AlterNet.org: Chris Hedges http://www.alternet.org/authors/chris-hedges en What Trump Owes America's Christian Fascists http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/donald-trump-chrisian-fascists <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If the alliance between these zealots and our current administration succeeds, it will snuff out the last vestiges of American democracy. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_636139745.jpg?itok=1_q8sWce" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump’s ability to force the Christian right’s agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/eighty-one-percent-of-white-evangelicals-voted-for-donald-trump-why/">81 percent</a> of white evangelicals behind him.</p><p>Trump’s moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty” and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/johnson-amendment-trump-religious-liberty-594630" target="_blank">Johnson Amendment</a>, along with his nominations of judges championed by the <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/01/how_the_federalist_society_became_the_de_facto_selector_of_republican_supreme.html" target="_blank">Federalist Society</a> and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power—Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right.</p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZadaJuzoY" target="_blank">Click here</a> for a 2007 video of Chris Hedges speaking about his book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”</p><p>More important, Trump’s disdain for facts and his penchant for <a href="http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/magical-thinking" target="_blank">magical thinking</a> and conspiracy theories mesh well with the worldview of the Christian right, which sees itself as under attack by the satanic forces of <a href="http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/2001/06/what-secular-humanists-believe.aspx" target="_blank">secular humanism</a> embodied in the media, academia, the liberal establishment, Hollywood and the Democratic Party. In this worldview, climate change is not real, Barack Obama is a Muslim and millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.</p><p>The followers of the Christian right, like Trump and his brain trust, including Stephen Bannon, are <a href="https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/Manichean">Manicheans</a>. They see the world in black and white, good and evil, them and us. Trump’s call in his speech in Poland for a crusade against the godless hoards of Muslims fleeing from the wars and chaos we created replicates the view of the Christian right. Christian right leaders in a sign of support went to the White House on July 10 to pray over Trump. Two days later Pat Robertson showed up there to interview the president for his Christian Broadcasting Network.</p><p>If the alliance between these zealots and the government succeeds, it will snuff out the last vestiges of American democracy.</p><p>On the surface it appears to be incongruous that the Christian right would rally behind a slick New York real estate developer who is a very public serial philanderer and adulterer, has no regard for the truth, is consumed by greed, does not appear to read or know the Bible, routinely defrauds and cheats his investors and contractors, expresses a crude misogyny and an even cruder narcissism and appears to yearn for despotism. In fact, these are the very characteristics that define most of the leaders of the Christian right. Trump has preyed on desperate people through the thousands of slot machines in his casinos, his sham university and his real estate deals. Megachurch pastors prey on their followers by extracting “seed offerings,” “love gifts,” tithes and donations and by selling miracle healings along with “prayer clothes,” self-help books, audio and video recordings and even protein shakes. Pastors have established within their megachurches, as Trump did in his businesses, despotic fiefdoms. They cannot be challenged or questioned any more than an omnipotent Trump could be challenged on the reality television show “The Apprentice.” And they seek to replicate their little tyrannies on a national scale, with white men in charge.</p><p>The personal piety of most of the ministers who lead the Christian right is a facade. Their private lives are usually marked by hedonistic squalor that includes mansions, private jets, limousines, retinues of bodyguards, personal assistants and servants, shopping sprees, lavish vacations and sexual escapades that rival those carried out by Trump. And because they run “churches,” in many cases church funds pay for their tax-free empires, including their extravagant lifestyles. They also engage in the nepotism found in the Trump organization, elevating family members to prominent or highly paid positions and passing on the businesses to their children.</p><p>The Christian right’s scandals, which give a glimpse into the sordid lives of these multimillionaire pastors, are legion. Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise the Lord Club, for example, raked in as much as $1 million a week before Jim Bakker went to prison for nearly five years. He was convicted of fraud and other charges in 1989 because of a $158 million scheme in which followers paid for vacations that never materialized. As the Bakker empire came apart, there also were accusations of drug use and rape. Tammy Faye died in 2007, and now Jim Bakker is back, peddling survival food for the end days and telling his significantly reduced television audience that anyone who opposes Trump is the Antichrist.</p><p>Paul and Jan Crouch, who gave the Bakkers their start, founded Trinity Broadcasting, the world’s largest televangelist network, now run by their son Matt and his wife, Laurie. Viewers were encouraged to call prayer counselors at the toll-free number shown at the bottom of the TV screen. It was a short step from talking with a prayer counselor to making a “love gift” and becoming a “partner” in Trinity Broadcasting and then sending in more money during one of the frequent Praise-a-Thons.</p><p>The Crouches reveled in tasteless kitsch, as does Trump. They sat during their popular nightly program in front of stained glass windows that overlooked Louis XVI-inspired sets awash in gold rococo and red velvet, glittering chandeliers and a gold-painted piano. The network emblem, which Paul Crouch wore on the pocket of his blue double-breasted blazer, featured a crown, a lion, a horse, a white dove, a cross and Latin phrases among other elements. The Crouches would have been at home in Trump Tower, where the president has a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-mar-a-lago-crest-a-scam-new-york-times-finds_us_592c6f40e4b053f2d2ad7e75" target="_blank">faux “Trump crest”—allegedly plagiarized</a>—and has decorated his penthouse as if it was part of Versailles.</p><p>The Crouches were masters of manipulation. They exhorted viewers to send in checks for $1,000, even if they could not afford it. Write the check anyway, Paul Crouch, who died in 2013, told them, as a “step of faith” and the Lord would repay them many times over. “Do you think God would have any trouble getting $1,000 extra to you somehow?” he asked during one Praise-a-Thon broadcast. Viewers, many of whom struggled with deep despair and believed that miracles and magic alone held them back from the abyss, often found it impossible to resist this emotional pressure.</p><p>Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is home to many of the worst charlatans in the Christian right, including the popular healer Benny Hinn, who says that Adam was a superhero who could fly to the moon and claims that one day the dead will be raised by watching TBN from inside their coffins. Hinn claims his “anointings” have cured cancer, AIDS, deafness, blindness and numerous other ailments and physical injuries. Those who have not been cured, he says, did not send in enough money.</p><p>These religious hucksters are some of the most accomplished con artists in the country, a trait they share with the current occupant of the Oval Office. </p><p> </p><p>I wrote a book on the Christian right in 2007 called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” I did not use the word “fascist” lightly. I spent several hours, at the end of two years of reporting, with two of the country’s foremost scholars on fascism—<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/19/books/fritz-stern-a-leading-historian-on-modern-germany-dies-at-90.html" target="_blank">Fritz Stern</a> and <a href="http://history.columbia.edu/faculty/Paxton.html" target="_blank">Robert O. Paxton</a>. Did this ideology fit the parameters of classical fascism? Was it virulent enough and organized enough to seize power? Would it go to the ruthless extremes of previous fascist movements to persecute and silence dissent? Has our <a href="https://www.google.com/#q=define+deindustrialization" target="_blank">deindustrialized society</a> replicated the crippling despair, alienation and rage that always feed fascist movements?</p><p>The evangelicalism promoted by the Christian right is very different from the evangelicalism and fundamentalism of a century ago. The emphasis on personal piety that defined the old movement, the call to avoid the contamination of politics, has been replaced by <a href="https://carm.org/christian-reconstructionism-theonomy" target="_blank">Christian Reconstructionism</a>, called Dominionism by some. This new ideology is about taking control of all institutions, including the government, to build a “Christian” nation. Rousas John Rushdoony in his 1973 book, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” first articulated it. Rushdoony argued that God gives the elect, just as he gave Adam and Noah, dominion over the earth to build a Christian society. Their state will come about with the physical eradication of the forces of Satan. It is the duty of the church and the elect to “rescue” the world so Christ can return.</p><p>This is an ideology of death. It promises that the secular, humanist society will be physically destroyed. The Ten Commandments will form the basis of our legal system. <a href="https://www.google.com/#q=Creationism" target="_blank">Creationism</a> or “<a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ehrBzk9DQHAJ:www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2005/05/creationism_vs_intelligent_design.html+&amp;cd=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=us" target="_blank">Intelligent Design</a>” will be taught in public schools. People who are considered social deviants, including homosexuals, immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims, criminals and those dismissed as “nominal Christians”—meaning Christians who do not embrace the Christian right’s perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible—will be silenced, imprisoned or killed. The role of the federal government will be reduced to protecting property rights, “homeland” security and waging war. Church organizations will be funded and empowered by the government to run social-welfare agencies. The poor, condemned for sloth, indolence and sinfulness, will be denied government assistance. The death penalty will be expanded to include “moral crimes,” including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy and witchcraft, as well as abortion, which will be treated as murder. Women will be subordinate to men. Those who practice other faiths will become, at best, second-class citizens and eventually outcasts. The wars in the Middle East will be defined as religious crusades against Muslims. There will be no separation of church and state. The only legitimate voices will be “Christian.” America will become an agent of God. Those who defy the “Christian” authorities will be branded as agents of Satan.</p><p>Tens of millions of Americans are already hermetically sealed within this bizarre worldview. They are given a steady diet of conspiracy theories and lies on the internet, in their churches, in Christian schools and colleges and on Christian television and radio. <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/she-was-the-steve-bannon-of-the-great-depression" target="_blank">Elizabeth Dilling</a>, who wrote “The Red Network” and was a Nazi sympathizer, is required reading. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored. This Christian propaganda hails the “significant contributions” of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950s, is rehabilitated as an American hero. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, is defined as part of the worldwide battle against satanic Islamic terror. Presently, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. public believes in Creationism or “Intelligent Design.” And nearly a third of the population, 94 million people, consider themselves evangelical.</p><p>Those who remain in a reality-based universe often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons. They do not take seriously the huge segment of the public, mostly white and working class, who because of economic distress have primal yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal and are easily seduced by magical thinking. These are the yearnings and emotions Trump has exploited politically.</p><p>Those who embrace this movement need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to elevate themselves to the role of holy warriors, infused with a noble calling and purpose. They need to sanctify the rage and hypermasculinity that are the core of fascism. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief, which includes being anointed for a special purpose in life by God, are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and desire for meaning.</p><p>“Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty,” <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Simone-Weil" target="_blank">Simone Weil</a> wrote.</p><p>These believers, like all fascists, detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.</p><p>The rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them. The magical belief system, as it was for impoverished German workers who flocked to the Nazi Party, is an emotional life raft. It is all that supports them. The only way to blunt this movement is to reintegrate these people into the economy, to give them economic stability through good wages and benefits, to restore their self-esteem. They need to live in a society that is not predatory but instead provides well-funded public schools, free university education and universal health care, a society in which they and their families can prosper.</p><p>Let us not stand at the open gates of the city waiting passively for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching towards Bethlehem. Let us shake off our complacency and cynicism. Let us openly defy the liberal establishment, which will not save us, to demand and fight for economic reparations for the poor and the working class. Let us give all Americans a reality-based hope for the future. Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance, united behind the ludicrous figure of Donald Trump, will ride this rage to power. </p> Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:03:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1080089 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing evangencials christian fascists christian right tom price donald trump The Dying Republic: A Vast Disconnect Between Faux Values and the Corporate Controlled Anti-Democratic Reality http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/dying-republic-vast-disconnect-between-faux-values-and-corporate-controlled-anti <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What ancient Rome can teach us about the Trump administration.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/30618435416_0d67f54496_z.jpg?itok=gAGXu8b8" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=tgo&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8#q=deep+state" target="_blank">deep state</a>’s decision in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.</p><p>Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable <a href="http://en.museicapitolini.org/collezioni/percorsi_per_sale/museo_del_palazzo_dei_conservatori/sale_degli_horti_lamiani/busto_di_commodo_come_ercole" target="_blank">statues of himself as Hercules</a> and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth. He sold public offices so the ancient equivalents of <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/watch_betsy_devos_confirmation_hearing_20170131">Betsy DeVos</a> and <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/elizabeth_warren_steven_mnuchin_glass-steagall_20170519">Steve Mnuchin</a> could orchestrate a vast kleptocracy.</p><p>Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted in vain to curb the power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex. This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after he was in power only three months. The Guards then auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.</p><p>Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the “first citizen”—neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_Soviet_Socialist_Republics_of_the_Soviet_Union" target="_blank">autonomous soviets</a>. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.</p><p>Our constitutional rights—due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent—have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd. <br /><br />Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.</p><p>Wages are stagnant or have declined. Unemployment and underemployment—masked by falsified statistics—have thrust half the country into chronic poverty. Social services are abolished in the name of austerity. Culture and the arts have been replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. The infrastructure, neglected and underfunded, is collapsing. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, food shortages and untreated illnesses that lead to early death plague a harried underclass. The desperate flee into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. The state, rather than address the economic misery, militarizes police departments and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons with 2.3 million citizens, only a tiny percentage of whom had a trial. One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.</p><p>The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.</p><p>The state tortures, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay, but also in supermax ADX [administrative maximum] facilities such as the one at Florence, Colo., where inmates suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners, although they are citizens, endure around-the-clock electronic monitoring and 23-hour-a-day lockdowns. They undergo extreme sensory deprivation. They endure beatings. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They can write only one letter a week to one relative and cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and take their one hour of daily recreation in a huge cage that resembles a treadmill for hamsters.</p><p>The state uses “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners’ communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted. You can be tried and convicted, like Joseph K. in <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17690.The_Trial" target="_blank">Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,”</a> without ever seeing the evidence used to find you guilty. Under SAMs, it is against the law for those who have contact with an inmate—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological conditions.</p><p>And when prisoners are released, they have lost the right to vote and receive public assistance and are burdened with fines that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars. They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. They spend the rest of their lives marginalized as members of a vast criminal caste.</p><p>The executive branch of government has empowered itself to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/05/obama-kill-list-doj-memo" target="_blank">assassinate U.S. citizens</a>. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called “extraordinary rendition.” Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.</p><p>Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. The state assumed the power to detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.</p><p>The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.</p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p> Mon, 22 May 2017 10:22:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1077282 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics ancient Rome donald trump commodius history Betsy DeVos A Nation of the Walking Dead: Big Pharma and Casinos Earn Millions While Tens of Thousands Die From Addiction http://www.alternet.org/drugs/nation-zombies <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The United States consumes 80 percent of opioids used worldwide.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_105755288.jpg?itok=AFfTt7UF" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Opioids and experiences that simulate the deadening effects of narcotics are mechanisms to keep us submissive and depoliticized. Desperate citizens in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World” ingested the pleasure drug soma to check out of reality. Our own versions of soma allow tens of millions of Americans to retreat daily into addictive mousetraps that generate a self-induced autism.</p><p>The United States <a href="http://lab.express-scripts.com/lab/insights/drug-safety-and-abuse/americas-pain-points">consumes 80 percent</a> of opioids used worldwide, and more than 33,000 died in this country in 2015 from opioid overdoses. There are 300 million prescriptions written and $24 billion spent annually in the U.S. for painkillers. Americans supplement this mostly legal addiction with over $100 billion a year in illicit marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. And nearly 14 million U.S. adults, one in every 13, regularly abuse alcohol.</p><p>But these monetary figures are far less than what we spend on gambling. Americans in 2013 <a href="http://theweek.com/articles/451623/how-did-americans-manage-lose-119-billion-gambling-last-year">lost $119 billion gambling</a>, with an additional $70 billion—or $300 for every adult in the country—spent on lottery tickets.</p><p>Federal and state governments, reliant on tax revenues from legal gambling and on lottery ticket sales, will do nothing to halt the expansion of the industry or the economic and psychological toll it exacts on those in financial distress. State-run lottery games had <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/14/your-money/the-billion-dollar-lottery-jackpot-engineered-to-drain-your-wallet.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FLotteries&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=timestopics&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=3&amp;pgtype=collection&amp;_r=1">sales of $73.9 billion</a> in 2015, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. This revenue is vital to budgets beset by declining incomes, deindustrialization and austerity. “State lotteries provided more revenue than state corporate-income taxes in 11 of the 43 states where they were legal, including Delaware, Rhode Island, and South Dakota,” Derek Thompson <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/lotteries-americas-70-billion-shame/392870/">wrote in The Atlantic</a>. “The poorest third of households buy half of all lotto tickets,” he noted. Gambling is a stealth tax on poor people hoping to beat the nearly impossible odds. Governmental income from gambling is an effort to make up for the taxes the rich and corporations no longer pay.</p><p>Slot machines and other electronic gambling devices are engineered to draw us into an Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole. They, like our personal computers and hand-held devices, cater to the longing to flee from the oppressive world of dead-end jobs, crippling debt and social stagnation and a dysfunctional political system. We become rats in a <a href="https://www.google.com/#q=skinner+box&amp;*">Skinner box</a>, frantically pulling levers until we are addicted and finally entranced by our compulsion to achieve fleeting, intermittent and adrenaline-driven rewards. Much like what happens to people using slot machines, the pigeons or rats in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner">Skinner’s experiments</a> that did not know when they would get a reward, or how much they would get, became the most heavily addicted to operating the levers or pedals. Indeed, Skinner used slot machines as a metaphor for his experiments.</p><p>The engineers of America’s gambling industry are as skillful at forming addiction as the country’s top five opioid producers—Purdue Pharma, Johnson &amp; Johnson, Insys Therapeutics, Mylan and Depomed. There are 460 commercial casinos, 486 tribal casinos, 350 card rooms, 55 racetracks and <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/slot-machines-the-big-gamble-07-01-2011/">hundreds of thousands of gaming devices</a>, many located in convenience stores, gas stations, bars, airports and even supermarkets.</p><p>The rush of anticipation, available in 20-second bursts, over hours, days, weeks and months creates an addictive psychological “zone” that the industry calls “continuous gaming productivity.” Heart rates and blood pressure rise. Time, space, the value of money and human relationships hypnotically dissolve. A state of extreme social isolation occurs.</p><p>Gambling addicts, like many addicts, are often driven to crime, bankruptcy and eventual imprisonment. Many lose everything—their marriages, their families, their jobs, their emotional health and sometimes their lives. Gambling addicts have the highest rate of suicide attempts among addicts of any kind—1 in 5, or 20 percent—according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.</p><p>Donald Trump is in large part a product of gambling culture. His career has not been about making products but about selling intangible and fleeting experiences. He preys on the desperate by offering them escapist fantasies. This world is about glitter, noise and hype—Trump called the Trump Taj Mahal, his now-closed casino, “the eighth wonder of the world.” The more money you spent, the greater your “value,” the more you were pampered, given free hotel rooms and gifts, handed passes to special “clubs” with lavish buffets. Scantily clad hostesses hovered around you serving complimentary drinks. If you spent big, you were invited to exclusive parties attended by supermodels and famous athletes. Decorated chips—some featuring a photo of Donald Trump—turned cash into a species of Monopoly money. But in the end, when you were broke, when there was no more money in your bank account and your credit cards were maxed out, you were thrown back, in even greater financial distress, into the dreary universe you tried to obliterate.</p><p>Roger Caillois, the French sociologist, wrote that the pathologies of a culture are captured in the games the culture venerates. Old forms of gambling such as blackjack and poker allowed the gambler to take risks, make decisions and even, in his or her mind, achieve a kind of individualism or heroism at the gambling table. They provided a way, it can be argued, to assert an alternative identity for a brief moment. But the newer form, machine gambling, is an erasure of the self. Slot machines, which produce 85 percent of the profits at casinos, are, as the sociologist Henry Lesieur wrote, an “addiction delivery device.” They are “electronic morphine,” “the crack cocaine of gambling.” They are not about risk or about making decisions, but about creating somnambulism, putting a player into a trancelike state that can last for hours. It is a pathway, as sociologist <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/how_gambling_become_americas_premier_entertainment_escape_20170328">Natasha Dow Schüll</a> points out, to becoming the walking dead. This yearning for a state of nonbeing is what Sigmund Freud called “the death instinct.” It is the overpowering drive by a depressed and traumatized person to seek pleasure in a self-destructive activity that ultimately kills the organism.</p><p>“It is not the chance of winning to which they become addicted,” Schüll writes in “<a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9156.html">Addiction by Design</a>: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas,” “rather, what addicts them is the world-dissolving state of subjective suspension and affective calm they derive from machine play.”</p><p>Gamblers are closely tracked by the casino industry. The length of time gamblers spend on machines increases the profits for the casino. The science of keeping people in front of slot machines—called “time on device” within the industry—has led to the creation of ergonomic consoles, the appealing, warm screens on slot machines, seductive video graphics and surround-sound acoustics.</p><p>The industry also invests heavily in surveillance. Gamblers carry player or loyalty cards. They insert these cards into the slot machines when they play. These cards, linked to a central database, are used by the industry to build profiles of gamblers. The value and frequency of bets are captured, along with wins and losses. The industry knows when the players take breaks, where and what they eat in the casinos, what they drink and what hotel rooms they select. Slowly the traits and the habits of the gambler, triangulated with demographic data, are pieced together to allow the industry to build a personal profile. With the profile, the casino determines at what point a player will accumulate too many losses and too much pain and is about to walk away from a machine. A few moments before that pain level is reached, a hostess will magically appear with a free drink, a voucher for a meal or tickets to a show. Casinos can also use profiles to project how much a player will spend gambling during his or her lifetime.</p><p>The industry was the human laboratory for refinements now incorporated into the security and surveillance organs of the state. “Many surveillance and marketing innovations first used in casinos were only later adapted to other domains,” Schüll writes, “including airports, financial trading floors, consumer shopping malls, insurance agencies, banks, and government programs like Homeland Security.” </p><p>“They have an algorithm that senses your pain points, your sweet spots,” Schüll told me. “The zone is a term that I kept hearing over and over again as I went to gamblers’ anonymous meetings and spoke to gambling addicts. This really describes a state of flow where time, space, monetary value and other people fall away. You might say a state of flow, or the zone, sounds very different from the thrills and suspense of gambling. But what the casinos have hit upon is that [they] actually make more money when [they] design a flow space into these machines. People don’t even know that they’re losing. They just sit there. Again, it’s time on machines.”</p><p>“When you look at contemporary slot machines, they don’t operate on volatility,” she continued. “One designer of the mathematics and algorithm of these games said we want an algorithm that makes you feel like you are reclining on a couch. The curves, architecture and the softly pixelated lights, they want you to sit back and go with the flow. I just couldn’t make sense of that for the longest time in my research. Gamblers would say, ‘It’s so weird, but sometimes when I win a big jackpot I feel angry and frustrated.’ What they’re playing for is not to win, but to stay in the zone. Winning disrupts that because suddenly the machine is frozen, it’s not letting you keep going. What are you going to do with that winning anyway? You’re just going to feed it back into the machines. This is more about mood modulation. Affect modulation. Using technologies to dampen anxieties and exit the world. We don’t just see it in Las Vegas. We see it in the subways every morning. The rise of all of these screen-based technologies and the little games that we’ve all become so absorbed in. What gamblers articulate is a desire to really lose a sense of self. They lose time, space, money value, and a sense of being in the world. What is that about? What does that say? How do we diagnose that?”</p><p>“It’s the flip side to the incredible pressure, which is experienced as a burden, to self-manage, to make choices, to always be maximizing as you’re living life in this entrepreneurial mode,” she said. “We talk about this as the subjective side of the neoliberal agenda, where pressure is put on individuals to regulate themselves. In this case, they are regulating themselves, but they are regulating themselves away from that. This really is a mode of escape. It’s not action gambling. This is escape gambling. You can see it on their faces. The consequences and ethics are distasteful. It’s predatory. It’s predation on a type of escape where people are driven to exit the world. They’re not trying to win. The casinos are trying to win. They are trying to make revenue. They’re kind of in a partnership with the gamblers, but it’s a very asymmetrical partnership. The gamblers don’t want to win. They want to just keep going. Some people have likened gamblers to factory workers who are alienated by the machine. I don’t see it that way. This is more about machines designed to synchronize with what you want—in this case escape—and [to] profit from that.”</p><p>Trump understands this longing for escape and the art of creating an updated version of P.T. Barnum’s “Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan &amp; Hippodrome.” Trump used his skills as a con artist to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars and then to achieve the presidency.</p><p>“People have called it a mode of <a href="http://alex-reid.net/2007/11/ludo-capitalism.html">ludo-capitalism</a>,” Schüll said. “In a way, you can connect that to the ludo-politics that we see. Pleasure. To get what you want. What you want is to escape into a flow, to be taken away. We see this in the political domain a lot—in the rallies, in the surging of feelings, the distraction. If you look at the way a casino is designed, and you remember that Trump is a designer of many casinos, including his non-casino properties, they follow the same design logic of disorientation and trying to sweep people away from themselves, away from rationality, away from a position where they have clear lines of sight and can act as decision-making subjects. You see that on the floors of casinos, you see that in political rhetoric today.”</p><p>The corporate state will expand our access to a variety of opioids and numbing situations to temporarily alleviate our stress, financial dislocations, depression and anxiety. Aided by state and local governments, it will build new pleasure palaces. It will lure millions into its glittering and seductive Venus’ flytraps. It will make sure we have tempting retreats within easy reach to achieve a death-in-life experience. Much of the society will be put to sleep. Those who refuse to become zombies, who rise up to resist, who seek at all costs to remain distinct individuals, will be silenced with the corporate state’s cruder tool for submission: force. </p><p> </p> Mon, 03 Apr 2017 13:38:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1074921 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs opioids opioid addiction drugs big pharma public health The Return of American Race Laws http://www.alternet.org/immigration/return-american-race-laws <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Steve Bannon&#039;s fascist yearnings are the cornerstone of Trump&#039;s immigration policy. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/trump_deport_0.jpg?itok=mS1piPSK" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The warmup act for a full-blown American fascism and orchestrated race war is taking place in immigrant and marginal communities across the United States: Racial profiling. Random police stops. Raids at homes and businesses. People of color pulled from vehicles at checkpoints. Seizures of individuals with no criminal records or who never committed a serious crime. Imprisonment without trial. Expedited deportation hearings and removal proceedings that violate human rights. The arrest of a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (<a href="http://www.nclr.org/issues/Immigration/daca/" target="_blank">DACA</a>) program, Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, who along with the program’s other 750,000 successful applicants had revealed all personal history to the government in applying for DACA status. Parents separated, perhaps forever, from their children. The hunted going underground. The end of the rule of law. The abandonment of the common good. The obliteration of a social state in which institutions and assistance programs—from public education to Social Security and welfare—make justice, equality and dignity possible.</p><p>White Europeans who are undocumented are not being targeted. The executive orders of President Trump are directed against people of color. They begin from the premise that white Americans are the true victims of neoliberalism, deindustrialization and falling living standards. The Trump orders are written not to make America great again but to make America white. They are an updated version of the Nazis’ <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=nuremberg+race+laws&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8" target="_blank">Nuremberg race laws</a>, <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=nuremberg+race+laws&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8#q=jim+crow+laws&amp;*" target="_blank">the Jim Crow laws</a>, the <a href="https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&amp;doc=47" target="_blank">Chinese Exclusion Act</a> and the <a href="http://middleeastandasianimmigrants.pbworks.com/w/page/21495984/Naturalization%20Act%20of%201870" target="_blank">Naturalization Act of 1870</a>. They are intended to institutionalize an overt racial hierarchy in the United States, one already advanced by the miniature police states in which marginal communities of color find themselves. In these impoverished enclaves there is no right to trial or due process. Militarized police kill with impunity, and the courts lock people away often for life. Rights are treated as privileges that can instantly be revoked. The poor, especially poor people of color, have been exempted from moral consideration. They are viewed as impediments to social cohesion. And these impediments must be eliminated. This is the template for what will come. Jews—their community centers under threats of violence and their graveyards being desecrated—will be persecuted. American fascism will be cemented into place by uniformed and heavily armed paramilitary squads clutching the flag and the cross and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer.</p><p>“Little or no prospect of rescue from individual indolence or impotence can be expected to arrive from a political state that is not, and refuses to be, a social state,” the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman warned in “Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age.” “Without social rights for all, a large and in all probability growing number of people will find their political rights of little use and unworthy of their attention. If political rights are necessary to set social rights in place, social rights are indispensable to make political rights ‘real’ and keep them in operation. The two rights need each other for their survival; that survival can only be their joint achievement.”</p><p>Presidential chief strategist Stephen Bannon, in his public comments and <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/19/i-watched-all-of-steve-bannon-s-bad-movies.html" target="_blank">his films</a> such as “Generation Zero,” has embraced a historical determinism worthy of Karl Marx. He posits that Western culture has been contaminated and is being destroyed by darker races and barbaric religions and belief systems. His conspiratorial view of history and society sees a global war between the white race and the lesser breeds of the earth as not only inevitable but one that will reinvigorate and purify America.</p><p>Racists and conspiracy theorists such as Bannon, <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/02/16/trump-official-obsessed-over-nuclear-apocalypse-mens-style-fine-wines-in-40000-posts-on-fashion-site/" target="_blank">Michael Anton</a>, <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/06/stephen-miller-donald-trump-2016-policy-adviser-jeff-sessions-213992" target="_blank">Stephen Miller</a> and <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/sebastian-gorka-has-links-to-anti-semitic-groups.html" target="_blank">Sebastian Gorka</a> constitute Trump’s ideological brain trust. Gorka goes so far as to argue that the failure to understand the evil of radical Islam stems from a “systematic subversion of the national security establishment under the banner of inclusivity, cultural awareness and political correctness.”</p><p>In a 2014 speech, Bannon said, “I believe we’ve come partly off-track in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” (He delivered the talk via Skype to a group of other right-wing Catholics gathered in the Vatican. For a transcript posted by BuzzFeed, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.bcz0w2Lql#.vt9AQ30eL" target="_blank">click here</a>.)</p><p>“There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,” Bannon said. “It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today. Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.”</p><p>Bannon, as <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/steve-bannon-wants-to-start-world-war-iii/" target="_blank">Micah L. Sifry points out</a> in The Nation, is a proponent of the theory popularized by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in their books “Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069” (1991) and “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy—What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny” (1997). This theory holds that roughly every 80 years, roughly an average human life span, the country goes through a cataclysmic crisis. This crisis unleashes genocide and other killing that last a decade or more. In its aftermath the social order is rejuvenated. Strauss and Howe highlight the American Revolution of 1775-83, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II as examples of how the cycle works.</p><p>“Inside each 80-year saeculum, Howe and Strauss argue, there are four turnings, each a generation long, and each as inevitable as the coming of the seasons,” Sifry writes. “In the first turning, for the generation that survives the prior catastrophe, the newly restored society reaches a collective apex of social order and economic power. Think of America in the post-war boom of 1945 to 1965. Then comes the awakening, as the first new generation of post-catastrophe children enter adulthood and, unlike their traumatized parents, let loose with their emotions and take risks that their forebears would never have imagined. Hello to the long 1960s. Then comes the unraveling, as the once robust order starts to fall apart, people question the eternal verities and institutions weaken. The fourth turning is kicked off and punctuated by ongoing crises, out of which a whole new order is born.”</p><p>Pseudo-intellectuals such as Strauss and Howe play the role that Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Alfred Rosenberg played for the Nazi Party. They give an intellectual veneer to racist conspiracy theories, a virulent nationalism, a hatred for culture and the lust for domination through violence.</p><p>I share Bannon’s distaste for globalization, free trade agreements, the failure to put Wall Street bankers in jail, the bank bailouts and crony capitalism and would even concede that Americans wallow in the moral swamp of a culture of narcissism. He is right when he attacks the two major political parties as the one “party of <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017" target="_blank">Davos</a>.” But his solution to the purported crisis—total war by the white race to regain its ascendancy—is insane, as are the causes he cites: a New Deal that turned citizens into whining dependents; the permissiveness of the 1960s; white guilt that made the country cater irresponsibly to African-Americans by giving them social service programs and undeserved mortgages that led to the 2008 financial meltdown; an intellectual and a liberal class composed essentially of traitors; and the “new barbarity” of “Jihadist Islamic fascism.”</p><p>Racism, misogyny, the inherent cruelty of capitalism and the crimes of empire, from Wounded Knee to Vietnam and Iraq, simply do not exist in Bannon’s mystical nationalist worldview. He insists that the white male aristocratic elites who formed a republic that enslaved African-Americans, exterminated Native Americans and denied the vote to women and white men without property created “a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind.” This is what he wants to recover.</p><p>Fritz Stern, in his book “The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology,” wrote of the early fascists in Germany, “The movement did embody a paradox: its followers sought to destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future. They were disinherited conservatives, who had nothing to conserve, because the spiritual values of the past had largely been buried and the material remnants of conservative power did not interest them. They sought a breakthrough to the past, and they longed for a new community in which old ideas and institutions would once again command universal allegiance.”</p><p>Bannon shares these fascist yearnings. He excoriates leftist and liberal elites for supposedly poisoning the minds of young people, a point he luridly makes in his film “Occupy Unmasked” (2012). A new generation, he says, has been brainwashed to see America as evil and the status quo as repressive. His mythical past will return through a crusade both domestic and international. All forms of coercion, from torture to murder, are justified. Any suffering along the way is the price that has to be paid for this white, Christian paradise.</p><p>The central tenet of fascism is always that war cleanses society and that the “virtues” that war inculcates in its combatants and survivors provide a new moral vigor. Bannon knows no more about war’s reality, which I endured for two decades covering conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, than he sees in Hollywood movies. But war for him, which will come in a confrontation with the Islamic world and perhaps China, cannot arrive too soon.</p><p>This clash of civilizations will be prosecuted in the homeland, too. Within the United States it will spawn the darkness endemic to all wars—sadism, hypermasculinity, blind obedience to authority, a belief in the efficacy of unrestrained violence, racism, hate crimes and the use of the organs of internal security and wholesale surveillance to crush all dissent and eradicate groups seen as opponents of authority. Those who orchestrate such crusades ultimately sacrifice themselves and their nations on the altars of the idols they worship. The conflict desired by Bannon and those around him could mean the extinction of the human race.</p><p>The paramilitary forces of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will hire 10,000 more agents, and the Border Patrol, which will hire 5,000 more agents, along with the Homeland Security Investigations unit of the Department of Homeland Security, have deputized local and state police to function as their auxiliaries. These paramilitary forces will not disband once they have finished terrorizing and deporting some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. They will turn on their next victims—Muslims, African-Americans, Asians and dissidents.</p><p>The paramilitaries relish their power to kick down doors while wearing body armor and pointing weapons at terrified women and children. They are not warriors, as they imagine, but goons. They have few actual skills. And they intend to remain steadily employed by the state. The for-profit prisons, reopened for business by Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man named not for one Confederate traitor but two, intend to remain full. The state will make America and the global community inhospitable for people of color and all those who attempt to stand with them.</p><p>Trump is stoking the darkest and most destructive strains of the American psyche. Congress, controlled by the Republicans, is unlikely to use impeachment powers to stop him. The courts are spineless subsidiaries of the corporate and security and surveillance state. The elites will not save us. If we fail to build mass protest movements, ones that cripple the ability to govern, we will be enslaved.</p><p>Sebastian Haffner (1907-1999) in his book “<a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/65458.Defying_Hitler" target="_blank">Defying Hitler</a>” describes being a law clerk at the Prussian Supreme Court. The courthouse was raided in March 1933 by Nazi thugs. They grabbed the Jewish judges and lawyers and hauled them outside; never would the jurists return to their posts. A Jewish attorney, a former army captain who had been wounded five times and lost an eye fighting in World War I, resisted. He was beaten. “It had probably been his misfortune that he still remembered the tone to use with mutineers,” Haffner wrote.</p><p>“I put my head down over my work,” Haffner went on. “I read a few sentences mechanically: ‘The defendant’s claim that … is untrue, but irrelevant. …’ Just take no notice!”</p><p>A brown shirt approached him and asked: “Are you <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Aryan" target="_blank">Aryan</a>?</p><p>Haffner shot back, “Yes.”</p><p>“A moment too late I felt the shame, the defeat,” he wrote. “I had said ‘Yes! Well, in God’s name, I was indeed an ‘Aryan.’ I had not lied, I had allowed something much worse to happen. What a humiliation, to have answered the unjustified question as to whether I was ‘Aryan’ so easily, even if the fact was of no importance to me! What a disgrace to buy, with a reply, the right to stay with my documents in peace! I had been caught unawares, even now. I had failed my very first test.”</p><p>Haffner left the Kammergericht, Prussia’s highest state court, and stood outside.</p><p>“There was nothing to show that, as an institution, it has just collapsed,” he wrote. “There was also nothing about my appearance to show that I had just suffered a terrible reverse, a defeat that would be almost impossible to make good. A well-dressed young man walked down Potsdamer Street. There was nothing untoward about the scene. Business as usual, but in the air the approaching thunder of events to come.”</p> Mon, 27 Feb 2017 09:56:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1072968 at http://www.alternet.org Immigration Immigration The Right Wing muslim ban religious tests immigration America Is Awash in Fake News http://www.alternet.org/media/america-awash-fake-news <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Viewers and readers can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_441724267.jpg?itok=jPFu-wsN" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The media landscape in America is dominated by “fake news.” It has been for decades. This fake news does not emanate from the Kremlin. It is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry that is skillfully designed and managed by public relations agencies, publicists and communications departments on behalf of individuals, government and corporations to manipulate public opinion. This propaganda industry stages pseudo-events to shape our perception of reality. The public is so awash in these lies, delivered 24 hours a day through electronic devices and print, that viewers and readers can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction.</p><p>Donald Trump and the racist-conspiracy theorists, generals and billionaires around him inherited and exploited this condition, just as they have inherited and will exploit the destruction of civil liberties and collapse of democratic institutions. Trump did not create this political, moral and intellectual vacuum. It created him. It created a world where fact is interchangeable with opinion, where celebrities have huge megaphones simply because they are celebrities, where information must be entertaining and where we can all believe what we want to believe regardless of truth. A demagogue like Trump is what you get when you turn culture and the press into burlesque. </p><p>Journalists long ago gave up trying to describe an objective world or give a voice to ordinary men and women. They became conditioned to cater to corporate demands. News personalities, who often make millions of dollars a year, became courtiers. They peddle gossip. They promote consumerism and imperialism. They chatter endlessly about polls, strategies, presentation and tactics or play guessing games about upcoming presidential appointments. They fill news holes with trivial, emotionally driven stories that make us feel good about ourselves. They are incapable of genuine reporting. They rely on professional propagandists to frame all discussion and debate.</p><p>There are established journalists who have spent their entire careers repackaging press releases or attending official briefings or press conferences—I knew several when I was with The New York Times. They work as stenographers to the powerful. Many such reporters are highly esteemed in the profession.</p><p>The corporations that own media outlets, unlike the old newspaper empires, view news as simply another revenue stream. Revenue streams compete inside a corporation. When the news division does not make what is seen as enough profit, the ax comes down. Content is irrelevant. The courtiers in the press, beholden to their corporate overlords, cling ferociously to their privileged and well-compensated perches. Because they slavishly serve the interests of corporate power, they are hated by America’s workers, whom they have rendered invisible. They deserve the hate they get.</p><p>Most of the sections of a newspaper—“life style,” travel, real estate and fashion, among others—are designed to appeal to the “1 percent.” They are bait for advertising. Only about 15 percent of any newspaper is devoted to news. If you were to remove from that 15 percent the content provided by the public relations industry inside and outside government, news falls to single digits. For broadcast and cable news, the figure for real, independently reported news would hover close to zero.</p><p>The object of fake news is to shape public opinion by creating fictional personalities and emotional responses that overwhelm reality. Hillary Clinton, contrary to how she often was portrayed during the recent presidential campaign, never fought on behalf of women and children—she was an advocate for the destruction of a welfare system in which 70 percent of the recipients were children. She is a tool of the big banks, Wall Street and the war industry. Pseudo-events were created to maintain the fiction of her concern for women and children, her compassion and her connections to ordinary people. Trump never has been a great businessman. He has a long history of bankruptcies and shady business practices. But he played the fictional role of a titan of finance on his reality television show, “The Apprentice.”</p><p>“The pseudo-events which flood our consciousness are neither true nor false in the old familiar senses,” <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Daniel-J-Boorstin" target="_blank">Daniel Boorstin</a> writes in his book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.” “The very same advances which have made them possible have also made the images—however planned, contrived, or distorted—more vivid, more attractive, more impressive, and more persuasive than reality itself.”</p><p>Reality is consciously deformed to easily digestible sound bites and narratives. Those involved in public relations, political campaigns and government stay relentlessly on message. They do not deviate from the simple sound bite or cliché they are instructed to repeat. It is a species of continuous baby talk. And it dominates the news and talk shows on the airwaves.</p><p>“The refinements of reason and shading of emotion cannot reach a considerable public,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/08/16/specials/bernays-obit.html" target="_blank">Edward Bernays</a>, the father of modern public relations, noted cynically.</p><p>The rapid-fire, abbreviated format of television precludes complexities and nuance. Television is about good and evil, black and white, hero and villain. It makes us confuse induced emotions with knowledge. It reinforces the mythic narrative of American virtue and goodness. It pays homage through carefully selected “experts” and “specialists” to the power elites and the reigning ideology. It shuts out, discredits or ridicules all who dissent.</p><p>Is the Democratic establishment so clueless it believes its party lost the presidential election because of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podesta_emails" target="_blank">leaked John Podesta emails</a> and FBI Director <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/29/us/politics/fbi-hillary-clinton-email.html" target="_blank">James Comey’s decision</a>, shortly before the vote, to send a letter to Congress related to Clinton’s private email server? Can’t the Democratic leadership see that the root cause of the defeat was that it abandoned workers in order to promote corporate interests? Doesn’t it understand that although its lies and propaganda worked for three decades, Democrats eventually lost credibility among those they had betrayed?</p><p>The Democratic establishment’s outrage over the email leak to the website WikiLeaks ignores the fact that such disclosure of damaging information is a tactic routinely used by the U.S. government and other governments, including Russia’s, to discredit individuals and entities. It is a staple of press coverage. No one, even within the Democratic Party, has made a convincing case that the Podesta emails were fabricated. These emails are real. They cannot be labeled fake news. </p><p>As a foreign correspondent, I was routinely given leaked, sometimes classified, information by various groups or governments seeking to damage certain targets. The national intelligence agency of Israel, the Mossad, told me about a small airport owned by the Iranian government outside of Hamburg, Germany. I went to the airport and wrote <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/15/world/nuclear-trail-special-report-vast-smuggling-network-feeds-iran-s-arms-program.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">an investigative piece</a> that found that, as the Israelis had correctly informed me, Iran was using it to break down nuclear equipment, ship it to Poland, reassemble it and send it on transport planes to Iran. The airport was shut down after my exposé.</p><p>In another instance, the U.S. government gave me documents showing that an important member of the Cypriot parliament and his law firm were laundering money for the Russian mafia. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/15/world/cyprus-shores-wash-dirty-money.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">My story</a> crippled the law firm’s legitimate business and prompted the politician to sue The New York Times and me. Times lawyers chose not to challenge the suit in a Cypriot court, saying they could not get a fair trial there. They told me that, to avoid arrest, I should not visit Cyprus again.</p><p>I could fill several columns with examples like these.</p><p>Governments do not leak because they care about democracy or a free press; they leak because it is in their interest to bring down someone or something. In most cases, because the reporter verifies the leaked information, the news is not fake. It is when the reporter does not verify the information—as was the case when The New York Times uncritically reported the Bush administration’s false charge that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—that he or she becomes part of the vast fake news industry.</p><p>Fake news is now being used in an attempt to paint independent news sites, including Truthdig, and independent journalists as witting or unwitting agents of Russia. Elites of the Republican and Democratic parties are using fake news in an attempt to paint Trump as a stooge of the Kremlin and invalidate the election. No persuasive evidence for such accusations has been made public. But the fake news has become the battering ram in the latest round of Red baiting.</p><p>In a <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/heres_the_washington_posts_response_letter_to_20161208">Dec. 7 letter to Truthdig</a>, a lawyer for The Washington Post, which printed an article Nov. 24 about allegations that Truthdig and some 200 other websites had been tools of Russian propaganda, said that the article’s author, Craig Timberg, knows the identity of the anonymous accusers at PropOrNot, a group that made the charges. [Editor’s note: The lawyer wrote, in part, concerning the Nov. 24 story and PropOrNot, “The description in the Article was based on substantial reporting by Mr. Timberg, including numerous interviews, background checks of specific individuals involved in the group (whose identities were known to Timberg, contrary to your speculation). …”] The Post says it has to protect PropOrNot’s anonymity. It passed along a false accusation without evidence. The victims in this case cannot respond adequately because the accusers are anonymous. Those who are smeared are told that they should appeal to PropOrNot to get their names removed from the group’s “blacklist.” The circular reasoning gives credibility to anonymous groups that draw up blacklists and fake news as well as to the lies they disseminate. </p><p>The 20th century’s cultural and social transformation, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/mar/06/ep-thompson-unconventional-historian" target="_blank">E.P. Thompson</a> wrote in his essay “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” has turned out to be much more than the embrace of an economic system or the celebration of patriotism. It is, he pointed out, part of a revolutionary reinterpretation of reality. It marks the ascendancy of mass culture and the destruction of genuine culture and genuine intellectual life.