Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges

book jacketDeath of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), (2010)

The author page at Amazon link is here. He has written a number of good books and online at where he lays it all out with a passionate intensity. Love that! He also is extremely cynical (for good reasons) and very sharp in his critiques of the status quo.

In this book, it begins with a quote by the author who is probably my favorite author of all time, George Orwell.

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals. (George Orwell, “Freedom of the Press”)

This book is available on CD and so I actually listened to it but then got the hard copy to review and recall the points that grabbed my attention while listening to it. It might have been this book that brought Howard Zinn to my attention. I can’t believe I lived through the sixties without hearing about him. On page 169 in the chapter “Liberal Defectors” — though Zinn is certainly not a defector. Anyway, he references Howard Zinn’s book, People’s History of the United States” which exams history “through the eyes of Native Americans, immigrants, slaves, women, union leaders, persecuted socialists, anarchists and communists, abolitionists, antiwar activists, civil rights leaders, and the poor.” I checked out the original book and it is about 4 inches thick. I also picked up the much cooler pictorial version that is a graphic novel with illustrations and short pointed text of essential facts.

This is what Hedges had to say about him:

Zinn’s work has been castigated by many academic historians, largely because he broke with the mold of writing about the great and the powerful. Zinn related history as it was experienced by people and imploded numerous national foundation myths from the hijacking of the American Revolution by the wealthy slave owning elite to the treachery exhibited by European settlers towards Native Americans. Zinn also exposed the clay feet of the founding fathers, including George Washington, who was the RICHEST MAN IN THE NATION after the revolution [and yet Valley Forge was deprivation beyond belief] and national idols such as Abraham Lincoln, whose opposition to slavery was never emphatic or even principled. Zinn’s honesty perhaps explains why the FBI, which released its 423-page file on Zinn in July 2010, saw him as a threat.  [Of course Hoover said threats everywhere.]

Zinn, who died in January 2010 at the age of eighty-seven, did not advocate violence or support the overthrow of the government, something he told FBI interrogators on several occasions. Hew was rather an example of how INDEPENDENT INTELLECTUAL THOUGHT DEEPLY DISTURBS THE myths perpetuated by the power elite. Zinn’s work was based on a fierce moral autonomy and personal courage and was, for this reason, brand as “political.” Zinn was a threat not because he was a violent revolutionary or a communist but because he was fearless and told the truth. (p. 170+ continues below)

The cold, dead pages of the FBI file stretch from 1948 to 1974. At one point, FIVE AGENTS are assigned to follow Zinn. Agents make repeated phone calls to employers, colleagues and landlords seeking information. The FBI, although Zinn is never suspected of carrying out a crime, eventually labels Zinn as a high security risk. J. Edgar Hoover, who took a personal interest in Zinn’s activities, on January 10, 1964, drew up a memo to include Zinn “in Reserve Index, Section A,” a classification that permitted agents to immediately arrest and detain Zinn if there was a national emergency. Muslim activists, from Dr. Sami Al-Arian to Fahad Hasmi, can tell you that nothing has changed.

The Zinn file exposes the absurdity, waste and pettiness of our national security state. And it seems to indicate that our security agencies prefer to hire those with mediocre or stunted intelligence, dubious morality, and little common sense. Take for example this gem of a letter, complete with misspellings, mailed by an informant to the FBI Director Hoover about something Zinn wrote.

“While I was visiting my dentist in Michigan City, Indiana,” the informant wrote, “this pamphlet was left in my car, and I am mailing it to you, I know is a DOVE call, and not a HOCK call. We have had a number of ethnic groups move into our area in the last few years. We are in a war! And it doesn’t look like this pamphlet will help our Government objectives.”

Or how about the meeting between an agent and someone identified as Doris Zinn. Doris Zinn, who the agent says is Zinn’s sister, is interviewed “under a suitable pretext.” She admits that her brother is “employed at the American Labor Party Headquarters in Brooklyn.” THIS IS ALL THE USEFUL INFORMATION THAT IS REPORTED. The fact that Zinn DID NOT HAVE A SISTER gives a window into the quality of the investigations and the caliber of the agents who carried them out. . . .(p. 170-171)

He continues describing the absurd and useless and extremely expensive all this surveillance and documentation gathered, like he was a neighbor of a woman whom another woman (informant) said had seen “copies of the Daily Workers in Mrs. Scheiman’s apartment and noted that Mrs. Scheiman was a good friend of Howard Zinn.” Thus, ipso facto, Zinn was described by the FBI “as a former member of the Communist Party, something Zinn repeatedly denied. . . . ” Plus Zinn became involved in SNCC and marched for civil rights – while “teaching at Spelman, a historical black women’s college” where he took “his students out of the classroom to march for civil rights.”

