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Posted on Jan 23, 2012
Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

I spent Friday morning sitting on a wooden bench in a fourth-floor courtroom in the New York Criminal Court in Manhattan. I was waiting to be sentenced for “disturbing the peace” and “refusing to obey a lawful order” during an Occupy demonstration in front of Goldman Sachs in November.

Those sentenced before me constituted the usual fare of the court. They were poor people of color accused of mostly petty crimes—drug possession, thefts, shoplifting, trespassing because they were homeless and needed a place to sleep, inappropriate touching, grand larceny and violation of probation. They were escorted out of a backroom by a police officer, stood meekly before the judge with their hands cuffed behind them, were hastily defended by a lawyer clutching a few folders, and were sentenced. Ten days in jail. Sixty days in jail. Six months in jail. A steady stream of convictions.  My sentence, by comparison, was slight. I was given an ACD, or “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” which means that if I am not arrested in the next six months my case is dismissed. If I am arrested during this period of informal probation the old charge will be added to the new one before I am sentenced.

The country’s most egregious criminals, the ones who had stripped some of those being sentenced of their homes, their right to a decent education and health care, their jobs, their dignity and their hope, those wallowing in tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, those who had gamed the system to enrich themselves at our expense, were doing the dirty business of speculation in the tall office towers a few blocks away. They were making money. A few of these wealthy plutocrats were with the president, who was in New York that day to attend four fundraisers that took in an estimated $3 million. For $15,000 you could have joined Barack Obama at Daniel, an exclusive Upper East Side restaurant. For $35,000 you could have been at a gathering hosted by movie director Spike Lee. Most of those sentenced in that courtroom do not make that much in a year. It was a good day in New York for Barack Obama. It was a bad day for us.

Our electoral system, already hostage to corporate money and corporate lobbyists, gasped its last two years ago. It died on Jan. 21, 2010, when the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission granted to corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts on independent political campaigns. The ruling turned politicians into corporate employees. If any politician steps out of line, dares to defy corporate demands, this ruling hands to our corporate overlords the ability to pump massive amounts of anonymous money into campaigns to make sure the wayward are defeated and silenced. Politicians like Obama are hostages. They jump when corporations say jump. They beg when corporations say beg. They hand corporations exemptions, subsidies, trillions in taxpayer money, no-bid contracts and massive loans with virtually no interest, and they abolish any regulations that impede profits and protect the citizen. Corporations like Goldman Sachs, because they own the system, are bailed out by federal dollars and given essentially free government loans to gamble. I am not sure what to call our economic system, but it is not capitalism. And if any elected official so much as murmurs anything that sounds like dissent, the Supreme Court ruling permits corporations to destroy him or her. And they do.

Turn off your televisions. Ignore the Newt-Mitt-Rick-Barack reality show. It is as relevant to your life as the gossip on “Jersey Shore.” The real debate, the debate raised by the Occupy movement about inequality, corporate malfeasance, the destruction of the ecosystem, and the security and surveillance state, is the only debate that matters. You won’t hear it on the corporate-owned airwaves and cable networks, including MSNBC, which has become to the Democratic Party what Fox News is to the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. You won’t hear it on NPR or PBS. You won’t read about it in our major newspapers. The issues that matter are being debated, however, on “Democracy Now!,” Link TV, The Real News, Occupy websites and Revolution Truth. They are being raised by journalists such as Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi. You can find genuine ideas in corners of the Internet or in books by political philosophers such as Sheldon Wolin. But you have to go looking for them. 

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Voting will not alter the corporate systems of power. Voting is an act of political theater. Voting in the United States is as futile and sterile as in the elections I covered as a reporter in dictatorships like Syria, Iran and Iraq. There were always opposition candidates offered up by these dictatorships. Give the people the illusion of choice. Throw up the pretense of debate. Let the power elite hold public celebrations to exalt the triumph of popular will. We can vote for Romney or Obama, but Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil and Bank of America and the defense contractors always win. There is little difference between our electoral charade and the ones endured by the Syrians and Iranians. Do we really believe that Obama has, or ever had, any intention to change the culture in Washington?

