Chris Hedges Corporate Totalitarianism The End Game

[Music] before I begin there's two recent news events that I find deeply disturbing both as an observer of American society but I would say also in one case personally as a journalist as some of you may know a good friend of mine Jamal khashoggi a columnist for The Washington Post who I worked with in the Middle East an incredibly courageous honorable perceptive journalist was apparently murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey and probably it was probably in Ankara and what I find so chilling we also just lost a Bulgarian investigative journalist who was murdered in a park raped and murdered and what I find so chilling is the almost certain fact that the u.s. government will in no way protestor sanction the Saudi regime I've long been a supporter of the boycott divestment and sanction movement for Israel but I'm also a supporter of the boycott divestment and sanction movement for Saudi Arabia [Applause] the other which I'm sure you've all followed is the Cavanaugh hearings what is so disturbing is the exposure or the public exposure of the charade the Democratic charade that exists the political theater that has replaced our democratic process and it's just one more step towards this corporate totalitarianism which no one seems willing or able to stop within the ruling elite indeed they are completely complicit and the consequences are extremely dangerous this book was born out of the great work on suicide by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim was published in 1897 I like Durkheim quite a bit that was that kind of Furman to had Durkheim Max Weber and Karl Marx all roughly the same time period playing off of each other but I like tokheim for the same reason that I admire w/e be two boys who and I think you could argue that the boys was probably our greatest intellectual because they married great scholarship and brilliance with this capacity to walk out into the communities that they were writing about and listen so when for instance des bois writes his classic to Philadelphia negro by the time he's finished he's interviewed over 1,200 families in Philadelphia to profile what it's like at the turn of the century or the beginning of the 20th century for African America living in an urban setting so Durkheim asks a question and the question is what is it that drives individuals and societies to engage in acts of self annihilation Freud would later ask the same question in civilization and its discontents and Freud would frame it differently but I think also helpfully where he said that at any moment in time both within individuals and societies one of the primary forces was ascended eros the capacity to nurture protect and sustain life and the death instinct post Freudians later called a Thanatos but the death instinct that drive to annihilate every living system around you including yourself he writes this as Europe is devolving into fascism and ultimately war and Durkheim when he writes his book on suicide he found that those communities and individuals who were least likely to engage in acts of self-destruction were those who had strong social bonds and provided space for individual self-expression and self-actualization that was the greatest protection against collective or individual suicide and those who carried out acts of self-destruction had essentially come from communities where those social bonds the communal structure the capacity for self-actualization had been destroyed and he used the word enemy to describe that state that propels people to engage in activities of self immolation and it's interesting how you translate atomy literally means rule less nests meaning in essence the rules that govern or the accepted rules of the social contract no longer function so you work hard you get a good education you obey the law you have the capacity to sustain your community and make it flourish and you have the capacity to fulfill yourself as an individual when those contracts are broken then you are thrust into a state of anomie what sociologists call diseases of despair and that's what I wanted to look at the diseases of despair that afflict American society the pathologies that rise out of a decayed culture and when you examine disintegrating cultures and civilization these pathologies are always characteristics so I studied classics at Harvard and was very familiar with the decline of the Empire of ancient Greece and Rome and there you saw at the latter part of those empires characteristics that are intimately familiar to all of us within the American Empire so in essence what happens this is what Plato is lamenting when he writes the Republic because remember Plato writes the Republic after the death of Athenian democracy and he writes the Republic that the Greeks of course have a very different notion of time as do most Eastern cultures they don't see time as linear they don't believe in the myth of human progress that we are just improving and improving rather it's it's time is cyclical both for end of and societies so that you have a period of of maturation of growth and then finally you complete the cycle in and it comes back to decay so that's why when Plato is writing the Republic it's all every mechanism that he proposes is about trying to freeze time because decay is inevitable to stave off decay as much as possible so what kills the Athenian democracy is the rise of the Athenian Empire because you need a central bureaucratic structure to maintain Empire which is unelected and undemocratic and the so that weakening of the polis of the city-states and the that that construction of empire gives rise to an oligarchic class which finally takes control you have less and less say within your society lucida teas writes about this when he says that the tyranny that athens imposed on others it finally imposed on itself so what happens at the outer reaches of empire we see it in our own empire militarized police wholesale surveillance the suspension or radication of civil liberties militarized drones all of those mechanisms that are first carried out against those who are being subjugated within Empire eventually come back to the homeland because you're military as ours is I mean half of our discretionary spending is now spent on the military and our roads are crumbling and 16 million children go to bed every night hungry and you bring back those familiar forms of control to the homeland the other characteristic of course is that when that cabal seizes power you had to the ruling families in ancient Rome they're just trading power back and forth you have the facade of the Republic it creates a kind of licentiousness there's essentially two rules Matt Taibbi wrote a pretty good book about this called divide where he looked at the the legal mechanisms that criminalized the poor and the mechanisms that essentially allow the elites goldman sachs citibank to carry out massive acts of financial fraud and orchestrate tax boycotts which they've done that they're become two rules within the society as barbara ehrenreich pointed out in her a great book nickel and dimed nobody works harder than the poor in this country and she describes being poor in this country as one long emergency so the idea that working hard is somehow going to allow you to advance becomes a fiction the other aspect of declining Empire is that they they actually at the beginning of empire use their military prowess judiciously fairly traditional but at the end of empires you begin decay they engage historians call it micro militarism they carry out suicidal military Fiasco's you saw the Soviet Union do this in Afghanistan the Greeks when they invaded Sicily their entire fleet was sunk most of their soldiers were killed the empire disintegrates you saw the the the British Empire and a slow decline after the end of World War one then invades Egypt after Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal and has to retreat in humiliation and of course what kills the power of the empire is the pound sterling is dropped as the world's reserve currency which will kill our empire so essentially it's mismanagement