All this is terrifying to me since we have once again reached a time of tumult like back in my youth and before that with the Civil Rights movement. Neighbors eager to curry favor with authority, neighbors spying on neighbor and ratting them out (Nazi Germany got many tips from neighbors reporting who was or might be hiding Jews). And given the particular self-righteousness of the right wing authoritarian theocrats who seem to be everywhere, aggressive, and on a mission from god, it would take no more than an unexpected magazine on your coffee table to provide evidence against you for treason and sedition with someone like Ted Cruz as President. (picture me making the sign of the cross to ward off vampires, though I am a secular humanist, he is as close to a vampire as could exist in reality. Creature of the dark, afraid of sunshine laws, sucks his victims dry of their wealth and autonomy and the lives of others as collateral damage to keep his power alive.

Father Daniel Berrigan was a Jesuit priest and pacifist who vigorously protested the Vietnam war. “. . .after Berrigan was imprisoned for destroying draft records, Zinn repeatedly championed the priest’s defense in pubic rallies. . . .The FBI monitored Zinn as he traveled to the Danbury Federal Prison in Connecticut to visit Berrigan and his brother Philip.” I think those visits were from their Plowshares Movement conviction (re: destroying nuclear bombs).

For those of you who weren’t alive at the time of the Pentagon Papers trial (1973), this was another serious protest and release of information that the New York Times, sadly, would no longer defend their right to publish these days, given Snowden’s treatment. The newspaper won 6-3 in Supreme Court that also would not have happened if the court were as it existed with Scalia on board.

Zinn testified at the trial for Daniel Ellsberg, who gave a copy of the Pentagon Papers to Zinn and Noam Chomsky. The two academics edited the secret documents on the Vietnam War, sections of which had appeared in the New York Times, into the four volumes that were published in 1972.

“During the Pentagon Papers jury trial, Zinn stated that the ‘war in Vietnam was a war which involved special interests, and not the defense of the United States,'” his FBI file reads.

And most recently, there was the release of the Panama Papers, another case of the authorities and rich people’s true actions and motivations and dirty dealings. The leaders of the corporations and countries were exposed for using legal loopholes and questionable actions to store money offshore to avoid taxes. Maybe we’ll see something on fake patriotic groups (Heritage Foundation (conservative), Cato Institute (libertarian, aka Koch brothers), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, et al) that are obviously buying and selling influence and bribery and corruption at every level of the political process. Protesters such as Zinn, Berrigan, Ellsberg, and more should be awarded a special Medal of Freedom and stipend that is awarded to courageous protesters, who are jailed, imprisoned, ridiculed, fired, surveilled, fired, and meant to become a pariah among friends that also become swept into the madness of guilt by association — Constitutional right notwithstanding. Hedges goes on to describe the massive surveillance and organizations in support of it going on, BUT EVEN MORE TODAY since 9/11. [or according to Trump 7/11, where oh where are the Thomas Jefferson’s of today?]

Another very very timely point is made about the often held urban myth that Ralph Nader’s run as an independent was what damned us to the election of George W. Bush and all the disasters that have befallen us since then, including 9/11 and mass and perpetual war, religious zealotry, hatred and bigotry, evangelicals seeking the right to dominate us all and put their “god” above the Constitution and turn America from a secular nation where one is free to practice OR NOT religions of their choice to one that must follow the tenets and dogmas of the evangelical beliefs: like earth being 6,000 years old, and the Flood deserving an 18 million dollar tax break for a theme park featuring the ark, which they now claim is why the dinosaurs died, because NOAH wouldn’t let them on board. I haven’t heard why not, probably because it shows the bullshit for what it is since they aren’t denying dinosaurs existed — in fact, they lived happily beside primitive but definitely non-ape looking people — and they know they were too big to fit on an ark. The Bible does not, however say that God told Noah to load ALL the animals EXCEPT dinosaurs, so that seems like a pretty big decision to make against God’s will. Plus does the original word in Hebrew really mean “animals” and not birds, spiders, alligators, penguins (which are now said to have used giant fallen trees as rafts to float to Antarctica). Don’t recall what their desperately held false beliefs came up with to explain kangaroos. Or the fact that the Bible doesn’t include any description of anything outside their tiny little portion of the world. Gee, just as if they had been limited to their little area. And of course, the beliefs about so many other things that are absurd on the face of them (God gives a shit about mixed fibers) or the love God or burn in Hell as a cheery way to sales pitch the religion.

