Thu, 30 April 2015
More Dyson V West: Michael Eric Dyson Ain't No Muhammad Ali
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
What do you do when a lunatic or someone deeply unprincipled tries to pick a public fight with you? It can be a vexing problem, first because such people tend not to be honest about what their real beef is, and secondly because onlookers may easily decide that both parties to such a dispute are equally bankrupt and worth ignoring.
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson has done something very much like this to the man he calls one of his former mentors, Cornel West. Dyson's ten thousand word screed in the New Republic focuses at great length on West's alleged academic and personal shortcomings. But the current context of time and place and alliances at this, the official start of the 2016 presidential campaign season, mark Dyson's piece as an unmistakably political attack.
It's a profoundly disappointing and dishonest critique as well, failing as it does to grapple with any of the dozens of specific policy matters upon which Cornel West has harshly criticized the entire lack political class of black mayors, black preachers, black legislators and officials and of course the first black president. Michael Eric Dyson on the other hand, is eagerly scrambling for his place in the pecking order of that black political class. Dyson knows that nobody's career, nobody's bottom line has ever negatively affected because they sucked up to a sitting president, or to the next sitting president.
As in his 2012 debate with Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford, (part one here, part two here) all Dr. Dyson can do is throw up his usual “wall of words.” But Dyson cannot defend drone warfare across Africa and Asia. Dyson can't justify the TTP and TTIP, or Obama's Race To The Top program to privatize public schools in black neighborhoods across the country, all of which West denounces. Dyson can't explain Obama's deportation of two million people after he promised them a road to citizenship, or Obama's preventive detention laws or his refusal to prosecute the banksters who crashed the economy. So he talks about West's inflated ego. Dyson cannot defend Obama's arms deals in Africa, his support for GMOs at home, apartheid in Israel or his broken promises to raise the minimum wage early in his first term, or much of anything else, so he hones in on West's love of the limelight and his questionable status as a prophet.
In subsequent snippets, Dyson has inexplicably likened himself in conflict with West to Muhammad Ali. Dyson however lives in upside-down land. Dyson's inability to make winning political arguments on behalf of his masters renders him, like Muhammad Ali's early opponents, unable to lay a glove on the man. Whoever he is, Michael Eric Dyson ain't no Muhammad Ali.
Dyson is closer to Joe Frazier, but without the great champion's generosity, his humility or his integrity, without Joe's hands or Joe's heart. In fact the only part of Joe Frazier Dyson successfully channels is Joe's sense of aggrieved malice, which led Frazier to boast shortly before his death, that when one sees the visible impairment in Ali's face and manner, as Joe says, “I did that.” But unlike Joe Frazier with Ali, Dyson hasn't laid a glove on his opponent.
For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.. D
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.