you have elites that sever themselves from the rest of the country they retreat into their version of the Forbidden City or Versailles there was a writer for The New York who said the rich in this country don't live in America they live in richest and I think Matt Matt Taibbi called them stateless archipelagos but that's right and when you have an elite that is that divorced from the reality around them and yet have that concentration of power and wealth then you accelerate the destruction of the system itself because there's no rational governance so what's happened in the United States is a process a John Ralston Saul calls it the coup d'etat in slow motion I don't always credit him but I was giving a talk and at the University of Toronto and and suddenly noticed that he was seated in the front row all writers are thieves you know don't you know that joke about writers like you know as John Ralston Saul said the coup d'etat in slow motion and in the second time it's well as someone said the coup d'etat and then the third time is as I've always said but we had I mean you know it turns out that Eisenhower of all people was quite prophetic about where we were headed remember that the highest tax rates for the wealthiest individuals and corporations under the Eisenhower administration was 91 percent I mean people say well how are we gonna pay for it how gonna mess a tax we're gonna tax them at 91 percent like we used to and the other thing we're gonna do is we must do is destroy the military machine in this country which is the greatest enemy of democracy there's no rationale was it yesterday right was the 17th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan I mean this is our micro militarism the Taliban controls more territory in Afghanistan than when we went in they do and we've lost the war American troops they don't even want to go out with the Afghan army because half of them are Taliban I was with the PKK once in when I was covering the Middle East this is the Kurdish separatist group and and I've been with a lot of rebel or insurgencies and I covered the war in El Salvador for five years but I noticed not only are they well-equipped it's because they were all running drugs out of Lebanon so they had money but they were really good and so I was talking to the PKK commander and he said oh no no we won't accept anyone into the rebel movement until they've done their two years military service in the Turkish army so what happened is that we lost control of we lost control of our government we lost control of our economy you know and this isn't unique to the United States neoliberalism as an ideology essentially created this absurd notion that societies could advance themselves by kneeling before the dictates of the marketplace this is popularized by figures like Thomas Friedman and others it's an absolutely ridiculous political theory it has no economic validity in in the you know I don't know how many years of economic history no society has benefited by allowing their oligarchic elite to become unregulated and uncontrolled and unfettered but it's peddled was peddled quite effectively by corporations beginning in the 1970s reacting to the awry the rise of movements in the 1960s what the political scientist Samuel Huntington called America's quote-unquote excess of democracy you had the Lewis Powell memo of 1971 which I'm sure you're aware of which was the kind of blueprint that corporations used to rollback these movements and seize control of all of the institutions and this goes back to the Cavanaugh issue including the courts academia so you if you weren't especially in economics departments are our greatest political philosopher who we lost a couple years ago Sheldon Wolin and read his book democracy incorporated a very important book for me in terms of giving me a language to describe the system he describes the American system now as what he calls inverted totalitarianism it's an important distinction from let's say fascism because it's the primacy of economic profit over everything else which isn't necessarily true in a fascist state and that like the late Roman Republic as I said earlier you maintain the facade the electoral politics I mean this ridiculous hearing they had with Kavanagh as if everything wasn't preordained in advance everything becomes tribal truth no longer matters the rights of the citizenry no longer matter but the structures are there still you still pay fealty to the Constitution and stuff and yet inside the mechanisms of power corporations control everything and and so you saw why I remember speaking to wool and and I did a three-hour interview with him which is on YouTube which is right of a year before he died he was 92 or 93 then and I had reread all his books you can see I went in with legal pads full of notes and there was its remarkable I mean this guy there was nothing I could throw at him it hadn't been interviewed for over ten years and that was the last interview he gave he was Cornel West's mentor Cornell dedicated either his first or second book to Sheldon and and woolen in the 1980s was one of those who called out neoliberalism for the con that it is and he was immediately blacklisted he couldn't he use have quite a good writer it was quite a good writer he used to write for the New York Review of Books he was just purged and he said that even at the end within the political science department at Princeton where he was teaching his own colleagues wouldn't speak to him so all of those figures who could have warned us Ralph Nader is another one were shunted aside Noam Chomsky our greatest intellectual hands-down III a couple years ago I got a call from gnome of course I read I've read gnomes since I don't know I was 18 years old and he said I want you to write whether I want to ask if he'll write the introduction to my new book and so I hung up and I told my wife I've arrived it said I I mean every my whole understanding of the mechanisms of the liberal class I wrote a book called the liberal class come out of Chomsky I actually told no him I should have put you down there you know that whole idea of the liberal class not being the political left that the liberal class functions as a kind of safety valve in moments of distress and the reason in a capitalist democracy you tolerate the liberal class is because they set the parameters of acceptable debate and as soon as critics on the Left start attacking the structures or the motives of the ruling elites the liberal class discredits them and pushes them aside the liberal class can critique the excesses but they never critique the system and you see the classic example of how a liberal class is supposed to function in a capitalist democracy with the collapse of capitalism in the 1930s and Roosevelt and Roosevelt's he has after he after his death they published his correspondence and his brother was the editor which I've read and it's fascinating because Roosevelt is keenly aware of the powerful movements the Progressive Party the labor unions like the CEO the CIO but also the Communist Party who we've kind of erased from our history but it played an important role in American radicalism and he says if we don't respond will get revolution and will lose everything and so that's it was that pressure that led Roosevelt who came from the oligarchic elite to say well if the private sector can't create jobs then the government will create jobs and he creates 12 million jobs Social Security the the unions in the wake of World War one had been decimated destroyed and and you know the old United Mine Workers couldn't even exist legally until Roosevelt reversed it that's how a liberal class functions and and Roosevelt says his greatest achievement is that he saved democracy I mean capitalism not democracy he saved capitalism and but but what happened after the war and is there was an assault not only on those radical progressive movements that as Howard Zinn has pointed out opened up the space in our democracy I mean I always find it and of course what isn't today Columbus Day right but we should all be wearing black armbands yeah you know I was reading Eugene O'Neill's biography who