Opinion | America Is Now a Corpse

However inequitable its bias, capitalist democracy at least offered the possibility of incremental and piecemeal reform. We are past that now.

(Photo: Art by Mr. Fish / Original to Scheerpost)

There were many actors that killed America’s open society. The corporate oligarchs who bought the electoral process, the courts and the media, and whose lobbyists write the legislation to impoverish us and allow them to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth and unchecked power.  (Photo: Art by Mr. Fish / Original to Scheerpost)

Well, it’s over. Not the election. The capitalist democracy. However biased it was towards the interests of the rich and however hostile it was to the poor and minorities, the capitalist democracy at least offered the possibility of incremental and piecemeal reform. Now it is a corpse. The iconography and rhetoric remain the same. But it is an elaborate and empty reality show funded by the ruling oligarchs — $1.51 billion for the Biden campaign and $1.57 billion for the Trump campaign — to make us think there are choices. There are not. The empty jousting between a bloviating Trump and a verbally impaired Joe Biden is designed to mask the truth. The oligarchs always win. The people always lose. It does not matter who sits in the White House. America is a failed state.

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now.”

There were many actors that killed America’s open society. The corporate oligarchs who bought the electoral process, the courts and the media, and whose lobbyists write the legislation to impoverish us and allow them to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth and unchecked power. The militarists and war industry that drained the national treasury to mount futile and endless wars that have squandered some $7 trillion and turned us into an international pariah. The CEOs, raking in bonuses and compensation packages in the tens of millions of dollars, that shipped jobs overseas and left our cities in ruins and our workers in misery and despair without a sustainable income or hope for the future. The fossil fuel industry that made war on science and chose profits over the looming extinction of the human species. The press that turned news into mindless entertainment and partisan cheerleading. The intellectuals who retreated into the universities to preach the moral absolutism of identity politics and multiculturalism while turning their backs on the economic warfare being waged on the working class and the unrelenting assault on civil liberties. And, of course, the feckless and hypocritical liberal class that does nothing but talk, talk, talk.

If there is one group that deserves our deepest contempt it is the liberal elites, those who posture as te moral arbiters of society while abandoning every value they purportedly hold the moment they become inconvenient. The liberal class, once again, served as pathetic cheerleaders and censors for a candidate and a political party that in Europe would be considered on the far-right. Even while liberals were being ridiculed and dismissed by Biden and by the Democratic Party hierarchy, which bizarrely invested its political energy in appealing to Republican neocons, liberals were busy marginalizing journalists, including Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, who called out Biden and the Democrats. The liberals, whether at The Intercept or The New York Times, ignored or discredited information that could hurt the Democratic Party, including the revelations on Hunter Biden’s laptop. It was a stunning display of craven careerism and self-loathing.

Biden’s campaign was utterly bereft of ideas and policy issues, as if he and the Democrats could sweep the elections by promising to save the soul of America.

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are, the election has illustrated, oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country. They stand for nothing. They fight for nothing. Restoring the rule of law, universal health care, banning fracking, a Green New Deal, the protection of civil liberties, the building of unions, the preservation and expansion of social welfare programs, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, the forgiveness of student debt, stiff environmental controls, a government jobs program and guaranteed income, financial regulation, opposition to endless war and military adventurism were once again forgotten. Championing these issues would have resulted in a Democratic Party landslide. But since the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate donors, promoting any policy that might foster the common good, diminish corporate profits and restore democracy, including imposing campaign finance laws, was impossible. Biden’s campaign was utterly bereft of ideas and policy issues, as if he and the Democrats could sweep the elections by promising to save the soul of America. At least the neofascists have the courage of their demented convictions.

The liberal class functions in a traditional democracy as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It ameliorates the worst excesses of capitalism. It proposes gradual steps towards greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with supposed virtues. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements. The liberal class is a vital component within the power elite. In short, it offers hope and the possibility, or at least the illusion, of change.

The surrender of the liberal elite to despotism creates a power vacuum that speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, often led by charismatic demagogues, fill. It opens the door to fascist movements that rise to prominence by ridiculing and taunting the absurdities of the liberal class and the values they purport to defend. The promises of the fascists are fantastic and unrealistic, but their critiques of the liberal class are grounded in truth. Once the liberal class ceases to function, it opens a Pandora’s box of evils that are impossible to contain.

