Citizen Action Monitor

Chris Hedges looks at American politics and concludes “we’re in deep, deep trouble”

Neither Obama nor Romney is going to wrest control from corporate forces. That’s up to us.

No 585 Posted by fw October 3, 2012

“So I think all of our hope now has to be invested in acts of civil disobedience”Chris Hedges

In a stinging indictment of US political and corporate power, author and journalist Chris Hedges paints a bleak picture in a wide-ranging interview by TRNN’s Paul Jay. Below is an embedded 17-minute video of the interview followed by my abridged transcript with subheadings. To watch the interview on TRNN and access a complete transcript click on the linked title.

US Elections: Pick Your Poison Chris Hedges in conversation with Paul Jay, The Real News Network, October 3, 2012


“There are differences between Obama and Romney, but not enough that they matter”

Well, certainly there are differences, but not enough that they matter. It’s how you want to ingest your poison. You can get it from Romney, who will tell you to stop whining and playing the victim, or you can get it from Obama, who will tell you that it hurts him more than it hurts you. But either way you’re going to get it.

We are all going to walk off what they call the fiscal cliff in January, no matter who is president. Wall Street will continue its malfeasance and criminal activity and fraud unimpeded. The imperial wars and proxy wars will expand. There’s—the paralysis that has made the ruling elite unable to respond to the chronic underemployment and unemployment will continue. The savaging of municipal, state, and federal budgets will continue. The power of the fossil fuel industry to determine our relationship to the ecosystem, you know, in essence ultimately making life for the human species extremely precarious, will continue.

Obama’s assault against civil liberties has been worse than those of George W. Bush

The assault against civil liberties—and Obama’s assault against civil liberties have been worse than those carried out under George W. Bush, not only interpreting the authorization to use military force act of 2001 as giving the executive the prerogative to assassinate American citizens, but of course the FISA Amendments Act, which sees tens of millions of Americans monitored without warrants, eavesdropped, all of their communications stored in supercomputers in Utah, the use of the Espionage Act six times under the Obama administration to shut down whistleblowers, anything that challenges the government narrative, exposes corruption, crimes, including war crimes, and, of course, the National Defense Authorization Act—and I was part of a lawsuit against the president in that, which allows the U.S. military to seize American citizens, hold them without due process in military facilities until the end of hostilities, which in an age of permanent war is forever. All this is under Obama.

“We have undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion”

And I think we have to look closely at the continuity between the Bush administration and the Obama administration and what would be a Romney administration. The security and surveillance state or the corporate state—and I would argue that we have undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion—is preparing for unrest. It is not responding rationally.

The only response to the economic crisis is forced shut down of Occupy

Paul Krugman in column after column in The New York Times pleads for a rational response to the economic crisis, and we’re not going to get it. The only response we get is one of force, and we saw that in a coordinated national or federal effort to shut down the Occupy encampments. At that point, for me, the government essentially exposed its hand. It said that, you know, there will be no moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions; there will be no forgiveness of student debt; there will be no jobs program, especially targeted at people under the age of 25; there will be no rational health care program, the public option, universal health care; the only way we will respond is through the militarized police forces and an attempt to shut you down.

“I intend to vote, but I will not vote for Barack Obama”

It’s always the ruling elite that determines the parameters for resistance or rebellion. And that means something else is coming. The system has not been able to respond in a rational way, the way the Roosevelt administration responded rationally through the New Deal. And because of that, we’re in deep, deep trouble. So I think all of our hope now has to be invested in acts of civil disobedience. I intend to vote, but I will not vote for Barack Obama. I’ll vote for a third-party candidate: Rocky Anderson, or Jill Stein from the Green Party.

We have no power or influence within the Democratic Party. Our only hope is to be obstructionist

No, because the problem is that we who care about the underclass, who care about protecting what’s left of our anemic democracy, who care about battling back against corporate power, have no influence within the Democratic Party. And the policies of the Democratic Party are evidence of that. The only hope we have left is to be obstructionist. You know, they’re all—all the pressure is from the other side.

Since Citizens United, we have been hostage to corporate interests

I just think you can—you know, the simple argument is that by ceding so much to the Democratic Party and refusing to stand up for our principles, it’s not worked, and it hasn’t worked, and we have to begin to defy centers of power that essentially, I think, since Citizens United, have been hostage to corporate interests, I mean, including the judiciary, which is pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate state.