was quite a radical and he said the only day that the only day in American history that he really cared about celebrating was the day the Sioux and the other tribes in the Little Bighorn wiped out the seventh Cavalry that was really the only day so as Zinn understood the system was created as a closed system and you go back and read the Federalist Papers and they were terrified of direct democracy of and they created all sorts of mechanisms including the electoral college which has given us the gift of George W Bush and Donald Trump they created all sorts of mechanisms to thwart the ability of the populace which they can often conflated with the mob so all of the spaces in American society were paid for with the blood of working men and women african-americans women in the suffragists movement throughout American history and this is why Zins book is important I teach in a prison and when you write up your proposal for your class it I teach the Rutgers and they say they get their BA program I taught lame is Rob last semester and I put in a proposal to teach Gulag Archipelago next I taught a class once called conquest and we read open veins of Latin America bury my heart at Wounded Knee and CLR James's black jacobins which is a classic work on the Haitian Revolution the only successful slave revolt in human history and Haiti's been paying for it ever since and I was in Montana I'd given them the syllabus so well be here this week I have to speak in Montana and I was in my hotel room in Montana and I got a phone call and it said this is a Special Investigations Division of the Department of Corrections of the state of New Jersey are you aware that your students just led a sit-down strike in the prison and it was very moving I mean I really was quite emotional when the phone call ended because they knew even better than I did what would happen their cells would be strip-searched as they were they would all be interrogated until they found the leaders of the strike which they did and those leaders would be shipped to another prison and put an indefinite solitary confinement where they remain and yet they rose up anyway and we just of course saw heroic struggle on the part of incarcerated men and women which ended on September 9th the anniversary of the 47th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising if you haven't read Heather Thompson's blood on the water read it it is a really amazing work of the history of the Attica uprising but more importantly how after that uprising the power leads effectively demonized African Americans I mean because they were so frightened so when that action that just finished on September 9th was concluded you had seen throughout the country thousands of men and women who had carried out work stoppages they didn't get the kind of press coverage should commissary boycotts and hunger strikes because they grasped and I think it's an important lesson for all of us that our system is so calcified that reform will not come from within it will only come from without and as the free Alabama either I don't know if you know about the free Alabama movement they did a work stoppage 2010 and then they put the leaders again in indefinite solitary confinement but Alabama being Alabama where the guards make minimum wage it means you can get anything so I'm they call me on their cell phones all the time which is not supposed to have but they said you know the only way to end slavery which is neo slavery which it is in our prisons is to stop being a slave that we the only mechanism we have now is to break them economically if you paid prisoners the minimum wage our entire prison system would collapse it's not it can't be sustained prisoners in Louisiana make four cents an hour I guess if you're really at the high end you can fight fires in California for a dollar an hour New Jersey they make 22 cents an hour that's twenty eight dollars a month I've got students who you know spend twenty thirty forty years in prison work 40-hour weeks get out and not only do they not have Social Security they're in debt it was now you you get in debt in prison so I think that on you know though people who come out of marginal communities I certainly find my students in the prison have a kind of hyper awareness of the fact that we live in a failed democracy that our democracy is not a functioning democracy and that by appealing to those institutions and this was my both mine and Shama salons problem with Sanders we we did an event with Bernie and Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein the night before the climate March in New York and Shama kept pushing Bernie not to run as a Democrat and I found Bernie his answer quite illuminating because he said well if I do that I'll up like Ralph Nader and he's not wrong what he was saying is that if I defy the Democratic Party establishment they will destroy me and the tragedy for me of the Sanders campaign is one as turf which turned out to be true I never believed that the Democratic Party was going to ever permit Bernie to get the nomination and I think we now have enough cumulative evidence to say that it was stolen from him and secondly we're never gonna build a resistance movement within the span of an election cycle and we're gonna have to walk out into the wilderness for a long time sarasu which governs Greece and yes I know about tsipras caving into the banks but Sir Raisa was polling at 4% ten years ago we're gonna have to go back and do that hard kind of work I I managed I was gonna tell that Zen story so I one of my gray coos in the prison so I when I when I write the description of the course it's the purpose is it's the opposite from writing for college audience where you know class on the lawn lots of films you got to make it sound absolutely as boring and turgid as possible so I submitted a proposal to teach American history and the three branches of government and constitutional which got passed because it goes through Rutgers then it goes through the prison administration and then I brought in the people's history of the United States for all of my students I was quite moving I mean they were most all of them are black and and Zinn is quite cognizant throughout that whole book of the the story of African Americans and these guys their minds were blown away but I would be giving my 90-minute talk on whatever chapter we were on reconstruction or something and I would hear our students go damn we've been lied to and they have they have been lied to so we saw that period in the seventies where corporations organized a frontal assault against every institution that made Democratic space possible that made the mechanisms of reform possible that gave a voice to the citizenry and critics of imperialism critics of capitalism and it closed and closed and closed at the same time that the economy was reconfigured and we shifted in the words of the Harvard historian Charles Mayer from what he called an empire of production to an empire of consumption meaning that we were borrowing to maintain both an empire and a lifestyle we could no longer afford I don't know if you saw the New York Times story a few days ago on the explosion of government debt of the u.s. debt as quite was quite chilly as a front-page story and it was of course with the tax cuts over a 10-year period we will diminish an estimated 1.5 trillion dollars from government revenue next year we're on track to pay about 370 billion dollars of interest and in ten years we will be paying nine hundred billion dollars a year in interest it's not a sustainable system but of course there is a handful of people on Wall Street and in criminal organizations like Goldman Sachs who are doing extremely well I have taught three times at Princeton and I remember when they had a small occupy gathering at Princeton and they asked me to come speak to them and I did what I didn't know is that there was a reporter from The Daily Princetonian in the crowd and the next day the school paper said ferrous professor announces I was quoted correctly ferrous professor announces that the President of Princeton and other elite universities are just overcompensated fund raisers