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Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on Class Struggle

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Posted on Nov 1, 2011
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(Page 2)

Robert Scheer: Well, you know, this is not the place to defend the ’60s. But let me tell you, a lot of the claims about the hedonism and the wildness and so forth, I think, were mass media exaggerations. We had COINTELPRO, we had a lot of craziness; it’s very difficult to keep a grass-roots movement going. In my own case, every picture I’ve found of myself in the ’60s I seem to be wearing a jacket and tie to go against that image. And when I read your article I thought well, you know, there was Paul Schrade. And Paul Schrade was the head of the United Auto Workers on the West Coast. And he was the first prominent—he was the guy who was shot when Bobby Kennedy was shot, he was standing near, by his side. And Paul Schrade I remember, because I would speak at many rallies where there were union workers, and in that situation he was going against sort of the immediate short-run interests of his own members—who, after all, they were having defense contracts, and so forth. And that’s really what [union leaders] [George] Meany and [Walter] Reuther were playing on: that these were good times; it was working.

And right now it seems to me, I would raise two points about this. One, there is this different reality, which everyone across the board in this country who is not part of the elite can see. These are really hard times. But the question you raise about demonstrations is how would you prevent the media, and from the police—we have a “J. Edgar” movie coming out next week about all the things Hoover did—how do you prevent these people from hijacking a movement, from distorting it? It’s extremely difficult, and I know I was up at Oakland before the police moved in, but it was difficult to maintain a tone that seems to have been maintained in New York. I’m not defending the police, but that’s the nature of grass-roots movements. They’re easily infiltrated, they’re easily—the purpose can be changed. Do you not see that as a danger?

Chris Hedges: No, because the structure of this movement—I can only speak, you know, for Zuccotti Park, because that’s where I’ve spent a lot of time. I’ve been to Washington, but I can’t—I know the structure in Zuccotti Park pretty well. And because it’s non-hierarchical, in the sense that everything is transparent—I mean, all the decisions are made by a general assembly—No. 1, you avoid that kind of leadership cult that I think plagued a lot of movements in the ’60s. And because people who facilitate and run meetings and have positions of relative authority are recycled—I mean, they’re replaced—nobody is able to accumulate significant amounts of power. That’s significant.

The other thing is that because the process is transparent, you don’t have groups that are—every decision is made in public, and chanted throughout the entire park. Now, there are clearly plainclothes police in the park; we see them; they all look something, you know, like a caricature from Doonesbury; they look like cops; they’re sort of 30 years old with baseball caps, telling you they’re students from Rollins College or something. But the big tip-off is they’re running around saying well, who do you think the leaders are? Where’s the core leadership? And so that makes this movement a lot harder to decapitate, because they can’t take out the leadership.


Square, Site wide
In terms of how they characterize the movement, you’re right; the power elite and the way they’re—you know, in New York they’re labeling the movement anti-Semitic. Reporters from the New York Post will go down and find somebody in the crowd who will utter something repugnant about Jewish bankers or something. And they play on that theme. So far, none of that’s been able to stick, but they’ve certainly tried many tactics. ‘They’re hippies, they’re anarchists, they’re drug addicts, they’re anti-Semites,’ whatever it is, to try and discredit it. And of course that process will continue. I think nonviolence has been extremely effective, especially in New York where the police, I think, at the beginning carried out clear attempts at provocation. They wanted a response, because a couple clips of protesters smashing car windows or doing something to that effect essentially allows them to speak in the one language they know they can master, which is force.

But this is a widespread movement; it’s decentralized; it takes on its own coloring and characteristics, depending on the city that it’s in; and so there will be, you know—as you point out, I mean, movements are by their very nature messy and make steps forward and steps back. But I think that there is a resiliency to this movement because it articulates a fundamental truth of inequality that hits the majority of American citizens.

Robert Scheer: This is Robert Scheer for Truthdig Radio. I’m interviewing Chris Hedges, and this is part of the KPFK fund drive. KPFK is one of these rare media outlets that is honestly covering these events, and not allowing them to be distorted. Chris, let me ask you: It seems to me a high point for labor involvement came in the Wisconsin protests, where there seemed to be a very good merging and clarity about the need of organized labor to support these [protests]. There was a moment in the New York protests where unions turned out; is that developing, or is it still estranged?

Chris Hedges: First of all, Wisconsin—you know, there was a lot of discussion about a general strike, which is what they should have done. And it was the Democratic Party and organized labor that talked them out of it, which I think was a mistake. You are seeing, certainly on that Friday morning when they threatened, if you remember, at 6 a.m. to clear the park out, ostensibly to clean it, and then several thousand people gathered and linked their arms—you did see teamsters show up to help protect the park. I think that part of the reason that organized labor, in a way, has to graft itself onto this movement is because the union leaders have betrayed the rank and file and the interests of the American worker. These union bosses are pulling five times’ the salaries that the rank and file are pulling; all they’ve done over the last couple of decades is largely barter away benefits and pension plans, and you see contracts now essentially abandoning incoming workers, the quid pro quo being that they protect limited privileges or rights—privileges is probably the wrong word—for older workers. You see groups like, which has become an obsequious public relations machine for the Obama White House, trotting down to Zuccotti Park. Because I think they’ve been exposed for their cowardice, for their complicity in systems of power, which really has made war against the poor, the working and the middle class. And in a way, they will see their own base drift away from them if they don’t at least pay lip service to these movements.