But I digress. The 2016 election and the issue of an independent candidate as a “spoiler” which is to say, split a party vote and cause “the other side” (aka the bad guys, which is especially true this year) to win. The problem facing democrats in particular is the fact that the BEST candidate is Bernie Sanders who hoped, I think, to bring change from within given that the two-party semi-privatized conduct of elections has been hijacked such that NOT ALL REGISTERED VOTERS get to vote via many means, principally in MANDATORY PARTY MEMBERSHIP (like the communists but with a pretend duality) for CLOSED PRIMARIES. They also get reimbursed for their private running of election process by the states BASED ON ALL REGISTERED VOTERS yet deny independents to vote at all in primaries. Then there are the caucuses which are theoretically where you can gather and talk and persuade others who may be undecided but that is a lie based on my caucus experience. People came and voted and left. People who stayed for the meeting had an agenda to follow to elect delegates and there was no time for debates. The limited hours available (7-9 Tuesday evening) that required you to be physically present eliminated thousands and thousands of voters: people who had to work, family issues, transportation issues, and snowbirds (Lots of Minnesota and other northern states people go south for the winter, right when our caucus is scheduled during of course.) Without early voting primary style, extended hours or days, online voting, or the changes to many other aspects of voter suppression as was seen in Arizona (closing of polling places from 300+ to 60 for no justifiable reason given that by that time they knew that other states had been dealing with massive crowds. Magically disappearance of over 100,000 thousand voters registered as democrats in Brooklyn — SURPRISE SURPRISE, the city that Bernie Sanders was born in and therefore likely to vote for him rather than Johnnie come lately Mrs. Clinton in her Long Island compound, with the ludicrous staged “taking the subway” experience and I am willing to be she HAD NEVER BEEN ON THE SUBWAY BEFORE. Though to be fair, she has had secret service protection for so many decades, it is not like she could have or should have just hopped on the train to go out to dinner like everybody else. Besides which, living on the Island is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT world from living in New York City or the boroughs. I know, I have lived there.

Hedges discusses the Nader issue (P. 173+)and other places I have read said it was not his votes that made the difference. There were plenty of better reasons and people to put the blame on, not the least of which was Gore failing to carry his home state. Bush cheated and someday we may learn the truth of how extensive and what forms it took, but you know there are plenty of books out there documenting various issues. Hanging chads and butterfly ballots among them, but just a part of the circus. The unprecedented intervention by the Supreme Court with the majority being Republican justices who really needed to give up the illusion that they were honorable, non-partisan, objective and reasonable judges in the matter was UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE. But subsequently less so but appalling in the damage done and ongoing. Think about the DEATH BY GUNS (Heller case), mass shootings, toddlers every week killing or being killed, money in politics — people are going hungry but the .01% can pay $353,000 for dinner at George Clooney’s home. Billionaires having millions to spend without it denting their total assets one bit. One dinner would have paid one person to live at poverty level for about 29 years. The mind boggles at that kind of money that it can be so inconsequential to a persons ability to feed themselves while others worry every day. Thank a bunch Citizens United decision. Not to mention corporations are people and their money is speech. The Founding Fathers are all rolling over in their graves. “Nooooo! That’s not what we meant!”

The descent of Ralph Nader, from being one of the most respected and powerful public figures in the country to being AN OUTCAST, illustrates perhaps better than any other narrative the TOTALITY OF OUR CORPORATE COUP and the complicity of the LIBERAL CLASS in our disempowerment. (p. 173)

This was meant to kill two birds with one stone – instill hatred and blame towards THE BEST CONSUMER — PEOPLE’S advocate of a generation maybe EVER, silence the power of his voice and opinion, and DISENCHANT anyone else inclined to run as an independent.

