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Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand

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Posted on Mar 14, 2011
AP / Andy Manis

Damon Terrell speaks to demonstrators at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., during a series of protests against a then-pending bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers. Last Friday Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation into law.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

“At one time in the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century, a hundred and fifty years ago, working for wage labor was considered not very different from chattel slavery,” Chomsky told David Barsamian. “That was not an unusual position. That was the slogan of the Republican Party, the banner under which Northern workers went to fight in the Civil War. We’re against chattel slavery and wage slavery. Free people do not rent themselves to others. Maybe you’re forced to do it temporarily, but that’s only on the way to becoming a free person, a free man, to put it in the rhetoric of the day. You become a free man when you’re not compelled to take orders from others. That’s an Enlightenment ideal. Incidentally, this was not coming from European radicalism. There were workers in Lowell, Mass., a couple of miles from where we are. You could even read editorials in the New York Times saying this around that time. It took a long time to drive into people’s heads the idea that it is legitimate to rent yourself. Now that’s unfortunately pretty much accepted. So that’s internalizing oppression. Anyone who thinks it’s legitimate to be a wage laborer is internalizing oppression in a way which would have seemed intolerable to people in the mills, let’s say, a hundred and fifty years ago. … [I]t’s an [unfortunate] achievement [of indoctrination in our culture].”

Our consumer society and celebrity culture foster a frightening historical amnesia. We chatter mindlessly about something called the “American Dream.” And now that the oligarchic elite have regained control of all levers of power, and that dream is being exposed as a cruel hoax, we are being shoved back into the cage. There will be hell to pay to get back to where we were.

Slick public relations campaigns, the collapse of public education—nearly a third of the country is illiterate or semiliterate—and the rise of amoral politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who posed as liberals while they sold their souls for corporate money, have left us largely defenseless. The last vestiges of unionized workers in the public sector are reduced to protesting in Wisconsin for collective bargaining—in short, the ability to ask employers for decent working conditions. That shows how far the country has deteriorated. And it looks as though even this basic right to ask, as well as raise money through union dues, has been successfully revoked in Madison. The only hope now is more concerted and militant disruptions of the systems of power.

The public debate, dominated by corporate-controlled systems of information, ignores the steady impoverishment of the working class and absence of legal and regulatory mechanisms to prevent mounting corporate fraud and abuse. The airwaves are saturated with corporate apologists. They ask us why public-sector employees have benefits—sneeringly called “entitlements”—which nonunionized working- and middle-class people are denied. This argument is ingenious. It pits worker against worker in a mad scramble for scraps. And until we again speak in the language of open class warfare, grasping, as those who went before us did, that the rich will always protect themselves at our expense, we are doomed to a 21st century serfdom. 


Square, Site wide
The pillars of the liberal establishment, which once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, have collapsed. The liberal church forgot that heretics exist. It forgot that the scum of society—look at the new Newt Gingrich—always wrap themselves in the flag and clutch the Christian cross to promote programs that mock the core teachings of Jesus Christ. And, for all their years of seminary training and Bible study, these liberal clergy have stood by mutely as televangelists betrayed and exploited the Gospel to promote bigotry, hatred and greed. What was the point, I wonder, of ordination? Did they think the radical message of the Gospel was something they would never have to fight for? Schools and universities, on their knees for corporate dollars and their boards dominated by hedge fund and investment managers, have deformed education into the acquisition of narrow vocational skills that serve specialized corporate interests and create classes of drone-like systems managers. They make little attempt to equip students to make moral choices, stand up for civic virtues and seek a life of meaning. These moral and ethical questions are never even asked. Humanities departments are vanishing as swiftly as the ocean’s fish stocks.

The electronic and much of the print press has become a shameless mouthpiece for the powerful and a magnet for corporate advertising. It makes little effort to give a platform to those who without them cannot be heard, instead diverting us with celebrity meltdowns, lavish lifestyle reports and gossip. Legitimate news organizations, such as NPR and The New York Times, are left cringing and apologizing before the beast—right-wing groups that hate “liberal” news organizations not because of any bias, but because they center public discussion on verifiable fact. And verifiable fact is not convenient to ideologues whose goal is the harnessing of inchoate rage and hatred.

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By JCM124, March 15, 2011 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

“And the rise of amoral politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” Are you out of your mind! How many more Republicans do you want elected. The amoral politician’s were Reagan, Bush and Bush Jr. The only time the middle class did a little better was during Clinton’s term and would have been better during Obama’s term if there were three or four more Dem’s in the senate. To criticize these two in this article without greater criticism of the Republicans and the insane Conservative ideology is just self defeating. It is the Conservative ideology that is destroying the middle class. Smaller government and lower taxes for the rich has only benefited the very wealthiest. Look what the new Republicans are doing to us in Wisconsin and Michigan. Destroying our rights and our Democracy! What’s happening in Wisconsin is terrible but what’s happening in Michigan is apocalyptic for Democracy. The governor there can now fire elected officials in an emergency of his choice. And you picked Clinton and Obama, they have their faults but in the larger scheme of things they were not the ones who set out to destroy the government and in turn the middle class, both their directions and decisions were altered by the election of a majority of Republicans. You can criticize them, just make sure you state and criticize the politicians most responsible for our destruction, otherwise you can mislead people and help elect more Republicans.  Additionally, if you vote for anyone else besides a Democrat, you are voting for a Republican. That is the Reality. Wake up or we all loose.

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By drbhelthi, March 15, 2011 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

Yes, Mark Boston, the stalag managers are pleased when we believe what they tell us to believe. By the way, did the incinerator building chimney smoke yesterday, and did you smell the odor of roasting pig?

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By kulturcritic, March 15, 2011 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

Gee mr boston; i am soooo glad u r here to help me!!

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By FRTothus, March 15, 2011 at 6:29 am Link to this comment

“The biggest political joke in America is that we
have a liberal press. It’s a joke taken seriously by
a surprisingly large number of people… The myth of
the liberal press has served as a political weapon
for conservative and right-wing forces eager to
discourage critical coverage of government and
corporate power ... Americans now have the worst of
both worlds: a press that, at best, parrots the
pronouncements of the powerful and, at worst,
encourages people to be stupid with pseudo-news that
illuminates nothing but the bottom line.”
(Mark Hertzgaard)

One more hurdle, Mr Hedges: your nostalgia for the
anything-but-liberal Grey Lady, the advertising rag
entitled The New York Times, where the gate-keepers
must deny their own complicity in telling official
lies.  Being a lick-spittle to corporate interests
arouses internal contradictions which must be
suppressed or faced.  Some, like Hedges, have faced
it, and have chosen no longer to be a part of the
deception, both as an agent and as a victim, but
nonetheless, some cannot even now rid themselves of
the notion that there was once a time when it was
better, that the news in some glorious past had
integrity, or that they didn’t tell lies.

Let’s not kid ourselves here.  Profit-driven “news”
is not news.  Every publisher has an agenda, and
revenue alone is the goal.  No poor man owns a
printing press, or runs one.  Corporate control of
the press presents a certain, ignorant, world-view,
that ignores the past, lives in a child-like present
where incredible things happen all the time, and is
constantly hysterically frightened about what “might”

“[I] never saw a foreign intervention that the [New
York] Times did not support, never saw a fare
increase or a rent increase or a utility rate
increase that it did not endorse, never saw it take
the side of labor in a strike or lockout, or advocate
a raise for underpaid workers. And don’t let me get
started on universal health care and Social Security.
So why do people think the Times is liberal?”
(New York Times reporter John Hess)

“The media want to maintain their intimate relation
to state power. They want to get leaks, they want to
get invited to the press conferences. They want to
rub shoulders with the Secretary of State, all that
kind of business. To do that, you’ve got to play the
game, and playing the game means telling their lies,
serving as their disinformation apparatus.”
(Noam Chomsky)

“The American press, with a very few exceptions:, is
a kept press. Kept by the big corporations the way a
whore is kept by a rich man.”
(Theodore Dreiser)

“The U.S. government officials lie when they talk
about human rights. They’re a bunch of hypocrites and
You can’t take it seriously.”
(Eqbal Ahmad)

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By ImHere4Hedges, March 15, 2011 at 4:13 am Link to this comment

“If we all posted a FB link to Chris’s articles we would spred is truth around so much faster.  Most people don’t go “digging” for the truth, but we do recognize it when we read/hear/see it.  What’s the point in waiting?”

