Chris Hedges

The widening disconnect from reality by ruling elite is masking their complicity —  here's how

Joe Biden's victory instantly obliterated the Democratic Party's longstanding charge that Russia was hijacking and compromising US elections. The Biden victory, the Democratic Party leaders and their courtiers in the media now insist, is evidence that the democratic process is strong and untainted, that the system works. The elections ratified the will of the people.

But imagine if Donald Trump had been reelected. Would the Democrats and pundits at The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC pay homage to a fair electoral process? Or, having spent four years trying to impugn the integrity of the 2016 presidential race, would they once again haul out the blunt instrument of Russian interference to paint Trump as Vladimir Putin's Manchurian candidate?

Trump and Giuliani are vulgar and buffoonish, but they play the same slimy game as their Democratic opponents. The Republicans scapegoat the deep state, communists and now, bizarrely, Venezuela; the Democrats scapegoat Russia. The widening disconnect from reality by the ruling elite is intended to mask their complicity in the seizure of power by predatory global corporations and billionaires.

"This is a disgraceful thing that was done in this country," Giuliani said at his recent bad-hair-day press conference. "Probably not much more disgraceful than the things these people did in office, which you didn't and don't bother to cover and you conceal from the American people, but we let this happen, we use largely a Venezuelan voting machine in essence to count our vote. We let this happen. We're going to become Venezuela. We cannot let this happen to us. We cannot allow these crooks, because that's what they are, to steal an election from the American people. They elected Donald Trump. They didn't elect Joe Biden. Joe Biden is in the lead because of the fraudulent ballots, the illegal ballots, that were produced and that were allowed to be used, after the election was over."

Giuliani's rant was topped by those of Sidney Powell, until yesterday another of Trump's lawyers, who blamed software designed for Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, for Trump's loss, as well as "the massive influence of Communist money." The software "was created so Hugo Chavez would never lose another election, and he did not after that software was created," Powell said. "He won every single election and then they exported it to Argentina and other countries in South America, and then they brought it here."

Compare this to how Hillary Clinton, during the recent primary campaign, warned that the Russians were "grooming" a female candidate, widely assumed to be Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, to run as a third-party candidate to serve Russian interests. Previously, Clinton called the 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein a "Russian asset." She insisted, although the Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors found no evidence to support her charge, that the Trump campaign worked closely in 2016 with Moscow and WikiLeaks — which she insists is a Russian front — to defeat her. Hillary's staff put together a "hit list" in the final days of her 2008 campaign, according to the book, "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, listing those who were loyal to the Clintons those who were not. They used a scale of 1 to 7.

"Step back and think about it," Clinton wrote in her book, "What Happened," about the 2016 election. "The Russians hacked our election systems. They got inside. They tried to delete or alter voter information. This should send a shiver down the spine of every American."

Never mind that both ruling parties are silent about the massive interference in our elections by Israel, which uses its lobbying groups to lavishly fund political candidates in both parties and flies members of Congress and their families to Israel for junkets at seaside resorts. Israel's intrusion in our political process, including when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2015, without informing then President Barack Obama, to attack the president's Iran nuclear deal, dwarfs that of any other country, including Russia.

The two warring factions within the ruling elite, which fight primarily over the spoils of power while abjectly serving corporate interests, peddle alternative realities. If the deep state and Venezuelan socialists or Russia intelligence operatives are pulling the strings no one in power is accountable for the rage and alienation caused by the social inequality, the unassailability of corporate power, the legalized bribery that defines our political process, the endless wars, austerity and de-industrialization. The social breakdown is, instead, the fault of shadowy phantom enemies manipulating groups such as Black Lives Matters or the Green Party.

"The people who run this country have run out of workable myths with which to distract the public, and in a moment of extreme crisis have chosen to stoke civil war and defame the rest of us – black and white – rather than admit to a generation of corruption, betrayal, and mismanagement," Matt Taibbi writes.

