West’s Democracy Matters My review of Cornel West’s Democracy Matters appears in the New York Times Book Review of 12 September 2004.
7 thoughts on “West’s Democracy Matters”
CLOSING LINE OF REVIEW:
"At the perilous task of disillusionment, journalists, however sentimental, have been doing a better job."
COMMENT: Bullshit. Caleb. (NOTE: "Bullshit" is a technical term in Rhetoric, not noisy profanity.)
The meaning of America has been destroyed by the "rhetorical incompetence" of journalists — their inability to "mediate" the public dialogue.
They have simply become repeaters of whatever "bullshit" (not lies, but the selective presentation of facts with the intent to mislead).e.g., the Bush administration is usually careful not to outright "lie," but rather rule by broadcasting "bullshit" — which rhetorically incompetently educated "journalists" REPEAT, since their "ideology of objectivity" gives them no direction in the face of pure bullshit.
Further, PROPRIETY prevents the use of the word "bullshit" — which thereby guarantees there is no way to effectively combat it. That which cannot be named, cannot be countered.
The Iraq Mess (not "war" — using that term is BULLSHIT, when a superpower attacks a non-superpower) — and the resulting destruction of the meaning of America around the world — would not have been possible if journalists were minimally competent to mediate the public dialogue.
The fact that DEMOCRATS are rhetorically incompetent is no excuse for journalists to NOT do their job — of mediation. AND yes, that means not simply repeating bullshit (no matter how "authoratative" the source), but "mediating" it.
Finally, yes, I have ignored all the reasonable — well-balanced — arguments in your review … because of the last line that proves you're just another — however articulate — BULLSHIT SPREADER.
I completely understand about bullshit being a technical term. And I concur with the frustration that journalists were not more critical much sooner, but I'd still argue that journalists have done a better job at disillusionment than other kinds of intellectuals.
By the way, some kind of tipping point seems to have been reached on this blog, w.r.t. people commenting.
I haven't read Cornel West's book, but I did read your review. It seems to me that your error is more significant than West's, if he is in error at all, on the subject of the connection between the Anthony Burns trial and Melville's father-in-law, Mass. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw. You quote West saying that Shaw "decreed that the fugitive ex-slave Anthony Burns return to his owner," and say of his statement that "it isn't true . . . though he [Shaw] was trying a murder case in the same courthouse."
But Chief Justice Shaw was the author of In re Sims, 61 Mass. 285, the crucial and infamous Massachusetts case upholding the Fugitive Slave Act, which he decided just a couple of years before the Anthony Burns case, I believe. Surely that counts as at least roughly the same as what (according to your review) West says, and not at all the same as what you say.
Yes, Shaw decided Sims, and the Sims decision was referred to extensively in the Burns case. And so West's error is understandable. But Edward G. Loring decided the Burns case, not Shaw. I brought up Shaw's presence in the building as a way of illustrating that detailed information about both cases is readily available.
I'll let this go after one more try; my point isn't that West's "error is understandable," but that it WAS indeed Shaw's decision in Sims that was the ultimate source of the order requiring Burns be returned to his owner. West's sentence therefore does not make a mistake at all, though it is a bit sloppy. Your sentence, by contrast, misleads — it suggests that the only connection between Shaw and Sims was geographical, which is simply false.
Why not give the credit to Henry Clay, since he put together the Compromise of 1850? I didn't mean to suggest that the only connection between Shaw and Burns was geographical. Myopic as it may sound, I was writing under the impression that it was fairly well known that Melville's father-in-law had decided an important fugitive slave case. My point was he didn't decide the one that West credits him with. I stand by what I wrote.
Well. As above, I have only read your review, and as is my habit, will probably let that suffice as my total knowledge of the book reviewed. It interests me to see the rancorous tone of these comments. Maybe I'm just new to this blog, and this is normal, but I don't see such a chasm of disagreement between the views stated in the review and the positions purported by the review to be in the book. As you say in your second paragraph in a democracy "You have to speak to those who hold what you believe to be the wrong opinion in such a way as to convince them." So there is room for polite disagreement. And anyone who disputes your characterization of our republic in the next sentence (in my opinion) is not paying attention: "Who wants to convince a horde of greedy, fearful, television-watching philistines they ought to give up their fantasies of strength and righteousness?". For which sentence I applaud you. As for whether Cornel West's book will help, who knows? But those philistines won't be reading it, I'll bet.
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