The disease of Trumpism, with or without Trump, is, as the election illustrated, deeply embedded in the body politic. It is an expression among huge segments of the population, taunted by liberal elites as “deplorables,” of a legitimate alienation and rage that the Republicans and the Democrats orchestrated and now refuse to address. This Trumpism is also, as the election showed, not limited to white men, whose support for Trump actually declined.

Fyodor Dostoevsky saw the behavior of Russia’s useless liberal class, which he satirized and excoriated at the end of the 19th century, as presaging a period of blood and terror. The failure of liberals to defend the ideals they espoused inevitably led, he wrote, to an age of moral nihilism. In Notes From Underground, he portrayed the sterile, defeated dreamers of the liberal class, those who hold up high ideals but do nothing to defend them. The main character in Notes From Underground carries the bankrupt ideas of liberalism to their logical extreme. He eschews passion and moral purpose. He is rational. He accommodates a corrupt and dying power structure in the name of liberal ideals. The hypocrisy of the Underground Man dooms Russia as it now dooms the United States. It is the fatal disconnect between belief and action.

“I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect,” the Underground Man wrote. “And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an active figure – primarily a limited being.”

The refusal of the liberal class to acknowledge that power has been wrested from the hands of citizens by corporations, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have been revoked by judicial fiat, that elections are nothing more than empty spectacles staged by the ruling elites, that we are on the losing end of the class war, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality.

The “idea of the intellectual vocation,” as Irving Howe pointed out in his 1954 essay This Age of Conformity, “the idea of a life dedicated to values that cannot possibly be realized by a commercial civilization — has gradually lost its allure. And, it is this, rather than the abandonment of a particular program, which constitutes our rout.” The belief that capitalism is the unassailable engine of human progress, Howe wrote, “is trumpeted through every medium of communication: official propaganda, institutional advertising and scholarly writings of people who, until a few years ago, were its major opponents.”

“The truly powerless people are those intellectuals — the new realists — who attach themselves to the seats of power, where they surrender their freedom of expression without gaining any significance as political figures,” Howe wrote. “For it is crucial to the history of the American intellectuals in the past few decades — as well as to the relationship between ‘wealth’ and ‘intellect’ — that whenever they become absorbed into the accredited institutions of society they not only lose their traditional rebelliousness but to one extent or another they cease to function as intellectuals.” 

Populations can endure the repression of tyrants, as long as these rulers continue to effectively manage and wield power. But human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are brutally discarded. This was true in Weimar Germany. It was true in the former Yugoslavia, a conflict I covered for The New York Times. 

The historian Fritz Stern in The Politics of Cultural Despair, his book on the rise of fascism in Germany, wrote of the consequences of the collapse of liberalism. Stern argued that the spiritually and politically alienated, those cast aside by the society, are prime recruits for a politics centered around violence, cultural hatreds and personal resentments. Much of this rage, justifiably, is directed at a liberal elite that, while speaking the “I-feel-your-pain” language of traditional liberalism, sells us out.

“They attacked liberalism,” Stern writes of the fascists emerging at the time in Germany, “because it seemed to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it; the bourgeois life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sense in liberalism the source of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their faith.”

We are in for it. The for-profit health care system, designed to make money — not take care of the sick — is unequipped to handle a national health crisis. The health care corporations have spent the last few decades merging and closing hospitals, and cutting access to health care in communities across the nation to increase revenue — this, as nearly half of all front-line workers remain ineligible for sick pay and some 43 million Americans have lost their employee-sponsored health insurance. The pandemic, without universal health care, which Biden and the Democrats have no intention of establishing, will continue to rage out of control. Three hundred thousand Americans dead by December. Four hundred thousand by January. And by the time the pandemic burns out or a vaccine becomes safely available, hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million, will have died.

The inevitable social unrest will see the state, no matter who is in the White House, use its three principle instruments of social control — wholesale surveillance, the prisons and militarized police — buttressed by a legal system that routinely revokes habeas corpus and due process, to ruthlessly crush dissent.

The economic fallout from the pandemic, the chronic underemployment and unemployment — close to 20 percent when those who have stopped looking for work, those furloughed with no prospect of being rehired and those who work part-time but are still below the poverty line are included in the official statistics — will mean a depression unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. Hunger in US households has already tripled since last year. The proportion of US children who are not getting enough to eat is 14 times higher than last year. Food banks are overrun. The moratorium on foreclosures and evictions has been lifted while over 30 million destitute Americans face the prospect of being thrown into the street.