Nader’s marginalization was not accidental. The corporations , which grew tired of Nader’s activism, MOUNTED A CAMPAIGN TO DESTROY HIM. It was orchestrated to thwart the legislation that Nader and his allies, who had ONCE belonged to the DEMOCRATIC Party and the liberal class, enacted to prevent corporate abuse, fraud, and domination. And by the time he was shut out of the media and the political process with the election of [gag] RONALD REAGAN, the government was firmly in the hands of corporations.

“The press discovered citizen investigators around the mid-1960s,” Nader told me when we spoke on afternoon in Princeton.(footnote 26)

“I was one of them. I would go down with the press releases, the findings, the story suggestions, and the internal documents and give it to a variety of reporters. I would go to Congress and generate hearings. Oftentimes, I would be the lead witness. What was interesting was the novelty. The press gravitates to novelty. They achieved great things. There was collaboration. We provided the newsworthy material. They covered it. The legislation passed. Regulations were issued. Lives were saved. Other civic movements began to flower.”

“Ralph Nader came along and did serious journalism. That is what his early stuff was, such as Unsafe at Any Speed,” the investigative journalist Daniel Cay Johnston told me:

“The big books they put out were serious, first-rate journalism. Corporate America was terrified by this. They went to school on Nader. They said, “We see how you do this.” And the corporations copycatted him with one big difference: they had NO REGARD FOR THE TRUTH. Nader may have had a consumer ideology, but he was NOT TRYING TO SELL YOU A PRODUCT. He is trying to tell the TRUTH as best as he can determine it. It does not mean it is the truth. It means it is the truth as best as he and his people can determine the truth. And he told you where he was coming from.”

Between 1966 and 1973, Congress passed TWENTY-FIVE pieces of consumer legislation, nearly all of which Nader had a hand in authoring. The auto and highway safety laws, the oil pipeline safety laws, the product safety laws, the update flammable fabric laws, the revised Clean Air Act, the revisions to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, The Environmental Protection Agency, Occupation Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Environmental Council in the White House transformed the political landscape. By 1973, Nader was named the FOURTH MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN THE COUNTRY after Richard Nixon, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, and AFL-CIO president George Meany.

“Then something very interesting happened,” Nader told me:

“The pressure of these meeting by the corporations like General Motors, the oil companies, and the drug companies with the editorial people , and probably with the publishers, coincided with the emergence of the most destructive force to the citizen movement mis-en-scene: Abe Rosenthal, the editor of the New York Times. Rosenthal was a right-winger from Canada who hated communism, came here, and hated progressivism. The Times was not doing that well at the time. Rosenthal was commissioned to expand his suburban sections, which required a lot of advertising. He was very receptive to the entreaties of corporations, and he did not like me. I would give material to Jack Morris in the Washington Bureau, and it would not get in the paper.”

Rosenthal, who BANNED SOCIAL CRITICS such as [Noam] Chomsky from being quoted in the paper, decreed that no story built around Nader’s research could be published unless there was a corporate response. Corporations, informed of Rosemthal’s dictate, refused to comment on Nader’s research. This effectively killed the stories. The Times set the agenda for national news coverage. Once Nader disappeared from the Times, other major papers and networks did not feel compelled to report on his investigations. He found it hard and harder to be heard.

Much as Mr. Mister of The Cradle Will Rock hires a detective to spy on his enemies, General Motors hired detective to dig up dirt on Nader’s personal life. They found none. The company had Nader followed in an attempt to blackmail him. They sent an attractive woman to his neighborhood Safeway in a failed bid to seduce him while he was shopping. GM’s campaign was exposed and led to a public apology by the company. Nader was awarded $425,000 in damages which he used to fund citizen action groups.

He goes on for a number of pages, and I may add images of the text later for you to see a bit, but it is better if you just buy all of his books and read chronologically. However, the case of Ralph Nader and what happened to him and the prospect of another populist movement being strangled at birth with the corruption and cheating by Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and mainstream media collusion, and so on is crucial to recognize since I believe 2016 is our last chance for redemption. We have not been a good neighbor nation. The more history I read, the more appalled I am, and since Reagan it has only gotten unbelievably worse. George W. Bush and his pals Cheney and Rumsfeld might have broken the world irreparably.

