Chris Hedges: “We have shifted, I think, from a democratic state to… corporate totalitarianism.”

Chris Hedges interviewed on The Real News :

Excerpt of the transcript:

“JAY: But, see, that’s what I’m concerned about as a citizen, I mean, whatever the journalist hat is supposed to be here, which is–. I was at dinner the other night with some people having somewhat similar conversation, why isn’t there a mass movement and all of this, and I was saying, be careful what you wish for. You know. If there was a big explosion tomorrow, you know, would any progressive force actually be ready for it? Because it could easily, as you said in an earlier episode, a segment of the interview, you know, the right could grab hold of this as well.

HEDGES: Well, right-wing populism or fascism is a very real possibility. And I think that we are particularly vulnerable to that because our progressive populist and radical movements virtually don’t exist, and because the liberal center is so discredited. If you go back and read Dostoevsky Notes from Underground, Demons, Dostoevsky was obsessed–I mean, that’s what Notes from Underground is about–with a liberal class that is superfluous, that no longer has any actual authority or power within the society and has become a joke.

I saw the same thing in the breakdown of Yugoslavia, which I covered as a correspondent, where you had a liberal center that in essence is paralyzed. It can’t respond. And that’s what’s happened. We have a system of political paralysis that responds only to the dictates of the corporate elite, not to the needs and the rights of the citizenry.

And so when you have the figures like Obama who continue to speak in that traditional language of liberalism and yet cannot respond to chronic unemployment, underemployment, you know, foreclosures, bank repossessions, and everything else, and in fact are running a system where the assaults against the underclass are only getting worse, then what happens is there becomes a deep disdain for not only liberal ideology but traditional liberal institutions–you saw the same thing in Weimar–so that when there is an uprising, oftentimes people want nothing to do with not only liberal elites, but the supposed liberal values, quote-unquote, that these elites were purportedly espousing.

And that is a very real danger, because when you have figures like Obama that present themselves as traditional liberals and yet are unable to be effective in terms of dealing with the suffering and the misery of the underclass, that–and this is what happened in Yugoslavia–that when things exploded, you vomited up these very frightening figures–Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudman–in the same way that the breakdown in Weimar vomited up the Nazi Party. And that’s what frightens me, because we don’t have the movements, the populist movements on the left, and because we live in a system of political paralysis.

So Dostoevsky said that, you know, that system leads to what he calls an age of moral nihilism, and ultimately violence, which is what at the end of Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov’s dream is about. So–and Dostoyevsky was nothing if not deeply prescient about where that was going… ”

7 Responses

  1. …and rather than strain themselves trying to make things what most of us used to call “better,” for the benefit not only of themselves and future humans (if there are any), people with any political and military and engineering skills just Embrace The Power and walk willingly into the Mouth of Moloch.

    It’s a significant thing, but still a pretty tiny and egocentric one, the achievement of a right for pretty much anyone to legally marry anyone else. That seems to be about the extent of effective activism on the Left. And besides, there are so many hypocritical “wide stance” reactionaries who have their own interests served by popping off this particular relief valve. The Left can’t even gain and hold territory in the area of what’s summmed under the heading “abortion”, can’t even control the terms of the public debate on that sensitive topic.

    Who gets to drive the Big Bus? What are we destined or driven to be, as a species? Any reason for us to hang around much longer, since all we seem to be doing is screwing up what for most life forms here was a pretty wonderful planet? Any reason other than to spend our lives, most of us, just making the lives of a very tiny few so incredibly, enviably “luxurious?” Oh — and of course doing stuff like you see here? link to syriavideo.net (disturbing — or titillating — content…)

  2. What Hedges’ said “is true,” but only “in a vacuum.” There are too many external factors that militate against this from happening in the U.Sl: e.g., from laziness and individual happiness, on one end, to the threat of terrorism, climate change, etc. on the other. It is all about survival, anymore…so, we endure, regardless….

  3. Hedge’s comparison between Obama and Yugoslavia is silly. Was Slobodan Milosevic “unable to be effective?” Quite the opposite – he has massive, unchecked executive power and a broad mandate from a big majority of the Serbian people.

    In the United States, Obama’s liberal efforts are checked and checked again by the Congress. He’s making the mistake, very common among leftist critics, of leaving the Republican Congress and its record use of the filibuster out of his equation, and assuming that anything Obama hasn’t done, he doesn’t want to do.

    • Joe, what Mr. Hedges was saying was:

      liberal mainstream paralyzed > rise of fascists as alternative

      So he’s not saying that Obama is Milosevic, he’s saying that the Right will champion someone like Milosevic as Obama’s replacement in 2016. Given the parade of whackos the GOP has at the state level championing laws designed to encourage vigilantes and militias, and intimidate minorities into moving elsewhere, this appears to be more than a 50/50 chance. It’s just a matter of whether our “Serbs” bite.

      • I know he wasn’t accusing Obama of governing like Milosevic. I understand his argument; I just don’t buy it. Milosevic didn’t come to power because he had an ineffective liberal predecessor, nor was there any liberal mainstream in Serbia.

        The Weimar comparison seems to capture the dynamic you’re describing, and it seems plausible, but Serbia is a different case.

  4. I think we were never as much a democracy as we believe, and now we are under corporate authoritarianism. Most of civilized history has consisted of oligarchic rule over debt serfs, mostly unopposed, so it’s an attractive model for our masters. Totalitarian is a tricky word; certain extremist leaders and movements have openly aspired to totalitarianism, but in an actual totalitarian society there would be no factions, no individual agendas, and no corruption. I bet even North Korea has plenty of those things going on behind closed doors.

    However, we need some term to define belief systems that demand absolute uniformity and conformance in every area of human existence, turning their followers’ lives into an endless collection of favorable anecdotes and endless denunciation of the unfavorable, proselytizing their fellow citizens in an insane crusade for purity. These days they are usually religious movements. They can’t win, but they can ruin our lives in their sincere effort.

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