Totally, agree with this!  However, Facebook is tough these days with people saturating it with their own self-serving lifestyles.  And when “we” do post something of a more sobering tone - I find I get very little to zero feedback on those posts.  As much as I want people to read the “truths” - they seem uninterested.  I am trying to dumb down the message, but its been coming off as subversive.

I’m all ears.

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By Mike "Mish" Shedlock, March 15, 2011 at 3:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you are looking for slavery and extortion you will find it in public unions

Paul Krugman, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, others, Ignore Extortion, Bribery, Coercion, and Slavery; No One Should Own You!

We can safely add Chris Hedges to the list of those supporting slavery and extortion


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By Leefeller, March 15, 2011 at 1:02 am Link to this comment

Seen very little about this;.... last week Firemen in Wisconson, all went down to a community bank and demanded to take all their money out, because the bank had supported Wisconson Walker! This was on Alternet, it seems the firemen had enough savings that bank had to close its doors for the day, according to the article. 

As Forgery’s song goes “No one is minding the store”

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By mark_boston, March 15, 2011 at 1:00 am Link to this comment

kulturcritic - you assume my comment was directed at you. It was not. However, since you have volunteered a response, I’ll demonstrate (briefly) how your position is also incoherent. You cannot claim the cause of “the problem” to be both systemic and the structures of power within it. Hierarchical (power) structures are ultimately the effect of economic inequality. Oppression (the rule of power) is brought about by the accumulation of surplus labor through the regime of wage-labor/capital. The State, through its various institutions, serves to manage/prevent daily crises emerging from contradictions inherent to the system.
You fail to distinguish cause from effect in your analysis of “the problem.”
Also, I don’t think you should make claims as to how much Chris Hedges understands…

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By Psychobabbler, March 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm Link to this comment

These writings are helpful for me to wash away the information that is constantly psychologically assaulting me on television. This time I made it through from last week all the way to this one.

The supra lamester Koch bros are really good at pressing peoples buttons in a way that suits their personal interests.

Maybe Big Bill will make a come back and get busy with those guys.

I think I’d like to have a couple calenders with a Leefeller/Tao Walker enlightenment for each month.

That would keep me ready at all times to Taekwondo round house kick the electronic death trap! (beauty)

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By kulturcritic, March 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment

mark_boston - glad you are such a beacon of light!!

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By mark_boston, March 14, 2011 at 11:23 pm Link to this comment

I’m not sure which is more frightening in some of the posts here, the non-sensical “theories” offered, or the responses validating them.

Good work, Chris

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By kulturcritic, March 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm Link to this comment

Chris does not seem to understand that the problem is “system,” it is “power”, it is
ultimately “hierarchy”... The State must go!!!

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By Flummox, March 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment

TAO Walker, I see where you’re coming from now.

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By Patricia Nairn, March 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If we all posted a FB link to Chris’s articles we would spred is truth around so
much faster.  Most people don’t go “digging” for the truth, but we do recognize it
when we read/hear/see it.  What’s the point in waiting?

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By Litl Bludot, March 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment

katsteevns, Tao Walker

Thanks for the link to Winnona LaDuke: Great contrast between what the
liberals here said they couldn’t have, and what they voted for, as we now have in
frenemy powerpimps Obama and Biden.  Towards the middle of her talk, She
explains the “creators law” which corresponds to Tao Walker’s Tiyoshpay Way

Tao Walker, I think Hedges does get it with the biology—- I understand your
words which correspond with mine ( although, not your eloquence).  There’s no
way he could get published (or understood by this lot, here and the rest of the
infected world) if he broadened his argument into the biological realm. There is
evidence of this understanding off and on in his writing and his discussions, i.e.
with Derek Jensen.

The only reason to keep posting here is the hope that what we say will
somehow combat the parasitic infection, which is described in various ways, i.e.
mine is that it is an ideological parasite, which has been carried by a particular human
culture which is characterized by the war- god -in- the- sky, we-are-
separate-from-nature humans.  This ideological parasite is called disaster
capitalism.  It happens to be a parasitoid parasite, which quickly destroys its
host, and, in this particular case, it also destroys its host’s niche, which
happens to be the planet’s biosphere.

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By Flummox, March 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm Link to this comment


Status quo or revolution? Hot or cold? Black or white? Are those our only choices? So what were the labor disputes that gave us our (now crumbling) labor laws that Hedges discusses in this article? What was the civil rights movement? What about the antiwar movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s? Were those total revolution or absolute capitulation to the status quo?

They were neither. Did they have an effect? Of course they did. There is an alternative to revolution and status quo, and frankly it’s the only political action that has any reasonable chance of affecting anything at this point.

I don’t have anything up my sleeve, only a few short words to tell you about your massive blind spot. There is a huge difference between what Hedges is trying to talk to and a “Great American Revolution II” you’ve been trying to stuff in his mouth.

So go ahead and keep pretending that one day some honest politicians are going to come to power riding a great tidal wave of fairness, polite arguments and practicality, and nobody will be able to withstand their might. It’s the official Democratic messiah, who’s coming is more important than any pressing reforms. Too bad that’s just not the way the world works Lafayette.

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By Jason Pacifico, March 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment

[Chris Hedges comments} “—so we can pay for the fraud they committed when they wiped out $14 trillion of housing wealth, wages and retirement savings.”

Why can’t we TRANSCENDENTALLY see similarily the 14 trillion dollars in wages, housing wealth and retirement saving lost and stolen: as the 14 trillion dollars National Debt, and “lose” the entire 14 trilllion dolar DEBT, for more money for jobs, unions, infrastructure projects, “state budgets” essential services, etc. See the “The Nondual Philosophy of Franklin Merrell-Wolff,” on the metaphysical subject (ourselves) transcendent introceptionally vis-à-vis “object,s” and “objectifications” rather than transcendenatal relationships!

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By bogi666, March 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Psy your taxes by credit card on the last day of filing.

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By TAO Walker, March 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment

Natural Persons coming together spontaneously, where they live-and-breathe every Day, into the ORGANic Form of Humanity English-speakers call “community,” will naturally recover a sufficiency of the Living Virtue of Organic Functional Integrity (unavailable to random collections of the “self”-obsessed “individual”) enabling them to All together fulfill the given Function of Humanity in the Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth, as components in Her immune system.  That’s the “how,” in-response to the question from “Flummox.”

How likely is that to actually happen?  Not very, at this late (terminal) stage of the “civilization” disease process….and given the seriously debilitated and severely dysfunctional CONdition to which its domesticated Human infectees have been reduced.  On the other hand, the kinds of completely homo-centric, entirely “self”-serving activities available within the collapsing CONtext of the “global” gangster-ruled gulag, and recommended with monotonous repetition by the likes of Chris Hedges and many commenting here, are dead-certain to only hasten the CON-TRAPtion’s plunge (probably with all presently ‘aboard’ still….well, on-board) into the abyss of catastrophic disintegration it has always been headed-for.