There is no check left on corporate power. The inevitable social unrest will see the state, no matter who is in the White House, use its three principle instruments of social control — wholesale surveillance, the prisons and militarized police — buttressed by a legal system that routinely revokes habeas corpus and due process, to ruthlessly crush dissent. People of color, immigrants and Muslims will be blamed and targeted by our native fascists for the nation’s decline. The few who continue in defiance of the Democratic Party to call out the crimes of the corporate state and the empire will be silenced. The sterility of the liberal class, serving the interests of a Democratic Party that disdains and ignores them, fuels the widespread feelings of betrayal that saw nearly half the voters support one of the most vulgar, racist, inept and corrupt presidents in American history. An American tyranny, dressed up with the ideological veneer of a Christianized fascism, will, it appears, define the empire’s epochal descent into irrelevance.

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper.  He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. His most recent book is “America: The Farewell Tour” (2019).

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Source: Opinion | America Is Now a Corpse

“The Idol Smasher” l Ismael Reed l TruthDig OpEd Chris Hedges

 The Idol Smasher

 

by CHRIS HEDGES

TruthDig.org/TruthDig OpEd

Published: Monday 31 December 2012

Ishmael Reed has spent the last five decades smashing idols—idols of race, idols of capitalism, celebrity idols and the idols of national virtue and greatness. His essays, novels, poems, plays, songs and cartoons routinely shatter the delusions and myths of a nation stubbornly unwilling to confront its past or understand its present. He rips open a history that saw white Europeans exterminate one race and enslave another to create the nation’s prosperity, a past that includes the violent plundering of nations around the globe—Cuba, the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan among them—to show us who we have become. He names the corrosive disease of empire. He excoriates what Alexis de Tocqueville called our “perpetual practice of self-applause.” He battles back against the sophisticated forms of propaganda—especially from Hollywood—that perpetuate patriotic fantasies and pander to the dark streams of paranoia, racism and fear that run like electric currents through white society.

 

Reed’s righteous fury is a heartening antidote to the squeamishness of liberals and the lunacy of the right wing. He says the editors of The New York Times and most other major media outlets “sound like they get their instructions from Julius Streicher [the Nazi propagandist] when it comes to blacks.” He calls the HBO series “The Wire” “a Neo-Nazi portrait of black people” and dismisses the movie “Precious” as a film that “makes D.W. Griffith look like a progressive.”

Ishmal Reed, Author, Philosopher and Editor
Pre-eminent African American literary figure, Ishmael Reed, lends his name to two e-zines features many different authors of science fiction, poems, and articles.

“Lazy, no-good black people, who are welfare cheats, sitting around eating chicken, and having sex with their children, right out of the Lee Atwater-Paul Ryan playbook,” he said of the portrayals in “Precious” when I reached him by phone at his home in Oakland, Calif. “The wonderful novelist Diane Johnson was right when she said that ‘largely white’ audiences are thrilled by images of black people as dysfunctional. This has become a billion-dollar market which led critics to assert that Black Bogeyman movies sell better than sex, according to the critic C. Liegh McInnis. You even have a critic at The Root website, a post-racial ‘Talented Tenth’ hangout for ‘exceptional blacks,’ praising Quentin Tarantino’s latest sick exercise into racial porn, called ‘Django Unchained,’ ” which I critique at the Wall Street Journal site Speakeasy. This movie is being praised by the same critics who loved ‘The Color Purple’ and ‘Precious,’ probably because it revives Stanley Elkins’ discredited ‘Sambo Thesis.’ ”

Reed has no time for Black Bloc anarchists, whom he calls “alienated, spoiled middle-class white kids from the suburbs” as well as “vandals and thugs.” He calls the Oscar presentation “a white supremacist pageant.” He detests the Clintons, who he reminds us sold out the poor and the working class. Hillary, he says, makes “Eva Peron seem benign.” He predicts more tragedies like the recent Connecticut massacre, noting that many white Americans stockpile assault rifles because they are terrified of black people and that mass shootings in the United States almost always are carried out by estranged white men.