Princeton students are far too deferential to Authority and half of the Princeton trustee board should be in prison I [Applause] wasn't invited back next year I actually got an email that day I think they they wanted it clear that they'd read the story but of course it's true I mean Princeton is just a corporation like most of these universities you know Harvard the same they produce systems managers the largest major at both Harvard and Princeton is computer science the humanities are withering away all of those mechanisms that teach us not what to think but how to think I mean they're not wrong that an education is subversive it's designed to make you ask questions but the system only wants people who will perpetuate it so you get the 2008 financial crash and the systems managers loot the US Treasury to re-inflate a failed financial system the University of Missouri just recently did from you know went and looked and tried to estimate the exact amount of money the Fed had fabricated and they came up with 26 trillion dollars trillion dollars I mean imagine now China's response to 2008 was very different from our own it was about kind of like the New Deal they had infrastructure projects and all put people to work 26 trillion dollars were handed to people who should be in prison unlike my students and and what did they do with it well they as they've done with the staff the tax cuts they bought back their own stock and you know this idea that an overheated stock market is good for the economy I just want to give everybody copies of John Kenneth Galbraith the crash it's insane it's not tied to value of course they're over brined back their own stock Apple bought back 100 I think I have that right a hundred million of their own stock something like that because that all the CEOs compensation packages are tied to it so they're you know they're they're even cheating their own stockholders ultimately and so what do they do the money they hoard it I mean it's it's borrowed money their butts borrowed at virtually zero percent interest and central banks in Europe were lending money out at negative interest rates which meant actually gave you if you borrowed money they give you money so what did they do with the money they they bought back their own stock which swell their compensation packages they hoarded it or they gambled for instance and there was another article in The Times I read other papers besides The Times but there was an article in The Times in the Week in Review about two or three weeks ago where they talked about the fracking industry being the next dot-com bubble because the fracking industry is a loot loses money it it's it's it's valued on projected profit just like the dot-com industry not actual profit they've already swallowed about two hundred and eighty billion dollars so what you've done is there's no use of that money which of course I mean the tragedy is that you know every stood in this country could go to college for free we would have a rational healthcare system where we weren't preyed upon by pharmaceutical and insurance companies eighteen percent of GDP the least efficient health care service in the industrialized world and even if you have insurance your costs and co-pays and you know everything is imploding because they can a million people a year go bankrupt because corporations have the ability to hold their sick children hostage while they try and while they bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughter I mean it's the insane system all of this could have been fixed but it wasn't and of course the problem is that it has to be paid back and so what they are doing is extracting from us that's student debt 1.5 trillion dollars and it's estimated that within two decades or so 40% of those who have student debt will go into default personal debt is 13 billion dollars I mean American production since 1973 has gone up by 77 percent and and if wages have kept pace with production the minimum wage will be well over $20 an hour 41 million workers in this country a third of the workforce earn less than $12 an hour and almost none of them have employee sponsored health insurance but that's by design because they need to suppress wages in order to extract debt and I open the book in Scranton Pennsylvania the moment the city faces is facing insolvency so everyone in the city has been put on minimum wage including the mayor what happened their pension funds were decimated in 2008 lost 40% of their value because of financial fraud and they're selling off their city assets they're selling off their sewer system they are parking Authority all of their utilities in a desperate effort to regain financial solvency and of course these corporations come in and then jack up the prices double triple the prices in the per capita income and Scranton's forty five thousand dollars a year but the question is what happens when they don't have any assets to sell off and this is described quite effectively by Marx when he writes about the the latter the late stage of capitalism he said when and Karl Polanyi is the other writer that captured this in his book the great transformation that when you have unfettered unregulated capitalism corporate capitalism that it is it has the capacity to commodify everything human beings become commodities the natural world becomes a commodity that it then exploits until exhaustion or collapse and that's of course what we're seeing in this insane inability to respond to the ecocide you've all seen the report that came out yesterday which says basically we have ten years to save ourselves as a species that's it and the reason that climate scientists are so terrified they're talking about 1.5 Celsius the reason they're so terrified of going beyond two degrees Celsius is because of feedback loops which means that essentially you lose the ability to control so your temperatures rise your ice cap the polar ice caps melt and once they're gone they're not coming back for thousands of years the acidification in the oceans I mean that you can't control it that one plays off of the other and we know what feedback loops do because they've studied it on planets like Venus which used to have water and is now 800 degrees that's where we're headed but we've retreated into what anthropologists will call crisis cults magical thinking so the seizure of power by these elites the primacy of profit the destruction of democratic institutions including the courts really and you are what going to watch now with Kavanagh some very what they do what they've been doing but it will be accelerated as they are taking from us our constitutional rights by judicial Fiat ie reinterpreting the right of unlimited corporate power through a distorted interpretation of the Constitution how do they justify Citizens United it's the right to petition the government I'm not making this up it's the right for free speech what do they do when they when Edward Snowden provides concrete proof that our right to privacy has been taken from us nothing I mean I love it when they all talk about how they're strict constitutionalists you know I wrote when I wrote that book on the Christian right it was fascinating because I was always very upfront about who I was and where I came from my father was a minister my mother was a Seminary graduate she was a professor I graduated from seminary and as soon as the history was there they never wanted to speak about the Bible with me ever because they don't know the Bible they're selective literalists just like our strict constitutionalists they select certain passive biblical passages that affirm their ideology and they have acculturated the worst aspects of American imperialism and American capitalism into the Christian religion sacralized it and I blame the liberal Church that we didn't call these people out for who they are which is Christian heretics you don't have to spend three years at Harvard Divinity School as I did to understand that Jesus didn't come to make us rich [Applause] and the Christian Right played an important part in this destruction with deindustrialization slashing of social service programs all of it much of