These fictional narratives are dangerous. They erode the credibility of democratic institutions and electoral politics. They posit that news and facts are no longer true or false. Information is accepted or discarded based on whether it hurts or promotes one faction over another. While outlets such as Fox News have always existed as an arm of the Republican Party, this partisanship has now infected nearly all news organizations, including publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the major tech platforms that disseminate information and news. A fragmented public with no common narrative believes whatever it wants to believe.

I first assumed this job posting from The New York Times for a Moscow correspondent was a parody posted by the Onion. It wasn't. It speaks volumes about the self-immolation of The New York Times and the press.

JOB DESCRIPTION: Vladimir Putin's Russia remains one of the biggest stories in the world. It sends out hit squads armed with nerve agents against its enemies, most recently the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. It has its cyber agents sow chaos and disharmony in the West to tarnish its democratic systems, while promoting its faux version of democracy. It has deployed private military contractors around the globe to secretly spread its influence. At home, its hospitals are filling up fast with Covid patients as its president hides out in his villa. If that sounds like a place you want to cover, then we have good news: We will have an opening for a new correspondent as Andy Higgins takes over as our next Eastern Europe Bureau Chief early next year.

Of course, every charge leveled here against Russia regarding foreign interference can be leveled in spades against the United States, both in the present and past, and even the implied criticism of its pandemic response seems like a textbook case of projection. More to the point, why should the Times even send someone to Moscow to report on what Russians think, feel and how they view themselves and the world if they have already decided they are a cartoon villain? Why have a Moscow bureau at all?

A parody response circulating on the internet imagined a parallel posting by Pravda for a U.S. correspondent:

JOB DESCRIPTION: Donald Trump's America remains one of the biggest stories in the world. It sends out its armies, its drones, and its agents around the world to kill its enemies. It has its cyber agents sow chaos and disharmony, undermining and overthrowing regimes, while promoting its faux version of democracy. It has deployed private military contractors around the globe to secretly spread its influence. At home, its hospitals are filling up fast with Covid patients as its president hides out on the golf course. If that sounds like a place you want to cover, then we have good news. We will have an opening for a new correspondent.

I was a foreign correspondent for twenty years, fifteen of them with The New York Times. My job was to become bicultural, which requires hundreds of hours of language classes, to see the world from the perspective of those I covered and reflect it back to an American audience. But this type of reporting is now anachronistic. The paper might as well rehire the con artist Jayson Blair to sit in his apartment and snort coke while filing fictional variants on the preordained narrative the paper demands. Or maybe computer algorithms can do the job.

I guess I should not be surprised. After all, it was the Times that produced a ten-part podcast by its reporter Rukmini Callimachi based on interviews with a Muslim identified as Abu Huzayfah al-Kanadi who claimed to have been a member of ISIS in the Middle East. He provided lurid accounts of murders and crucifixions he supposedly carried out. His stories, catering to the rampant Islamophobia that poisons American society, were the audio version of snuff films. They were also a lie. The Canadian "Abu Huzayfah," whose real name was Shehroze Chaudhry, was arrested in September 2020 by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and charged under Canadian hoax laws for fabricating his story.

The flagrant partisanship and discrediting of truth across the political spectrum are swiftly fueling the rise of an authoritarian state. The credibility of democratic institutions and electoral politics, already deeply corrupted by PACs, the electoral college, lobbyists, the disenfranchisement of third-party candidates, gerrymandering and voter suppression, is being eviscerated.

Silicon Valley billionaires, including Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, donated more than $100 million to a Democratic super PAC that created a torrent of anti-Trump TV ads in the final weeks of the campaign to elect Biden. The heavy infusion of corporate money to support Biden wasn't done to protect democracy. It was done because these corporations and billionaires know a Biden administration will serve their interests.

The press, meanwhile, has largely given up on journalism. It has retreated into competing echo chambers that only speak to true believers. This catering exclusively to one demographic, which it sets against another demographic, is commercially profitable. But it also guarantees the balkanization of the United States and edges us closer and closer to fratricide.

