Comments: Liberals Are Useless

I *heart* the Hedges article as well, and was thinking of posting a link to it here.

I like your addendum, too, but I think it's not addendum enough. The saying should go, "Conservatives like people with their hearts (except in the case when the heart has been replaced with a money-counting abacus), liberals like....." &c.

Posted by Aaron Datesman at December 9, 2009 01:51 PM

Jonathan, if I can't marry you, can I vote for you for something?

By a weird coincidence (okay, I'm obsessed with class), I was just reading Joe Bageant's Cultural orphan of the class struggle. If time's short, scroll down to the part that begins, "They are that great white unwashed that educated liberals just cannot get their heads around."

Posted by will shetterly at December 9, 2009 02:08 PM

I think that is sometimes true. It certainly rings true for the divinity students, if you could call them liberals and not faux-revolutionaries. On the other hand, it seems to me that many liberals liked Obama with their hearts, while Hedges, the radical, dislikes him with his head.

Posted by graeme at December 9, 2009 02:22 PM

"Conservatives actually do like people with their hearts."

No we don't.

Posted by Laura Bush at December 9, 2009 02:34 PM

I read Mr Hedges article yesterday and he is SO RIGHT! Since I first read his article "The Gaza Diary" in Harpers, October 2001 ( a fantastic account ), I try to read everything he writes and his writings are nothing but the TRUTH.
In 2003, at the commencement address at Rockford College IL, he was heckled and and his microphone was unplugged. I guess, that is how the conservatives do not like people with their heads or hearts!

Chris Hedges - Speech at Rockford College 2003
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAWMgYyAtHU

http://media.barometer.orst.edu/media/storage/paper854/news/2004/02/11/News/Reporter.DeBunks.The.Myth.Of.War-2298794.shtml

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 9, 2009 02:35 PM

Balls.

No, I don't mean that I respect Hedges' fortitude, I mean that I think his observation is smelly, hairy and should have been kept to himself.

He has issues with the academics that he has known in his life. So what? He gives weight to people who treat Obama as a cult figure. Who asked him to care what foolish people have to say?

How hard would he have to try to find liberals who like people with their heads and their hearts? Visit a few non-profits? A food pantry or two?

Balls.

Posted by laym at December 9, 2009 02:57 PM

That's the biggest crock of shit I"ve heard on this normally insightful blog. I'm referring to both the Chris Hedges quote and your commentary on it.
The Chris Hedges quote is basically all I hear coming from conservatives who wish to demonstrate that liberals really don't care about the poor. "Liberals go to Starbucks and shop at Sharper Image, THEREFORE they don't care about the poor. QED" What a crock. I'm sorry, but if everyone liked poor people with their head, then that would be enough to end the problem of institutionally-preserved inequality. Then everyone could go to Starbucks! (Kidding)
And as far as your commentary, how do conservatives like people with their hearts? Yeah, they like the other members of their tribe, but god help you if you're in the out-group. Or maybe you were referring to Goldwater-conservatives? Those mythical, freedom-loving conservatives with a live-and-let-live mentality? Well I don't buy it, never did. I doubt they ever existed in any meaningful numbers.
Anyway, love the blog, keep it up.

Posted by cjackb at December 9, 2009 03:22 PM

Hey Jon! Where's teh funny?!? You feelin down?

How 'bout this: There's lots to hate about liberals .... because there's so damn many of 'em!!.

Or this: Churchill's big social critique was that a man becomes a conservative because he has .... forsaken his heart!!!

(That second one is only really funny when you consider the implication of the phrase '...man without a brain'. But if you do, it's comedic gold.)

Posted by scudbucket at December 9, 2009 03:38 PM

@cjackb: ...how do conservatives like people with their hearts? Yeah, they like the other members of their tribe, but god help you if you're in the out-group

Yeah, this presciently - and eerily - similar (no, identical!) to my first thought. The phrase needs an edit, to wit:

Conservatives like people ... but not in general, exceptions being found in any and all out-groups, who are perceived to pose formidable threats to their security and often engender fear and repulsion, while even those in the in-group are often only treated decently for pragmatic considerations of manners and propriety, but those remaining few, who are often (but necessarily!!) nuclear family members or friends from their highest level of education ... they like with their hearts.

Fixed. (Sort of.)

Posted by scudbucket at December 9, 2009 03:56 PM

Ooops! Should be '(not necessarily!!)' in the above. Where's the edit button!?

Posted by scudbucket at December 9, 2009 04:00 PM

The one thing I'd add is that conservatives actually do like people with their hearts.