it pinned on Clinton NAFTA of course but the destruction of the old' welfare system and 70 percent of the original recipients in our welfare system were children the deregulation of the FCC which has allowed five or six corporations to seize control of the airwaves what about 90 percent of most Americans watch and listen to ripping down the firewalls between investment and commercial banks which precipitated the global crisis that was all Clinton and Clinton did corporate bidding by the 90s the Democratic Party had fund raising parity with the Republicans and when Barack Obama ran in 2008 he got more but that created the faux liberal class a fake liberal class there used to be a liberal wing of the Democratic Party but is long gone and so you have people who continue to speak in that feel your pain language but are sold out working men and women and that's where a lot of this white rage comes from in the white working-class Baldwin James Baldwin who I love and I don't really think you can understand America if you haven't read Baldwin but he writes about why is it that white working men have are susceptible to a midlife crisis in a way black men or not and he says it's because when you're black you realize that the game is fixed whereas if you're white you're more susceptible believe the myth of a meritocracy and you get ahead and then you wake up and realize it's fixed and that's what's happened and so it is that sense of entitlement colliding with economic and political reality that they don't matter and Trump of course fed upon that the whole idea that Trump was elected because of Co me or the Podesta emails or Russian BOTS is frightening because it is a way of refusing to address the massive social inequality that has distorted our system you can't maintain a democracy in an oligarchy Aristotle knew it I mean Aristotle said once you have an oligarchy your choice is between tyranny or revolution and the longer the Democratic Party I mean they're playing a very dangerous game now because they are they they're following the same tactic Hillary Clinton followed which is Trump is and we know from the Podesta emails that they wanted Trump as the nominee and so the tactic is Trump is so repugnant Trump will implode but now you've watched with the Cavanaugh hearings I mean look I certainly hope that Democrats retake the house just as any kind of a bloc obviously but they're playing a very dangerous game by refusing to address the fundamental issues that have distorted our society and of course there are creations of the corporate state Pelosi and Schumer in particular their job is to funnel Wall Street and corporate money to anointed Democratic candidates they have certainly purged the Bernie people from the party I know Bernie's gonna run again it is as Samuel Johnson said the triumph of Hope over experience these people if we had real electoral reform and remove corporate money from the Democratic Party they wouldn't have power and I think Howerton ly cognizant of how fragile things are but they're just not about to give up their first-class accommodations no matter what but we could all go down because of that and I really look at the Democratic Party like any failed liberally as deeply complicit in the rising totalitarianism that is emerging around us so these corporate forces in the name of the primacy of profit destroyed our democracy distorted our economic system into an oligarchy rewrote our laws and regulations so that they can carry out an ecocide for short-term profit and that seizure of power by a corporate cabal replicated the seizure of power by any cabal maniacal communist fascist in that a creative political paralysis it created the inability of the government to respond in a rational way to the rights desires needs of the majority of the citizenry and and and at that moment of political prowess something I watched in Yugoslavia plus severe economic mismanagement it's a very frightening recipe because it's fertile ground for demagogues and I want to go back to the Christian right because we talk about magical thinking fake news and all this stuff there are long a decedent's for the the arrival of a monstrosity like Donald Trump and they come largely out of the Christian right because there you have people who have retreated into the embrace of magical thinking I and I spent two years writing a book on them American fascist the Christian Right in the war in America was my way of trying to reach out to them I couldn't hear their stories without being moved I mean they do so the suffering that they endure is real not just economic but you know all of the attendant problems that come with the rupture of social bonds sexual domestic abuse struggles with addictions jail time chronic underemployment unemployment all that and so finally they they couldn't take it and they retreated into the embrace of magic Jesus and who you know people say how can the Christian Right be supportive of Trump and I said no no you don't you have it completely wrong Trump is absolutely characteristic of the figures who lead the Christian Right um look I've been in a room with some of them the Jan and Paul Crouch I went to their Studios Dobson who is as frightening and evil as he looks they preyed on people's despair and they've become very wealthy because of it they prey on that despair in the same way that Trump preyed on the despair of people who went into his casinos I write my chapter on gambling out of the Trump Taj Mahal before Trump announced Oh is completely and the place has gone through that when I got there had gone through several bankruptcies most of the rooms were mothballed most of the restaurants were closed the arena was closed you could ask you've waited long enough you could watch rodents literally run across the floor the big mole spots the lights burned out kind of a metaphor for where Trump's going to take us but the they you can't be questioned there they're utterly narcissistic these they're narcissists these mega pastors almost all of them are white men and you're not gonna rationally argue these people out of their worldview and that was driven home to me when I went to Detroit I was with Tim LaHaye the end time series and it was a weekend on the wonders of the Apocalypse and the Antichrist and it was really quite remarkable because none of it was biblical it was painted as biblical and the rapture is not in the Bible but it was all like you know the non-believers blood will boil I'm not making this up in their eyes pop out and all this gruesome stuff and I realized then that the the the exhilaration that they felt in that room for the end times was the exhilaration of being able to destroy a world that almost destroyed them and I came to the conclusion at the end of that book that the only way to save ourselves from this Christianized fascism and remember the Nazis had the German Christian Church don't forget with the swastika on one side of the altar and the Christian cross on the other is to reintegrate these people into the economy short of that you can't argue them out of believing that you know every living being including the dinosaurs was created in six days because the book of Genesis says it's so I was in the creationist Museum in Peterborough Kentucky which is kind of an amazing with huge lots for the school buses and the first and they brought in two people who did Universal Studios so so you go in for the the replication of the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and a little waterfall and the t-rex with a saddle on it and when I'm going through with the guide and she says well I'm sure you all wonder why teawrex had such big teeth that's because Adam and Eve used here X to open the coconuts and we go go to the next room and it's a replica of Noah's Ark that she goes I know you all want to know how Noah got the dinosaurs on the ark he only put baby dinosaurs on the ark you know it's all kind of funny here but when you're in a room with 50 or 60 people who believe it it's truly terrifying it's truly terrifying and Trump came out of this and he has no ideology he's the classic you know he's the classic con artist that rises up out of