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By chacaboy, November 3, 2011 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

Though it does seem to affirm that the “vast majority” of your head is empty

Is there a moderator here to focus this conversation away from cheap shots? The
smiley face doesn’t really compensate…this is definitely the low road.

Report this

By Don Schneider, November 3, 2011 at 6:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why do so many hate and fear mongers find their way to progressive sites such as
this to smear their nastiness ?  You would think they would feel more at home
commenting on rt. wing republican venues.

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By ardee, November 3, 2011 at 5:08 am Link to this comment

Not so objective observer, November 2 at 2:48 pm

i’ll type slowly so you can keep up.  43% doesn’t make a majority. 

Your comment, as dumb as a post, stated that   it would appear that most of the commenters on this topic either commune only with like minded or totally ignore what the fact that the vast majority of the American public couldn’t care less about this “movement”.

Can you not even keep track of what you yourself post?  I thought not. 43% approval would seem to negate your comment about “the vast majority of Americans”. Though it does seem to affirm that the “vast majority” of your head is empty space…;-)

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment

Interesting the talk in the interview about winning
over the rank and file police officers.

That is important. Police officers and their families
are bankrupted as frequently as anyone else in the
current financial system. 

It’s also important to win over rank and file
journalists.  Most journalists join their profession
because they bought into the myth that free speech
exists in the United States.  The truth is free
speech exists for corporations and their owners, such
as Rupert Murdoch, but journalists have been largely
reduced to the role of heavily censored corporate

The sooner journalists realize the Occupy movement
could benefit their profession the better off the
movement will be.   

objective observer:

Most of the people I know have seen a nuclear
detonation, which means at some rudimentary level
they must understand that our scientists penetrate
and even split the unseen and previously unknown.
Those scientists did not find souls and spirits; they
found subatomic particles.

Likewise, most of the people I know have flown in jets
and seen pictures the Hubble telescope has taken. 
The people know the ancients believed the gods—and
God—were in the clouds.  But the people don’t see
them when they fly in jets.  And when they look at
Hubble pictures, they see the universe, with all its
stars and black holes, not the flawless kingdom of
the Bible. 

And yet these same people still believe when they die
a spirit retaining all their memories and capable of
feeling sensations goes galavanting across the

And they twist themselves into mystical contortions to
convince themselves another dimension exists that is
indeed the heaven of the ancients.

And they believe when they close their eyes and talk
to themselves that the God of the ancients is
listening to their thoughts, and some of them even
believe that when their own thoughts echo back to
them what they are hearing are the words of God. 

And some of these people believe the Occupy movement
is just a bunch of punks and hippies. 

I don’t hold any of it against them.  For I have
learned to live among them and I have compassion for
their unique form of mental retardation, brought on
by a childhood of intellectual abuse, that renders
them incapable of perceiving reality as it actually

Peace out, dude.

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By objective observer, November 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ooo, cranky today, aren’t we Mr/Ms ardee.  this is typical of the left wing of the political spectrum, name calling when one disagrees with you, not being able to compose a coherent response. 

i’ll type slowly so you can keep up.  43% doesn’t make a majority.  the people i interact with are what would be called by civilized folk as “middle Americans”.  you know, common folk.  for the record, i applaud the few objectives put forth by the occupiers, i just don’t believe that they will be achieved with their current method. 

since you have no response except name calling and vile, i will regard this as a symptom of your lower mentality and await other, more thoughtful responses.

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By blogdog, November 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

from the interview, near its closing - “...Exxon Mobile is not going to lavish you…”
of course not, exactly why it took NPR (National Propaganda Radio) 9 days to
start covering OWS

but let’s not stop there - what if Rockefeller, Ford, Soros Foundations,
et al, do lavish you, then what is expected?  e.g.

Appalling Propaganda from Amy Goodman About Libya
Willy Loman - Scott Creighton

Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW! has become one of the most disingenuous
news figures this country has to offer and that’s saying a lot because there are
numbers of them. She is not worthy of your trust, she is not worth of your time,
she is not worthy of your respect… anymore.  Such a sad legacy she now leaves
behind after a long and storied career as a dedicated teller of the truth in spite
of the power aligned against her. For whatever reason, she has become just
another presstitute in service of the globalists who are at this minute still
attacking the people of Libya, still bombing them and their infrastructure, still
laying siege to cities and populations who refuse to surrender to NATO powers, 
and still planning how to dice up the people of Libya’s state assets to hand
them over to their favorite corporate contributors.


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By ardee, November 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment

Oh another one crawls out of the woodwork. They all shout ,“because I say so!” in their squeaky little cockroach voices.

objective observer, November 2 at 12:55 pm

in my profession, i talk to a lot of different people throughout the day.