You've never been poor, have you, Jonathan? Or a woman? Or a Latin@? Or black? Or gay? Or trans? Yes, there are conservatives who actually practice that thing they're always saying - "Hate the sin, love the sinner," (and being a member of any of those groups mentioned above can get you special attention as a "sinner") but then there are liberals who actually live up to their little mottoes, too.

Most people, regardless of ideology, like people like themselves, and are uncomfortable with others, often to the point of disliking and/or fearing them. If you think this is less so among conservatives than liberals, I would guess it's because you know a lot more liberals - probably people with backgrounds very similar to your own - than conservatives. It's not necessary to buy into the folksy conservative PR to recognize the hypocrisy of liberals, however.

Posted by Maud at December 9, 2009 04:14 PM

Delurking to say this post can't be fixed. I like Hedges and Jon (don't know about Alinksy beyond the name), but this post is just oversimplified beyond any possibility of fixing.
Some liberals like people, some don't. Some like homeless people and don't like lower middle class people (especially not if they might vote Republican, for instance.) Same for radicals. Some radicals are like Lenin--coldblooded to the point of being sociopaths.

Conservatives--some like people, some don't. Some are like the tribalists mentioned by cjackb. Some are more broadminded, or they only dislike one particular tribe (Muslims, say). They can be salt of the earth to people they actually know while support bombing campaigns against the Other, or they may oppose American imperialism just like a radical lefty would. They're often very generous to their favorite charities, but then again, some are selfish jerks.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 9, 2009 04:24 PM

And the guilty liberals (excuse the oxymoron) are showing up. I think the greatest hypocrisy of liberals is that they expect to be forgiven for benefitting from the system that they occasionally complain about. After all, if you voted for the lesser of two evils, surely you're not responsible for what the lesser of two evils does.

Posted by will shetterly at December 9, 2009 05:08 PM

Chris Hedges is useless. Where is he on the cover up of 9/11? Instead of reaching out to the libertarian right, he rejects them, and puts himself in a small socialist corner, lashing out at anyone who doesn't hold strict to his precious world view. He doesn't give credit where credit is due, but only to those who align with him politically. And that is a greater offense to honesty than liberals not wanting to give air-time to left-wing heresies.

Mind you, I still read him every week, and he is definitely courageous, but not nearly enough in my book.

Posted by Truth Excavator at December 9, 2009 05:12 PM

I wish I could think of some examples in my personal life of conservative friends or acquaintances who like people with their hearts, but I come up pretty empty. It would be easier I guess if I knew what either word really meant, "conservative" or "heart", but I do not.

I have had a parallel experience to what Hedges describes, however, and he's RIGHT ON. The missus and I attended the 2009 Global Activism Expo here in Chicago (http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Event_Detail.aspx?eventID=924) and we both found it exactly as Hedges describes.

It seems a tragedy to me that all of the well-meaning liberals we saw that day are content to overlook immediate needs close to home (in Chicago as in Boston, on the Green Line, and here on the Red and the Orange and the Pink and the Blue Lines as well) in favor of rather trivial and very expensive efforts to build schools in Namibia or help tribesmen in Cambodia or whatever.

In my view, this is true in part because all of our enemies are domestic (we fight with each other for resources, not with outsiders), and in part because all of us are so profoundly estranged from our own politics. For instance: that group of people at NEIU (a couple thousand) could get a lot done if they decided (for instance) to nut up and really do something local and big. How about pouring blood on the steps of the US Capitol as an example? How about 1 gallon of blood for each of the 44,000 people who died last year because they didn't have health insurance?

But they choose instead to focus on small projects in foreign countries which are simultaneously virtuous and insignificant. And I am very much in that group, and hate myself for it.

For instance, I'm pretty involved with the local professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders here in Chicago. It's a worthwhile organization - we have built bridges and water projects in Central America. I'm involved mostly because I believe it's incredibly valuable for engineering students. I believe that grown-ups should put on their bifocals and look at needs closer to home. But I go to the EWB meetings and spend hours and hours discussing how to build a water tank in a village in Mexico so 300 people far away can keep a couple of cows alive during the dry season.

If Hedges is describing me, I think that he is EXACTLY CORRECT.

Posted by Aaron Datesman at December 9, 2009 06:42 PM

Hedges confuses liberals with leftists (liberals didn't pick coffee in Nicaragua - they bitched about Ortega closing down quisling newspapers); activism with charity; sympathy with empathy; and wanting to change an unjust system with wanting to hang out with its victims at a giant pity party.

You don't have to love the poor to want to abolish poverty.

And, yes, middle-class leftists wanting to destroy capitalism aren't necessarily able to also shake their prejudice that the working class smell. A point already made more than adequately in part two of The Road to Wigan Pier.