When Trump leaves the White House millions of his enraged supports, hermetically sealed inside hyperventilating media platforms that feed back to them their rage and hate, will see the vote as fraudulent, the political system as rigged, and the establishment press as propaganda. They will target, I fear, through violence, the Democratic Party politicians, mainstream media outlets and those they demonize as conspiratorial members of the deep state, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Democratic Party is as much to blame for this disintegration as Trump and the Republican Party.

The election of Biden is also very bad news for journalists such as Matt Taibbi, Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberley, Glenn Greenwald, Jeffrey St. Clair or Robert Scheer who refuse to be courtiers to the ruling elites. Journalists that do not spew the approved narrative of the right-wing, or, alternatively, the approved narrative of the Democratic Party, have a credibility the ruling elite fears. The worse things get – and they will get worse as the pandemic leaves hundreds of thousands dead and thrusts millions of Americans into severe economic distress –the more those who seek to hold the ruling elites, and in particular the Democratic Party, accountable will be targeted and censored in ways familiar to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, now in a London prison and facing possible extradition to the United States and life imprisonment.

Barack Obama's assault on civil liberties, which included the repeated misuse of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers, the passage of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to permit the military to act as a domestic police force and the ordering of the assassination of U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists in Yemen, was far worse than those of George W. Bush. Biden's assault on civil liberties, I suspect, will surpass those of the Obama administration.

The censorship was heavy handed during the campaign. Digital media platforms, including Google, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, along with the establishment press worked shamelessly as propaganda arms for the Biden campaign. They were determined not to make the "mistake" they made in 2016 when they reported on the damaging emails, released by WikiLeaks, from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. Although the emails were genuine, papers such as The New York Times routinely refer to the Podesta emails as "disinformation." This, no doubt, pleases its readership, 91 percent of whom identify as Democrats according to the Pew Research Center. But it is another example of journalistic malfeasance.

Following the election of Trump, the media outlets that cater to a Democratic Party readership made amends. The New York Times was one of the principal platforms that amplified Russiagate conspiracies, most of which turned out to be false. At the same time, the paper largely ignored the plight of the disposed working class that supported Trump. When the Russiagate story collapsed, the paper pivoted to focus on race, embodied in the 1619 Project. The root cause of social disintegration — the neoliberal order, austerity and deindustrialization — was ignored since naming it would alienate the paper's corporate advertisers and the elites on whom the paper depends for access.

Once the 2020 election started, The New York Times and other mainstream outlets censored and discredited information that could hurt Biden, including a tape of Joe Biden speaking with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, which appears to be authentic. They gave credibility to any rumor, however spurious, which was unfavorable to Trump. Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story about the emails allegedly found on Hunter Biden's discarded laptop. Twitter locked the New York Post out of its own account for over a week. Glenn Greenwald, whose article on Hunter Biden was censored by his editors at The Intercept, which he helped found, resigned. He released the email exchanges with his editors over his article. Ignoring the textual evidence of censorship, editors and writers at The Intercept engaged in a public campaign of character assassination against Greenwald. This sordid behavior by self-identified progressive journalists is a page out of the Trump playbook and a sad commentary on the collapse of journalistic integrity.

The censorship and manipulation of information was honed and perfected against WikiLeaks. When WikiLeaks tries to release information, it is hit with botnets or distributed denial of service attacks. Malware attacks WikiLeaks' domain and website. The WikiLeaks site is routinely shut down or unable to serve its content to its readers. Attempts by WikiLeaks to hold press conferences see the audio distorted and the visual images corrupted. Links to WikiLeaks events are delayed or cut. Algorithms block the dissemination of WikiLeaks content. Hosting services, including Amazon, removed WikiLeaks from its servers. Julian Assange, after releasing the Iraqi war logs, saw his bank accounts and credit cards frozen. WikiLeaks' PayPal accounts were disabled to cut off donations. The Freedom of the Press Foundation in December 2017 closed down the anonymous funding channel to WikiLeaks which was set up to protect the anonymity of donors. A well-orchestrated smear campaign against Assange was amplified and given credibility by the mass media and filmmakers such as Alex Gibney. Assange and WikiLeaks were first. We are next.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told CNN during this campaign that Russian disinformation efforts are "more problematic" than in 2016. He warned that "this time around, the Russians have decided to cultivate U.S. citizens as assets. They are attempting to try to spread their propaganda in the mainstream media."