Let’s be blunt.  If it is a “choice” between saving our Mother Earth from the ravages of the tormenting ‘entity,’ or letting Her be sacrificed to the insatiable artificially-enhanced appetites of Her corrupted Human offspring who do its dirty-work here….

Bye-bye, missamericanpie.


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By Jason Pacifico, March 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“—so we can pay for the fraud they committed when they wiped out $14 trillion of housing wealth, wages and retirement savings.”

On 14 trillion dollars, why can’t we similaily wipeout the National Debt of 14 trillion dollars— the money needed for budgets, programs, union wages, pensions,jobs, infrastructure proijects, etc…rahter than this “debt based economy.”

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By Lafayette, March 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment

Flum: Only the blind and foolish still think the status quo can be changed from the inside. Childish? I think it’s childish to pray for an “evolutionary” savior to save us from our political damnation.

Then the alternative is revolution, which is the slippery slope to the dissolution of the US. We had a Magic Moment with our first revolution against the English King George, which will not repeat itself against this present plutocracy.

There is no viable alternative. 

Unless you’ve got one up your sleeve. Do share it with us.

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By David, March 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Artists, who once had something to say, have retreated into elite enclaves, preoccupied themselves with abstract, self-referential garbage, frivolous entertainment and spectacle.”

Thank you, Mr. Hedges, for supplying these lines ... from a painter who has given up painting seven years ago precisely because I refuse to take part in “elite enclaves, preoccupied ... with abstract, self-referential garbage.” I refuse to support these elite enclaves with my presence and participation ... and anyone who imagines that the great majority of artists in the capitalist, western part of our world are not primarily self-serving narcissists is simply living in dreamland. Being a narcissist is what an artist now gets paid for being (IF an artist is paid to begin with). Being an artist now revolves around three things: (1) entertaining a coterie of artists and “art lovers” with irrelevant abstractions; (2) entertaining a wider audience with uncritical celebrations of The-World-As-It-Is; (3) entertaining an audience of pseudo-progressives with pseudo-critical “protest art.” The rest remains unseen, unheard and / or ignored. Careers are Holy in our capitalist world - especially “art careers.” Bodies are not being put on the line ... and neither are careers. Nothing will change until this ceases to be the case.

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By Flummox, March 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

But Tao Walker, how would this ‘Tiyospaye Way’ be realized?

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By che, March 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is time for armed insurrection.

no mercy, no quarters for:

neocons, banksters, msm, rethugs and democrap traitors, and all those corporate shills and fascism enforcers.  Seek’em out, string’em up.  Decorate them trees in your town, and all over America.

Take arms and clean house.

Non violence is a charade.

“The tree of Liberty must from time to time be refreshed by the blood of tyrants and patriots.” -  Thomas Jefferson

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By TAO Walker, March 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

The expected latest installment, of Chris Hedges’ serialized apocalyptic “world-at-war” formulation, this week requires an implacable “enemy” to have even its flimsy appearance of plausibility.  So he designates the absolute sickest (the most grievously socio- and psycho-pathic), among the completely compromised (Organic Function-wise) subspecies homo domesticus, to serve in that thankless role.

The symptoms, of this latest (and last) outbreak here of the “civilization” disease, are naturally and unavoidably present in every facet of the fever-dream virtual world-o’-hurt that is its mental/emotional/physical manifestation….the metastasizing ideological/institutional/technical excrescence that most who’re caught-up in its toils are taught to foolishly equate with the “blessings” of mandatory “growth” and irresistible “progress,” with its would-be (if not arrested) terminally cancerous effects on our Mother Earth’s Living Arrangement….including the pride-driven “self”-inflicted extinction of all those billions of “individual”-ized Human rogue-cells huddled massively (and more-and-more miserably) in mega-cities that ARE (in-fact and in actual effect) tumors.

This CONventionally insolulable predicament, lamented at extra length today by Hedges and seconded by many commenting here, is NOT at its roots “moral” or “political” or “eCONomic” (or any other kind of abstract CONceit) at-all.  It is purely biological.

A retro-viral ‘entity’ has invaded the Living Body of our Mother Earth….Her Living Arrangement.  Its process includes co-opting and corrupting a component in Her Immune system….Humanity.  The massively dysfunctional CONdition of the domesticated peoples not only deprives Earth of what should be their protective reaction to the invading ‘entity,’ it has rendered them instrumental in its systematic degradation of Her (and all of our) Natural Vitality into the various sorts of degenerate “energy” (“nuclear power,” for instance) the ‘entity’ uses to sustain its own now ages-long “undead” existence. 

What Hedges pushes here, as what he presents (again) as the last-ditch supposed-to-be-only-remaining-possibly-corrective response to these increasingly obviously untenable (hell, unsurvivable) CONditions, when stripped of his customarily heated and over-blown rhetoric, is nothing but more of the same damn sophomoronic knee-jerk reactionary “self”-referential exercises-in-futility that got our tame Sisters and Brothers into this mess in the first place.  Granted that hurling their already seriously unhealthy and doomed-anyway bodies heroically against the bristling-with-armament ramparts of the “privileged” does stand a good chance of getting a lot of the “demonstrators” put once-and-for-all out of their (and All of our) misery.  Otherwise, it’ll be a complete waste.

Those being so vehemently excoriated by so many who’d happily join the lower echelons of their ranks, given a winning “powerball” ticket, are (whether they know it or not) showing us all the “face” of the tormenting ‘entity.’  They are, theirown"self,” already hard up-against the “global” DEAD END of its process here….with their own sealed fate, and the impossibility of buying or shooting or thinking their way out of it, staring them terrifyingly in their own fallen faces.

So why do they keep-on with their death-march?  For the same “reason” the “huddled masses” do….they don’t any of ‘em know any better.

The Tiyoshpaye Way is better.


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By RayLan, March 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm Link to this comment

Out of their wide repetoire of narrow-minded fallacies, the right rely heavily on the ‘you too’ - attacking anybody who cites their bigotry by calling that person a bigot. It’s been done on TD many times by well known trolls. Calling them on it, showing them how tolerating intolerance is not tolerance, but vice versa , intolerance, is futile. Equally useless, is showing how, conversely not tolerating intolerance is real tolerance.
In the middle of their pit-bull vehemence they call us to the sappy surrender of just not opposing anything - especially them. What’s scary is that these stupid rhetorical tricks work.

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By Brad Heckman, March 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

I watched a video of Chris at Powell’s Books recently.
He was asked about how difficult it is for young people
to relate to his “dark” message.  His response was
something like, “Well, I’m not making this stuff up.”

If I’m a member of the kleptocracy and I happened to
read these comments to this column, I’d think, “Well,
there’s a few that are on to us, but there’s nothing to
fear here, ha ha ha.”

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By katsteevns, March 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment

Let us compile a list of those who voted these people in in the last 30 years and sat back when impeachment was “off the table”......enough said.
          The same will bitch and moan until they are forced to take to the streets cuz their kids need a meal, and probably not a moment sooner.
          You ignored and berated the activist candidates and parties to satisfy your anticommunist/antisocialist/militaristic status quo, we will see how well you take on the task left to yourselves.Don’t expect any moral support from Iraq/Afghanistan/Iran/South America/Vietnam, et cetera ad nauseum. Howard Zinn is no longer here to hold your hand.

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By Flummox, March 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

de profundis clamavi,

What else would be the point if Lafayette wasn’t giving “progressives” a pointless and impossible task to complete before “progressive change” can be realized? Without such myths of Sisyphus Lafayette and the like wouldn’t have a soapbox on which to stand and poke others in the eye.