All that bollocks about his redoubtable working class mates from the YMCA boxing team (who apparently had no politics at all) just undercuts the central truism of his piece: no leftist should be supporting the Democrats. And the less said about his love of soldiers and Marines the better - they had "courage" but apparently not enough courage to refuse to be the thugs of Empire.

Hedges is shite when he's writing about anything other than Palestine.

Posted by weaver at December 9, 2009 06:50 PM

Aaron:
I listen to the Global Activism series every Thursday. Personally for me, there is no contradiction in wanting to help the disadvantaged around the globe and at the same time, work in our local communities to help the homeless, the hungry, the undocumented workers, those tortured by people in power!
I am sure you know that in our town, we have Heartland Alliance that does a great job for the homeless, victims of torture, refugees and immigrants, Chicago Food Depository feeds thousands, Chiacago Community Chest supports lot of local projects for the needy ( and there re many such organizations) and OXFAM had special projects for Katrina victims.
IMHO, there is no need for you to hate yourself!!
Afterall, if we can help even one needy person, no matter where, is it not what we are expected to do by our conscience and humanity?

weaver:
"they had "courage" but apparently not enough courage to refuse to be the thugs of Empire."
I would really hesitate to call these young men and women 'thugs of empire'. I am ABSOLUTELY against any war but do we really know how many of these young men and women chose to join the army? Was it really voluntarily or out of necessity because there were no jobs available? Already, this 30,000 troop surge is going to attract many young people who have no future propects for a job, at least in the near future. Those of us who have the luxury of having an option of not joining the army, I think should not be judging them or calling them names.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 9, 2009 07:39 PM

Hedges is right, we should stop listening to intellectuals or people who have researched shit, and should instead start listening to the common man.

He follows me that we don't want a president who's educated, well-read, articulate or compassionate. We want the guy next door, the one we can have a beer with, the guy we can rely on and trust if we're a sticky situation.

His article goes from haranguing liberal stereotypes (what a bunch of latte-swilling literati who talk of revolution but don't do shit) and then goes into a romancing of the poor. A more useless article couldn't have been written.

Posted by Constantine at December 9, 2009 08:23 PM

I'll have to read Hedges' whole article, but as I believe I've said here before (or maybe it was at Distant Ocean), I don't have much use for him. Writing About War Is a Process by Which We Feel Self-Righteous did not impress me at all -- he got a lot of things wrong. Haven't read his attack on the New Atheists, though the excerpts I read online didn't exactly draw me in. Same problem, really: I don't like Dawkins, Dennett, or Harris, but that doesn't mean religion is a good thing. (Oh, so Hedges used to be a seminarian? Maybe that explains some of it.)

I read Alinsky's Rules for Radicals a few years ago and couldn't believe how bad, how wrong-headed it was. I guess I'm batting 0.000 here, but it looks like a lot of youse other guys agree with me that Hedges is full of it. And Jon seems to have gone astray in praising him.

Posted by Duncan at December 9, 2009 08:26 PM

As if the provocation was not enough for some, here is an article from Village Voice, published on Nov 12, 1996 but reproduced on commondreams today!

"Liberals, I Do Despise"
by Adolph Reed
here

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/12/09-7

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 9, 2009 08:33 PM

"I would really hesitate to call these young men and women 'thugs of empire'. I am ABSOLUTELY against any war but do we really know how many of these young men and women chose to join the army? Was it really voluntarily or out of necessity because there were no jobs available?"

I still marvel at this sort of argument. I wouldn't excuse a poor Mafia hit man who took up the work because "there weren't any jobs."

Posted by no at December 9, 2009 09:34 PM

I find what Chris Hedges wrote ridiculous. I think what Jonathan Schwarz wrote depats from his ordinary insightfulness. And I don't agree with almost anything anybody else said either, even Truth Excavator, who implies that 9/11 should be some sort of litmus test. God I hate litmus tests!

And lord almighty am I am bored by arguing about whether liberals or socialists or conservatives can be good people and still hold the beliefs they hold. Of course they can. People can be good people and think all sorts of stupid things, or more commonly a mix of things that are partly smart and partly stupid but generally understandable if you can figure out enough about them--which, I grant, can be really hard.

More unnerveringly, people who are basically "good" can and do support horrific policies, and they also carry them out. Anybody who doesn't realize this basic truth needs to read more about evil in practice (For those with moral courage, I recommend Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland). Or they can just mingle more at the YMCA with the boxing club and all the admirable ordinary working people who box there, displaying their physical toughness and loyalty and other working class virtues, but probably also some vices eventually too.

