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Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West

Posted on May 22, 2011
Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.The pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party—all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

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The capitulation of the liberal class to corporate capitalism, as Irving Howe once noted, has “bleached out all political tendencies.” The liberal class has become, Howe wrote, “a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn’t really have to believe in anything.” The decision to subordinate ethics to political expediency has led liberals to steadily surrender their moral autonomy, voice and beliefs to the dictates of the corporate state. As Dwight Macdonald wrote in “The Root Is Man,” those who do not make human beings the center of their concern soon lose the capacity to make any ethical choices, for they willingly sacrifice others in the name of the politically expedient and practical.

By extolling the power of the state as an agent of change, as well as measuring human progress through the advances of science, technology and consumption, liberals abetted the cult of the self and the ascendancy of the corporate state. The liberal class placed its faith in the inevitability of human progress and abandoned the human values that should have remained at the core of its activism. The state, now the repository of the hopes and dreams of the liberal class, should always have been seen as the enemy. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements—the communists, socialists and anarchists—has left liberals without a source of new ideas. The link between an effective liberal class and a more radical left was always essential to the health of the former. The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. Liberalism, cut off from the radical roots of creative and bold thought, merged completely with the corporate power elite. The liberal class at once was betrayed and betrayed itself. And it now functions like a commercial brand, giving a different flavor, face or spin to the ruthless mechanisms of corporate power. This, indeed, is the primary function of Barack Obama.

The liberal class, despite becoming an object of widespread public scorn, prefers the choreographed charade. It will decry the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or call for universal health care, but continue to defend and support a Democratic Party that has no intention of disrupting the corporate machine. As long as the charade is played, the liberal class can hold itself up as the conscience of the nation without having to act. It can maintain its privileged economic status. It can continue to live in an imaginary world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness and irrelevancy of the liberal class are not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the indignities of the corporate state. And this is why liberals are rightly despised by the working class and the poor.

The liberal class is incapable of reforming itself. It does not hold within its ranks the rebels and iconoclasts who have the moral or physical courage to defy the corporate state and power elite. And when someone such as Cornel West speaks out, packs of careerist liberals—or perhaps one should call them neoliberals—descend on the apostate like hellhounds, never addressing the truths that are expressed but instead engaging in vicious character assassination. The same thing happened to Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Jeremiah Wright and others who defied the political orthodoxy of corporate capitalism. The corporate forces, which have taken control of the press and which break unions, run the universities, fund the arts and own the Democratic Party, demand the banishment of all who question the good intentions of the powerful. Liberals who comply are tolerated within the system. They are permitted to busy themselves with the boutique activism of political correctness, inclusiveness or multiculturalism. If they attempt to fight for the primacy of justice, they become pariahs.


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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, May 23, 2011 at 2:08 am Link to this comment

The truths West spoke against Obama were not the reason he was derided.  It was his seeming hypocrisy. He unfortunately made a big deal about his personal attempts to speak to Obama and his affront after rejection.  He also mentioned a worker at a hotel who received a ticket when he (so much more deserving) did not.

I think West destroyed his truths about Obama by mixing-in personal pettiness.

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Barry Graham's avatar

By Barry Graham, May 23, 2011 at 1:56 am Link to this comment

I wrote this in response:

Chris Hedges’ Hysterical Defense of Cornel West -

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Samson's avatar

By Samson, May 23, 2011 at 1:24 am Link to this comment

Add to the list .... Anyone who tells you to vote for
Obama or to vote Democrat in 2012.

Obama and the Democrats have run up such a record of
more wars and such craven service to corporate power,
that if you aren’t a Republican by nature, I don’t
see how you can support them. 

If you are anti-war, you can’t vote for Obaama and
the Democrats.

If you don’t think wall street should run the country
(for their own benefit of course), then you can’t
vote for Obama and the Democrats.

So, it will be easy to spot the liberals.  They’ll be
the ones telling you that despite a record that would
make Ronald Reagan proud,the Democrats and Obama
should still receive your vote.  Watch who still
lines up with them even now.  Then, don’t trust those
people.  That will of course include most of the
writers who appear on this site, with Mr. Hedges
being one of the rare exceptions.

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By MK77, May 23, 2011 at 1:15 am Link to this comment

This column is about 20 years overdue, and it’s a pity that the author doesn’t mention a few of the hypocritical liberals by name. Allow me to:

1. Katrina vanden Heuvel. Her job as editor of The Nation since the 90s has been to cozy up to the Democratic Party, defend the likes of Bill Clinton & Barack Obama, and deride men of conscience like Ralph Nader. The Nation once featured such writers as Andrew Kopkind, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Hitchens (when he was younger and better). Now it offers time and space to a bunch of young career twerps and identity-politics hacks.

2. Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Obama apologist, identity-politics hack, and spoony little favorite of MSNBC.

3. Chris Hayes. Career twerp and middle-of-the-roader whose shtick is to poke fun at silly Republican targets like Sarah Palin (as if this took any great intelligence to do).

4. Katha Pollitt. Derider of all things male, identity-politics punk, and a catty little defender of the Democratic Party and critic of principled men like Ralph Nader.

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By mr lon, May 23, 2011 at 1:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

you can’t see me, but i am standing and applauding ...

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