This will be the official mantra of the Democratic Party, a vicious redbaiting campaign without actual reds, especially as the country spirals out of control. The reason I have a show on Russia-funded RT America is the same reason Vaclav Havel could only be heard on the US-funded Voice of America during the communist control of Czechoslovakia. I did not choose to leave the mainstream media. I was pushed out. And once anyone is pushed out, the ruling elite is relentless about discrediting the few platforms left willing to give them, and the issues they raise, a hearing.

"If the problem is 'American citizens' being cultivated as 'assets' trying to put 'interference' in the mainstream media, the logical next step is to start asking Internet platforms to shut down accounts belonging to any American journalist with the temerity to report material leaked by foreigners (the wrong foreigners, of course – it will continue to be okay to report things like the 'black ledger')," writes Taibbi, who has done some of the best reporting on the emerging censorship. "From Fox or the Daily Caller on the right, to left-leaning outlets like Consortium or the World Socialist Web Site, to writers like me even – we're all now clearly in range of new speech restrictions, even if we stick to long-ago-established factual standards."

Taibbi argues that the precedent for overt censorship took place when the major digital platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google, Spotify, YouTube – in a coordinated move blacklisted the right-wing talk show host Alex Jones.

"Liberal America cheered," Taibbi told me when I interviewed him for my show, "On Contact":

They said 'Well this is a noxious figure. This is a great thing. Finally, someone's taking action.' What they didn't realize is that we were trading an old system of speech regulation for a new one without any public discussion. You and I were raised in a system where you got punished for speech if you committed libel or slander or if there was imminent incitement to lawless action, right? That was the standard that the Supreme Court set, but that was done through litigation. There was an open process where you had a chance to rebut charges. That is all gone now. Now, basically there's a handful of these tech distribution platforms that control how people get their media. They've been pressured by the Senate, which has called all of their CEOs in, and basically ordered them, 'We need you to come up with a plan to prevent the sowing of discord and spreading of misinformation.' This has finally come into fruition. You see a major reputable news organization like the New York Post — with a 200-year history — locked out of its own Twitter account. The story [Hunter Biden's emails] has not been disproven. It's not disinformation or misinformation. It's been suppressed as it would be suppressed in a Third World country. It's a remarkable historic moment. The danger is that we end up with a one-party informational system. There's going to be approved dialogue and unapproved dialogue that you can only get through certain fringe avenues. That's the problem. We let these companies get this monopolistic share of the distribution system. Now they're exercising that power.

In the Soviet Union the truth was passed, often hand to hand, in underground samizdat documents, clandestine copies of news and literature banned by the state. The truth will endure. It will be heard by those who seek it out. It will expose the mendacity of the powerful, however hard it will be to obtain. Despotisms fear the truth. They know it is a mortal threat. If we remain determined to live in truth, no matter the cost, we have a chance.

Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost every two weeks. Click here to sign up for email alerts.



Original illustration by Mr. Fish

America has become a failed state

This story was originally posted at Scheerpost.

Well, it's over. Not the election. The capitalist democracy. However biased it was towards the interests of the rich and however hostile it was to the poor and minorities, the capitalist democracy at least offered the possibility of incremental and piecemeal reform. Now it is a corpse. The iconography and rhetoric remain the same. But it is an elaborate and empty reality show funded by the ruling oligarchs — $1.51 billion for the Biden campaign and $1.57 billion for the Trump campaign — to make us think there are choices. There are not. The empty jousting between a bloviating Trump and a verbally impaired Joe Biden is designed to mask the truth. The oligarchs always win. The people always lose. It does not matter who sits in the White House. America is a failed state.

"The American Dream has run out of gas," wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. "The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It's over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now."

