Cornel West Is Under Arrest


Princeton academic Cornel West attended the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington on Sunday, and then nipped over to the Supreme Court, where he joined 18 other members of “Occupy Wall Street” subsidiary “October 2011 / Stop the Machine” in getting arrested when they refused to obey police orders to clear the area.

West is a fitfully amusing example of self-righteous academic incoherence, who can be counted on to produce memorable sound bites.  He recently told black presidential candidate Herman Cain to “get off the symbolic crack pipe” because Cain is insufficiently cowed by the menace of institutional racism.  He also thinks Barack Obama is “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats” who “has a certain fear of free black men.”  He’s a smooth fit for the blind populist, collectivist rage of the OWS crowd.

What was he doing on the steps of the Supreme Court?  The October 2011 website explains:

The Movement that is occupying Freedom Plaza, led an impromptu march of 250 people up Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court where Dr. Cornel West climbed on the steps of the Supreme Court and denounced court decisions that have produced money-based elections that empower corporations.  Dr. West was holding a sign that said “Poverty is the Greatest Violence of All.”  He was arrested because holding political signs on the Supreme Court steps is illegal.

Dr. West spoke to more than 500 people on Freedom Plaza where he said that “if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, he would be on Freedom Plaza.” West described how the struggle against, poverty, war and injustice continues and confidence that the people will succeed.  He applauded the occupation as “an inclusive social revolution for all of us” and a “leaderless-leader-filled movement” where people are “finding their own political voices rather than echoing others.”

(Emphasis mine.)  Ah, so this “inspiring speech” and “occupation” is just more lefty bellyaching about the Citizens United decision, which has become an important layer of tinfoil in their “corporate rule” hat.  Only big media corporations should have any say in politics, man!  Except for big media corporations owned by the wrong people!

This is characteristic of the topsy-turvy emotional response that puts populist liberals on the wrong side of every problem they complain about.  The “problem” is not excessive free speech, and the “solution” is not more onerous First Amendment-shredding regulations that shove corporations without editorial boards into the sidelines, transforming political speech into a religious ceremony that only certain duly ordained acolytes can perform.

The problem, as so richly embodied by President Barack Obama, is that political power is so incredibly valuable to big corporate players that they’ll pay any amount of money to get it.  A resource that valuable will be bought and sold.  There is no way to prevent the crony-capitalist bazaar from pitching its tents and hawking its wares… perhaps in the public square, or perhaps in a shadowy back alley that only the well-connected can find.  The political influence purchased by Obama’s top cronies was worth more money than any resource or intellectual property they owned.  It was arguably worth more than any resource owned by anyone, anywhere.

That sort of priceless influence is an inevitable product of centralizing power.  If you want “clean” elections and honest government, you must have small government.  If you’re tired of seeing the little guy crushed by an avalanche of rules custom-tailored for the benefit of big players, you’ll need to drag Uncle Sam – the biggest player of all – away from the table.  The sort of influenced purchased by corporations running public ad campaigns is the kind you should be least worried about.  George Kaiser didn’t have to spend a nickel influencing you in order to grab his $535 million Solyndra payoff.

It’s also absurd for people who break the law while “occupying” public places to wrap themselves in First Amendment rhetoric.  The logic of such protests is fundamentally coercive: you must listen to us, because we’ve “occupied” something.  Our collective sense of righteousness trumps the law.  Those of you who can’t organize a few hundred people into an unruly mob and keep it running for weeks (a very expensive operation, incidentally, whose funding is handled partially through a tax-deductible “charity” organization) will have to sit back and fume while media-sanitized riots grab the headlines. 

A tiny group of very loud people claims to speak for all but 1% of the country.  They’re aggressive and ideologically agreeable to the media, so they draw favorable coverage worth tens of millions of dollars.  In the end, how is that really different from what Cornel West was protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court?  The biggest special interest in the world is the titan State that views these “Occupy” protests as a useful public relations operation… as long as they refrain from asking any uncomfortable questions about the government’s role in creating the “unfairness” that ignited their rage.