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  November 10, 2016

Chris Hedges: The Surrender of the Liberal Left to Neoliberalism Gave Us Proto-fascism

The demonization of third parties misses the fact that roots of our current situation are austerity, deindustrialization, and the impoverishment of half the nation, says journalist Chris Hedges
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Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009), "I Don't Believe in Atheists" (2008) and the best-selling "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" (2008). His book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.


SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. A lot of soul searching is taking place on all sides of the political spectrum. Trying to figure out how a Donald Trump victory was possible in the first place and who was responsible for it. One of those who has been thinking about and writing about the issue of responsibility is Chris Hedges. In a speech that he gave at a rally in Philadelphia for Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, shortly before the elections, Chris Hedges said the following.


CHRIS HEDGES: No social or revolutionary movement succeeds without core people who will not betray their vision and their principles. They are the building blocks of social change. They are our only hope for viable socialism. They are willing to spend their lives if they have to as a political outcast. They are willing to endure oppression and they will not sell out the oppressed and the poor.


PERIES: We are now being joined by Chris Hedges. Chris is Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a columnist at Truth Dig and Alternet. He was the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and has been reporting extensively from the Middle East. Chris good to have you with us.

HEDGES: Thank you.

PERIES: So, Chris, lets begin by your reaction to the result of having Trump as a president?

HEDGES: Well, depressions that Trump won. Followed by anger at the left for failing after the passage of NAFTA in 1994. To step outside and build a viable political structure that could speak to the frustrations, legitimate rage and despair of the working class. This has been a battle that those of us who’ve been within third party movements, and I’ve worked with Ralph Nader, I was a speech writer, and then have supported of course what the Green Party in the last 2 elections have been trying to do.

And yet, we’re not only shut out of the mainstream. But we’re shut out by progressive sites and news organizations for attempting to build an alternative and not have this anger directed into the hands of proto-fascists. Which is now what has happened. The markets have rallied, the stocks of the military contractors like Raytheon have gone up. The prison contractors, private prison stocks have gone up because these people all know what a Trump presidency means. The Trump Administration is, I guess no intention but certainly no ability, to bring back the jobs, to the rust belt.

To restore America to these deindustrialized sites, to any kind of economic viability and once that unrest begins, once Trump’s base realize that once again they’ve been betrayed, we will see the naked fist of a very frightening police state come down upon us. Led by figures like Rudy Giuliani as the Attorney General which means of course he oversees the FBI. And that’s what’s coming and its gonna be very unpleasant and very ugly and I have to pin part of the weight on liberals on the left. Who kept surrendering. Election cycle after election cycle after election cycle. To candidates who push forward this destructive policy of neo-liberalism which has now resulted in a dysfunctional democracy and a proto-fascist government.

PERIES: Now, Chris, on that same thread here, there are a lot of people out there who are blaming Jill Stein, blaming the Green Party unfairly for the results we have gotten. Which is a Trump presidency. You’ve been underattack for this particularly, how do you respond?

HEDGES: Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s of course what the corporate media is perpetuating and that’s what a lot of people with very little understanding of political and economic structures are swallowing. Remember that Stein not only polled a million national votes, what they’re saying is the combined vote count of the Libertarians and the Greens. Well, this of course makes the assumption that somehow Libertarian candidates are gonna vote for Clinton. The Libertarians are to the right of Trump. They weren’t gonna go to Clinton if they were gonna vote, they were gonna vote for Trump.

Yeah, of course, the demonization of third parties has been very effective since Nader mounted his 2000 campaign. But it misses the fact that the root cause of what’s happened has nothing to do with third parties. It has to do with the impoverishment of half the country and the deindustrialization of the country and programs like austerity. That’s what caused this.

PERIES: Alright, so what now? Those who are feeling totally immobilized by the results on the left are particularly those who followed and supported Bernie Sanders and then turned to supporting Hillary Clinton just like Bernie Sanders did. What options do they have and how do they pick up the pieces and move on to do what you were actually proposing in that speech you gave?

HEDGES: Fear is a very potent political weapon and was used very effectively by the 2 mainstream candidates, Trump and Clinton. Fear engenders political paralysis. The Bernie Sanders supporters were politically paralyzed after the nomination of Hillary Clinton became a destructive force and he attempted to channel all of that energy back into the embrace of the Democratic Party. The candidate who has long championed the interests of Wall Street and the war industry. There’s a bankruptcy on the part of the left. There’s a bankruptcy on the part of the liberal class. I think much of that is fear driven. I think its also a failure to have a sophisticated critique of corporate capitalism and how it works. A failure to understand that the political personalities of the candidates are not particularly relevant.

We have undergone a corporate coup d’etat. The real centers of power are the military industrial complex, is Wall Street, the security and surveillance state and corporate power. That leaves very little room to move for our chief executive. But that’s why most, well all of the major structural issues in the Obama Administration have complete continuity with the Bush Administration, with the caveat that Obama’s assault on civil liberties have actually been worse. And now, what we’ve handed into the hands of an imbecilic narcissistic figure, we can’t even call a political figure, because he doesn’t come out of the political establishment, we’ve handed him mechanisms whereby at the flip of a switch, this is a state that is ruled under martial law. Wholesale surveillance of every American citizen. He will be extremely vindictive, he will draw up an Enemies List.

Figures like Giuliani, Chris Christie, John Bulton. They will have no tolerance for any kind of descent nor any restrictions on lethal use of lethal force by militarized police and as this country realizes that it has been betrayed by the Trump campaign and as things continue to get worse, especially as we see further tax giveaways to the rich. There will be unrest, there will be frustration. But it will be met with draconian state violence and state control.

PERIES: Now, Trump is going to rule with a very consolidated House and Senate. And these kinds of appointments that you are talking about, this kind of concentration of power, we haven’t seen in a very long time. What do you think we should be braced for here?

HEDGES: Well we are gonna see an acceleration of the policies of neo-liberalism. The long plan for instance to privatize social security. All of this kind of stuff will be on hyper drive. Ideification, which you saw on the Trump campaign, of the military, of the police. No tolerance at all for any kind of descent. Even non-violent descent. It will be condemned as forms of terrorism, it will be attacked under the terrorism laws that the Obama and Bush Administrations put into place. There will be a period of quiet while people wait and see. Once its clear, what’s happening. The state is gonna use all the tools at its disposal, to shut down any kind of protest. Its gonna be really ugly. Rudy Giuliani comes as close to any major American political figure who can accurately be described as fascist.

PERIES: Chris, we’re gonna continue our conversation with you but this time specifically on the NDAA so please stay tuned.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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