In this year’s presidential election I will vote for a third-party candidate, either the Green Party candidate or Rocky Anderson, assuming one of them makes it onto the ballot in New Jersey, but voting is nothing more than a brief chance to register our disgust with the corporate state. It will not alter the configurations of power. The campaign is not worth our emotional, physical or intellectual energy.


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By peaceandhealth, January 23, 2012 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

As much as I appreciate the writing and passion of Chris Hedges, I find some of
the quotes below startling with regard to the Freedom Plaza encampment.  I’m
surprised Mr. Hedges even included them in his article.  I don’t see the concepts
that I understand are basic to the Occupy movement in these statements. 
“HOW ABOUT A . . . BADGE . . . WRISTBAND . . . OR CARD?????????  Really?  Even
though “none of the ideas were passed” it doesn’t sound like they are out of the
question.  I doubt you could find another Occupy group that would even
discuss this. 

Setting up rules for who can participate (“you have to participate in general
assemblies” - do they take attendance?) seems odd when they are camping at
Freedom Plaza - which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Park Police and
therefore belongs to all of us. 

I suppose those who are not permitted on this public land will also have to wear
badges, too, at some point?  What color, what shape? 

Maybe the people at Freedom Plaza put out a call for action last summer, but if
this is their organization plan, they certainly aren’t following the Occupy
principles that really started this movement.  The non-hierarchical philosophy
of the Occupy movement is one of the most brilliant parts of it, and why it will
succeed, if it does.  What is quoted below is just how the people who are
running things now treat people.  More of the same.  Sad.

“We don’t want to become a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter,” Zeese said.
“We’re a political movement. These are problems beyond our ability. How do we
deal with this? Let’s feed the Occupiers first, and those who are just squatting
here for free get food last, so if we have enough food, we feed them. If we
don’t, we can’t. We always fed people, of course. We usually have enough
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everyone. But as we debated this issue,
we stated talking about things like ‘how about a Freedom Plaza badge, or a
Freedom Plaza wristband, or a Freedom Plaza card.’ None of those ideas were
passed. What we ended up developing was a set of principles. Those principles
included in them participation. You can’t be there because you want a [tent] or
free food. You have to be there to build the community and the movement. You
have to participate in the general assemblies.”

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By MeHere, January 23, 2012 at 10:51 am Link to this comment

So much relevancy and wisdom in this article.

Yes, indeed, “ignore the Newt, Mitt, Rick-Barack reality show.” I’ve been sparing myself these political shows for a few elections already. The culture is soaked in mass media and advertising so there isn’t a chance you will be missing anything of consequence or precious gossip by staying away from all that.

Many hanks, Chris.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, January 23, 2012 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

QUOTE, Chris Hedges:

“In this year’s presidential election I will vote for a third-party candidate, either the Green Party candidate or Rocky Anderson… but voting is nothing more than a brief chance to register our disgust with the corporate state.”
__________________

Voting could be much more useful than that, if all the people who want good government policies would stand and vote for them; instead of near all continuing to waste elections by greed or fear filled running to affirmatively vote for (R) & (D) evil, or waste elections by simply not standing to vote.

The (D) dedicated “progressive” liberals have spent their lives voting for the devious faction of the corporate party; then daily urgently begging them not to do the evil that they (D) voted for. All those who have refused to vote have been counted as having acquiescence voted for all the same evil shit that the corporate collaborating Republican and Democrat voters voted together for.

While the corporate party’s conservative lunatic Republican and liberal maniac Democrat factions feverishly fight among themselves over which of the corporate persons’ money manufactured candidates should manage four more years of malevolent militarism and malicious malfeasance, the Greens stand in true opposition.

While the gangs of really retrograde Republican voters and deeply depraved Democrat voters run together — each seeking to be more corporate-state collaborative than the other — the Greens stand to provide voters an actual and accessible alternative to the corporate (R) & (D) party’s sociopathic neoliberal policies.

