On Sunday I interviewed scholar Michael Eric Dyson about a new article he wrote for The New Republic, assailing Prof. Cornel West for his past personal attacks on President Obama, as well as Dyson and several of their contemporaries. Dyson, who considered West to be both a friend and his mentor, spoke to me about incidents that lead to their falling out, driving Dyson to write the 10,000+ word story in TNR.
“Something irrational is going on,” Dyson said, later adding, “It was the nastiness of the tone. The unprincipled assault. There’s a difference between that and ad hominem.”
West’s ever personal turn has “obscured the sometimes powerful and sometimes luminous and other times legitimate critique” he may have, according to Dyson.
“But when you weight it down under the burden of extraordinary, personal bitterness, it just wipes away all the good stuff that you might say and makes us question what it is about the motivation for your criticism in the long run,” he said.