Chris Hedges used to be a corporate propagandist for the New York Times. Now, he writes books for the same corporate elites, pushing their agenda in snide and cynical ways.
Hedges found a novel minority group to scapegoat, a classic fascist technique, in his book I Don't Believe in Atheists. In that book, Hedges coopts the language of the peace movement to demonize everyone who abstains from participating in the single biggest cause of war, religion. Of course, the wars that Hedges promotes through his efforts to promote religion are highly profitable to his corporate overlords.
Now, Hedges' is attacking a favorite target of corporations and the extreme right, those of us who are liberal. He uses the same techniques that the right has used for far too long to try to enforce the political hegemony of corporations and the financial elites. The only significant difference between Hedges' and Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh is that he hijacks the language of the left to promote the same agenda.
What is one of Hedges' favorite techniques to demonize liberals? He parrots the right's claims of which institutions are "liberal," institutions that sometimes fail to remotely resemble anything liberal. Check out this passage from Hedges' latest propaganda tome, The Death of the Liberal Class.
The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch. Churches and universities—in elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year—enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques. Labor leaders make lavish salaries and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle. Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers. Artists who use their talents to foster the myths and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills.
The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism.
Hedges' attacks on universities remind me a lot of the attacks on universities by Pinochet and other murderous tools of the global elites. This dubious critique is rather sneaky, though. It's no big secret that university administrators are cautious and rightist in their approach. That led to the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. However, Hedges' claims about the faculty and staffs in academia are wildly broad. Faculty and staff in colleges and universities are still major centers of resistance to the corporate hegemony. Hedges often lionizes Noam Chomsky in order to try to bolster his leftist credentials. Yet, Chomsky is a professor at an elite university.
Hedges might have a point if his critiques of academia were limited to Business Administration and Economics departments. However, Hedges isn't interested in analysis. Demonization of liberals is the tired and childish game he prefers.
Now, let's look at the other institutions that Hedges labels as "liberal," including media, the church, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions." The corporate media are rightist, largely due to media concentration that squelches the competition necessary for liberals to be heard. To blame liberals for a rightist media is the height of Palinesque political burlesque.
As for the church, is Hedges joking? Religion is, by its very nature, reactionary, backwards, elitist, and corrupt. When religious individuals do social good, they inevitably go against the tenets of their religions. Religion is no more "liberal" than Hedges is "progressive" or "leftist."
Hedges also shows tremendous ignorance about the Democratic Party and its history. Most Democratic voters are liberal or progressive, but the institution itself barely can be considered a real political party. It always has functioned as a networking society for politicians, special interests, and their employees. Claiming the Democratic Party as a liberal institution would be comical if Hedges wasn't using such claims to attack people who actually are liberal.
As for the arts and organized labor, both are liberal institutions. Both do offer resistance to the wealthy elites that Hedges criticizes while doing their dirty work. Both resist the power of those elites while under a state of siege that has gone on at least since 1980. If Hedges thinks those two liberal institutions have failed or dead, how does that offer any kind of resistance to anything? Why does Hedges go out of his way to weaken those institutions even further instead of calling for improved funding and laws to make them stronger forces for democracy? For instance, issuing a clarion call for the Employee Free Choice Act would have done a lot more good over the past two years than incessant whining about organized labor not doing enough. Hedges seems completely impervious to the concept of solidarity.
Of course, Hedges' love/fear affair with the teabaggers, which he espouses on nearly every interview I hear him on, is hugely beneficial to the corporate and wealthy interests behind that scam. There is nothing that is authentic to the teabagger scam. The gullible who are fooled by it often have legitimate rage, but they have allowed themselves to be misdirected by the oldest tool in the American elites' economic playbook: racism.
Racism kept poor whites siding with slaveowners who were screwing them over, though obviously nowhere near as badly as the slaves. Racism was used, even more often in the South, to divide and conquer labor organizing. Misogyny and heterosexism have been added to the corporatist playbook in the 20th Century. Has Hedges resisted these diversionary tactics that also oppress the majority of people in this country?
Instead of attacking racism as the central organizing tactic behind the teabagger scam, Hedges has a history of a drooling fascination with white supremacy. Here's a passage from his "Liberals Are Useless" rant. (Yes, I know, it's really Chris Hedges who is worse than useless.)
I was also at the time a member of the Greater Boston YMCA boxing team. We fought on Saturday nights for $25 in arenas in working-class neighborhoods like Charlestown. My closest friends were construction workers and pot washers. They worked hard. They believed in unions. They wanted a better life, which few of them ever got. We used to run five miles after our nightly training, passing through the Mission Main and Mission Extension Housing Projects, and they would joke, “I hope we get mugged.” They knew precisely what to do with people who abused them. They may not have been liberal, they may not have finished high school, but they were far more grounded than most of those I studied with across the Charles River. They would have felt awkward, and would have been made to feel awkward, at the little gatherings of progressive and liberal intellectuals at Harvard, but you could trust and rely on them.
Why is it that the weakest and most sniveling of men always have the silliest macho fantasies? Why does Hedges go for the most ridiculous divide and conquer tactics and pretend that people of color, who also are often working class, and liberals are the ones abusing the working class? Hedges is doing the bidding of the corporate overlords who make life far too much of an abusive, awkward, and painful experience for everyone who isn't rich.
I've already written about how Hedges goes along with the agenda of his former employer, the New York Times, to wildly exaggerate the supposed power of the teabaggers in order to try to intimidate liberals into going along with the rightist takeover of American politics. Teabagging Inc. is the real life equivalent of the apocryphal Potemkin Villages in exaggerated accounts of Russian history. Teabagging Inc is a fake village filled with just enough real idiots to make the scam appear credible. Hedges' talks about proto fascist elements in America. They certainly do exist, but they are the corporate orchestrators of the teabagger scam, not the suckers who fall for it enough to participate in the staged and inauthentic protests.
For someone who pretends to be morally superior to liberals, Hedges nihilism and defeatism make his political involvement not merely useless, but counterproductive. Calls to action would be vastly superior to Hedges' incessant whining. Exposing the scams of the right would be a productive and worthwhile stance by Hedges. Yet, Hedges chooses to act as a cog in the same corporatist machine instead.
Chris Hedges and Jon Stewart play disturbingly similar roles, with equally tedious behavior. Hedges' is corporate America's reliable "leftist" who devotes all of his time to savaging the left, while Stewart is the same elites' reliable "liberal," who ridicules and attempts to marginalize liberals and liberal points of view. Both of them spew bigoted nonsense to further the corporatist divide and conquer plan.
Neither of them are fooling me in the slightest.