decayed state I saw it in Yugoslavia Radovan Karadzic slobodan milosevic Franjo Tudjman and of course what he without ideological void is now being rapidly filled by the Christian fascist ideology Noam Chomsky says probably correctly we may get rid of Trump but Pence is worse and the drive to put Cavanaugh on the Supreme Court came from the Christian Right I mean Susan Collins sitting around pretending she doesn't know that this guy is gonna reverse roe v-- wade is really hypocritical I mean they put millions of Christian right made it very clear to the Republican Party this guy had to get on for that reason so what happens well Trump has catapulted us into a whole nother phase of decay won by engaging in the crude and vulgar trash talk which degrades political discourse look you saw it replicated in the Cavanaugh hearings both by Grassley and Cavanaugh himself so there's a decay of civil discourse which is classic to totalitarian it's reduced to insults hyper masculinity misogyny all this kind of stuff but there's also the embrace of what Hannah Erin called the permanent lie so all as I have stunts at all governments lie all politicians lie Bill Clinton lied when he he conned us into NAFTA saying it would create lot millions of good middle-class jobs George W Bush lied when he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but they don't still George Bush still doesn't tell us their weapons the Clinton doesn't now say that it created lots of millions of good middle-class jobs the permanent lie is impervious to reality and that's what Trump that comes out of the Christian Right and that's Trump so you can have photographs of Barack Obama's inauguration crowd and and and Trump's inauguration crowd and it doesn't matter his is bigger and had an errand in the origins of totalitarianism rights that that the embrace of the permanent lie which is always a feature of totalitarian states creates a kind of collective schizophrenia because you see reality or verifiable fact in front of you and yet is tonight it's denied it's denied it's denied so what I fear is that our economic system is not sustainable and I have lived through economic meltdowns I covered in the 20 years I was a foreign correspondent disintegrating societies I know what the warning signs look like and once that stability is eradicated and I don't know what's going to trigger it whether it will be another financial collapse or as Alfred McCoy points out in the shadows of American Century the day the dollar has dropped as the world's reserve currency you know if you read the New York Times story as closely because they say but the dollars of the world's reserve currency but I'm gonna stay that way McCoy's by 2030 it's finished and at that moment everything implodes you can't maintain your empire imports become expensive chronic underemployment unemployment the elites have no plan B because they can't lower interest rates any more than they've lowered them and at that point you have created fertile ground for the kind of scapegoating demonizing and violence and we already have a president who speaks in well the incites violence rhetorically you've created fertile ground for the rise of an American fascism and our only response now is sustained mass acts of civil disobedience that's it [Applause] and the state will be vicious I was at Standing Rock yeah but standing rocks the model it's got to have a spiritual dimension in the way Standing Rock had one it's got to understand that what we're fighting for is the systems of life is the sacred is the understanding that there are people and things around us that have an intrinsic value beyond a monetary value and when we are effective when we are effective as we saw with Standing Rock they will throw everything at us remember Standing Rock was under Obama 700 arrests a nonviolent protests attack dogs unleashed on the crowds water cannons laced with pepper spray Unleashed fired hosing down the protesters in sub-zero temperatures constant infiltration constant drones when I drove in in November I had to come all the way around because the roads were blocked but when I was stopped these weren't law enforcement they were dappled mercenaries in Kevlar vests with long barrel weapons with no identification we have no time left just from climate change we have no time left and in that sense resistance becomes a moral imperative we have to stop being constrained by the tyranny of the practical we have to understand as Daniel Berrigan once told me I asked him how do you define faith and he said the belief that the good draws to it the good even if empirically everything around you says otherwise I have kids we may fail but at least I want my kids to say he tried I'm not gonna be complicit I'm not gonna be passive [Applause] and I can tell you that the good does draw to it the good those ironic points of light that flash out wherever the just exchange their messages may I compose like them of arrow son of dust beleaguered by the same negation and despair show and affirming flame I covered the revolutions in Eastern Europe and the revolution is what I'm calling for and I'll spell that for the Homeland Security I'm not playing the games anymore we don't have time I'm calling for the overthrow of the corporate state [Applause] and we will overthrow it just as the regimes in Eastern Europe were overthrown through non-violence and through essentially carrying out sustained acts of mass civil disobedience acts of conscience because no revolution succeeds as the writers of revolutionary theory crane Britain Davies and others have noted and last a certain segment of the ruling apparatus defects then they're finished so it's 1989 I was there Honaker the Communist dictator in East Germany sends down a lead paratroop division to Leipzig to crush the demonstrations they get there the local communist authorities refused to deploy them Hahn occurs out of power in a week same thing with a Russian Revolution they send the Cossacks in to crush the rioters in Petrograd they refuse the Czar is gone he doesn't even make it back he has to abdicate on a railway carriage that's how it works the good draws to it the good and nobody knows how rotten corrupt and decayed this system is better than the people who manage it I was in Prague it was every evening in the magic lantern theater with Vaslav Havel during the Velvet Revolution you had posters all throughout the city of Yann Pollock a Charles University student who to protest the Soviet invasion in 1968 went to vent Salah square lit himself on fire four days later he died of his burns his funeral which was not reported by state media was broken up by police when his grave became a shrine his body was exhumed his remains were cremated and his mother was not allowed to Ribery them a week after the communist government fell 10,000 Czechs marched to Red Army Square and renamed it Yann Pollock Square I was in vent Salah Square with half a million checks in December of 89 it was snowing so the great Czech singer Mark tacuba shaiva comes out on the balcony now she had sung in 1968 a prayer for Marta to protest the Soviet invasion the overthrow of Dubcek and the installation of a pro Soviet regime once the Soviets took power they destroyed her recording stock she was banned from the airwaves and in the intervening years she worked on an assembly line in a toy factory and when she walked out on that balcony and began to sing a prayer for Marta every check in the crowd knew every word that is the good drawed and to it the good but if we don't stand up it can't be seen and we can't use the word hope I don't know if we will win I don't even know if we will survive as a species but these corporate forces have us by the throat and they have my children by the throat and in the end I don't fight fascists because I will win I fight fascists because they are fascists [Applause] [Applause] so block those rail carriages carrying bitumen tar sands that's your job yeah but over here thank you Chris on the heels of that this all feels a little bit small ball so I will ramp up but as someone who has been green or third-party since 1996 I've watched the Democratic Party