Earlier in the book, under Politics as Spectacle, Hedges talks a little bit about how he came to believe what he believes and why he is so freaking good about identifying the truth and telling it like it is. (p. 138+)

Liberal institutions were created to make the world a better place. They were designed to give a voice to those who are shunted aside, abused, and ignored by the larger society. Throughout their history, they have promised to protect the common good, educate, and fight injustice. These institutions, when they function, keep alive qualities that defy the RAW GREED of UNCHECKED CAPITALISM. I am a product of these liberal institutions, in particular the church [!!!!], the university — where I spent eight years, as an undergraduate and graduate student — and the media. I was, while a working journalist, a member of a labor union. The sermons preached from my father’s pulpit, the study of literature, history, theology, the classics, and moral philosophy in college and graduate school, gave me a language to make sense of the world and define my place in it. It was journalism that permitted me to roam the world for two decades, every new foreign assignment the equivalent of another undergraduate degree. The languages I speak, the cultural literacy I possess, the grasp I have of political and economic systems, would not have been possible without these liberal institutions. I defied them in the end, but I am also deeply indebted to them. My anger is not directed against these institutions so much as those within them that failed when we needed their voices. These liberal principles were egregiously betrayed to protect careers, to preserve access to the powerful. Liberals conceded too much to the power elite. The tragedy of the liberal class and the institutions it controls is that it succumbed to opportunism and finally to fear. It abrogated its moral role. It did not defy who did. And the defanging of the liberal class no only removed all barriers to neofeudalism and corporate abuse but also ensured that the liberal class will, in its turn, be swept aside.

The disease of the liberal class is the specious,supposedly “professional” insistence on objectivity. Before the rise of commercial newspapers, journals of opinion existed to influence public sentiments via arguments — not to stultify readers with lists of facts. Our oldest universities were formed to train ministers and inculcate into students the primacy of the COMMON GOOD. Labor unions had a vision of an egalitarian society
mark twain portrait
book jacketthat understood the inevitability of class struggle. Artists from Mark Twain to John Steinbeck sought not only to explain social, political, economic, and cultural reality, but also to use this understanding to fight for a social order based on JUSTICE. Movements that defied the power elite often started and sustained these liberal institutions, which were created as instruments of reform. One by one, these institutions succumbed to the temptation of MONEY, the jargon of PATRIOTISM, belief in the need for PERMANENT WAR, fear of internal and external ENEMIES, and distrust of radicals, who had once kept the liberal class HONEST. And when it was over, the liberal class had nothing left to say.

In 1984 the New York Sun reported on a woman whose husband came home drunk and abusive once too often. It wrote of the event in a manner that would be impossible in today’s cold, stripped down reliance on fact: “As every sensible woman ought to do who is cursed with a drunken husband, she refused to have anything to do with him hereafter — and he was sent to the penitentiary.” For comparison, here is the final sentence of a 199 item from the Ann arbor News, about a man who assaulted a prostitute after she refused to have sex with him: “Employees at the Ramada Inn Ann Arbor, 3750 Washtenaw Avenue, said the man and woman checked in around 2 a.m. Friday.”

The creed of “impartiality” and “objectivity” that has infected the liberal class teaches, ultimately, the importance of not offending the status quo. The “professionalism” demanded in the classroom, in newsprint, in the arts or in political discourse is code for moral DISENGAGEMENT. The righteous thunder of the abolitionist and civil-rights preachers, the investigative journalists who enraged Standard Oil and the owners of the Chicago stockyards, the theater productions such as The Cradle Will Rock that program cover of The Cradle will Rockimploded the myths peddled by the ruling class and gave a voice to ordinary people, the unions that permitted African Americans, immigrants, and working men and women to find dignity and hope, the great public universities such as City College of New York that offered the children of immigrants a chance for a first class education, the New Deal Democrats who understood that a democracy is not safe if it does not give its citizens an acceptable standard of living and protect the state from being HIJACKED BY PRIVATE POWER are gone. The remnants of the liberal class, and the hollow institutions they inhabit, flee from those who speak in the strange and unfamiliar tongue of liberty and justice.