Can't Hedges see the irony within his own article? Does he think his insight doesn't apply TO HIM just because he became a socialist? Have I mentioned lately that my father was a prison guard? Or that I was given a shotgun for my 14th birthday? Or that I once watched by heroic and beloved late big brother give a full-sized washing machine a bear hug and then proceed to carry it up a flight of stairs all by himself? (I invite you to give it a try if you're not impressed.)

So take that Chris Hedges--I can be even more pretentious about my working class, proletarian, macho background than you can about your rounds spent in the ring with flesh and blood working class people! I confess that I find those kinds of facts fun, because I have been overeducated for a long time and have never quite gotten used to it, and maybe because I'm a cage rattler by nature as well as conviction. But I realize all that is utter bullshit. It says nothing truly meaningful about me, except that I like stories that make me sound tough. Maybe they dressed me like a girl when I was little and I have blocked it out!

So Donald Johnson gets my vote for wisdom on this thread with almost the only comment that I agree with: People are different. Some are good and some are bad but the overwhelming majority are some of both, even if they look the same. Along a similar vein, I saw a magazine cover today that gave me a chuckle for much the same reason, though on a topic I like more: "What sexy women like!"--the cover boasted.

Wow, I guess they all must like the same thing. Who could have known?

Posted by N E at December 9, 2009 09:56 PM

"I still marvel at this sort of argument. I wouldn't excuse a poor Mafia hit man who took up the work because "there weren't any jobs."

This is not a matter of excusing. It is a sad reality, I mean young men and women choosing to join the army ( of course you do not have to agree with it ). In the inner city, young black men who have no opportunities, where the unemplyment is very high relative to national average, they get into trouble, they join gangs and their role models are the drug pushers and pimps. If they had better opportunities for education and jobs, they would not be joining gangs. I am not claiming, NONE would become a gang member. But to call them all "thugs of empire" is not fair.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 9, 2009 11:06 PM

Rupa Shah, well said. There's a lot of what liberals call classism going on in this thread.

Posted by will shetterly at December 9, 2009 11:09 PM

This extremely boring post made me decide to unsubscribe this blog from my rss aggregator.

Hopefully, in the future, I'll come across some other article from this blog that will make me change my mind.

Until then, best of luck.

Posted by joselito at December 10, 2009 12:51 AM

how many of these young men and women chose to join the army?

All of them. And all the ones Hedges knew - having met them in the field - also chose to continue doing the job after they knew what the job entailed.

There have been soldiers, working class and otherwise, in the history of American imperialism who have had the courage to refuse to continue in its bloody service. To claim that those that don't refuse are to be given an ethical free pass because of poor job prospects seems like an example of what I believe Americans refer to as the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Incidentally, I hope no criticism of Hedge's article I've posted here has been interpreted as a defence of liberals. Whiny, insular, self-centred, right-wing poseurs whose principles fold under the slightest pressure like a cheap card table, every last manjack of 'em.

Fol lol de rol.

Posted by weaver at December 10, 2009 06:16 AM

Incidentally, this Matt Taibbi post is slightly relevant.

Posted by weaver at December 10, 2009 06:45 AM

I think many of you are overreacting to this article.

Posted by cemmcs at December 10, 2009 07:51 AM

The People Speak

Speaking of the ordinary people, just like you and me, last week Tony asked

Does anyone know what is going on with the "Peoples History..." being made into a tv series? It seems like it's been in the works for years.

Now it can be told - specifically, Dave Zirin tells us - that The People Speak debuts on The History Channel on Sunday, December 13.

It is nothing less than the life's work of “people’s historian” Howard Zinn brought to life by some of the most talented actors, musicians, and poets in the country. Howard Zinn and his partner Anthony Arnove chose the most stirring political passages in Zinn's classic A People's History of the United States, creating a written anthology called Voices of a People's History of the United States. Those "voices" have now been fully resurrected by a collection of performers ranging from Matt Damon to hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco to poet Staceyann Chin.

The People Speak also showcases John Legend reading the words of Muhammad Ali, Kerry Washington as Sojourner Truth, David Strathairn's take on the soaring oratory of Eugene Debs, and Morgan Freeman as Frederick Douglass asking, "What is the 4th of July to the American Slave?" There are also the words of women factory workers read by Marisa Tomei, rebellious farmers personified by Viggo Mortensen, and escaped slaves voiced by Benjamin Bratt.