It’s so much easier to sit on your ass and write up internet posts claiming the system works, it’s just lazy citizens fouling it up than (evidently) it is to see that the system is hopelessly captured and won’t budge without independent, outside agitation.

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By c.hanna, March 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

Really good points about tolerating intolerance. Also the liberals began to tolerate things that are really hateful in the guise of liberalism. An example is on a well known liberal site there was an article about rape video games. Even the author had to make a point that she was “tolerant” and still believed these should not be illegal….it’s like liberals became frightened of appearing too “closed minded” and prudish.

One barometer to use when issues like these come up is to take the issue and turn it around. Pretend the Rape video games are of blacks only, or only of young male adults. When you look at issues like this you will see your own prejudices more clearly and can self correct.

It’s kind of like the Pedophile priest cases. It did not get the public attention until it became evident that a large percentage of victims were male, even though people have known for centuries that females were being targeted regularly.

Many liberals have been exposed over these last 10 years. The “any-thing-goes” crowds are damaging our society and creating no place left to go but to the right for many citizens. Societies need some kind of discipline. I don’t see too much discipline in the U.S. I’m not talking about punishment as discipline. I’m talking about self-discipline and fairness.

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By Conden, March 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment

The republicans, democrats, their corporate sponsors, our failed election system and outdated constitution are all at fault.  They all need to be cleared away.  Those who are working on Obama’s re-election campaign instead of fighting for social and economic justice (which corporatist war criminals such as Obama are the enemies of) are a part of the problem.

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By alturn, March 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

10 years ago when I went to local democratic clubs the only thing on their radar was gay rights.  Times have changed and what is termed the progressive community is getting up to speed a lot faster than people think.  The people protests are coming.

“It becomes the duty of one and all to make fellow citizens aware of the happenings and to work for the general security and happiness of all, and to do away with the coined myth of non-interference: a ‘mind your own business’ attitude so cultivated in human behaviour and relationships that sectarian politics are able to withstand people power.”
- World Teacher Maitreya through an associate as reported by Share International

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By Leefeller, March 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment

“If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” 

I find uncanny accuracy in the above statement, for the Republicans/Tea Baggers have shown this to be evident.

prisnersdilema, worthy comments, both for reflection and remembrance. My ignorance of Popper as many things shall be rectified, hopefully before me demise!

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By prisnersdilema, March 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

The central problem of liberalism, and of the current Democratic party, happily offering cosmetic changes, while busily selling out, the middle class, for cash, and becoming a light version of the Republican party and noting else. Just as willing to protect the larcies of Wall Street, the Pharmacuetical Companies, and Agribuisness, no matter how many American’s are poisoned, and murdered in their sleep.

” The liberal class has busied itself with the toothless pursuits of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, identity politics and tolerance—a word Martin Luther King never used—and forgotten about justice. It naively sought to placate ideological and corporate forces bent on the destruction of the democratic state. The liberal class, like the misguided democrats in the former Yugoslavia or the hapless aristocrats in the Weimar Republic, invited the wolf into the henhouse. The liberal class forgot that, as Karl Popper wrote in “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” 

How many liberals even understand who Karl Popper was, or when they find out what he said, reacting in horror because, he calls in to question their witless embrace of relativistic thinking.

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By Flummox, March 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment


Bollux to that. Only the blind and foolish still think the status quo can be changed from the inside. Childish? I think it’s childish to pray for an “evolutionary” savior to save us from our political damnation.

Nobody’s going to reach down from on high in Washington and grant us a more just and equitable future. Waiting for your honest politician-messiah is going to leave you waiting into you’ve rolled over into your grave, and your children too. No, America needs change, and change now.

What kind of fool thinks real change will be coming from the top down? It isn’t, Hedges is right, and Americans need to take to the streets. Even if it doesn’t mean total victory (and it doesn’t, Hedges and everyone else acknowledges this), something has got to give.

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By de profundis clamavi, March 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

My dear Lafayette,

Even when a transparently wise and just consitutional amendment like the ERA makes it past the gauntlet of the House, the Senate and the President, it still has to be ratified by a super-majority of the states - sorry, I can’t recall whether that is 2/3 or 3/4 but either way, it is an extremely slow and difficult process.

So when we are talking about a Constitutional amendment of something a lot more fundamental, such as abolishing the Senate or abolishing the separation of the Executive branch, I think it is pretty obvious that whichever party is in power and whatever is happening in the country, however catastrophic, the vested interests of the political class will prevent it from happening, forever.

The only thing that can bring about change of that kind is massive sustained civil disobedience that directly denies the authority of the federal government and which demands a new constitutional convention.

Sure, I participate in the existing processes of our “democracy”, but I have been waiting and hoping for progressive changes to occur for my whole lifetime - 54 years now, and as this never happened, I began asking “why not”, especially when things that seemed so impossible here, like single payer universal healthcare, have been achieved everywhere else in rich economies.

And excuse me, but I don’t think what I am doing by posting my opinions here is “whining”. I am participating in a forum that influences the opinions of at least a small part of the public.

So are you, when you publish your little self-conceived gems of insight. I have read enough of yours to know that it I’d be wasting of my time to read any more of them, except when you trouble yourself to attack me directly.

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By katsteevns, March 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

A virtuous murderer…not THAT is some fancy mental gymnastics.

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By Leefeller, March 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

Blue Dot the unifier, or Republican shrill, or just another Nader looser?  Being self righteous does not necessarily mean being conservative! I find your talking points little different than any right wing commando!

Nader,...... here we go again,  I expected it would be only a short time for the attention spandexers to crawl out of the wood work, only to be followed by the Grassy Knoll ass wipes and the alien anal probes experts.

Keep focused,..... unless the intent is not to stay on track?

I prefer the horses to be in front of the wagon, not behind it, this is the first time I find Hedges article providing enlightened truth in more ways than one.

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By katsteevns, March 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment

This would have been Nader’s running mate:

And you might ask yourself again who REALLY wasted their vote.

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By katsteevns, March 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment

“amoral politicians”

Is this why I get a really sick frightened feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see Obummer on the tube speaking with so much self confidence as more and more people fall through the cracks?
I mean, how often do you see a real live amoral person? Not often, because they all float to the top of the barrel, the top of the food chain.

The ego can play some incredible tricks on the minds of those with so much power. I am sure he believes in his own virtue.

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By JLawrence, March 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment

Nothing like Chris for a cup of sobriety. And what is he saying? I think he’s saying that it’s a done deal and there no longer is an easy way out, America. That it never was ‘easy’ as the American Dream merchants wanted us to believe. We all know that he’s right. Well, I suspect we are all still too soft to begin marches en masse—-but—and I have struggled with this question—there is something brave we can do, and soon. We can vote 3rd party and deny Obama his imperious disregard of us. Yes, there are risks, aren’t there?  We could end up with a Sarah or a Newt or a Huckster as president. But let’s ask ourselves, does it really matter? We thought it did in 2000 with Nader (My God, why would you throw your vote away?!)
Guess what—if Nader had had a much bigger showing ten years ago, would true progressives been so side-lined as now?  I don’t think so.
If we all stop voting for the lesser of two evils, then maybe, just maybe, the big marches will begin.
By the way, as an artist and writer, Chris is spot on about artistic BS that has no interest in society, economics, or politics—it’s mostly fluff in this country. Mostly decadent art contrived to amuse; typical of a lazy populace in decline. Our art doesn’t ask anything of us—and the corporate masters want it that way.

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By Litl Bludot, March 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment


“,,,,,,, the rise of amoral politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who
posed as liberals while they sold their souls for corporate money, have left us
largely defenseless.”

