Michael Eric Dyson Details His Break With Cornel West in Viral Takedown

Michael Eric Dyson Details His Break With Cornel West in Viral Takedown

Georgetown professor published a scathing 9,000-plus word piece attacking his former friend and mentor.

Published April 20, 2015

On Sunday, Michael Eric Dyson published a blistering profile of his former friend and mentor titled "The Ghost of Cornel West."

Included in The New Republic piece are remarks on West's “dramatic plummet from his perch as a world-class intellectual," critiques of his contemporary intellectual work and ongoing attacks against President Barack Obama, Melissa Harris-Perry and Al Sharpton and scathing comparisons to Mike Tyson.

Dyson wrote of the Princeton scholar, “If West was once Tyson in his glory, he is Tyson, too, in his infamy. Once great, once dominant, once feared, he is now a faint echo of himself. Like Iron Mike, West is given to biting our ears with personal attacks rather than bending our minds with fresh and powerful scholarship [...] He has squandered his intellectual gift in exchange for celebrity."

The Root spoke with Dyson about the end of the 35-year friendship and he offered an explanation.

“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, Dyson told The Root.

“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."

Affirmations of West's brilliance are also made throughout the 9,000-plus-word piece as Dyson praises his achievements, but the targeted takedowns are what seem to have set social media ablaze, leaving many readers wondering about Dyson's reasoning for publishing such a personal piece so publicly.

"Is this just to even the score on whatever West has said about him in the past?" wrote cultural critic and digital strategist Luvvie Ajayi. "I want to know the purpose. And this isn’t even a rhetorical question."

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(Photos from left: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire, Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

Written by Patrice Peck

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