...There are those who will wrongly see The People Speak as a kind of "spoonful of sugar" approach to education. Get a celebrity to recite the words of Susan B. Anthony and all of a sudden, we'll all want to be history buffs. But this isn’t Hollywood "slumming" in the land of radical chic. It is instead a bracing spectacle where our sacred history is reimagined by performance artists of tremendous craft. Consider the dramatic task at hand: they are attempting nothing less than turning politics into art. If Zinn and co-producers Arnove, Damon, Josh Brolin and Chris Moore pull this off, it holds the potential to introduce a new generation to Sojourner Truth, Eugene Debs, and perhaps most importantly of all, to the works of Howard Zinn.

As Zinn himself once said, "Knowing history is less about understanding the past than changing the future." This is the grand adventure of Howard Zinn's life. I encourage everyone to come along for the ride. Get your friends and family together on Sunday night and experience The People Speak. Then take them by the hand and pledge to be heard.


It would be anticlimactic to mention here that Lenny Bruce said that he was a liberal, and had the canceled checks to prove it. And it might be necessary to explain what a "canceled check" is to the younger readers. And who Lenny Bruce was.


Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at December 10, 2009 10:10 AM

Not surprisingly, I agree with NE's agreement with me along with the rest of what he said. I don't quite get this notion that people in a given class (or ethnic group or religion or political party) are either all good or all evil or that individual people are all good or all evil (well, a few rare people do tend towards one extreme or the other, but most of us don't).

It's not uncommon that people who are compassionate in one situation turn into jerks in another. That's true of groups and it's also true of individuals. I see it in myself (or anyway, after a long enough period of time goes by I can sometimes see something unpleasant about my own past behavior. It's a little harder to spot current assholeishness.)

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 10, 2009 10:11 AM

Donald Johnson (if that's his real name) writes

After a long enough period of time goes by I can sometimes see something unpleasant about my own past behavior. It's a little harder to spot current assholeishness.

This reminds me of a poem, often reprinted without the author's name, which is Portia Nelson.

There's A Hole In My Sidewalk: In Five Easy Chapters

CHAPTER ONE
I walk down a street and there's a big hole. I don't see it and fall into it. It's dark and hopeless and it takes me a long time to find my way out. It's not my fault !

CHAPTER TWO
I walk down the same street. There's a big hole and I can see it, but I still fall in. It's dark and hopeless and it takes me a long time to get out. It's still not my fault.

CHAPTER THREE
I walk down a street. There's a big hole. I can see it, but I still fall in. It's become a habit. But I keep my eyes open and get out immediately. It is my fault.

CHAPTER FOUR
I walk down a street. There's a big hole. And I walk around it.

CHAPTER FIVE
I walk down a different street.


Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at December 10, 2009 10:53 AM

Please note that the original post had nothing at all to do with classes of people being good or evil--not sure how the discussion got moved to that.

People tend to be nice toward those who are like them, with whom they can empathize, or (sometimes) toward those who just happen to be in social or physical proximity to them. There's more to it, but that's the gist.

There does exist a particular grouping of liberals, typified by academics, celebrities, and some upper-middle class professionals that profess their unending support for progressive causes but who are actually massive supporters of the status quo and are fearful of the "lower classes." The above groups, who tend to be wealthier or more privileged than most, have been highlighted by the elite-driven culture wars in the US and used as a source of division by the conservative wing of the culture wars. They have been tagged with the "latte-sipping," "Volvo driving" image and have been conflated with liberalism/leftism/etc. in general

These are the people Hedges is referencing--read his original article. I think he's right on in his criticisms of them. He uses the catch-all term "liberals" throughout the piece, but he's clearly talking about a particular group of liberals.

That being said, this whole "conservatives with hearts, liberals with minds" thing above is BS. See my second paragraph. It applies to everyone, regardless of political affiliation. Ideology simply warps and distorts the groups to which each of us applies our empathy. It also changes the manner and extent to which our empathy is doled out. But it doesn't divide people into neat categories of feeling vs. thinking.

Posted by Bolo at December 10, 2009 10:59 AM

Good and evil comes into it because disliking the working class or the poor or whatever is one first step in the journey towards not giving a shit about them.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 10, 2009 11:06 AM

"To claim that those that don't refuse are to be given an ethical free pass because of poor job prospects seems like an example of what I believe Americans refer to as the soft bigotry of low expectations."