Jill Stein for President:

http://www.jillstein.org

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

http://chenangogreens.org/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=498&Itemid=1

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By balkas, January 23, 2012 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

i am not so sure that; if one points out that owned people in usa need a new constitution or bill of
rights, it represents criticism of hedges.
or that hedges should or MUST call on also pious people of all ‘faiths’ [really cults] to utterly abandon
not only ALL members of the sacerdotal class but also THE ORIGINAL SIN. [and not, of course, gods or
goddevils,]
if we do not succeed to wean pious people off their superstitions and devotion to clerics [the looniest
people goddevil ever made] we’d always have a segment of public which would strongly oppose
hedges, OWS, and people who support them.
in, say, s.arabia, emirates we thus may lose 99.999% of their people.
but even in usa, the losses might amount to at least 20% of all the pious people.
====
i do admit, tho, that i enjoy reading hedges; while abhoring [and eventually stop] reading dionne,
robinson, boyarski, conason, sirota, scheer, et al.
pfaaff is ok by me; however, he, too, is not elucidatory. but in order to comment on his pieces, i must
read at least some parts of what he puts down on paper. thank you, bozhidar, planet

Report this

By Nick, January 23, 2012 at 10:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree 95% with the article - but I will say this…

NOT VOTING for OBAMA and allowing any REPUBLICAN to become president makes the struggle harder.

Does it not make sense to at least vote for the lesser of two evils? We will have to “play the political game” while we nurture the populist movement or it will all be for nothing.

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By balkas, January 23, 2012 at 9:50 am Link to this comment

when you own people, you run people. usa had been founded on the right of an
individual to own another individual or even dozens, hundreds, thousands,
millions of other individuals.
the notion of the right of some people to own others [in myriad ways] rests on the
priestly notion that some people ARE smarter, nearer to god [s], more
valuable/deserving than some others.
and owning people in any way whatever represents, to me, [i am not speaking for
anyone else] the root of all evil that is done to us on intrapersonal. interpersonal,
intrafamilial, interfamilial, intranational, and internat’l levels.
cure is very simple. reject the—so to speak—original SIN.

Report this

By Sandy A Sullivan, January 23, 2012 at 9:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a registered Dem and have previously donated to
candidates. Those days are over. My donations go to
homeless shelters, veterans and I have donated to
help Free Speech TV [Thom Hartmann who has Hedges on
a lot is on FSTV].

The “brand” of the Democrat party is still doing
better than the GOP brand [it’s marginalized it’s
self into a corner]. But, I do believe we can turn
the ship around district by district if all of us get
involved locally. Worry less about voting for
President and more about who you’ll vote in locally.
That is how the right took over, they played the long
game over the last 30yrs. Taking over school
districts, city councils, state reps because people
rarely research who they’ll vote into those positions
and focus too much on the short term solution [like
President] rather than the long term solution of
policy change.
If you want real change - get involved locally.
Google Thom Hartmann’s video from August 2011 called
“mystery of the concord project” regarding the power
of a district Precinct Committeeman/woman positions
within either party. You choose who goes on the
ballot. The 90s saw a rise in corporate Dems aka Blue
Dog Dems aka Republican Lite. Often Republicans who
were not far right enough for the GOP anymore, went
into the Democrat party. Take it back. Dont give up
your vote, either.

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By ballerina, January 23, 2012 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

thank goodness for chris hedges..i don’t know of anyone else who puts himself on
the line the way he does..i left a few years back because i didn’t see any sustained
effort at resistance to the corporatism that i had seen coming since reagan was
governor of california and now i’m too old, but i wish the occupy movement all the
success in the world because it’s the only chance our world has of surviving as far
as i can see

Report this

By SharonMI, January 23, 2012 at 9:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I updated my American Dream poster (with the Depression Mother on it) to say 99% in red duct tape and went to join the 2 peaceniks in our little town’s center of town fountain area. They weren’t there and there were no footprints in the snow. I stood there for ~an hour and a half. I got some waves and plenty of honks. A sheriff vehicle drove by three times but it is a circle in the middle of town so I wasn’t too freaked out. The only (outside)Occupy in Michigan is on the other side of the state so I decided to try ‘n’ raise awareness.
I just finished watching Ken Burns’ “Prohibition” - talk about hypocrisy and corruption…and bought off cops and politicians. FDR at the Dem convention said “this is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people.”

