…"free-market fundamentalism," which is "just as dangerous as the religious fundamentalisms of our day." Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this link to the intro to West's latest book, Democracy Matters (a follow up to his decade-old Race Matters). A snippet:
The market-driven media?fueled by our vast ideological polarization and abetted by profit-hungry monopolies?have severely narrowed our political ?dialogue.? The major problem is not the vociferous shouting from one camp to the other; rather it is that many have given up even being heard. We are losing the very value of dialogue?especially respectful communication?in the name of the sheer force of naked power. This is the classic triumph of authoritarianism over the kind of questioning, compassion, and hope requisite for any democratic experiment.
We have witnessed similar developments in our schools and universities?increasing monitoring of viewpoints, disrespecting of those with whom one disagrees, and foreclosing of the common ground upon which we can listen and learn. The major culprit here is not ?political correctness,? a term coined by those who tend to trivialize the scars of others and minimize the suffering of victims while highlighting their own wounds. Rather the challenge is mustering the courage to scrutinize all forms of dogmatic policing of dialogue and to shatter all authoritarian strategies of silencing voices. We must respect the scars and wounds of each one of us?even if we are sometimes wrong (or right!).
This sort of passage bothers me for any number of reasons, but for brevity's sake, let me sketch just one: I find it hard to believe that West, and others making similar statements, seriously believe that there has been a dimunition of free expression over the past 10, 20, or 30 years. Leave aside this magazine's analysis of the myth of media monopoly and our articualtion of cultural proliferation, and the beneficial role of markets in expanding the sphere of public debate.
Three decades ago, a guy like West would have had virtually no non-academic audience; he is now a well-known, well-feted public intellectual (published by profit-hungry Penguin books, no less). His very example undercuts his argument. (It's worth noting, too, that his work is circulating now on the Web, via the site of Logos and a couple of blogs, all of which have massively abetted precisely the discussion and dissent he says has been quashed.)