</p><p><a href="http://www.richardsennett.com/site/senn/templates/home.aspx?pageid=1&amp;cc=gb" target="_blank">Richard Sennett</a>, in his book “The Fall of the Public Man,” identified the rise of mass culture as one of the prime forces behind what he termed a new “collective personality … generated by a common fantasy.” And the century’s great propagandists would not only agree but would add that those who can manipulate and shape those fantasies determine the directions taken by the “collective personality.”</p><p>This huge internal pressure, hidden from public view, makes the production of good journalism and good scholarship very, very difficult. Those reporters and academics who care about the truth and don’t back down are subjected to subtle and at times overt coercion and often are purged from institutions. </p><p>Images, which are how most people now ingest information, are especially prone to being made into fake news. Language, as the cultural critic <a href="http://neilpostman.org/" target="_blank">Neil Postman</a> wrote, “makes sense only when it is presented as a sequence of propositions. Meaning is distorted when a word or sentence is, as we say, taken out of context; when a reader or a listener is deprived of what was said before and after.” Images do not have a context. They are “visible in a different way.” Images, especially when they are delivered in long, rapid-fire segments, dismember and distort reality. The condition “recreates the world in a series of idiosyncratic events.”</p><p>Michael Herr, who covered the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, observed that the images of the war presented in photographs and on television, unlike the printed word, obscured the brutality of the conflict. “Television and news were always said to have ended the war,” Herr said. “I thought the opposite. These images were always seen in another context—sandwiched in between commercials, so that they became a <a href="https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/blancmange" target="_blank">blancmange</a> in the public mind. I think if anything, the blancmange coverage prolonged the war.”</p><p>A populace divorced from print and bombarded by discordant and random images is robbed of the vocabulary as well as the historical and cultural context to articulate reality.  Illusion is truth. A whirlwind of emotionally driven cant feeds our historical amnesia.</p><p>The internet has accelerated this process. It, along with cable news shows, has divided the country into antagonistic clans. Members of a clan watch the same images and listen to the same narratives, creating a collective “reality.” Fake news abounds in these virtual slums. Dialogue is shut down. Hatred of opposing clans fosters a herd mentality. Those who express empathy for “the enemy” are denounced by their fellow travelers for their supposed impurity. This is as true on the left as it is on the right. These clans and herds, fed a steady diet of emotionally driven fake news, gave rise to Trump.</p><p>Trump is adept at communicating through image, sound bites and spectacle. Fake news, which already dominates print and television reporting, will define the media under his administration. Those who call out the mendacity of fake news will be vilified and banished. The corporate state created this monstrous propaganda machine and bequeathed it to Trump. He will use it.</p> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 11:36:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1069147 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media fake news prop or not washington post media media criticism Chris Hedges Fearlessly Tells His Own 'Forbidden' Stories http://www.alternet.org/books/chris-hedges-fearlessly-tells-his-own-forbidden-stories <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist tells how he saw firsthand &quot;how the elites and the children of the elites treated those &#039;beneath them.&#039;&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-11-04_at_1.42.24_pm.png?itok=u6BcnCyl" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>The following is an excerpt from the new book</em> <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Chris-Hedges/dp/1510712739/?tag=alternorg08-20" target="_blank">Unspeakable: Chris Hedges on the Most Forbidden Topics in America</a><em>, by Chris Hedges in conversation with the founder and former editor in chief of</em> Salon<em>, David Talbot</em><em>, published here with permission from Hot Books, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. </em></p><p><strong>The Making of a Radical</strong></p><p><strong><em>What made you a radical? </em></strong></p><p>It’s a combination of factors—including my personality type. I grew up in a literate household, in a farm town of 2,000 people in upstate New York called Schoharie. My mother, when I was a kid, was a teacher and ended up becoming an English professor. My father was a World War II army veteran—he had been a cryptographer in the North Africa, Palestine and Iran—and a Presbyterian minister. They were very involved in the 1960s in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. My dad took my younger sister and me to protests. </p><p>Dr. Martin Luther King, especially in rural white enclaves, was at the time one of the most hated men in America. Standing up for racial justice in a town where there were no people of color was unpopular. My father, who left the army largely a pacifist, hated war and the military. He told me that if the Vietnam War was still being waged when I was eighteen and I was drafted, he would go to prison with me. To this day I have images of sitting in a prison cell with my dad. </p><p>My father was, finally, a vocal and early supporter of the gay rights movement. His youngest brother was gay. He understood the pain of being a gay man in America in the 1950s and 1960s. The rest of my father’s family disowned my uncle. We were the only family my uncle and his partner had. My father’s outspokenness about gay rights defied the official policy of the Presbyterian Church. </p><p>By the time I was in college at Colgate University, my father had a church in Syracuse. When he found that Colgate, which was an hour from Syracuse, had no gay and lesbian organization he brought gay speakers to the campus. My father encouraged the gay and lesbian students to form a formal campus organization. They were too intimidated—not surprising given Colgate’s outsized football program and fraternity system—to do so. This was a problem my dad solved by one day taking me to lunch and telling me, although I was not gay, that I had to found the school’s gay and lesbian group—which I did. I used to go into the dining hall and the checker would take my card and had it back to me with saying “faggot.” </p><p>I saw my father, who I admired immensely, attacked for taking what were moral stances—stances that defied the institutional church where he worked and the values of the community in which we lived. I understood at a young age that you are not rewarded for virtue. Virtue must be its own reward. I saw that when you do what is right it is not easy or pleasant. You make enemies. Indeed, if you take a moral stance and there is no cost, it is probably not that moral. This was a vital lessen to learn as a boy. It prepared me for how the world works. I saw that when you stood with the oppressed you were usually treated like the oppressed. And this saved me from disillusionment. I saw my father suffer—he was a very gentle and sensitive man—when he was attacked. And here personality comes into play. I was born with an innate dislike for authority—my mother says that part of the reason she agreed to send me to boarding school was because I was “running the house”—and thrived on conflict. My father did not. He paid a higher emotional price for defiance. </p><p><strong><em>Where were you sent to school? </em></strong></p><p>I was given a scholarship to attend a boarding school, or pre-prep school, in Deerfield, Massachusetts, called Eaglebrook when I was 10. I went to Loomis-Chaffee, an exclusive boarding school—the Rockefellers went there—after Eaglebrook. The year I graduated from Loomis-Chaffee, John D. Rockefeller III was our commencement speaker. </p><p>Boarding school made me acutely aware of class. There were about 180 boys at Eaglebrook, but only about ten percent were on scholarship. Eaglebrook was a school for the sons of the uber-rich. I was keenly aware of my “lower” status as a scholarship student. I saw how obscene wealth and privilege fostered a repugnant elitism, a lack of empathy for others and a sense of entitlement. </p><p>C. Wright Mills understood how elites replicate themselves. The children of the elites are, as Mills pointed out in <em>The Power Elite</em>, shaped not so much by the curriculum of exclusive schools but by intimate relationships with teachers, who often went to the same schools and prep schools, and by each other. This acculturation takes place through sports teams, school songs and rituals, shared experiences, brands and religious observances, usually Episcopalian. These experiences are often the same experiences of the boys’ fathers and grandfathers. It molds the rich into a vast extended fraternity that, because of these unique experiences, are able to communicate to each other in a subtle code. No one outside this caste knows how to speak in this code. This is what Gatsby finds out. He can never belong. </p><p><strong><em>Who were some of the names you went to school with? </em></strong></p><p>The Mellons, the Buckleys, the Scrantons, the Bissell family, the son of the former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and others. A friend of mine’s father owned Cartier’s jewelers, along with K-Mart and other businesses. I was at the estate of Governor Bill Scranton, who was the Republican governor of Pennsylvania and later a UN ambassador, and watched him come home from work in a helicopter. I had never seen an indoor swimming pool that big. </p><p>The rich have disdain for anyone who does not belong to their inner circle. They believe that their wealth and privilege is conferred upon them because of their superior attributes. They define themselves not by what they are in private—in private they are usually bastards—but by the public persona created for them by publicity. They see their possessions and power, which in most cases they inherited, as natural and proper because they believe they are inherently better than others. Balzac said that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. He got that right. </p><p>All these families—the Mellons, the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, the Morgans—started out as gangsters. They hired gun thugs to murder union organizers and strikers. We had the bloodiest labor wars in the industrialized world. Hundreds of workers were killed. Tens of thousands were blacklisted. These oligarchic families pillaged, looted and ruthlessly shut down competitors. Their grandsons were sitting next to me in class at Eaglebrook in their school blazers, which by the way could only be purchased at Lord and Taylor. </p><p>The refinement of the rich is a veneer. They can afford good manners because they use others—including the machinery of state—to carry out their dirty work. They often know the names of the great authors and artists, but they are culturally and intellectually bankrupt. They are consumed by gossip, a pathological yearning for status and obsessed by brands and possessions—mansions, yachts, cars, gourmet food, clothes, jewelry or vacations at exclusive resorts. They epitomize the cult of the self and the unchecked hedonism that defines a consumer society. They talk mostly about money—the money they made, the money they are making and the money they will make. They are philistines. </p><p>My mother’s family was from Maine. I spent most of my summers with her family, fishing and hunting. They were working class. My grandfather worked in a post office. One of my uncles—who had fought in the South Pacific in World War II—came back destroyed physically and psychologically. We did not have an understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He suffered alone. He was an alcoholic and lived in a trailer. He worked in my great-uncle’s lumber mill. But this was only because he was family. Once he was paid, he often disappeared to drink away his paycheck. He reappeared when his money ran out. Another uncle, who was the soul of decency, was a plumber. Many of my relatives, especially my grandfather, were quite intelligent. But none of them had much of an education. My grandfather had to drop out of high school to work his sister’s farm after her husband died. </p><p>Going back and forth between that world of an elite prep school and this mill town in Maine—Mechanic Falls—I realized that in terms of native intelligence and aptitude, there were people in my family who were as gifted as anyone in my prep school. The difference was that they, like most of the working poor, were never given a chance. And that is what it means to be poor in America. You don’t get a chance while the rich get chance after chance after chance. </p><p>Look at George W. Bush, a man of limited intelligence and dubious morals. He was a drunk, a cocaine addict, went AWOL from his National Guard unit, and never really held much of a job until he was 40. And he ends up as president. Affirmative action is alive and well, at least for the rich. They know how to take care of their own. And it does not matter how mediocre they are. </p><p><strong><em>You obviously were closely observing your fellow students’ in their native habitats. When you speak of their “disdain” you mean the attitude that these rich kids had toward their servants? </em></strong></p><p>Yes, I watched how the elites and the children of the elites treated those “beneath” them. I saw my classmates—boys of eleven or twelve—order around adults who were their servants, cooks and chauffeurs. It was appalling. The rich lack empathy for those who are not also rich. Their selfishness makes friendship, even among themselves, almost impossible. Friendship for them is defined as “what’s in it for me.” They are conditioned from a young age to kneel before the cult of the self. I do not trust the rich. To them everyone is part of their elite club or, essentially, the help. It does not matter how liberal or progressive they claim to be. I would go back to Maine and it would break my heart. I knew what my classmates thought of people like my relatives. I also knew where I came from. I knew whose side I was on. And I have never forgotten. My family was a great gift. They kept me grounded. </p><p><strong><em>Did your rich friends ever visit you where you lived? </em></strong></p><p>No.</p><p><strong><em>Is that because you didn’t want them to? </em></strong></p><p>(<em>Pauses</em>) Probably. I’ve never thought about it. I didn’t see my family very much. My father worked on the weekends. I used to go to New York with a friend of mine —this is the boy whose father owned Cartier’s. His father would send the Rolls Royce down on Friday with the chauffeur so we could go to New York for the weekend. There wasn’t really the opportunity for me to have friends over. I lived several hours from the school. But I felt it. When my father picked me up in his old Dodge Dart, classmates would be getting into their limousines. </p><p><strong><em>Were you embarrassed? </em></strong></p><p>I don’t know that I was embarrassed, but I was conscious of it. I didn’t like these people. I didn’t want to have a limousine, but you were once again called out as the scholarship kid. The world of the rich is very hierarchical. It is built on gradations of wealth. Some scholarship kids, maybe most, desperately wanted to join the elites—that’s the story of Gatsby. They were terrible conformists, aping the manners and attitudes of rich classmates. I loathed the rich. </p><p><strong><em>Why do you think your parents—who were from modest backgrounds and were involved in social activism—sent you to privileged schools like this? </em></strong></p><p>There were a few reasons. My father was at war with the local public school authorities. We had in our community a group of very poor, mixed-race people—probably a mix of white, Indian and black, known in racist slang as <em>sloughters</em>. They lived in remote areas outside the village. When the kids from these families got into trouble—and this gets back to my point about how the poor at best get one chance – the principal expelled them. The only person these families could turn to was my father, the local minister. My father hated the principal, who was destroying the lives of these children by denying them an education. So my father was finally banned from entering the school— I think they put a restraining order on him. He was not violent, but he could get angry, especially when children were being hurt. </p><p>My mother was teaching in a neighboring village. My parents transferred my sister to her school. I was sent to boarding school, something I never considered for my own children. It was out of Dickens. The youngest boys were bullied by older boys. I fought back, which meant they usually left me alone. I was, however, in a few fights. I still have chipped teeth and once ended up in the hospital with internal bleeding. Boys that did not fight back were crushed. My closest friend at Eaglebrook, a sensitive and sweet boy who should have never been sent to boarding school, committed suicide as a teenager. He may have been gay. The bullying was an accepted part of the culture. Boys were supposed to be tough, not to whine or complain. They were expected to stand up for themselves, to become “men.” </p><p>I knew about a half dozen boys who were molested by teachers. These schools, where boys and teachers interacted in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in the dining halls and in the dormitories were a paradise for pedophiles. The response of the school was always the same—cover it up. When I was about twelve, my room was next to the apartment of the teacher—we called them masters—on our dorm floor. After lights out at 9:30, he would usher a boy down the hall into his apartment. When we came back from Christmas that year, he and the boy had disappeared. No one said a word. These boarding schools are as culpable in hiding and perpetuating sexual abuse as the Catholic Church. </p><p>My father had grown up with old money, although by the time he was an adult the money was gone. He came from an established family—his ancestors settled East Hampton, New York in 1650—so he knew the world of prep schools. He always wore Brooks Brothers suits, although they were an extravagant expense for a Presbyterian minister. He knew the culture of the elites and had contacts among them. I was also gifted academically. Education was important in our family. There was the assumption that these schools would provide a superior education. </p><p><strong><em>So after prep school, you continue your elite education at Colgate? </em></strong></p><p>Yes, but when I went to Colgate, it was not what it is now. When I went, because I was a resident of New York State, there was generous state scholarship money for students like me. There was a New York State program for lower income students called Tuition Assistance Program. There were regent scholarships. I pretty much went to Colgate for free. About 60 percent of the kids at Colgate were on scholarship. Since then, it has become an elite outpost of places such as Greenwich, Connecticut—but it wasn’t like that when I was there. It was a healthier place. I was quite happy there. I had been a very good long distance runner in high school and expected to run in college. My coach had gone to Colgate. It was the only school I applied to. My career as a runner was cut short by injuries. I ended up doing a lot of theater in college, especially Shakespeare. </p><p><strong><em>You graduate from Colgate in 1979 and go on to Harvard Divinity School—at that time did you </em></strong><strong><em>think you would follow in your father’s footsteps and become a minister? </em></strong></p><p>Yes, although by nature I was a writer. I dictated stories to my mother and she typed them when I was four and five. I always loved books. I wrote stories and poems until I was a teenager. I started an underground newspaper that was eventually banned. When Loomis-Chaffee launched a campaign to raise a few hundred thousand dollars to renovate the chapel, I went up to the squalid living quarters of the kitchen workers although students were forbidden. I took pictures and wrote a story about the conditions endured by the kitchen staff. I waited until the commencement issue to publish it for maximum embarrassment. It worked. The living quarters were renovated. The kitchen staff chipped in to put up a small plaque in my honor. It was an early lesson about the social good that journalism could accomplish. </p><p>At Colgate, I had gotten a job the summer after my junior year as an unpaid intern on the House Subcommittee for International Development. I wrote a case study of the corporation Gulf &amp; Western and how it was breaking the unions that were organizing against their sweatshops in the Dominican Republic. Union organizers were being routinely assassinated. Gulf &amp; Western eventually sent a couple guys in suits to meet with the Congressman Michael Harrington, and I was fired from my unpaid internship. I hastily collected $220 dollars from the other interns and hitchhiked to Miami. I flew to the Dominican Republic. I wrote up the story and it was set to appear in the Outlook section of the <em>Washington Post</em>. But Gulf &amp; Western, which owned Paramount Pictures, threatened to pull advertising and the paper killed it. I got it published in <em>The Christian Science Monitor</em>. </p><p>I loved reporting and writing. But I couldn’t reconcile American journalism’s supposed objectivity and neutrality with the imperative of social justice. At Colgate, I had been very influenced by my religion professor, Coleman Brown, who had worked in East Harlem as a minister. And there was my father. I decided I would be an inner city minister. </p><p>I moved across the street from a housing project in the Roxbury section of Boston and ran a church for two-and-a-half years. I commuted to Cambridge to go to divinity school. But I never stopped writing. Writing, for me, is like breathing. </p><p><strong><em>What were some of the issues you were dealing with in Roxbury? </em></strong></p><p>Racism. Violence. Poverty. Homelessness. Rape. Prostitution. Domestic and child abuse. Drug and alcohol addiction. Police violence. Mass incarceration. Welfare. Probation. Failed schools. </p><p>I preached on Sunday and ran a youth group. I missed classes almost every Friday because I was in juvenile court. I didn’t understand institutional racism until then, all the ways society keeps the poor <em>poor</em>. And I had never experienced this level of human suffering, especially the hell endured by people addicted to substances. Poverty, as George Bernard Shaw wrote, is “the worst of crimes. All the other crimes are virtues beside it.” Roxbury put race at the center of my understanding of America. </p><p>Roxbury is also where I developed my deep dislike for liberals. I was a Presbyterian seminarian, but the church had abandoned the poor with white flight. My classmates at Harvard Divinity School sat around talking about empowering people they’d never met. They liked the poor, but they didn’t like the smell of the poor. They would pick coffee for two weeks in Nicaragua with the Sandinistas and spend the rest of the semester talking about it—but they wouldn’t ride 20 minutes on the Green Line to where people were being warehoused like animals. I grew increasingly disenchanted with the liberal church and with liberal institutions like Harvard Divinity School. I decided I’d be an inner city cop. I took the police civil service exam. </p><p><strong><em>Why a cop? </em></strong></p><p>Because I saw that a good cop could make a difference. We had a few. </p><p><strong><em>This is Adam Walinsky’s line, who became an advisor to urban police departments after working as a young Senate aide to Bobby Kennedy. He spent years trying to get the police to function more as inner city social workers. </em></strong></p><p>Exactly. About 60 percent of all police calls are for domestic disputes. There was this one cop, he was white and his wife was black. He cared—most of them didn’t. So I took the exam, there were 50 openings in the department at the time. Kevin White was the mayor. It later came out in his FBI indictment that he gave 48 of the jobs to the children of his cronies in South Boston. It was nepotism. It was rigged. I didn’t get the job, even though I scored 98 percent. </p><p><em>This has been an adapted excerpt from</em> <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Chris-Hedges/dp/1510712739/?tag=alternorg08-20" target="_blank">Unspeakable: Chris Hedges on the Most Forbidden Topics in America</a><em>, by Chris Hedges in conversation with the founder and former editor in chief of</em> Salon<em>, David Talbot</em><em>, published here with permission from Hot Books, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. </em></p> Sun, 06 Nov 2016 02:59:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Hot Books 1066559 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books chris hedges The Right-Wing Empire Strikes Back in Latin America http://www.alternet.org/world/right-wing-latin-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This isn&#039;t Che Guevara territory anymore.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/624335090_b59c01f979_z.jpg?itok=MpRlQSbu" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A decade ago left-wing governments, defying Washington and global corporations, took power in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador. It seemed as if the tide in Latin America was turning. The interference by Washington and exploitation by international corporations might finally be defeated. Latin American governments, headed by charismatic leaders such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, won huge electoral victories. They instituted socialist reforms that benefited the poor and the working class. They refused to be puppets of the United States. They took control of their nations’ own resources and destinies. They mounted the first successful revolt against <a href="http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376" target="_blank">neoliberalism</a> and corporate domination. It was a revolt many in the United States hoped to emulate here.</p><p>But the movements and governments in Latin America have fallen prey to the dark forces of U.S. imperialism and the wrath of corporate power. The tricks long practiced by Washington and its corporate allies have returned—the black propaganda; the manipulation of the media; the bribery and corruption of politicians, generals, police, labor leaders and journalists; the legislative coups d’état; the economic strangulation; the discrediting of democratically elected leaders; the criminalization of the left; and the use of death squads to silence and disappear those fighting on behalf of the poor. It is an old, dirty game.</p><p>President Correa, who earned enmity from Washington for granting political asylum to <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/julian-assange-just-began-his-fifth-year-inside-the-ecuadorian-embassy/" target="_blank">Julian Assange</a> four years ago and for closing the United States’ <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/18/AR2009091803407.html" target="_blank">Manta military air base</a> in 2009, warned recently that a new version of Operation Condor is underway in Latin America. Operation Condor, which operated in the 1970s and ’80s, saw thousands of labor union organizers, community leaders, students, activists, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, journalists and artists tortured, assassinated and disappeared. The intelligence chiefs from right-wing regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and, later, Brazil had overseen the campaigns of terror. They received funds from the United States and logistical support and training from the Central Intelligence Agency. Press freedom, union organizing, all forms of artistic dissent and political opposition were abolished. In a coordinated effort these regimes brutally dismembered radical and leftist movements across Latin America. In Argentina alone 30,000 people disappeared.</p><p>Latin America looks set to be plunged once again into a period of dictatorial control and naked corporate exploitation. The governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, which is on the brink of collapse, have had to fight off right-wing coup attempts and are enduring economic sabotage. The Brazilian Senate impeached the democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. Argentina’s new right-wing president, Mauricio Macri, bankrolled by U.S. hedge funds, promptly repaid his benefactors by handing $4.65 billion to four hedge funds, including Elliott Management, run by billionaire Paul Singer. The <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2016/03/29/how-one-hedge-fund-made-2-billion-from-argentinas-economic-collapse/" target="_blank">payout to hedge funds</a> that had bought Argentine debt for pennies on the dollar meant that Singer’s firm made $2.4 billion, an amount that was 10 to 15 times the original investment. The previous Argentine government, under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had refused to pay the debt acquired by the hedge funds and acidly referred to them as “vulture funds.”</p><p>I <a href="https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/361351-neoliberalism-latin-america-development/" target="_blank">interviewed Guillaume Long</a>, Ecuador’s minister of foreign affairs and human mobility, for my show “On Contact” last week. Long, who earned a doctorate from the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London, called at the United Nations for the creation of a global tax regulatory agency. He said such an agency should force tax-dodging corporations, which the International Monetary Fund estimates costs developing countries more than $200 billion a year in lost revenue, to pay the countries for the natural resources they extract and for national losses stemming from often secret corporate deals. He has also demanded an abolition of overseas tax havens.</p><p>Long said the neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s and ’90s were profoundly destructive in Latin America. Already weak economic controls were abandoned in the name of free trade and deregulation. International corporations and banks were given a license to exploit. “This deregulation in an already deregulated environment” resulted in anarchy, Long said. “The powerful people had even less checks and balances on their powers,” he said.</p><p>“Neoliberalism is bad in most contexts,” Long said when we spoke in New York. “It’s been bad in Europe. It’s been bad in other parts of the world. It has dismantled the welfare state. In the context where we already have a weak state, where institutions are not consolidated, where there are strong feudal remnants, such as in Latin America, where you don’t really have a strong social contract with institutions, with modernity, neoliberalism just shatters any kind of social pact. It meant more poverty, more inequality, huge waves of instability.”</p><p>Countries saw basic services, many already inadequate, curtailed or eliminated in the name of austerity. The elites amassed fortunes while almost everyone else fell into economic misery. The political and economic landscape became unstable. Ecuador had seven presidents between 1996 and 2006, the year in which Correa was elected. It suffered a massive banking crisis in 1999. It switched the country’s currency to the U.S. dollar in desperation. The chaos in Ecuador was mirrored in countries such as Bolivia and Argentina. Argentina fell into a depression in 1998 that saw the economy shrink by 28 percent. Over 50 percent of Argentines were thrust into poverty.</p><p>“Latin America,” Long said, “hit rock bottom.”</p><p>It was out of this neoliberal morass that the left regrouped and took power.</p><p>“People came to terms with that moment of their history,” Long said. “They decided to rebuild their societies and fight foreign interventionism and I’d even say imperialism. To this day in Latin America, the main issue is inequality. Latin America is not necessarily the poorest continent in the world. But it’s certainly the most unequal continent in the world.”</p><p>“Ecuador is an oil producer,” Long said. “We produce about 530,000 barrels of oil a day. We were getting 20 percent royalties on multinationals extracting oil. Now it’s the other way around. We pay multinationals a fee for extractions. We had to renegotiate all of our oil contracts in 2008 and 2009. Some multinationals refused to abide by the new rules of the game and left the country. So our state oil company moved in and occupied the wells. But most multinationals said OK, we’ll do it, it’s still profitable. So now it’s the other way around. We pay private companies to extract the oil, but the oil is ours.”</p><p>Long admitted that there have been serious setbacks, but he insisted that the left is not broken.</p><p>“It depends on how you measure success,” he said. “If you’re going to measure it in terms of longevity, and how long these governments were in power—in our case we’re still in power, of course, and we’re going to win in February next year—then you’re looking at, more or less in Venezuela 17 years [that leftist governments have been in power], in Ecuador now 10, and in Argentina and Brazil it’s 13.”</p><p>“One of the critiques aimed at the left is they’re well-meaning, great people with good ideas but don’t let them govern because the country will go bust,” he said. “But in Ecuador we had really healthy growth rates, 5 to 10 percent a year. We had lots of good economics. We diversified our economy. We moved away from importing 80 percent of energy to [being] net exporters of electricity. We’ve had big reforms in education, in higher education. Lots of things that are economically successful. Whereas neoliberal, orthodox economics was not successful in the previous decade.”</p><p>Long conceded that his government had made powerful enemies, not only by granting political asylum to Assange in its embassy in London but by taking Chevron Texaco to court to try to make it pay for the ecological damage its massive oil spills caused in the Amazon, where the company drilled from the early 1960s until it pulled out in 1992. It left behind some 1,000 toxic waste pits. The oil spills collectively were 85 times the size of the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico and 18 times the size of the spill from the <a href="http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/oil-and-chemical-spills/significant-incidents/exxon-valdez-oil-spill" target="_blank">Exxon Valdez</a>. An Ecuadorean court ordered Chevron Texaco to pay $18.2 billion in damages, an amount later reduced to $9.5 billion. The oil giant, however, has refused to pay. Ecuador has turned to international courts in an attempt to extract the money from the company.</p><p>Long said that the different between the massive oil spills elsewhere and the Ecuadorean spills was that the latter were not accidental. “[They were done] on purpose in order to cut costs. They were in the middle of the Amazon. Normally what you’d do is extract the oil and you’d have these membranes so that it doesn’t filter through into the ground. They didn’t put in these membranes. The oil filtered into the water systems. It <a href="http://amazonwatch.org/work/chevron" target="_blank">polluted all of the Amazon</a> River system. It created a huge sanitary and public health issue. There were lots of cancers detected.”</p>Long said his government was acutely aware that Chevron Texaco has “a lot of lobbying power in the United States, in Wall Street, in Washington.”<p>“There are a lot of things we don’t see,” he said of the campaign to destabilize his government and other left-wing governments. “Benefits we could reap, investments we don’t get because we’ve been sovereign. In the case of [Ecuador’s closing of the U.S.] Manta air base, we’d like to think the American government understood and it was fine. But it was a bold move. We said ‘no more.’ We declared it in our constitution. We had a new constitution in 2008. It was a very vibrant moment of our history. We created new rules of the game. It’s one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. It actually declares the rights of nature. It’s the only constitution that declares the rights of nature, not just the rights of man. We made Ecuadorean territory free of foreign military bases. There was no other way. But there are consequences to your actions.”</p><p>One of those consequences was an abortive coup in September 2010 by members of the Ecuadorean National Police. It was put down by force. Long charged that many of the Western NGO’s in Ecuador and throughout the region are conduits for money to right-wing parties. Military and police officials, along with some politicians, have long been on the CIA’s payroll in Latin America. President Correa in 2008 dismissed his defense minister, army chief of intelligence, commanders of the army and air force, and the military joint chiefs, saying that Ecuador’s intelligence systems were “totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA.”</p><p>“There is an international conspiracy right now, certainly against progressive governments,” he said. “There’s been a few electoral setbacks in Argentina, and Venezuela is in a difficult situation. The media frames it in a certain way, but, yes, sure, Venezuela is facing serious trouble. There’s an attempt to make the most of the fall of prices of certain commodities and overthrow [governments]. We just saw a parliamentary coup in Brazil. [President Rousseff had been] elected with 54 million votes. The Labor Party in Brazil [had] been in power for 13 years. The only way they [the rightists] managed to get rid of it was through a coup. They couldn’t do it through universal suffrage.”</p><p>Long said that even with the political reverses suffered by the left it will be difficult for the rightists to reinstate strict neoliberal policies.</p><p>“You have a strong, disputed political ground between a traditional right and a radical left,” he said. “A radical left, which has proved it can reduce poverty, it can reduce inequality, it can run the economy, well, it’s got young cadres that have been [government] ministers and so on. I reckon that sooner or later it will be back in power.”</p><p>Corporate leviathans and the imperialist agencies that work on their behalf are once again reshaping Latin America into havens for corporate exploitation. It is the eternal story of the struggle by the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich, the powerless against the powerful, and those who would be free against the forces of imperialism.</p><p>“There are no boundaries in this struggle to the death,” <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/che-guevara-9322774" target="_blank">Ernesto “Che” Guevara</a> said. “We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, for a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory; just as any country’s defeat is a defeat for all of us.”</p><p> </p> Sat, 08 Oct 2016 07:26:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1064823 at http://www.alternet.org World The Right Wing World latin america right wing world ecuador venezuela We Must Understand How the Nazis Succeeded and Corporations Now Operate in Order to Fight Back http://www.alternet.org/economy/we-must-understand-corporate-power-fight-it <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Education is indoctrination.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-06-13_at_4.38.07_pm.png?itok=oGKKmItF" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In the winter of 1941, a Jewish gravedigger from Chelmo, the western province of Poland, appeared in Warsaw and desperately sought a meeting with Jewish leaders.</p><p>He told them the Nazis were rounding up Jews, including the old, women and children, and forcing them into what looked like tightly sealed buses. The buses had the exhaust pipes redirected into the cabins. The Jews were killed with carbon monoxide. He had helped dig the mass graves for thousands of corpses until he escaped.</p><p>On the way to Warsaw, he had gone from village to village, frantically warning the Jews. Scores of Jews, in the villages and ultimately in Warsaw, heard his testimony of horror and dismissed it.</p><p>A handful of listeners, however, including <a href="http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lubetkin-zivia" target="_blank">Zivia Lubetkin</a>, who two years later would help lead the uprising by 500 armed Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, instantly understood the ultimate aims of the Nazi state.</p><p>“I don’t know how we intuitively shared the same horrible conviction that the total annihilation of all the Jewish communities in Nazi-occupied Europe was at hand,” she wrote in her memoir, “In the Days of Destruction and Revolt.”</p><p>She and a handful of young activists started planning a revolt. From that moment forward, they existed in a parallel reality.</p><p>“We walked along the overcrowded streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, hundreds of thousands of people pushing and rushing about in fright, antagonistic and tense, living the illusion that they were fighting for their lives, their meager livelihood, but, in reality, when you closed your eyes you could see that they were all dead …”</p><p>The established Jewish leadership warned the resistance fighters to desist, telling them to work within the parameters set by the Nazi occupiers. The faces of the established Jewish leaders, when they were informed of the plans to fight back, she wrote, “grew pale, either from sudden fear or from anger at our audacity. They were furious. They reproached us for irresponsibly sowing the seeds of despair and confusion among the people, for our impertinence in even thinking of armed resistance.”</p><p>The greatest problem the underground movement faced, she wrote, was “the false hope, the great illusion.” The movement’s primary task was to destroy these illusions. Only when the truth was known would widespread resistance be possible.</p><p>The aims of the corporate state are, given the looming collapse of the ecosystem, as deadly, maybe more so, as the acts of mass genocide carried out by the Nazis and Stalin’s Soviet Union.</p><p>The reach and effectiveness of corporate propaganda dwarfs even the huge effort undertaken by Adolf Hitler and Stalin. The layers of deception are sophisticated and effective. News is state propaganda. Elaborate spectacles and forms of entertainment, all of which ignore reality or pretend the fiction of liberty and progress is real, distract the masses.</p><p>Education is indoctrination. Ersatz intellectuals, along with technocrats and specialists, who are obedient to neoliberal and imperial state doctrine, use their academic credentials and erudition to deceive the public. </p><p>The promises made by the corporate state and its political leaders—we will restore your jobs, we will protect your privacy and civil liberties, we will rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, we will save the environment, we will prevent you from being exploited by banks and predatory corporations, we will make you safe, we will provide a future for your children—are the opposite of reality.</p><p>The loss of privacy, the constant monitoring of the citizenry, the use of militarized police to carry out indiscriminate acts of lethal violence—a daily reality in marginal communities—and the relentless drive to plunge as much as two-thirds of the country into poverty to enrich a tiny corporate elite, along with the psychosis of permanent war, presage a dystopia that will be as severe as the totalitarian systems that sent tens of millions to their deaths during the reigns of fascism and communism.</p><p>There is no more will to reform, or to accommodate the needs and rights of the citizens by the corporate state, than there was to accommodate the needs and rights of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. But until the last moment, this reality will be hidden behind the empty rhetoric of democracy and reform. Repressive regimes gradually institute harsher and harsher forms of control while denying their intentions. By the time a captive population grasps what is happening, it is too late.</p><p>The elaborate ruses set up by the Nazis that kept Jews and others slated for extermination passive until they reached the doors of the gas chambers, usually decorated with a large Star of David, were legend. Those taken to death camps were told they were going to work. Unloading ramps at <a href="http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ar/treblinka.html" target="_blank">Treblinka</a> were made to look like a train station, with fabricated train schedules posted on the walls and a fake train clock and ticket window. Camp musicians played. The elderly and infirm were escorted from the cattle cars to a building called the infirmary, with the Red Cross symbol on it, before being shot in the back of the head. Men, women and children, who would die in the gas chambers within an hour, were given tickets for their clothes and valuables.</p><p>“The Germans were quite courteous when they led people to be slaughtered,” Lubetkin noted acidly.</p><p>Jews in ghettos, awaiting deportation to the death camps, were divided by those who worked for the Nazis and therefore had certain privileges, and those who did not. This division effectively pitted the two groups against each other until the final deportations. And collaborating with the killers, in the vain hope that they would be spared, were Jews themselves, organized into Jewish Councils, or Judenrat, and formed into units of the Jewish police, along with what Lubetkin called “their cronies, the spectators and profiteers, the smugglers.”</p><p>In the death camps, Jews, to stay alive a little longer, worked in the crematoriums as sonderkommandos. There are always those among the oppressed willing to sell out their neighbor for a few more crusts of bread. As life becomes desperate, the choice is often between collaboration and death.</p><p>Our corporate masters know what is coming. They know that as the ecosystem breaks down, as financial dislocations create new global financial meltdowns, as natural resources are poisoned or exhausted, despair will give way to panic and rage.</p><p>They know coastal cities will be covered by rising sea levels, crop yields will plummet, soaring temperatures will make whole parts of the globe uninhabitable, the oceans will become dead zones, hundreds of millions of refugees will flee in desperation, and complex structures of governance and organization will break down.</p>They know that the legitimacy of corporate power and neoliberalism—as potent and utopian an ideology as fascism or communism—will crumble. The goal is to keep us fooled and demobilized as long as possible.<p>The corporate state, operating a system <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sheldon_wolin_and_inverted_totalitarianism_20151101">Sheldon Wolin</a> referred to as “inverted totalitarianism,” invests tremendous sums—$5 billion in this presidential election alone—to ensure that we do not see its intentions or our ultimate predicament.</p><p>These systems of propaganda play on our emotions and desires. They make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. They get us to identify with the manufactured personality of a political candidate. Millions wept at the death of Josef Stalin, including many who had been imprisoned in his gulags. There is a powerful yearning to believe in the paternal nature of despotic power.</p><p>There are cracks in the edifice. The loss of faith in neoliberalism has been a driving force in the insurgencies in the Republican and Democratic parties. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, of course, will do nothing to halt the corporate assault. There will be no reform. Totalitarian systems are not rational. There will only be harsher forms of repression and more pervasive systems of indoctrination and propaganda. The voices of dissenters, now marginalized, will be silenced.</p><p>It is time to step outside of the establishment. This means organizing groups, including political parties, that are independent of the corporate political machines that control the Republicans and Democrats.</p><p>It means carrying out acts of sustained civil disobedience. It means disruption.</p><p>Our resistance must be nonviolent. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, condemned to imminent death and alienated from a Polish population steeped in anti-Semitism, had no hope of appealing to the Nazi state or most of the Poles.</p><p>But we still have options. Many who work within ruling class structures understand the corruption and dishonesty of corporate power. We must appeal to their conscience. We must disseminate the truth.</p><p>We have little time left. Climate change, even if we halt all carbon emissions today, will still bring rising temperatures, havoc, instability and systems collapse to much of the planet.</p><p>Let us hope we never have to make the stark choice, as most of the ghetto fighters did, about how we will die. If we fail to act, however, this choice will one day define our future, as it defined theirs.</p> Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:36:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1058262 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy corporations Violence Begets Violence: How Sometimes the U.S. Acts Like the Islamic State http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/violence-begets-violence-how-sometimes-us-acts-islamic-state <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The United States needs to answer for its own human rights violations. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/6312396507_3006000cc4_z.jpg?itok=CHQS-VjJ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Revenge is the psychological engine of war. Victims are the blood currency. Their corpses are used to sanctify acts of indiscriminate murder. Those defined as the enemy and targeted for slaughter are rendered inhuman. They are not worthy of empathy or justice. Pity and grief are felt exclusively for our own. We vow to eradicate a dehumanized mass that embodies absolute evil. The maimed and dead in Brussels or Paris and the maimed and dead in Raqqa or Sirte perpetuate the same dark lusts. We all are Islamic State.</p><p>“From violence only violence is born,” Primo Levi wrote, “following a pendular action that, as time goes by, rather than dying down, becomes more frenzied.”</p><p>The tit-for-tat game of killing will not end until exhaustion, until the culture of death breaks us emotionally and physically. We use our drones, warplanes, missiles and artillery to rip apart walls and ceilings, blow out windows and kill or wound those inside. Our enemies pack peroxide-based explosives in suitcases or suicide vests and walk into airport terminals, concert halls, cafes or subways and blow us up, often along with themselves. If they had our technology of death they would do it more efficiently. But they do not. Their tactics are cruder, but morally they are the same as us. <a href="http://www.pbs.org/lawrenceofarabia/players/lawrence.html" target="_blank">T.E. Lawrence</a> called this cycle of violence “the rings of sorrow.”</p><p>The Christian religion embraces the concept of “holy war” as fanatically as Islam does. Our Crusades are matched by the concept of jihad. Once religion is used to sanctify murder there are no rules. It is a battle between light and dark, good and evil, Satan and God. Rational discourse is banished. And “the sleep of reason,” as Goya said, “brings forth monsters.”</p><p>Flags, patriotic songs, a deification of the warrior and sentimental drivel drown out reality. We communicate in empty clichés and mindless, patriotic absurdities. Mass culture is used to reinforce the lie that we are the true victims. It re-creates the past to conform to the national heroic myth. We alone are said to possess virtue and courage. We alone have the right to revenge. We are hypnotized into a communal somnolence, a state-induced blindness.</p><p>Those we fight, lacking our industrial machines of death, kill up close. But killing remotely does not make us less morally deformed. Long-distance killing, epitomized by drone operators at Air Force bases within the United States who go home for dinner, is as depraved. These technicians make the vast machinery of death operate with a terrifying clinical sterility. They depersonalize industrial war. They are the “little <a href="https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005179" target="_blank">Eichmanns</a>.” This organized bureaucracy of killing is the most enduring legacy of the Holocaust.</p><p>“The mechanized, rational, impersonal, and sustained mass destruction of human beings, organized and administered by states, legitimized and set into motion by scientists and jurists, sanctioned and popularized by academics and intellectuals, has become a staple of our civilization, the last, perilous, and often repressed heritage of the millennium,” Omer Bartov wrote in <em>Murder in Our Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing and Representation</em>.</p><p>We torture kidnapped captives, many held for years, in black sites. We carry out <a href="http://www.cfr.org/counterterrorism/targeted-killings/p9627" target="_blank">“targeted assassinations”</a> of so-called high-value targets. We abolish civil liberties. We drive millions of families from their homes. Those who oppose us do the same. They torture and behead—replicating the execution style of the Christian Crusaders—with their own brand of savagery. They rule as despots. Pain for pain. Blood for blood. Horror for horror. There is a fearsome symmetry to the madness. It is justified by the same religious perversion. It is the same abandonment of what it means to be humane and just.</p><p>As psychologist Rollo May wrote:</p><blockquote><p>At the outset of every war … we hastily transform our enemy into the image of the daimonic; and then, since it is the devil we are fighting, we can shift onto a war footing without asking ourselves all the troublesome and spiritual questions that the war arouses. We no longer have to face the realization that those we are killing are persons like ourselves.</p></blockquote><p>The killing and torture, the more they endure, contaminate the perpetrators and the society that condones their actions. They sever the professional inquisitors and killers from the capacity to feel. They feed the death instinct. They expand the moral injury of war.</p><p>Twenty-two veterans of U.S. military service commit suicide every day. They do it without an explosives belt. But they share, with suicide bombers, the overpowering urge to be rid of the world and the sordid role they had in it.<br /><br />“It is better to suffer certain injustices than to commit them,” <a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1957/camus-bio.html" target="_blank">Albert Camus</a>, like Immanuel Kant, understood. But the politicians, pundits and mass culture dismiss such wisdom as weakness. Those who speak with sanity, like Euripides when he produced his anti-war masterpiece <em>The Trojan Women</em>, are reviled and banished.</p><p>Who are we to condemn the indiscriminate murder of civilians? Have we forgotten our bombing of German and Japanese cities in World War II that left 800,000 civilian women, children and men dead? What about those families we obliterated in Dresden (135,000 dead), Tokyo (97,000 dead), Hiroshima (80,000 dead) and Nagasaki (66,000 dead)? What about the 3 million civilian dead we left behind in Vietnam?</p><p>We dropped 32 tons of bombs per hour on North Vietnam between 1965 and 1968—hundreds of Hiroshimas. And, as Nick Turse writes in his book <em>Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam</em>, this tonnage does not count the “millions of gallons of chemical defoliants, millions of pounds of chemical gases, and endless canisters of napalm; cluster bombs, high-explosive shells, and daisy-cutter bombs that obliterated everything within a ten-football-field diameter; antipersonnel rockets, high-explosive rockets, incendiary rockets, grenades by the millions, and myriad different kinds of mines.”</p><p>Have we forgotten the millions who died in our wars and proxy wars in the Philippines, Congo, Laos, Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, El Salvador and Nicaragua? Have we forgotten the 1 million dead in Iraq and the 92,000 dead in Afghanistan? Have we forgotten the nearly 8 million people we have driven from their homes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria?</p><p>There have been <a href="http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2016/03/24/air-force-f-16s-fly-most-sorties-against-isis-b-1s-drop-most-bombs/82212394/" target="_blank">87,000</a> coalition <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sortie" target="_blank">sorties</a> over Iraq and Syria since the air campaign against Islamic State began. This is the newest chapter in our endless war against the wretched of the earth.</p><p>How can we rise up in indignation over Islamic State’s destruction of cultural monuments <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23" target="_blank">such as Palmyra</a> when we have left so many in ruins? As Frederick Taylor points out in his book <em>Dresden</em>, during the World War II bombing of Germany we destroyed countless “churches, palaces, historic buildings, libraries, museums,” including “Goethe’s house in Frankfurt” and “the bones of Charlemagne from Aechen cathedral” along with “the irreplaceable contents of the four-hundred-year-old State Library in Munich.” Does anyone remember that in a single week of bombing during the Vietnam War we obliterated most of that country’s historic <a href="http://www.travel-tramp.com/my-son-temple-vietnam/" target="_blank">My Son temple complex</a>? Have we forgotten that our invasion of Iraq led to the burning of the National Library, the looting of the National Museum and the construction of a military base on the site of the ancient city of Babylon? Thousands of archeological sites have been destroyed because of the wars we spawned in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya.We perfected the technique of aerial mass murder and wholesale destruction that we call “carpet bombing,” “saturation bombing,” “area bombing,” “obliteration bombing,” “mass bombing” or, in its latest version, “shock and awe.” We created, through our national wealth, the managerial systems and technology that the sociologist James William Gibson calls “technowar.” What were the attacks of 9/11 but an answer to the explosions and death we inflicted on towns and cities around the globe? Our attackers spoke to us in the demented language we taught them. They, like the attackers in Paris and Brussels, knew exactly how we communicate.</p><p>The merchants of death, the arms manufacturers, are among the few who profit. Most of the rest of us are caught in a cycle of violence that will not cease until we end the U.S. occupation of the Middle East, until we learn to speak in a language other than the primitive howl of war, death and annihilation. We will recover a humane language when we have had enough, when there are too many of our own dead for us to sustain the game. The victims will continue to be mostly innocents, trapped between killers that come from the same womb.</p> Wed, 30 Mar 2016 12:24:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1053607 at http://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights World torture human rights ISIL chris hedges war cost of war Chris Hedges: How One City Is Revolting Against Corporate Takeover http://www.alternet.org/investigations/chris-hedges-how-one-city-revolting-against-corporate-takeover <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Chris Hedges investigates the ways in which a radical city councilman and a civil rights attorney counteract the takeover of Salinas, CA by a multi-million dollar industry.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/salinas_ca_homelessness.jpg?itok=p5ICrvQC" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Editor's note: This epidosode agricultural corporations, in particular in Salinas, California and their effect on communities and grassroots democratic movements with host Chris Hedges, Jose Castaneda, an independent radical city councilperson and Anthony Prince, an attorney who has been working with groups in Salinas to fight back against the power of big business.</p><p>WATCH: The full segment below:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/AIs7dzv8GAg" width="560"></iframe></p><p>HEDGES: So, Jose, let's begin by talking about what's happened in your city. You are home to some of the largest agricultural corporations, not only in the country but in the world.</p><div><div>JOSE CASTANEDA: Yes. We have, it's an $8 billion industry, just to put it into perspective.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: You're talking about nationally.