Obamacare is Romneycare

You can take the issue of Obamacare. You know, this whole plan was hatched in the Heritage Foundation, put into practice in 2006 by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, and then adopted by Obama. Obamacare is Romneycare. We have sort of passionate and furious debates about it, but the guts of both programs are the same and are generated from the same corporate think tank.

The massive industrial-military complex has cannibalized the country

And I think that that is just true over and over and over, whether it’s the issue of civil liberties, whether it’s the issue of the refusal to curb Wall Street, whether it’s the issue of no reining in of this massive industrial-military complex which has cannibalized the country, consuming 50 percent of all discretionary spending, and the Democrats won’t even stand up against a particular weapons system. I mean, they used to do that. They won’t do that anymore.

Corporate forces have subverted internally all of the levers of power as to render the citizen impotent

And I think Sheldon Wolin is right in his great book Democracy Incorporated: we live in what he calls a system of inverted totalitarianism. It’s not classical totalitarianism; it doesn’t find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader, but through the anonymity of the corporate state, that you have corporate forces that purport to pay fealty to electoral politics, the iconography and language of American patriotism, the Constitution, and yet have subverted internally all of the levers of power as to render the citizen impotent. And I think that’s where we are.

If we don’t wrest control of the ecosystem from big oil and coal we’re finished

And we have very little time left in terms of climate change alone. If we do not wrest control of our relationship to the ecosystem back from ExxonMobil and BP and big coal, we’re finished. I mean, we’re literally finished. Forty percent of the summer Arctic sea ice gone, and the response of our corporate overlords is to race up there to mine the last vestiges of minerals, oil, gas, and fish stocks. It’s insane. It’s out of Melville’s Moby Dick.

Neither Obama nor Romney is going to wrest control from corporate forces. That’s up to us.

You know, we’re being held forward by a class of Ahabs. And as Ahab said, my means and my methods are sane; my object is mad. And that’s precisely where we are. And neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is going to wrest control back from the hands of these forces. That’s up to us.

History shows we don’t need political power — We need people to rebuild the counterpower movements

All of the true correctives to American democracy came through movements that never achieved formal positions of political power, whether that was the Liberty Party that fought slavery, the suffragists who fought for women’s rights, the labor movement, or the civil rights movement. And yet you could argue that in April—until April 1968, when he was assassinated, Martin Luther King was the most powerful political figure in this country, because when he went to Memphis, 50,000 people went with him.

The Occupy movement has shown us, first of all, where real power lies, and that’s Wall Street, and secondly, that it is only through acts of mass civil disobedience that we have any possibility left of affecting this system.

And we have to rebuild the movements, the popular movements that were consciously destroyed in the war against communism. It was, you know, the old red witch hunts which wiped out the Wobblies [Industrial Workers of the World]. The old CIO saw thousands upon thousands of university professors, high school teachers, journalists, artists, directors, pushed out of the wider society. And what they have found in the war on terror is a template to do the same. You know, as Randolph Bourne said, war is the health of the state.

We can’t take power from corporate elites through the electoral process. Obama is a good example of that failure

And I think at this point, appealing to the formal mechanisms of power doesn’t work. And until we wrest power back from corporate control (and we’re not going to do that through the electoral process), there is no hope of building a rational system that responds to the needs of citizens. Once corporate power is broken, then we can attempt to rebuild. As long as corporate power remains solidified and in place, we can go through the charade of this political theater, but it isn’t going to make any difference. And if you doubt me, look at the very long list of campaign promises that Barack Obama made in 2008 and how once in power he walked away. Whether he was cynical or whether he had to, I don’t know, but he walked away from, you know, every single one of them. He’s drilling, you know, as rapaciously as—.

Electoral change only works if third party candidates aren’t shut out of the political process and out of media coverage

But you know as well as I do that third-party candidates like Ralph Nader and others are so shut out of the process that they have no voice. I mean, you talk to Ralph, and he uses the word blacklisted. He said, I can’t even get on NPR or PBS. Our most important social critics, people like Noam Chomsky, are invisible within a commercially dominated media, roughly six corporations that control almost everything most Americans watch and listen to—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Disney. And in that kind of a system, there is no space. And there’s consciously no space.

“We can’t begin to effectively resist until we understand the configurations of power”

All resistance at this point is probably local. But, you know, I feel that Wolin nailed it. He’s without question our greatest living political philosopher. And I think that we can’t begin to effectively resist until we understand the configurations of power. And, you know, given the tentacles of the corporate state and the way that it has crushed the liberal mechanisms that once made piecemeal or incremental reform possible, we have to find another route to resistance.


Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009), I Don’t Believe in Atheists (2008) and the best-selling American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2008). His book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

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