Really powerful writing! However, we need to develop some kind of lexicon to indicate “reverse of liberty” because the right wingers have co-opted many of the otherwise pro-democracy values in their names: usually claiming to be patriotic in an excessive way. There are some exceptions, for example, the People for the American Way, founded by Norman Lear to combat the “Moral Majority” in 1981 is actually a good progressive organization, unlike the Moral Majority that still overshadows actual morality today. Common Cause is another good one that doesn’t carry some faux patriotism in its name. Unlike the dreadful contemptible Eagle Forum established by Phyllis Shlafly to deny women’s equal rights by stopping the ratification of the ERA. Sadly, she succeeded and even more sadly she is over 90 years old and still doing damage, although I read somewhere that recently she had been kicked out as leader of her own organization by her daughter, I think. This was a PAC that gave money to right wing conservatives to further her religious beliefs and agenda. Check out the link for Eagle Forum above. I was just reading more on it and did not realize that the STOP the ERA actually had STOP meaning something: stop taking our privileges!

Here is a clip from the Wiki entry:

In one issue of the Eagle Forum Newsletter, titled “Whats Wrong With Equal Rights for Women,” Schlafly argued against the ratification of the ERA on the basis that it would take rights and protections away from women. According to Schlafly, the passage of the ERA could “mean Government-funded abortions, homosexual schoolteachers, women forced into military combat and men refusing to support their wives.” The newsletter began to circulate, and many conservative women wrote to their legislators, relaying the concerns voiced by Schlafly in the Eagle Forum Newsletter.[14] Support for The Eagle Forum grew with the support of many conservative women and various church groups, as did the opposition to the ERA. Many of the same women who had helped Schlafly distribute her book were involved with STOP ERA. Less than a year after its creation, STOP ERA had grown to several thousand members.[13]

The ERA, thanks to her desire to protect her (and rich white woman lawyer that she was she personified privilege) lifestyle, she ruined it for the rest of women. With an ERA passed (it was short 3 state votes) there would possibly be no legal standing for the attacks on women’s reproductive health choices today. And, of course the GREAT BATHROOM FEAR of unisex toilets has morphed into something she never imagined with transgender people still believing they have a right to use a public restroom without exposing their genitals or maybe the right will want doctors to tattoo all gender changed individuals for easier identification. The new Jews as it were.

After all, they can force doctors to lie to patients seeking abortion and mandate speech doctors must give or risk fines and jail time, and you just know they sponsor “undercover shoppers” so to speak to try to catch non-compliance. Kind of like the prick who damaged fetal tissue research that may save my life from more ravages of multiple sclerosis, or stop it completely for others. ALL IN THE NAME OF RELIGION WHEN WE ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION and laws should not be passed that are coercive of one religious point of view. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE you assholes. Of course, I don’t think it is accurate that the Catholic Republican men (and Sandra Day O’Conner) deciding such things (fuck you “undue burden” clause) actually were correct to say that the State had an interest in PREGNANCY when they do not, apparently, have an interest in CHILDREN.

And of course, women do serve in combat now, and there is widespread belief that if there were a draft reinstated that women should be drafted as well as men. So much for saving “women’s privileges” you old crone. I personally don’t think it is good to have women in combat because, man what a bitch with a period. And I hear the army issues low quality (cheapest bidder) tampons. And the rape issue: it is rampant. And the sex torture and slavery etc. that would be the experience of captured women soldiers. Note, I am not saying that the men have it better! Being burned alive in a metal cage and having heads chopped off or just carrying the packs they do in insane heat against an enemy that can be any age, any sex, and anywhere is just plain the wrong way to fight the legacy of George W. Bush terrorism. However, like abortion, I support a woman’s RIGHT TO CHOOSE to become a soldier and get combat pay and be an active fighting war machine if that is what she wants.