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Well, this is locally. This is the latest Business Journal that came in the last quarter. And [we] are an international market, now. What we have experienced is a lot of low wages continue to be the case.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: What do they produce, primarily?</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: This is lettuce, iceberg lettuce. We have strawberries, as well.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Driscoll is there, right, which is huge.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Driscoll's one of the major ag-business as well, Taylor Farms, Tanimura and Antle. There's a long list of these agriculture--what I call agriculture empire within the county. And it's an international market, now.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Whole parts of your city have, in essence, been destroyed by these corporations. Perhaps you can give us a picture of what's happened and what it looks like.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: I can tell you, the $8 billion industry has controlled, directly and indirectly, the politics. We can go into history. For example, John Steinbeck's writings of In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath, Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats, just pick any novel and you'll see how the, the Depression, as well as oppression in regards to the worker--.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: We should be clear that Steinbeck was based in Salinas, right?</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: That is absolutely right. Until Steinbeck was banned, and his books were burned and he had to come to New York, as well, and finish a lot of his work there. That same lineage has continued to control the, the governance system as well, as a state. And it continues to be the case in 2015. I have experienced that myself, even running as an independent.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: We should be clear, when you were elected, it used to be under the old rules that any city council member could bring an issue to be discussed at the council.'</div><div> </div><div>And because they knew that you would be bringing issues that they did not want discussed they just rechanged--changed the rules. Perhaps you can explain what happened.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Sure. You're absolutely correct. And the last time there was any type of rule change it was 1994. Once I defeated two candidates that were part of the status quo horses in this race, we had a 30-day waiting period, which was a certification of election results. So one week before I took the oath of office at the city council, those rules were already being changed, with the action of the old council. And that's implemented as rules of the quorum. It was a buddy--so-called buddy system, where you needed at least two council members at a minimum to agree to put any item on the agenda. Of course, what has affected, historically, my district area, which is considered the East Salinas, or the Alisal, as drawn and depicted in John Steinbeck's books, where you have more--half of the major--half of the population in a concentrated five-mile radius. And that's where you have the housing issues, water issues, crime.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: And let's, let's talk a little bit about the role of automation now within fields--and perhaps you can describe that, and how that has now created this huge homeless population.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Well, it's no secret what happened with Detroit and automation, and with the auto worker industry, and then the effects of the economy, as well. In Salinas we have a large labor--again, going back to the salad bowl of the world. Iceberg lettuce, for example, one of the biggest commodities that's being imported. And now you can go ahead with this ag technology, with agribusiness, where you have rows of lettuce, hundreds of acres, and you have the technology now to shoot out a laser jet water stream to precisely cut this lettuce. What does that do to the farm worker that's been there for generations, family after family, and what does that do to communities that I serve and that I have to look at [their], the best interest, as well? We're in, in fear of what has happened in Detroit, and we're already feeling those effects because of what happens with homelessness. When the day laborer self-medicates with alcohol after a 12, 14 hour workday, from sun-up to sundown, and then their livelihood is taken from a, a machine, what is to be expected? Again, we are the second--considered to these magazines, Forbes, considered and has put out a list of least-educated cities in the nation. Behind [Beaumont], Texas, we're the second, Salinas, California being the second-least educated city in the nation. So education's a major factor. The farm, the farmworking industry as well. And when automation comes in, they're not developed to go anywhere else other than homelessness and all these other microcosms.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: And I think before I talk to Anthony, one of the things that you were describing is how, in this kind of reconfiguration of the city, it becomes more and more like the third world, where you have obscene amounts of wealth concentrated in corporate headquarters, in a kind of small, gentrified area of affluence, and then huge sections of the city living in substandard conditions, or of course, homeless camps. And I think you've described one of these, was it Taylor Farms or something, building what you called a Taj Mahal? Or--.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: It's a luxury building that was built in the heart of, of Salinas, the old town part of it. So of course anyone that is up in the top floor, and if your panoramic view happens to be across from the railroad tracks, tent city, which is one of the home--in Chinatown, to be more precise. Which is the only Chinatown between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is in Salinas. That becomes blight to them. And of course you would have to look for some other efforts to, to, what they would call cleanups, in their humane way. I call them eradication efforts, of homelessness. This goes back to the, Steinbeck's writings exposing big agriculture companies and writings of In Dubious Battle, which was one of the first uprisings in the Salinas Valley, of, of homelessness organizing and mobilizing themselves in creating a revolt in regards to the big boss, or the big ag companies, the employer.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: So, Anthony, I know that you've been working as an attorney on this issue of the rights of the homeless in Salinas. Perhaps you can talk a little bit about the campaign against the homeless, and you know, your struggles to kind of bring some kind of restitution.</div><div> </div><div>ANTHONY PRINCE: Well, Chris, I would say that what's happening in Salinas is emblematic of what's happening in many cities across the United States, where it appears that in response to this deepening economic crisis--here in California, for example, there are 8 million people in poverty, at or below the poverty line, and the ranks of the homeless are expanding at an accelerated rate. Especially the establishment of these homeless encampments, where, as opposed to a single individual out there in the woods, we have tent after tent after tent, established communities where there is at least some modicum of safety, of community, self-supporting efforts of mutual assistance.</div><div> </div><div>And what we have in Salinas is an all-out attack, war has essentially been declared on the homeless. We see this in a number of other cities as well, but what's unique about Salinas is that a resistance has been organized. The homeless community, in particular the encampment that Jose mentioned, has been a longstanding community of--.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: How large is that encampment?</div><div> </div><div>PRINCE: Well, the total number of homeless in Salinas is somewhere around 2,000, perhaps more.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Out of, out of a population of what?</div><div> </div><div>PRINCE: 155,000. But that's, it's deceptive, because the actual count of homeless--again, I'm using figures that are the official, so-called, count. But we would think that the ranks of the homeless also include those that are staying, have no home of their own, and are sleeping on a floor.I would say that the ranks of the homeless are, are far in excess of the statistics. But even still, the statistics, the admitted numbers are, are staggering. So what they've essentially done is all but declared war. The, the city of Salinas issued, or enacted, an ordinance which essentially enables them to deprive the homeless of their property, to give them notice, which is ineffective. No opportunity to contest a seizure. The police roll up on these encampments. They usually make their raids when people are at the few kitchens and, and food outlets. They make their raids during breakfast time and lunchtime, so that the homeless are, are physically not able to even defend their, their tents and their meager possessions. So we filed a, a lawsuit in federal district court. We're seeking to restrain the city from going forward with the enforcement of these unconstitutional ordinances. But more important than the lawsuit is the fact that the community itself is organizing. The homeless leadership itself is organizing. And that's what the city fears most.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Can you talk a little bit about that, that grassroots organization? Which you are kind of a [inaud.]--you didn't run with a political party, you ran as an independent.</div><div>CASTANEDA: Right. It's, it's a base set up--it's very important to speak in, on this part here, Chris, because it can be done. And that starts immediately by being connected. Not disconnected, but connected to your own community, to the workforce, as well. What are the, the major issues that are, that are pressing? And that's what I've been doing for about 14 years that I've been in elected office. Eleven years on the school Board of Education, and now going into my fourth year, finishing my third year here on the city council. By the way, that I need to share, because this is an important factor as well and has helped me become a true representative and elected official, as well, that 3 out of 58 counties in the state of California happen to currently still fall under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It's a federal protected jurisdiction. Kings County, Yuba County, and Monterey County, which the city of Salinas resides in, being--and Salinas is one of the largest cities, is the largest city in the county, and that's what has given us district elections. So I represent the district election--with the grassroots movements we have been forming coalitions. Coalitions around education, around housing, around water rights, and now it's going to homelessness.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: So explain to us, you know, through this neoliberal project, what's happened in the city. What's happened to utilities like the water service. What's happened in the school system, which makes the kind of resistance that you've done an imperative? What's, what's going on there?</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Well, the, the water company, that is one of the major things they have pressed us to, to form our base. We have a local water company, it's called the Alco Water Company. Alisal Water Company. ALCO is the acronym. For the history of the Alisal, before it even annexed into the city of Salinas in 1963, they have major water violations. It was even a federal takeover, a receivership, of 90 percent of their water company. To this day--.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Violations. What were they?</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: They were fraudulent records. There was high nitrates in the water. Pesticides is a major thing, around our schools, around, around our communities. Keeping in mind that we are around agriculture, all over us. We're surrounded with agriculture. And, and the list ranges on. It went to federal court, a federal judge put sanctions on this water company. The water company--and a better explanation of this, Chris, is they should have disappeared from our community. To this day they remain in power. Even though 90 percent of the water company was taken away, they remain with 10 percent of it in the highest and most-dense populated part of the city, which is East Salinas. That's 80,000 people out of 155,000, living in a 5-mile radius. So what we did is we started doing public forums, educational and informational forums. And then we found out this is not only affecting our farm laborers as well, but it's affecting our schools. And we're continuing paying premium water rates, something of what Beverly Hills would pay, or even Monte Sereno-Los Gatos up in the Silicon Valley. And that was just not--it's a major injustice, as well. So we needed to go ahead and get into the school district, because the school district had power to bring law, or any legal action against the water company. Or any other entity that was abusing their power.</div><div>And that's what led us to not use--to, to go from speaking at the podium for two to three minutes, and then to be cut off and wait for your school board meeting to come back around the next month. You can do that twelve times out of the year and still get nowhere in the one-year period. So we said, the power's not at the podium. The power is to sit up there. But how do we get there? We need to remove, we need to cause a major interruption. We need to organize and mobilize that action. The quality with schooling is what, is another prime example of what happened. We were faced with low academics. We're faced with all of the other major stressors that are around the poor performance of students. You look at the subgroups, English--English-language learners, special education that's already designated with 10-15 percent of your student population, as well as overall Hispanic students. So when you're looking at three subgroups already, and that's according to the state contributed to low academics, we said, no. we don't agree with that. We have an $80 million budget. There's no reason why we should even accept that. So we can start making our own local decisions. First we're going to take over the school district. And that's what led to the recalls, and then running for election. [We were] outspent 20:1. We were successful. Some school board members resigned. But we didn't expect the next move. The next move happened to be that the state came and did a--for the first time in the nation, in any school district, there was a takeover not for, of fiscal mismanagement. It was done because of politics. And we were the first school district, the Alisal [Union] School District, to be taken over by the state board of education in California, the California Department of Education. And we had a receiver for about two years, a state trustee was appointed there. And that was a complete stripping of our power and authority because of these revolutionary type of actions.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Let me ask Anthony, I mean, from a legal perspective. Especially since within the court system, you know, whole sections of our court system are kind of wholly-owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. I mean, you have grassroots organizing, but then you have the misuse of the law on the part of the elites who are beholden to the big ag companies and large corporations. What are going to be the successful tactics by which when people rise up, as they did in Salinas, and then essentially have the law used against them to revoke the power that they have organized to gain. What, where do we go?</div><div> </div><div>PRINCE: Well, I'll give as an example what is happening with the issue of the voting rights. As you were discussing a moment ago with Jose, when he was elected to the city council, even before he was sworn in they changed the rules and created the buddy system. Well, that has been in effect for almost three years, and it has effectively prevented Jose from bringing to the city council for formal consideration the host of issues that we're speaking about today. So what we've done is we filed a federal voting rights claim against the city of Salinas. Our theory is that by stripping their elected representative of his ability to actually represent his constituents, 25,000 people in District 1 have been disenfranchised. And this was the approach that was taken going back to the Reconstruction period in our history, where after the Civil War, with the Reconstruction governments, many former slaves were elected to office. And at that time they were physically obstructed, these representatives, from going into thei legislative chambers. They were beaten, they were threatened. Well, those tactics are, are not used. But the tactic of stripping the elected representative of their ability to discharge their function is being used. So we have signed up 22 clients. I have 22 people in the city of Salinas, District 1 and other parts of the city, who are prosecuting--we want to file and expect to file our claim in federal district court this year. This is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and so we intend to celebrate that anniversary by filing what I believe and what I've been told by other experienced civil rights attorneys is the first lawsuit of this type, of a backdoor disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters by way of stripping their representative of authority. The other thing we're doing in terms of a response to how they used the law is that they are coming back with, as I said, this ordinance which is unconstitutional, depriving people of their property, forcing homeless people to walk around all day with their possessions on their backs, which they cannot do. So they can't move. Well, that's a violation of the constitutional right of freedom of travel. So we're hearkening back to some of these cases. We're saying that fundamental human rights are at stake here, and we have recourse in the courts as well. So we're going forward with these lawsuits. The civil rights front, the voting rights front, the human rights front. If I could say one more thing, Chris, that just emblematic of, of what we're doing here. Jose talked about this new advanced method to cut the lettuce, displacing [hypo]--theoretically thousands of workers. Well, one of the people who was killed, one of the young people that were part of the victims of the Salinas police department--.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: We should also mention that like other depressed communities, police violence, lethal police violence, is rampant in Salinas.</div><div> </div><div>PRINCE: It is. And every one of these killings, there were five individuals killed in a space of 14 months. This was before Ferguson. There was absolutely no effort by the city council to independently investigate these killings. Every one of them was whitewashed, and the police exonerated by the Monterey County district attorney.</div><div>One of the victims was a lettuce worker. He was on his way home with his knife, his lettuce knife, the tool of his trade. And he was killed. So the knife is being rendered--the lettuce knife is being rendered superfluous. And the worker is being rendered superfluous.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: And I think you told me that there was a, a person who did landscaping, who was also killed coming home with his shears.</div><div> </div><div>PRINCE: He was on his way home with his shears, his garden shears, which the press--stories in the media--and of course the media is completely controlled by, for the most part, by agribusiness. The leading television statement, KSPW, stands for Salad Bowl of the World. These, the general manager of that station has come on the air and editorialized seven times against Councilman Castaneda, because Castaneda is standing up against agribusiness. But yes, he was cut down by the Salinas police, and the media characterized in both cases, the lettuce knife and the garden shears, as being arms. The paper said these men were armed. Well, armed is a verb. It means that you've taken a weapon in order to do harm. These were the tools of the trade of these workers. And so what we're seeing in Salinas I think is a microcosm of the devaluation of life, because from the standpoint of the system, the economic system, these lives have no more value.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: You or Jose had mentioned about how now these agribusinesses, because they're worried about organizing, are building these encampments inside their enclosures for their workers.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Yes. Yes, I can elaborate on that. Recently--which, by the way, it's difficult to get anything moving, either through the city or through the county bureaucratic process. This was done in record-breaking time. It was an expedited item on the agenda at the county level, through one of the major ag empire businesses. And they built a 800 all-male facility, which they called--it was a smokescreen approach--as true farmworking housing. Well, it's--if we're going to be frank of what we're going to call it, it's a modern-day plantation. And that is 800 males coming in through a work visa, a worker visa program, into Monterey County, to create and sustain that production that has been lost. Immigration, the major federal discussion on immigration reform and however we want to go ahead and stand on that, these businesses are losing billions of dollars.</div><div> </div><div>So they wanted--this is the new approach. And this is what we need to keep an eye out for. And that's what the grassroots efforts is very helpful in as well. Now they're looking at building these plantations on their private property. And to ensure that the workforce is not going to go anywhere else.</div><div>HEDGES: Right, they're completely segregated.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: They're completely segregated. A community organizer like myself will never have the time or day or to be allowed to step on, foot on a private property. You can imagine the restraining order process would be granted from the judges that are already controlled by the agriculture empire and the court systems in the local courts there, as well. What about the health and welfare of these--after a long day. And of course the county and the city process over--we have an oversaturation of alcohol licenses within the culture here. You don't have the time or money to go see a medical physician. So alcohol abuse becomes one of the major stressors in our communities. And next thing you know, if you have an injury, you can't get a, a labor attorney to represent you. You can't even step foot into the grounds there. So most likely, that person will end up in Chinatown, in the homeless encampments. Which, by the way, there were 51 encampments that were eradicated within a short eight-month period. And the city continues to cover themselves by saying they invested $1.5 million in helping homelessness with shelters and other services that were rendered to them. Which is a farce.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: Right. Thank you, Anthony. Thank you, Jose.</div><div> </div><div>PRINCE: Thank you, Chris.</div><div> </div><div>CASTANEDA: Thank you, Chris.</div><div> </div><div>HEDGES: And thank you for watching Days of Revolt.</div><div> </div></div><p> </p> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 09:41:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, The Real News Network 1050442 at http://www.alternet.org Investigations Activism Human Rights Culture Economy Education Environment Investigations News & Politics Video california salinas agriculture civil rights Anti-corporate activism Chris Hedges: Why Many of America's Liberal Churches Are Committing Ethical Suicide http://www.alternet.org/belief/chris-hedges-why-many-americas-liberal-churches-are-committing-ethical-suicide <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The religious institutions that thrive preach the perverted prosperity gospel, the message that magic Jesus will make you rich.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_71761258-edited.jpg?itok=8FAR8gEZ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><a href="http://www.britannica.com/biography/Paul-Tillich" target="_blank">Paul Tillich</a> wrote that all institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic. <a href="http://www.britannica.com/biography/Reinhold-Niebuhr" target="_blank">Reinhold Niebuhr</a> asserted that no institution could ever achieve the morality of the individual. Institutions, he warned, to extend their lives when confronted with collapse, will swiftly betray the stances that ostensibly define them. Only individual men and women have the strength to hold fast to virtue when faced with the threat of death. And decaying institutions, including the church, when consumed by fear, swiftly push those endowed with this moral courage and radicalism from their ranks, rendering themselves obsolete.</p><p>The wisdom of Tillich and Niebuhr has been borne out in the precipitous decline of the liberal church and the seminaries and divinity schools that train religious scholars and clergy. Faced with shrinking or nonexistent endowments, mounting debts, dwindling memberships, a lack of employment for their graduates and growing irrelevancy in a society that has little use for tepid church piety and the smug arrogance that comes with it, these institutions have fallen into physical and moral decay. </p><p>The number of adults in the mainline Protestant churches—Presbyterian, Unitarian-Universalist, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Congregationalist—decreased from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. And the average age of the congregant is 52. The Catholic Church also is being decimated; its decline has been exacerbated by its decades-long protection of sexual predators within the priesthood and the Vatican’s relentless campaign, especially under John Paul II, to force out of the church priests, nuns and lay leaders who focused their ministries on the poor and the oppressed. The Catholic Church, which has lost 3 million members over the last decade, has seen its hold on the U.S. population fall to 21 percent from 24. </p><p>Mainline seminaries and divinity schools have been merging or closing, and enrollment at such schools has declined by 24 percent in the last decade. Andover-Newton is selling its campus and relocating, possibly to merge with Yale Divinity School. Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa., and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia plan to merge. Union Theological Seminary, where black liberation, feminist, womanist and queer theologies have their roots, appears to be on the verge of selling <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_rights" target="_blank">“air space”</a>to a developer to construct a luxury 35-to-40-story condominium building on its campus. General Theological Seminary in New York City, a school founded in 1817, has sold much of its property to developers, and it ended tenure for its faculty after the professors went out on strike to demand the removal of Dean and President Kurt Dunkle. Dunkle, who epitomizes the infusion of corporatism into the church, worked for many years as a lawyer doing commercial litigation before being ordained. </p><p>“What doomed General Seminary was not just financial mismanagement, but unethical leadership,” Rob Stephens, a third-year student for the ministry at Union and part of a student movement fighting Union’s building project, said when I spoke with him by phone. “That is what made the faculty walk out. The Union administration, board of trustees and all of us need to learn this lesson and put a halt to the project. The Union administration has said that Union, by building this luxury condominium, was being as bold as the original founders. This is one thing I can agree on. The original founders envisioned a place for privileged, white men. The original founders called abolitionism ‘fanaticism.’ The founders’ values won’t get us through this storm. Union is bigger than the administration and board. Union should be for all God’s people. If built, this luxury condominium would be a middle finger to Harlem. It would be a middle finger to faith-based social movements. </p><p>“This seminary has turned Black Lives Matter into a commodity,” he went on. “They sell this campus as being allied with Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements. But if we are readers of the Bible, we know that saying one thing and doing another leads to internal combustion. Inconsistency of values and actions can only lead to failure. As a seminary community, how can we have more faith in an unstable housing market than in the Gospel? You can’t reconcile luxury condominiums built by an anti-union contractor and no affordable housing with the gospel of Jesus. This is another example of mainline Christianity casting their lot with capitalism instead of community. When will we learn?”</p><p>The self-identified religious institutions that thrive preach the perverted “prosperity gospel,” the message that magic Jesus will make you rich, respected and powerful if you believe in him. Jesus, they claim, is an American capitalist, bigot and ardent imperialist. These sects selectively lift passages from the Bible to justify the unjustifiable, including homophobia, war, racism against Muslims, and the death penalty. Yet there are more students—2,067—at the evangelical Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary alone than at the divinity schools and seminaries of Yale, Harvard, Union, Vanderbilt and Chicago, whose combined enrollment is 1,537. </p><p>The doctrine these sects preach is Christian heresy. The Christian faith—as in the 1930s under Germany’s pro-Nazi Christian church—is being distorted to sanctify nationalism, unregulated capitalism and militarism. The mainstream church, which refuses to denounce these heretics as heretics, a decision made in the name of tolerance, tacitly gives these sects credibility and squanders the prophetic voice of the church. </p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/03/30/396365659/how-one-nation-didnt-become-under-god-until-the-50s-religious-revival" target="_blank">Kevin Kruse</a> in his book “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” details how industrialists in the 1930s and 1940s poured money and resources into an effort to silence the social witness of the mainstream church, which was home to many radicals, socialists and proponents of the New Deal. These corporatists promoted and funded a brand of Christianity—which is today dominant—that conflates faith with free enterprise and American exceptionalism. The rich are rich, this creed goes, not because they are greedy or privileged, not because they use their power to their own advantage, not because they oppress the poor and the vulnerable, but because they are blessed. And if we have enough faith, this heretical form of Christianity claims, God will bless the rest of us too. It is an inversion of the central message of the Gospel. You don’t need to spend three years at Harvard Divinity School as I did to figure that out.</p><p>The liberal church committed suicide when it severed itself from radicalism. Radical Christians led the abolitionist movement, were active in the <a href="https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Anti-Imperialist+League" target="_blank">Anti-Imperialist League</a>, participated in the bloody labor wars, fought for women’s suffrage, formulated the <a href="http://www.britannica.com/event/Social-Gospel" target="_blank">Social Gospel</a>—which included a huge effort to carry out prison reform and provide education to prisoners—and were engines in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Norman Thomas, a longtime leader of the Socialist Party of America, was a Presbyterian minister. </p><p>These radicals generally were not embraced by the church hierarchy, which served as a bulwark of the establishment, but they kept the church vital and prophetic. They made it relevant and important to the oppressed, the poor and to workingmen and -women. Radicals were and are its hope. </p><p>The loss of an array of prophetic voices on the national scene such as Phil and Daniel Berrigan, William Stringfellow, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr. left the liberal church as morally bankrupt as the rest of the liberal class. <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/james-baldwin-9196635" target="_blank">James Baldwin</a>, who grew up in the church and was briefly a preacher, said he abandoned the pulpit to preach the Gospel. The Gospel, he knew, was not heard most Sundays in Christian houses of worship. And today with most ministers wary of offending their aging and dwindling flocks—counted on to pay the clergy salary and the bills—this is even truer than when Baldwin was writing.</p><p>The church is also a victim of the disintegration of the civic associations that, as <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/alexis-de-tocqueville" target="_blank">Alexis de Tocqueville</a> observed, are vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy and the common good. <a href="http://books.simonandschuster.com/Bowling-Alone/Robert-D-Putnam/9780743203043" target="_blank">Robert Putnam</a> in his book “Bowling Alone” chronicled the broad disengagement from political and public life. He lamented, correctly, the loss of this “social capital.” Those who no longer join parents’ organizations, gardening and historical clubs or fraternal orders, who do not show up at town hall or city council meetings, also no longer attend church. There is little, given this cultural malaise—much of it driven by the constant availability of entertainment through the Internet and electronic devices—that the church can do to blunt the public’s retreat from public space. </p><p>What remains of the church, if it is to survive as a social and cultural force, will see clergy and congregants leave sanctuaries to work in prisons, schools, labor halls and homeless and women’s shelters, form night basketball leagues and participate in grass-roots movements such as the anti-fracking struggle and the fight to raise the minimum wage. This shift will make it hard to financially maintain the massive and largely empty church edifices, and perhaps even the seminaries, but it will keep the church real and alive. I had a dinner a few months ago with fellow teachers in the prison where I work. We discovered, to our surprise, that every one of us had seminary degrees.</p><p>William Stringfellow, who worked as a lawyer in Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s, in his book “My People Is the Enemy,” wrote of the church: </p><blockquote><p>The premise of most urban church work, it seems, is that in order for the Church to minister among the poor, the church has to be rich, that is, to have specially trained personnel, huge funds and many facilities, rummage to distribute, and a whole battery of social services. Just the opposite is the case. The Church must be free to be poor in order to minister among the poor. The Church must trust the Gospel enough to come among the poor with nothing to offer the poor except the Gospel, except the power to apprehend and the courage to reveal the Word of God as it is already mediated in the life of the poor. When the Church has the freedom itself to be poor among the poor, it will know how to use what riches it has. When the Church has that freedom, it will be a missionary people again in all the world.</p></blockquote><p>Stringfellow repeatedly warned Christians, as well as Christian institutions, not to allow the fear of death to diminish the power of Christian witness. Faith becomes real on the edge of the abyss. “In the face of death,” he wrote, “live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst Babel, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and efficacy of the Word of God.” </p><p>During the rise of the American species of corporate fascism—what Sheldon Wolin called <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sheldon_wolin_and_inverted_totalitarianism_20151101">“inverted totalitarianism”</a>—the liberal church, like the rest of the liberal establishment, looked the other way while the poor and workingmen and -women, especially those of color, were ruthlessly disempowered and impoverished. The church and liberals were as silent about the buildup of mass incarceration as they once were about lynching. The mainline church refused to confront and denounce the destructive force of corporate power. It placed its faith in institutions—such as the Democratic Party—that had long ceased to function as mechanisms of reform. </p><p>The church, mirroring the liberal establishment, busied itself with charity, multiculturalism and gender-identity politics at the expense of justice, especially racial and economic justice. It retreated into a narcissistic “how-is-it-with-me” spirituality. Although the mainline church paid lip service to diversity, it never welcomed significant numbers of people of color or the marginalized into their sanctuaries. The Presbyterian Church, for example, is 92 percent white. It pushed to the margins or sought to discredit <a href="https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Liberation+Theology" target="_blank">liberation theology</a>, which called out the evils of unfettered capitalism, white supremacy and imperialism. The retreat from radicalism—in essence the abandonment of the vulnerable to the predatory forces of corporate capitalism—created a spiritual void filled by protofascist movements that have usurped Christian symbols and provided a species of faith that is, at its core, a belief in magic. This Christian heresy is currently on public display at Donald Trump and Ted Cruz political rallies. </p><p>The last scenes of this decline are being played out at schools such as Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Tillich and Niebuhr taught at Union. America’s most important theologian, <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_gospel_of_the_peniless_jobless_marginalized_and_despised_20120109">James Cone</a>—who opposes the condominium building project on the campus—teaches there. </p><p>The president of the seminary, Serene Jones, says that unless part of the seminary’s quadrangle is handed over to the developer, the seminary will not have the funds to survive (although she and her administration have refused to make school finances public). If Jones gets her way, Union will become part of the vast gentrification project being waged against the poor, especially poor people of color, in Morningside Heights and West Harlem. </p><p>“With these development rights, we envision the creation of a beautiful, slender building that is visually in keeping with the neighborhood and that is set on the northeast end of the quad,” Jones <a href="https://utsnyc.edu/a-statement-on-unions-facilities/" target="_blank">wrote in an open letter</a> to the Union community last December. “We want our newest building to feel like it has always been part of the current campus. We chose this location after thorough analyses showed that this was the best, and only, suitable site.”</p><p>Union is working with the developer L+M Development Partners on construction plans. The firm has a history of hiring shady subcontractors—including MC&amp;O Construction (found guilty of stealing $830,000 in 2013 from workers on a project of <a href="http://www.nysafah.org/index.php" target="_blank">NYSAFAH</a>contractor Procida Realty &amp; Construction), RNC Industries LLC of Holtsville, N.Y. (repeatedly cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for unsafe working conditions that have led to fatalities), and Ro-Sal Plumbing (which settled, for a class-action complaint filed by workers over unpaid wages). </p><p>It is bad enough that Union would collaborate with companies charged with safety violations, workers’ compensation fraud and wage theft, but it is also abetting the driving of poor families, many of them of color, from their homes throughout the city. Apartment rents have risen in New York by 75 percent since 2000. The poor are being pushed out of neighborhoods around Union, in some cases into homeless shelters and the streets.</p><p>Students, and a few of Union’s faculty members, have risen up in opposition. They charge, in the words of first-year student Yazmine Nichols, whom I interviewed by phone, that “there is a lack of honesty and transparency on the part of the administration.”</p><p>“No one knows,” she told me, “how far along the plans are, whether there will be affordable housing units. All these things are question marks.</p><p> </p><p>“It is hard to get the school galvanized around something they [the students and faculty] have no information about,” she added. “And this is part of the administration’s plan—divide and conquer by not providing information. People are left guessing and speculating.</p><p>“We need to ask ourselves what it means to exist as a theological institution,” Nichols continued. “Are we truly existing if we do not hold onto the core values the institution is predicated on? This is a question about what it means to be a seminary geared to social justice. What does it mean when homeless people are sleeping outside seminary dormitories? With growing income inequality and a shrinking middle class, we must begin asking the question, ‘Affordable for whom?’ What we mean by ‘affordability’ is that housing ought to be affordable for people of color who fall at or below the NYC poverty line. What does it mean to worship God and theologize in a world where people are suffering? What does it mean for an institution to thrive in the presence of that suffering? What is the purpose of Union’s existence? For Union to exist with a luxury condominium is for Union not to exist at all, at least not the Union I applied to. Union may continue to exist physically, but the soul of Union will be gone.” </p><p>Fear has driven church and seminary leaders into the hands of those the Gospel condemns as exploiters of the poor and the oppressed. They have turned their backs on Christian radicals, who alone can infuse new life into the church. The institutions believe alliances with the powerful and the wealthy will save them. They are wrong. Once they stand for nothing they become nothing. </p><p>“There is a mourning among the declining members of mainline Christianity,” Rob Stephens, the Union student, said in the interview. “I don’t share that. The mainline churches, by which we mean white denominations, are responsible for many of our greatest social ills, including white supremacy and patriarchy. If those parts of mainline Christianity need to die for renewal to take place, we need to learn how to embrace that. There is no resurrection without death.”</p><p> </p> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 07:54:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1049517 at http://www.alternet.org Belief Belief hedges religion liberals culture Chris Hedges: If You're Poor, Justice in America Doesn't Look the Same http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/chris-hedges-if-youre-poor-justice-america-doesnt-look-same <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Being poor has become a crime. And this makes mass incarceration the most pressing civil rights issue of our era.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_79025953.jpg?itok=n31xp1Kc" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you are poor, you will almost never go to trial—instead you will be forced to accept a plea deal offered by government prosecutors. If you are poor, the word of the police, who are not averse to fabricating or tampering with evidence, manipulating witnesses and planting guns or drugs, will be accepted in a courtroom as if it was the word of God. If you are poor, and especially if you are of color, almost anyone who can verify your innocence will have a police record of some kind and thereby will be invalidated as a witness. If you are poor, you will be railroaded in an assembly-line production, from a town or city where there are no jobs, through the police stations, county jails and courts directly into prison. And if you are poor, because you don’t have money for adequate legal defense, you will serve sentences that are decades longer than those for equivalent crimes anywhere else in the industrialized world. </p><p>If you are a poor person of color in America you understand this with a visceral fear. You have no chance. Being poor has become a crime. And this makes mass incarceration the most pressing civil rights issue of our era. </p><p>The 10-part online documentary <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Making_a_Murderer" target="_blank">“Making a Murderer,”</a> by writer-directors Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, chronicles the endemic corruption of the judicial system. The film focuses on the case of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, who were given life sentences for murder without any tangible evidence linking them to the crime. As admirable as the documentary was, however, it focused on a case where the main defendant, Avery, had competent defense. He was also white. The blatant corruption of, and probable conspiracy by, the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin and then-Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz is nothing compared with what goes on in the well-oiled and deeply cynical system in place in inner-city courts. The accused in poor urban centers are lined up daily like sheep in a chute and shipped to prison with a startling alacrity. The attempts by those who put Avery and Dassey behind bars to vilify them further after the release of the film misses the point: The two men, like most of the rest of the poor behind bars in the United States, did not receive a fair trial. Whether they did or did not murder Teresa Halbach—and the film makes a strong case that they did not—is a moot point.  </p><p>Once you are charged in America, whether you did the crime or not, you are almost always found guilty. Because of this, as many activists have discovered, the courts already are being used as a fundamental weapon of repression, and this abuse will explode in size should there be widespread unrest and dissent. Our civil liberties have been transformed into privileges—what Matt Taibbi in <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/1/who_goes_to_jail_matt_taibbi" target="_blank">“The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap”</a> calls “conditional rights and conditional citizenship”—that are, especially in poor communities, routinely revoked. Once rights become privileges, none of us are safe.      </p><p>In any totalitarian society, including an American society ruled by its own species of <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sheldon_wolin_and_inverted_totalitarianism_20151101">inverted totalitarianism</a>, the state invests tremendous amounts of energy into making the judicial system appear as if it functions impartially. And the harsher the totalitarian system becomes, the more effort it puts into disclaiming its identity. The Nazis, as did the Soviet Union under Stalin, broke the accused down in grueling and psychologically crippling interrogations—much the same way the hapless and confused Dassey is manipulated and lied to by interrogators in the film—to make them sign false confessions. Totalitarian states need the facade of justice to keep the public passive. </p><p>The <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/jan/15/the-injustice-system-part-two-tyra-patterson-trial-michelle-lai-dayton-ohio-us-prisons" target="_blank">Guardian newspaper reported</a>: “The <a href="http://www.innocenceproject.org/causes-wrongful-conviction/false-confessions-or-admissions" target="_blank">Innocence Project</a> has kept detailed records on the 337 cases across the [United States] where prisoners have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing since 1989. The group’s researchers found that false confessions were made in 28 percent of all the DNA-related exonerations, a striking proportion in itself. But when you look only at homicide convictions—by definition the most serious cases—false confessions are the leading cause of miscarriages of justice, accounting for a full 63% of the 113 exonerations.”</p><p>“[T]he interrogator-butcher isn’t interested in logic,” <a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1970/solzhenitsyn-bio.html" target="_blank">Alexander Solzhenitsyn</a> writes in “The Gulag Archipelago,” “he just wants to catch two or three phrases. He knows what he wants. And as for us—we are totally unprepared for anything. From childhood on we are educated and trained—for our own profession; for our civil duties; for military service; to take care of our bodily needs; to behave well; even to appreciate beauty (well, this last not really all that much!). But neither our education, nor our upbringing, nor our experience prepares us in the slightest for the greatest trial of our lives: being arrested for nothing and interrogated about nothing.” </p><p>If the illusion of justice is shattered, the credibility and viability of the state are jeopardized. The spectacle of court, its solemnity and stately courthouses, its legal rituals and language, is part of the theater. The press, as was seen in the film, serves as an echo machine for the state, condemning the accused before he or she begins trial. Television shows and movies about crime investigators and the hunt for killers and terrorists feed the fictitious narrative. The reality is that almost no one who is imprisoned in America has gotten a trial. There is rarely an impartial investigation. <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/11/20/why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/" target="_blank">A staggering 97 percent</a> of all federal cases and 95 percent of all state felony cases are resolved through plea bargaining. Of the 2.2 million people we have incarcerated at the moment—25 percent of the world’s prison population—2 million never had a trial. And significant percentages of them are innocent.</p><p>Judge Jed S. Rakoff in an article in The New York Review of Books titled <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/11/20/why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/" target="_blank">“Why Innocent People Plead Guilty”</a> explains how this secretive plea system works to thwart justice. Close to 40 percent of those eventually exonerated of their crimes originally pleaded guilty, usually in an effort to reduce charges that would have resulted in much longer prison sentences if the cases had gone to trial. The students I teach in prison who have the longest sentences are usually the ones who demanded a trial. Many of them went to trial because they did not commit the crime. But if you go to trial you cannot bargain away any of the charges against you in exchange for a shorter sentence. The public defender—who spends no more than a few minutes reviewing the case and has neither the time nor the inclination to do the work required by a trial—uses the prospect of the harshest sentence possible to frighten the client into taking a plea deal. And, as depicted in “Making a Murderer,” prosecutors and defense attorneys often work as a tag team to force the accused to plead guilty. If all of the accused went to trial, the judicial system, which is designed around plea agreements, would collapse. And this is why trial sentences are horrific. It is why public attorneys routinely urge their clients to accept a plea arrangement. Trials are a flashing red light to the accused: DO NOT DO THIS. It is the inversion of justice.</p><p>The wrongly accused and their families, as long as the fiction of justice is maintained, vainly seek redress. They file appeal after appeal. Those convicted devote hundreds of hours of study in the law library in prison. They believe there has been a “mistake.” They think that if they are patient the “mistake” will be rectified. Playing upon such gullibility, authorities allowed prisoners in Stalin’s gulags to write petitions twice a month to officials to proclaim their innocence or decry mistreatment. Those who do not understand the American system, who are not mentally prepared for its cruelty and violence, are largely helpless before authorities intoxicated with the godlike power to destroy lives. These authorities advance themselves or their agendas—Joe Biden when he was in the Senate and Bill Clinton when he was president did this—by being “tough” concerning law and order and national security. Those who administer the legal system wield power largely in secret. They are accountable to no one. Every once in a while—this happened even under the Nazis and Stalin—someone will be exonerated to maintain the fiction that the state is capable of rectifying its “mistakes.” But the longer the system remains in place, the longer the legal process is shrouded from public view, the more the crime by the state accelerates. </p><p>The power elites—our corporate rulers and the security and surveillance apparatus—rewrite laws to make their criminal behavior “legal.” It is a two-tiered system. One set of laws for us. Another set of laws for them. Wall Street’s fraud and looting of the U.S. Treasury, the obliteration of our privacy, the ability of the government to assassinate U.S. citizens, the revoking of habeas corpus, the neutralizing of our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the murder of unarmed people in the streets of our cities by militarized police, the use of torture, the criminalizing of dissent, the collapse of our court system, the waging of pre-emptive war are rendered “legal.” Politicians, legislators, lawyers and law enforcement officials, who understand that leniency and justice are damaging to their careers, and whom Karl Marx called the “leeches on the capitalist structure,” have constructed for their corporate masters our system of inverted totalitarianism. They serve this system. They seek to advance within it. They do not blink at the victims destroyed by it. And most of them know it is a sham.</p><p>“We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others,” Solzhenitsyn warned. “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”</p> Sat, 23 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1049139 at http://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights poor poverty law race The American Empire: Murder Inc. http://www.alternet.org/world/american-empire-murder-inc <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The reality of empire rarely reaches the American public.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/suharto_looking_down_1998.jpg?itok=IFceprpx" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Terror, intimidation and violence are the glue that holds empire together. Aerial bombardment, drone and missile attacks, artillery and mortar strikes, targeted assassinations, massacres, the detention of tens of thousands, death squad killings, torture, wholesale surveillance, extraordinary renditions, curfews, propaganda, a loss of civil liberties and pliant political puppets are the grist of our wars and proxy wars. </p><p>Countries we seek to dominate, from Indonesia and Guatemala to Iraq and Afghanistan, are intimately familiar with these brutal mechanisms of control. But the reality of empire rarely reaches the American public. The few atrocities that come to light are dismissed as isolated aberrations. The public is assured what has been uncovered will be investigated and will not take place again. The goals of empire, we are told by a subservient media and our ruling elites, are virtuous and noble. And the vast killing machine grinds forward, feeding, as it has always done, the swollen bank accounts of defense contractors and corporations that exploit natural resources and cheap labor around the globe.</p><p>There are very few journalists who have covered empire with more courage, tenacity and integrity than Allan Nairn. For more than three decades, he has reported from Central America, East Timor, Palestine, South Africa, Haiti and Indonesia—where Indonesian soldiers fractured his skull and arrested him. His reporting on the Indonesian government massacres in East Timor saw him branded a “threat to national security” and officially banned from occupied East Timor. Nairn returned clandestinely to East Timor on numerous occasions. His dogged reporting of torture and killing of civilians by the Indonesian military contributed to the U.S. Congress suspending military aid to Jakarta in 1993. He exposed U.S. complicity with death squads and paramilitary organizations carrying out murderous rampages in El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti. During the 2014 presidential elections in Indonesia, where he spends much of his time, Nairn was threatened with arrest for exposing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s role in atrocities. Nairn’s reporting on army massacres was an important component in the trial of former Guatemalan President Efrain Ríos Montt. Gen. Montt ordered the killing of over 1,700 people in the Ixil region of the country in the early 1980s and was convicted in 2013 of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison. The conviction was later overturned.</p><p>Nairn, whom I spoke with in New York, reaches back to the genocide carried out against Native Americans, the institution of slavery and the murder of hundreds of workers and labor union organizers in the 19th and early 20th century to explain the roots of American imperial violence. He noted that, although wholesale massacres have become taboo on American soil in recent generations, the FBI was carrying out selective assassinations of black radicals, including <a href="http://www.blackpast.org/aah/hampton-fred-1948-1969" target="_blank">Fred Hampton</a>, in the 1960s. And police show little constraint in gunning down unarmed people of color in poor communities. </p><p>But overseas there are no restrictions. The indiscriminate slaughter of real or imagined opponents is considered a prerogative of imperial power. Violence is the primary language we use to speak to the rest of the world. Equivalents of <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee" target="_blank">Wounded Knee</a> and <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/my-lai-massacre" target="_blank">My Lai</a> take place beyond our borders with an unacknowledged frequency. </p><p>“To this day,” Nairn said, “it is politically permissible for U.S. forces to carry out or sponsor assassinations of civilians—students, journalists, religious leaders, peasant organizers, whomever. In fact, in U.S. politics, if presidents are reluctant, or seem reluctant to do this, they get castigated. They get called a wimp. George Bush Sr. came under vicious attack when he attempted through covert means to mount a coup in Panama against [Manuel] Noriega and it failed. And <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=fighting+the+wimp+factor&amp;biw=1024&amp;bih=467&amp;source=lnms&amp;tbm=isch&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiAp6HvpozKAhVLyWMKHeIbCHsQ_AUIBygC&amp;dpr=1.88" target="_blank">there was a cover </a>[of Newsweek, with the headline ‘Fighting the “Wimp Factor” ’] where they were attacking Bush Sr. for not being strong enough.”</p><p>“I think it was within a week after that he invaded Panama formally, an invasion that included the burning of the neighborhood called <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/28/weekinreview/the-world-in-panama-counting-the-invasion-dead-is-a-matter-of-dispute.html" target="_blank">El Chorrillo</a>, where hundreds were killed, a poor neighborhood. The New York Times then ran <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/21/world/fighting-in-panama-the-implications-war-bush-s-presidential-rite-of-passage.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">a front-page analysis</a> by R.W. Apple which said that Bush Sr. had completed his presidential initiation rite by demonstrating his willingness to shed blood,” Nairn went on. “Not his own blood, but the blood of foreigners, including of foreign civilians.”</p><p>“It’s basically a refusal on the part of American society to enforce the murder laws when the killings are done by presidents or generals, and where the victims are foreigners,” he said. “Now, all big powers do this. But in the recent period, because the U.S. has been the dominant power, the U.S. has the biggest death toll. If you added all the operations up it would go into the several millions. Just to list the ones that I’ve personally seen and tried to expose and fight against: Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, South Africa, Palestine, East Timor, Indonesia, southern Thailand. I’m sure I’m leaving out a few. The U.S. has used the Pentagon, the CIA, occasionally the State Department to set up or back local forces, help them gather intelligence on dissidents, and help them provide the means to carry out systematic assassinations.”</p><p>Assassinations and torture are often accompanied in these wars and proxy wars by massacres by government troops that routinely “wipe out whole villages,” Nairn said,</p><p>“The Guatemalan military did that, especially during the early ’80s when the Reagan administration was backing them enthusiastically under the time of the dictator Gen. Rios Montt,” Nairn said. “They would go into villages in the Mayan highlands in the northwest. ... I was there, I spoke to the soldiers as they were doing it, I spoke to survivors … [and] they would decapitate people. They would crucify people. They would use the tactics that ISIS today puts on video that are now shocking the world.”