by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
The presidential election cycle is underway, which means that Michael Eric Dyson is pledging his undying love for Barack Obama. Apparently, the president’s handlers have favored Dyson with “access” – a quality that is worth far more to some folks than truth and self-respect. “What it all comes down to in Dyson’s world, is rubbing elbows with the president and bragging about it.”
Freedom Rider: Michael Eric Dyson and Barack Obama
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Why does the only response to Obama have to be slavish devotion and a political stand down?”
Not only is there no longer a black press which represents the interests of black people, but the presence of black people in corporate media is also of dubious value. Take the case of “public intellectual” Michael Erick Dyson. Dyson has recently been a substitute host on MSNBC’s Ed Schultz Show, and he has displayed his unique gifts for spouting nonsense and/or boldly displaying opportunism when speaking on the subject of Barack Obama.
Dyson can’t seem to make up his mind about Obama. In January 2008 Dyson debated Black Agenda Report Executive Editor Glen Ford on the subject of black support for Obama on Democracy Now. Dyson made it clear that he was a wholehearted Obama supporter who advocated suspending any and all criticism or questioning of the candidate in order to reach the holy grail of seeing him elected president.
That debate took place shortly after the Iowa caucus victory proved that Obama could get votes from white people. At that time Dyson proudly proclaimed his unwavering support of Obama, gave him a pass on speaking up for black people, and directly stated the phony mantra of the Obama sycophant in 2008, that they would “hold his feet to the fire” after he won.
The Dyson/Obama love fest didn’t last for very long, however. Just a few months after Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Dyson was interviewed by Davey D and had rather scathing words of criticism for the man whom just a year earlier he said should be treated as if infallible.
“He is willing to sacrifice the interests of African Americans in deference to a conception of universalism because it won’t offend white people.”
“We are so grateful for having a black person in the office we don’t demand anything of him.”
“I expect the president of the United States to address issues of race.”
“He’s fallen short and we must hold him accountable.”
These words, while truthful, didn’t last long either. Now Dyson is not only an Obama lover again, but appears to be in part because he now has up close and personal access to POTUS. Dyson can now preface his statements with words like this, “A couple of years ago when he and I were in the Oval Office talking…”
On the July 25th broadcast of the Ed Show, one of Dyson’s guests rather obliquely mentioned that there is some criticism of Obama because he delivers on issues of importance to the gay and latino communities while doing nothing of the sort for black Americans.
“What is wrong with questioning or criticizing Obama?”
According to Dyson, this mild observation unleashed the wrath of Obama worshippers in social media, and on the July 26th show Dyson let everyone know that he is still an Obama guy and the president is a Dyson guy too. “I ain`t one of them [haters]. How do I know? He [Obama] told me so at the Olympic warm up game the other day in D.C. when he hugged me and thanked me for my love and support. When you get at that level, holler back at me.” Yes, that is what it all comes down to in Dyson’s world, rubbing elbows with the president and bragging about it.
He went further. “Make no mistake, I`m riding hard on the Obama bandwagon. I`ve been on that journey a lot longer than the Black Willy come latelies who voted overwhelmingly against Obama when he ran for Congress and who initially spurned him when he asked for their votes for the presidency because they were beholden to Hillary and Bill Clinton.”
Dyson is an academic, a writer and a minister, but as guest host on The Ed Show, he should act as a journalist. The response to his critics should have been that as such, he has a duty to present a wide variety of viewpoints, even as they relate to dear leader Obama.
Dyson had a unique opportunity to ask questions which are still fraught in the black community. What is wrong with questioning or criticizing Obama? Why does the only response to Obama have to be slavish devotion and a political stand down?
Of course, it may be unfair to expect professional ethics from Dyson when the rest of the journalistic profession is no better. There are huge incentives to being a court scribe instead of a journalist. Scribes get plum assignments, access to movers and shakers, prestigious prizes, and big paychecks because they represent the interests of the people they cover when they should be asking them hard questions.
Dyson’s routine makes it easy to make fun of him. His gift of gab borders on buffoonery, but it has made him a hot commodity. He could put his glibness to good use and spark a conversation about Obama, but that is not to be. Now we get “black Willy come latelies” and man crush hugs.
The hard truth is that Black Agenda Report and its allies are unique in their determination to continue advocating for self-determination and movement based leftist politics, and not just idol worship of the black face in the high place. Dyson is not alone in changing his mind about Obama depending upon whether or not he has access to the Oval Office. There are not many principled people in the world of political commentary, but anyone reading these words doesn’t have to be concerned about that. No one at Black Agenda Report is in danger of mincing words about Obama, or the rest of American political leadership. We also aren’t in danger of getting any hugs.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.