Karl Popper is a name that came up in this book, and I have seen it in others, never having seen it before, so that is kind of weird. But I will have to look up more about him. The “Liberal Defectors” chapter (V -p. 141) opens with a quote from him:

But the secret of intellectual excellence is the spirit of criticism; it is intellectual INDEPENDENCE. And this leads to difficulties which must prove insurmountable for any kind of AUTHORITARIANISM. The authoritarian will in general select those who obey, who believe, who who respond to his influence. But in doing so, he is bound to select mediocrities. For he excludes those who revolt, who doubt, who dare to resist his influence. Never can an authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type. Of course, the authorities will always remain convinced of their ability to detect initiative. But what they mean by this is only a quick grasp of their intentions, and they will remain for ever incapable of seeing the difference. — Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

He then starts the chapter:

The liberal class’s disposal of its most independent and courageous members has long been part of its pathology. The liberal class could afford this rate of attrition as long as the power elite remained accountable to the citizenry, managed power with a degree of responsibility and justice, governed so that it could still respond to the common good, and accepted some of the piecemeal reforms proposed by the liberal class. But as the state was slowly hijacked by corporations, a process that began after World War I, accelerated after World War II and was completed with ruthless efficiency over the past thirty years, the liberal class PURGED itself of the ONLY MEMBERS WHO HAD THE FORTITUDE and VISION to save it from irrelevance.

The final phase of total corporate control, which began with RONALD REAGAN, saw the steady assimilation of corporate ideology into liberal thought. It meant that the liberal class was forced to discard the principle tenets of liberalism. The liberal class, its institutions controlled by corporations, was soon mouthing the corporate mantra that economics and the MARKETPLACE, rather than HUMAN BEINGS, should guide political and economic behavior. Free-market capitalism, a distinctly illiberal belief system, soon DEFINED LIBERAL THOUGHT.

By the time the touted benefits of globalization — the belief that workers around the world would become wealthier, that the market would lift the developing world our of poverty, that tearing down trade barriers would benefit citizens from both the developed and developing worlds, that peace and prosperity would inevitably result from interconnected global economies — were exposed as a sham, it was too late. The liberal class had driven critics of this utopian fiction from their midst. The liberal class was complicity in the rise of new global oligarchy and the crushing poverty visited in globalization’s wake on the poor and working class. It abetted the decline of the middle class — the very basis of democracy. It has permitted, in the name of progress, the dismantling of the manufacturing sector, leaving huge pockets of postindustrial despair and poverty behind.

But it would be a mistake to assume that the liberal class was simply seduced by the utopian promises of globalism. It was also seduced by careerism. Those who mouthed the right words, who did not challenge the structures being cemented into place by the corporate state, who assured the working class that the suffering was TEMPORARY and would be rectified in the NEW WORD ORDER, were rewarded. They were given public platforms on television and in the political arena. They were held up to the wider society as experts, sages, and specialists. They became the class of wise men and women who were permitted to explain in public forums what was happening to us at home and abroad. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a cheerleader for the Iraq war and globalization, became the poster child for the new class of corporate mandarins. And although Friedman was DISASTROUSLY WRONG about he outcome of the occupation, as he was about the outcome of globalization, he continues, with a handful of other apologists, to dominate the airwaves.

. . . .Independent thought, as [Leslie] Gelb and many of the others who backed the war understood, is an instant career killer. Doors shut. No longer are you invited on the television talk shows, given grants, feted in the university, interviewed on CNN, invited to the Council on Foreign Relations, given tenure, or asked to write op-ed pieces in the New York Times. There is NOT COST TO BEING WRONG if the policies of the power elite are lauded. There is, however, a tremendous cost to being defiant, even if that defiance is prescient and correct. The liberal class, seeking personal and financial advancement as well as continued entree into the inner circles of power, is not concerned with the moral but the practical. (p. 143)

He goes on to tell the story of noble people who did not become seduced by the powers for profit or from fear. He includes Michael Moore as one who speaks truth to power. Sydney Schanberg at the New York Times, the amazing Pulitzer Prize winning reporter on the Khmer Rouge. This was made into a compelling and horrific film called The Killing Fields that I will never forget. But of course, after he began to push reporters to cover less fortunate people, his pursuit of these stories, critical of powerful people became a problem.

The editor of the paper, Abe Rosenthal, began to refer acidly to Schanberg as the resident “Commie” and address him curtly as “St. Francis.” Rosenthal, who met William F. Buckley almost weekly for lunch, and the publisher, Arthur “Punch: Sulzberger, grew increasingly annoyed with Schanberg’s attacks on their powerful and wealthy friends. Schanberg soon became a pariah.  . . . The senior editors and the publisher did not attend the previews for the film The Killing Fields. His days at the newspaper were numbered.