</p><p>“The powers have always been willing to use these tactics,” he said. “And for centuries they were proud of it. All you have to do is look at the holy texts of the major religions—the Bible, the Quran, the Torah. They’re full of one massacre after another. People forget. The story of David and Goliath is put forward as a great story. At the end of that story David decapitates Goliath. He parades around holding up his head. For years and years the powers were proud of these tactics. They advertised it.”</p><p> </p>“As recently as the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, U.S. presidents were still boasting about it,” Nairn said. “Go back and read [Roosevelt’s] writings. He’s repeatedly … talking about the necessity to shed blood, the necessity to kill. Otherwise a person could not be healthy, otherwise a polity could not be healthy. This was Teddy Roosevelt. You can’t do that in today’s U.S. You can’t do that really in any major country today. The only partial exception to that at the level of rhetoric is Israel. Israeli generals and politicians still talk openly about the need to shed Palestinian blood. But they’re really the only ones. Everywhere else—Europe, Russia, China, the U.S.—they have to hide their [activities].”<p>I first met Nairn in 1984 while I was covering the war in El Salvador. In that year he published an explosive investigative piece in The Progressive magazine titled <a href="http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/nairnelsalvadorbtds.html" target="_blank">“Behind the Death Squads.”</a> The article detailed U.S. backing, training and arming of the death squads in El Salvador that were murdering, and often torturing and mutilating, hundreds of people a month. His article led to an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee. </p><p>U.S. commanders in Iraq, attempting to quell the Sunni insurgency in 2004, reached back to the terror tactics used in El Salvador. They formulated <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/06/pentagon-iraqi-torture-centres-link" target="_blank">a plan called “The Salvador Option”</a> to train and arm Shiite paramilitary units. Former U.S. Army Col. James Steele, who in the 1980s in El Salvador headed the U.S. Military Group or MilGroup, which advised the Salvadoran army during the war, was sent to Iraq by Donald Rumsfeld as a civilian adviser. Steele, who had fought in Vietnam, was assigned to the Iraqi paramilitary Special Police Commandos, a unit known as the “Wolf Brigade.” </p><p>U.N. officials, and an investigative team from The Guardian newspaper, later accused these Shiite paramilitary units of widespread death-squad killings and running a network of clandestine detention centers that carried out torture while under Steele’s supervision. The Shiite paramilitary units, which were given money from a $2 billion fund controlled directly by Gen. David Petraeus, terrorized and enraged the Sunni population. The abuse, torture, assassinations and network of clandestine prisons fueled Iraq’s sectarian civil war and led to the creation of radical Sunni groups such as Islamic State.</p><p>“The Salvadoran death squad apparatus was created by the U.S., starting during the Kennedy administration through mainly U.S. Special Forces and the CIA,” Nairn said. “[They] … created this intelligence-gathering system which linked Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua. They would have central files organized for them with the help of the CIA. They would teach them [the squads] how to go out and watch on a systematic basis the campuses, the courts, the plantations [and] especially the factories, run by the local oligarchs but also the American investors. They would compile files.”</p><p>Nairn spent 13 hours interviewing former Salvadoran Gen. Jose Alberto Medrano, the godfather of the Salvadoran death squads, who was assassinated a year later, in 1985, by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels. </p><p>“He explained to me how Salvadoran priests, nuns, catechists [and] unionists were all controlled by Moscow,” Nairn said. “He would draw these schematics showing from Moscow to Havana to here to there. And he said they all became targets; it was our mission to kill them. He described in great detail how he did this while working on the payroll of the United States.”</p><p>“These were the death squads that produced actions like the <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/09/bringing-el-salavador-nun-killers-to-justice.html" target="_blank">rape and murder of the nuns</a>,” Nairn said, referring to American lay missionary Jean Donovan and three American nuns—Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford—who were killed by national guard soldiers in El Salvador in December 1980. Eight months earlier, the death squads had carried out the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. More than 75,000 Salvadorans died in the conflict, thousands at the hands of the death squads, which often “disappeared” their victims.</p><p>“The world is finally starting to understand what’s involved with political killing when they see the videos of ISIS,” Nairn said. “… In Salvador, not only would they kill but they would cut off hands, they would cut off arms, and they would display their handiwork on the road. Passersby would see it. In the same period—I spent most of those years in Guatemala, which was even worse—they were killing more than 100,000, perhaps more than 200,000 by some estimates. One day in the library of the Polytechnica, the military academy of Guatemala, I found the Spanish translation of a U.S. military counterinsurgency document. It gave instructions on how to create terror; this was the way they put it. And they described methods used in the Philippines in the campaign against <a href="https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=huks" target="_blank">the Huks</a>.”</p><p>“In the case of the Philippines they were talking about leaving the bodies by the rivers,” he said. “So you mutilate the bodies, you cut them, you amputate, and then you display the bodies on the riversides to stir terror in the population. And of course that’s exactly what ISIS is doing today.”</p><p>The same tactics were used in Indonesia against ethnic Chinese, labor organizers, artists, intellectuals, student leaders and members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) after the 1965 U.S.-backed anti-communist purge that eventually ousted the independence leader President Sukarno. Sukarno was replaced in a 1967 coup by Gen. Suharto, who brutally ran the country for 31 years. During the army and paramilitary killings as many as a million Indonesians were murdered. <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_act_of_killing_20130923">The bodies were often left</a> floating in rivers or on roadsides.</p><p>“The CIA weighed in with a list of 5,000 targets for assassination,” Nairn said. “The U.S. press was hailing it at the time. They were calling it a gleam of light in Asia. Gen. Suharto was installed in power as a result of this process. Suharto later, in the mid-’70s, sought the permission of President Ford and Henry Kissinger to invade the small neighboring country of East Timor, which was then emerging into independence from having been a Portuguese colony. They gave the green light. They just said do it quickly. They went in [and] killed a third of the population.”</p><p>“In ’91 they staged a massacre in front of a cemetery, which I happened to survive,” he said. “I was there with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Goodman" target="_blank">Amy Goodman</a>. They killed more than 200 people right before our eyes. They fractured my skull with their American M-16 rifle butts. </p><p>“This is standard procedure. I’ve tried to go over to the countries where the repression is most intense, and where the U.S. is backing it, and expose it and stop it.”</p><p>“It’s systematic,” he went on. “It’s the exact same tactics in country after country, with local adaptations, and often the officers are all trained at the same U.S. military bases—Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Leavenworth [and] at the Inter-American Defense College, in the case of the Latin American officers.”</p><p>“It’s not unique to the U.S.,” Nairn said. “This is standard for big powers. … If you wanted to have any kind of impact in politics you had to align yourself with some kind of killer force, be it the Americans, NATO or the Taliban, or some other armed faction capable of fast mass killing. Without that you had no chance.”</p><p>“In Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it’s reached the point of political and social breakdown,” Nairn said. “There’s no stopping it. It’s out of control. There are not two sides. It [has fractured into] many sides. It’s analogous to what happened in Cambodia, with the massive U.S. bombing of Cambodia, which paved the way for the rise of the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-10684399" target="_blank">Khmer Rouge</a>. [It has destroyed] any semblance of normal politics or even society. In that kind of environment the most evil, the most violent, have a better chance to rise and prevail.”</p><p>Ceaseless war and indiscriminant killing define the U.S. imperial power. But this policy, he said, has backfired.</p><p>“Unless you have enough of an enemy out there, unless you have enough fighting going on, unless you have enough drama going on, a big powerful state, one of whose pillars is war, like the United States, or like, say, today’s Israel—[both of them examples] of Sparta-type states—they can’t sustain themselves,” he said. “They need a high level of dramatic tension. They have to constantly be provoking, constantly causing trouble here and there.”</p><p>“We’re now in a moment where these operations of willful murder on the part of the U.S. and provocation have come back to bite [the United States],” he said. “That doesn’t usually happen. There was no consequence like that from Central America. There was no consequence like that from Haiti, Palestine or South Africa. But in this case it happened. Operations like the U.S. backing of <a href="http://asianhistory.about.com/od/glossaryko/g/Who-Were-the-Mujahideen-of-Afghanistan.htm" target="_blank">the mujahedeen</a> to repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan … the U.S. backing of the various anti-Assad Islamist forces in Syria, have given birth to first al-Qaida and then ISIS. That wasn’t the U.S. intention. They didn’t want to create al-Qaida in the sense of the al-Qaida that attacks the U.S. They didn’t want to create an ISIS, which is now a political nightmare.”</p><p> </p><p>“The Bible says they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind,” he said. “Well, usually that isn’t true. It’s not true most of the time. It’s like the other slogan: The people united will never be defeated. Not true. The people united get defeated all the time. They get crushed. They get massacred. They get thrown into mass graves. But sometimes you sow the wind and you do reap the whirlwind. And that’s what’s happening now to the West with ISIS.”</p> Mon, 04 Jan 2016 07:59:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1048361 at http://www.alternet.org World World america war government Chris Hedges: The Illusion of Freedom http://www.alternet.org/culture/chris-hedges-illusion-freedom <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The longer fantasy is substituted for reality, the faster we sleepwalk toward oblivion.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_318051176.jpg?itok=9xXFtKMg" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The seizure of political and economic power by corporations is unassailable. Who funds and manages our elections? Who writes our legislation and laws? Who determines our defense policies and vast military expenditures? Who is in charge of the Department of the Interior? The Department of Homeland Security? Our intelligence agencies? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? The Department of Labor? The Federal Reserve? The mass media? Our systems of entertainment? Our prisons and schools? Who determines our trade and environmental policies? Who imposes austerity on the public while enabling the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the tax boycott by Wall Street? Who criminalizes dissent?</p><p>A disenfranchised white working class vents its lust for fascism at Trump campaign rallies. Naive liberals, who think they can mount effective resistance within the embrace of the Democratic Party, rally around the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who knows that the military-industrial complex is sacrosanct. Both the working class and the liberals will be sold out. Our rights and opinions do not matter. We have surrendered to our own form of <a href="http://www.seadict.com/en/en/wehrwirtschaft" target="_blank">wehrwirtschaft.</a> We do not count within the political process. </p><p>This truth, emotionally difficult to accept, violates our conception of ourselves as a free, democratic people. It shatters our vision of ourselves as a nation embodying superior virtues and endowed with the responsibility to serve as a beacon of light to the world. It takes from us the “right” to impose our fictitious virtues on others by violence. It forces us into a new political radicalism. This truth reveals, incontrovertibly, that if real change is to be achieved, if our voices are to be heard, corporate systems of power have to be destroyed. This realization engenders an existential and political crisis. The inability to confront this crisis, to accept this truth, leaves us appealing to centers of power that will never respond and ensures we are crippled by self-delusion.</p><p>The longer fantasy is substituted for reality, the faster we sleepwalk toward oblivion. There is no guarantee we will wake up. Magical thinking has gripped societies in the past. Those civilizations believed that fate, history, superior virtues or a divine force guaranteed their eternal triumph. As they collapsed, they constructed repressive dystopias. They imposed censorship and forced the unreal to be accepted as real. Those who did not conform were disappeared linguistically and then literally. </p><p>The vast disconnect between the official narrative of reality and reality itself creates an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. Propaganda is so pervasive, and truth is so rarely heard, that people do not trust their own senses. We are currently being assaulted by political campaigning that resembles the constant crusading by fascists and communists in past totalitarian societies. This campaigning, devoid of substance and subservient to the mirage of a free society, is anti-politics. </p><p>No vote we cast will alter the configurations of the corporate state. The wars will go on. Our national resources will continue to be diverted to militarism. The corporate fleecing of the country will get worse. Poor people of color will still be gunned down by militarized police in our streets. The eradication of our civil liberties will accelerate. The economic misery inflicted on over half the population will expand. Our environment will be ruthlessly exploited by fossil fuel and animal agriculture corporations and we will careen toward ecological collapse. We are “free” only as long as we play our assigned parts. Once we call out power for what it is, once we assert our rights and resist, the chimera of freedom will vanish. The iron fist of the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in human history will assert itself with a terrifying fury.</p><p>The powerful web of interlocking corporate entities is beyond our control. Our priorities are not corporate priorities. The corporate state, whose sole aim is exploitation and imperial expansion for increased profit, sinks money into research and development of weapons and state surveillance systems while it starves technologies that address global warming and renewable energy. Universities are awash in defense money but cannot find funds for environmental studies. Our bridges, roads and levees are crumbling from neglect. Our schools are overcrowded, decaying and being transformed into for-profit vocational centers. Our elderly and poor are abandoned and impoverished. Young men and women are crippled by unemployment or underemployment and debt peonage. Our for-profit health care drives the sick into bankruptcy. Our wages are being suppressed and the power of government to regulate corporations is dramatically diminished by a triad of new trade agreements—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement. Government utilities and services, with the implementation of the Trade in Services Agreement, will see whole departments and services, from education to the Postal Service, dismantled and privatized. Our manufacturing jobs, sent overseas, are not coming back. And a corporate media ignores the decay to perpetuate the fiction of a functioning democracy, a reviving economy and a glorious empire.</p><p>The essential component of totalitarian propaganda is artifice. The ruling elites, like celebrities, use propaganda to create false personae and a false sense of intimacy with the public.</p><p>The emotional power of this narrative is paramount. Issues do not matter. Competency and honesty do not matter. Past political stances or positions do not matter. What is important is how we are made to feel. Those who are skilled at deception succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of deception become “unreal.” Politics in totalitarian societies are entertainment. Reality, because it is complicated, messy and confusing, is banished from the world of mass entertainment. Clichés, stereotypes and uplifting messages that are comforting and self-congratulatory, along with elaborate spectacles, replace fact-based discourse.</p><p>“Entertainment was an expression of democracy, throwing off the chains of alleged cultural repression,” Neal Gabler wrote in <a href="http://www.powells.com/book/life-the-movie-9780375706530/17-7" target="_blank">“Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.” </a>“So too was consumption, throwing off the chains of the old production-oriented culture and allowing anyone to buy his way into his fantasy. And, in the end, both entertainment and consumption often provided the same intoxication: the sheer, endless pleasure of emancipation from reason, from responsibility, from tradition, from class and from all the other bonds that restrained the self.”</p><p>The more communities break down and poverty expands, the more anxious and frightened people will retreat into self-delusion. Those who speak the truth—whether about climate change or our system of <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sheldon_wolin_and_inverted_totalitarianism_20151101">inverted totalitarianism</a>—will be branded as seditious and unpatriotic. They will be hated for destroying the illusion. This, as Gabler noted, is the danger of a society dominated by entertainment. Such a society, he wrote, “… took dead aim at the intellectuals’ most cherished values. That theme was the triumph of the senses over the mind, of emotion over reason, of chaos over order, or the id over the superego. … Entertainment was Plato’s worst nightmare. It deposed the rational and enthroned the sensational and in so doing deposed the intellectual minority and enthroned the unrefined majority.”</p>Despair, powerlessness and hopelessness diminish the emotional and intellectual resilience needed to confront reality. Those cast aside cling to the entertaining forms of self-delusion offered by the ruling elites. This segment of the population is easily mobilized to “purge” the nation of dissenters and human “contaminants.” Totalitarian systems, including our own, never lack for willing executioners.<p>Many people, maybe even most people, will not wake up. Those rebels who rise up to try to wrest back power from despotic forces will endure not only the violence of the state, but the hatred and vigilante violence meted out by the self-deluded victims of exploitation. The systems of propaganda will relentlessly demonize those who resist, along with Muslims, undocumented workers, environmentalists, African-Americans, homosexuals, feminists, intellectuals and artists. The utopia will arrive, the state systems of propaganda will assure its followers, once those who obstruct or poison it are removed. Donald Trump is following this script.</p><p>The German psychoanalyst and sociologist <a href="http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/fromm.html" target="_blank">Erich Fromm</a> in his book “Escape From Freedom” explained the yearning of those who are rendered insignificant to “surrender their freedom.” Totalitarian systems, he pointed out, function like messianic religious cults. </p><p>“The frightened individual,” Fromm wrote, “seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”</p><p>This is the world we live in. The totalitarian systems of the past used different symbols, different iconography and different fears. They rose up out of a different historical context. But they too demonized the weak and persecuted the strong. They too promised the dispossessed that by subsuming their selves into that of demagogues, or parties or other organizations that promised unrivaled power, they would become powerful. It never works. The growing frustration, the ongoing powerlessness, the mounting repression, leads these betrayed individuals to lash out violently, first at the weak and the demonized, and then at those among them who lack sufficient ideological purity. There is, in the end, an orgy of self-immolation. The death instinct, as Sigmund Freud understood, has a seductive allure. </p><p>History may not repeat itself. But it echoes itself. Human nature, after all, is constant. We will react no differently from those who went before us. This should not dissuade us from resisting, but the struggle will be long and difficult. Before it is over there will be blood in the streets.</p> Mon, 28 Dec 2015 08:30:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1048029 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture hedges words culture Chris Hedges: The Creeping Villainy of American Politics http://www.alternet.org/culture/chris-hedges-creeping-villainy-american-politics <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The mounting attacks on Muslims, which will become a contagion when there is another catastrophic terrorist attack, are only the beginning.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_350288846_1.jpg?itok=gsIBnhJQ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/hate-crimes-backlash-against-muslim-americans-have-tripled-wake-paris-san-bernardino-2233545" target="_blank">threefold rise in hate crimes</a> against Muslims since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks and the acceptance of hate speech as a legitimate form of political discourse signal the morbidity of our civil society. The body politic is coughing up blood. The daily amplification of this hate speech by a commercial media whose sole concern is ratings and advertising dollars rather than serving as a bulwark to protect society presages a descent into the protofascist nightmare of racism, indiscriminate violence against the marginalized, and a blind celebration of American chauvinism, militarism and bigotry. </p><p>The mounting attacks on Muslims, which will become a contagion when there is another catastrophic terrorist attack, are only the beginning. There is a long list to be targeted, including undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals and artists. We are entering a new dark age, an age of idiocy and blood. These hatreds, encoded in American DNA but understood as politically toxic by the liberal wing of the capitalist class, have been embraced by an enraged and disenfranchised white underclass. Our failure to curb this hate speech will haunt us. Once a civil society tolerates the intolerant, as <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/popper/" target="_blank">Karl Popper</a> wrote, “the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”</p><p>The anti-Muslim virus begins slowly. Step by step the hate talk moves from insults, stereotyping and untruths to incendiary calls for vigilantes to attack women wearing the hijab, men wearing kufis, mosques, Islamic centers and schools, and Muslim-owned businesses. It makes sense to many in the white underclass—especially because they have been sold out by the liberals who preach tolerance—that the violent purging of a demonized group from U.S. society can cure the society’s malaise and restore safety and American “greatness.” But soon all marginalized groups will be at risk. Such a process is what happened in the Weimar Republic. It is what happened in Yugoslavia. It is what happened in Israel.</p><p>“What is dangerous about the creeping villainy is that it takes considerable imagination and considerable dialectical abilities to be able to detect it at the moment and see what it is,” the philosopher <a href="http://www.iep.utm.edu/kierkega/" target="_blank">Søren Kierkegaard</a> wrote in his “Journals and Notebooks.” “Well, neither of these features [imagination and dialectical ability] are prominent in most people—and so the villainy creeps forward just a little bit each day, unnoticed.”</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Beck" target="_blank">Glenn Beck</a>’s best-selling book “It IsAbout Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate” posits that a quarter of American Muslims, 300,000 to 500,000 in his estimate, believe that violence should be used to overthrow the state and annul the Constitution in order to replace our judicial system with Sharia law. He says Islam keeps followers living in “the stone age.” His rant against Muslims parallels his rants against undocumented workers. He once, for example, said there are only three reasons Mexicans come to the United States: “One, they’re terrorists; two, they’re escaping the law; or three, they’re hungry. They can’t make a living in their own dirtbag country.” This extremism, expressed by Beck and many others, is moving with terrifying speed to the center of American political debate. And the mainstream press, which prizes sensationalism over news and truth, has abrogated its role as an arbiter of fact and rational discourse to peddle spectacle and sensationalism.</p><p>Kierkegaard was as scathing about the press as he was about the public. He noted:</p><p> </p><blockquote><p>The daily press is the evil principle of the modern world, and time will only serve to disclose this fact with greater and greater clearness. The capacity of the newspaper for degeneration is sophistically without limit, since it can always sink lower and lower in its choice of readers. At last it will stir up all those dregs of humanity which no state or government can control.</p></blockquote><p>The ideological war began in earnest immediately after the attacks of 9/11. Hatemongers and racists, before then primarily relegated to the margins of society, laid the foundations for the collapse of civil discourse.  </p><p>“The Muslims sat aside for the last 15 years and allowed a complete reframing of this issue by highly funded groups such as the extreme Christian right or people like Glenn Beck,” said the Islamic scholar <a href="https://sandala.org/hamza-yusuf/" target="_blank">Hamza Yusuf</a>, whom I reached by phone in Berkeley, Calif. “Beck argues that the problem is Islam itself. But this is also true on programs such as the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_700_Club" target="_blank">‘700 Club.’</a> They attack Islam as a religion. They call it a demonic force. We have had 15 years of an incredible propaganda machine that has presented Muslims as a <a href="https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=define+fifth+column" target="_blank">fifth column</a> and Islam as an anti-Christian force, as the greatest threat to Western civilization. For too many people, Islam is now conflated with Nazism.”</p><p>Extremist groups, embodied by the Christian right and Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), have distorted Christianity and Islam to sanctify their mutual hatreds and bloodlusts. These groups prey upon the legions of the disenfranchised, most of whom do not come out of religious households or religious communities, but who find in thin clichés and slogans a simplistic and self-aggrandizing worldview. New converts are catapulted from despair and hopelessness into a Manichean world of good and evil. They are told their rage and lust for violence are sanctified. They are authorized by demagogues and warlords to persecute and kill in the name of God.  </p><p>“Groups such as ISIS, especially in the West, draw from uneducated, disenfranchised, alienated and very often oppressed minority groups,” said Yusuf, who is the president and co-founder of Zaytuna College, in Berkeley. “When you see pictures of converts, you often see tattoos on their necks. Many have had run-ins with the law or have prison records. They have a lot of anger towards the society, much of it justified.”</p><p>The indiscriminate violence unleashed by the United States against Muslim communities in the Middle East has at the same time radicalized whole populations, which are bombed and otherwise terrorized daily.</p><p>“Obama talks about the hateful, vengeful ideology we are up against,” Yusuf said, “but he is not addressing the hate that hate produced. The current presentation of the conflict is irrational—as if Muslims hate us for our freedoms and our way of life. Undeniably, envy and resentment have their parts to play, but that is not the major factor. It is a small variable. The problem is the violence and brutalization that has occurred in the Muslim world. Pakistani children in areas under drone attacks hate sunny days because of the drones, which don’t function in cloudy weather. The only days they feel comfortable playing in northern Pakistan is on cloudy days because the drones can’t see them. This terror has consequences.”</p><p>Yusuf argues that the radical ideology of Islamic State, much like that of many in the Christian right, is far more a product of modernity than antiquity. </p><p>“ISIS promotes a hybridization of Salafi-Takfiri ideology with political Islamism, along with a smattering of Baathist brutality,” he said. “Old leaders in the Iraqi government joined the movement, similar to the way the old Marxist PLO transitioned into Hamas. In the 1980s and 1990s, with the Iranian revolution and the renaissance of Islam as a political response, people brought previous beliefs and experiences into these movements. They gave older modernist ideologies the veneer of Islam. ISIS adheres to more of a Marxist—the ends justify the means—ideology. It is anything but Islamic. In Islamic law there are strict rules of engagement. The Koran has several verses about treating prisoners well. ISIS is not a manifestation of anything Islamic. The essence of Islam is mercy and compassion.” [Definitions: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_movement" target="_blank">Salafi</a>. <a href="https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Takfiri" target="_blank">Takfiri</a>. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ba'athism" target="_blank">Baathist</a>.]</p><p>The lust for brutality, Yusuf points out, is not limited to groups such as Islamic State. It is more than matched by numerous voices in the West. He cited the author Sam Harris’ call in his best-selling book <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=V1NXG1ob-WcC&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=the+end+of+faith&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi9y7u27-jJAhVDw2MKHaPSCbcQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&amp;q=the%20end%20of%20faith&amp;f=false" target="_blank">“The End of Faith”</a> for the West to consider carrying out a nuclear first strike on the Muslim world. Harris writes in his book:</p><blockquote><p>Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.</p></blockquote><p>“There are a lot of uneducated people out there, and this tripe appears nutritious to them,” Yusuf said. “I did not see anyone up in arms about Harris’ statement. Yet they are constantly going on about the brutality of Muslims. Meanwhile, we [Americans] talk daily about carpet-bombing the Middle East and <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/12/15/3732671/trump-isis-kill-family-members/" target="_blank">killing ISIS family members</a>.”</p><p>If there is another major terrorist event on American soil, Yusuf said, the response will not be like the one that followed 9/11. “It won’t be flowers at the mosque. The response will be retaliatory. There will be a desire for revenge. I am not surprised we are where we are. I am surprised it took us this long to get here given the forces at work.”</p><p>The backlash against the settling of thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees, he said, also plays into the hands of Islamic State. ISIS condemns the West as unfit for Muslims. It holds up its self-proclaimed Caliphate as a sanctuary and refuge for Sunni Muslims. If Western nations accept large numbers of refugees—many fleeing ISIS-controlled territory—they shatter this belief. By turning refugees away they legitimate the bifurcation of the world into Muslim and non-Muslim. </p><p>“If you read Dabiq, ISIS’ journal in English, it constantly says that what it calls the ‘gray zone’ will be eliminated,” Yusuf said. “ISIS tells American Muslims and Western European Muslims that their mosques will be attacked, Muslim women will be assaulted, they will not feel safe in their homes. ISIS says make the <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hegira" target="_blank">hegira</a> now before it is too late. The elimination of the gray zone is central to their strategy. Our living together is the thing that disgusts them most. They seek to destroy multicultural, multifaith civilizations, although that is what the Muslim world was in the past. Hence, [the ISIS] destruction of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melkite_Greek_Catholic_Church" target="_blank">Melkite</a> and <a href="https://www.oikoumene.org/en/church-families/the-assyrian-church" target="_blank">Assyrian</a> churches, which have existed for centuries and which were protected by Muslims. This destruction is one of the greatest crimes in the history of Islam. These religious communities, considered heretical or heterodox, were not safe in Orthodox and Catholic Europe, but were safe to flourish in the pluralistic societies Muslims created. The worst nightmare for ISIS, like the demagogues in the West, is that we reject their call to create a wedge between religious communities.”</p><p> </p> Mon, 21 Dec 2015 07:45:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1047712 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture islamophobia hate Chris Hedges: We Must Refuse to Participate in the Destruction of the Planet http://www.alternet.org/environment/chris-hedges-we-must-refuse-participate-destruction-planet <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The breakdown of the planet, many predict, will be nonlinear, meaning that various systems that sustain life will disintegrate simultaneously. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-12-07_at_11.15.23_am.png?itok=U0V75dK4" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The charade of the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34953626">21st United Nations climate summit</a> will end, as past climate summits have ended, with lofty rhetoric and ineffectual cosmetic reforms. Since the first summit more than 20 years ago, carbon dioxide emissions have soared. Placing faith in our political and economic elites, who have mastered the arts of duplicity and propaganda on behalf of corporate power, is the triumph of hope over experience. There are only a few ways left to deal honestly with climate change: sustained civil disobedience that disrupts the machinery of exploitation; preparing for the inevitable dislocations and catastrophes that will come from irreversible rising temperatures; and cutting our personal carbon footprints, which means drastically reducing our consumption, particularly of animal products.</p><p>“Our civilization,” <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Richard-A.-Oppenlander/e/B0081KQ3E8">Dr. Richard Oppenlander</a> writes in “Food Choice and Sustainability,” “displays a curious instinct when confronted with a problem related to overconsumption—we simply find a way to produce more of what it is we are consuming, instead of limiting or stopping that consumption.”</p><p>The global elites have no intention of interfering with the profits, or ending government subsidies, for the fossil fuel industry and the extraction industries. They will not curtail extraction or impose hefty carbon taxes to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They will not limit the overconsumption that is the engine of global capitalism. They act as if the greatest contributor of greenhouse gases—the animal agriculture industry—does not exist. They siphon off trillions of dollars and employ scientific and technical expertise—expertise that should be directed toward preparing for environmental catastrophe and investing in renewable energy—to wage endless wars in the Middle East. What they airily hold out as a distant solution to the crisis—wind turbines and solar panels—is, as the scientist <a href="http://www.jameslovelock.org/key1.html">James Lovelock</a> says, the equivalent of 18th-century doctors attempting to cure serious diseases with leeches and mercury. And as the elites mouth platitudes about saving the climate they are shoving still another trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), down our throats. The TPP permits corporations to ignore nonbinding climate accords made at conferences such as the one in Paris, and it allows them, in secret trade tribunals, to defy environmental regulations imposed by individual states.</p><p>New technology—fracking, fuel-efficient vehicles or genetically modified food—is not about curbing overconsumption or conserving resources. It is about ensuring that consumption continues at unsustainable levels. Technological innovation, employed to build systems of greater and greater complexity, has fragmented society into cadres of specialists. The expertise of each of these specialists is limited to a small section of the elaborate technological, scientific and bureaucratic machinery that drives corporate capitalism forward—much as in the specialized bureaucratic machinery that defined the genocide carried out by the Nazis. These technocrats are part of the massive, unthinking hive that makes any system work, even a system of death. They lack the intellectual and moral capacity to question the doomsday machine spawned by global capitalism.  And they are in control.</p><p>Civilizations careening toward collapse create ever more complex structures, and more intricate specialization, to exploit diminishing resources. But eventually the resources are destroyed or exhausted. The systems and technologies designed to exploit these resources become useless. Economists call such a phenomenon the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox">“Jevons paradox.”</a> The result is systems collapse.</p><p>In the wake of collapses, as evidenced throughout history, societies fragment politically, culturally and socially. They become failed states, bleak and desolate outposts where law and order break down, and there is a mad and often violent scramble for the basic necessities of life. Barbarism reigns.</p><p>“Only the strong survive; the weak are victimized, robbed, and killed,” the anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” “There is fighting for food and fuel. Whatever central authority remains lacks the resources to reimpose order. Bands of pitiful, maimed survivors scavenge among the ruins of grandeur. Grass grows in the streets. There is no higher goal than survival.”</p><p>The elites, trained in business schools and managerial programs not to solve real problems but to maintain at any cost the systems of global capitalism, profit personally from the assault. They amass inconceivable sums of wealth while their victims, the underclasses around the globe, are thrust into increasing distress from global warming, poverty and societal breakdown. The apparatus of government, seized by this corporate cabal, is hostile to genuine change. It passes laws, as it did for Denton, Texas, after<a href="http://www.star-telegram.com/news/business/barnett-shale/article24627469.html">residents voted to outlaw fracking</a> in their city, to overturn the ability of local communities to control their own resources. It persecutes dissidents, along with environmental and animal rights activists, who try to halt the insanity. The elites don’t work for us. They don’t work for the planet. They orchestrate the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis">gaiacide</a>. And they are well paid for it.</p><p>The Anthropocene Age—the age of humans, which has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species and the pollution of the soil, air and oceans—is upon us. The pace of destruction is accelerating. Climate scientists say that sea levels, for example, are rising three times faster than predicted and that the Arctic ice is vanishing at rates that were unforeseen. “If carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm,” writes Clive Hamilton in “Requiem for a Species,” “after which emissions fell to zero, the global temperature would continue to rise for at least another century.” We have already passed 400 parts per million, a figure not seen on earth for 3 million to 5 million years. We are on track to reach at least 550 ppm by 2100.</p><p>The breakdown of the planet, many predict, will be nonlinear, meaning that various systems that sustain life—as Tainter chronicles in his study of collapsed civilizations—will disintegrate simultaneously. The infrastructures that distribute food, supply our energy, ensure our security, produce and transport our baffling array of products, and maintain law and order will crumble at once. It won’t be much fun: Soaring temperatures. Submerged island states and coastal cities. Mass migrations. Species extinction. Monster storms. Droughts. Famines. Declining crop yields. And a security and surveillance apparatus, along with militarized police, that will employ harsher and harsher methods to cope with the chaos. </p><p>We have to let go of our relentless positivism, our absurd mania for hope, and face the bleakness of reality before us. To resist means to acknowledge that we are living in a world already heavily damaged by global warming. It means refusing to participate in the destruction of the planet. It means noncooperation with authority. It means defying in every way possible consumer capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It means adjusting our lifestyle, including what we eat, to thwart the forces bent upon our annihilation.</p><p>The animal agriculture industry has, in a staggering act of near total censorship, managed to stifle public discussion about the industry’s complicity in global warming. It is barely mentioned in climate summits. Yet livestock and their byproducts, as Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn point out in their book, “The Sustainability Secret,” and their documentary,<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3302820/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1">“Cowspiracy,”</a> account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Methane and nitrous oxide are rarely mentioned in climate talks, although those two greenhouse gases are, as the authors point out, respectively, 86 times and 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Cattle, worldwide, they write, produce 150 billion gallons of methane daily. And 65 percent of the nitrous oxide produced by human-related activities is caused by the animal agriculture industry. Water used in fracking, they write, ranges from 70 billion to 140 billion gallons annually. Animal agriculture water consumption, the book notes, ranges from 34 trillion to 76 trillion gallons annually. Raising animals for human consumption takes up to 45 percent of the planet’s land. Ninety-one percent of the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest and up to 80 percent of global rain forest loss are caused by clearing land for the grazing of livestock and growing feed crops for meat and dairy animals. As more and more rain forest disappears, the planet loses one of its primary means to safely sequester carbon dioxide. The animal agriculture industry is, as Andersen and Kuhn write, also a principal cause of species extinction and the creation of more than 95,000 square miles of nitrogen-flooded dead zones in the oceans.</p><p>A person who eats a vegan diet, they point out, a diet free of meat, dairy and eggs, saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life every day.</p><p>The animal agriculture industry has pushed through <a href="https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/factory-farms/what-ag-gag-legislation">“Ag-Gag” laws</a> in many states that criminalize protests, critiques of the industry, and whistleblowing attempts to bring the public’s attention to the staggering destruction wrought on the environment by the business of raising 70 billion land animals every year worldwide to be exploited and consumed by humans. And they have done so, I presume, because defying the animal agriculture industry is as easy as deciding not to put animal products—which have tremendous, scientifically proven health risks—into your mouth.</p><p>We have little time left. Those who are despoiling the earth do so for personal gain, believing they can use their privilege to escape the fate that will befall the human species. We may not be able to stop the assault. But we can refuse to abet it. The idols of power and greed, as the biblical prophets warned us, threaten to doom the human race.</p><p>Timothy Pachirat recounts in his book, “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” an Aug. 5, 2004, story in the Omaha World-Herald. An “old-timer” who lived five miles from the Omaha slaughterhouses recalled the wind carrying the stench of the almost six and a half million cattle, sheep and hogs killed each year in south Omaha. The sickly odor permeated buildings throughout the area.</p><p>“It was the smell of money,” the old-timer said. “It was the smell of money.”</p><p><em>“The Sustainability Secret,” a book quoted in this column, has an introduction by Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges and was ghostwritten by Truthdig’s books editor, Eunice Wong.</em></p> Mon, 07 Dec 2015 07:47:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1046917 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment environment hedges climate disaster Chris Hedges: TPP Is the Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History http://www.alternet.org/economy/chris-hedges-tpp-most-brazen-corporate-power-grab-american-history <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s worse than any of us feared. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/chris_hedges_blur.jpg?itok=oQ-_cv1Z" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The release Thursday of the 5,544-page <a href="http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/tpp-ptp/index.aspx?lang=eng" target="_blank">text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership</a>—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.</p><p>“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”</p><p>The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.</p><p><strong>Advertisement</strong></p><p>These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.</p><p>The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.</p><p>The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.”</p><p>If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.</p><p>Given the bankruptcy of our political class—including amoral politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who is denouncing the TPP during the presidential campaign but whose unwavering service to corporate capitalism assures her fealty to her corporate backers—the trade agreement has a good chance of becoming law. And because the Obama administration won fast-track authority, a tactic designed by the Nixon administration to subvert democratic debate, President Obama will be able to sign the agreement before it goes to Congress.</p><p>The TPP, because of fast track, bypasses the normal legislative process of public discussion and consideration by congressional committees. The House and the Senate, which have to vote on the TPP bill within 90 days of when it is sent to Congress, are prohibited by the fast-track provision from adding floor amendments or holding more than 20 hours of floor debate. Congress cannot raise concerns about the effects of the TPP on the environment. It can only vote yes or no. It is powerless to modify or change one word.</p><p>There will be a <a href="https://www.popularresistance.org/mass-mobilization-to-stop-the-tpp-announced-as-text-is-released/" target="_blank">mass mobilization </a>Nov. 14 through 18 in Washington to begin the push to block the TPP. Rising up to stop the TPP is a far, far better investment of our time and energy than engaging in the empty political theater that passes for a presidential campaign.</p><p>“The TPP creates a web of corporate laws that will dominate the global economy,” attorney Kevin Zeese of the group <a href="https://www.popularresistance.org/" target="_blank">Popular Resistance</a>, which has mounted a long fight against the trade agreement, told me from Baltimore by telephone. “It is a global corporate coup d’état. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised, which was to get rid of the worst aspects of NAFTA.”</p><p>The agreement is the product of six years of work by global capitalists from banks, insurance companies, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and other corporations.</p><p>“It was written by them [the corporations], it is for them and it will serve them,” Zeese said of the TPP. “It will hurt domestic businesses and small businesses. The buy-American provisions will disappear. Local communities will not be allowed to build buy-local campaigns. The thrust of the agreement is the privatization and commodification of everything. The agreement has built within it a deep antipathy to state-supported or state-owned enterprises. It gives away what is left of our democracy to the <a href="https://www.wto.org/" target="_blank">World Trade Organization</a>.”</p><p><strong>Advertisement</strong></p><p>The economist David Rosnick, in a report on the TPP by the <a href="http://www.cepr.net/" target="_blank">Center for Economic and Policy Research</a>(CEPR), estimated that under the trade agreement only the top 10 percent of U.S. workers would see their wages increase. Rosnick wrote that the real wages of middle-income U.S. workers (from the 35th percentile to the 80th percentile) would decline under the TPP. NAFTA, contributing to a decline in manufacturing jobs (now only 9 percent of the economy), has forced workers into lower-paying service jobs and resulted in a decline in real wages of between 12 and 17 percent. The TPP would only accelerate this process, Rosnick concluded.</p><p>“This is a continuation of the global race to the bottom,” Dr. Margaret Flowers, also from Popular Resistance and a <a href="http://www.flowersforsenate.org/" target="_blank">candidate for the U.S. Senate</a>, said from Baltimore in a telephone conversation with me. “Corporations are free to move to countries that have the lowest labor standards. This drives down high labor standards here. It means a decimation of industries and unions. It means an accelerated race to the bottom, which we must rise up to stop.”</p><p>“In Malaysia one-third of tech workers are essentially slaves,” Zeese said. “In Vietnam the minimum wage is 35 cents an hour. Once these countries are part of the trade agreement U.S. workers are put in a very difficult position.”</p><p>Fifty-one percent of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year, <a href="http://dailycaller.com/2015/10/25/1-in-2-working-americans-make-less-than-30000-a-year/" target="_blank">a new study</a> by the Social Security Administration reported. Forty percent are making less than $20,000 a year. The federal government considers a family of four living on an income of less than $24,250 to be in poverty.</p><p>“Half of American workers earn essentially the poverty level,” Zeese said. “This agreement only accelerates this trend. I don’t see how American workers are going to cope.”</p><p>The assault on the American workforce by NAFTA—which was established under the Clinton administration in 1994 and which at the time promised creation of 200,000 net jobs a year in the United States—has been devastating. NAFTA has led to a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and the loss of at least 1 million U.S. jobs, according to a <a href="http://www.citizen.org/documents/NAFTA-at-20.pdf" target="_blank">report by Public Citizen</a>. The flooding of the Mexican market with cheap corn by U.S. agro-businesses drove down the price of Mexican corn and saw 1 million to 3 million poor Mexican farmers go bankrupt and lose their small farms. Many of them crossed the border into the United States in a desperate effort to find work.</p><p>“Obama has misled the public throughout this process,” Dr. Flowers said. “He claimed that environmental groups were supportive of the agreement because it provided environmental protections, and this has now been proven false. He told us that it would create 650,000 jobs, and this has now been proven false. He calls this a 21st century trade agreement, but it actually rolls back progress made in Bush-era trade agreements. The most recent model of a 21st century trade agreement is the Korean free trade agreement. That was supposed to create 140,000 U.S. jobs. But what we saw within a couple years was a loss of about 70,000 jobs and a larger trade deficit with Korea. This agreement [the TPP] is sold to us with the same deceits that were used to sell us NAFTA and other trade agreements.”</p><p>The agreement, in essence, becomes global law. Any agreements over carbon emissions by countries made through the United Nations are effectively rendered null and void by the TPP.</p><p>“Trade agreements are binding,” Flowers said. “They supersede any of the nonbinding agreements made by the <a href="http://unfccc.int/meetings/paris_nov_2015/meeting/8926.php" target="_blank">United Nations Climate Change Conference</a> that might come out of Paris.”</p><p>There is more than enough evidence from past trade agreements to indicate where the TPP—often called “NAFTA on steroids”—will lead. It is part of the inexorable march by corporations to wrest from us the ability to use government to defend the public and to build social and political organizations that promote the common good. Our corporate masters seek to turn the natural world and human beings into malleable commodities that will be used and exploited until exhaustion or collapse. Trade agreements are the tools being used to achieve this subjugation. The only response left is open, sustained and defiant popular revolt.</p> Sat, 07 Nov 2015 15:12:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1045435 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy tpp America Condemns Millions of Its Own Citizens to Suffering, Misery and Early Death http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/america-condemns-millions-its-own-citizens-suffering-misery-and-early-death <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Millions of brilliant Americans have been set up from birth to be put behind bars. Boris Franklin was one of them, and his words dramatically trace a powerful system that destroys lives.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-10-12_at_2.53.39_pm.png?itok=rBWeN-o_" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The defeat of the Harvard University debate team by a <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/truthdiggers_of_the_week_the_bard_prison_initiative_debate_team_20151011">team from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility</a> in the Catskills elucidates a truth known intimately by those of us who teach in prisons: that the failure of the American educational system to offer opportunities to the poor and the government’s abandonment of families and children living in blighted communities condemn millions of boys and girls, often of color, to a life of suffering, misery and early death. The income inequality, the trillions of dollars we divert to the war industry, the flight of manufacturing jobs overseas and the refusal to invest in our infrastructure wrecks life after innocent life. </p><p>I spent four years as a graduate student at Harvard University. Privilege, and especially white privilege, I discovered, is the primary prerequisite for attending an Ivy League university. I have also spent several years teaching in prisons. In class after class in prison, there is a core of students who could excel at Harvard. This is not hyperbolic, as the defeat of the Harvard debate team illustrates. But poverty condemned my students before they ever entered school. And as poverty expands, inflicting on communities and families a host of maladies including crime, addiction, rage, despair and hopelessness, the few remaining institutions that might intervene to lift the poor up are gutted or closed. Even when students in inner-city schools are not the targets of racial insults, racism worms into their lives because the institutions that should help them are nonexistent or deeply dysfunctional.</p><p>I stood outside a prison gate in Newark, N.J., at 7 a.m. last April 24. I waited for the release of one of my students, Boris Franklin, who had spent 11 years incarcerated. I had ridden to the gate with his mother, who spent her time reading Bible verses out loud in the car, and his sister. We watched him walk down the road toward us. He was wearing the baggy gray sweatpants, oversize white T-shirt and white Reeboks that prisoners purchase before their release. Franklin had laid out $50 for his new clothes. A prisoner in New Jersey earns $28 a month working in prison.  </p><p>Franklin, with the broad shoulders and muscular chest and arms that come with years of lifting weights, clutched a manila envelope containing his medical records, instructions for parole, his birth certificate, his Social Security card and an ID issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, his official form of identification. All his prison possessions, including his collection of roughly 100 books, had to be left behind.</p><p>The first words he spoke to me as a free man after more than a decade in prison were “I have to rebuild my library.” </p><p>“You don’t know what to think or feel at that moment,” he said to me recently about the moment of his release. “You are just walking. It is almost surreal. You can’t believe it. After such a traumatic experience you are numb. There is no sense of triumph.”</p><p>When Franklin was in prison, he was a student under the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (<a href="http://njstep.newark.rutgers.edu/" target="_blank">NJ-STEP</a>). Now, at 42, he is attending Rutgers under the university’s <a href="http://mountainview.rutgers.edu/about-the-mountainview-program" target="_blank">Mountainview Program for ex-offenders</a>. He is seeking a degree in social work and plans to assist the formerly incarcerated. This is an unusual and rare opportunity for a freed prisoner.</p><p>Franklin, like many others I have taught, should never have ended up in prison. His brilliance, his hunger to learn and his passion for ideas, if nurtured, would have led him to a very different life. But when you are poor in America, everything conspires to make sure you remain poor. The invisible walls of our internal colonies, keeping the poor penned in like livestock, mirror the physical walls of prison that many in these communities are doomed to experience.</p><p>“I started school in Piscataway, N.J.,” he said. “It was predominantly white. There was a lot of space. It was clean. There was order. People walked down the halls in lines. I had been prepared in Head Start.”</p><p>When he was in the second grade, his family moved. He started attending an inner-city school in New Brunswick. The two schools, he said, “were night and day.” The classrooms in New Brunswick were shabby, dirty and overcrowded. Many of the children were “loud and disruptive.” </p><p>“In Piscataway we were taught how to learn, how to read and scan texts for information,” he said. “New Brunswick was a zoo. It was mostly black and Hispanic. There were fights all the time. I doubt the teachers were even qualified. It was not an environment where you could teach anything. Kids would come to school and slam things down or turn stuff over. They were angry. I remember seeing a girl in my class, a victim of child abuse, with welts all over her. She later became a drug addict. Your fight-or-flight mechanism as a child is activated even before you walk out of the house. Your blood pressure goes up. There are drugs and alcohol all around you. You see fights on the way to school. You see dope addicts slumped over. You see police jump on someone and beat ’em up. You run into gangs of kids.”</p><p>“I knew kids who dropped out of school because it was dangerous to be in school,” he went on. “If you had a fight they would find out what school you went to and they would be there to retaliate when you got out. We used to take bats and knives to school and put them by the door when we came out in case there was a confrontation. I got my first weapons charge at 14 for a handgun. You are not in a state to learn anything. Of course criminals have low brain arousal. They have been desensitized since childhood. This is how you deal with constant danger. You go numb. And you become a danger to others and yourself.”