The Oxford English Dictionary’s new definition of people like Barack Obama:  a

When you vote for a frenemy because you don’t have the guts to vote for an
honest person who devoted his life to helping the people, like Ralph Nader, you
have voted for fascism, for a more certain grip of fascism than if you had voted
for an obvious right wing lunatic.  You have voted the Clinton’s and the
Obama’s,  who are the stealth candidates of the corporate fascists, not the
obvious nutcase, but an effective, charming liar who can convince spineless
liberals into any depravity, any war crime, any destruction of environmental and
social values.  Most of you who read this are the ones responsible because you
didn’t have spines enough to do the right thing.

Instead,  here is what you have done and will continue to do:

“Let sleazy con artists use lies and deception to carry out unethical sting
operations on tottering liberal institutions, and you roll out the welcome mat
for fascism.”

Hedges is angry because he is beginning to realize that almost all of his readers
are spineless hypocrites, who “roll out the welcome mat for fascism”.

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By TDoff, March 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

As the old saying goes, when you’re correct, you’re correct, and Chris Hedges is correct. (Do not fall into the trap of insulting him by calling him ‘right’).

Judging by these comments, CH has created a near-unanimous consensus, amongst us at least, that it’s past time for a revolutionary change in the US, i.e., the dethroning of the mega-billionaire Plutocrats and their lackeys, the mere-millionaire*  politicians, who control the three branches of the US government which control We, the People.

‘Course, there are still a few questions and problems remaining to achieve this…perhaps we need a ‘Suggestion’ box.

*It’s s sign-of-the-times that most millionaires no longer consider themselves ‘rich’, even when you define ‘millionaire’ not just as having total worth of a million or more, but as having total liquid assets of a million or more, not including real estate, retirements funds, etc.

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By adyrainbow, March 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
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Capitalism is the same World wide here in blighty we had the Chartists and Jarrow and the miners strike in the 80’s and nothing has changed the bastards still throw their cronies at you no matter what ‘human rights’ have been agreed, I am in total accord, I wrote a thesis on the Chartists for my final written work at college the last attempt at armed revolution in Britain and I entitled it..and I stand by this till the day I die “By force or the fear of force”

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By Lafayette, March 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment
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dpc: The United States Constitution, held up before the worshipful eyes of the American public generation after generation, is NOT and never was intended to be, a vehicle for democracy.

The constitution has been amended 27 times, the last in 1992 (see here.)

The process is not simple and it does require some work.

Rather than whining plaintively in a blog, why not try to reform the constitution according to the means provided - which is a democratic process, btw. First, get a political support for a Progressive Agenda in Congress.

That will require a political party, however. Not your cup of tea? Too much like hard work? Bitching in a blog is soooooo much easier.


We are blaming the mechanism, when the fault is in ourselves. There is insufficient support amongst the American People for a Progressive Agenda. So, journalists like Chris Hedges can bitch and moan about how antiquated and partisan our “system” is, rather than getting off their duffs and doing something about it.

It’s easy as hell to complain, which is why everybody does it.

Quote: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Julius Caesar (by Shakespeare).

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By richardbelldc, March 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment

What are you ready to die for today? Not to put too bloody a point on Chris’ argument, but when you look at the historical examples he cites, if you are not ready to die for the struggle, the struggle you’re engaged in is less likely to succeed.

I don’t mean that you have to want to be a martyr. But people who went to the American south to struggle for civil rights knew that there was a meaningful chance that some of them would surely be killed.

Likewise, when workers fought for the right to establish unions, everyone who fought knew that there was a possibility of being killed by corporate thugs or government troops.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, March 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment


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By sallysense, March 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment

hiya gerard… indeed… and stopping is not an option…

(busy again today with things on behalf of bradley manning and the truth)...

best wishes’n'ways for today to dawn on!... smile

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By mark fletcher, March 14, 2011 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please. Every time I read this nonsense I am taken back to my college days where only angry profs populated the classrooms. It isn’t always the fault of the system. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve thought this out a bit too much and have crossed into the land of wild conspiracies. Do we really all believe there are a few “great and powerful Oz” like people out there controlling the entire world?

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By WriterOnTheStorm, March 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

The “American Dream” narrative, in which superior human beings pull themselves
up from their bootstraps and rise to the top to enjoy the fruits of their efforts,
has been completely internalized. It is the “accent” with which Americans speak
but can not hear.

It is also one of the most effective traps ever devised by the ruling class. In this
pernicious mindset, those who have not “made it” blame themselves. If some
look to systemic corruption, rigged markets, and monopolistic practices, they are
told they are sore losers, as if (preposterously) those who are on the top of the
capital pyramid are eager to share the cake with other superior individuals,
rather than doing everything in their power to protect their economic privilege
from any and all comers.

The “arrivists” on the other hand, praise themselves. Self satisfaction is their
currency and lifeblood. The mere fact that they are closing in on the pyramid’s
tip is vindication of the narrative. They worked hard, they have demonstrated
their tiger blood, and now they have their reward. Rags to riches stories are
methodically celebrated no matter how apocryphal. They are presented as
evidence of the moral justice inherent in the system.

We re-write personal histories the way the Stalinists expunged schoolbooks.
Somehow, circumstance never enters the argument. Donald Trumps are re-
invented as self-made men. And only the most heretical dare to invoke luck as a
factor in their fortunes. This is a critical component of the narrative. It’s essential
to believe that somehow everyone “deserves” their station. What else could justify
the extreme and growing inequality in society?

The recent events in Wisconsin throw a pipe wrench into the gears of the story.
By exposing the machinery behind the trompe l’oeil, the entire narrative is
threatened. Many are learning the hard lesson that it’s not an even playing field
after all. And as Hedges ably points out, it never has been a gentlemen’s game.
It’s always been a bloody, gory war fought in slow motion over generations. Now
it is this generation’s turn to fight.

It’s going to have to get worse before the backlash reaches critical mass. But
don’t worry, if things keep going the way they are, we’ll get there soon enough.

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By Robespierre115, March 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment

Hedges lives in the real world while liberals live in deluded fantasies. Getting people out to protest on the weekends won’t be enough to overthrow the oligarchy.

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By RayLan, March 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges, unlike the self-proclaimed Obama, is a true visionary. Much like John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, hence prophetic.  This is because the truth he is envisioning is global and historical, describing an ominous devolution of civilized humanity. He is in the best sense -
apolitical and yet completely aware of the nature of power. Power dark, without conscience, Machiavellian, Darwinian, self-promoting, nihilistic much like Neitzche’s “der Wille zur Macht” (Will to Power) embodied in the Ubermensch - (the Superman).
Unlike Neitzche’s vision, however, he sees the postive response, the final offering of the body in the face of the daemon , the Christ-like sacrifice as the only salvation.

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By Myshkin, March 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.”

—Abraham Lincoln

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By gerard, March 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

Milllions of people are in CClauson’s position, no doubt.  They can, however,
phone and visit offices of their Senators and Representative.  They can write
letters to editors of local and nearby city newspapers who are surely getting
plenty of letters from “the other side” that will be believed by many unless

One of the surest ways to promote ignorance is to let ignorant views be
publicized without contradiction.

Another thing to do is to contribute to causes, groups, individual legal cases
that require funding to stay alive.  Civil rights orgs, anti-war and green groups
are always scratching for money to do what needs tobe done.  Never think you
can[‘t send enough.  The small donations given regularly are vital, and the more
the better. 

The main thing is to avoid falling into the trap of self-defeatism—which is
precisely where dominators and takers want you to be.  They want you to do
nothing, and to believe that you are useless. 

If you feel hopeless, think of the people of east coast Japan in their great need.
Think of the courage it takes just to stay alive under those circumstances and
to help others to stay alive and face another day.

