Monday, February 27, 2006

This Week’s Award for Hyperbolically Mindless Rhetoric and Outrageous Overstatement, Made With the Certainty that You'll Never Be Called On it …

… goes to Cornel West, who, according to the
Houston Chronicle, offered the following while speaking this past weekend at conference on the “State of Black America” staged by radio talker Tavis Smiley at St. Agnes Church in south Houston:

There's a parallel between the killing fields of the slave ships ... and the killing fields of the Super Dome.
The Chronicle did not provide elaboration on West’s likening of the hurricane aftermath to the enslavement of Africans and their shipment to North America, but you can be sure that the Princeton professor of Afro-American Studies went on at length on the subject after Smiley declared himself angered "by the absence of any reference to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans" in President Bush's State of the Union speech last month (which, if that's what Smiley actually said---his remark ws paraphrased---is not exactly true).

But hold on: According to the Chronicle
One of the most strident panelists of the day was actor and activist Harry Belafonte who again called the president a terrorist and reminded the audience that the murders of civil rights leaders, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers, were acts of domestic terrorism. "This is not the first covenant," he said. "The civil rights movement and all we did was rooted in a covenant. I hope we will leave here today, with a sense of rebellion and a true sense of revolutionary action."
Belafonte must have been a lot more "strident" than that, since it's rare to see the Chronicle drop the unblinkered stenographic approach and actually describe a speaker as "strident." But based on those most likely narrow selections of the day's offerings, we’ll give the edge to West, as far as stridency goes.

Being an academic who specializes in a dubious discipline, West probably doesn’t consider himself bound by the same laws of rhetorical gravity that apply to most would-be experts, but you'd expect an Ivy League professor to approach a discussion of the "state of black America" with a bit more seriousness---and modesty---than, say, a singer and actor.

West drew a paycheck from Harvard until his feelings were bruised a few years ago by university president Larry Summers (now recently resigned), who had criticized West for, among other things, recording a rap album instead of devoting himself to serious scholarship.

That was the CD that West famously declared on his own Web site to be a “watershed moment in musical history.”

As you’ll recall.

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