</p><p>“The students in my third-grade class were tracing out letters,” he said. “They were trying to learn how to write. I was writing in cursive. I could multiply and divide. They did not know how to add and subtract. The two schools were only 20 minutes apart. But in New Brunswick you were not taught how to think. You were taught rote behavior, to obey. I was told to sit in the back of the class, be quiet and wait for the other students to catch up. But they never caught up.” </p><p>“There was usually drugs in the homes,” he said. “I had friends whose homes were raided when they were children. Most of the parents were getting high, including my father. I did not know any child who did not have a drug addict in the home. And if a person was not a drug addict he or she was often suffering from some form of mental illness. It seemed everyone was dealing with something. Those who were left with their grandparents were in the best situation. Kids would say they were living with their grandmother. They would never mention their mother or father. I never saw the fathers of most of my friends. They had disappeared or were in jail.”</p><p>“I remember when my friend Carl Anderson’s father came home from jail,” he said. “We were in the seventh grade. We were sitting in the classroom. Somebody said, ‘Carl, that’s your father outside.’ We all turned around. Carl was my best friend. I had never seen his father. He looked like [boxer] Marvin Hagler. He had a leather jacket, a bald head and a goatee. Carl was excited because his dad was home. That same year we were walking home from school and this lady who was getting high ran up to him and said, ‘Little Carl, they just locked your father up. He cut somebody’s throat down in the projects.’ You could see everything drain out of his face. He shut everything down. How do you learn to deal with that? You learn not to care. We were using a lot of misplaced aggression. That night we were probably fighting somebody. I could feel his pain. You want to get it out? We will get it out. That’s how you dealt with it. That’s how everybody dealt with it. Take it out on somebody else. When I would get hit in the house I would come outside and the first person lookin’ at me I would say, ‘What you lookin’ at?’ I would jump them or chase them or something. My mother told my father, ‘You can’t hit him anymore. You are making him violent.’ ” </p><p>“There is a stigma that comes with being poor,” he said. “If you are poor you are bad. You are worthless. You are ridiculed. You are picked on. Markets are built on this. This is how you can sell a kid from the inner city a pair of $200 sneakers. He is buying his identity. He is buying his self-esteem. And that’s why poor people hustle. That’s why I started hustling [drugs], to buy things. The gratification is immediate. You wear that stuff and it is like you are magically not poor anymore. It is a trigger to go back to selling drugs. I remember when I was struggling. I had grits one night for dinner because that was all that was in the cabinet. I panicked. By the next day I decided I would do something criminal to change my situation.”</p><p>“What’s the best that can happen to you, even if you don’t go to jail?” he asked. “Check out bags at Wal-Mart? A warehouse job? That’s as far as you can go in this world if you are poor. The only education the poor are given is one where they get to a place where they learn enough to take orders. They are taught to remember what is said. They are taught to repeat the instructions. There is no thinking involved. We are not taught to think. We are educated just enough to occupy the lowest rung on the social ladder.” </p><p>“No one in prison wanted to admit they were poor,” he said. “A friend of mine in prison told all these big-drug-dealer stories. He has been in and out of jail for 20 years. But one day we were walking on the basketball court. He got honest. He told me he had been sleepin’ in his car. Sometimes motel rooms. Basically homeless. No education. No connections. The only people he knows are inmates. He does not know anyone in the working world who can help him put in an application and say a word for him. When he got out he went to the guys he knew from jail still in the streets. That was his network. That’s most people’s network. ‘Can you get me some dope? What’s the price? Who’s moving it?’ That’s your economy. That’s the one you go back to. That’s how you survive. His brother is doing 30 years. His nephew is doing 16 years.” </p><p>“One of my four children went to school in New Brunswick,” Franklin said. “And he is in jail. The other three, who did not go to school in New Brunswick, have college degrees or are in college. You go to schools like the one I went to and you enter a pipeline straight to jail. When I walked into the mess hall in prison it looked like my old school lunchroom, including the fights. When I walked into the yard in prison, it looked like my old playground, including the fights. When I was in the projects it looked like prison. When guys get to prison the scenery is familiar. If you grow up poor, then prison is not a culture shock. You have been conditioned your whole life for prison.” </p><p>His family moved again when he was a child. He entered Franklin High School in Somerset, N.J., but his years in a dysfunctional school meant he was now woefully unprepared, struggling and behind. “Students in Franklin High School had continued in the pace I had started in,” he said. </p><p>He had become acculturated to poverty. He would not go to college. He would, as so many of his peers did, end up in prison. And it was in prison that he, like many others, found refuge in books and the world of ideas.</p><p>“You have a lot of intellectuals in prison,” he said. “There are people who think about things, who read things, who try to connect the dots. People read psychology and science to see how things fit together. You see libraries in some cells. You hear people say, ‘I got to get my library up.’ You would go from one cell with a library to another. It was like a cult. When you first loan a book to someone in prison you loan a tester. You do not loan a valuable book. If the person who borrows the book reads it and talks about it, then they get another book. But if they leave the book sitting on their shelf, if it doesn’t get read, they never get another book.” </p><p>“There are a lot of guys in prison who read everything,” he continued. “When I saw that those prisoners won the debate with the Harvard team I was not surprised. I took classes where there were prisoners who had read everything the professor had read. I was intimidated to take classes with certain guys. They read constantly. They retained all the information. And they could relate it to whatever we were talking about. On the outside they never had a chance.”</p><p>“Look at the faces of the young kids, when they first start out,” he said. “They have wide, bright eyes. Then look at the pictures of the faces of people in prison. Their eyes are low, slanted, shifty, beaten. They are worn out. How you do you get from that child to that man? Look at the community. Look at the schools. Look at what is done to the poor.”</p><p><em>The photo of Boris Franklin at the top of this article is a still from the documentary movie “Can Our Families Come,” now in production. The film, directed by Michael Nigro, is about the U.S. prison system and the <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_plays_the_thing_20131215">mounting of the play “Caged,”</a> written at a New Jersey maximum-security penitentiary by 28 prisoners under their teacher, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges. Nigro is a New York City filmmaker, journalist and activist, and his website is at <a href="http://partiallysubmerged.com/" target="_blank">partiallysubmerged.com</a>.</em></p> Mon, 12 Oct 2015 11:43:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1043953 at http://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights prison race crime Corporate Capitalism Is the Foundation of Police Brutality and the Prison State http://www.alternet.org/economy/corporate-capitalism-foundation-police-brutality-and-prison-state <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">No discussion of race is possible without a discussion about our economic system.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_79025953.jpg?itok=n31xp1Kc" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Our national conversation on race and crime is based on a fiction. It is the fiction that the organs of internal security, especially the judiciary and the police, can be adjusted, modernized or professionalized to make possible a post-racial America. We discuss issues of race while ignoring the economic, bureaucratic and political systems of exploitation—all of it legal and built into the ruling apparatus—that are the true engines of racism and white supremacy. No discussion of race is possible without a discussion of capitalism and class. And until that discussion takes place, despite all the proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, the state will continue to murder and imprison poor people of color with impunity.</p><p>More training, body cameras, community policing, the hiring of more minorities as police officers, a better probation service and more equitable fines will not blunt the indiscriminate use of lethal force or reduce the mass incarceration that destroys the lives of the poor. Our capitalist system callously discards surplus labor, especially poor people of color, employing lethal force and the largest prison system in the world to keep them under control. This is by design. And until this predatory system of capitalism is destroyed, the poor, especially people of color, will continue to be gunned down by police in the streets, as they have for decades, and disproportionately locked in prison cages.</p><p>“The strength of ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander is that, by equating mass incarceration with Jim Crow, it makes it rhetorically impossible to defend it,” said <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/africanamericanstudies/people/faculty/naomi-murakawa/">Naomi Murakawa</a>, author of “The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America,” when we met recently in Princeton, N.J. “But, on the other hand, there is no ‘new’ Jim Crow, there is just capitalist white supremacy in a state of constant self-preservation.”</p><p>“We should talk about what we are empowering police to do, not how they are doing it, not whether they are being nice when they carry out arrests,” she said. “Reforms are oriented to making violence appear respectable and courteous. But being arrested once can devastate someone’s life. This is the violence we are not talking about. It does not matter if you are arrested politely. Combating racism is not about combating bad ideas in the head or hateful feelings. This idea is the perfect formula to preserve material distributions in their exact configuration.”</p><p>Murakawa, who teaches at Princeton University, laid out in her book that liberals, in the name of pity, and conservatives, in the name of law and order—or as Richard Nixon expressed it, the right to be safe and free of fear—equally shared in the building of our carceral state. “Liberal racial pity mirrored conservative racial contempt,” she writes. These “competing constructions of black criminality, one callous, another with a tenor of sympathy and cowering paternalism,” ensured that by the time these forces were done, there was from 1968 to 2010 a septupling of people locked in the prison system. “Counting probation and parole with jails and prisons is even more astonishing still,” she writes. “This population grew from 780,000 in 1965 to seven million in 2010.”</p><p>Racism in America will not be solved, she writes, by “teaching tolerance and creating colorblind institutions.” The refusal to confront structural racism, which in the 1930s and ’40s among intellectuals “situated domestic racism and colonialism abroad in an integrated critique of global capitalism,” led to a vapid racial liberalism that, as <a href="http://www.hca.uni-heidelberg.de/md/hca/veranstaltungen/eschen.pdf">Penny Von Eschen</a> writes, conceived of racism as “an anachronistic prejudice and a personal and psychological problem, rather than as a systemic problem rooted in specific social practices and prevailing relations of political economy and culture.”</p><p>Police brutality will not be solved, Murakawa points out, by reforms that mandate an “acceptable use of force.” The state may have outlawed lynching and mob violence—largely because of international outcry and damage to the image of the United States abroad—but insisted that capital punishment “could be fair with adequate legal defense for the poor, proper jury instructions, and clear lists of mitigating and aggravating circumstances.” Racial violence was seen as an “administrative deficiency.”</p><p>Murakawa goes on in the book:</p><blockquote><p>Liberal lawmakers would come to evaluate fairness through finely honed, step-by-step questions: Did legislators enact a sufficiently clear criminal statute? Did police properly Mirandize? Did prosecutors follow protocol in offering a plea bargain or filing charges? Did parole officers follow administrative rules of revocation? And, in any single step, did a specific actor deviate from the protocol or intentionally discriminate? As a methodology for ‘finding racism’ in the criminal justice system, liberal law-and-order reinforced the common sense that racism is a ghost in the machine, some immaterial force detached from the institutional terrain of racialized wealth inequality and the possessive investment in whiteness. At the core of liberal law-and-order was the promise to move each individual qua individual through a system of clear rules that allow little room for individual bias. In effect, a lasting legacy of liberal law-and-order is this: we evaluate the rightness of criminal justice through the administrative quality by which each individual is searched, arrested, warehoused, or put to death.</p></blockquote><p> </p><p>All penal reform, from President Truman’s 1947 Committee on Civil Rights report to the Safe Streets Act of 1968 to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 to contemporary calls for more professionalization, in effect only hand more power and resources to the police. It does nothing to blunt police abuse or reverse mass incarceration. It does nothing to address the bias of white supremacy.</p><p>“Truman’s version of the civil rights agenda came through lynching,” Murakawa said. “It illuminates how the rule of law and white supremacy operate hand in hand. Lynching hurt U.S. credibility. It hurt its force projection abroad. The concern over lynching was not a concern for black lives. It was a concern that mob and state violence were too easily conflated. The objective became to make a sharp difference between white supremacist mob violence and white supremacist state violence. The difference is not that one is white supremacist and one is not. The difference is one [is] proceduralized, one is rights based, one is orderly, bound by rule of law with ever more elaborate procedures. That is the only thing that makes it different from the lynch mob.”</p><p>The real crime—poverty, institutional racism and capitalist exploitation—is rarely discussed. Therefore, the blame for crime is easily shifted to the “pathology” of black families. The <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/was-the-moynihan-report-right-sobering-findings-after-1965-study-is-revisited/2013/06/13/80eac980-d432-11e2-b05f-3ea3f0e7bb5a_story.html">Moynihan report</a>, for example, argues that black criminality results from dominant black mothers and absent black fathers.</p><p>“You can perfect due process so it operates like a machine and have perfect quality control,” Murakawa said. “This is what the due-process-right revolution was. You can have full adherence to the panoply of rights. And yet you also have a machine that only grows. Everyone thought the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_v._Arizona">Miranda decision</a> would stop the rate at which police arrest people. They thought it would curtail the scale and scope of policing. Instead, Miranda rights are used to protect police officers in civil litigation. Police officers say they got the waiver. They say people were informed of their rights. Miranda is used mostly to deflect lawsuits against police departments. These little procedural interventions give the system a patina of legitimacy. If we are processing at the same scale and at the same racial concentration, then the machinery of death only gets bigger and bigger.”</p><p>The more that “carceral machinery was rights-based and rule-bound, the more racial disparity was isolatable to ‘real’ black criminality.” In other words, as liberals and conservatives became convinced that the machinery of the judiciary and the police was largely impartial and fair, the onus for punishment shifted to the victims. State-sponsored white violence remained entrenched. Institutionalized murder remained acceptable. In the minds of liberals and conservatives, those who were arrested, locked up or shot deserved to be arrested, locked up or shot. Federal mandatory minimum statutes tripled under President Bill Clinton, and this is one example Murakawa points out of how “with each administrative layer to protect African Americans from lawless racial violence, liberals propelled carceral development that, through perverse turns, expanded lawful racial violence.”</p><p>By 1993, she points out, “African Americans accounted for 88.3 percent of all federal crack cocaine distribution convictions.” And because the judicial system is stacked against poor people of color, it does not matter, she said, if the arresting officers are also people of color.</p><p>“There is no evidence that having a minority police officer changes arrest or use of force,” she said. “The better evidence suggests that black police officers tend to arrest everyone at higher rates across races. I interpret this as black professionals having to over-perform in any number of professions to get to comparable ranking. Maybe interpersonally, people will find it a little less offensive. But it does not diminish the violence.”</p><p>By the Clinton administration, liberals and conservatives were competing with each other to be “tough” on crime. Murakawa notes that between 1968 and 1976, no one was executed in the United States. But this changed under Clinton. Democrats and Republicans proposed bill after bill until the number of crimes punishable by death leapt from one in 1974 to 66 in 1994. The two parties engaged in “a death penalty bidding war.” Then-Sen. Joe Biden was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of expanding the death penalty—he boasted that he had “added back to the Federal statutes over 50 death penalties”—and the Democrats effectively “neutralized soft-on-crime accusations with punitive outbidding.” But while this may have been politically advantageous to the Democrats, it was devastating to poor people of color and in particular blacks.</p><p>Change, Murakawa said, requires us to formulate a very different vision of society.</p><p>“We should follow Angela Davis’ call to ask the question: What is it we have to imagine if we abolish the social functions of police and prisons?” she said. “What is it we have to build if we can no longer jail people who are mentally ill or suffering from long-term addiction or homeless? We are going to have to build a lot.”</p><p>But few people, and perhaps no one in the political establishment, are asking these questions.</p><p>“These bipartisan coalitions are conjoined in the rhetoric of cost cutting,” Murakawa said, referencing Marie Gottschalk’s book “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics.” “They may say there is bias, that it is not racially fair. They may attack prisons as big government, as inefficient or as a bad investment. But once you follow the logic of austerity, you push the cost of punishment on those who are punished. You are not committed to building anything. The reason Portugal has been so successful with drug legalization is because of the Portuguese National Health Service. Fighting addiction requires pharmacological and medical intervention, along with psychological and financial support.</p><p>“I worry that we are once again moving toward more professionalized police who have had more training but still have the scope to arrest and issue citations and summonses the same way they do now,” Murakawa said. “Indeed, there will probably be an increase in arrests, citations and summonses if the police forces get bigger. Even with scaling back the war on drugs, I worry that we will still have a massive number of people embroiled in the criminal justice system. It will be death by a thousand cuts rather than the 20-year mandatory minimums for drug conspiracy. Bipartisan coalitions that are about cutting costs justify pushing the cost of punishment on punished populations. I worry we are moving toward a population, mostly black and poor, that is cycling through jail and effectively serving 20-year sentences but in stints of about 90 days at a time. With each jail stay they accumulate more debt for room and board. A municipality in Missouri is billing people for the Tasers used against them—$26 per Taser discharge. Roughly half of all states are now charging people for the services of indigent criminal defense. A 2013 Supreme Court decision said that extended families could be held responsible for the debts of those incarcerated.</p><p>“There are 10 to 12 million arrests every year; about half will never be processed because these arrests are for charges so trivial they are not worth pursuing or there is no evidence,” she said. “Maybe 5 percent of these arrests are for charges of violent crime and 15 percent for property crimes.</p><p>“There is no reason why police on patrols should be armed,” she went on. “If we were serious about stopping executions without trials, we would be committed to the idea that all police have to call in special forces. What we now see as regular police units would be SWAT patrols that have to be specially called in to use lethal force. We have to diminish the scale of everything. We have to wipe clean penal codes. Most arrests are for misdemeanors, petty offenses like public drunkenness or loitering. These are things no state agent with a gun should be addressing. The only way to reduce the scale of police brutality is to reduce the scale of policing. People should not be arrested for not mowing their lawn or for selling loosies.</p><p>“The idea we can put police officers through training to address their implicit bias and then give them guns—the idea that two days of intensive training will diminish the probability of shoot to kill—is absurd,” Murakawa said. “I have zero faith in this.”</p> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 10:29:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1038935 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy prison police hedges capitalism Strong Opinion: Our Mindless Entertainment and Propaganda Is Destroying Us http://www.alternet.org/culture/strong-opinion-our-mindless-entertainment-and-propaganda-destroying-us <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What has mindless entertainment and propaganda done to us?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_142194433.jpg?itok=pxRP2aaz" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Michael P. Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, one of the country’s largest racetracks, stood with a group of about a dozen race fans at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Next to him were boxes of free doughnuts and coffee. A line of men with towels, who had spent the night in nearby RV campers, pop-up campers and tents, stood patiently outside the door to a shower room. A light drizzle, one that would turn into a torrential downpour and lead to the races being canceled in the afternoon, coated the group, all middle-aged or older white men. They were discussing, amid the high-pitched whine of cars practicing on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn circuit racetrack, the aging demographic of race fans and the inability to lure a new generation to the sport.</p><p>“Maybe if you installed chargers for phones around the track they would come,” suggested one gray-haired man.</p><p>But it is not just sporting events. Public lectures, church services, labor unions, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, Masonic halls, Rotary clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Grange Hall meetings, the League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, town halls, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, movie theater attendance (at a 20-year low), advocacy groups such as the NAACP and professional and amateur theatrical and musical performances cater to a dwindling and graying population. No one is coming through the door to take the place of the old members. A generation has fallen down the rabbit hole of electronic hallucinations—with images often dominated by violence and pornography. They have become, in the words of the philosopher <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/" target="_blank">Hannah Arendt</a>, “atomized,” sucked alone into systems of information and entertainment that cater to America’s prurient fascination with the tawdry, the cruel and the deadening cult of the self. </p><p>The entrapment in a world of nonstop electronic sounds and images, begun with the phonograph and radio, advanced by cinema and television and perfected by video games, the Internet and hand-held devices, is making it impossible to build relationships and structures that are vital for civic engagement and resistance to corporate power. We have been transformed into commodities. The steady decline of the white male heaven that is NASCAR—which has stopped publishing the falling attendance at its tracks and at some speedways has begun to tear down bleachers—is ominous. It is the symbol of a captive society.</p><p>“We don’t see the youth coming in,” Printup said. “The millennial, the younger adults 18 to 35, is our target. We spend millions of dollars a year to target that group. But it’s hard. Look around. Who’s the youngest person here? That’s our problem. Every sport from the NFL to NHL is struggling with the 18 to 35 demographic. They call them weird. They call them difficult. They only want to look at their computers.”</p><p>Printup’s parent company, the International Speedway Corp. (ISC), has invested significant sums to reach this demographic with little to show for it.</p><p>“We have a digital firm that represents nearly all our tracks in the ISC,” he went on, noting that Watkins Glen, which drew about 16,000 fans this past weekend, is one of the few exceptions to the decline in numbers. “The digital platform is about the only way you can get to them. We target them. We buy lists. We hire an agency that tracks their Web and Internet interactions. If they bring up racing, we want to be there. When a kid Googles ‘Ferrari—racing—sports car’ we are one of the top 10 lists. We pay for that. It is not cheap. That’s how you have got to get these kids. But it’s not working the way it should.”</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Putnam" target="_blank">Robert D. Putnam</a> pointed out the decline of independent civic engagement, or what he called our “social capital,” in his <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/books/00/06/25/reviews/000625.25talbott.html" target="_blank">book “Bowling Alone:</a> The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” He noted that our severance from local communal and civic groups brought with it not only loneliness and alienation, but also a dangerous and passive reliance on the state.</p><p>Totalitarian societies, including our own, inundate the public with a steady stream of propaganda accompanied by mindless entertainment. They seek to destroy independent organizations. In Nazi Germany the state provided millions of cheap, state-subsidized radios and then dominated the airwaves with its propaganda. Radio receivers were mounted in public locations in Stalin’s Soviet Union; and citizens, especially illiterate peasants, were required to gather to listen to the state-controlled news and the dictator’s speeches. These totalitarian states also banned civic organizations that were not under the iron control of the party.</p><p>The corporate state is no different, although unlike past totalitarian systems it permits dissent in the form of print and does not ban fading civic and community groups. It has won the battle against literacy. The seductiveness of the image lures most Americans away from the print-based world of ideas. The fascination with the image swallows the time and energy required to attend and maintain communal organizations. If no one reads, why censor books? Let <a href="http://www.chomsky.info/" target="_blank">Noam Chomsky</a> publish as much as he wants. Just keep his voice off the airwaves. If no one attends community meetings, group events or organizations, why prohibit them? Let them be held in near-empty rooms and left uncovered by the press until they are shuttered. </p><p>The object of a totalitarian state is to keep its citizens locked within the parameters of official propaganda and permanently isolated. Propaganda and isolation make it difficult for an individual to express or carry out dissent. Official opinions, little more than digestible slogans and clichés, are crafted and disseminated by public relations specialists on behalf of the power elite. They are repeated endlessly over the airwaves until the public unconsciously ingests them. And the isolated public in a totalitarian society is unable to connect its personal experience of despair, anxiety, fear, frustration and economic insecurity to the structures that create these conditions. The isolated citizen is left feeling that his or her personal misfortune is an exception. The portrayal of society by systems of state propaganda—content, respectful of authority, just, economically secure and free—is mistaken for reality. </p><p>Totalitarian propaganda, accompanied by isolation, or what Arendt called “atomization,” makes it possible for a population not to “believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent in itself.” This propaganda, Arendt went on, “gave the masses of atomized, undefinable, unstable and futile individuals a means of self-definition and identification.”</p><p>Corporate propaganda saturates the public, especially a generation wedded to new technology, with these lies. Its power, however, comes from the meticulous study of the moods, prejudices, whims and desires of the public, to manipulate the masses in their own language and emotions. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Heiden" target="_blank">Konrad Heiden</a> made this point when he examined fascist propaganda in Nazi Germany, noting that propaganda must detect the murmur of the public “and translate it into intelligible utterance and convincing action.” </p><p>“The true aim of political propaganda is not to influence, but to study, the masses,” Heiden wrote. “The speaker is in constant communication with the masses; he hears an echo, and senses the inner vibration.” Heiden, forced to flee Nazi Germany, went on: “When a resonance issues from the depths of the substance, the masses have given him the pitch; he knows in what terms he must finally address them. Rather than a means of directing the mass mind, propaganda is a technique for riding with the masses. It is not a machine to make wind but a sail to catch the wind.”</p><p>Dissent will only be possible when we break the dark spell of corporate propaganda and the isolation that accompanies it. We must free ourselves from corporate tyranny, which means refusing to invest our emotional and intellectual energy in electronic images. We must build what the Russian anarchist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kropotkin" target="_blank">Peter Kropotkin</a>  called “voluntary associations for study and teaching, for industry, commerce, science, art, literature, exploitation, resistance to exploitation, amusement, serious work, gratification and self-denial.”</p><p>“We know well the means by which this association of the lord, priest, merchant, judge, soldier, and king founded its domination,” Kropotkin wrote. “It was by the annihilation of all free unions: of village communities, guilds, trades unions, fraternities, and medieval cities. It was by confiscating the land of the communes and the riches of the guilds; it was by the absolute and ferocious prohibition of all kinds of free agreement between men; it was by massacre, the wheel, the gibbet, the sword, and the fire that Church and State established their domination, and that they succeeded henceforth to reign over an incoherent agglomeration of subjects, who had no direct union more among themselves.”</p><p>Corporate propaganda has become so potent that many Americans are addicted. We must leave our isolated rooms. We must shut out these images. We must connect with those around us. It is only the communal that will save us. It is only the communal that will allow us to build a movement to resist. And it is only the communal that will sustain us through mutual aid as climate change and economic collapse increasingly dominate our future.</p><p> </p> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 06:59:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1038536 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture us hedges America’s Slave Empire http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/americas-slave-empire <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The resistance movement against US prisons continues to grow.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-06-22_at_11.01.37_am.png?itok=ANO6FROE" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Three prisoners—Melvin Ray, James Pleasant and Robert Earl Council—who led work stoppages in Alabama prisons in January 2014 as part of the <a href="http://freealabamamovement.com/" target="_blank">Free Alabama Movement</a> have spent the last 18 months in solitary confinement. Authorities, unnerved by the protests that engulfed three prisons in the state, as well as by videos and pictures of abusive conditions smuggled out by the movement, say the men will remain <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Uek3tz_Tp8" target="_blank">in solitary confinement indefinitely</a>.</p><p>The prison strike leaders are denied televisions and reading material. They spend at least three days a week, sometimes longer, in their tiny isolation cells. They eat their meals while seated on steel toilets. They are allowed to shower only once every two days despite temperatures that routinely rise above 90 degrees. </p><p>The men have become symbols of a growing <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/boycott_divest_and_sanction_corporations_that_feed_on_prisons_20150405">resistance movement</a> inside American prisons. The prisoners’ work stoppages and refusal to co-operate with authorities in Alabama are modeled on actions that <a href="http://www.southernstudies.org/2010/12/georgia-prisoner-strike-comes-out-of-lockdown.html" target="_blank">shook the Georgia prison system</a> in December 2010. The strike leaders argue that this is the only mechanism left to the 2.3 million prisoners across America. By refusing to work—a tactic that would force prison authorities to hire compensated labor or toinduce the prisoners to return to their jobs by paying a fair wage—the neoslavery that defines the prison system can be broken. Prisoners are currently organizing in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia and Washington. </p><p>“We have to shut down the prisons,” Council, known as Kinetik, one of the founders of the Free Alabama Movement, told me by phone from the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Ala. He has been in prison for 21 years, serving a sentence of life without parole. “We will not work for free anymore. All the work in prisons, from cleaning to cutting grass to working in the kitchen, is done by inmate labor. [Almost no prisoner] in Alabama is paid. Without us the prisons, which are slave empires, cannot function. Prisons, at the same time, charge us a variety of fees, such as for our identification cards or wrist bracelets, and [impose] numerous fines, especially for possession of contraband. They charge us high phone and commissary prices. Prisons each year are taking larger and larger sums of money from the inmates and their families. The state gets from us millions of dollars in free labor and then imposes fees and fines. You have brothers that work in kitchens 12 to 15 hours a day and have done this for years and have never been paid.”</p><p>“We do not believe in the political process,” said Ray, who spoke from the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Ala., and who is serving life without parole. “We are not looking to politicians to submit reform bills. We aren’t giving more money to lawyers. We don’t believe in the courts. We will rely only on protests inside and outside of prisons and on targeting the corporations that exploit prison labor and finance the school-to-prison pipeline. We have focused our first boycott on McDonald’s. <a href="http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/10/10/12-mainstream-corporations-benefiting-from-the-prison-industrial-complex/" target="_blank">McDonald’s uses prisoners</a> to process beef for paddies and package bread, milk, chicken products. We have called for a national Stop Campaign against McDonald’s. We have identified this corporation to expose all the others. There are too many corporations exploiting prison labor to try and take them all on at once.”</p><p>“We are not going to call for protests outside of statehouses,” Ray went on. “Legislators are owned by corporations. To go up there with the achy breaky heart is not going to do any good. These politicians are in it for the money. If you are fighting mass incarceration, the people who are incarcerated are not in the statehouse. They are not in the parks. They are in the prisons. If you are going to fight for the people in prison, join them at the prison. The kryptonite to fight the prison system, which is a $500 billion enterprise, is the work strike. And we need people to come to the prisons to let guys on the inside know they have outside support to shut the prison down. Once we take our labor back, prisons will again become places for correction and rehabilitation rather than centers of corporate profit.”</p><p>The three prisoners said that until the prison-industrial complex was dismantled there would be no prison reform. They said books such as Stokely Carmichael’s “Ready for Revolution” and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” along with the failure of prison reform movements, convinced them that the only hope to battle back against a prison system that contains 25 percent of the world’s prisoners was to organize resistance. And they find no solace in a black president.</p><p>“To say that we have a black president does not say anything,” Ray said. “The politicians are the ones who orchestrated this system. They are either directly involved as businessmen—many are already millionaires or billionaires, or they are controlled by millionaires and billionaires. We are not blindsided by titles. We are looking at what is going on behind the scenes. We see a coordinated effort by the Koch brothers, ALEC [the <a href="http://www.alec.org/" target="_blank">American Legislative Exchange Council</a>] and political action committees that see in prisons a business opportunity. Their goal is to increase earnings. And once you look at it like this, it does not matter if we have a black or white president. That is why the policies have not changed. The laws, such as mandatory minimum [sentences], were put in place by big business so they would have access to cheap labor. The anti-terrorism laws were enacted to close the doors on the access to justice so people would be in prison longer. Big business finances campaigns. Big business writes the laws and legislation. And Obama takes money from these people. He is as vested in this system as they are.”</p><p>In Alabama prisons, as in nearly all such state facilities across the United States, prisoners do nearly every job, including cooking, cleaning, maintenance, laundry and staffing the prison barbershop. In the St. Clair prison there is also a chemical plant, a furniture company and a repair shop for state vehicles. Other Alabama prisons run printing companies and recycling plants, stamp license plates, make metal bed frames, operate sand pits and tend fish farms. Only a few hundred of Alabama’s 26,200 prisoners—the system is designed to hold only 13,130 people—are paid to work; they get 17 to 71 cents an hour. The rest are slaves. </p><p>The men bemoaned a lack of recreational and educational programs and basic hygiene supplies, the poor ventilation that sends temperatures in the cells and dormitories to over 100 degrees, crumbling infrastructures, infestations of cockroaches and rats, and corrupt prison guards who routinely beat prisoners and sell contraband, including drugs and cell phones. These conditions, coupled with the overcrowding, are, they warned, creating a tinderbox, especially as temperatures soar. There was a riot in St. Clair in April. There has been a rash of stabbings and fights in the prison. Prisoners have assaulted 10 guards in St. Clair during the last four weeks. </p><p>“<a href="https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2007/nov/15/prison-drinking-water-and-wastewater-pollution-threaten-environmental-safety-nationwide/" target="_blank">The worst thing is the water</a>,” said James Pleasant, a St. Clair prisoner who has served 13 years of a 43-year sentence. “It is contaminated. It causes kidney, renal failure and cancer. The food causes stomach diseases. We have had three to four outbreaks of food poisoning in the last four months.”</p><p>He said that the prolonged caging of prisoners and the closing of rehabilitation programs, including education programs, guarantee recidivism, something sought by the corporations that profit from prisons. An estimated 80 percent of prisoners entering the Alabama prison system are functionally illiterate.</p><p>“Sleeping on a concrete slab is not going to teach you how to read or write,” Pleasant said. “Sleeping on a concrete slab will not solve mental health issues. But the system does not change. It does what it is designed to do. It makes sure people are driven back into the system to work without pay.”</p><p>“For years we were called niggers to indicate we had no value or worth and that anything could be done to us,” Ray said. “Then the word ‘nigger’ became politically incorrect. So they began calling us criminals. When you say a person is a criminal it means that what happens to them does not matter. It means he or she is a nigger. It means they deserve what they get.”</p><p>Prisons, the men said, have increasingly placed larger and larger financial burdens on families, with the poorest families suffering the most. Prisoners, too, suffer as a result.</p><p>“If you don’t get money from your family, your poverty blocks you out from buying items at the commissary or making phone calls,” Council said. “You can’t communicate with your family. If you don’t have someone to send you money you can’t even buy stamps to write home. They [authorities] are supposed to give us two free stamps a week, but I have never seen them do it in my 16 years of incarceration. We pay a $4 medical co-pay if we make a sick call. Every additional medication we receive is $4. If you have a cold and you get something for sinuses, pain meds and something for congestion, that becomes a $16 visit. And if you get $20 from a family member, the state will take $16 off the top to pay for the visit. You end up with $4 to spend at a jacked-up canteen. There are a lot of brothers walking around in debt. ...”</p><p>“It takes brutality and force to make a person work for free and live in the type of conditions we live in and not do anything about it,” Ray said. “The only way they made slavery work was to use force. It is no different in the slave empire of prisons. They use brutality to hold it together. And this brutality will not go away until the system goes away.” </p><p>The men described numerous horrific beatings by guards.</p><p>Pleasant said, “They stood me up against the wall [with my hands cuffed behind me]. There were about 10 officers. They started swinging, punching and hitting me with sticks. They knocked my legs out from under me. My face hit the floor. They stomped on my face. They sent me to the infirmary to hide what they did, for 30 days. When I looked in the mirror I could not recognize my facial features. This was the fourth time I was beaten like this.”</p><p>I asked the three men, speaking to me on a conference call, what prison conditions said about America. They laughed.</p><p>“It says America is what it has always been, America,” said Ray. “It says if you are poor and black you will be exploited, brutalized and murdered. It says most of American society, especially white society, is indifferent. It says nothing has really changed for us since slavery.”</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7SfbeJPFFGU" width="560"></iframe></p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-Uek3tz_Tp8" width="560"></iframe></p> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 07:54:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1038190 at http://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights prisons economy prisoners jails Chris Hedges: America's Mania for Positive Thinking and Denial of Reality Will Be Our Downfall http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/chris-hedges-americas-mania-positive-thinking-and-denial-reality-will-be-our <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The ridiculous positivism, the belief that we are headed toward some glorious future, defies reality. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_144744808.jpg?itok=Kxw_MMRv" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt. </p><p>The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it, to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse, and may soon get much worse, is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture. The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels, potentially dooming us all. </p><p>The 19th century theorist <a href="https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/blanqui/bio/index.htm" target="_blank">Louis-Auguste Blanqui</a>, unlike nearly all of his contemporaries, dismissed the belief, central to Karl Marx, that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality. He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: “All atrocities of the victor, the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant, inevitable evolution, like that of nature. ... But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment.” He foresaw that scientific and technological advancement, rather than being a harbinger of progress, could be “a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought.” And in a day when few others did so, he decried the despoiling of the natural world. “The axe fells, nobody replants. There is no concern for the future’s ill health.”</p>“Humanity,” Blanqui wrote, “is never stationary. It advances or goes backwards. Its progressive march leads it to equality. Its regressive march goes back through every stage of privilege to human slavery, the final word of the right to property.” Further, he wrote, “I am not amongst those who claim that progress can be taken for granted, that humanity cannot go backwards.”<p>Blanqui understood that history has long periods of cultural barrenness and brutal repression. The fall of the Roman Empire, for example, led to misery throughout Europe during the Dark Ages, roughly from the sixth through the 13th centuries. There was a loss of technical knowledge (one prominent example being how to build and maintain aqueducts), and a cultural and intellectual impoverishment led to a vast historical amnesia that blotted out the greatest thinkers and artists of the classical world. None of this loss was regained until the 14th century when Europe saw the beginning of the Renaissance, a development made possible largely by the cultural flourishing of Islam, which through translating Aristotle into Arabic and other intellectual accomplishments kept alive the knowledge and wisdom of the past. The Dark Ages were marked by arbitrary rule, incessant wars, insecurity, anarchy and terror. And I see nothing to prevent the rise of a new Dark Age if we do not abolish the corporate state. Indeed, the longer the corporate state holds power the more likely a new Dark Age becomes. To trust in some mythical force called progress to save us is to become passive before corporate power. The people alone can defy these forces. And fate and history do not ensure our victory.</p><p>Blanqui tasted history’s tragic reverses. He took part in a series of French revolts, including an attempted armed insurrection in May 1839, the 1848 uprising and the Paris Commune—a socialist uprising that controlled France’s capital from March 18 until May 28 in 1871. Workers in cities such as Marseilles and Lyon attempted but failed to organize similar communes before the Paris Commune was militarily crushed.</p><p>The blundering history of the human race is always given coherence by power elites and their courtiers in the press and academia who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks. They need to manufacture national myths to hide the greed, violence and stupidity that characterize the march of most human societies. For the United States, refusal to confront the crisis of climate change and our endless and costly wars in the Middle East are but two examples of the follies that propel us toward catastrophe.</p><p>Wisdom is not knowledge. Knowledge deals with the particular and the actual. Knowledge is the domain of science and technology. Wisdom is about transcendence. Wisdom allows us to see and accept reality, no matter how bleak that reality may be. It is only through wisdom that we are able to cope with the messiness and absurdity of life. Wisdom is about detachment. Once wisdom is achieved, the idea of moral progress is obliterated. Wisdom throughout the ages is a constant. Did Shakespeare supersede Sophocles? Is Homer inferior to Dante? Does the Book of Ecclesiastes not have the same deep powers of observation about life that <a href="http://www.samuel-beckett.net/speople.html" target="_blank">Samuel Beckett</a> offers? Systems of power fear and seek to silence those who achieve wisdom, which is what the war by corporate forces against the humanities and art is about. Wisdom, because it sees through the facade, is a threat to power. It exposes the lies and ideologies that power uses to maintain its privilege and its warped ideology of progress.</p><p>Knowledge does not lead to wisdom. Knowledge is more often a tool for repression. Knowledge, through the careful selection and manipulation of facts, gives a false unity to reality. It creates a fictitious collective memory and narrative. It manufactures abstract concepts of honor, glory, heroism, duty and destiny that buttress the power of the state, feed the disease of nationalism and call for blind obedience in the name of patriotism. It allows human beings to explain the advances and reverses in human achievement and morality, as well as the process of birth and decay in the natural world, as parts of a vast movement forward in time. The collective enthusiasm for manufactured national and personal narratives, which is a form of self-exaltation, blots out reality. The myths we create that foster a fictitious hope and false sense of superiority are celebrations of ourselves. They mock wisdom. And they keep us passive.</p><p>Wisdom connects us with forces that cannot be measured empirically and that are outside the confines of the rational world. To be wise is to pay homage to beauty, truth, grief, the brevity of life, our own mortality, love and the absurdity and mystery of existence. It is, in short, to honor the sacred. Those who remain trapped in the dogmas perpetuated by technology and knowledge, who believe in the inevitability of human progress, are idiot savants.</p><p>“Self-awareness is as much a disability as a power,” the philosopher <a href="http://bigthink.com/experts/johngray3" target="_blank">John Gray</a> writes. “The most accomplished pianist is not the one who is most aware of her movements when she plays. The best craftsman may not know how he works. Very often we are at our most skillful when we are least self-aware. That may be why many cultures have sought to disrupt or diminish self-conscious awareness. In Japan, archers are taught that they will hit the target only when they no longer think of it—or themselves.”</p><p>Artists and philosophers, who expose the mercurial undercurrents of the subconscious, allow us to face an unvarnished truth. Works of art and philosophy informed by the intuitive, unarticulated meanderings of the human psyche transcend those constructed by the plodding conscious mind. The freeing potency of visceral memories does not arrive through the intellect. These memories are impervious to rational control. And they alone lead to wisdom.</p><p>Those with power have always manipulated reality and created ideologies defined as progress to justify systems of exploitation. Monarchs and religious authorities did this in the Middle Ages. Today this is done by the high priests of modernity—the technocrats, scholars, scientists, politicians, journalists and economists. They deform reality. They foster the myth of preordained inevitability and pure rationality. But such knowledge—which dominates our universities—is anti-thought. It precludes all alternatives. It is used to end discussion. It is designed to give to the forces of science or the free market or globalization a veneer of rational discourse, to persuade us to place our faith in these forces and trust our fate to them. These forces, the experts assure us, are as unalterable as nature. They will lead us forward. To question them is heresy.</p><p>The Austrian writer <a href="http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140310-the-writer-behind-budapest-hotel" target="_blank">Stefan Zweig</a>, in his 1942 novella “Chess Story,” chronicles the arcane specializations that have created technocrats unable to question the systems they serve, as well as a society that foolishly reveres them. Mirko Czentovic, the world chess champion, represents the technocrat. His mental energy is invested solely in the 64 squares of the chessboard. Apart from the game, he is a dolt, a monomaniac like all monomaniacs, who “burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.” When Czentovic “senses an educated person he crawls into his shell. That way no one will ever be able to boast of having heard him say something stupid or of having plumbed the depths of his seemingly boundless ignorance.”</p><p>An Austrian lawyer known as Dr. B, whom the Gestapo had held for many months in solitary confinement, challenges Czentovic to a game of chess. During his confinement, the lawyer’s only reading material was a chess manual, which he memorized. He reconstructed games in his head. Forced by his captivity to replicate the single-minded obsession of the technocrat Czentovic, Dr. B too became trapped inside a specialized world, and, unlike Czentovic, he became insane temporarily as he focused on a tiny, specialized piece of human activity. When he challenges the chess champion, his insanity returns.</p><p>Zweig, who mourned for the broad liberal culture of educated Europe swallowed up by fascism and modern bureaucracy, warns of the absurdity and danger of a planet run by technocrats. For him, the rise of the Industrial Age and the industrial man and woman is a terrifying metamorphosis in the relationship of human beings to the world. As specialists and bureaucrats, human beings become tools, able to make systems of exploitation and even terror function efficiently without the slightest sense of personal responsibility or understanding. They retreat into the arcane language of all specialists, to mask what they are doing and give to their work a sanitized, clinical veneer.</p><p>This is <a href="http://www.iep.utm.edu/arendt/" target="_blank">Hannah Arendt’s</a> central point in “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Technocratic human beings are spiritually dead. They are capable of anything, no matter how heinous, because they do not reflect upon or question the ultimate goal. “The longer one listened to him,” Arendt writes of the Nazi <a href="http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007412" target="_blank">Adolf Eichmann</a> on trial, “the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”</p><p>Zweig, horrified by a world run by technocrats, committed suicide with his wife in 1942. He knew that from then on, the Czentovics would be exalted in the service of state and corporate monstrosities.</p><p>Resistance, as <a href="http://spartacus-educational.com/USAberkman.htm" target="_blank">Alexander Berkman</a> points out, is first about learning to speak differently and abandoning the vocabulary of the “rational” technocrats who rule. Once we discover new words and ideas through which to perceive and explain reality, we free ourselves from neoliberal capitalism, which functions, as <a href="http://www.egs.edu/library/walter-benjamin/biography/" target="_blank">Walter Benjamin</a> knew, like a state religion. Resistance will take place outside the boundaries of popular culture and academia, where the deadening weight of the dominant ideology curtails creativity and independent thought.</p><p>As global capitalism disintegrates, the heresy our corporate masters fear is gaining currency. But that heresy will not be effective until it is divorced from the mania for hope that is an essential part of corporate indoctrination. The ridiculous positivism, the belief that we are headed toward some glorious future, defies reality. Hope, in this sense, is a form of disempowerment.</p><p>There is nothing inevitable about human existence except birth and death. There are no forces, whether divine or technical, that will guarantee us a better future. When we give up false hopes, when we see human nature and history for what they are, when we accept that progress is not preordained, then we can act with an urgency and passion that comprehends the grim possibilities ahead.</p> Wed, 27 May 2015 08:42:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1036957 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics hope mania reform positivism magical thinking reality capitalism Chris Hedges: America's Addiction to Violence—From War to Vigilante Mobs—Is A Conservative Legacy http://www.alternet.org/books/chris-hedges-americas-addiction-violence-war-vigilante-mobs-conservative-legacy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This may help to explain why so little of it has been used against state authority.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/violence.jpg?itok=gvST_xYi" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>The following is an excerpt from  </em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wages-Rebellion-Chris-Hedges/dp/1568589662/?tag=alternorg08-20">Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt</a> <em>by Chris Hedges, (<a href="http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/nation-books">Nation Books</a>, 2015):</em></p><p>My father and most of my uncles fought in World War II. One uncle was severely maimed, physically and psychologically, in the South Pacific and drank himself to death. I was in Central America in the 1980s during the proxy wars waged by Washington. I accompanied a Marine Corps battalion as it battled Iraqi troops into Kuwait during the first Gulf War. My family history intersects with the persistent patterns of violence that are a constant in American life, both at home and abroad. Any rebellion must contend with this endemic American violence, especially vigilante violence, as well as the sickness of the gun culture that is its natural expression. As it has done throughout American history, the state, under siege, will turn to extrajudicial groups of armed thugs to repress populist movements. Radical change in America is paid for with blood.</p><p>There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. There is no reliable data on the number of military-style assault weapons in private hands, but the working estimate is about 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world—an average of 89 per 100 people, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey. By comparison, Canada has 31 per 100 people. Canada usually sees under 200 gun-related homicides a year. Our addiction to violence and bloodletting—which will continue to grow—marks a nation in terminal decline.</p><p>The view of ourselves as divine agents of purification anointed by God and progress to reconfigure the world around us is a myth that remains firmly embedded in the American psyche. Most of our historians, with only a few exceptions—such as Eric Foner, Howard Zinn, Richard Hofstadter, and Richard Slotkin—studiously avoid addressing these patterns of violence. They examine a single foreign war. They chronicle an isolated incident, such as the draft riots in New York during the Civil War. They write about the Indian wars. They detail the cruelty of Jim Crow and lynching. They do not see in the totality of our military adventures—including our bloody occupation of the Philippines, when General Jacob H. Smith ordered his troops to kill every Filipino over the age of ten and turn the island of Samar into “a howling wilderness”—a universal truth about the American soul and the naturalness with which we turn to violence at home and abroad. We suffer from a dangerous historical amnesia and self-delusional fantasies about the virtues and goodness of ourselves and of empire. We have masked our cultural propensity for widespread and indiscriminate murder. “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer,” D. H. Lawrence wrote. “It has never yet melted.”