Chris Hedges on the death of the liberal class

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges on Thursday’s unreported protest at the White House, his new book, Death of the Liberal Class, and Obama’s Faustian bargain with corporate power. (It’s grim stuff… To be honest, I wish I’d watched 30 Rock reruns instead.)

Part-two of the interview can be found here.

update: Speaking of Democracy Now, Amy Goodman also had a good segment today featuring feminists Jaclyn Friedman and Naomi Wolf on the sex crime allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. If you have a moment, I’d highly recommend watching their debate.

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  1. Knox
    Posted December 21, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    My sense is that this guy won’t be voting for Obama come 2012.

  2. Edward
    Posted December 21, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Truthdig has an excerpt:

    In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements, making the liberal class a useful component within the power elite.

    But the assault by the corporate state on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And reducing the liberal class to courtiers or mandarins, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety valve and forces discontent to find other outlets that often end in violence. The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

    The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch. Churches and universities—in elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year—enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques. Labor leaders make lavish salaries and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle. Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers. Artists who use their talents to foster the myths and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills.

    The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism.

    In the name of tolerance—a word the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., never used—the liberal church and the synagogue refuse to denounce Christian heretics who acculturate the Christian religion with the worst aspects of consumerism, nationalism, greed, imperial hubris, violence, and bigotry. These institutions accept globalization and unfettered capitalism as natural law. Liberal religious institutions, which should concern themselves with justice, embrace a cloying personal piety expressed in a how-is-it-with-me kind of spirituality and small, self-righteous acts of publicly conspicuous charity. Years spent in seminary or rabbinical schools, years devoted to the study of ethics, justice, and morality, prove useless when it comes time to stand up to corporate forces that usurp religious and moral language for financial and political gain.

    Universities no longer train students to think critically, to examine and critique systems of power and cultural and political assumptions, to ask the broad questions of meaning and morality once sustained by the humanities. These institutions have transformed themselves into vocational schools. They have become breeding grounds for systems managers trained to serve the corporate state. In a Faustian bargain with corporate power, many of these universities have swelled their endowments and the budgets of many of their departments with billions in corporate and government dollars. College presidents, paid enormous salaries as if they were the heads of corporations, are judged almost solely on their ability to raise money. In return, these universities, like the media and religious institutions, not only remain silent about corporate power but also condemn as “political” all within their walls who question corporate malfeasance and the excesses of unfettered capitalism.

    You’ll find it continued here.

  3. John Galt
    Posted December 21, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I’d like a few minutes alone with Mr. Hedges to introduce him to the free market.

  4. 'Ff'lo
    Posted December 21, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Grim, yeah, but hearing someone speak (more or less publicly/openly, and articulately) of how thoroughly—and how—power is being asserted is so much better than not hearing it; there’s something about it that bolsters sanity and thus feels, in one (vital) arena, zounds better than a 30-Rock-ish drugging.

    Not that I don’t have my many ostrich moments.

  5. Posted December 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    “Universities no longer train students to think critically, to examine and critique systems of power and cultural and political assumptions, to ask the broad questions of meaning and morality once sustained by the humanities. ”

    I would like to know the evidence behind this. I speculate (without anything more than observational evidence) that the expectations of undergraduates in 2010 is much lower than that of 1990. A trip through the recycling bin at Angell Hall at the University of Michigan will confirm the banality of student papers in 2010. However, I believe that it’s an incredible stretch to indicate that universities uniformly do not teach students to think critically.

    Yes, there has been an expansion of technical and vocational programs and cuts to humanities programs in response to student demand and shrinking resources, but I think that a look at course offerings as any number of Universities will confirm that this man does not know of which he speaks.

  6. Kim
    Posted December 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re helping the man make his case, Peter. The humanities, at least at UofM, run a far distant second to the ‘real’ sciences. That, after all, is where the money is. I love UofM, but let’s not kid ourselves.

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