There were many actors that killed America's open society. The corporate oligarchs who bought the electoral process, the courts and the media, and whose lobbyists write the legislation to impoverish us and allow them to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth and unchecked power. The militarists and war industry that drained the national treasury to mount futile and endless wars that have squandered some $7 trillion and turned us into an international pariah. The CEOs, raking in bonuses and compensation packages in the tens of millions of dollars, that shipped jobs overseas and left our cities in ruins and our workers in misery and despair without a sustainable income or hope for the future. The fossil fuel industry that made war on science and chose profits over the looming extinction of the human species. The press that turned news into mindless entertainment and partisan cheerleading. The intellectuals who retreated into the universities to preach the moral absolutism of identity politics and multiculturalism while turning their backs on the economic warfare being waged on the working class and the unrelenting assault on civil liberties. And, of course, the feckless and hypocritical liberal class that does nothing but talk, talk, talk.

If there is one group that deserves our deepest contempt it is the liberal elites, those who posture as the moral arbiters of society while abandoning every value they purportedly hold the moment they become inconvenient. The liberal class, once again, served as pathetic cheerleaders and censors for a candidate and a political party that in Europe would be considered on the far-right. Even while liberals were being ridiculed and dismissed by Biden and by the Democratic Party hierarchy, which bizarrely invested its political energy in appealing to Republican neocons, liberals were busy marginalizing journalists, including Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, who called out Biden and the Democrats. The liberals, whether at The Intercept or The New York Times, ignored or discredited information that could hurt the Democratic Party, including the revelations on Hunter Biden's laptop. It was a stunning display of craven careerism and self-loathing.The Democrats and their liberal apologists are, the election has illustrated, oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country. They stand for nothing. They fight for nothing. Restoring the rule of law, universal health care, banning fracking, a Green New Deal, the protection of civil liberties, the building of unions, the preservation and expansion of social welfare programs, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, the forgiveness of student debt, stiff environmental controls, a government jobs program and guaranteed income, financial regulation, opposition to endless war and military adventurism were once again forgotten. Championing these issues would have resulted in a Democratic Party landslide. But since the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate donors, promoting any policy that might foster the common good, diminish corporate profits and restore democracy, including imposing campaign finance laws, was impossible. Biden's campaign was utterly bereft of ideas and policy issues, as if he and the Democrats could sweep the elections by promising to save the soul of America. At least the neofascists have the courage of their demented convictions.

The liberal class functions in a traditional democracy as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It ameliorates the worst excesses of capitalism. It proposes gradual steps towards greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with supposed virtues. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements. The liberal class is a vital component within the power elite. In short, it offers hope and the possibility, or at least the illusion, of change.

The surrender of the liberal elite to despotism creates a power vacuum that speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, often led by charismatic demagogues, fill. It opens the door to fascist movements that rise to prominence by ridiculing and taunting the absurdities of the liberal class and the values they purport to defend. The promises of the fascists are fantastic and unrealistic, but their critiques of the liberal class are grounded in truth. Once the liberal class ceases to function, it opens a Pandora's box of evils that are impossible to contain.

The disease of Trumpism, with or without Trump, is, as the election illustrated, deeply embedded in the body politic. It is an expression among huge segments of the population, taunted by liberal elites as "deplorables," of a legitimate alienation and rage that the Republicans and the Democrats orchestrated and now refuse to address. This Trumpism is also, as the election showed, not limited to white men, whose support for Trump actually declined.

Fyodor Dostoevsky saw the behavior of Russia's useless liberal class, which he satirized and excoriated at the end of the 19th century, as presaging a period of blood and terror. The failure of liberals to defend the ideals they espoused inevitably led, he wrote, to an age of moral nihilism. In Notes From Underground, he portrayed the sterile, defeated dreamers of the liberal class, those who hold up high ideals but do nothing to defend them. The main character in Notes From Underground carries the bankrupt ideas of liberalism to their logical extreme. He eschews passion and moral purpose. He is rational. He accommodates a corrupt and dying power structure in the name of liberal ideals. The hypocrisy of the Underground Man dooms Russia as it now dooms the United States. It is the fatal disconnect between belief and action.

