration by the Congress. No one has forced the administration to follow in its predecessors neoliberal economic, education and trade policies, to deport more immigrants and prosecute more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined, to carry out a drone war that has killed many civilians (including hundreds of women and children), or to expand the surveillance and security state. In fact, with respect to the last of these, the administration worked hard to prevent recent efforts in Congress to limit NSA surveillance. And if it goes ahead with its plans, Mr. Obama will appoint Larry Summers as head of the Federal Reserve and Ray Kelly as head of Homeland Security, over the objections of many in his own party.

    In short, it doesn’t help to advance debate on these matters by attacking the personal characteristics and speculating about the motives of the person offering the critique, especially when that critique is both substantive and serious. As Mr. Winbush notes, West has himself been guilty of engaging in personal attacks. However, the appropriate response to that is to call him out for it, not to up the ante by slinging even bigger slurs. It’s even more inappropriate to use it as an excuse to avoid West’s criticisms of the administration. In doing so, Mr. Winbush has disqualified his own argument. He can’t have it both ways. It’s unfortunate that this has become a pretty typical pattern of “debate” these days — dodging the issue through some fallacious distraction.


    • You write a pretty good critique, Mr. Barrett. You should be a writer.

      However, I reject your charge that by attacking the personal characteristics and speculating about the motives of Cornel West (and his notorious sidekick) my case against them is invalid. Unlike them, I am not driven by personal animus against the President or simply green-eyed envy and ego.

      If you were to open up your critique to include West and Smiley’s attacks on Obama are often personal, devoid of intellectual analysis and focused exclusively on belittling and emasculating the President, I could take it a bit more to heart. But as long as West’s ardent defenders (or is that “apologists”) remain stonily silent on the Dear Brother attacking Obama as a mascot of Wall Street while ignoring how his pal Smiley is a complete corporate shill and applaud his cheap shots on the President (while pointedly ignoring the obstructionism of the Republicans, your critiques are the real fallacious distractions.

      As I told someone else, if West were at all interested in using his diminishing clout and moral authority, he would find a way to engage and challenge the president to be the leader he originally supported. However, it seems West is simply more interested in scoring rhetorical points and being as dismissive, abusive and contemptuous of Obama as possible.

      Doing so may delight those who support West and share his disdain for the president, but as a tactic to bring about real results and systemic change, it’s completely worthless.

      Thanks for sharing.


      • Dear Mr. Winbush,

        I’m afraid that you’re now engaging in circular reasoning. You’re attempting to justify the use of ad hominem attacks and appeals to motive as valid forms of argumentation by simply repeating them. This only compounds the problem. These are always fallacious forms of argumentation, and never valid.

        Further, suppose we were to give you a pass on these for the sake of argument. You would then open yourself up to the same critique – while West is, according to you, driven only by personal ANIMUS toward the President, you would appear to be driven only by personal LOYALTY to the President. You also open yourself up to this critique by insisting that West can’t have it both ways – criticizing Obama for his ties to Wall Street but not criticizing Smiley for his corporate ties. In other words, if West can’t have it both ways, neither can you. Thus, if you’re going to insist that we focus on West’s supposed personal animus toward the President, you have to accept people rejecting your embrace of him as simply motivated by the opposite, especially since you have so far refused to engage West’s substantive critique of the administration’s policies.

        To make the point even clearer, let me end by relying on your last two paragraphs here.

        If you were at all interested in advancing a productive debate, you would find a way to engage and challenge Cornel West to be the leader you originally supported. However, it seems you are simply more interested in scoring rhetorical points, and being as dismissive, abusive and contemptuous of West as possible.

        Doing so may delight those who support Obama and share his disdain for West, but as a tactic to bring about real results and systemic change, it’s completely worthless.


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