weaver, I am an American but you do not know me so I will let your comment "soft bigotry of low expectations" pass.
And I am not beyond reproach so I am in no postion to give or not give 'an ethical free pass' to anyone.
Yes, I am aware of conscientious objectors and also those who were compelled to flee the country to avoid going to war. However, the current situation is not comparable to what happened in the past. Those who joined the army, willingly or of necessity, never thought, it would last 8+ yrs, there would be repeated deployments without necessary breaks, husband and wife both going to the front leaving young children at home, national guard was not to be deployed for active duty.....
Thousand of US tropps have died ( I am NOT FORGETTING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS CIVILIANS killed by our troops), I do not know the exact numbers for those suffering with PTSD and who are severely wounded physically. Do you think it is easy for them to leave? Who is going to provide care for them? Because they can not and what they have seen, many are committing suicide or killing their colleagues.
Don't you think they need our compassion and sympathy? Should not our anger be directed at the manufacturers of wars and the profiteers from these wars rather than the ordinary soldier?

ps Why do I get the feeling that the point Mr Hedges is making in his article and Mr Schwarz's points are being misunderstood? Of course, I do not claim to be as savvy an analyst or as well informed as most of the commenters here.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 10, 2009 11:43 AM

Once again, well said, Rupa Shah. I didn't help yesterday, I fear. I was feeling very frustrated with the folks that Bolo mentions.

I'm rereading Wheen's biography of Karl Marx, which has this, from Engels: "The fact is, au fond, that even these radical bourgeois ... see us as their future main enemies, and have no intention of putting into our hands weapons which we would shortly turn against themselves."

Liberals are still capitalists, and therefore they make dangerous allies for socialists.

mistah charley, when Lenny Bruce said he was a liberal, it would've been commercial suicide to claim to be a socialist or a commie. Then again, he might've been a liberal. No one's saying all liberals are evil. Many good friends of mine are liberals. But liberals, by definition, have interests which do not always align with those of socialists.

Posted by will shetterly at December 10, 2009 12:21 PM

I'm amused that no one picked up on the implicit self-criticism in this.

Also, I had no idea there was this much animus to Chris Hedges out there.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at December 10, 2009 12:48 PM

Hating Chris Hedges is like hating your brake pedal.

From the inimitable Kevin at Cryptogon:

"My dismissive contempt for anyone who buys into the “political process” in the U.S. has drained my bile on this issue. I just can’t get worked up over it anymore. I try to huff and puff and grit my teeth, but then all that comes out is, “Forget it. Hell is dealing with true believers.”

In general, Americans represent a collective battered spouse who hopes that the batterer will change. Spitting teeth and squinting through two black eyes, they usually go back for more of the same.

This isn’t politics. It’s pathology."

Posted by Oarwell at December 10, 2009 12:59 PM

Hey, I've got nothing against Chris Hedges in general, and even that article doesn't offend me. It's not vile or offensive or deceitful or hateful or containing any number of other vices that make their way into the media. Among his peers in the media, Chris Hedges is a paragon of virgue, and I'd be damn proud to have a beer with him, or even box at the YMCA with him (I can just hear the boys saying, "hey, look at those old dudes!"). Seriously, he consistently writes against war and has tried to figure out what in our society makes us so abominably militaristic, both of which are highly commendable. The latter question is so huge that I think people can easily disagree about which cause for the whole stinking mess is most important, but I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think I disrespect Chris Hedges. He's no Jonathan Schwarz, but he's as good as Cousin Jethro.

Posted by N E at December 10, 2009 01:42 PM

Some of the animus to Hedges appears to be because he's religious and doesn't like the new atheists. Or anyway, I've seen that at other places and thought maybe there was a bit of it here.

Leaving aside the religious issue itself, he's got a good point about some of the new atheists--Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are about the worst possible advocates of a position that holds religious belief as such responsible for most of the world's ills, when their own brand of "let's bomb those Muslims into becoming civilized like us secular types" is a kind of secular jihadism.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 10, 2009 02:46 PM

Misanthropy works for me.

Posted by par4 at December 10, 2009 03:07 PM

There does exist a particular grouping of liberals, typified by academics, celebrities, and some upper-middle class professionals that profess their unending support for progressive causes but who are actually massive supporters of the status quo and are fearful of the "lower classes."

Hey! This is anecdotal! It's like arguing for the fundamental corruption of the Catholic church just because they systematically covered up all the Priestly sexual abuse.... ooops.

Posted by scudbucket at December 10, 2009 06:24 PM

Jonathan wrote: I'm amused that no one picked up on the implicit self-criticism in this.

Since you said it like that, I'm gonna go back again and look for the funny, but it ain't coming easy.

Also, I had no idea there was this much animus to Chris Hedges out there.

As an overeducated elitist liberal, there's two things I hate, intolerance ... and Chris Hedges.

Posted by scudbucket at December 10, 2009 06:30 PM

Some of the animus to Hedges appears to be because he's religious and doesn't like the new atheists.