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By de profundis clamavi, March 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

To my previous philippic against the United States Constitution, I would add the following:

The overwhelming effect of a political system, like the Constitution, that prevents any change from occurring save in the extraordinary circumstance where populist representatives control all the branches of government, is to favor the perpetuate the political control of the wealthy.

They alone have the time, money and influence to keep the pressure on elected officials in between elections, and by so doing, they control everything our elected representatives of both parties do and say, save for a very few exceptions (Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich). Here is how they do it:

They alone have the money with which to fund a perpetual cycle of political campaigns that continue to consistently break the record set in the previous round for the expense of running for office. Through their control of campaign financing, they ensure that no candidate who is truly a threat to established wealth can ever win national office, save for the powerless senators of a few small liberal states like Vermont (Sanders) or the equally powerless House representatives of enclaves of the poor like Cleveland (Kucinich).

They alone have the money with which to create and endow propaganda machines like Fox News, the Washington Times, nationally syndicated right-wing talk radio, and a host of lavishly funded “think tanks” which pose as research institutions but which are, in actuality, universities of propaganda.

They alone have the money with which to establish and fund an “industry” of lavishly paid lobbyists, and to offer cushy jobs in their lobbying firms and propaganda organs, to right wing politicians when they leave public office.

They alone have the money with which to endow elite universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and U. Chicago which, despite housing a few liberal voices for the purpose of creating the false appearance of academic freedom and intellectual objectivity, actually function for the most part as finishing schools for the next generation of pampered hedge fund managers, derivatives speculators and Federal Reserve chieftans, as well as the voices of orthodox opinion in the pseudo-science of economics such as Milton Friedman (Chicago) Ben Bernanke (Princeton) and Larry Summers (Harvard).

They alone have the money with confers control over the banks and the corporations, now blessed with their own legal personhood and citizenship conferred by the Supreme Court under Citizens United.

To what then, did we owe the window of relatively liberal, democratic government between 1933 and 1980?

I think it was only because of the existence of Communist governments, and the perception of a socialist alternative, that restrained the rapaciously greedy instincts of the capitalist class for 50 years. Since the unraveling of communist governments, social democracy has been under relentless attack everywhere. Thanks to our cumbersome Constitution, social democracy had never gotten very far in America and there was less to dismantle. In Europe, the capitalist class has been less successful at restoring the regime of the Oligarchy because there, they do have national governments without our anti-democratic “checks and balances”.

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By Leefeller, March 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

CJ, Interesting post, I also noticed Hedges artist comment,.... since I consider art in the eyes of the beholder I did not take offense. I found his characterizing open ended, so my preference was not to comment on it. 

Hedges artist comment seems an opinionated stereotype, with out any further explanation coming from him, it seems Hedges may have a personal distaste for things in the abstract?

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By Mike J., March 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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OK, so who are these “we” it is all “up to”, according to Chris? Here in Wisconsin labor, the public educators, even the farmers and the clergy are all participating in the movement. Jesse Jackson is now practically a resident of WI. But Chris Hedges over here is still writing the same column over and over again, AS IF THE RALLIES IN WISCONSIN HAVE NEVER HAPPENED. Seriously, the liberal institutions are dead? Where have you been, Chris? WE are taking matters into our own hands. Chris, on the other hand, is still on his little high horse, sneering at the “liberal classes.” Well, guess what. The “liberal class” here in Wisconsin is alive and well. Come to Madison and we “cheesehead liberals” show you how it’s really done.

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By de profundis clamavi, March 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Chris, for mentioning what so few are prepared to say:

The United States Constitution, held up before the worshipful eyes of the American public generation after generation, is NOT and never was intended to be, a vehicle for democracy. Rather, it was designed, and has succeeded brilliantly, at holding back progressive change in America since 1788.

“Checks and balances” are a clever device for ensuring that so long as the elite retain control of a single branch of government, they will be able to use their institutional power to thwart political movements for progressive change.

The separate executive branch allows the President to retain office and exercise a veto power even when the voters have thrown his party out of office. His direct control of the armed forces gives him a free hand to wage imperial wars despite the opposition of a clear majority of the people, and to continue doing so for decades.

The upper house of the legislature, the Senate, originally chosen by state legislatures, was designed to act as the political organ of the the elite, and as such to block popular initiatives that came from the democratically elected House of Representatives.

Life tenure of judges is often defended as ensuring their “impartiality” but it more effectively ensures their imperviousness to the changing views and values of the public.

The Supremacy clause ensures that states are unable to protect the people against, for instance, federal laws that license banks to practice usury and financial fraud.

The fact that the constitution is a written document and cannot be amended save by a cumbersome procedure means that despite its clear anti-democratic effects, it cannot, as a practical matter, be changed.

Thanks to this undeservedly lauded document, we have witnessed the following delays or blocks against progressive change which would have occurred much quicker if the US government was constituted, like say, the government of France, as a unicameral legislature with proportional representation and the chief executive being the head of a parliamentary majority:

- the continuance of slavery for at least 30 years after it could, and should have been abolished, but was not, because Southern senators maintained a blocking vote. In the end, slavery was abolished only as the result of a Civil War in which over 600,000 men died

- the preservation of legalized racism for 100 years after the Civil War

- the absence of basic federally guaranteed workplace rights for all employees, such as protection against arbitrary dismissal, guaranteed sick days and vacations, pensions and job security, overtime pay, effective rights to join a trade union, any requirements for employers to give advance notification to workers and/or their unions and consult with them in advance of mass layoffs and closures, no financial obligation on employers to compensate employees for mass layoffs

- the absence of universal single payer healthcare

- the system whereby essential public services such as public schools, police and firefighters are funded through property taxes that discriminate against municipalities, such as inner cities, that hold disporportionate numbers of the poor

- the clear recognition that a corporation is not a legal person and should not exercise the rights of a citizen.

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By CClauson, March 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment
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Reading these columns, I really want to go to one of these anti war protests, and feel bad for not going, but I’m looking at Amtrak/Greyhound rates, and this is like 1-2 months rent for me, and a day or so each way.

As it is, I donate to stuff (Wisconsin protests, etc) like $20-$50 dollars at a time.  I’m hearing this message that the protests are as much about saving ourselves as effecting change, but it just seems to me that the return is pretty poor in physically transporting myself to one of these protests.

Best of luck, though.

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By DavidByron, March 14, 2011 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

Well kudos to Hedges for getting this right.  This is the first time I have seen him say this and seems quite a departure for him.  Has anyone seen him say this before?  The founding fathers and their constitution are a sacred cow to the Pwoggies from what I have seen.

“The exclusion of the poor and the working class from the systems of power in this country was deliberate. The Founding Fathers deeply feared popular democracy. They rigged the system to favor the elite from the start, something that has been largely whitewashed in public schools and by a corporate media that has effectively substituted myth for history.”

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By DavidByron, March 14, 2011 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

“The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, Social Security, pensions, job safety, paid vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance”

Apart from health *insurance* (they got free health *care*) the Soviets got this lot in the 1930s.

“They rallied around radicals such as “Mother” Jones, United Mine Workers’ President John L. Lewis and “Big” Bill Haywood and his Wobblies as well as the socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.”

They had the communists.  But Hedges fights with both arms inside an ideological straight jacket that says commies are bad and soldiers are good.

“....armed battles with hired gun thugs and state militias….”

And they knew the soldiers were just hired thugs not “heroes” as Hedges stuck in his straight jacket, must keep calling them.


That was the caption for the soldiers in the pyramid of capitlaism.

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By levinpsy, March 14, 2011 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Reading Chris each Monday has the same effect on me as the very best psychotherapy.  It’s painful, but it’s the truth, and it is therefore ultimately healing and freeing.

