Hedges and West Vilify Obama

Posted on September 13, 2013 by

Though many progressives are deeply frustrated and disappointed with Barack Obama, Chris Hedges and Cornel West have gone off the deep end in a recent piece:

“The wide swath of destruction Obama has overseen on behalf of the corporate state,” writes Hedges, “includes the eradication of most of our civil liberties and our privacy…”

I wouldn’t go that far but I get the point about NSA surveillance.  For Hedges, however, this is just the prelude to his warning about another chilling feature of the Obama Age, what he calls the “insidious and largely unseen effort by the White House to silence the handful of voices that remain true to the black prophetic tradition.”

By that he means the tradition of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass which “has consistently named and damned the cruelty of imperialism and white supremacy.”

Fair enough, I suppose, but then Hedges turns to Princeton Professor Cornel West whose scorn for Obama becomes palpable and personal.

West calls Obama “a shell of a man” and a “sad spectacle… the head of an empire that is in such decline and so dangerous.”

“The most pernicious development,” says West, “is the incorporation of the black prophetic tradition into the Obama imperial project”

“We are talking about crimes against humanity – Wall Street crimes, war crimes, the crimes of the criminal justice system…crimes against our working poor,” he continues.

I can tolerate his use of hyperbole, but then West crosses over to expose his own indecency and self-loathing.  Critiquing the black professional and political class, which he finds complicit with the “American authoritarian regime,” West – astonishingly – describes this phenomenon as ”re-niggerization.”

They have big money, nice positions, comfort and convenience, but are scared, intimidated, afraid to tell the truth and will not bear witness to justice.  Those who are incorporated into the black professional and political class are willing to tolerate disrespect for the black masses and sip their tea and accept their checks and gain access to power.  That is what niggerization is – keeping people afraid and intimidated.”

Ideological outliers like Hedges and West can sometimes hit the mark.  But they’re dangerous when they collude.  That’s when they’re most likely to reveal themselves as offensive, self-aggrandizing or just plain loony.

Comments (2)


  1. John Connolly says:

    It is admittedly un-nerving to read the blunt assessment of President Obama by Cornel West.
    Indeed, while it is a relief to read that Professor West insists that his remarks are not personal, reading them stings the heart and conscience.

    President Obama through his own political orientation has been hoist on the petard of the Democratic Party’s contradictions, hung out to dry, … and then has been repeatedly gored by the mad cows of Tea Party rage and racism.

    The key element here is the legislative stranglehold in Congress by the Hard Right in the guise of the “spontaneous” — in fact manufactured — Tea Party. The 2010 ascendance of this personally vicious, racist-tolerant current gave both “mainstream” Republicans and Democrats the excuse that they were helpless to move reasonable House legislation forward in the face of intransigent Tea Party numbers. In fact similar excuses were used in the Senate, where Republican minority thug tactics — the very whisper of the “virtual” filibuster — stopped most legislation and confirmations cold for two years.

    The emotional/political violence of the Tea Party — so often bordering on actual physical violence and assassination threats — has imposed a psychological/emotional norm of near-hysteria on Washington discourse practically shutting down the long-institutionalized machinery of Two-Party Compromise/Consensus that has become the modus operandi of governing, bringing much of the government to a grinding halt either by intimidation or defunded starvation or both.
    It is so reminiscent of the angry xenophobic “Know-Nothings” of the late 19th Century — or of certain nominally “radical anti-capitalist” (and actually anti-Semitic) currents in the early stages of the Nazi Party in 1920′s Germany before their seizure of actual state power.

    Newt merely preached drowning Government in the bathtub … the Tea Party cat’s paw of Right-Wing Capital is well on the way to actually doing it.
    And then stealing the bloody water.

    Meanwhile the majority of Democrats and the President haven’t even figured out an effective way to put up a fight — a lot of them don’t want to put up a fight at all, they just want to hunker-down til the nastiness dies down, then get back to business-as-usual. These are of course the cynics, careerists and Fixers to whom governing is “The Government Business”, like representing workers is “The Trade Union Business” to some Labor “leaders”.