. . . . South African justice Richard Goldstone was another high-profile apostate from the liberal class. . . . The United Nations Human Rights Council created a fact-finding mission in 2009 to investigate violations of humanitarian and human rights law in the war in Gaza. Goldstone, who is Jewish, headed the mission, and his name was associated with the report for the United Nations that resulted. The Israeli government refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s mission. Its findings were not what Israeli liberal orthodoxy found acceptable. The report details human-rights violations carried out by the Palestinians, but it blamed most of the heavy loss of life on the government of Israel. (p. 148)

. . . . But Goldstone, like Moore and Schanberg, dared to place his conscience above his career. And the rage of the liberal class directed toward Goldstone was the rage of those who, because of him, had their complicity with power and acts of injustice exposed.

Liberal has a distinct connotation,” Norman Finkelstein said when we spoke:

“It means to believe in the rule of law. It means to believe in international institutions. It means to believe in human rights. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are liberal organizations. What the Goldstone phenomenon registers and catalyzes is the fact that it is impossible to reconcile liberal convictions with Israel’s conduct. Too much is now known about the history of the conflict and the human-rights record and the so-called peace process. It is impossible to be both liberal and defend Israeli policy. That was the conflict that confronted Goldstone. I very much doubt he wanted to condemn Israel.”

I found this particularly fascinating because Bernie Sanders is the first politician I remember actually saying there are two sides to the conflict there, and the Palestinians need to be heard.

Finklestein was cut off by the liberal class from the start of his career as an academic. He studied a 1984 book by Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial. The book was widely praised by Jewish intellectuals such as Barbara Tuchman, Saul Bellow, and Martin Perez. But Finklestein’s research showed that it was a HOAX. From Time Immemorial made the mendacious claim that the land of Palestine was largely unpopulated when Jewish settlers arrived. Finklestein’s research discredited a legal document, central to Peter’s  book, which denied Palestinians rights to the land in Palestine. He soon found himself at war with the powerful Israeli lobby. But he refused to back down, continuing his scholarship, which demolished myths surrounding Israel and exposed Israel’s political and financial exploitation of the Nazi Holocaust. This work swiftly turned him into a pariah. He was pushed out of numerous universities. . . .Yet his work, including Image and Reality  of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, published in 1995, is one of the finest and most important by any scholar on Israeli relations with the Palestinians. His writing is driven by a relentless search for truth and his compassion for the Palestinians and their suffering. This compassion, he often says, comes from his experience as the son of Holocaust survivors. . . .

Liberals are expected by the power elite to police their own. . . .[Alan Dershowitz] used his position to mount campaigns against liberal dissidents such as Finkelstein and Middle East studies departments in universities such as Columbia. The use of prominent liberals to do the dirty work of the power elite is an old and effective tactic. . . . philosopher Sidney Hook .. .argued that leftists, communists, radicals, and those he termed “ritualist liberals” endanger FREEDOM, understood that the POWER ELITE would only accept criticism that did NOT defy coporate structures and ideaologies. It would never permit radical critics to achieve positions of prominence within liberal institutions. He feared that unless the liberal class acted as enforcers of proper DOCTRINE it would collide with the power elite. Hook defended this purging as “the enforcement of the proper professional standards.” He called this “a matter of ETHICAL HYGIENE and not of political heresy or persecution.” Hook encouraged his fellow academics to “name names” in the 1950s hunt for communists and drug dealers. . . .

. . . The liberal class is expected to mask the brutality of imperial war and corporate malfeasance by deploring the most egregious excesses while studiously refusing to question the legitimacy of the power elite’s actions and structures. Specific actions can be criticized, but motives, intentions, and the MORAL PROBITY of the power elite CANNOT be questioned. (p. 153)

He continues on with scathing indictment of the failure of the liberals on many levels. Brilliantly written, but I am not going to retype it here. Read the book.

All of the points he makes speak directly to the issues of why liberals as represented by Hillary Clinton are despised by the independents and progressive democrats and why they want Bernie Sanders for president.


2 thoughts on “Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges”

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