The best psychotherapy reminds the patient of the real ways they have been harmed, and are continuing to be harmed, by those who should have, but do not have, their best interests at heart.  The patient then is able to work through their denial and wishfulness about those people (e.g., how could my only parents be so harmful?), so they can stop blaming themselves, and start doing for themselves what they were hoping those others could do for them.

Chris is telling us simply, and repeatedly, that the people and institutions we hope have our best interests at heart, do not.  Those are the facts, and like a good therapist, he is only doing his job by being an enlightened witness to those facts.  What we do with those facts is of course up to us.  But without the facts (and he is a well trained reporter), we are unfortunately, like unenlightened children, at the mercy of the powers that be.

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By CJ, March 14, 2011 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

I object to Hedges characterization of “artists” as “...retreated into elite enclaves,
preoccupied themselves with abstract, self-referential garbage, frivolous…,”
etc. The most serious artists might well be in A retreat in an effort to get
beyond, or behind, the spectacle and chatter about which Hedges is, as always,
quite right. As for “self-referential,” Hedges comes too close to Tom Wolfe, who
could only parody Modern Art he could not or would not understand.

It is not the function of art to propagandize, nor to moralize, to be
didactic/tendentious, though art can ALSO be those. And now I’m critiquing
vulgar marxists too, which means NOT ones so brilliant as Terry Eagleton or
Frederick Jameson, or the more distant Arnold Hauser.

Retreat became necessary—in an attempt to bear down. Even if, as Picasso said,
all art is a lie, which it is. A lie that reveals. And Picasso’s own work is self-
referential. The Guernica strikes a perfect balance, but is from the outset an
aesthetic problem solved, if without doubt driven by Picasso’s moral outrage.

Having said that, Hedges is quite right about an artsy crowd in a different kind
of extremely elite retreat. Still, say, Warhol, was at least one exception. Warhol
had a great deal to say about us by way of an almost-nothing-but-self-
referential, superficially frivolous Pop Art while he largely resided and worked in a New York
ivory tower very near Wall Street in more ways than geographical.

Yes, spectacle has taken the place of reality. Phony, pretend reporting can
reduce even a devastating earthquake and tsunami to entertainment. Along
with war and everything else. And when even a bureaucrat like Crowley speaks
the least truth he’s made to resign. (Obscenity of the part of Obama has
reached if not surpassed that of Clinton and Bush. Due in part to Obama’s
noteworthy penchant for hypocrisy.)

Speaking of writing or orating, interesting how much better Lewis was than
Obama or Kennedy. Course John L. Lewis meant what he said, which probably
lent something to the writing, or extemporaneous oration. By now, no one
seems to mean anything they say at the same time they have more and more of
no value to say. “Chatter” is the right word, particularly that emanating from big
(and pop) media and pop culture more generally, neither to be confused with
Pop Art. Which reminds of that old bugaboo—Popular Front, which has taken
hold in an unexpected, much CELEBRATED (as “democratic”) and infantilized
way, not unlike the way fascism has somewhat unexpectedly gained a grip on
apparently all-too willing hearts and minds. Until proverbial shit hits proverbial
fan, as in Wisconsin. Now what? GENERAL STRIKE is now what, finally putting
so-called “social media” to really good use. (Forgetting for the moment that
quite a few can’t afford “social media” either.)

Commentators are far too shy (careful?) of employing the term, “fascism,” to
describe the present. If Wisconsin is not example of fascism at work then what
is? If truly depraved intimacy between Wall Street and government with military
wing isn’t fascism then what is fascism? If Koch Bros.-sponsored
propagandizing isn’t fascist then what is fascist? If the televangelists of whom
Hedges writes aren’t fascists then who are?

All the aforementioned preying on flocks lacking so much as the common
sense of Paine and Lowell, MA workers.

Hedges connects dots. Dot connecting is what is not taught or is only pretended
to, and what power flatly denies, and where liberals in particular go wrong.

But the really dire part is that so, so many DO find all the meaning they seem to
need in this era of missing meaning. Those who don’t are given prescriptions,
or self-medicate as necessary. Back then they went out on strike. Seems the
good old days really were the good old days, not forgetting attendant brutality
on the part of then fascists.

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By Stephen Unger, March 14, 2011 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Street protests are certainly important to demonstrate and encourage opposition to the ruling elite. But , even if this were done on a large scale, it would not, by itself, produce significant changes. It would just amount to large scale whining by the oppressed majority. It would have no effect on the lives of people. It would not improve health care, or raise the wages of working people, or slow the destruction of our environment. Such things could only be accomplished if the levers of power were operated by new hands. This would not happen automatically, regardless of how many people participated in demonstrations.

Using the protests to attempt to wrest power from the elite via violence would most likely fail, as the elite are very effective in this realm. Even if initially successful, we have ample historical evidence indicating that violent means seldom produce decent results.

A more promising approach, tho certainly not an easy one, is to channel the energy generated by the demonstrations into the realm of politics, that is by abandoning the Democratic Party and building a powerful new party that would truly represent the interests of the general population. A good starting point might be the Green Party. This path did lead to significant gains a century ago, in that many of the goals of the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs were achieved. (For a more detailed discussion, see

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By Anarcissie, March 14, 2011 at 11:01 am Link to this comment

So, what did you do today to fight the power?

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By Fred LaMotte, March 14, 2011 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

Hedges might be happier if he were more tolerant of his own angry mind.

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By Lafayette, March 14, 2011 at 10:12 am Link to this comment


CH: Slick public relations campaigns, the collapse of public education—nearly a third of the country is illiterate or semiliterate—

Historically perspicacious in the first part of this essay (as above), CH prompted me to wonder, “Just when is he going to off the deep end? He always does, inevitably.”

CH didn’t fail me. Here it is:

... and the rise of amoral politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who posed as liberals while they sold their souls for corporate money, have left us largely defenseless

CH seems destined eternally to tell us he is the only one who knows “really ‘n truly” how to walk on water. All the others are False Gods.

So, Billy-boy and Barack “sold their souls”? That’s not just idle writing, that phrase. One sells one soul to the devil - so they are Dealing with the Devil, are they?

That’s just a bit too much too believe. It takes a wanton belief in Crooked Politics to swallow it. One must question the credentials of both these men. One must assume also that their wives were concomitantly culpable in the transaction.

No, CH, that’s simply not believable. They are no angels, for sure. But neither have they “sold their souls”.

Like all Dem-dreamers, they came into the White House with Bleeding Hearts and a Conviction that they could “change all that”. Then Congress (and particularly the Senate) made them realize that they were elected President and not God.


If we want better people in office, a more capable and responsible political class, then we need a electoral system that allows such people to seek office. And for as long as seeking office takes one helluva lotta moulah to achieve that goal—then it will be manipulated by those who have the moulah.

Either you play the Electoral Money Game or you don’t even get elected dog-catcher.

CH is committing the same venal sin as those who believed in a dream (of reform) and now feel hopeless and abandoned by the roadside. So they seek revenge for the treachery against the dream-spinners and their cotton-candy promises of Real Change.

Which is childish, to say the least - and wholly counterproductive in the end. Don’t spit on what you have, because the alternative - in American politics - is even worse.

America has had its revolution. What it needs now is evolution and that can only come from the body politic.

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By azdesertgal, March 14, 2011 at 10:08 am Link to this comment
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This blog should be sent to everyone you know regardless of their political affiliation. We need to spread the word on essays like this to people on a daily basis.  People need to wake up and turn off Fox (faux news).