    President Obama, a decent and thoughtful person, has tried time and again to reason his way out of the corners that either the Right or his own seeming passivity has continually boxed him into. But the Right is playing For Keeps not Compromise, Guts not Governance. Witness the bland cynical agility employed by both Boehner-ites and Tea Baggers in leaping from one vile or racist hobby-horse to the next — today Birther nonsense, tomorrow the hated Obamacare, thence onto a quick turnaround from opposing US intervention in Syria to attacking the President for not intervening early and enough. Convenient, contemptible, contradictory … and maybe successful in painting our first African-American President as an inept buffoon.

    By this I am not excusing Barack Obama. He has chosen his Party, his Politics, … and his Poison.
    Cornel West’s upbraiding of the President is harsh, strident, even shocking.
    But most of his facts are NOT wrong.

    Class is not trumping race; but Trump-ism has employed the seductions of Wealth and Class to cut across racial solidarity among the suddenly-affluent minority of Black people and working class and poor Black people; and has seriously eroded empathy for the people trashed by racism … which allegedly — thanks to NBA millionaires, musical artists, Oprah, et al — has been eliminated … in a version of our national imagination at least.

    The dead-end of Lesser-Evil Politics — the classic Social Democratic trap/argument of the necessity of supporting Democrats with all their foibles and treacheries, against the Absolutely Evil Republicans — inevitably and by definition, still leaves us with an Evil.
    It has been key in preventing the Labor Movement from creating a Workers or Socialist Party in the United States that could contend for mass influence against one or two complicit, baldly pro-Captialist parties.
    The Ultimate-Practical-Realists, many of whom have made millions in “The Government Business”, sneer at this scenario as the dead-end of Leftist Wishful Thinking … that average Americans could ever be won to any politics of solidarity, struggle and progress.
    In fact THAT attitude, and its attendant cash reward, constitutes the entirety of “The Genius of the Two-Party System” we’ve oft heard tell of.

    Meanwhile President Obama — “… An Honorable Man, So Are They All Honorable Men…” slowly, agonizingly twists in the wind. Looking more and more alone and tragic. High-minded ideals kicked to the curb by thuggery and cynicism.
    Lynched, by Foul Foe… and Fair-weather Friend … and here I am NOT referring to Cornel West, but to the proto-Facists of the Tea Party and their Koch-quistadore Bosses; and to the Dastardly Dems who Don’t Want to Fight, who can No Longer Fight, who taught Obama NOT to Fight.
    Those who constructed what the late, great Daniel ?Singer of The Nation called the TINA Syndrome …. There Is No Alternative.

    When the stakes were highest and The Right most vicious in the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt at least went to Rhetorical War with the “Economic Royalists”.
    “I Welcome Their Hatred,” said he, Scion of the Liberal Ruling Class that he was.

    President Obama may be sticking to his Rationalist-Constitutionalist Principles by even-handedly talking about his “…Friends on the Right … and the Left”, but in fact he’s making no Friends on either side and may well be condemning his Presidency to historical irrelevance and tragic terminal paralysis.

    It doesn’t matter if he Welcomes the hatred of the Racist Right. He already has it.
    But he is making enemies of those who SO desperately want to be his Friends.

    Clearly a Genius at the Political Mathematics of Election Strategy; can the President NOT figure out the Insightful Calculus that lets “The Red Wedge Split the White Front” … to use a totally tendentious yet strangely appropriate analogy, from a striking Mayakofsky poster for the Bolsheviks.

    Lead, Mr. President. Fight. And maybe together we can Win.

    John Connolly

  2. Marc Cooper says:

    West comes off as an Obama jilted lover. He speaks of a concerted effort by Obama to silence the entirety of black prophetic tradition but the only victim he comes up with is the dubious Rev. Jeremiah Wright. As to Hedges, well, some years ago he returned to his Christian seminarian roots and now manifests himself as a narrow political fundamentalist preaching to a very small choir. None of this negates the insightful remarks from my old pal John Connolly.

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