"I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect," the Underground Man wrote. "And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an active figure – primarily a limited being."

The refusal of the liberal class to acknowledge that power has been wrested from the hands of citizens by corporations, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have been revoked by judicial fiat, that elections are nothing more than empty spectacles staged by the ruling elites, that we are on the losing end of the class war, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality.

The "idea of the intellectual vocation," as Irving Howe pointed out in his 1954 essay This Age of Conformity, "the idea of a life dedicated to values that cannot possibly be realized by a commercial civilization — has gradually lost its allure. And, it is this, rather than the abandonment of a particular program, which constitutes our rout." The belief that capitalism is the unassailable engine of human progress, Howe wrote, "is trumpeted through every medium of communication: official propaganda, institutional advertising and scholarly writings of people who, until a few years ago, were its major opponents."

"The truly powerless people are those intellectuals — the new realists — who attach themselves to the seats of power, where they surrender their freedom of expression without gaining any significance as political figures," Howe wrote. "For it is crucial to the history of the American intellectuals in the past few decades — as well as to the relationship between 'wealth' and 'intellect' — that whenever they become absorbed into the accredited institutions of society they not only lose their traditional rebelliousness but to one extent or another they cease to function as intellectuals."

Populations can endure the repression of tyrants, as long as these rulers continue to effectively manage and wield power. But human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are brutally discarded. This was true in Weimar Germany. It was true in the former Yugoslavia, a conflict I covered for The New York Times.

The historian Fritz Stern in The Politics of Cultural Despair, his book on the rise of fascism in Germany, wrote of the consequences of the collapse of liberalism. Stern argued that the spiritually and politically alienated, those cast aside by the society, are prime recruits for a politics centered around violence, cultural hatreds and personal resentments. Much of this rage, justifiably, is directed at a liberal elite that, while speaking the "I-feel-your-pain" language of traditional liberalism, sells us out.

"They attacked liberalism," Stern writes of the fascists emerging at the time in Germany, "because it seemed to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it; the bourgeois life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sense in liberalism the source of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their faith."

We are in for it. The for-profit health care system, designed to make money — not take care of the sick — is unequipped to handle a national health crisis. The health care corporations have spent the last few decades merging and closing hospitals, and cutting access to health care in communities across the nation to increase revenue — this, as nearly half of all front-line workers remain ineligible for sick pay and some 43 million Americans have lost their employee-sponsored health insurance. The pandemic, without universal health care, which Biden and the Democrats have no intention of establishing, will continue to rage out of control. Three hundred thousand Americans dead by December. Four hundred thousand by January. And by the time the pandemic burns out or a vaccine becomes safely available, hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million, will have died.The economic fallout from the pandemic, the chronic underemployment and unemployment — close to 20 percent when those who have stopped looking for work, those furloughed with no prospect of being rehired and those who work part-time but are still below the poverty line are included in the official statistics — will mean a depression unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. Hunger in US households has already tripled since last year. The proportion of US children who are not getting enough to eat is 14 times higher than last year. Food banks are overrun. The moratorium on foreclosures and evictions has been lifted while over 30 million destitute Americans face the prospect of being thrown into the street.

There is no check left on corporate power. The inevitable social unrest will see the state, no matter who is in the White House, use its three principle instruments of social control — wholesale surveillance, the prisons and militarized police — buttressed by a legal system that routinely revokes habeas corpus and due process, to ruthlessly crush dissent. People of color, immigrants and Muslims will be blamed and targeted by our native fascists for the nation's decline. The few who continue in defiance of the Democratic Party to call out the crimes of the corporate state and the empire will be silenced. The sterility of the liberal class, serving the interests of a Democratic Party that disdains and ignores them, fuels the widespread feelings of betrayal that saw nearly half the voters support one of the most vulgar, racist, inept and corrupt presidents in American history. An American tyranny, dressed up with the ideological veneer of a Christianized fascism, will, it appears, define the empire's epochal descent into irrelevance.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett: Another step toward Christian fascism

This article originally appeared at Scheerpost. Used by permission.

