Chris Hedges discusses the descent of the American Empire

| March 23, 2012 | 1 Reply

Author Chris Hedges argues that the American Empire is following the trajectory of all empires; we are expanding beyond our capacity to sustain ourselves. We have run up deficits we have no way to repay. We are “hollowing the country out from the inside.” Nearly one-third of Americans are living in poverty. We are destroying quality education. We are reaching a “terminal point.” Unless we change our course, we will face collapse. The current electoral system is not a legitimate place for seeking meaningful reform, not given the state of money-dominated elections.

Those captive to images cast ballots based on how candidates make them fee. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with the carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics.

Hedges points out that the structure of the corporate state is thoroughly immunized from meaningful change from a Democrat like Barack Obama, no different than a Republican like George W. Bush. We are facing a bi-partisan-approved looting of the U.S. Treasury by Wall Street and domestic spying. Obama’s health care bill is no exception, having been written by corporate lobbyists (4 min) It is “essentially the equivalent of the bank bailout bill written for the insurance and pharmaceutical industry, with $400 million of subsidies.” Under the new system, corporate insurers can hold sick children hostage while bankrupting their parents (5 min).

Hedges often criticizes liberals. He explains: The liberal class was never designed to function as the political left. (min 6). It was designed to function as the political center. In the early 1900s liberals were quite vocal and held significant political power. They produced publications with wide circulation. There were several dozen socialist mayors in America. He argues that America got involved in WWI, despite any serious public support, because American bankers had loaned substantial money to Great Britain and France, and they didn’t want to lose their money. (min. 7).

As the century went on, politicians followed the 1922 advice of Walter Lipman to use propaganda “to manufacture consent.” There’s no need to throw many people in prison when you can “herd” them using war-related-emotion rather than facts or reason. (min. 9). A meaningful liberal class, provoked by radical and populist movements, would make piecemeal and incremental reform possible to benefit the needs of the working class. Such radical movements are rare these post-Red-Scare days, and there is thus no longer any bulwark to “protect us from the corporate state.”

We have turned from an Empire of Production to an Empire of Over-Consumption. We non longer have true liberals. Instead, we have faux liberals, people who “speak the language of traditional liberalism like Bill Clinton, yet serve the interests of the corporate state.” (Min 12). Hedges offers the following evidence of Clinton’s assaults on the working class: NAFTA, destruction of welfare, deregulation of the FCC, destruction of the banking system (the US differs from Canada, which did not tear down the firewall of Glass-Steagall). The U.S. has allowed hedge funds to take over its banks). To top things off, Barack Obama “essentially codifies the destruction of both domestic and international law put in place by the Bush Administration,” a severe assault on civil liberties, including the right of the Executive branch to carry out assassinations and the new military detention act, which allows Americans to be indefinitely detained if accused of being a “terrorist,” an absurdly nebulous charge.

As a result, we now live under “inverted totalitarianism,” which “does not find its expression through a demagogue or charismatic leader, but through the anonymity of the corporate state.” In our inverted totalitarianism, corporate forces pretend to pay homage to the iconography and patriotism of America, but “have so corrupted the levers of power that as to render the citizenry powerless.” (min 14).

Here is the creed of modern liberals:

The creed of impartiality and “objectivity” that has infected the liberal class teaches, ultimately, the importance of not offending the status quo. The “professionalism” demanded in the classroom, in newsprint, in the arts or in political discourse is code for moral disengagement.

What modern day liberals end up doing, according to Hedges is giving deference to institutions like Goldman Sachs (“a criminal enterprise”) and other “power centers that long ago walked away from responsible citizenship.”   He includes the following industries: coal companies, chemical plants the pollute rivers or Wall Street. This allegiance has left the modern liberal class “not only useless, but despised by large segments of American society.” Modern liberals (including traditional liberal institutions such as liberal churches, the press, labor unions, education and American culture generally) posit themselves as the “moral voice of the nation, but have failed miserably.” (min 16). According to Hedges, modern liberals “want to empower people they’ve never met. They liked the poor, but they didn’t like the smell of the poor.” (min 20).

While evangelicals often champion a gospel of greed and personal empowerment . . . Liberals “often speak on behalf of oppressed groups they never meet, advocating utopian and unrealistic schemes to bring about peace and universal love. Neither group has much interest in testing their ideologies against reality.

What I have described above is from the first 25 minutes of the video discussion, which lasts almost three hours.

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Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Corporatocracy, Orwellian, Spending priorities

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Adam Herman says:

    It’s a good point about liberals being the political center, but our Constitution kinda makes the real left against the law right from the start, at least when it comes to economic and property issues. It also outlaws the far religious right, because we have separation of church and state. To an extent, we also have some separation between economy and state. The New Deal eroded some of those limitations, but they are still there. If the government tried to cartelize industry today they’d get slapped down by the courts. Taking over industry completely would be impossible.

    The real left does have a valuable role to play on civil liberties issues, but I’m not exactly clear on whether that’s truly what they believe in or if it’s just tactical. It makes tactical sense to favor free speech and free assembly when you’re on the outs. But whenever these folks manage to gain power, all of a sudden those civil liberties become irrelevant to them.

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