As one might expect of a streetwalker…;-)

  it would appear that most of the commenters on this topic either commune only with like minded or totally ignore what the fact that the vast majority of the American public couldn’t care less about this “movement”.  most of the people i talk to consider these “occupiers” as either slackers or 60’s has beens or wannabes.  until there is some unified message, demand or call to action, this event will simply be an annoyance.

...and there you have it, conclusive proof, not of the relative popularity of the OWS movement but of the sliminess of those who oppose it. Oh cockroach, CBS for one disagrees with your silly little poll. Polling your Johns, by the by, not really authentic.

October 25, 2011 6:30 PM

Poll: 43 percent agree with views of “Occupy Wall Street”

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By Morpheus, November 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

Memo to America: Stop waiting for Democrats and Republicans to save you. It’s bad for your health and your future. Can’t you tell? You have another choice -use it!

Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )

Enough talk, it’s time to get organized.

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By Dieter Heymann, November 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry Mr. Scheer but the overturning of tables by Jesus, if that really happened, had absolutely nothing to do with social justice. For openers, these so-called money “changers” were not money changers but lenders of funds to people who did not have the money to buy a lamb that was to be slaughtered in the Temple at Easter. According to Jewish laws they were not allowed to demand interest although they probably had some ways to circumvent that law. They served a social purpose. Secondly, the so-called overturning was a religious not a social act by Jesus who held that the slaughter of lambs was a heathen and not a Jewish tradition.

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By objective observer, November 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

in my profession, i talk to a lot of different people throughout the day.  it would appear that most of the commenters on this topic either commune only with like minded or totally ignore what the fact that the vast majority of the American public couldn’t care less about this “movement”.  most of the people i talk to consider these “occupiers” as either slackers or 60’s has beens or wannabes.  until there is some unified message, demand or call to action, this event will simply be an annoyance. 

change comes only through the ballot box or the bullet box.  if voted in, the elected quickly become what they campaigned against, and become the problem.  if the latter, those that are calling the loudest for change will lose, since most of them wouldn’t know which end of the gun to point downrange, and are too anti second amendment to learn.

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By gerard, November 2, 2011 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

One thing we all need to understand better is what we mean, more precisely, when we say “they are clueless.”  It is so commonly used for that everybody assumes it has content.  It indicates, but the content is vague:  Whata does “out of it” mean, exactly, “not aware of causing disaster”, “out to lunch”, “care-less” nnd—most important—how do people get that way and what’s the most effective thing to do about it, and how?
  I know these questions seem boring and petty, but the psychology of “cluelessness” is very widely spread, not only among the rich, and in my opinion we need to seriously look into it. Probably we should all start with asking ourselves what we are “clueless” about, and why?

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By felicity, November 2, 2011 at 9:39 am Link to this comment

There are written accounts of Russian elites (to the
manor born types) who literally starved to death in
their houses when the peasants on their estates
rebelled and deserted them during the Russian
Revolution of 1917.

Reminds me of Scarlett’s line in Gone With the Wind,
“I’ll think about that tomorrow” when any threat to
their existence tomorrow is simply unthought of today.

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By prisnersdilema, November 2, 2011 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

While occupying Wall Street don’t forget to occupy Conneticut…

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

“The hero of independent media…Bob Scheer.”
—Chris Hedges

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

This is an awesome interview. I recommend everyone
listen to it. Thank you, Truthdig, for posting it.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Thomas Friedman is a walking conflict of interest.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

“A lot of them are just stupid.” —Chris Hedges

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, November 2, 2011 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

Hell yes!  Occupy the newsroom.

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By DonMidwest, November 2, 2011 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

An excellent summary of the class struggle that we are going through and the importance of OWS.

I worked to get Robert Scheer elected to congress and went door to door in the 1960’s in Oakland. I well recall the Oakland police turning us back in the anti war march of Oct 15, 1965.

These days, every system is broken down. The problems our country faces are systemic and have not been addressed by the political class nor of course the corporations who have been carrying out the Corporate cout d’ etat.

I sent this article out to my friends.

I live in the Columbus OH area these days and sent it to the local democratic club. They have been focused on stopping Gov Kasik and not taken the step beyond the democratic party as advocated in this interview.

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By ardee, November 2, 2011 at 5:50 am Link to this comment

Perhaps the most significant and in-depth discussion I have read in my two plus years here at TD.

This is worth, not only a read, but a re-read and some real thoughtful consideration of the several points made. Further it certainly shines the bright white light of truth and balance on the insinuations and clumsy efforts of the twin pillars of propaganda here; Ozark Michael and IMax, in their efforts to discredit OWS. That this need to slander is present shows plainly how important this movement really is and both infers a status on it and makes one wonder where we will go from here.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, November 2, 2011 at 12:31 am Link to this comment

“If you have a very large crowd shouting outside your
building, there might not be room for a safety net if
you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.”

Lemony Snicket

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By gerard, November 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment

Wow!  A very cogent and thorough summary of where we’re at and what a lot of us are about, all put forth through airing the personal views and wide experiences of Scheer and Hedges.  I’m very glad to know more about where they are coming from and what they think our chances are. Hang in there, guys, and keep looking and listening, publishing and talking.

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