The Christian right is content to have the focus on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett revolve around her opposition to abortion and membership in People of Praise, a far-right Catholic cult that practices "speaking in tongues." What it does not want examined is her abject subservience to corporate power, her hostility to workers, civil liberties, unions and environmental regulations. And since the Democratic Party is beholden to the same donor class as the Republican Party, and since the media long ago substituted the culture wars for politics, the most ominous threat Barrett's appointment to the court represents is going unmentioned.

All fascist and totalitarian movements paper over their squalid belief systems with the veneer of morality. They mouth pieties about restoring law and order, right and wrong, the sanctity of life, civic and family virtues, patriotism and tradition to mask their dismantling of the open society and silencing and persecution of those who oppose them. This is the real game being played by Christian fascists, who since the early 1970s have been building institutions with tens of millions in corporate donations to take power. Donald Trump, who has no ideology, has allowed the Christian right to fill his ideological void. He is the useful idiot. And the Christian right, awash in money from corporations that know their real political intent, will mobilize in this election to use any tool, no matter how devious, from right-wing armed militias to the invalidation of ballots, to block Joe Biden and Democratic candidates from assuming office. The road to despotism is always paved with righteousness. This was as true for Soviet communism as it was for German fascism. And it is true in the United States.

Capitalism, driven by the twin obsessions of maximizing profit and reducing the cost of production by slashing workers' rights and wages, is antithetical to the Christian Gospel, as well as the Enlightenment ethic defined by Immanuel Kant. But capitalism, in the hands of the Christian fascists, has become sacralized in the form of the Prosperity Gospel, the belief that Jesus came to minister to our material needs, blessing believers with wealth and power. The Prosperity Gospel delights the corporations that have carried out the slow-motion corporate coup. This is why large corporations such as Tyson Foods, which places Christian right chaplains in its plants, Purdue, Walmart, and Sam's Warehouse, along with many other corporations, pour money into the movement and its institutions such as Liberty University and Patrick Henry Law School. This is why corporations have given millions to groups such as the Judicial Crisis Network and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to campaign for Barrett's appointment to the court. Barrett has ruled consistently in favor of corporations to cheat gig workers out of overtime, greenlight fossil fuel extraction and pollution and strip consumers of protection from corporate fraud. The watchdog group Accountable.US found that as a circuit court judge, Barrett "faced at least 55 cases in which citizens took on corporate entities in front of her court and 76% of the time she sided with the corporations."

Her version of Catholicism is at odds with most of the positions championed by Pope Francis and traditional Catholic teaching on women's rights, voting rights, immigrants' rights, health care and environmental protections. The pope calls on the downtrodden to change the world economic order and denounces what he terms a "new colonialism" imposed by "the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain 'free trade' treaties, and the imposition of measures of 'austerity' which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor." He speaks of the "sacred rights" of labor, lodging and land. He says the unfettered pursuit of money is "the dung of the devil" and castigates industrial nations for exploiting the raw materials and labor of the developing world.

Pope Francis has repeatedly warned that time is running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem. "Let us not be afraid to say it: We want change, real change, structural change," the pope has stated, decrying a system that "has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature."

"This system is by now intolerable: Farm workers find it intolerable; laborers find it intolerable; communities find it intolerable; peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself — our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say — also finds it intolerable," he said.

Barrett's religiosity, like that of other Christian fascists, is in the service of almost everything the pope condemns.

These corporations don't give a damn about abortion, gun rights or the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. But like the German industrialists who backed the Nazi Party, they know that the Christian right will give an ideological veneer to ruthless corporate tyranny. These corporations view the Christian fascists the same way the German industrialists viewed the Nazis, as buffoons. They are aware that the Christian fascists will trash what is left of our anemic democracy and the natural ecosystem. But they also know they will make huge profits in the process and the rights of workers and citizens will be ruthlessly suppressed.