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By Kris Ingesson, January 23, 2012 at 9:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Among the many obstacles to overcome is the lure of false prophets.

A few days ago Chris Hedges was invited to an interview with one, Alex Jones.
(5:05) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbHCbWoSvGw

I don’t know how familiar people here are with Jones, but let me tell you; Jones is not merely a conspiracy theorist who expresses unorthodox views. He is a conman; a high-tech hustler who sells poor, semi-literate people an excuse for their fear and hatred.

A simple glance at his website shouldn’t leave any doubt in an astute mind, that to Jones the bottom line is the bottom line; all that Survivalist paraphernalia, I call it the Apocalypse-Industrial Complex.
http://www.infowars.com/

Some years ago Jones had Noam Chomsky on his show, what Jones said to his listeners after the interview had concluded was comical, yet some undeniably believed him.
(04:45) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwjK07gEpCM&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0APTn1EPg9E&feature=related

I have no idea if Hedges would even consider accepting Jones invitation to begin with; I suspect he might be too busy. And I’m not necessarily saying Hedges shouldn’t make an appearance on Jones’s show, he still has a sizeable audience, god knows why.
But if he does agree to speak to Jones, he should be careful, I don’t think there is a man alive more worthy of being called a snake then Alex Jones.

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By Winter, January 23, 2012 at 9:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I first discovered Chris Hedges on CSPAN book TV. I’m
glad I did!

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By Quit the Duopoly!, January 23, 2012 at 9:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The first thing we should all do is quit our party membership. If anyone is still registered as a Democrat or a Republican, you are just helping the corporate empire pull the strings of their puppet parties.

Even if you don’t vote for a Republican or Democrat, you still support their existence by registering with their party. Imagine if/when they have no members. What will the corporations do?

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By Susan, January 23, 2012 at 8:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr Hedge, thank you for your story.
I would like to ask that you now cover and write about the truth of rigged and gamed elections via the easily hacked and manipulated electronic voting and vote counting machines. This is the Truth that must come front and center for us to truly make a difference and have voting actually meaningful. You can take all the money out of the system but as long as the machines are easily rigged to produce a selected outcome, corporations will maintain their control. Please, Mr Hedge, please address this. This country must return to a transparent system of Hand-Counted Paper Ballots so that our voices will be heard and representation is elected instead of selected. Below are some excellent sources of information(All are excellent and order of listing is random.). Please help make voting meaningful.


http://bradblog.com/

http://www.handcountedpaperballots.org/...

http://electiondefensealliance.org/

http://votescam.org/Votescam/Front_...

http://electionintegrity.org/about/

http://richardcharnin.com/

http://markcrispinmiller.com/

http://www.blackboxvoting.org/

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, January 23, 2012 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

I would like to see more about how to safely become someone who turns in
corporations for malfeasance, and criminal acts.

As I believe that there are many hundreds of thousands of people with direct
knowledge of corporate wrong doing, but they lack the knowledge on how to
proceed….in a way that is safe for them.

But that being said,  there are many ways that people can resist the corporate
state on a daily basis, and help others around them do the same.

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By vincenyt, January 23, 2012 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

Mr Hedges, I am a great admirer of your work and your courageous stand against the disgraceful injustices plaguing our society. I am also a supporter of the Occupy movement and believe a populist uprising will be necessary to stop the incessant slide of our country into a third world autocracy. However, as a concerned citizen, I believe the most important short term goal is to insure that Conservative theocrats and free market ideologues are prevented from gaining control of the levers of power in 2012. This will be basically a ‘blocking action’. I realize the Democrats are also pawns of Corporate America. However, their ideology at least pays lip service to the needs of the middle class. The Conservatives gaining power in 2012 will mean a 7 to 2 Supreme Court upholding any outrageous legislation passed by a reactionary Congress. The continuing fight for economic equality for the poor and working class will be that much more difficult in the future.