</p><p>Violence in America is not restricted to state violence. There is a tradition of vigilante violence that is used, usually with the state’s tacit if unofficial blessing, to crush dissent, to keep repressed minorities in a state of fear, or to exact revenge on those the state has branded as traitors. It is a product of hatred, not hope. It is directed against the weak, not the strong. And it is deeply ingrained in the American psyche.</p><p>America has been formed and shaped by slave patrols, gunslingers, Pinkerton and Baldwin-Felts detectives, gangs of strikebreakers, hired gun thugs, company militias, and the American Legion—originally right-wing World War I veterans who attacked union agitators, especially those belonging to the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”). The influence on the country of the White Citizens’ Council, the White League—which carried out public military drills and functioned as the armed wing of the Democratic Party in the South—the Knights of the White Camelia, and the Ku Klux Klan—which boasted more than 3 million members between 1915 and 1944 and took over the governance of some states—has been equally profound.6 More recently, heavily armed mercenary paramilitaries, violent Cuban exile groups, and armed militias such as the Oath Keepers and the anti-immigration extremist group Ranch Rescue have perpetuated America’s seamless tradition of vigilantism.</p><p>These vigilante groups have been tolerated, and often encouraged and utilized, by the ruling elite. And roaming the landscape along with these vigilante groups have been lone gunmen and mass killers who murder for money or power or to appease their own personal demons.</p><p>Vigilante groups in America do not trade violence for violence. They are mostly white men who often prey on people of color and radicals. They are capitalism’s ideological vanguard, its shock troops used to break populist movements and tyrannize the oppressed. And they will be unleashed against any mass movement that seriously threatens the structures of capitalist power and calls for rebellion. Imagine if, instead of right-wing militias, so-called ecoterrorists—who have never been found responsible for taking a single American life—had showed up armed in Nevada on April 12, 2014, to challenge the federal government’s attempt to thwart rancher Cliven Bundy from continuing to graze his cattle on public land. How would the authorities have responded if those carrying guns had been from the environmental group Earth First? What if they had been black?</p><p>The long struggle to abolish slavery, then to free blacks from the reign of terror after the Civil War, and to build labor unions and organize for workers’ rights—these movements flushed from the bowels of American society the thugs who found a sense of self-worth and intoxicating power in their role as armed vigilantes. In America, such thugs have always worked for minimal pay and the license to use indiscriminate violence against those branded as anti-American.</p><p>It was armed vigilantes who in 1914 attacked a tent encampment of workers in Ludlow, Colorado. The vigilantes set tents on fire, burning to death eleven children and two women. This brutality characterized the labor wars of the early twentieth century. Vigilante groups working on behalf of coal, steel, and mining concerns gunned down hundreds of unarmed labor organizers. Thousands more were wounded. The United States had the most violent labor wars in the industrialized world, as the scholars Philip Taft and Philip Ross have documented.8 And murderous rampages by these vigilante groups, almost always in the pay of companies or oligarchs, were sanctioned even though no American labor union ever publicly called for an armed uprising. There is no American immigrant group, from Chinese laborers to the Irish, who have not suffered the wrath of armed vigilantes. And African Americans know too intimately how judicial systems work to protect white vigilantes and police who gun down unarmed black men, women, and children. There is a long, tragic continuum from the murders and lynching of blacks following Emancipation to the strangulation on July 17, 2014, of Eric Garner in Staten Island by police who charged him with selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, as well as the shooting to death on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, of an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. It is lynching by another name. The police officers who carried out these murders, offering a window into a court system that routinely ignores black suffering and murder, were never charged with a crime. And the longer this continues the more likely become random and violent acts of retaliation, which the state will label terrorism and use to justify odious forms of repression. Once this eruption happens, as American history has illustrated, white vigilantes, along with the organs of state security, are given carte blanche to attack and even murder those who are demonized as enemies of the state.</p><p>Vigilante thugs serve the interests of the power elites, as in the case involving the Nevada rancher who made war, in essence, on behalf of corporations that seek to eradicate public ownership of land. These vigilantes revel in a demented hypermasculinity. They champion a racist nationalism and sexism. And they have huge megaphones on the airwaves, funded by the most retrograde forces in American capitalism. The gang violence in poor, urban neighborhoods in cities like Chicago or Detroit credentializes these vigilante groups and stokes the inchoate fear of blacks among whites that lies at the core of the gun culture and American vigilantism.</p><p>The raison d’être given by vigilante groups for the need to bear arms is that guns protect us from tyranny. Guns keep us safe in our homes. Guns are the bulwark of liberty. But history does not support this contention. The Communist Party during the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany did not lack for weapons. Throughout the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, citizens had assault weapons in their homes. During the war in Yugoslavia, AK-47 assault rifles were almost as common in households as stoves. I watched in Iraq and Yugoslavia as heavily armed units encircled houses and those inside walked out with their hands in the air, leaving their assault rifles behind.</p><p>American vigilantes will act no differently if members of the US Army or SWAT teams surround their homes. When 10,000 armed coal miners at Blair Mountain in West Virginia rose up in 1921 for the right to form unions and held gun thugs and company militias at bay for five days, the government called in the Army.9 The miners were not suicidal. When the Army arrived, they disbanded. And faced with the full weight of the US military, armed vigilante groups today will disband as well. The militias in Nevada might have gotten the Bureau of Land Management to back down, but they would have scattered like a flock of frightened crows if the government had sent in the 101st Airborne.</p><p>The engine of vigilante violence is not fear of government. It is the fear by white people of the black underclass and of the radicals who champion the cause of the oppressed. The black underclass has been enslaved, lynched, imprisoned, and impoverished for centuries. The white vigilantes do not acknowledge the reality of this oppression, but at the same time they are deeply worried about retribution directed against whites. Guns, for this reason, are made easily available to white people, while gun ownership is largely criminalized for blacks. The hatred expressed by vigilante groups for people of color, along with Jews and Muslims, is matched by their hatred for the college-educated elite. The vigilantes see people of color, along with those who espouse the liberal social values of the college-educated elites, including gun control, as contaminants to society.</p><p>Richard Rorty, in Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, fears that a breakdown will be inevitable once workers realize that the government has no genuine interest in raising low and substandard wages, halting the exportation of jobs overseas, or curbing crippling personal debt. White-collar workers, who are also being downsized, will turn to the far right, he writes, and refuse to be taxed to provide social benefits:</p><blockquote><p>At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodern professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once such a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.</p><p>One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.</p></blockquote><p>America’s episodic violence, while dwarfed by the campaigns of genocide and mass extermination carried out by totalitarian systems led by the Nazis, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung, is nevertheless, as the black activist H. Rap Brown once said, “as American as cherry pie.” We have always mythologized, even idolized, our vigilante killers. The Indian fighters, gunslingers, and outlaws on the frontier, as well as the mobsters and the feuding clans such as the Hatfields and McCoys, color our history.</p><p>Vigilantes and lone avengers are the popular heroes in American culture. They are celebrated on television and in Hollywood movies. Audiences, especially as they feel economic and political power slipping from their hands, yearn for the violent authority embodied in rogue cops in films such as Dirty Harry or in unrepentant killers such as Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, inspired by and adapted, in part, from Thomas Dixon Jr.’s novel The Clansman, was the prototype for the filmic celebrations of American vigilante violence.</p><p>President Woodrow Wilson held a screening of <em>The Birth of a Nation</em>. It was the first motion picture shown at the White House. Wilson praised Griffith’s portrayal of savage, animalistic black men—portrayed by white actors in blackface—humiliating noble Southern men and carrying out sexual assaults on white women. “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true,” Wilson reportedly said. The film swept the nation. White audiences, including in the North, cheered the white vigilantes. The ranks of the Ku Klux Klan exploded by a few million following the film’s release.</p><p>The really rapid growth of the Klan did not occur in the early years when The Birth of a Nation was at the peak of its influence and availability. By 1919, the Klan had only a few thousand members. Not until the summer of 1920 [five years after the film’s release] . . . did the real expansion of the Klan begin. By the summer of 1921, it had around 100,000 members. . . . By the middle years of the 1920s, the Klan, according to Nancy Maclean, may have reached a peak of 5 million members spread across the nation. . . . It is impossible to say with any certainty what the precise role of The Birth of a Nation was in encouraging this increase; but as African-American scholar Lawrence Reddick noted in 1944, “Its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan was at least one factor which enabled the Klan to enter upon its period of greatest expansion.” James Baldwin called the film “an elaborate justification of mass murder.”</p><p>A century later, our culture’s long infatuation with guns and acquiescence to vigilante killings continue to inspire the lone vigilantism of gunmen such as George Zimmerman, who followed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, through a gated community in Florida and killed him. That state’s “stand your ground” law that allowed Zimmerman to be acquitted of murder is the judicial sanction of vigilante violence.</p><p>In 1984 Bernhard Goetz, in one of the most celebrated cases of vigilante violence, used an unlicensed gun to shoot four black teenagers in a New York subway car. He claimed the black men were trying to mug him. The National Rifle Association (NRA) was linked to Goetz’s legal defense, and one of the NRA’s daughter organizations, the Fire Arms Civil Rights Legal Defense, provided funds. Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder and convicted only of illegal possession of a firearm, for which he spent eight months in jail.14 The case strengthened arguments for less restrictive “concealed carry” laws. It was because of Goetz and the NRA that Zimmerman was legally permitted to carry the concealed Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol he used to murder an unarmed seventeen-year-old boy.</p><p>In December 2012, twenty first-graders and six adults were gunned down in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, yet the Senate will not pass legislation imposing stiffer background checks on gun purchasers, nor a ban on assault weapons. On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day. Another 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.15 Some 30,000 Americans die each year from gunfire—and about two-thirds of the shootings are suicides.16 But Newtown, like the mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (12 dead), at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia (33 dead), at the immigration center in Binghamton, New York (14 dead), and at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado (15 dead), has had no discernible effect on mitigating our gun culture. There has been a school shooting on average every ten days since the Newtown massacre.</p><p>The state has never opposed the widespread public ownership of guns because these weapons have rarely been deployed against the state. In this, the United States is an anomaly. It has a heavily armed population and yet maintains remarkable political stability—because, as Hofstadter writes in American Violence, “our violence lacks both an ideological and geographical center; it lacks cohesion; it has been too various, diffuse, and spontaneous to be forged into a single, sustained, inveterate hatred shared by entire social classes.” He adds that Americans also have “a remarkable lack of memory where violence is concerned and have left most of our excesses a part of our buried history.” Hofstadter notes that “most of our violence has taken the form of action by one group of citizens against another group, rather than by citizens against the state. The sheer size of the country, the mixed ethnic, religious, and racial composition of the people, and the diffuseness of power under our federal system have all tended to blunt or minimize citizen-versus-state conflicts and to throw citizen-versus-citizen conflicts into high relief.”</p><p>We are not a people with a revolutionary or an insurrectionary tradition. The War of Independence, while it borrowed the rhetoric of revolution, replaced a foreign oligarchy with a native, slaveholding oligarchy. The founding fathers were conservative. The primacy of private property, especially slaves, was paramount to the nation’s founders.</p><p>The framers of the Constitution established a series of mechanisms to thwart the popular will, from the electoral college to the appointment of senators, buttressed by the disenfranchisement of African Americans, women, Native Americans, and the landless. George Washington, probably the wealthiest man in the country when the war was over—much of his money was earned by speculating on seized Indian land—shared exclusive economic and political power with his fellow aristocrats. This distrust of popular rule among the elite runs in a straight line from The Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to the 2000 presidential election, where the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, received over half a million more popular votes than the Republican George W. Bush.</p><p>The few armed rebellions—such as the 1786 and 1787 Shays’ Rebellion and the 1921 armed uprising at Blair Mountain—were swiftly and brutally put down by a combination of armed vigilante groups and government troops. More importantly, these rebellions were concerned with specific local grievances rather than broad political and ideological disputes. “Since our violence did not typically begin with anyone’s desire to subvert the state, it did not typically end by undermining the legitimacy of authority,” Hofstadter writes. The federal structure, as Hofstadter notes, has effectively diverted violence away from symbols of national power to regional or state authority. The miners at Blair Mountain picked up weapons for the right to organize unions in West Virginia. African Americans, enraged by police violence in Oakland, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities in the 1960s, created groups such as the Black Panthers primarily for self-defense, although the party later evolved into a quasi-revolutionary movement. The universal, radical ideologies and utopian visions that sparked revolutions in Russia and Germany after World War I are alien to our intellectual tradition.</p><p>“Most American violence,” Hofstadter observes, has been initiated with a “conservative” bias. It has been unleashed against abolitionists, Catholics, radicals, workers and labor organizers, Negroes, Orientals, and other ethnic or racial or ideological minorities, and has been used ostensibly to protect the American, the Southern, the white Protestant, or simply the established middle-class way of life and morals. A high proportion of our violent actions has thus come from the top dogs or the middle dogs. Such has been the character of most mob and vigilante movements. This may help to explain why so little of it has been used against state authority, and why in turn it has been so easily and indulgently forgotten.</p> Tue, 26 May 2015 12:56:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Nation Books 1036913 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books Human Rights michael brown african american black america Brad Evans canada central america crime Dispute resolution eric foner Henry A. Giroux howard zinn kuwait nationality new york Richard Slotkin shotgun United States Marine Corps united states violence war washington sickness 'If You See Something Say Something': How We've Become a Nation of Snitches http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/if-you-see-something-say-something-how-weve-become-nation-snitches <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Freedom demands the destruction of the security and surveillance organs and the disempowering of informants.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/see_something_say_something.jpg?itok=n-nan7iI" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A totalitarian state is only as strong as its informants. And the United States has a lot of them. They read our emails. They listen to, download and store our phone calls. They photograph us on street corners, on subway platforms, in stores, on highways and in public and private buildings. They track us through our electronic devices. They infiltrate our organizations. They entice and facilitate “acts of terrorism” by Muslims, radical environmentalists, activists and <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_cancer_of_occupy_20120206">Black Bloc</a> anarchists, framing these hapless dissidents and sending them off to prison for years. They have amassed detailed profiles of our habits, our tastes, our peculiar proclivities, our medical and financial records, our sexual orientations, our employment histories, our shopping habits and our criminal records. They store this information in government computers. It sits there, waiting like a time bomb, for the moment when the state decides to criminalize us.</p><p>Totalitarian states record even the most banal of our activities so that when it comes time to lock us up they can invest these activities with subversive or criminal intent. And citizens who know, because of the courage of Edward Snowden, that they are being watched but naively believe they “have done nothing wrong” do not grasp this dark and terrifying logic.</p><p>Tyranny is always welded together by subterranean networks of informants. These informants keep a populace in a state of fear. They perpetuate constant anxiety and enforce isolation through distrust. The state uses wholesale surveillance and spying to break down trust and deny us the privacy to think and speak freely.</p><p>A state security and surveillance apparatus, at the same time, conditions all citizens to become informants. In airports and train, subway and bus stations the recruitment campaign is relentless. We are fed lurid government videos and other messages warning us to be vigilant and report anything suspicious. The videos, on endless loops broadcast through mounted television screens, have the prerequisite ominous music, the shady-looking criminal types, the alert citizen calling the authorities and in some cases the apprehended evildoer being led away in handcuffs. The message to be hypervigilant and help the state ferret out dangerous internal enemies is at the same time disseminated throughout government agencies, the mass media, the press and the entertainment industry. </p><p>“If you see something say something,” goes the chorus.</p><p>In any Amtrak station, waiting passengers are told to tell authorities—some of whom often can be found walking among us with dogs—about anyone who “looks like they are in an unauthorized area,” who is “loitering, staring or watching employees and customers,” who is “expressing an unusual level of interest in operations, equipment, and personnel,” who is “dressed inappropriately for the weather conditions, such as a bulky coat in summer,” who “is acting extremely nervous or anxious,” who is “restricting an individual’s freedom of movement” or who is “being coached on what to say to law enforcement or immigration officials.”</p><p>What is especially disturbing about this constant call to become a citizen informant is that it directs our eyes away from what we should see—the death of our democracy, the growing presence and omnipotence of the police state, and the evisceration, in the name of our security, of our most basic civil liberties.</p><p>Manufactured fear engenders self-doubt. It makes us, often unconsciously, conform in our outward and inward behavior. It conditions us to relate to those around us with suspicion. It destroys the possibility of organizing, community and dissent. We have built what <a href="https://www.fsu.edu/profiles/gellately/">Robert Gellately</a> calls a “culture of denunciation.”</p><p>Snitches in prisons, the quintessential totalitarian system, are the glue that allows prison authorities to maintain control and keep prisoners divided and weak. Snitches also populate the courts, where the police make secret deals to drop or mitigate charges against them in exchange for their selling out individuals targeted by the state. Our prisons are filled with people serving long sentences based on false statements that informants provided in exchange for leniency.</p><p>There are no rules in this dirty game. Police, like prison officials, can offer snitches deals that lack judicial oversight or control. (Deals sometimes involve something as trivial as allowing a prisoner access to food like cheeseburgers.) Snitches allow the state to skirt what is left of our legal protections. Snitches can obtain information for the authorities and do not have to give their targets a <a href="http://www.mirandawarning.org/">Miranda warning</a>. And because of the desperation of most who are recruited to snitch, informants will do almost anything asked of them by authorities.</p><p>Just as infected as the prisons and the courts are poor neighborhoods, which abound with snitches, many of them low-level drug dealers allowed to sell on the streets in exchange for information. And from there our culture of snitches spirals upward into the headquarters of the National Security Agency, Homeland Security and the FBI.</p><p>Systems of police and military authority are ruthless when their own, such as Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, become informants on behalf of the common good. The power structure imposes walls of silence and harsh forms of retribution within its ranks in an effort to make sure no one speaks. Power understands that once it is divided, once those inside its walls become snitches, it becomes as weak and vulnerable as those it subjugates.</p><p>We will not be able to reclaim our democracy and free ourselves from tyranny until the informants and the vast networks that sustain them are banished. As long as we are watched 24 hours a day we cannot use the word “liberty.” This is the relationship of a master and a slave. Any prisoner understands this.</p><p><a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1970/solzhenitsyn-bio.html">Alexander Solzhenitsyn</a> in his masterpiece “The Gulag Archipelago,” which chronicles his time in Josef Stalin’s gulags and is a brilliant reflection of the nature of oppression and tyranny, describes a moment when an influx of western Ukrainians who had been soldiers during World War II arrived at his camp, at Ekibastuz. The Ukrainians, he wrote, “were horrified by the apathy and slavery they saw, and reached for their knives.” They began to murder the informants.</p><p>Solzhenitsyn continued:</p><blockquote><p>“Kill the stoolie!” That was it, the vital link! A knife in the heart of the stoolie! Make knives and cut the stoolie’s throats—that was it!</p><p>Now as I write this chapter, rows of humane books frown down at me from the walls, the tarnished gilt on their well-worn spines glinting reproachfully like stars through the cloud. Nothing in the world should be sought through violence! By taking up the sword, the knife, the rifle, we quickly put ourselves on the level of tormentors and persecutors. And there will be no end to it. …</p><p>There will be no end. … Here, at my desk, in a warm place, I agree completely.</p><p>If you ever get twenty-five years for nothing, if you find yourself wearing four number patches on your clothes, holding your hands permanently behind your back, submitting to searches morning and evening, working until you are utterly exhausted, dragged into the cooler whenever someone denounces you, trodden deeper and deeper into the ground—from the hole you’re in, the fine words of the great humanists will sound like the chatter of the well-fed and free.</p><p>There will be no end of it! ... But will there be a beginning? Will there be a ray of hope in our lives or not?</p><p>The oppressed at least concluded that evil cannot be cast out by good.</p></blockquote><p>The eradication of some snitches and intimidation of others transformed the camp. It was, Solzhenitsyn admits, an imperfect justice since there was no “documentary confirmation that a man was an informer.” But, he noted, even this “improperly constituted, illegal, and invisible court was much more acute in its judgments, much less often mistaken, than any of the tribunals, panels of three, courts-martial, or Special Boards with which we are familiar.”</p><p>“Of the five thousand men about a dozen were killed, but with every stroke of the knife more and more of the clinging, twining tentacles fell away,” he wrote. “A remarkable fresh breeze was blowing! On the surface we were prisoners living in a camp just as before, but in reality we had become free—free because for the very first time in our lives we had started saying openly and aloud all that we thought! No one who has not experienced this transition can imagine what it is like!</p><p>And the informers … stopped informing.”</p><p>The camp bosses, he wrote “were suddenly blind and deaf. To all appearances, the tubby major, his equally tubby second in command, Captain Prokofiev, and all the wardens walked freely about the camp, where nothing threatened them; moved among us, watched us—and yet saw nothing! Because a man in uniform sees and hears nothing without stoolies.”</p><p>The system of internal control in the camp broke down. Prisoners no longer would serve as foremen on work details. Prisoners organized their own self-governing council. Guards began to move about the camp in fear and no longer treated prisoners like cattle. Pilfering and theft among prisoners stopped. “The old camp mentality—you die first, I’ll wait a bit; there is no justice so forget it; that’s the way it was, and that’s the way it will be—also began to disappear.”</p><p>Solzhenitsyn concluded this chapter, “Behind the Wire the Ground Is Burning,” in Volume 3 of his book, with this reflection.</p><blockquote><p>Purged of human filth, delivered from spies and eavesdroppers we looked about and saw, wide-eyed that … we were thousands! That we were … politicals! That we could resist!</p><p>We had chosen well; the chain would snap if we tugged at this link—the stoolies, the talebearers and traitors! Our own kind had made our lives impossible. As on some ancient sacrificial altar, their blood had been shed that we might be freed from the curse that hung over us.</p><p>The revolution was gathering strength. The wind that seemed to have subsided had sprung up again in a hurricane to fill our eager lungs.</p></blockquote><p>Later in the book Solzhenitsyn would write, “Our little island had experienced an earthquake—and ceased to belong to the Archipelago.” </p><p>Freedom demands the destruction of the security and surveillance organs and the disempowering of the millions of informants who work for the state. This is not a call to murder our own stoolies—although some of the 2.3 million prisoners in cages in America’s own gulags would perhaps rightly accuse me of writing this from a position of privilege and comfort and not understanding the brutal dynamics of oppression – but instead to accept that unless these informants on the streets, in the prisons and manning our massive, government data-collection centers are disarmed we will never achieve liberty. I do not have quick and simple suggestions for how this is to be accomplished. But I know it must.</p><p> </p> Mon, 11 May 2015 12:00:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1036184 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics totalitarianism security privacy military police informants surveillance Chris Hedges: Meet the Crusading Journalist Who Is Documenting the Plight of India's Poor Farmers http://www.alternet.org/media/chris-hedges-meet-crusading-journalist-who-documenting-plight-indias-poor-farmers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">P. Sainath&#039;s reporting of the truth is subversive journalism that challenges the status quo.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_179553491.jpg?itok=loi5muVp" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The assault of global capitalism is not only an economic and political assault. It is a cultural and historical assault. Global capitalism seeks to erase our stories and our histories. Its systems of mass communication, which peddle a fake intimacy with manufactured celebrities and a false sense of belonging within a mercenary consumer culture, shut out our voices, hopes and dreams. Salacious gossip about the elites and entertainers, lurid tales of violence and inane trivia replace in national discourse the actual and the real. The goal is a vast historical amnesia.</p><p>The traditions, rituals and struggles of the poor and workingmen and workingwomen are replaced with the vapid homogenization of mass culture. Life’s complexities are reduced to simplistic stereotypes. Common experiences center around what we have been fed by television and mass media. We become atomized and alienated. Solidarity and empathy are crushed. The cult of the self becomes paramount. And once the cult of the self is supreme we are captives to the corporate monolith.</p><p>As the mass media, now uniformly in the hands of large corporations, turn news into the ridiculous chronicling of pseudo-events and pseudo-controversy we become ever more invisible as individuals. Any reporting of the truth—the truth about what the powerful are doing to us and how we are struggling to endure and retain our dignity and self-respect—would fracture and divide a global population that must be molded into compliant consumers and obedient corporate subjects. This has made journalism, real journalism, subversive. And it has made <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palagummi_Sainath" target="_blank">P. Sainath</a>—who has spent more than two decades making his way from rural Indian village to rural Indian village to make sure the voices of the country’s poor are heard, recorded and honored—one of the most subversive journalists on the subcontinent. He doggedly documented the some 300,000 suicides of desperate Indian farmers—happening for the last 19 years at the rate of one every half hour—in his book “<a href="http://psainath.org/everyone-loves-a-good-drought/" target="_blank">Everybody Loves a Good Drought</a>: Stories From India’s Poorest Districts.” And in December, after leaving The Hindu newspaper, where he was the rural affairs editor, he created the <a href="http://www.ruralindiaonline.org" target="_blank">People’s Archive of Rural India</a>. He works for no pay. He relies on a small army of volunteers. He says his archive deals with “the everyday lives of everyday people.” And, because it is a platform for mixed media, encompassing print, still photographs, audio and film, as well as an online research library, it is a model for those who seek to tell the stories that global capitalism attempts to blot out.</p><p>“Historically, libraries and archive have been controlled by governments and by states,” he said when we met recently in Princeton, N.J., where he is teaching at Princeton University for the semester. “They have also been burned by governments, states and regimes since before the time of the <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/14417/Library-of-Alexandria" target="_blank">library of Alexandria</a>. Secondly, archives have been the sites of major state censorship. You classify something you don’t allow people to know. In medieval Europe and elsewhere, people resisted being documented. They didn’t want to be part of the archive. They knew that recording and measuring their assets were the first steps toward seizing those assets for the ruling class. Hence, the idea of the people’s archive that is not controlled by states, governments or other figures of authority. This is an archive people can access, people can create, people can build and authenticate. So the idea became the people’s archive.”</p><p>“It’s not different from what I’ve done for 35 years as a journalist, especially my 22 years as a full-time journalist in India countryside,” he said. “The big difference is that a digital platform allows me to do what I was doing earlier but on an infinitely larger scale and in collaboration with hundreds of other journalists. This site has two biases. One is labor, the work of people, how [the] nation and society rest on the backs of their labor. The second is languages.”</p><p>Sainath’s work is a race against time. He laments that in the past 50 years nearly 220 Indian languages have died. Only seven people in the Indian state of Tripura, for example, now speak the Saimar language. And it is not only languages that are going extinct. The diverse styles of weaving, the epic poems and tales told by itinerant story tellers, the folk dances and songs, the mythologies, the religious traditions, local pottery styles and rural trades such as that of <a href="https://vimeo.com/69594471" target="_blank">toddy tappers</a>, who scamper up 50 palm trees a day to drain the sap to make a fermented liquor called toddy, are all vanishing, leaving the world ever more impoverished and dependent on mass-produced products and mass-produced thought.</p><p>Sainath is determined to archive all of India’s some 780 languages, many of them thousands of years old, spoken by 833 million rural Indians. He has amassed 8,000 black-and-white images of rural Indians. And he has sent filmmakers into villages to capture the deep humanity of the poor as they struggle to endure in a world that is increasingly hostile to their existence. For example, the archive website has a powerfully moving film about a 21-year-old dancer, Kali Veerapadran, titled <a href="http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/articles/kali-the-dancer-and-his-dreams-1/" target="_blank">“Kali: The Dancer and His Dreams.”</a> Raised in grueling poverty in a fishing village by his mother, the boy masters the Indian classical dance form known as Bharatanatyam and three ancient forms of Tamil folk dance (one of them perhaps 2,000 years old), and he makes his way to the country’s leading dance academy and finally the academy’s professional classical dance troupe. Online visitors can also <a href="http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/articles/the-potato-song/" target="_blank">see and hear five girls</a> at a tiny and poorly equipped rural school sing, in English, the potato song.</p><p><em>Potato, Potato<br />Oh, my dear Potato<br />I like the potato<br />You like the potato<br />We like the potato<br />Potato, Potato, Potato</em></p><p>The first credit in each film on the site goes to the person whose story is being told, the second to his or her village or community and the third to the director.</p><p>Sainath’s journal is not a romantic vision of the rural poor. He documents their darker side, the brutal caste system and feudalism that they live under, their bonded labor, their subjugation of girls and women, their prejudices. These conditions and practices, Sainath says, should die, but what is good, what gives people a sense of the sacred and a sense of who they are as individuals, has to be chronicled and protected.</p><p>“We are not there to adore the final product,” he said. “We show you the labor process. Our potter is not someone sitting in the showroom talking to you. Our potter is a person down in the ditches after the rain digging for clay, on this hands and knees. You see him complaining about running out of clay as the real estate guys take over the area. You see we are running out of clay. We want you to respect that labor. In India labor is invisible. A lot is done by women. I shot a photo exhibition across 10 years called <a href="http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/categories/visible-work-invisible-women/" target="_blank">‘Visible Work, Invisible Women,’</a> from 10 different states. It’s the only photo exhibition in India that’s been seen by over 700,000 people. Because I take it to the villages where it was shot. On the website we’ve digitized the entire exhibition. Each panel is two and a half minutes. You can watch a video and read the original text and the statistics. You can see the original photos in higher resolution. If you watch the video, ... you will have me guiding you on a tour around the panel. You won’t see me. You’ll hear my voice. So you’ve got video, audio, text and still photo integrated. It’s as close to the real exhibition as you can get online.”</p><p>There are photos on the site of men on bicycles transporting 450 pounds of bamboo stalks.</p><p>“It’s beyond me how he mounted them on the bike,” Sainath said of <a href="http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/articles/biswas-and-the-bamboos-on-his-bike/" target="_blank">one bamboo carrier</a>. “But if you read the story, you’ll see how he’s done it. He has strengthened the cycle with bamboo. He has bamboo horizontal bars and bamboo vertical bars and he is supporting the big bamboos on them.”</p><p>Sainath said that as the press has become steadily corporatized those who seek to tell the story of workers and laborers have been pushed out.</p><p>“There were 512 accredited journalists covering fashion week in Mumbai and six journalists covering <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-india-farmer-suicide-20140805-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">farm suicides</a>, the world’s worst farm suicides ever,” he said. “And [the suicides] are still going on. It’s partly because the media are not interested, but it is also because of the corporatization of the media. There used to be 50 or 60 big [publishing] houses in India that had media connections at state level or regional levels. Nationally, now there are 10 big houses and only three that matter in the mega-money league.”</p><p>“The ultimate crime you commit in a colony is to steal a people’s history,” he said. “There is a very lovely African saying, ‘If lions were historians, the tales of the jungle would not always favor the hunter.’ The victor writes history. Two-thirds of India lives in rural [areas], and I was the only rural editor in the subcontinent. And when I stepped down [last year], that was the end of that post.”</p><p>“Corporatization has changed what journalism is about in a very basic way,” he said. “Journalism is about communication. It is about information. It is about connecting to your society. It is about a society having a conversation with itself. From this richness, they’ve reduced journalism, as has happened in the United States. It [journalism] is one more revenue stream for a corporation that has 100 other revenue streams. There are no media monopolies in the old sense. Today’s media monopolies are small branches of much larger conglomerates. Where they were once giant monopolies in themselves, they are now deeply embedded in other corporations through interlocking directorships. <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/contributors/murray-kempton/" target="_blank">Murray Kempton</a> [critically] said the job of the editorial writer is to go down into the valley after the battle is over and shoot the wounded. This is what mainstream journalism is doing now. Look at this catchphrase about talking truth to power. As if power is so innocent. Poor things, if we tell them the truth they’ll mend their ways? I say talk the truth about power to the masses who are in the thrall of the power.”</p><p>“We know what’s happening in Iraq,” he said. “We know what’s happening in Afghanistan. You think power doesn’t know? We know who enabled the creation of an ISIS, who’s the default partner. We know who wants help from Iran on how to deal with ISIS and Iraq. I don’t believe in the innocence of power.”</p><p>“If you cover farm suicides, if you stay with the story and want to tell the story, you are called an activist,” he said. “[But] if you sit polishing your stool with the seat of your trousers in the newsroom for 30 years churning yard upon yard of news from corporate press releases—why, then, you are a professional. You will even be highly regarded, a respected professional, because the corporations respect you. The great journalists in history are never professional in that sense. The best journalism has always come from dissidents. Journalism is also an art of dissent. How many establishment journalists do we remember a year after they are dead? Look at the anti-establishment journalists. Look at Thomas Paine or <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Reed_%28journalist%29" target="_blank">John Reed</a>. ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’ will be read a thousand years after all the New York Times best-sellers by the New York Times journalists are in the shredder. The great journalists are all dissidents. They spoke the truth against power and about power. The journalism of dissent is the richest journalism we have. And the Third World and ex-colonial countries have far richer traditions than Europe. In the colonies, journalism was the child of the freedom struggle.”</p><p>“Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded the first Indian-owned newspaper,” said Sainath, who is the grandson of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._V._Giri" target="_blank">V.V. Giri</a> (1894-1980), the onetime Indian National Congress leader and president of India. “From day one in 1816 the newspaper fought for remarriage, against female infanticide and for the right to education. Indian journalism made no apologies for having a perspective, for having something to say, and not trying to couch it in ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ evasion. Journalism was a debate within society, a conversation with a nation and a radical tool of social change. Why else did a Gandhi or an <a href="http://www.culturalindia.net/reformers/br-ambedkar.html" target="_blank">Ambedkar</a> establish four or five newspapers? For fun? They lost money on all of them. This journalism has a moral authority. But it is considered as lacking objectivity in American journalism schools. My values are rooted in the journalism of the freedom struggle, which was not just to throw out the British but also to create something that you could call a good society. All the freedom fighters going to jail were also journalists. That’s the journalism I identify with.”</p> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 06:56:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1033665 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media World journalism P. Sainath india farming farm suicides corporatization Chris Hedges: 'American Sniper' Caters to a Deep Sickness Rippling Through Society http://www.alternet.org/culture/chris-hedges-american-sniper-caters-deep-sickness-rippling-through-society <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">$200 million in box office receipts is a measure of how messed up this country is. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/american_sniper.jpg?itok=4r6ayf1m" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2179136/?ref_=nv_sr_1" target="_blank">“American Sniper”</a> lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.</p><p>The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.</p><p>“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”</p><p>“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.</p><p>“That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”</p><p>The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”</p><p>The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.</p><p>“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”</p><p>The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.</p><p>“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”</p><p>There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2015/01/18/what-box-office-records-did-american-sniper-break/21964161/" target="_blank">record-breaking</a> $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.</p><p>“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”</p><p>Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_SEALs" target="_blank">SEALs</a> and the Army Special Forces.</p><p>The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get news—announces the <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/06/world/africa/africa-embassy-bombings-fast-facts/" target="_blank">1998 truck bombings</a> of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen about a “war” against the United States.</p><p>“Look what they did to us,” Chris whispers.</p><p>He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are sheep.</p><p>We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The movie slips, as it often does, into clichéd dialogue.</p><p>She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”</p><p>“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”</p><p>“Why?”</p><p>“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he says.</p><p>She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.</p><p>“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.</p><p>“What’s wrong?” he asks.</p><p>“No!” she yells.</p><p>Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side. …”</p><p>Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack. The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.</p><p>Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the ceremony. </p><p>“Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.</p><p>The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do “head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the Olympics.”</p><p>Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.</p><p>“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”</p><p>Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates children—we see a child’s arm he amputated. A local sheik offers to betray The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”</p><p>Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re fuckin’ savages.”</p><p>He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”</p><p>“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.”</p><p>The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”</p><p>Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental. </p><p>“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/james-baldwin-9196635#synopsis" target="_blank">James Baldwin</a> reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”</p><p>“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”</p><p>“I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying fuck about them.”</p><p>He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.</p><p>He wrote: “If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?”</p><p>"People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked about death, about things we saw."</p><p>He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The investigation went nowhere.</p><p>Kyle was given the nickname “Legend.” He got a tattoo of a Crusader cross on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I always will.” Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as six people, he would go back to his barracks to spend his time smoking Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn and working out.” On leave, something omitted in the movie, he was frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. He dismissed politicians, hated the press and disdained superior officers, exalting only the comradeship of warriors. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. It is an angry tirade directed against anyone who questions the military’s elite, professional killers.</p><p>“For some reason, a lot of people back home—not all people—didn’t accept that we were at war,” he wrote. “They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death, most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.”</p><p>The enemy sniper Mustafa, portrayed in the film as if he was a serial killer, fatally wounds Kyle’s comrade Ryan “Biggles” Job.  In the movie Kyle returns to Iraq—his fourth tour—to extract revenge for Biggles’ death. This final tour, at least in the film, centered on the killing of The Butcher and the enemy sniper, also a fictional character. As it focuses on the dramatic duel between hero Kyle and villain Mustafa the movie becomes ridiculously cartoonish.</p><p>Kyle gets Mustafa in his sights and pulls the trigger. The bullet is shown leaving the rifle in slow motion. “Do it for Biggles,” someone says. The enemy sniper’s head turns into a puff of blood.</p><p>“Biggles would be proud of you,” a soldier says. “You did it, man.”</p><p>His final tour over, Kyle leaves the Navy. As a civilian he struggles with the demons of war and becomes, at least in the film, a model father and husband and works with veterans who were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He trades his combat boots for cowboy boots.</p><p>The real-life Kyle, as the film was in production, was shot dead at a shooting range near Dallas on Feb. 2, 2013, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield. A former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been suffering from PTSD and severe psychological episodes, allegedly killed the two men and then stole Kyle’s pickup truck. Routh will <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/01/22/the-trial-of-eddie-routh-the-man-who-killed-chris-kyle-will-be-american-snipers-darkest-chapter/" target="_blank">go on trial next month</a>. The film ends with scenes of Kyle’s funeral procession—thousands lined the roads waving flags—and the memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium. It shows fellow SEALs pounding their tridents into the top of his coffin, a custom for fallen comrades. Kyle was shot in the back and the back of his head.  Like so many people he dispatched, he never saw his killer when the fatal shots were fired.</p><p>The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.</p> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 07:26:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1030875 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture American Sniper chris kyle movie film Chris Hedges: How Some Prisoners Are America's Most Exploited Workers http://www.alternet.org/chris-hedges-how-some-prisoners-are-americas-most-exploited-workers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The wages paid to prisoners for labor inside prisons have declined over the past three decades.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_106185212-edited.jpg?itok=ZHLY4q4u" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.</p><p>States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and room and board. Most prisoners and the families that struggle to support them are chronically short of money. Prisons are company towns. Scrip, rather than money, was once paid to coal miners, and it could be used only at the company store. Prisoners are in a similar condition. When they go broke—and being broke is a frequent occurrence in prison—prisoners must take out prison loans to pay for medications, legal and medical fees and basic commissary items such as soap and deodorant. Debt peonage inside prison is as prevalent as it is outside prison.</p><p>States impose an array of fees on prisoners. For example, there is a 10 percent charge imposed by New Jersey on every commissary purchase. Stamps have a 10 percent surcharge. Prisoners must pay the state for a 15-minute deathbed visit to an immediate family member or a 15-minute visit to a funeral home to view the deceased. New Jersey, like most other states, forces a prisoner to reimburse the system for overtime wages paid to the two guards who accompany him or her, plus mileage cost. The charge can be as high as $945.04. It can take years to pay off a visit with a dying father or mother.</p><p>Fines, often in the thousands of dollars, are assessed against many prisoners when they are sentenced. There are 22 fines that can be imposed in New Jersey, including the Violent Crime Compensation Assessment (VCCB), the Law Enforcement Officers Training &amp; Equipment Fund (LEOT) and Extradition Costs (EXTRA). The state takes a percentage each month out of prison pay to pay down the fines, a process that can take decades. If a prisoner who is fined $10,000 at sentencing must rely solely on a prison salary he or she will owe about $4,000 after making payments for 25 years. Prisoners can leave prison in debt to the state. And if they cannot continue to make regular payments—difficult because of high unemployment—they are sent back to prison. High recidivism is part of the design.</p><p>Corporations have privatized most of the prison functions once handled by governments. They run prison commissaries and, since the prisoners have nowhere else to shop, often jack up prices by as much as 100 percent. Corporations have taken over the phone systems and charge exorbitant fees to prisoners and their families. They grossly overcharge for money transfers from families to prisoners. And these corporations, some of the nation’s largest, pay little more than a dollar a day to prison laborers who work in for-profit prison industries. Food and merchandise vendors, construction companies, laundry services, uniforms companies, prison equipment vendors, cafeteria services, manufacturers of pepper spray, body armor and the array of medieval instruments used for the physical control of prisoners, and a host of other contractors feed like jackals off prisons. Prisons, in America, are a hugely profitable business.</p><p>Our prison-industrial complex, which holds 2.3 million prisoners, or 25 percent of the world’s prison population, makes money by keeping prisons full. It demands bodies, regardless of color, gender or ethnicity. As the system drains the pool of black bodies, it has begun to incarcerate others. Women—the fastest-growing segment of the prison population—are swelling prisons, as are poor whites in general, Hispanics and immigrants. Prisons are no longer a black-white issue. Prisons are a grotesque manifestation of corporate capitalism. Slavery is legal in prisons under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. …” And the massive U.S. prison industry functions like the forced labor camps that have existed in all totalitarian states. </p><p>Corporate investors, who have poured billions into the business of mass incarceration, expect long-term returns. And they will get them. It is their lobbyists who write the draconian laws that demand absurdly long sentences, deny paroles, determine immigrant detention laws and impose minimum-sentence and three-strikes-out laws (mandating life sentences after three felony convictions). The politicians and the courts, subservient to corporate power, can be counted on to protect corporate interests.</p><p>Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest owner of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the country, had revenues of $1.7 billion in 2013 and profits of $300 million. CCA holds an average of 81,384 inmates in its facilities on any one day. Aramark Holdings Corp., a Philadelphia-based company that contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States, was acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included Goldman Sachs.</p><p>The three top for-profit prison corporations <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/03/627471/private-prisons-spend-45-million-on-lobbying-rake-in-51-billion-for-immigrant-detention-alone/" target="_blank">spent an estimated $45 million</a> over a recent 10-year period for lobbying that is keeping the prison business flush. The resource center <a href="http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/" target="_blank">In the Public Interest</a> documented <a href="http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/article/criminal-how-lockup-quotas-and-low-crime-taxes-guarantee-profits-private-prison-corporations" target="_blank">in its report</a> “Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations” that private prison companies often sign state contracts that guarantee prison occupancy rates of 90 percent. If states fail to meet the quota they have to pay the corporations for the empty beds. </p><p>CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and so-called 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the American Civil Liberties Union reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials plus undisclosed sums to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU. CCA, through the <a href="http://www.alec.org/" target="_blank">American Legislative Exchange Council</a> (ALEC), also lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona’s cruel anti-immigrant law <a href="http://immigration.findlaw.com/immigration-laws-and-resources/arizona-immigration-law-s-b-1070.html" target="_blank">SB 1070</a>.</p><p>The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report notes, says for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private prisons account for nearly all newly built prisons. And nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped to for-profit prisons, according to <a href="http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/" target="_blank">Detention Watch Network</a>.</p><p>But corporate profit is not limited to building and administering prisons. Whole industries now rely almost exclusively on prison labor. Federal prisoners, who are among the highest paid in the U.S. system, making as much as $1.25 an hour, produce the military’s helmets, uniforms, pants, shirts, ammunition belts, ID tags and tents. Prisoners work, often through subcontractors, for major corporations such as Chevron, Bank of America, IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&amp;T, Starbucks, Nintendo, Victoria’s Secret, J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Procter &amp; Gamble, Johnson &amp; Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpillar, Sara Lee, Quaker Oats, Mary Kay, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin and Target. Prisoners in some states run dairy farms, staff call centers, take hotel reservations or work in slaughterhouses. And prisoners are used to carry out public services such as collecting highway trash in states such as Ohio. </p><p>States, with shrinking budgets, share in the corporate exploitation. They get kickbacks of as much as 40 percent from corporations that prey on prisoners. This kickback money is often supposed to go into “inmate welfare funds,” but prisoners say they rarely see any purchases made by the funds to improve life inside prison.</p><p>The wages paid to prisoners for labor inside prisons have remained stagnant and in real terms have declined over the past three decades. In New Jersey a prisoner made $1.20 for eight hours of work—yes, eight hours of work—in 1980 and today makes $1.30 for a day’s labor. Prisoners earn, on average, $28 a month. Those incarcerated in for-profit prisons earn as little as 17 cents an hour.</p><p>However, items for sale in prison commissaries have risen in price over the past two decades by as much as 100 percent. And new rules in some prisons, including those in New Jersey, prohibit families to send packages to prisoners, forcing prisoners to rely exclusively on prison vendors. This is as much a psychological blow as a material one; it leaves families feeling powerless to help loved ones trapped in the system.</p><p>A bar of Dove soap in 1996 cost New Jersey prisoners 97 cents. Today it costs $1.95, an increase of 101 percent. A tube of Crest toothpaste cost $2.35 in 1996 and today costs $3.49, an increase of 48 percent. AA batteries have risen by 184 percent, and a stick of deodorant has risen by 95 percent. The only two items I found that remained the same in price from 1996 were frosted flake cereal and cups of noodles, but these items in prisons have been switched from recognizable brand names to generic products. The white Reebok shoes that most prisoners wear, shoes that lasts about six months, costs about $45 a pair. Those who cannot afford the Reebok brand must buy, for $20, shoddy shoes with soles that shred easily. In addition, prisoners are charged for visits to the infirmary and the dentist and for medications.