It was personal.
In Michael Eric Dyson’s takedown for the New Republic of his friend and mentor Cornel West, he has a come-to-Jesus moment that is neither pretty nor kind, but painfully blunt. The realization comes to Dyson that West is a parody of the intellectual he once was, that his vicious and often personal attacks on President Barack Obama have come at a cost: the loss of his credibility.
And the loss of their 35-year friendship.
Dyson’s story, “The Ghost of Cornel West,” is a tale of transgressions, verbal and personal, of bruised egos and hurt feelings, of a father figure lashing out at the perceived ease of youth and the successes of those for whom he laid a path.
It is a work of loss that is also an unmasking.
For Georgetown professor Dyson, West—once an emperor among his peers—no longer wears his scholarly clothes, but can still evoke the phrases and popularized passages that remind you of who he once was.
Dyson writes of the Princeton scholar, “It is not only that West’s preoccupations with Obama’s perceived failures distracted him, though that is true; more accurate would be to say that the last several years revealed West’s paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work, a trend far longer in the making. West is still a Man of Ideas, but those ideas today are a vain and unimaginative repackaging of his earlier hits.”