We all need to start shopping locally and boycott all the big corporate stores.  Get involved locally with what is happening in your city and get your friends to do it also.  Get informed by reading and learning and turn the boob tube off.  Quit being too busy to know what is happening around you as that is what got you our current economy/world.  Wake up, and read more Chris Hedges.

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By tlr, March 14, 2011 at 9:59 am Link to this comment
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This piece is consistent Hedges, comprehesively, connecting the dots exposeing the liberals for what they are.The political smoke screen of tolerance through poltical correctness has done us in.

The position such comprehesive clearity leaves us with is what are we required to do beyond the comforting self affirmation of a website?

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By Leefeller, March 14, 2011 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

Bill Jencks,
Actually Hedges doesn’t paint a rosy picture for the Democrats either, you must have missed it, convulsive.

Damn! I cannot believe Hedges has written an article which I find so definitely giddyfying!

Yes, the apparent divisions of the peoples is both effective and useful in the grand scheme of things. Why do you think we have a grand wizard tea party?

Labor history needs to be revisited, we all live in Libya now!

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By lasmog, March 14, 2011 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

Yes, yes, yes, Hedges is right as usual.  He has a unique ability to name what is what is wrong with our society. For those of us who have grown up in the era of Reagan and watched greed and duplicity corrupt nearly everything decent in our society, I’d like to thank Chris Hedges for his work.

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By Bill Jencks, March 14, 2011 at 9:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another writer that justs wastes both his and our
time liberally blaming the Republicans.

When will writers become thinkers and realize that
the rot isn’t about Republican or Democratic
policies? The Democrats and Republicans are just the
fat dirty little termites from The Nest(Wall Street).

Who will, one day soon, dare ever to write an essay
that admits that these termites are what have truly
wrecked the democratic process, eating their way
through the trust and patience of their own citizens?

US Politics stinks and is just like the metaphor of a
giant fat lizard who steadily, blindly eats its own
tail, and who is never completely consumed by its own
never-ending, fat, greedy, selfish purpose.

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By kerryrose, March 14, 2011 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

Prescient, moving, and unrelentingly real.  There is no hiding, rationalizing, and hoping without action after reading this blog.

It is true that we tolerate the intolerable- Barack Obama being the biggest of our tolerances, but the tides are turning.  The people are waking.  There is hope with action.

ps As an artist, I do feel self referencial art has dominated the corporate art world but there are many, especially eco-artists that have much to say.  I changed from painting to public art because the rarified painting does not exist beyond a segment of the world.  Public art, I did an installation for the MTA in a subway station, enters the lives of thousand of passerby’s.  It won’t change the world, but it does enter the world of many.

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By Lynn, March 14, 2011 at 8:40 am Link to this comment
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When I wake up each Monday morning, my first thought is, “It’s Chris Hedge’s day.”  Thank you so much for enlightening me on the state of our civilization.  Your books and columns have truly changed me as a person.  I believe the only way to change the mess we’re in is through some form of civil disobedience.  100,000 of us won’t be enough.  We need 30 million to wake up—maybe through a general strike.  I don’t know.  I will continue posting your columns on my Facebook page, and passing your books on for others to read.  If I can enlighten one friend at a time, it will be worth it.

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By winsome1, March 14, 2011 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

Thank you, Chris.  Fiery and magnificent.  To the ramparts!

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By colin2626262, March 14, 2011 at 7:58 am Link to this comment

Chris says artists “once had something to say,” meaning now they don’t.  Some still do, though.  I wrote a book.  It’s called THE CHILD.  Tell me if I don’t have something to say.  Just go to and sign in with the following ID:


Type in this password:


Click on mail, then inbox, and download it for free. I just thought I’d put it out there.

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By brianrouth, March 14, 2011 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges is so right on here!
Below is a link to a work inspired by his talk on war.

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By Textynn, March 14, 2011 at 6:54 am Link to this comment
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We must fight this sociopathy with our last breath.  The lesser of two evils is the problem now. There is no known third party candidate that’s even on anyone’s radar.  I’ve been thinking that a massive grass roots write in campaign might be something worth consideration. 

Grayson would be a good choice in my opinion, he’s available.  Wouldn’t that throw the bastards for a loop since they spent millions to run him off.  Even if he lost, he could stand on a soap box and talk and talk. And WE could say F U to the two party idiot game and quit playing into their hands.

If for no other reason than to refuse the Lesser of two evils non-choice we are served up and expected to “appreciate”. I’m sick to death of people saying anything is better than a Repub so we can’t split up our vote or we’ll be sorry. Blah blah blah.  We CAN"T keep doing what we’ve been doing. WE CAN’T. 

We’ve got over a year to come up with something, something to change the game.

WE MUST ADVANCE A GAME CHANGE. WE MUST NOT PLAY THEIR GAME BY THEIR RULES.  Their rules are, they always win and we always lose, so we have NOTHING to lose. That is certainly true with Obama so this upcoming election is choice moment. Further, many Repubs and Tea-Sheep are waking up thanks to the WI drama.

I believe many election counts are falsified, so that’s problem number ONE.

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By thebeerdoctor, March 14, 2011 at 6:11 am Link to this comment

It is difficult to absorb such an unrelenting diatribe on a early Monday morning.

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By Eyal Hertzog, March 14, 2011 at 5:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great article - as always. Thank you.

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By Robespierre115, March 14, 2011 at 5:22 am Link to this comment

Once again Chris Hedges lives in the real world. The current tone of the Wisconsin protests will most likely not produce anything because:

The ruling oligarchy knows the following:

- It’s easy to get people out on weekends.

- The union bosses’ plans are pretty tame, “let’s all vote Democrat in 2012,” which doesn’t bother the big capitalists at all because the Democrats are also in their pockets.

- The American populace is still not willing to let their HD TVs burn in an uprising.

- Obama is not going to save the Wisconsin workers, he himself loves the idea of privatizing even schools.

- The media is too busy covering Charlie Sheen and now the Japan earthquake.

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By Tony Deegan, March 14, 2011 at 4:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The beginning of your article reminded me of a song by New Model Army from the 80s, “My Country”.

Tell all the people who believe what they read in the press
Tell all the folk who stare from behind suburban walls
The enemy is not some nation far across the sea
The enemy is with us every single breathing day

So yes, I will fight for my country
The land that I love so well
Yes - for justice, a land fit for all our futures
Yes, I will fight for my country
The land that I love so well
Hear the voices of our history echo all around

Fight all the ones who divide us rich against poor
Fight all the ones who divide us white against black
Fight all the powers who want their missiles in our earth
Fight all the people who would lead us into war

No rights were ever given to us by the grace of God
No rights were ever given by some United Nations clause
No rights were ever given by some nice guy at the top
Our rights they were bought by all the blood
And all the tears of all our
Grandmothers, grandfathers before

For all the folk who gave their lives for us
For all the folk who spit out - never say die
For all the fires burning on our highest hills
For all the people spinning tales tonight
Fight all the powers who would abuse our Common Laws
Fight all the powers who think they only owe themselves . . .

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By Miko, March 14, 2011 at 4:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow, doubletalk worthy of the worst totalitarian.  As
someone who usually strongly approves of Hedges’
articles, I must say that I’m extremely disappointed.

Struggle has nothing to do with tolerance, in the
sense that the need for struggle should never lead us
to be intolerant of anyone (not even the intolerant). 
Labeling people as ‘intolerant’ is largely a
linguistic game (“those striking workers are so
intolerant of my right to own their labor”) that
cowards play to excuse their intolerance of everyone
with whom they disagree.  The racist, xenophobe,
bigot, etc. at least have the honesty and courage to
admit that they’re intolerant.  If we begin by
sinking to the level of our opponents, we shouldn’t
be surprised when they win.

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