</p><p>Keefe Supply Co., which runs commissaries for an estimated half a million prisoners in states including Florida and Maryland, is notorious for price gouging. It sells a single No. 10 white envelope for 15 cents—$15 per 100 envelopes. The typical retail cost outside prison for a box of 100 of these envelopes is $7. The company marks up a 3-ounce packet of noodle soup, one of the most popular commissary items, to 45 cents from 26 cents.</p><p>Global Tel Link, a private phone company, jacks up phone rates in New Jersey to 15 cents a minute, although some states, such as New York, have relieved the economic load on families by reducing the charge to 4 cents a minute. The Federal Communications Commission has determined that a fair rate for a 15-minute interstate call by a prisoner is $1.80 for debit and $2.10 for collect. The high phone rates imposed on prisoners, who do not have a choice of carriers and must call either collect or by using debit accounts that hold prepaid deposits made by them or their families, are especially damaging to the 2 million children with a parent behind bars. The phone is a lifeline for the children of the incarcerated.</p><p>Monopolistic telephone contracts <a href="https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2011/apr/15/nationwide-pln-survey-examines-prison-phone-contracts-kickbacks/" target="_blank">give to the states kickbacks</a> amounting, on average, to 42 percent of gross revenues from prisoner phone calls, according to Prison Legal News. The companies with exclusive prison phone contracts not only charge higher phone rates but add to the phone charges the cost of the kickbacks, called “commissions” by state agencies, according to research conducted in 2011 by John E. Dannenberg for Prison Legal News. Dannenberg found that the phone market in state prison systems generates an estimated $362 million annually in gross revenues for the states and costs prisoners’ families, who put money into phone accounts, some $143 million a year.</p><p>When strong family ties are retained, there are lower rates of recidivism and fewer parole violations. But that is not what the corporate architects of prisons want: High recidivism, now at over 60 percent, keeps the cages full. This is one reason, I suspect, why prisons make visitations humiliating and difficult. It is not uncommon for prisoners to tell their families—especially those that include small children traumatized by the security screening, long waits, body searches, clanging metal doors and verbal abuse by guards—not to visit. Prisoners with life sentences frequently urge loved ones to sever all ties with them and consider them as dead.</p><p>The rise of what Marie Gottschalk, the author of “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics,” calls “the carceral state” is ominous. It will not be reformed through elections or by appealing to political elites or the courts. Prisons are not, finally, about race, although poor people of color suffer the most. They are not even about being poor. They are prototypes for the future. They are emblematic of the disempowerment and exploitation that corporations seek to inflict on all workers. If corporate power continues to disembowel the country, if it is not impeded by mass protests and revolt, life outside prison will soon resemble life in prison.</p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1029442 at http://www.alternet.org prison incarceration poor corporations The Corporate State Gets Stronger Every Time a Cop Kills a Citizen with Impunity http://www.alternet.org/corporate-state-gets-stronger-every-time-cop-kills-citizen-impunity <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Mass acts of civil disobedience, now being carried out across the country, are the only mechanism left.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_235179037-edited.jpg?itok=9TJJmICq" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to launch <a href="http://7online.com/news/mayor-bill-de-blasio-unveils-nypd-body-cameras/420339/" target="_blank">a pilot program</a> in New York City to place body cameras on police officers and conduct training seminars to help them reduce their adrenaline rushes and abusive language, along with the establishment of a less stringent marijuana policy, are merely cosmetic reforms. The killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island was, after all, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-xHqf1BVE4" target="_blank">captured on video</a>. These proposed reforms, like those out of Washington, D.C., fail to address the underlying cause of poverty, state-sponsored murder and the obscene explosion of mass incarceration—the rise of the corporate state and the death of our democracy. Mass acts of civil disobedience, now being carried out across the country, are the only mechanism left that offers hope for systematic legal and judicial reform. We must defy the corporate state, not work with it.</p><p>The legal system no longer functions to protect ordinary Americans. It serves our oligarchic, corporate elites. These elites have committed <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/obamas-foreclosure-fraud-settlement-2012-11" target="_blank">$26 billion in financial fraud</a>. They loot the U.S. Treasury, escape taxation, drive down wages, break unions, pillage pension funds, gut regulation and oversight, destroy public institutions including public schools and social assistance programs, wage endless and illegal wars to swell the profits of arms merchants, and—yes—authorize police to murder unarmed black men.</p><p>Police and national intelligence and security agencies, which carry out wholesale surveillance against the population and serve as the corporate elite’s brutal enforcers, are omnipotent by intention. They are designed to impart fear, even terror, to keep the population under control. And until the courts and the legislative bodies give us back our rights—which they have no intention of doing—things will only get worse for the poor and the rest of us. We live in a post-constitutional era.</p> <p>Corporations have captured every major institution, including the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, and deformed them to exclusively serve the demands of the market. They have, in the process, demolished civil society. Karl Polanyi in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Transformation_%28book%29">“The Great Transformation”</a> warned that without heavy government regulation and oversight, unfettered and unregulated capitalism degenerates into a Mafia capitalism and a Mafia political system. A self-regulating market, Polanyi writes, turns human beings and the natural environment into commodities. This ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. The ecosystem and human beings become objects whose worth is determined solely by the market. They are exploited until exhaustion or collapse occurs. A society that no longer recognizes that the natural world and life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic value beyond monetary value, commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves. This is what we are undergoing. Literally.</p><p>As in every totalitarian state, the first victims are the vulnerable, and in the United States this means poor people of color. In the name of the “war on drugs” or the necessity of enforcing immigration laws, those trapped in our urban internal colonies are effectively stripped of their rights. Police, who arrest some 13 million people a year—1.6 million of them on drug charges and <a href="http://norml.org/aboutmarijuana" target="_blank">half of those on marijuana counts</a>—were empowered by the “war on drugs” to carry out random searches and sweeps with no probable cause. They take DNA samples from many whom they arrest to build a nationwide database that includes both the guilty and the innocent. And they charge each of the sampled arrestees $50 for DNA processing. They confiscate cash, cars, homes and other possessions based on allegations of illegal drug activity and use the proceeds to swell police budgets. They impose fines in poor neighborhoods for absurd offenses—riding a bicycle on a sidewalk or not having an ID—to fleece the poor or, if they cannot pay, toss them into jail. And before deporting undocumented workers the state levels fines, often in the thousands of dollars, on those being held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in order to empty their pockets before they are shipped out. Prisoners locked in cages often spend decades attempting to pay off thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands, in court fines from the paltry $28 a month they earn in prison jobs; the government, to make sure it gets its money, automatically deducts a percentage each month from their prison paychecks. It is a vast extortion racket run against the poor by the corporate state, which also makes sure that the interest rates of mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit card loans are set at predatory levels.</p><p>Since 1980 the United States has constructed the world’s largest prison system, populated with 2.3 million inmates, 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Police, to keep the system filled with bodies, have had most legal constraints on their behavior removed. They serve as judge and jury on the streets of American cities. Such expansion of police powers is “a long step down the totalitarian path,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned in 1968. The police, who are often little more than predatory, armed gangs in inner-city neighborhoods, arbitrarily decide who lives, who dies and who spends years in prison. They rarely fight crime or protect the citizen. They round up human beings like cattle to meet arrest quotas, the prerequisite for receiving federal cash in the “drug war.” Because many crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The arrested are acutely aware they have no chance—97 percent of all federal cases and 94 percent of all state cases are <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/opinion/trial-judge-to-appeals-court-review-me.html?_r=0" target="_blank">resolved by guilty pleas</a> rather than trials. An editorial in The New York Times said that the pressure employed by state and federal prosecutors to make defendants accept guilty pleas—an action that often includes waiving the right to appeal to a higher court—is “closer to coercion” than to bargaining. There are always police informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police. And, as we saw after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and after the killing of Garner, the word of police officers and prosecutors, whose loyalty is to the police, is law.</p><p>A Department of Defense program known as 1033, which was begun in the 1990s and which the National Defense Authorization Act allowed along with federal homeland security grants to the states, has provided <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/the-best-reporting-on-the-federal-push-to-militarize-local-police" target="_blank">$4.3 billion in military equipment</a> to local police forces, either free or on permanent loan, the website ProPublica reported. The militarization of the police, which includes outfitting departments with heavy machine guns, ammunition magazines, night vision equipment, aircraft and armored vehicles, has effectively turned urban police, and increasingly rural police as well, into quasi-military forces of occupation. “Police conduct up to 80,000 SWAT raids a year in the US, up from 3,000 a year in the early ’80s,” reporter Hanqing Chen wrote in ProPublica. The American Civil Liberties Union, in Chen’s words, found that “almost 80 percent of SWAT team raids are linked to search warrants to investigate potential criminal suspects, not for high-stakes ‘hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.’ He went on to say, “The ACLU also noted that SWAT tactics are used disproportionately against people of color.”</p><p>The bodies of the incarcerated poor fuel our system of neo-slavery. In prisons across the country, including the one in which I teach, private corporations profit from captive prison labor. The incarcerated work eight-hour days for as little as a dollar a day. Phone companies, food companies, private prisons and a host of other corporations feed like jackals off those we hold behind bars. And the lack of employment and the collapse of education and vocational training in communities across the United States are part of the design. This design—with its built-in allure from the illegal economy, the only way for many of the poor to make a living—ensures rates of recidivism of over 60 percent. There are millions of poor people for whom this country is little more than a vast penal colony.</p><p>Lawyer Michelle Alexander, author of <a href="http://newjimcrow.com/" target="_blank">“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,”</a> identifies what she calls a criminal “caste system.” This caste system controls the lives of not only the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated but also the 4.8 million people on probation or parole. Millions more people are forced into “permanent second-class citizenship” by their criminal records, which make employment, higher education and public assistance difficult or impossible, Alexander says.</p><p>Totalitarian systems accrue to themselves omnipotent power by first targeting and demonizing a defenseless minority. Poor African-Americans, like Muslims, have been stigmatized by elites and the mass media. The state, promising to combat the “lawlessness” of the demonized minority, demands that authorities be emancipated from the constraints of the law. Arguments like this one were used to justify the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror.” But once any segment of the population is stripped of equality before the law, as poor people of color and Muslims have been, once police are permitted under the law to become omnipotent, brutal and systematically oppressive tactics are invariably employed against the wider society. The corporate state has no intention of carrying out legal reforms to curb the omnipotence of its organs of internal security. They were made omnipotent on purpose.</p> <p>Matt Taibbi in his book, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Divide:_American_Injustice_in_the_Age_of_the_Wealth_Gap">“The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,”</a> brilliantly illustrates how poverty, in essence, has become a crime. He spent time in courts where wealthy people who had committed documented fraud amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars never had to stand trial and in city courts where the poor were called to answer for crimes that, until I read his book, I did not know existed. Standing in front of your home, he shows in one case, can be an arrestable offense.</p><p>“That’s what nobody gets, that the two approaches to justice may individually make a kind of sense, but side by side they’re a dystopia, where common city courts become factories for turning poor people into prisoners, while federal prosecutors on the white-collar beat turn into overpriced garbage men, who behind closed doors quietly dispose of the sins of the rich for a fee,” Taibbi writes. “And it’s evolved this way over time and for a thousand reasons, so that almost nobody is aware of the whole picture, the two worlds so separate that they’re barely visible to each other. The usual political descriptors like ‘unfairness’ and ‘injustice’ don’t really apply. It’s more like a breakdown into madness.”</p><p><a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/" target="_blank">Hannah Arendt</a> warned that once any segment of the population is denied rights, the rule of law is destroyed. When laws do not apply equally to all they are treated as “rights and privileges.” When the state is faced with growing instability or unrest, these “privileges” are revoked. Elites who feel increasingly threatened by the wider population do not “resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police,” Arendt writes.</p><p>This is what is taking place now. The corporate state and its organs of internal security are illegitimate. We are a society of captives.</p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 09:34:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1028333 at http://www.alternet.org police brutality racism police prison corporate elites The Myth of Human Progress http://www.alternet.org/environment/myth-human-progress-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The technical and scientific forces that created a life of luxury for the industrial elites are now the ones that doom us. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_93836461-edited.jpg?itok=ELEdIUN2" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Clive Hamilton in his <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Species-Resist-Climate-Change/dp/1849710813/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1358027794&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=requiem+for+a+species">“Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change”</a> describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.</p><p>The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the Earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power—for the industrial elites are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward, as the draft report of the <a href="http://www.globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/draft-report-information/public-review">National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee</a> illustrates.</p><p>Complex civilizations have a bad habit of destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Studies-Archaeology/dp/052138673X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1358189509&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=the+collapse+of+complex+societies">“The Collapse of Complex Societies,”</a> Charles L. Redman in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Impact-Ancient-Environments-Charles-Redman/dp/0816519633/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1358026065&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=%22Human+Impact+on+Ancient+Environments%22">“Human Impact on Ancient Environments”</a> and Ronald Wright in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Short-History-Progress-Ronald-Wright/dp/0786715472/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1358189864&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=a+short+history+of+progress">“A Short History of Progress”</a> have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the Earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed and self-worship.</p><p>“There is a pattern in the past of civilization after civilization wearing out its welcome from nature, overexploiting its environment, overexpanding, overpopulating,” <a href="http://ronaldwright.com/">Wright</a> said when I reached him by phone at his home in British Columbia, Canada. </p><blockquote><p>They tend to collapse quite soon after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the Romans, the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what I called in ‘A Short History of Progress’ the ‘progress trap.’ We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around. The number of people in dire poverty today—about 2 billion—is greater than the world’s entire population in the early 1900s. That’s not progress.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>If we continue to refuse to deal with things in an orderly and rational way, we will head into some sort of major catastrophe, sooner or later. If we are lucky it will be big enough to wake us up worldwide but not big enough to wipe us out. That is the best we can hope for. We must transcend our evolutionary history. We’re Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit. We are not good long-term thinkers. We would much rather gorge ourselves on dead mammoths by driving a herd over a cliff than figure out how to conserve the herd so it can feed us and our children forever. That is the transition our civilization has to make. And we’re not doing that.</p></blockquote><p>Wright, who in his dystopian novel <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Scientific-Romance-Novel-Ronald-Wright/dp/0312199996/ref=la_B000APIF48_1_7?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1358027868&amp;sr=1-7">“A Scientific Romance”</a> paints a picture of a future world devastated by human stupidity, cites “entrenched political and economic interests” and a failure of the human imagination as the two biggest impediments to radical change. And all of us who use fossil fuels, who sustain ourselves through the formal economy, he says, are at fault.</p><p>Modern capitalist societies, Wright argues in his book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/What-America-Short-History-World/dp/B002BWQ5V8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1358026652&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=what+is+america%3F">“What Is America?: A Short History of the New World Order,”</a> derive from European invaders’ plundering of the indigenous cultures in the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries, coupled with the use of African slaves as a workforce to replace the natives. The numbers of those natives fell by more than 90 percent because of smallpox and other plagues they hadn’t had before. The Spaniards did not conquer any of the major societies until smallpox had crippled them; in fact the Aztecs beat them the first time around. If Europe had not been able to seize the gold of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, if it had not been able to occupy the land and adopt highly productive New World crops for use on European farms, the growth of industrial society in Europe would have been much slower. Karl Marx and Adam Smith both pointed to the influx of wealth from the Americas as having made possible the Industrial Revolution and the start of modern capitalism. It was the rape of the Americas, Wright points out, that triggered the orgy of European expansion. The Industrial Revolution also equipped the Europeans with technologically advanced weapons systems, making further subjugation, plundering and expansion possible.</p><p>Wright explained this further on our call. </p><blockquote><p>The experience of a relatively easy 500 years of expansion and colonization, the constant taking over of new lands, led to the modern capitalist myth that you can expand forever. It is an absurd myth. We live on this planet. We can’t leave it and go somewhere else. We have to bring our economies and demands on nature within natural limits, but we have had a 500-year run where Europeans, Euro-Americans and other colonists have overrun the world and taken it over. This 500-year run made it not only seem easy but normal. We believe things will always get bigger and better. We have to understand that this long period of expansion and prosperity was an anomaly. It has rarely happened in history and will never happen again. We have to readjust our entire civilization to live in a finite world. But we are not doing it, because we are carrying far too much baggage, too many mythical versions of deliberately distorted history and a deeply ingrained feeling that what being modern is all about is having more. This is what anthropologists call an ideological pathology, a self-destructive belief that causes societies to crash and burn. These societies go on doing things that are really stupid because they can’t change their way of thinking. And that is where we are.</p></blockquote><p>And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we like past societies in distress will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist belief in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us.</p><p>As Wright told me:</p><blockquote><p>Societies in collapse often fall prey to the belief that if certain rituals are performed all the bad stuff will go away. There are many examples of that throughout history. In the past these crisis cults took hold among people who had been colonized, attacked and slaughtered by outsiders, who had lost control of their lives. They see in these rituals the ability to bring back the past world, which they look at as a kind of paradise. They seek to return to the way things were. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the 19th century, when the buffalo and the Indians were being slaughtered by repeating rifles and finally machine guns. People came to believe, as happened in the<a href="http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-ghostdance.html"> Ghost Dance</a>, that if they did the right things the modern world that was intolerable—the barbed wire, the railways, the white man, the machine gun—would disappear.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>We all have the same, basic psychological hard wiring. It makes us quite bad at long-range planning and leads us to cling to irrational delusions when faced with a serious threat. Look at the extreme right’s belief that if government got out of the way, the lost paradise of the 1950s would return. Look at the way we are letting oil and gas exploration rip when we know that expanding the carbon economy is suicidal for our children and grandchildren. The results can already be felt. When it gets to the point where large parts of the Earth experience crop failure at the same time then we will have mass starvation and a breakdown in order. That is what lies ahead if we do not deal with climate change.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>If we fail in this great experiment, this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea.</p></blockquote> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:11:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1027679 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Economy Environment climate change economics growth Chris Hedges: I've Gone Vegan to Help Try to Save the Planet http://www.alternet.org/environment/chris-hedges-ive-gone-vegan-help-try-save-planet <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;We have only a few years left to make radical changes to rescue ourselves from an ecological meltdown.&quot;</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_185441195-edited.jpg?itok=A-QC5jHQ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>My attitude toward becoming a vegan was similar to <a href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo" target="_blank">Augustine’s</a> attitude toward becoming celibate—“God grant me abstinence, but not yet.” But with animal agriculture as the leading cause of species extinction, water pollution, ocean dead zones and habitat destruction(2), and with the death spiral of the ecosystem ever more pronounced, becoming vegan is the most important and direct change we can immediately make to save the planet and its species. It is one that my wife—who was the engine behind our family’s shift—and I have made.</p><p>Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation combined—cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes.(3) Livestock and their waste and flatulence account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.(4) Livestock causes 65 percent of all emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.(5) Crops grown for livestock feed consume 56 percent of the water used in the United States.(6) Eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals, and most of this soy is grown on cleared lands that were once rain forests. All this is taking place as an estimated 6 million children across the planet die each year from starvation and as hunger and malnutrition affect an additional 1 billion people.(7) In the United States 70 percent of the grain we grow goes to feed livestock raised for consumption.(8)</p> <p>The natural resources used to produce even minimal amounts of animal products are staggering—1,000 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk.(9) Add to this the massive clear cutting and other destruction of forests, especially in the Amazon—where forest destruction has risen to 91 percent(10)—and we find ourselves lethally despoiling the lungs of the earth largely for the benefit of the animal agriculture industry. Our forests, especially our rain forests, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and exchange it for oxygen: Killing the forests is a death sentence for the planet. Land devoted exclusively to raising livestock now represents 45 percent of the earth’s land mass.(11)</p><p>And this does not include the assault on the oceans, where three-quarters of the world’s primary fisheries have been overexploited and vast parts of the seas are in danger of becoming dead zones.</p><p>We can, by becoming vegan, refuse to be complicit in the torture of billions of animals for corporate profit and can have the well-documented health benefits associated with a plant-based diet, especially in the areas of heart disease and cancer. </p><p>Richard A. Oppenlander in his book, “<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Comfortably-Unaware-Choose-Killing-Planet/dp/0825306868/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1415490934&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=comfortably+unaware" target="_blank">Comfortably Unaware</a>: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet,” draws the terrifying scenarios that lie ahead unless we change what we eat. He notes that we can save more water by refusing to eat a pound of beef—which takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to produce(12)—than by not showering for a year and that half the water in the United States is used to sustain livestock. He writes:</p><blockquote><p>Your contribution to pollution begins with what you decide to purchase to consume. It’s not just with the occasional purchase; it’s with every food item you eat, every day. With meat and animal products, the pollution associated with your choice is massive. In order to raise that animal for you to eat, there is baggage that silently comes along with it—silent to you, that is, although it speaks loudly elsewhere. In the United States alone, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows in factory farms produce over five million pounds of excrement per minute. These are the animals raised each year so that people can continue eating meat, and they produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population in our country. This manure sewage is responsible for global warming, water and soil pollution, air pollution, and use of our resources. The waste produced by the animals raised for food includes with it all the antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and other chemicals used during the raising and growing process. Accompanying this is methane released by the animals themselves, as well as the carbon, nitrous oxide, and additional methane emissions produced during the whole raising, feeding, and killing process.</p><p>On any given acre of land we can grow twelve to twenty times the amount in pounds of edible vegetables, fruit, and grain as in pounds of edible animal products. We are essentially using twenty times the amount of land and crops and hundreds of times the water, as well as polluting our waterways and air and destroying rainforests, to produce animals to kill and eat … which is unhealthier than eating the plant products we could have produced.</p></blockquote><p>The animal agriculture industry has used the excuse of national security, public safety, trade agreements and the need for business secrets to pass what are known as ag-gag laws in about a dozen states and, on the federal level, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, all enhanced with anti-terrorism laws to criminalize anyone who investigates or challenges the industry. It is illegal under the Patriot Act to issue statements or carry out actions that harm the profits of the animal agriculture industry. Radical change, as with every challenge to the power of our corporate state, will have to be built outside the structures of power, including the leading environmental groups, which have refused to confront the livestock industry.</p><p>Six members of the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) were found guilty in federal court in Trenton, N.J., in 2006 for using their website to incite attacks on Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal-testing laboratory. They were charged with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. One of those charged, Andrew Stepanian, who has since been released, was held in isolation in a federal “communication management unit.”</p><p>Given the slew of recent laws that prohibit the photographing or filming of how we handle our livestock, don’t expect to see very many pictures from within the vast warehouses where animals are kept in atrocious conditions as they await slaughter. Don’t expect politicians, bought off by agro-business money, to advocate for a diet that can have a massive impact on global warming. And don’t expect the mass media, which depend on advertising dollars from the industry, to inform us about what this industry is doing to the planet.</p><p><a href="http://www.cowspiracy.com/" target="_blank">“Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,”</a> a new documentary, examines the power of the animal agriculture industry, which is one more massive piece of the puzzle in the corporate strangulation of the common good. The film attempts to let the public know not only about the environmental effects of animal agriculture but what is being done to and put into the food we eat.</p> <p>“The animal agriculture industry is one of the most powerful industries on the planet,” journalist <a href="http://willpotter.com/">Will Potter</a> says in “Cowspiracy.” “Most people in this country are aware of the influence of money and industry on politics. We really see that clearly on display with this industry in particular. Most people would be shocked to learn that animal rights and environmental activists are the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat according to the FBI. … They, more than any other social movements today, are directly threatening corporate profits.”</p><p>The film opens with Bruce Hamilton, the conservation director of the Sierra Club, laying out the dire future ahead of us. “The world’s climate scientists tell us that the highest safe level of emission is around 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” he says. “We are already at 400. They tell us that the safest we could hope to do without having perilous implications as far as drought, famine, human conflict and major species extinction would be about a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature. We are rapidly approaching that and with all the built-in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere we are going to easily exceed that. On our watch we are facing the next major extinction of species on the earth that we have not seen since the time of the dinosaurs disappearing. When whole countries go under water because of sea level rise, when whole countries find that there is so much drought they can’t feed their populations and as a result they need to desperately migrate to another country or invade another country, we are going to have climate wars in the future.”</p><p>“And what about livestock and animal agriculture?” asks Kip Andersen, who co-directed “Cowspiracy” with Keegan Kuhn. “Uhh,” Hamilton responds, “well—what about it?”</p><p>The refusal by major environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, 350.org and the Sierra Club, to confront the animal agricultural business is a window into how impotent the activist community has become in the face of corporate power.</p><p>I reached Kuhn in Berkeley and Andersen in San Francisco by phone.</p><p>“So many more people have a connection to animal agriculture, both in society and government, than have a direct connection to the oil industry,” Kuhn said. “The oil industry employs, relatively speaking, a very small percentage of people and is controlled by a very small percentage of people. The agricultural industry, both animal agriculture and commodity grains fed to those animals, involves a much bigger demographic. Politically it is a lot more challenging. Corporations such as Cargill, one the largest commodity food corporations in the world, is able to create U.S. policy. The government says it needs to have affordable food, which means giving massive subsidies to these corporations. The belief is that we have to eat animal products to survive. It is not something that is even questioned. The fossil fuel industry is more easily challenged with the argument that there are alternatives. People do not feel there is an alternative to eating animals.”</p><p>“Why would we want to create laws that make it harder for us to know how our food is produced?” Kuhn asked. “No consumer wants that. They want greater transparency. This shows how in-bed this industry is with the government. They can shape and dictate legislation that does not benefit us or the planet.”</p><p>“Hiding the animals, hiding the farms, hiding the entire issue is a marketing tool that is used by the industry,” Kuhn said. “Their attitude is, if you can’t see it, it’s not there. There are upwards of 10 billion farm animals slaughtered every year in the United States. But where are these 10 billion animals? We live in a country with 320 million humans. We see humans everywhere. But where are these billions of animals? They are hidden away in sheds. It allows the industry to carry out these atrocities, whether it’s how they treat the animals or how they treat the environment.”</p> <p>“You also have the marketing of grass-fed animals on smaller farms,” Andersen said, “and while it initially appears better, it is actually worse. The factory farming is horrific for the animals, but it is better for the environment than pasture-fed beef because of methane emissions, feces excretion and all the horses and wolves that are killed so cattle can graze on public land, which we pay for with our public dollars. We didn’t focus in the film on the factory farms. Everyone knows about that. We wanted to look at these so-called sustainable farms, as if this so-called humane farming is the answer. In most situations, these farms are worse for the environment, although it is better for the animals.”</p><p>“If we had a different timeline, or if we had 1.5 billion people on the planet, then there might be halfway measures we could take,” Kuhn said. “The situation we are dealing with ecologically, however, means there is no way left but an immediate shift to a plant-based lifestyle.”</p><p>“How can we best use our resources?” Oppenlander asks in “Comfortably Unaware.” “What foods will have the very least effect on our planet? Which foods best promote our own human health and wellness, and which are the most compassionate? Do we really need to slaughter another living thing in order for us to eat? Or, sadly, is it because we want to?”</p><p>We have only a few years left, at best, to make radical changes to save ourselves from ecological meltdown. A person who is vegan will save 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, and one sentient animal’s life(13) every day. We do not, given what lies ahead of us, have any other option.</p>———<p><br />Footnotes:</p><p>1. <a href="http://www.waterfootprint.org" target="_blank">“Water Footprint Assessment.”</a> University of Twente, the Netherlands.</p><p>2. <a href="http://www.epa.gov/region9/animalwaste/problem.html" target="_blank">“What’s the Problem?”</a> United States Environmental Protection Agency. <a href="http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM" target="_blank">“Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.”</a> Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.</p><p>3. <a href="http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM" target="_blank">Ibid.</a></p><p>4. Goodland, R; Anhang, J. <a href="http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294" target="_blank">“Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”</a> WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C., USA. Pp. 10-19.</p><p>5. <a href="http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm" target="_blank">“Lifestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.”</a> Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.</p><p>6. Jacobson, Michael F. <a href="http://www.cspinet.org/EatingGreen/pdf/arguments4.pdf" target="_blank">“More and Cleaner Water.”</a> In “Six Arguments for a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-Based Diet Could Save Your Health and the Environment.” Washington, D.C.: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006. </p><p>7. Oppenlander, Richard A. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Comfortably-Unaware-Choose-Killing-Planet/dp/0825306868" target="_blank">“Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet.”</a> New York City: Beaufort Books, 2012.</p><p>8. Ibid.</p><p>9. <a href="http://water.epa.gov/learn/kids/drinkingwater/water_trivia_facts.cfm#_edn11" target="_blank">“Water Trivia Facts.”</a> United States Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>10. Oppenlander, Richard A. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Food-Choice-Sustainability-Buying-Eating/dp/1626524351" target="_blank">“Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work.”</a> Minneapolis, MN: Langdon Street, 2013. Margulis, Sergio. <a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/15060" target="_blank">Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Rainforest.</a> Washington: World Bank Publications, 2003. </p><p>11. Thornton, Phillip, Mario Herrero, and Polly Ericksen. <a href="https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/10601/IssueBrief3.pdf" target="_blank">“Livestock and Climate Change.”</a> Livestock Exchange, No. 3 (2011).</p><p>12. Pimental, D., Pimental, M. <a href="http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/660S.full.pdf+html" target="_blank">“Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.”</a> American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 78, 660s-663S, September 2003.</p><p>13. <a href="http://www.waterfootprint.org" target="_blank">“Water Footprint Assessment.”</a> University of Twente, the Netherlands.</p> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:08:00 -0800 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1026670 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment Food vegan veganism animal agriculture livestock The Movie That Completely Exposes the Myth of the 'Free Press' http://www.alternet.org/media/movie-completely-exposes-myth-free-press <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&#039;Kill the Messenger&#039; reveals the media&#039;s subservience to power. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/garywebbhedges_590.jpg?itok=dnIiGKd4" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There is more truth about American journalism in the film “Kill the Messenger,” which chronicles the mainstream media’s discrediting of the work of the investigative journalist Gary Webb, than there is in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which celebrates the exploits of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.</p><p>The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy—even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes. They slavishly venerate the military and law enforcement in the name of patriotism. They select the specialists and experts, almost always drawn from the centers of power, to interpret reality and explain policy. They usually rely on press releases, written by corporations, for their news. And they fill most of their news holes with celebrity gossip, lifestyle stories, sports and trivia. The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses. The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities. These journalistic courtiers, who can earn millions of dollars, are invited into the inner circles of power. They are, as <a href="http://www.johnralstonsaul.com/biography/" target="_blank">John Ralston Saul</a> writes, hedonists of power.</p><p>When Webb, <a href="http://www.narconews.com/darkalliance/shock/start.htm" target="_blank">writing in a 1996 series</a> in the San Jose Mercury News, exposed the Central Intelligence Agency’s complicity in smuggling tons of cocaine for sale into the United States to fund the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, the press turned him into a journalistic leper. And over the generations there is a long list of journalistic lepers, from Ida B. Wells to I.F. Stone to Julian Assange.</p><p>The attacks against Webb have been renewed in publications such as The Washington Post since the release of the film earlier this month. These attacks are an act of self-justification. They are an attempt by the mass media to mask the collaboration between themselves and the power elite. The mass media, like the rest of the liberal establishment, seek to wrap themselves in the moral veneer of the fearless pursuit of truth and justice. But to maintain this myth they have to destroy the credibility of journalists such as Webb and Assange who shine a light on the sinister and murderous inner workings of empire, who care more about truth than news.</p> <p>The country’s major news outlets—including my old employer The New York Times, which wrote that there was “scant proof” of Webb’s contention—functioned as guard dogs for the CIA. Soon after the 1996 exposé appeared, The Washington Post devoted nearly two full pages to attacking Webb’s assertions. The Los Angeles Times ran three separate articles that slammed Webb and his story. It was a seedy, disgusting and shameful chapter in American journalism. But it was hardly unique. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/12/17/how-the-press-and-the-cia-killed-gary-webb-s-career/">in the 2004 article</a> “How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb’s Career,” detailed the dynamics of the nationwide smear campaign.</p><p>Webb’s newspaper, after printing a mea culpa about the series, cast him out. He was unable to work again as an investigative journalist and, fearful of losing his house, he committed suicide in 2004. We know, in part because of a Senate investigation led by then-Sen. John Kerry, that Webb was right. But truth was never the issue for those who opposed the journalist. Webb exposed the CIA as a bunch of gunrunning, drug-smuggling thugs. He exposed the mass media, which depend on official sources for most of their news and are therefore hostage to those sources, as craven handmaidens of power. He had crossed the line. And he paid for it.</p><p>If the CIA was funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs into inner-city neighborhoods to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua, what did that say about the legitimacy of the vast covert organization? What did it tell us about the so-called war on drugs? What did it tell us about the government’s callousness and indifference to the poor, especially poor people of color at the height of the crack epidemic? What did it say about rogue military operations carried out beyond public scrutiny?</p><p>These were questions the power elites, and their courtiers in the press, were determined to silence.</p><p>The mass media are plagued by the same mediocrity, corporatism and careerism as the academy, labor unions, the arts, the Democratic Party and religious institutions. They cling to the self-serving mantra of impartiality and objectivity to justify their subservience to power. The press writes and speaks—unlike academics that chatter among themselves in arcane jargon like medieval theologians—to be heard and understood by the public. And for this reason the press is more powerful and more closely controlled by the state. It plays an essential role in the dissemination of official propaganda. But to effectively disseminate state propaganda the press must maintain the fiction of independence and integrity. It must hide its true intentions.</p><p>The mass media, as <a href="http://infed.org/mobi/c-wright-mills-power-craftsmanship-and-private-troubles-and-public-issues/" target="_blank">C. Wright Mills</a> pointed out, are essential tools for conformity. They impart to readers and viewers their sense of themselves. They tell them who they are. They tell them what their aspirations should be. They promise to help them achieve these aspirations. They offer a variety of techniques, advice and schemes that promise personal and professional success. The mass media, as Wright wrote, exist primarily to help citizens feel they are successful and that they have met their aspirations even if they have not. They use language and images to manipulate and form opinions, not to foster genuine democratic debate and conversation or to open up public space for free political action and public deliberation. We are transformed into passive spectators of power by the mass media, which decide for us what is true and what is untrue, what is legitimate and what is not. Truth is not something we discover. It is decreed by the organs of mass communication.</p><p>“The divorce of truth from discourse and action—the instrumentalization of communication—has not merely increased the incidence of propaganda; it has disrupted the very notion of truth, and therefore the sense by which we take our bearings in the world is destroyed,” James W. Carey wrote in “Communication as Culture.”</p><p>Bridging the vast gap between the idealized identities—ones that in a commodity culture revolve around the acquisition of status, money, fame and power, or at least the illusion of it—and actual identities is the primary function of the mass media. And catering to these idealized identities, largely implanted by advertisers and the corporate culture, can be very profitable. We are given not what we need but what we want. The mass media allow us to escape into the enticing world of entertainment and spectacle. News is filtered into the mix, but it is not the primary concern of the mass media. No more than 15 percent of the space in any newspaper is devoted to news; the rest is devoted to a futile quest for self-actualization. The ratio is even more lopsided on the airwaves.</p> <p>“This,” Mills wrote, “is probably the basic psychological formula of the mass media today. But, as a formula, it is not attuned to the development of the human being. It is a formula of a pseudo-world which the media invent and sustain.”</p><p>At the core of this pseudo-world is the myth that our national institutions, including those of government, the military and finance, are efficient and virtuous, that we can trust them and that their intentions are good. These institutions can be criticized for excesses and abuses, but they cannot be assailed as being hostile to democracy and the common good. They cannot be exposed as criminal enterprises, at least if one hopes to retain a voice in the mass media.</p><p>Those who work in the mass media, as I did for two decades, are acutely aware of the collaboration with power and the cynical manipulation of the public by the power elites. It does not mean there is never good journalism and that the subservience to corporate power within the academy always precludes good scholarship, but the internal pressures, hidden from public view, make great journalism and great scholarship very, very difficult. Such work, especially if it is sustained, is usually a career killer. Scholars like <a href="http://normanfinkelstein.com/biography/" target="_blank">Norman Finkelstein</a> and journalists like Webb and Assange who step outside the acceptable parameters of debate and challenge the mythic narrative of power, who question the motives and virtues of established institutions and who name the crimes of empire are always cast out.</p><p>The press will attack groups within the power elite only when one faction within the circle of power goes to war with another. When Richard Nixon, who had used illegal and clandestine methods to harass and shut down the underground press as well as persecute anti-war activists and radical black dissidents, went after the Democratic Party he became fair game for the press. His sin was not the abuse of power. He had abused power for a long time against people and groups that did not matter in the eyes of the Establishment. Nixon’s sin was to abuse power against a faction within the power elite itself.</p><p>The Watergate scandal, mythologized as evidence of a fearless and independent press, is illustrative of how circumscribed the mass media is when it comes to investigating centers of power.</p><p>“History has been kind enough to contrive for us a ‘controlled experiment’ to determine just what was at stake during the Watergate period, when the confrontational stance of the media reached its peak. The answer is clear and precise: powerful groups are capable of defending themselves, not surprisingly; and by media standards, it is a scandal when their position and rights are threatened,” Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote in “<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Manufacturing-Consent-Political-Economy-Media/dp/0375714499/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1414270234&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=%22Manufacturing+Consent%3A" target="_blank">Manufacturing Consent</a>: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.” “By contrast, as long as illegalities and violations of democratic substance are confined to marginal groups or dissident victims of U.S. military attack, or result in a diffused cost imposed on the general population, media opposition is muted and absent altogether. This is why Nixon could go so far, lulled into a false sense of security precisely because the watchdog only barked when he began to threaten the privileged.”</p><p>The righteous thunder of the abolitionists and civil rights preachers, the investigative journalists who enraged Standard Oil and the owners of the Chicago stockyards, the radical theater productions, such as “The Cradle Will Rock,” that imploded the myths peddled by the ruling class and gave a voice to ordinary people, the labor unions that permitted African-Americans, immigrants and working men and women to find dignity and hope, the great public universities that offered the children of immigrants a chance for a first-class education, the New Deal Democrats who understood that a democracy is not safe if it does not give its citizens an acceptable standard of living and protect the state from being hijacked by private power, are no longer part of the American landscape. It was Webb’s misfortune to work in an era when the freedom of the press was as empty a cliché as democracy itself.</p> <p><a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/theater/cradlewillrock.html">“The Cradle Will Rock,”</a> like much of the popular work that came out of the Federal Theatre Project, addressed the concerns of the working class rather than the power elite. And it excoriated the folly of war, greed, corruption and the complicity of liberal institutions, especially the press, in protecting the power elite and ignoring the abuses of capitalism. Mister Mister in the play runs the town like a private corporation.</p><p>“I believe newspapers are great mental shapers,” Mister Mister says. “My steel industry is dependent on them really.”</p><p>“Just you call the News,” Editor Daily responds. “And we’ll print all the news. From coast to coast, and from border to border.”</p><p>Editor Daily and Mister Mister sing:</p><blockquote><p>O the press, the press, the freedom of the press.<br />They’ll never take away the freedom of the press.<br />We must be free to say whatever’s on our chest—<br />with a hey-diddle-dee and ho-nanny-no<br />for whichever side will pay the best.</p></blockquote><p>“I should like a series on young Larry Foreman,” Mister Mister tells Editor Daily. “Who goes around stormin’ and organizin’ unions.”</p><p>“Yes, we’ve heard of him,” Editor Daily tells Mister Mister. “In fact, good word of him. He seems quite popular with workingmen.”</p><p>“Find out who he drinks with and talks with and sleeps with. And look up his past till at last you’ve got it on him.”</p><p>“But the man is so full of fight, he’s simply dynamite, why it would take an army to tame him,” Editor Daily says.</p><p>“Then it shouldn’t be too hard to tame him,” Mister Mister says.</p><p>“O the press, the press, the freedom of the press,” the two sing. “You’ve only got to hint whatever’s fit to print; if something’s wrong with it, why then we’ll print to fit. With a he-diddly-dee and aho-nonny-no. For whichever side will pay the best.”</p> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:40:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1024810 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media kill the messenger Gary Webb media democracy America's 'Death Instinct' Spreads Misery Across the World http://www.alternet.org/world/americas-death-instinct-spreads-misery-across-world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">War and national security are used to justify the surrender of citizenship, the crushing of dissent and expanding the powers of the state. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/5401b1727c11fd98885b6eb59b2f9d690efe733c.jpg?itok=fSZDQH7a" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Those who use violence to shape the world, as we have done in the Middle East, unleash a whirlwind. Our initial alliances—achieved at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead, some $3 trillion in expenditures and the ravaging of infrastructure across the region—have been turned upside down by the cataclysm of violence. Thirteen years of war, and the rise of enemies we did not expect, have transformed Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, along with Iran, into our tacit allies. We are intervening in the Syrian civil war to assist a regime we sought to overthrow. We promised to save Iraq and now help to dismember it. We have delivered Afghanistan to drug cartels and warlords who preside over a ruin of a nation where <a href="http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2013/10/16/60pc-afghan-children-facing-malnutrition-wfp" target="_blank">60 percent of the children</a> are malnourished and the Taliban is poised to take power once NATO troops depart. The entire misguided enterprise has been a fiasco of gross mismanagement and wanton bloodletting. But that does not mean it will be stopped.</p><p>More violence is not going to rectify the damage. Indeed, it will make it worse. But violence is all we know. Violence is the habitual response by the state to every dilemma. War, like much of modern bureaucracy, has become an impersonal and unquestioned mechanism to perpetuate American power. It has its own internal momentum. There may be a few courageous souls who rise up within the apparatus to protest war’s ultimate absurdity, but they are rapidly discarded and replaced. The state rages like an insane King Lear, who in his madness and desire to revenge himself on his two daughters and their husbands decides that:</p><blockquote><p>It were a delicate stratagem to shoe<br />A troop of horse with felt. I’ll put ’t in proof.<br />And when I have stol’n upon these sons-in-law,<br />Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!</p></blockquote><p>And kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill is the mantra chanted with every new setback in the Middle East. How many times have we rejoiced at the murder of those we demonized—Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/iraq/profile-abu-musab-al-zarqawi/p9866" target="_blank">Abu Musab al-Zarqawi</a> and dozens of others. But as soon as one hunt for the fountainhead of evil ends, another begins. Those we kill are swiftly replaced. Fresh terrorist groups take the place of the old. The<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2771687/Khorasan-group-U-S-air-strikes-earlier-week-execution-stage-plot-involved-putting-explosives-aircraft-bound-Europe-U-S.html" target="_blank">Khorasan Group</a>, the U.S. government assures us, is a more sinister and deadlier version of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which was once touted as a more sinister version of al-Qaida. We cannot extinguish our enemies. They spring out of the ground like the legion of hostile warriors that rose up when <a href="http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=haaren&amp;book=greece&amp;story=cadmus" target="_blank">Cadmus</a>sowed his dragon’s teeth. Our violence spawns violence and never-ending configurations of enraged militants. We will keep spawning them until we stop occupying the Middle East. </p><p>Endless war, which results in endless terror, leaves the arms manufacturers and generals giddy with joy. It is a boon to the state, which is possessed of an excuse to extinguish what few liberties we have left. It fuels the militancy and hatred that fanatics need to justify their slaughter and attract recruits. But it is a curse to humankind.</p><p>The barbarism of modern industrial warfare creates complex bureaucratic mechanisms that exist to perpetuate and manufacture death. We are hostages to those mechanisms. “The soul that is enslaved to war cries out for deliverance,” <a href="http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/weil.htm" target="_blank">Simone Weil</a> observed, “but deliverance itself appears to it an extreme and tragic aspect, the aspect of destruction.”</p><p>“Thus war effaces all conceptions of purpose or goal, including even its own ‘war aims,’ ” she wrote. “It effaces the very notion of war’s being brought to an end. Consequently, nobody does anything to bring this end about. In the presence of an armed enemy, what hand can relinquish its weapon? The mind ought to find a way out, but the mind has lost all capacity to so much as look outward. The mind is completely absorbed in doing itself violence. Always in human life, whether war or slavery is in question, intolerable sufferings continue, as it were, by the force of their own specific gravity, and so look to the outsider as though they deprived the sufferer of the resources which might serve to extricate him.”