march steadily right my entire life while I admire the attempt to change the Democratic Party presumably from within I feel this effort traps progressives and actually prevents change do you have any thoughts well I fully agree you know I was I was Nader a speechwriter and Ralph I think understood nobody understands corporate power better in America than Ralph Nader none and nobody has fought it with more integrity and let's get over the Democratic lie that he elected george w bush because it's not true ralph understood because he saw that process he was up close I mean this Ralph said that our last liberal president was Richard Nixon not because he was a liberal or had a conscience but because he was frightened of movements so he passes I think twenty four pieces of amazing legislation he creates Oh show the mining Safety Act clean water all of which were written by Nader and then funneled in through what the existent liberal wing of the Democratic Party black lung that came under Nixon and we lost those movements maybe people say you know elections you know his Emma Goldman if elections were that effective they'd be illegal even if Sanders had won he would have been paralyzed in Washington we have to rebuild those movements the job is to pit power against power and I've told it before but there's a moment in Kissinger's memoirs although you were all banned from buying the book where it's 1971 and Nixon has taken empty city buses around the White House there are tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators and Nixon is looking out the window going Henry they're going to break through barricades and get us and that's where we want people in power to be it's our job to put them there and of course they're destroying the remnants of unions as fast as they can with a new right-to-work laws and you can be sure now the Supreme Court I mean the whole perverted idea that individual choice or gender identity or something it's all conflated with freedom and that kind of hyper individualism and of course I I support everybody to actualize themselves as who they were meant to be but that that is essentially what we are given in place of freedom the only way we're going to protect ourselves is to rebuild the communal structures the social bonds that allow us to resist and part of you know what's so depressing is the press I mean CNN is just endless burlesque watch it it's it's pattern sucker patterns that he's admitted this quite consciously on ESPN it's just endless chatter speculation who's in who's out there all quarters it's all reality television they just finished the Kavanagh reality television series as if there was any doubt about the outcome and then we had the stormy Daniels television series and the Omarosa television series but it's not news it's not journalism it makes them a lot of money I mean they are complicit in creating Trump and they love Trump Trump's a moneymaker for them so we've got to rebuild those movements and they have done a pretty good job of decimating the mechanisms by which we once protected ourselves from their predatory nature and I think part of that is third party so Ralph said look we won't win but if we can get five ten fifteen million votes we can begin to create pressure and hopefully get the Democratic Party to respond and the Democratic Party did respond after 2000 Nader scared the hell out of them and they responded by demonizing him and the corporate media went along with it they challenged his voting list running up millions of dollars in his voting lists were impeccable but they just wanted to run up his legal bills so Patti Smith and I were running around raising money for Ralph so yeah we've we've got to you know we've got to begin to hold fast to what we believe people say well how you know I mean for me it's personal I mean I worked in Gaza I'm not gonna betray the Palestinians I mean if Barack Obama gets up and gives a speech written by AIPAC I'm not betraying these people everybody else betrays them I'm not betraying them I my students half of my students wouldn't even be in prison but for Bill Clinton you know half of the people in our prison system are not charged with ever physically harming another person it's social control and corporations are going in they're making a killing Global tel link arm art you know every service it's a billion in their lobbyists are all down there making sure those recidivism rates of 76 percent within five years remain just where they are good actually oh no no problem so then to follow-on does it matter who runs for president in 2020 and if so who should run for president in 2020 I just don't waste a lot of time or I mean I voted for Sanders in the primary I voted for Jill Stein in the general election I mean we you know I gave a talk in when once when Nader was running in Dearborn which has the largest concentration of Arab Americans and I kind of gave it to them because they may have resources highly educated on and I said you know you all you've got arguably the most important because you know Ralph is of Lebanese descent he speaks fluent Arabic I said you have the most important Arab American in the you know the modern period and I said you know you've got it he's saying everything right about Israel about Palestine and you got to stand behind him and I said you know if I was speaking to a Jewish group and and and Israel it was reversed they wouldn't walk out we have to if we don't begin to hold fast to those moral imperatives they're gonna continue to do what they've always done which is steamroll steamroll us you know I just don't know how many how much more evidence anybody wants that the system doesn't work I just I'm just kind of mind-boggled and the Democratic Party has been completely complicit in all of this and they're stubborn refusal to address the social inequality that is destroying the country and they don't want to address it for one because they're complicit and number two because if there was real reform they'd be out of a job that's right well no they'd be hired as lobbyists but is where most of them end up anyway switching over to a couple of questions about the media your show on contact is on Rt America that network has seen is a tool by some used by the Russian government to send misinformation to the American people how do you respond don't watch it I mean you want to know why they don't they want to shut down RT America or shows like mine read the Director of National Intelligence report there's seven pages on RT there's not a word about Russian propaganda they're quite transparent they interview any fracking activist they interview black lives matter activists if you are at a functioning Public Broadcasting System I wouldn't be on Rt look I mean they'll shut me down eventually but I'm not gonna cave and I you know I worked Eastern Europe the only place she could hear Vaslav Havel was on Voice of America didn't mean Havel supported the Vietnam War or American imperial he was a socialist but I'll take whatever platform I can get I used to be at the epicenter of the American media empire I used to write stories in the next day the State Department held briefings about it and I've self-exiled myself because I won't play the game you know I left the New York Times over I was publicly denouncing the call to invade Iraq and I was I was booed off of a commencement stage in Rockford Illinois at one point most of the 1,000 people got up and started singing god Bless America to drown me out they cut my microphone twice they had two men in their gowns come up and try and push me off the podium that was my first and last commencement invitation and so the times gave me a written reprimand I was the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times I spent seven years in the Middle East and I speak Arabic and they said you're not allowed to speak about Iraq and because I was in their words impugning the impartiality of the New York Times and I quit I left the paper I will I will go wherever I I can speak you know what I have to speak and I'm certainly well aware that the Russian government which certainly I don't have proof because it's technically another