Not just that he doesn't like them, but that his arguments against them are bien pensant gibberish. If he stuck to pointing out that Harris and Hitchens are Islamophobes first and militant secularists second, that would be OK, but instead he lumps everyone together and pulls crap like bandying around the word "fundamentalist" like it was a synonym for "vehement".

He uses the catch-all term "liberals" throughout the piece, but he's clearly talking about a particular group of liberals.

No, that's the precisely the problem. He starts off talking about people who supported the Sandanistas and ends up on supporters of Clinton's "free" market policies. He really thinks liberals=leftists. Which informs the BS of his underlying thesis: liberals support policies which are bad for working people because they don't like working people personally. No, liberals support policies which are bad for working people because they ideologically support such policies. Unlike leftists.

Should not our anger be directed at the manufacturers of wars and the profiteers from these wars rather than the ordinary soldier?

"Rather than"? If Americans ever want to be free of imperialism, they need to stop fetishizing the military. This "support the troops" stuff is a psychological lever specifically designed to mute criticism of imperialist policies. At the end of the day supporting the troops means supporting war. Recall Kerry's performance as a Presidential candidate: proudly referencing his service to the genocidal invasion of Vietnam, while trying to pretend his later principled opposition to that crime had never happened. Note the "stabbed in the back" grift; used equally by Dems and Repubs.

Incidentally, you might want to play reductio ad absurdem with your argument above, just to see how it goes. When do the excuses stop? Halabja? My Lai? Do we only hold soldiers morally responsible for their actions after the military decides for PR reasons to pretend their actions are a break from the norm?

"Thug of Empire" isn't an insult - it's a job description.

Incidentally, I don't know why you're going on about PTSD and such. I don't know you if have a problem with feeling sympathy for people you believe have done wrong but it's not a psychological pathology I subscribe to.

Posted by weaver at December 10, 2009 07:16 PM

While I'm here, here's my favourite quote about liberals - Boris Kagarlitsky writing about the liberals who supported Yeltsin's coup d'etat:

History is just. Could people who a year and a half earlier had fought for a hyper-presidential constitution, unlimited executive powers and the use of tanks, really have failed to guess that once this mechanism was unleashed it would no longer stop of its own accord? For some psychologically incomprehensible reason they had been sure that if the parliament were crushed, demonstrators shot down, and the law treated with contempt, this would not affect their own rights. They found nothing reprehensible either in the fact that the armed forces were firing cannon shells in their own capital, or in the situation in which the representative branch had been made a senseless appendix of an executive power outside any form of control. It was only when they saw television news clips of tanks in Chechnya that they became indignant at the violence of the state and the arbitrariness of national leaders.

The paradox lay in the fact that this time, unlike the case in 1993, Yeltsin acted strictly within the framework of his constitutional powers. These powers had been defended in the first instance by the liberals Yegor Gaidar and Sergey Yushenkov. They, of course, had thought all these prerogatives would be used only against Communists and the left. Justice, however, triumphed. It was time at last to understand that all heads are equal before a police club.

Posted by weaver at December 10, 2009 07:21 PM

That last para's also part of the quote, not me.

Posted by weaver at December 10, 2009 07:24 PM

i despise the working class.

Posted by imakegarbage at December 10, 2009 10:49 PM

I also was adamantly opposed to "supporting the troops", believing they are part of the problem. Indulge me in this short non-fiction tale that made me re-think some thoughts.

I work at a print shop in upstate NY and I just had a conversation with a new guy. He has been here a few weeks - unassuming, twentysomething. Found out he has spent the last three years in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew guys that had been flown home only to be recalled days later. From his tone, it really doesn't seem like soldiers there give a shit about fighting - just getting a paycheck and surviving to make it out. I am not excusing them for perhaps being "Thugs of Empire", but I was shocked to find myself contemplating Rupa Shah's take on soldiers.

Here is this young guy, by no means a Palinista, who has seen his friends die, been through three tours, one lasting 15 months, and getting divorced while serving. Now he is working full-time as a press helper, (he says he is a demolition expert rating, but is told he is overqualified to work in the quarries around here), so he is pretty sure he is going back in to the army full-time - he can't make enough to survive in the private sector. He figures he has 3+ yrs already, what is a few more for a full pension retirement and benefits to boot? He will never get that guarantee anywhere in the private sector anymore.

(By the way - He implied they don't really try to kill the locals, just survive through your tour. Isn't that what happened toward the end of Nam?)

It kind of shook me up, him not being a douchebag redneck conservative, which are here aplenty, just an unassuming young guy with no real prospects in this crumbling nation making a hard choice.

Made me rethink some of the direction of my anger. Just sayin', thats all.