If you are poor, if you lack proper medical care, if you are paid substandard wages, if you are trapped in the lower class, if you are a victim of police violence, this is because, according to this ideology, you are not a good Christian and not blessed by God. In this belief system you deserve what you get. There is nothing wrong, these homegrown fascists preach, with the structures or systems of power. It is the mantra of self-help that made gurus like Oprah and Tony Robbins rich dressed up as the voice of God.

The Christian fascists, allied with organization such as the Federalist Society, have appointed two Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — as well as nearly 200 other judges with lifetime appointments to lower federal courts during the Trump administration. They claim to be strict "originalists." Originalists argue that the meaning of the constitutional text is fixed and immune to interpretation. Originalists denounce jurists who argue that constitutional law should respond to changing circumstances and values. The Originalists already have five Federalist Society Supreme Court justices. Barrett would be the sixth. (Two of them, Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia, were supported in the nomination process by Joe Biden.)

The legal calculus for the Christian right no longer revolves around the concept of universal human rights but around the tenets of "Bible-believing Christians" who supposedly authored the Constitution. Huge segments of the population are stripped of moral worth and legal protection. This process is incremental and often unseen. As the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels understood: "The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative."

Victor Klemperer, who was dismissed from his post as a professor of Romance languages at the University of Dresden in 1935 because of his Jewish ancestry, astutely noted how at first the Nazis "changed the values, the frequency of words, [and] made them into common property, words that had previously been used by individuals or tiny troupes. They confiscated words for the party, saturated words and phrases and sentence forms with their poison. They made language serve their terrible system. They conquered words and made them into their strongest advertising tools [Werebemittle], at once the most public and most secret." And, Klemperer noted, as the redefinition of old concepts took place the public was oblivious.

These Christian fascists understand the deep sickness that infects American society. They know how to exploit the moral and physical decay, as well as the despair it causes, to lure its followers towards their brand of tyranny. They are not wrong when they lambast the cruelty, corruption, emptiness and hypocrisy of the ruling elites, especially the liberal elites. They are not wrong when they mock cultural relativism, the idea that good and evil, right and wrong, truth and untruth, do not exist. It is part of the sad irony that the Christian right effectively exploits this cultural relativism to seize power. The failure of the liberal Christian church to denounce the Christian right as heretics, in the name of tolerance and cultural relativism, has given the Christian fascists religious legitimacy. At the same time, the Christian right seeks to delegitimize the liberal church as apostates. History has shown that it is unwise to tolerate the intolerant.

The Christian fascists, like all fascist movements, seek to create their own truth. It discredits verifiable fact, science, law and rationality. It promises a new, glorious world of moral renewal and prosperity. It promises a creator who will carry out miracles for believers and for America. It calls on followers to abandon the world of cause and effect and replace it with a world of magic. The reality-based world, as in all totalitarian movements, is snuffed out.

The Trump administration has implanted Christian fascists in senior positions of government, including Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Mike Pompeo to secretary of state, Betsy DeVos to secretary of education, Ben Carson to secretary of housing and urban development, William Barr to attorney general, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and televangelist Paula White to Trump's Faith and Opportunities Initiative. Trump gave the Christian right veto and appointment power over key positions in government, especially in the federal courts. Almost all the judges he has appointed were selected by the Federalist Society and the Christian right. Many of the extremists among his judicial appointees have been rated as unqualified by the American Bar Association, the country's largest nonpartisan coalition of lawyers.

Trump has embraced the Islamophobia of the Christian right to ban Muslim immigrants and roll back civil rights legislation. He has made war on reproductive rights by restricting abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood. He has degraded LGBTQ rights. He has allocated federal money to Christian charter schools. He has ripped down the firewall between church and state by revoking the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches, which are tax-exempt, from endorsing political candidates. His Christian right appointees, including Pence, DeVos and Pompeo, regularly use biblical strictures to justify an array of policy decisions including environmental deregulation, war, tax cuts and the replacement of public schools with charter schools, an action that permits the transfer of federal education funds to private "Christian" schools.

The Christian fascists are not finished. Brick by brick they are building a Christian fascist state. Barrett fills one more hole in the wall. They will do this with or without Trump.

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