“ ‘The Turner Diaries,’ the book that inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma, and assaults by gunmen including one against the North Valley Jewish Community Center [in Granada Hills, Calif.,] in 1999, are very explicit,” he said not long after we were on a panel together at the Miami Book Festival. “The [novel] tells whites they need guns because if they give up their assault weapons blacks will kidnap white women and Jewish men will be their pimps. This fantasy, however absurd, at least addresses the deepest, unspoken fears of whites. The white power structure looks around at what is happening. It sees we are going down. It is terrified of an uprising by a coalition of whites, blacks, Asian-Americans and Hispanics that elected Obama—even though Obama with his pretty, multicultural face and elegant style and his spouse, who is more militant than he and who for that reason has been silenced, serve the empire. The only problem is that white crazies like [Michele] Bachmann and the others are so blinded by white supremacy that they won’t go along with the script. She [Rep. Bachmann] said that Obama was costing the taxpayers $250 million per day on his trip to India, a lie, when Obama’s taking over 100 CEOs along with him brought back billions in contracts.”

 

“The other part of the white public, the underclass and working class, has proven that they will go to any lengths to uphold white supremacy,” he said. “Even when they had no fight in the Civil War, owning no slave assets like the planters, they caused the deaths of 640,000 Americans in order to uphold white supremacy. Then, as now, parts of the white working class, who are anti-union and get drunk on the cheap moonshine of racism, are willing to exercise self-extinction in order to uphold white supremacy.”

“One part of the slavery deal was the patriarchal planter’s ownership of black women’s wombs,” he went on. “Now they [the powerful] are mandating this demand of all women. Yet, white women favored Romney by 14 points. They’re intimidated I think by their husbands, brothers, fathers and employers, which is why they scapegoat the [black] brothers for worldwide misogyny.”

“When Eve Ensler cited the Congo, Haiti and New Orleans as where all of the cruelty to women [was], I figured that she was excusing white men because she has some kind of financial relationship with them,” he said. “One report from SUNY Buffalo has it that 90 percent of middle-class white women who were interviewed report being battered or witnessing their mothers, daughters and sisters being battered. Nicholas Kristof, who is on a world tour for the purpose of blaming black and brown men for cruelty to women, probably missed this report. So the white power structure, at least the Northeastern part, hopes having a black man as president will save the empire, just as the Germans, who were considered the underclass by the Romans, continued the Roman Empire until the 1800s, according to some historians. But they can’t sell this to the majority of white women, who voted for Romney, the kind of dated ‘50s face and style that alienates the rest of the world, instead of a president who is actually charming to those who hate the United States. The president, whom I have both admired and criticized, is good for business. His face is more welcomed in many parts of the world than the usual white Yalie or Harvard person who hasn’t a clue about what’s happening on the global streets—the kind of people who constantly get us into international trouble and even wars because they can’t read the values of other cultures … while Obama can go to places and tell Muslims, ‘Well, you know, I have Muslims in my family.’ ”

“The reason that I supported Obama for re-election is because of the vitriol, bordering on the psychotic, aimed at him and his family,” Reed said. “Also, because he faced not only opposition from the neo-Confederate caucus in Congress, but from a tea party that was created by [Rupert] Murdoch and [Roger] Ailes and from CNN, which made a business alliance with the Tea Party Express, led formerly by Mark Williams, who was fired over his so-called colored people letter. He wrote:

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house.

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

Williams went on to say blacks don’t want taxes cut because “how will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn?”

Reed said: “That they [CNN leaders] would make an alliance with this scum explains how blacks are depicted on CNN usually during the time when they have black anchors. I feel sorry for these people. It’s because of CNN and Hollywood that when I visited Palestinian schools in Jerusalem in October I was asked why all black people are on drugs. And he [former Tea Party Express Chairman Williams] was replaced by a woman named Amy Kremer, who said to a CNN interviewer that ‘I just don’t believe that he [Obama] loves America the way we do.’ CNN’s bonding with this outfit explains the way it portrays blacks. The network has Soledad O’Brien scolding black men for not showing up at their daughters’ birthday parties, or blacks making excuses for not being successful, or it does a 24-hour show about blacks committing dumb street crimes, or black athletes doing DUIs, while the audience, described by [former CNN anchor] Rick Sanchez as ‘angry white men,’ are shown doing altruistic deeds. They ignore the widespread pathologies afflicting white women. They’re always shown helping people with their homework or adopting kids from Africa.”

“I hold up a mirror to our hypocrisy,” Reed said. “This is a tradition among writers that goes back to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who exposed the hypocrisy of the Puritans. In Haitian mythology there is a figure named Ghede. In West Africa he is called Iku. His role is to show each man his devil. He wears a top hat and smokes a cigar. That’s what I do. I show each man, woman, or institution their devils.”

Read the full Commentary Here

From The Nation of Change

 

About Ismael Reed and His Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT CHRIS HEDGES
Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”