a private company but it's probably Russian money I know why they're doing what they're doing in the same way that I knew why Voice of America was giving voice to all sorts of Eastern European dissidents I was also working for a newspaper the New York Times that had blacklisted Noam Chomsky they wouldn't even print his name in the paper the intellectual I admire most in America so you have to carve out whatever platform you can get and speak with the integrity they as much integrity as you can and realize as Paul Tillich once wrote that all institutions including the church are inherently demonic and one day you're gonna run head-on into that institution and have to walk away that's kind of been my career so I mean that's that's why I'm there because I can't go anywhere else and because they will allow critics of imperialism and capitalism to have a voice whereas our public broadcasting system especially PBS are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Koch brothers you know they fund the NewsHour right on BBS yeah I was up at the public radio station in Boston David Koch sits on the board that's why it's so boring you go back to the late 1970s you could you could watch Malcolm X James Baldwin Noam Chomsky Howard Zinn they were on public television because the role of a public broadcasting system is to give space and a platform to people who aren't owned but we don't have one anymore in NPR's awful I've got just a few more questions Trevor Noah has said that Trump has weaponized victimhood you have comments any comments on that III don't think Trump's smart enough Trump all of this was preceded Trump I mean I was in Montgomery Alabama with Bryan Stevenson the great civil rights attorney and we were walking through the streets of Montgomery half of Montgomery's black and Bryan's pointed out the Confederate memorials everywhere and then Bryan says you know most of these were put up in the last ten years and that's what I saw in Yugoslavia with the economic meltdown of Yugoslavia the dispossession of the working class they were treated in two mythical identities because you lose work you lose your capacity to have a voice within the society then you retreat into a mythologized version of you and where you came from and that feeds the sense of victimhood you blame the other I mean the whole idea that 11 or 12 million undocumented workers are responsible for the economic decline of the United States it's about as as rational as the idea that 800,000 Jews which were about 1% of Germany were responsible for the collapse of it doesn't make any sense rationally but it's effective and the elites always scapegoat always demonize and and what I worry about especially with the Trump administration is that if we get when we get to an economic crisis just any sense of constraint will be lifted so Trump is a classic demagogue remember that you know and you can read Evans or Kershaw the great writers on Nazism in 1928 the Nazis were considered buffoons I mean Hitler couldn't even speak proper German I mean they were just these weird characters so 1929 comes that you have the economic crash and then the control of the German government is in the hands of Ebert and the Social Democrats the Liberals what is Ebert do he caters to the international banking system he imposes draconian forms of austerity including abolishing unemployment insurance and care Shaw Evans they all say if without the economic collapse of Vimal the Nazi Party would have never achieved power that was true in Yugoslavia because the anger at the system especially forget hyperinflation the anger the system becomes so pronounced that they will turn to people even though they realized these people are buffoonish and you see that that doesn't mean they're not very very dangerous as we see with Trump but no I think Trump is a he's he's he's a con artist who was a student off to realize what people wanted to hear 35% tariffs I'll bring your jobs back all this kind of stuff and but he didn't weaponize I mean he he that all of this would all of this groundwork was laid long before Trump Trump Trump is the product he rises up demagogues rise up out of this kind of disintegration I've just got time for a couple more in view of the shell you spoke a little bit ago about acting with integrity and in view of the shell games that corporations play do you have any advice on investing with integrity I just thought I would pose it investing with investing with integrity thinking about money I you know I went to a Divinity School not Business School I I really think that that's kind of how do I put it yeah it's an oxymoron and it's a classic way that capitalists engage in what we call moral fragmentation to quote fit on the door of where most of your lifestyle is geared towards building a pathetic little monument to yourself and so you do things like ethic would you call it ethical investing or you know you you you drop a bag of groceries off at the food kitchen or you engage in some relatively meaningless act of philanthropy and deny where most of your life is going look most of America is really not sitting up at night thinking about investing and I'm not either cuz I don't make that much money how can you say that your are you proud to be an American am i proud to be an American I didn't write these questions I only read them well you know I spent 20 years outside of America yeah when you spend that long outside of America you're not American anymore the people that I love and that's why I spoke about Jamal at the beginning are those people who in every nation out of every religion out of every ethnicity rose up to fight the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed and they are my brothers and they are my sisters and I don't really care what language they speak and I don't care what color they are and I don't care what country they come from [Applause] so you certainly touched on this but I just want to give you more chance to sort of sum it all up since you refer to your own children how do we give our children hope I mean how do you think about giving your children hope you know I don't share the cultures mania for hope I don't I've kind of find a kind of infantile I covered war you see you know you I mean many of the people including my closest friend were killed in war a lot of people I lost you made a very cold calculation of the weapons systems arrayed against you and you responded as rationally as you could you know hope is embodied vasily grossman got it in his great novel life and fate what you haven't read you should go read where he talks about human kindness that it's not about a battle between good and evil it's about a great evil seeking to crush a kernel of human kindness but if that evil has not crushed human kindness by now that an evil can never win I you know I we have such I think because I've spent so much time around death because I've lost so many people and they died young that I worked with I it's I'm very cognizant of the very brief time that we have on this earth and how fragile it is evil will certainly outlive us all that it is our job to stand up and fight for what is just and what is right and what is good and and believe as beragon said that that good does draw to it the good the invisible witnesses around us who I certainly carry I you know I find hope I in that class that I taught with on conquest my best student the only one who got an A+ he was convicted of a crime he did not commit when he was 14 and is not eligible to go before a parole board until he is 70 years old and he's 39 now he will any you know you the bail goes you got a move in a prison or you get a charge he waits till the classroom is empty and he says I know I'm gonna die in this prison but I worked as hard as I do because one day I'm gonna be a teacher like you and he walks out I can live on that for a really long time that's thank you Chris thank you all for your terrific questions please go see Chris Hedges at the table out in the lobby pick up a copy of his book say hi he'll sign it for you thanks for joining us we'll see you soon [Applause] [Music]

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