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By gringo45, January 23, 2012 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

As others have noted, the American Revolution was more of a rebellion.  We revolted against the king, kicked him out, but set up the same social institutions in its place.  It did not redefine the bounds or structure of society.
So what we must do is to fulfill the promise of 1776.  Yet with a commitment to non-violence, it is the first revolution that begins with surrender.

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, January 23, 2012 at 6:44 am Link to this comment

“What this election tells me, unfortunately, is that it doesn’t matter to most Americans if their government lies to them repeatedly.

They no longer care if their leaders erode their civil liberties, push this country further towards a police state, or shroud their actions in additional layers of official secrecy.

They don’t mind if their government operates strictly for the benefit of the rich and the corporate class, as long as their own taxes don’t go up.

Nor do they care if their government spends itself to the brink of bankruptcy. As long as they feel threatened by some external evil, everything is permitted.”

- Gary Webb, 2004

http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/coke-or-pepsi/

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By Charlotte Scot, January 23, 2012 at 6:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

‘m on the National Steering Committee for the Justice Party and Rocky Anderson. Thank you Chris for mentioning Rocky.  We welcome all people who want to make a difference in our county.  Check out Rocky’s record on Reddit or Wikipedia. Make a donation of $5 or $10 (maximum $100)... join us… help get Rocky on the ballot in 50 states.  Work for the long term establishment of a new political party only responsible to its members. Let’s get the country excited!!!

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By Paul in NYC, January 23, 2012 at 5:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I will disagree with one point made in the piece and that is voting for the Green Party. They have not earned my vote because I question their motives, their agenda and their seeming lack of seriousness when it comes to offering up candidates. The Greens, at least the most vocal and visible ones, often come across as the most narrowly focused activists from the most radical parts of the left. They often speak to their followers and few others. I want the Greens to go out and find themselves someone who speaks to the issues of the common working person and not just offer yet one more form of libertarianism or anarchism masquerading as a third party. I also get very turned off by what seems like a cultlike sycophancy on the part of Green members as well as some of the connections to the LaRouche idiots.

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By ducktown, January 23, 2012 at 5:42 am Link to this comment

The Citizens United decision was of course merely the
straw that broke the camel’s back. Overturning it is
necessary but will not take money out of politics. It
has been like this for decades.

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By ardee, January 23, 2012 at 4:11 am Link to this comment

As I post this response it is 3AM here, my typical start of a busy day. I know that there will be those who are critical of this Hedges article, as there are about every one of his passionate appeals.

I also know that his call for all of us to get off our asses and join the movement will be ignored by the very same folks who post critiques of his style of reportage. But I found his comments quite pertinent and rather accurate indeed.

I do believe in voting, if only as a means of signalling my disconnect with my elected officials and our corrupt two party system. Like Hedges I will vote Green whenever that party’s candidates appear on my ballot.

I reject, quite emphatically, the words of those who insist that voting for the Democratic Party candidate is the wise thing to do, or the lesser of two evils. I shake my head at these befuddled folks, well meaning though their intentions might be.

I draw attention to the fact that, while espousing a vote for Democrats, these people never, ever show a way to reform that useless party, to pull them from the clutches of the corporate money that makes them useless to we the people.

I have, admittedly, done little to earn Chris Hedge’s acclaim , insofar as joining the OWS folks. I still work a long day, I have a large family, and my activist past is mostly in the past in my senior years. I have, on the weekends, collected food and sent it to the protestors, I have given a bit of money as well. I do urge the younger folks to put their bodies on the line, to put their politics into action.

Like Mr. Hedges I want to express my thanks to the real patriots who are out there every day, working for you and I, trying hard to end the stranglehold of fascism that has cast its dark shadow over our political processes.

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