hearing chris hedges out on american fascism

A few days ago, I mentioned Chris Hedges and his new book, “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America.” My inclination at the time was to say that Hedges, a former “New York Times” Mideast Bureau chief, was overstating the threat that the radical, evangelical right posed to the U.S. military. (The article I was responding to was on that particular aspect of “The War on America.”) Let’s just say that right now, after having researched a bit more into the Christian Embassy program in D.C., and learned a bit more about Hedges’ background (not only is he an award-winning writer, but his father was a Presbyterian minister, and he is a graduate of Harvard Theological Seminary), I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and at least hear him out… The rest of my evening is going to be spent reading the first chapter of his book, which is available online for free (something that I just learned about thanks to a comment in a Metafilter thread).

For those of you who aren’t going to check out the chapter, at least consider the following quotes, which I’ve just liberated from an interview on Salon dotcom.

First, here’s a clip from the intro:

Part of his outrage is theological. The son of a Presbyterian minister and a graduate of Harvard Theological Seminary, Hedges once planned to join the clergy himself. He speaks of the preachers he encountered while researching “American Fascists” as heretics, and he’s appalled at their desecration of a faith he still cherishes, even if he no longer totally embraces it. Writing of Ohio megachurch pastor Rod Parsley and his close associate, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, he says, “[T]he heart of the Christian religion, all that is good and compassionate within it, has been tossed aside, ruthlessly gouged out and thrown into a heap with all the other inner organs. Only the shell, the form, remains. Christianity is of no use to Parsley, Blackwell and the others. In its name they kill it.”

And now the Hedges quotes:

…You know, I come out of the church. I not only grew up in the church but graduated from seminary, and I look at this as a mass movement. I give it very little religious legitimacy, especially the extreme wing of it….

The level of manipulation is quite sophisticated. These people understand the medium of television, they understand the despair and brokenness of the people they appeal to, and how to manipulate them both for personal and financial gain. I look at these figures, and I would certainly throw James Dobson in there, or Pat Robertson, as really dark figures…

If there’s a historical period that’s analogous to the situation we have now, it would come close to being the 1930s in the United States. Obviously we’re not in a depression, but the situation for the working class is very bleak, and the middle class is under assault. There has been a kind of Weimarization of the American working class, and there’s a terrible instability in the middle class. And if we enter a period of political and social instability, this gives this movement the opportunity it’s been waiting for. But it needs a crisis. All of these movements need a crisis to come to power, and we’re not in a period of crisis…

The economy is not in healthy shape. I covered al-Qaida for a year for the New York Times. Every intelligence official I ever interviewed never talked about if, they only talked about when. They spoke about another catastrophic attack as an inevitability. The possibility of entering a period of instability is great, and then these movements become very frightening.

The difference between the 1930s and now is that we had powerful progressive forces through the labor unions, through an independent and vigorous press. I forget the figure but something like 80 percent of the media is controlled by seven corporations, something horrible like that. Television is just bankrupt. I worry that we don’t have the organized forces within American society to protect our democracy in the way that we did in the 1930s…

For me, the engine of the movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that’s in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again. You can’t deform your society to that extent, and you can’t shunt people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences…

Hitler was in power in 1933, but it took him until the late ’30s to begin to consolidate his program. He never spoke about the Jews because he realized that raw anti-Semitism didn’t play out with the German public. All he did was talk about family values and restoring the moral core of Germany. The Russian revolution took a decade to consolidate. It takes time to acculturate a society to a radical agenda, but that acculturation has clearly begun here, and I don’t see people standing up and trying to stop them. The Democratic policy of trying to reach out to a movement that attacks whole segments of the society as worthy only of conversion or eradication is frightening…

Because of my close coverage, or close connection with movements like Hamas or Milosevic, or even some of the despotic movements in Latin America like Efra

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  1. t.d. glass
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Best Quote Ever-

    “[T]he heart of the Christian religion, all that is good and compassionate within it, has been tossed aside, ruthlessly gouged out and thrown into a heap with all the other inner organs. Only the shell, the form, remains. Christianity is of no use to Parsley, Blackwell and the others. In its name they kill it.”

  2. ol' e cross
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Hedges: “Every intelligence official I ever interviewed … spoke about another catastrophic attack as an inevitability.”

    Robertson: “A terrorist attack will result in “mass killing” in the United States in the second half of 2007.”

    At least Hedges and Robertson can agree on one thing: Fear sells.

  3. Kate
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Yet another reason why I left my religion in order to keep my faith. I can certainly understand Hedges’ upset about the way Christianity is being manipulated. I feel the same way. Be afraid; be very afraid.

  4. ol' e cross
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Christian Embassy is a just branch of Campus Crusade for Christ. CCC also has branches infiltrating sports, business, medicine, inner cities, hungry bellies, etc. (including one especially nefarious local cell).

  5. rodsmith
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    The combination of religion and politics has always been a toxic one, and one of which the deists who set up the constitution were well aware.

    Large numbers of people confusing faithfulness with patriotism have been responsible for some of the bloodiest wars and unthinkable desecrations in recorded history.

    When the politics of power is intermingled with the rhetoric of religion, the result is always the antithesis of the religion thus espoused.

    Monotheistic religions are focal points of extraordinary power, and such power is irresistible to the unprincipled, the despotic, and the reprobate.

    Hedges is right to be offended. Compassionate Christians, secular republicans, and the entire left wing of politics should also be offended… but that wasn’t enough in this country in 2004.

  6. egpenet
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    The “organization” of religion was the brilliant concept of a Roman emperor, who said to himself, “Self, I can have more power if I insist that my subjects adhere to one state religion. Shit, I’ll even get baptised myself just to show them it doesn’t hurt.” And so it came to pass.

    Down came the statues of Diana and up went the statues of Mary.

    Oh, well. The organizing is great for the organizers … nice buildings, impressive offices, great art, good music and a definite aura of fear and terror over the elect.

    Rules on daily life … up the kazoo.

    But where in the world … name one place … where there is light and peace and love. Be there and forget all that other stuff.

  7. egpenet
    Posted January 9, 2007 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Now when the REAL bad guys come to Ypsilanti (maybe they’re already here) … I suggest Camille Paglia’s “Saint” as a model for us all. Did I suggest somewhere in this blog to become a volunteer Ypsilanti cop … I think so.

    Read “The Saint” page 197 in Camille Paglia’s book,Vamps & Tramps. Then lock and load. And have a good night’s rest.

  8. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 10, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I think I remember Hedges vehemently supporting invading Iraq. I don’t understand why he supported that Crusade.

  9. Bramra
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I thought that I’d leave a comment here in case peopl wanted to be directed toward another good Hedges piece.

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