Posted by mark c at December 10, 2009 11:04 PM

Weaver: it is important to take PTSD and other disorders into consideration, as Rupah said, not all soldiers want to go to kill terrorists, you're doing the same thing you (rightly) accuse Hedges of doing: lumping people all in the same category.

Posted by Jenny at December 11, 2009 12:03 AM

Their intentions are irrelevant.

I'll repeat: thugs of empire is the job description. Y'all seem to imagine it means people dragging their knuckles on the ground, biting the heads off whippets and spouting Limbaughisms. But it's not a question of how they do things; it's about what they do.

You don't have to be a monster to serve a monstrous institution.

Posted by weaver at December 11, 2009 12:19 AM

It seems to me a lot of people are using names other than the ones they usually use in this comment thread.

Posted by Grover Cleveland at December 11, 2009 12:20 AM

You have a very valid point Weaver. Like I said, I am struggling to reconcile my beliefs ("thugs of empire is the job description",which I do believe), with reality. I argue with the " knuckle-draggers" all the time, I don't know how to confront someone like this. The guy can't pay his freakin bills, and I'm supposed to tell him he is an immoral asshole?

It just made me more aware of how fucked up this country is.

Posted by mark c at December 11, 2009 12:32 AM

Thanks, Mark.

That'll be it on this from me, I think. My complaint about Hedges' cliches about soldierly courage was only partly relevant to the post; a full blown debate about the ethical consequences of military service is entirely off-topic.

Posted by weaver at December 11, 2009 01:04 AM

Well said Mark.

Posted by Jenny at December 11, 2009 01:20 AM

Well said Mark.

Posted by Jenny at December 11, 2009 01:20 AM

I am very tired of Hedges' righteous indignation. It gets worse every time he opens his mouth, but I know what he means about liberals. And I even think that Alinsky snippet is apt. I'm a flaming lefty and I have to admit that in my personal experience, not out there on the political stage, but just in the day-to-day, human-to-human way, conservatives have almost always been quicker to lend a hand, do something decent, even for a stranger, than liberals. This is a big generalization, but I've seen it enough in my life to know there's something to it. Liberals are also quicker to squawk like stuck chickens when you point this out, too.... :-P

Posted by 99 at December 11, 2009 03:47 AM

weaver:
I would like to point out again ( and which I have stated over and over again on this blogsite ), I am ABSOLUTELY AGAINST any war. There is no JUST WAR as far as I am concerned. Why do you insist on saying, I support troops killing civilians, I do not know. May be that is what YOU WANT TO BELIEVE to prove your point.

"I don't know you if have a problem with feeling sympathy for people you believe have done wrong but it's not a psychological pathology I subscribe to."
I was going to pass commenting on that para but I decided otherwise. I am a physician and when I was working, I took care of the rich, the poor and the middle class- the radicals, the liberals, the conservatives- veterans and prisoners ( some who were not yet charged with a crime and some were convicted ). Was I supposed to treat them differently? Was taking care of veterans and prisoners "psychopathology"?
I am not here to change anybody's mind about anything but it sure would be more pleasant and enjoyable to exchange views and learn something, for me at least, if what I write and express is not misinterpreted.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 11, 2009 02:38 PM

I don't know you if have a problem with feeling sympathy for people you believe have done wrong but it's not a psychological pathology I subscribe to.

I'm absolutely fascinated that people (two, now!) seem able to interpret that sentence to mean the exact opposite of what it says. Or do Americans not use the slang term "have a problem with" to mean "disapprove of"?

Because you'd have to think having sympathy for people and believing they've done wrong are mutually incompatible to think it was relevant to mention subjects designed to create the former during a debate about the latter. (Otherwise talking about PTSD etc would simply be irrelevant.) Because if a Nazi had a headache I'd still give him an aspirin, as his Nazism and whatever compassion I might have for his pain are not ethically connected. Believing they are, and believing we're enititled to act without compassion towards "bad" people, is the psychopathology I was referring to.

Why do you insist on saying, I support troops killing civilians, I do not know.

You're not knowing might be a product of my not actually saying that. Your personal beliefs weren't of particular interest to me: my point was - as stated - that "support the troops" is habitually used, in the US political system, as rhetorical cover for exhorting support for particular wars, as is made clear from the examples I gave.

Posted by weaver at December 12, 2009 02:57 AM

Although I suppose it might have helped if I'd actually written "I don't know if you have a problem with...". Stupid fingers.

Posted by weaver at December 12, 2009 03:01 AM

weaver:
Thank you for clearing up the confusion on MY side. I am always learning new things, including slang ( specially not the way I use it ) at this blogsite.

Posted by Rupa Shah at December 12, 2009 09:17 AM