Quote of the day

Chris Hedges wrote:

Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world’s elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence. Many impoverished regions of the world, which have fallen off the economic cliff, are beginning to resemble Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians live in the planet’s largest internment camp. These sacrifice zones, filled with seas of pitifully poor people trapped in squalid slums or mud-walled villages, are increasingly hemmed in by electronic fences, monitored by surveillance cameras and drones and surrounded by border guards or military units that shoot to kill. These nightmarish dystopias extend from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan to China. They are places where targeted assassinations are carried out, where brutal military assaults are pressed against peoples left defenseless, without an army, navy or air force. All attempts at resistance, however ineffective, are met with the indiscriminate slaughter that characterizes modern industrial warfare.

Can this happen here, in the United States, land of the free and home of the brave? Will Uncle Sam turn on the ‘lesser people’ (Alan Simpson)?

Those questions were rhetorical, of course.

On Assange’s popularity in America

Chris Hedges responds to the battle for Wisconsin

While doing so he criticized his usual targets, which he grouped under the name he recently gave them, the Liberal Class. When developing his criticism with respect to the events in Wisconsin, Hedges makes what amounts to an implicit call for an American liberation theology.

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?

Atheists like me sometimes forget that the teachings Jesus left to posterity are vastly superior to the teachings of the religious institutions which loudly carry his flag. We forget that Jesus would make his way to the side of Wisconsin’s public employees, to the homes of the illegal immigrants in America, to the poor loafing about in America’s cities, and so on. And he surely would find his way to these people just as he had during his lifetime. Why, therefore, have America’s religious leaders remained silent about the battle for Wisconsin (and much else besides)? Why do they emulate the Pharisees of Jesus’ time? I ask because I know that their silence is a fact that is as rare as it would be welcomed in so many other cases.

As for me, I will not waste my time waiting for the Christian right to stand with the poor, weak and threatened. The institutional churches, well….


Peter Laarman addressed the issue raised by Chris Hedges in his essay “Will the Religious Side with Workers?,” which recently appeared in Religion Dispatches. Here are a few passages from his essay:

At this moment, when the embattled US labor movement urgently needs strong community-based allies and much greater moral legitimation, there ought to be no better place to find both than among the faithful. Yet broad-based strategic and moral support from the religious side has been slow to materialize.

In saying this, I do not disparage or minimize the importance of the religious support that public sector workers, in my home state of Wisconsin in particular, have been able to marshal.


I want to ask why many more of the faithful never took sides during the long war against unions and union workers that’s been raging since the mid-1970s — even prior to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of the Air Traffic Controllers.


Where were the vast majority of American religious leaders during these decades of attacks on workers and their organizations? It’s not that labor’s gospel of gaining a fair share of the economic productivity that workers help create is so very different from religion’s stated interest in shared prosperity. And it’s not that no religious figures ever took the side of unions in earlier U.S. history.

Cross-posted to FireDogLake

Chris Hedges discusses the Huffington Post

Journalist Chris Hedges’ latest piece is an obvious and understandable lament for the kind of investigative and critical journalism he practices and prefers. He also provides a somewhat restrained critique of those entities and practices that make journalism of that kind difficult. Hedges writes:

[My] encounters [with citizen journalists requesting interviews], which are frequent at public events, break my heart. I see myself in the older bloggers, many of whom worked for newspapers until they took buyouts or were laid off, as well as in the aspiring reporters. These men and women love the trade. They want to make a difference. They have the integrity not to sell themselves to public relations firms or corporate-funded propaganda outlets. And they keep at it, the way true artists, musicians or actors do, although there are dimmer and dimmer hopes of compensation. They are victims of a dying culture, one that no longer values the talents that would keep it healthy and humane. The corporate state remunerates corporate management and public relations. It lavishes money on the celebrities who provide the fodder for our national mini-dramas. But those who deal with the bedrock virtues of truth, justice and beauty, who seek not to entertain but to transform, are discarded. They must struggle on their own.

The sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million, and the tidy profit of reportedly at least several million dollars made by principal owner and founder Arianna Huffington, who was already rich, is emblematic of this new paradigm of American journalism. The Huffington Post, as Stephen Colbert pointed out when he stole the entire content of The Huffington Post and rechristened it The Colbuffington Re-post, produces little itself. The highly successful site, like most Internet sites, is largely pirated from other sources, especially traditional news organizations, or is the product of unpaid writers who are rechristened “citizen journalists.” It is driven by the celebrity gossip that dominates cheap tabloids, with one or two stories that come from The New York Times or one of the wire services to give it a veneer of journalistic integrity. Hollywood celebrities, or at least their publicists, write windy and vapid commentaries. And this, I fear, is what news is going to look like in the future. The daily reporting and monitoring of city halls, courts, neighborhoods and government, along with investigations into corporate fraud and abuse, will be replaced by sensational garbage and Web packages that are made to look like news but contain little real news.

Although I agree with Hedges’ complaints about journalism as it is mostly practiced today and especially with his remarks addressing the faults specific to the Huffington Post and to Arianna Huffington’s gross profiteering, I also believe that Hedges misses out on the greater significance the internet has had with respect to the practice of journalism today. What he misses is the fact that the internet provides to everyone who has access to it a low and therefore scalable entry barrier. Internet publishing is as inexpensive as an internet connection. Seed money is no longer a problem. And it is because this barrier is so low that common citizens — Alan Simpson’s “lesser people” — can now report the news they witness, analyze what they have reported and participate in a public debate about the meaning of the events that affect their lives.

More importantly, these common citizens can create self-funding public entities that are nothing but the presence of an enduring counter-public sphere, one able to defend its autonomy by refusing to adopt a for-profit economic model or by refusing to ally itself with the capital-intensive media, as Huffington did when she opted to join AOL. Journalism thus practiced has more in common with the famous little magazines which once made New York City the intellectual core of American politics and culture than it has with the New York Times and the Washington Post, with ABC and Fox News. Today, thanks to the internet, America’s alienated public intellectuals, its citizen journalists and its nearly voiceless citizens need not live near to each other in order to form a cohesive public. They can form a viable public simply because the internet provides the technical means for widely and almost costlessly distributing the news they report and the analysis they feel compelled to make.

It is for these reasons that I consider the internet as having deepened and intensified the civil features of what we call civilization. Opportunists like Arianna Huffington only sully this advance in civility. They cannot destroy it. Citizen journalists will survive their defections. They will survive because they truly are citizens and depend only on their own capabilities and on the rights needed to participate in the larger and inclusive public sphere.

Cross-posted at Fire Dog Lake