</p><p>Violence as a primary form of communication has become normalized. It is not politics by other means. It is politics. Democrats are as infected as Republicans. The war machine is impervious to election cycles. It bombs, kills, maims, tortures, terrorizes and destroys as if on autopilot. It dispenses with humans around the globe as if they were noisome insects. No one dares lift his or her voice to protest against a war policy that is visibly bankrupting the United States, has no hope of success and is going to end with new terrorist attacks on American soil. We have surrendered our political agency and our role as citizens to the masters of war.</p><p>“It seems to me that nearly the whole Anglo-Saxon race, especially of course in America, have lost the power to be individuals,” wrote the <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/221169/Roger-Fry" target="_blank">artist Roger Fry</a>. “They have become social insects like bees or ants.”</p><p>Søren Kierkegaard in “The Present Age” warned that the modern state seeks to eradicate conscience and absorb individuals into a public that can be shaped and manipulated by those in power. This public is not real. It is, as Kierkegaard wrote, a “monstrous abstraction, an all-embracing something which is nothing, a mirage.” In short, we became part of a herd, “unreal individuals who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization—and yet are held together as a whole.” Those who question the public, those who denounce endless war, are dismissed as dreamers or freaks. But only they, according to the Greek definition of the <a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&amp;ion=1&amp;espv=2&amp;ie=UTF-8#q=polis" target="_blank">polis</a>, can be considered citizens.</p><p>In endless war it does not matter whom we fight. Endless war is not about winning battles or promoting a cause. It is an end in itself. In George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” Oceania is at war with Eurasia and allied with Eastasia. The alliance then suddenly is reversed. Eurasia becomes an ally of Oceania and Eastasia is the enemy. The point is not who is being fought. The point is maintaining a state of fear and the mass mobilization of the public. War and national security are used to justify the surrender of citizenship, the crushing of dissent and expanding the powers of the state. The point is war itself. And if the American state, once a sworn enemy of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4314423.stm" target="_blank">Hezbollah</a>, gives air cover to Hezbollah fighters in Syria, the goals of endless war remain gloriously untouched.</p><p>But endless war is not sustainable. States that wage endless war inevitably collapse. They drain their treasuries, are hated by the wretched of the earth, and militarize and strangle their political, social and cultural life while impoverishing and repressing their populations. They are seduced by what Sigmund Freud called the “death instinct.” This is where we are headed. The only question is when it will unravel.</p><p><a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/233161/Edward-Gibbon" target="_blank">Edward Gibbon</a> observed about the Roman Empire’s own lust for endless war: ” ... [T]he decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of the destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of the ruin is simple and obvious: and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted for so long.”</p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:17:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1021351 at http://www.alternet.org World World middle east war violence Isis Totalitarianism, American Style http://www.alternet.org/activism/totalitarianism-american-style <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Understanding the subtle ways democracy has been undermined in the US.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/2539d758d3a12bc7e0ea0f32c8548ff1e8491d46.jpg?itok=7rP2sOvT" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Chris Hedges made these remarks Saturday at a panel discussion in New York City titled “The Climate Crisis: Which Way Out?” The other panelists were <a href="http://www.billmckibben.com/bio.html" target="_blank">Bill McKibben</a>, <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/meet-naomi" target="_blank">Naomi Klein</a>, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kshama_Sawant" target="_blank">Kshama Sawant</a> and <a href="http://www.sanders.senate.gov/about" target="_blank">Sen. Bernie Sanders</a>. The event, moderated by <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/people/brian-lehrer/" target="_blank">Brian Lehrer</a>, occurred on the eve of the People’s Climate March in New York City. For a video of some of what the panelists said, <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=12414" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p>We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what <a href="http://www.johnralstonsaul.com/eng/biography.php" target="_blank">John Ralston Saul</a> calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern—who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military—no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Curry_%28politician%29" target="_blank">Bill Curry</a> points out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s.</p><p>We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/democracy_in_america_is_a_useful_fiction_20100124">“inverted totalitarianism.”</a> By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent. </p><p>The old liberal class, the safety valve that addressed grievances and injustices in times of economic or political distress, has been neutered. There are self-identified liberals, including Barack Obama, who continue to speak in the old language of liberalism but serve corporate power. This has been true since the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton found that by doing corporate bidding he could get corporate money—thus NAFTA, the destruction of our welfare system, the explosion of mass incarceration under the [1994] omnibus bill, the deregulation of the FCC, turning the airwaves over to a half dozen corporations, and the revoking of FDR’s 1933 <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/glass_steagall_act.asp">Glass-Steagall reform</a> that had protected our banking system from speculators. Clinton, in exchange for corporate money, transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. This was diabolically brilliant. It forced the Republican Party to shift so far to the right it became insane.</p><p>By the time Clinton was done the rhetoric of self-professed liberals was a public relations game. This is why there is continuity from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Obama’s election did nothing to halt the expanding assault on civil liberties—in fact Obama’s assault has been worse—the Bush bailouts of big banks, the endless imperial wars, the failure to regulate Wall Street, the hiring of corporate lobbyists to write legislation and serve in top government positions, the explosion of drilling and <a href="http://www.what-is-fracking.com/" target="_blank">fracking</a>, the security and surveillance state as well as the persecution of government whistle-blowers.</p><p>This audience is well aware of the Democratic Party’s squalid record on the environment, laid out in detail in a new <a href="http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/planet3/PDFs/Kingpins-of-Carbon.pdf" target="_blank">Greenpeace report</a> written by Charlie Cray and Peter Montague, titled “The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy.” The report chronicles what it calls “a multi-decade war on democracy by the kingpins of carbon—the coal, the oil, and gas industries allied with a handful of self-interested libertarian billionaires.”</p><p>The Obama administration, in return for financial support from these kingpins of carbon, has cynically undermined international climate treaties, a fact we discovered only because of the revelations provided by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. It uses its intelligence agencies, these revelations revealed, to spy on those carrying out climate negotiations to thwart caps on carbon emissions and push through useless, nonbinding agreements. The Obama administration has overseen a massive expansion of fracking. It is pushing through a series of trade agreements such as the <a href="http://ourfuture.org/20130823/congress-public-waking-up-to-tpp-threat?gclid=Cj0KEQjwy_SgBRCxhsqc3prt8rQBEiQAHI_9GbYjMGBNwCqcXrgZa16ZPcE_ROqpJjBbK-OVQgPQQ-kaAiCt8P8HAQ" target="_blank">TPP</a> and the <a href="http://www.citizen.org/tafta" target="_blank">TAFTA</a> that will increase fracking along with expanding our exports of coal, oil and gas. It authorized the excavation of tar sands in Utah and Alabama. It approved the southern half of the Keystone pipeline. It has permitted seismic testing for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast and in parts of Alaska, a process that kills off hundreds of sea mammals. It authorized drilling within four miles of the Florida coastline, violating one of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises. This expansion of offshore drilling reversed 20 years of federal policy.</p><p>If we appeal to self-identified liberals in the establishment who have no capacity or desire to carry out the radical reforms, we will pour energy into a black hole. And this is what the corporate state seeks. It seeks to perpetuate the facade of democracy. It seeks to make us believe what is no longer real, that if we work within the system we can reform it. And it has put in place a terrifying superstructure to silence all who step outside the narrow parameters it defines as acceptable.</p><p>The Democratic Party speaks to us “rationally.” The party says it seeks to protect civil liberties, regulate Wall Street, is concerned about the plight of the working class and wants to institute reforms to address climate change. But in all these areas, and many more, it has, like its Republican counterpart, repeatedly sold out the citizenry for corporate power and corporate profits—in much the same manner that Big Green environmental groups such as the <a href="http://www.theclimategroup.org/" target="_blank">Climate Group</a> and the <a href="http://www.edf.org/about" target="_blank">Environmental Defense Fund</a> have sold out the environmental movement.</p><p>To assume that Obama, or the Democratic Party, because they acknowledge the reality of climate change, while the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party does not, is better equipped to deal with the crisis is incorrect. Republicans appeal to one constituency. The Democrats appeal to another. But both parties will do nothing to halt the ravaging of the planet.</p><p>If Wolin is right, and I believe he is, then when we begin to build mass movements that carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience, as I think everyone on this panel believes we must do, the corporate state, including the Democratic Party, will react the way all calcified states react.  It will use the security and surveillance apparatus, militarized police forces—and, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the military itself—to shut down all dissent with force. The legal and organizational mechanisms are now in place to, with the flip of a switch, put the nation effectively under martial law. When acts of mass civil disobedience begin on Monday morning with <a href="http://floodwallstreet.net/" target="_blank">Flood Wall Street</a> and later with <a href="http://www.popularresistance.org/occupy-the-un-from-sunday-until-end-of-summit/" target="_blank">Occupy the U.N.</a>, the face of the corporate state will, as it did during the Occupy movement, reveal itself.</p><p>If the response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of ... revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power. The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.</p> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:01:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1020285 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Environment chris hedges climate change global warming inverted totalitarianism PEOPLE'S CLIMATE MARCH Sacrificing the Vulnerable, From Gaza to America http://www.alternet.org/world/sacrificing-vulnerable-gaza-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The people of Gaza are impoverished and powerless -- just like the poor people of color in this country whose bodies enrich the prison-industrial complex.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/gaza_ceasefire.jpg?itok=O37qY_mo" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Chris Hedges gave this speech Saturday at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo, Wis., before a crowd of about 2,000. His address followed one there by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who seems to be preparing to run in the Democratic presidential primaries. The Fighting Bob Fest, the annual event at which they appeared, brings together progressive speakers from around the country and honors Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette (1855-1925), a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who opposed the United States’ entry into World War I. Parts of this talk were drawn from Hedges’ past columns.</em></p><p>I would like to begin by speaking about the people of Gaza. Their suffering is not an abstraction to me. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I spent seven years in the region. I speak Arabic. And for much of that time I was in Gaza, including when Israeli fighter jets and soldiers were attacking it.</p><p>I have stood over the bodies, including the bodies of children, left behind by Israeli airstrikes and assaults. I have watched mothers and fathers cradle their dead and bloodied boys and girls in their arms, convulsed by an indescribable grief, shrieking in pitiful cries to an indifferent universe.</p><p>And in this charnel house, this open-air prison where 1.8 million people, nearly half of them children, live trapped in an Israeli ghetto, I have witnessed the crimes of occupation—the food shortage, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. As I have witnessed this mass of human suffering I have heard from the power elites in Jerusalem and Washington the lies told to justify state terror.</p><p>An impoverished, captive people that lack an army, a navy, an air force, mechanized units, drones, artillery and any semblance of command and control do not pose a threat to Israel. And Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill hundreds of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war. It is state-sponsored terror and state-sponsored murder.</p><p>The abject failure by our political class to acknowledge this fact, a fact that to most of the rest of the world is obvious, exposes the awful banality of our political system, the cynical abandonment of the most vulnerable of the earth for campaign contributions. Money, after all, has replaced the vote.</p><p>The refusal to speak out for the people of Gaza is not tangential to our political life. The pathetic, Stalinist-like plebiscite in the [U.S.] Senate, where all 100 senators trotted out like <a href="http://www.aipac.org/about/mission" target="_blank">AIPAC</a> windup dolls to cheer on the Israeli bombing of homes, apartment blocks, schools—where hundreds of terrified families were taking shelter—water treatment plants, power stations, hospitals, and of course boys playing soccer on a beach, exposes the surrender of our political class to cash-rich lobbying groups and corporate power. The people of Gaza are expendable. They are poor. They are powerless. And they have no money. Just like the poor people of color in this country whose bodies, locked in cages, enrich the prison-industrial complex.</p><p>When you are willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable for political expediency it becomes easy, as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have amply illustrated, to sacrifice all who are vulnerable—our own poor, workers, the sick, the elderly, students and our middle class. This is a Faustian compact. It ends by selling your soul to Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil. It ends by deifying a military machine, now largely beyond civilian control, that, along with our organs of state security, has established surveillance and a security state that make us the most spied-upon, eavesdropped, monitored and photographed populace in human history. It is impossible to describe yourself as free when you are constantly watched. This is the relationship of a master and a slave.</p><p>Politics, if we take politics to mean the shaping and discussion of issues, concerns and laws that foster the common good, is no longer the business of our traditional political institutions. These institutions, including the two major political parties, the courts and the press, are not democratic. They are used to crush any vestiges of civic life that calls, as a traditional democracy does, on its citizens to share among all its members the benefits, sacrifices and risks of a nation. They offer only the facade of politics, along with elaborate, choreographed spectacles filled with skillfully manufactured emotion and devoid of real political content. We have devolved into what <a href="http://www.tocqueville.org/chap1.htm" target="_blank">Alexis de Tocqueville</a> feared—“democratic despotism.”</p><p>The squabbles among the power elites, rampant militarism and the disease of imperialism, along with a mindless nationalism that characterizes all public debate, which Bob La Follette denounced and fought, have turned officially sanctioned politics into a carnival act.</p><p>Pundits and news celebrities on the airwaves engage in fevered speculation about whether the wife of a former president will run for office—and this after the mediocre son of another president spent eight years in the White House. This is not politics. It is gossip. Opinion polls, the staple of what serves as political reporting, are not politics. They are forms of social control. The use of billions of dollars to fund election campaigns and pay lobbyists to author legislation is not politics. It is legalized bribery. The insistence that austerity and economic rationality, rather than the welfare of the citizenry, be the primary concerns of the government is not politics. It is the death of civic virtue. The government’s system of wholesale surveillance and the militarization of police forces, along with the psychosis of permanent war and state-orchestrated fear of terrorism, are not politics. They are about eradicating civil liberties and justifying endless war and state violence. The chatter about death panels, abortion, gay rights, guns and undocumented children crossing the border is not politics. It is manipulation by the power elites of emotion, hate and fear to divert us from seeing our own powerlessness.</p><p>As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties. They know that nearly half the country lives in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are harder and harder to hide.</p><p>It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, has yet to rebuild itself and turn on a feckless liberal class that has sold its soul to a bankrupt Democratic Party.</p><p>The tinder of revolt is piling up. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows when the eruption will take place. No one knows what form it will take. But it is certain that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, the continued pillaging of the nation and the ecosystem, remind us that, as Karl Marx pointed out, unregulated, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force. It commodifies everything. Human beings and the natural world become commodities that are exploited until exhaustion or collapse. This is why the economic crisis is intimately twined with the environmental crisis. The corporate state—a system described by the political philosopher <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090202_its_not_going_to_be_ok">Sheldon Wolin</a> as “inverted totalitarianism”—is incapable of a rational response to the crisis. A rational response, especially after your <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/02/whats-happening-wisconsin-explained" target="_blank">uprising in Madison</a> and the Occupy movement, would at a minimum include a moratorium on all foreclosures and bank repossessions, a forgiveness of student debt, universal health care for all and a massive jobs program, especially targeted at those under the age of 25. But the corporate state, by mounting a coordinated federal effort led by Barack Obama to shut down the Occupy encampments, illustrated that the only language it will speak is the language of force.</p><p>Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, which [today] means the articulation of a viable socialism as an alternative to corporate tyranny.</p><p>By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas—in our case free market capitalism and globalization—that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And once enough people get it, a process that can take years, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldman/peopleevents/p_berkman.html">Alexander Berkman</a> wrote. “Evolution becomes revolution.”</p><p>This is where we are headed. I do not say this because I am a supporter of revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only option left. Ruling elites, once the ideas that justify their existence are dead, resort to force. It is their final clutch at power. If a nonviolent popular movement is able to ideologically disarm the bureaucrats, civil servants and police—to get them, in essence, to defect—nonviolent revolution is possible. But if the state can organize effective and prolonged violence against dissent, it spawns reactive revolutionary violence, or what the state calls terrorism. And our backlash, if we on the left do not regain the militancy of the old anarchists and socialists, could be a right-wing backlash, a species of Christian fascism.</p><p>The people in Gaza deserve to be free. So do we. But do not look to our political mandarins for help, or expect anything but vaudevillian smoke and mirrors from the billions poured into our campaign circus.</p><p>Look within.</p><p>We too are powerless. We have undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. It is over. They have won. If we want to wrest power back, to make the consent of the governed more than an empty cliché, we will have to mobilize, to carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience to overthrow—let me repeat that word for the members of Homeland Security who may be visiting us this afternoon—overthrow the corporate state. And maybe, once we have freed ourselves, we can free the people of Gaza.</p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 06:31:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1019400 at http://www.alternet.org World World gaza Israel palestinians middle east What Israel Has Become: Dropping 1,000 LB Fragmentation Bombs on People Living in Concrete Hovels http://www.alternet.org/world/what-israel-has-become-dropping-1000-lb-fragmentation-bombs-people-living-concrete-hovels <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Peace in the area will come when we force the powerful to end the blockade of Gaza. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/1fc57f77bc8c36936b86ce09fd8ef9d19d96fce3.jpg?itok=l0Hran1Q" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made with those who pilot F-16 fighter jets that drop 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs over the concrete hovels of Gaza. It was not made with those operating Apache or Cobra attack helicopters that unleash lethal fire over crowded refugee camps. It was not made with drone operators that clinically kill children ... outside mosques. It was not made with M-60 tank units and artillery crews that murder families huddled in terror in their homes. It was not made with those on gunboats that <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/16/us-palestinians-israel-idUSKBN0FI04420140716" target="_blank">slaughter boys</a> playing on a beach. It was not made with those that fire Sidewinder missiles and drop 250-pound “smart bombs” on apartment blocks. It was not made with snipers from the Golani Brigade <a href="http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/gazaunderattack-israeli-soldier-leaks-accounts-of-revenge-attacks-against-civilians-by-troops-in-gaza/" target="_blank">that gun down</a> unarmed men and women for sport. It was not made with occupiers that reduce an entire people to a starvation diet—indeed <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/17/israeli-military-calorie-limit-gaza" target="_blank">count the calories</a> to keep them barely alive—or to those who use words like <a href="http://www.alternet.org/world/killing-people-mowing-lawn-how-israeli-hardliners-and-official-washington-dehumanize-people" target="_blank">“mowing the lawn”</a> to justify the indiscriminant slaughter of innocents.</p><p>God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made with politicians—including every member of the U.S. Senate—that mouth words for peace and perpetuate war, that call for justice and perpetuate injustice, that refuse to stand up for the rule of law and the right of a captive people to be free.<span style=""><span class="broadstreet-html-placement"></span></span></p><p>God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made, finally, with any race or religion. It was not made with the Jews. It was not made with the Muslims. It was not made with the Christians. God’s covenant—in the Bible and the Koran—was made with the righteous. When Ibrahim asked in the holy Koran if the covenant could be inherited, he was told bluntly: “My covenant is not given to oppressors.” And God’s iron requirement to stand with the oppressed occurs as well in the Hebrew and Greek bibles. Those who turn away from righteousness—be they Jew, Christian or Muslim—violate that covenant. They are not God’s people.</p><p>God’s covenant is made with those who love mercy and do justice, with those who care for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, with those who frustrate the ways of the wicked, with those who bring good news to the oppressed, who bind up the brokenhearted, who proclaim liberty to the captives and release to all those in prison, including those imprisoned in Gaza. God’s covenant is with those men and women—Jews, Christians and Muslims, believers and nonbelievers—who say, “Let my people go, oppressed so hard they could not stand. Let my people go.” And God calls these people oaks of righteousness. And they are God’s people.</p><p>Why does God weep in the Promised Land?</p><p>God weeps because families, huddled in terror in their homes, are dismembered and killed by Israeli bombs. God weeps because mothers howl in grief over the bodies of their children in <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/gaza-un-school-hit-201473041918975321.html" target="_blank">U.N. schools hit</a> by Israeli shells. God weeps because the old and disabled, who could not flee the deadly Israeli advance, died helpless and afraid. God weeps because the powerful, here and in Israel, lie and dissemble to justify murder. And God weeps for all those who stand by and do nothing.</p><p>God weeps because the assault on Gaza is not about Israel’s right to self-defense or about removing Hamas from power. It is not about achieving peace. God weeps because the assault on Gaza is about the decades-long campaign to destroy and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from their land. God weeps because Israel is constructing squalid, lawless and impoverished ghettos where life for Palestinians is barely sustainable. God weeps because Israel restricts or shuts off movement, food, medicine and goods to accentuate the human misery. God weeps because Israel has turned Gaza, now largely without power, running water and sewage [systems], into a vast gulag.</p><p>God weeps because the failure to condemn Israeli war crimes by our political establishment and our compliant media betrays the memory of those killed in other genocides, from the Holocaust to Cambodia to Rwanda to Bosnia. God weeps because we have failed to learn the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust, which is not that Jews are unique or eternal victims, but that when you have the capacity to stop genocide, and you do not, you are culpable. And we [Americans], who provide 95 percent of Israel’s weapons, are very culpable.</p><p>All tyrants fall under the weight of their own depravity. Justice does come. The captives are set free. There will be a day when the instruments of war will no longer leave our shores to be delivered into the hands of killers. Not one bullet. And those who have broken God’s covenant will feel the blast of justice, the fury of the righteous who will rise up on behalf of the oppressed.</p><p>Peace in the Promised Land is in our hands. It will not come from politicians here or in Jerusalem. It will not come from courts of law. It will not come from international bodies.</p><p>Peace in the Promised Land will come when those who love mercy and do justice build a sustained mass movement—as we did against the apartheid regime in South Africa—week after week, month after month, year after year until the captives are set free. Peace in the Promised Land will come when we force, through boycotts, divestments and sanctions, the powerful to end the blockade of Gaza and deny the instruments of death to Israel. But it is up to us. We are all that stands between the Palestinians and obliteration.</p><p>The road to justice will be long and hard. It will require sacrifice, including personal sacrifice. Those who worship power cling furiously to it. And they will use that power against us. Our names will be reviled. Our voices will be marginalized. Our motives will be impugned. Our character will be assaulted. Our bodies will be taxed. We will be jailed. And we will know frustration and despair.</p><div class="ad_300x250_box_right"><p>The road to justice will be long and hard. But there is no turning back, for we are no longer driven by a vision of suffering but possessed by it. We hear the cries from Gaza. We carry these cries within us. We will not rest until there is a balm to anoint the afflicted. We will not rest until there is comfort and justice for the oppressed. We will not rest until the children of Gaza have their childhood returned to them. We will not rest until the people of Gaza, no longer imprisoned, live in a free and independent Palestine.</p></div><blockquote><p><i>Let my people go,<br />Oppress’d so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.<br />Go down, Moses,<br />Way down in Egypt’s land,<br />Tell old Pharaoh,<br />Let my people go.</i></p></blockquote><p><i><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWYrtwUO52I&amp;noredirect=1" target="_blank">By clicking here</a> you can see Chris Hedges deliver his speech (transcript below) in a video made by <a href="http://www.leighacohenvideo.com/" target="_blank">Leigha Cohen</a>. Hedges spoke Saturday at a New York City rally and march in support of the people of Gaza. </i></p> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:29:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1015222 at http://www.alternet.org World World Israel palestinians gaza promised land Why Israel Lies http://www.alternet.org/world/why-israel-lies <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/f6d525edf99c8fde82603472fe2b63cd258d1f42.jpg?itok=l23kGHpu" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>All governments lie, as <a href="http://www.ifstone.org/biography-refuted.php" target="_blank">I.F. Stone</a> pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.</p><p>I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools in the last six days, causing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/03/israel-air-strike-un-school-gaza-rafah" target="_blank">at least 10 fatalities</a> at one in Rafah on Sunday and <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/gaza-un-school-hit-201473041918975321.html" target="_blank">at least 19</a> at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the attacked spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”</p><p>There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims. </p><p>By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.</p><p>George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.</p><p>The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”</p><p>This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.</p><p>But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/08/01/hamas-holy-places-in-gaza-as-terrorist-facilities/" target="_blank">Israel Defense Forces website</a> is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.</p><p>“... [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”</p><p>Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize …  a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.” </p><p>The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/">Hannah Arendt</a> pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.</p> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 11:46:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1014156 at http://www.alternet.org World World Israel Palesitinians gaza conflict Palestinians Have a Right to Defend Themselves -- Why Is This Obvious Truth Suppressed? http://www.alternet.org/world/palestinians-have-right-defend-themselves-why-obvious-truth-suppressed <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Amid the dire crisis in Gaza, the failure of the international community to respond has left the Palestinians with no choice.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/073806c29a9c18e083026b2601de19fa297602f7.jpg?itok=dSyM_1mj" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If Israel insists, as the Bosnian Serbs did in Sarajevo, on using the weapons of industrial warfare against a helpless civilian population then that population has an inherent right to self-defense under <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter7.shtml" target="_blank">Article 51</a> of the United Nations Charter. The international community will have to either act to immediately halt Israeli attacks and lift the blockade of Gaza or acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to use weapons to defend themselves.</p><p>No nation, including any in the Muslim world, appears willing to intervene to protect the Palestinians. No world body, including the United Nations, appears willing or able to pressure Israel through sanctions to conform to the norms of international law. And the longer we in the world community fail to act, the worse the spiral of violence will become.</p><p>Israel does not have the right to drop 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on Gaza. It does not have the right to pound Gaza with heavy artillery and with shells lobbed from gunboats. It does not have the right to send in mechanized ground units or to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/07/22/in-the-fight-between-israel-and-hamas-gazas-hospitals-are-in-the-middle/" target="_blank">target hospitals</a>, schools and mosques, along with Gaza’s water and electrical systems. It does not have the right to displace over 100,000 people from their homes. The entire occupation, under which Israel has nearly complete control of the sea, the air and the borders of Gaza, is illegal.</p><p>Violence, even when employed in self-defense, is a curse. It empowers the ruthless and punishes the innocent. It leaves in its aftermath horrific emotional and physical scars. But, as I learned in Sarajevo during the 1990s Bosnian War, when forces bent on your annihilation attack you relentlessly, and when no one comes to your aid, you must aid yourself. When Sarajevo was being hit with 2,000 shells a day and under heavy sniper fire in the summer of 1995 no one among the suffering Bosnians spoke to me about wanting to mount nonviolent resistance. No one among them saw the U.N.-imposed arms embargo against the Bosnian government as rational, given the rain of sniper fire and the 90-millimeter tank rounds and 155-millimeter howitzer shells that were exploding day and night in the city. The Bosnians were reduced, like the Palestinians in Gaza, to smuggling in light weapons through clandestine tunnels. Their enemies, the Serbs—like the Israelis in the current conflict—were constantly trying to blow up tunnels. The Bosnian forces in Sarajevo, with their meager weapons, desperately attempted to hold the trench lines that circled the city. And it is much the same in Gaza. It was only repeated NATO airstrikes in the fall of 1995 that prevented the Bosnian-held areas from being overrun by advancing Serbian forces. The Palestinians cannot count on a similar intervention.</p><p>The number of dead in Gaza resulting from the Israeli assault has topped 650, and about 80 percent have been civilians. The number of wounded Palestinians is over 4,000 and a substantial fraction of these victims are children. At what point do the numbers of dead and wounded justify self-defense? 5,000? 10,000? 20,000? At what point do Palestinians have the elemental right to protect their families and their homes?</p><p>Article 51 does not answer these specific questions, but the International Court of Justice does in the case of Nicaragua v. United States. The court ruled in that case that a state must endure an armed attack before it can resort to self-defense. The definition of an armed attack, in addition to being “action by regular armed forces across an international border,” includes sending or sponsoring armed bands, mercenaries or irregulars that commit acts of force against another state. The court held that any state under attack must first request outside assistance before undertaking armed self-defense. According to U.N. Charter Article 51, a state’s right to self-defense ends when the Security Council meets the terms of the article by “tak[ing] the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”</p><p>The failure of the international community to respond has left the Palestinians with no choice. The United States, since Israel’s establishment in 1948, has vetoed in the U.N. Security Council more than 40 resolutions that sought to curb Israel’s lust for occupation and violence against the Palestinians. And it has ignored the few successful resolutions aimed at safeguarding Palestinian rights, such as Security Council Resolution 465, passed in 1980.</p><p>Resolution 465 stated that the “Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.” The resolution went on to warn Israel that “all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”</p><p>Israel, as an occupying power, is in direct violation of <a href="http://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5" target="_blank">Article III</a> of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. This convention lays out the minimum standards for the protection of civilians in a conflict that is not international in scope. Article 3(1) states that those who take no active role in hostilities must be treated humanely, without discrimination, regardless of racial, social, religious or economic distinctions. The article prohibits certain acts commonly carried out against noncombatants in regions of armed conflict, including murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture. It prohibits the taking of hostages as well as sentences given without adequate due process of law. Article 3(2) mandates care for the sick and wounded.</p><p>Israel has not only violated the tenets of Article III but has amply fulfilled the conditions of an aggressor state as defined by Article 51. But for Israel, as for the United States, international law holds little importance. The U.S. ignored the verdict of the international court in Nicaragua v. United States and, along with Israel, does not accept the jurisdiction of the tribunal. It does not matter how many Palestinians are killed or wounded, how many Palestinian homes are demolished, how dire the poverty becomes in Gaza or the West Bank, how many years Gaza is under a blockade or how many settlements go up on Palestinian territory. Israel, with our protection, can act with impunity.</p><p>The unanimous <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39150.htm" target="_blank">U.S. Senate vote</a> in support of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the media’s slavish parroting of Israeli propaganda and the Obama administration’s mindless repetition of pro-Israeli clichés have turned us into cheerleaders for Israeli war crimes. We fund and abet these crimes with $3.1 billion a year in military aid to Israel. We are responsible for the slaughter. No one in the establishment, including our most liberal senator, Bernie Sanders, dares defy the Israel lobby. And since we refuse to act to make peace and justice possible we should not wonder why the Palestinians carry out armed resistance.</p><p>The Palestinians will reject, as long as possible, any cease-fire that does not include a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. They have lost hope that foreign governments will save them. They know their fate rests in their own hands. The revolt in Gaza is an act of solidarity with the world outside its walls. It is an attempt to assert in the face of overwhelming odds and barbaric conditions the humanity and agency of the Palestinian people. There is little in life that Palestinians can choose, but they can choose how to die. And many Palestinians, especially young men trapped in overcrowded hovels where they have no work and little dignity, will risk immediate death to defy the slow, humiliating death of occupation.</p>I cannot blame them. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 07:17:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1012653 at http://www.alternet.org World World Israel palestinians gaza Lawrence Lessig Tells Chris Hedges About His Project to Seize Control of Politics from Corporations http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/lawrence-lessig-tells-chris-hedges-about-his-project-seize-control-politics <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s an uphill climb for the campaign finance reform activist.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/lawrence_lessig.jpg?itok=Cc685ybF" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>All three videos featuring Chris Hedges' interview with Lawrence Lessig are embedded at the bottom of this post.</em></p><p>CHRIS HEDGES, JOURNALIST, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE NATION INSTITUTE: So let's begin with your work on campaign finance, and maybe you can explain a little bit about what you're doing. But also, if you could, explicate what you have targeted as the mechanism or the levers of change by which, you know, this reform might be made possible.</p><p>LARRY LESSIG, POLITICAL ACTIVIST AND HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Yeah. I think there are three moving parts. And one is the president, the second is Congress, and the third is a part of the Constitution people like to ignore, which is the convention clause in the amending provision. And the work that I'm doing right now with this thing called the Mayday PAC--where "Mayday" comes from the distress call mayday, a mayday on this democracy--is to build, really, a super PAC that will engage in the election cycle of 2014 and in 2016 with the ultimate objective of getting a Congress in 2016 committed to fundamental reform.</p><p>And this project we began by basically hiring a firm a couple of years ago to make a calculation: what would it cost to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform? And the most important insight they had was that we had to run a campaign in 2014 that basically terrified Congress by winning in at least five seats on this issue in a way that made it clear that if you raised this issue before the American people, they would act on it. So that's what we're in the middle of right now.</p><p>And we did this Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million in 30 days, and we crossed that line in 13 days. And now we're in a second campaign, a much more--maybe much too much more ambitious campaign of raising $5 million in 30 days. And with that and some matches, we'll have the funds necessary to hire the firms to run these campaigns.</p><p>HEDGES: So how would you envision allocating, using this money, deploying this money?</p><p>LESSIG: So this is a super PAC. It's an evil super PAC, right? And we're sort of embracing the irony of using a super PAC for the purpose, ultimately, of ending all super PACs. So as a super PAC we have to act independently of campaigns. So, basically, we're going to hire campaign shops, ideally in the Democratic side and on the Republican side, that will get into races and run campaigns, run a ground operation if that made sense--basically, do whatever makes sense to win.</p><p>Now, we're eager to begin to push the development of new technologies that bring new people into politics. That's going to be an essential part of winning here. But in the short term, for 2014, the objective is to win. And if we can win in a dramatic way in at least five of these seats, then I think we set ourselves up for a much bigger impact in 2016.</p><p>HEDGES: And when you say win, that would be supporting candidates who promise, once they get to Congress, to institute public financing of campaigns?</p><p>LESSIG: Who have committed to cosponsor what we call fundamental reform. But all of the things we've pointed to are basically different versions of small-dollar public-funded campaigns. And it's critical, of course, to build the base in the Democratic Party. But even more importantly, we've got to find a way to get Republicans on this side of the fight, because this kind of reform is so fundamental that it cannot happen if it's partisan. If it's partisan, it will be certain to be defeated.</p><p>HEDGES: Right. Given that relatively small amount of money that you have compared with the kinds of super PACs that the Koch brothers and others can fund, don't you worry that--you know, I mean, the last election cycle was $2.5 billion--that in terms of the percentage of money spent, it's relatively insignificant?</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah. So in 2014 we're in five races. We hope to have about $2 million in each race. That's a pretty significant amount of money in those races.</p><p>HEDGES: Which races?</p><p>LESSIG: We haven't announced them yet. We have determined been finally yet. It'll be a function of where the numbers sit.</p><p>HEDGES: Are these Senate or House?</p><p>LESSIG: House.</p><p>HEDGES: House.</p><p>LESSIG: Mainly House. We're toying with the idea.</p><p>There are two very interesting Senate races. South Dakota: Larry Pressler, who was a Republican but now is running as an independent. And he's famous, of course, because he was the one member of Congress who blew the whistle on the Abscam scandal. And so he's a very interesting candidate to think about supporting.</p><p>And in New Hampshire there's a really wonderful Republican who openly embraces public funding, who's running against Scott Brown. And that might be another interesting race to get into at the Senate level.</p><p>But the main races we've been looking at are at the House level. And so that's a significant amount of money in a House race. And I think what we've seen, for example, in the Eric Cantor surprise is that if the message is right and it resonates with people in a way that I think this message does, it's not actually going to take a lot of money to begin to line up people on the right side of this issue.</p><p>HEDGES: How do you handle candidates like Barack Obama who did talk about public financing in 2008, along with many other issues, including closing Guantanamo and revisiting NAFTA, etc., etc., protecting--rolling back the egregious violations of civil liberties under Bush, and then, once he got into office, these turned out to be, you know, essentially lies, public relations gimmicks in order to win an election, but he had no intention, we know, because he immediately brought in Larry Summers and others? How do you deal with the fact that so often in an election cycle, because of the polling, because they take the pulse of the American public, because they're very good at feeding back to us what they know we want to hear, that as soon as they get into Congress they do the bidding of corporate lobbyists?</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, maybe that's what would happen. But I don't see the alternative to electing people who have committed to a pretty simple task--I mean simple in the sense it's clear whether they do it or not. I'm not talking about people committing to voting for something. They are committing to cosponsoring something. So that's about sending a letter on the first day to the sponsor of the bill and say, please join me to your bill. And if we can build a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate who've committed to this kind of reform, then I think we have a real shot of pushing it.</p><p>Now, obviously, five races in 2014 isn't going to create the political movement to do it. But we believe that if we can demonstrate why this issue is so salient and we can show how we've moved the dial in an election, then when we get to 2016, there'll be a lot of people, both small-dollar contributors and big-dollar contributors, who are interested in trying to support the effort to finally get this change through a Congress, 'cause I think what both sides are increasingly recognizing is that the way we fund elections can't help but corrupt their own side against what they want. I mean, you know, we on the left see that in a thousand contexts.</p><p>But what's interesting in particular, again, about the Eric Cantor fight is that the thing that was so powerful in what Brat was saying against Eric Cantor is that he'd become a crony capitalist, he'd given in to the crony capitalists. You know, I don't like Eric Cantor's politics, but the idea that Eric Cantor becomes a crony capitalist has got to be the clearest testimony to the fact that money is an impossible force to resist inside of the current system. And if both sides begin to say, look, we just can't get what we want so long as this is the lever of control inside the system, we might begin to build the kind of cross-partisan support this will take.</p><p>HEDGES: Let's look at the debate over the public option, because we had significant numbers in the House, I believe around 60: the Black Caucus supported it; we had Bernie Sanders support it; Dennis Kucinich, when he was in the House, was very outspoken in support of it. And yet through the Baucus hearings, they managed to utterly silence what would have been a rational discussion of health care by bringing up the public option. And the corporate state used very heavy-handed tactics to turn all of these people who had cosponsored this legislation, who had--I don't know if they got it out of committee, but who had supported a public option, so that even Bernie Sanders and, finally, Dennis Kucinich supported Obamacare and didn't fight for it. How do you envision confronting that monolith?</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, I mean, the public option's a perfect example of the way in which the threat of money is enough to stop a party from pushing for something, 'cause they basically said, you know, we're going to defeat the Democratic majority if you don't give us relief on the public option.</p><p>I think the difference with that, though, and the issue that we're pushing here is that though it's perfectly clear that if we change the way you fund elections it would radically weaken the power of lobbyists and these type of interests inside of Washington, it's a hard thing to rally those interests against, right? You know, for example, think about the climate change debate, which--you know, I'm as committed to the idea of the need for climate change legislation as anybody. But I also believe there's actually two sides to the debate--not the science debate; there's not two sides to that debate. But if you go into a district, one side can stand up and say, yeah, yeah, I get the climate problem, but we have jobs, we need--there are people who need jobs, and you start doing this, you'll destroy the economy. And that creates two sides to the debate, whether there should be or not. That produces it. But on this issue it's hard to imagine what the other side of the debate says. Like, you know, it's important the Koch brothers or that Soros, George Soros, has this extraordinary influence in our political system? I mean, what do people say?</p><p>Now, we know that sometimes people think--something that turns out to be completely idiotic, but they think, you know, it's a good thing that the rich people have all this power, 'cause they're the smart people. You know, that's totally ridiculous in its way in which it plays out. But, anyway, they think that. But you can't say that. You can't run ads that sort of--that say that in any direct way. So I actually think there's--it's not that it's an impossible thing to fight, but it's a fight which is strongly on this side.</p><p>So, yeah, there's going to be an enormous battle necessary to ultimately win this, because when K Street recognizes that 40 percent of the value of K Street is going to disappear if this type of reform gets passed, they're going to fight it like hell, which is why we've got to find a way to build the biggest army possible of people saying, finally, let's get this done so we can get back to what ordinary politics is supposed to be--you get your gang and I get my gang and we figure out who gets the most votes.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, they'll fight it the way they always fight it, which is to lie, the swift-boat deal. I mean, they will mis---as they did with the public option: death panels, you can't choose your own doctor. And they have such a huge megaphone that they can create false perceptions. That's what they're quite skillful at.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, they will do all that. But it don't think we have the option to just sit back and say, okay, so therefore let's not try it. We've got to try it. We've got to step up and do whatever the hell we can, because the consequences of not fixing this problem are too great. There isn't a single problem you and I care or a single problem that people on the right care about that can be addressed sensibly so long as we have this system. So, you know, we might lose. You know, it might be likely that we're going to lose. But that's no excuse for not doing absolutely everything we can to [crosstalk]</p><p>HEDGES: How do you handle the courts, which have, especially at the Supreme Court, become wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate power?</p><p>LESSIG: Actually, the kinds of reform that we're pushing are totally fine, even with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has been, you know, activist in striking down reforms that try to silence people. And they had this ridiculous decision where a public funding statute basically put more money into a race if private money was being spent on the other side. And the court struck that down, which was, you know, just a ridiculous interpretation of the First Amendment. But even that court has consistently affirmed the idea that you can create, basically, public funding schemes. And this public funding scheme is the least problematic, because rather than, you know, the model of, for example, presidential public funding, where the government decides how much money people get to run their campaigns, this is give every voter the power to facilitate public funding by either matching their small dollar contributions or giving them a voucher they can use to support small-dollar candidates. Those are completely constitutional, even with this Supreme Court.</p><p>Now, they could make up a whole new, you know, theory, but I actually don't think that's what they would do. I think that as long as it were voluntary, at least in the way it was structured, they would uphold this.</p><p>HEDGES: And how would public financing look to you, of the campaigns?</p><p>LESSIG: So, in my ideal vision of public financing, you basically give every voter a voucher and you say candidates can take those vouchers if they agree to take only those vouchers plus maybe small contributions of up to $100. So, in my book I described a $50 voucher. You know, and $50 per voter is $7 billion, which is about three times the amount raised and spent in the last congressional election. So it's real money. But the critical thing is it's real money that's spread out across all the voters, because in my view the central problem to the current system is that we have outsourced the funding of campaigns to the tiniest fraction of the 1 percent. You know, it's basically 150,000 Americans who are the relevant funders of campaigns. It's the same number of people that are named Lester in United States. So the Lesters basically are the funders of campaigns. But funding the campaign is an essential step on the way to getting elected, right? So we've created this two-stage election where this tiny, tiny fraction determines the first stage, which then gets you to the second stage. So, you know, unlike--you know, very much like the white primary in the Old South, we've created a green primary in the new America. But the difference between the white primary is in the white primary, at least the majority got to vote. In the green primary, it's the tiniest, tiniest fraction of the one percent that get to vote.</p><p>So the only way to address that problem, in my view, is to find a way to spread out the funder influence so it's no longer the tiniest fraction of the 1 percent, it's the vast majority or, you know, maybe it's 20 percent or 40 percent that are the relevant funders of campaigns. And the way to do that is to facilitate this kind of funding that a wider range of Americans participate in.</p><p>HEDGES: And one would assume that eventually the goal is to abolish super PACs altogether.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah. And by super PACs--you know, I mean that very precisely. I don't have any problem with independent political action committees, so long as contributions to them are limited, right? So, you know, if AARP or Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or the NRA wants to get their members to support an independent political action committee, that's democracy, in my view.</p><p>The corrupting dynamic that's been produced now, though, is that because they can take unlimited contributions, they've become the kind of laundering device for candidates who--for rich people, and also now corporations, who want to participate in the political process, because, you know, the thing that most of us--at least I certainly missed after Citizens United was that, you know, Citizens United just created the--or, according to the Court, affirmed the right of corporations and unions to spend whatever they want in political elections.</p><p>But, it turned out, corporations, like rich people after Buckley, were pretty shy. You know, there was a high cost to free speech, as Target found when it supported an anti-gay candidate for governor in Minnesota. So they don't want--they don't actually use the right to spend their own money. It was only after the D.C. circuit created the super PAC by saying that limits on independent political action committees also had to be abolished that they began to give their money to the independent political action committee, so that the independent political action committee becomes, the super PAC becomes the device that engages in political action. And because of the really outrageous transparency rules which the FEC has imposed here, corporations can now give their money to a C4, this nonprofit entity, and the C4 can give its money to the super PAC, and you have no idea who's actually giving the money to the super PACs.</p><p>So the dark money has risen dramatically in 2012. It'll be much higher in 2014. And that's because of the structure of the super PAC. So, yes, eliminate super PACs in the sense of [incompr.] can take unlimited contributions. But there's no problem with independent political action committees or any entity that can take small contributions as a way to facilitate democratic organization.</p><p>HEDGES: How much emphasis in terms of change, in terms of wresting back power from corporate hands, do you place or how much energy would you like people to place in campaigns like this and the electoral process? And how much energy should be placed in building mass movements that obstruct the mechanisms of corporate power, like Occupy Wall Street?</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah. So my view is, you know, we have to learn to walk, chew gum, and Tweet at the same time. All these things have to be happening together. And just like the civil rights movement wasn't just Dr. King and wasn't just the techniques of Gandhi, so too this movement is going to win only if it can attract a wide range of support.</p><p>Now, in my view, we will only pass fundamental reform through the political system if it can appeal, if it can be heard by the wide range of participants in the political system. If it's heard as something that denies the fundamental views of 40 percent of the American people, then it's guaranteed to lose, you know, because, just to be very practical about it, if it takes constitutional change to bring about some of these reforms--like, for example, it's possible--I don't actually think it will be necessary, but it's possible that to eliminate the super PAC will require constitutional amendments. You know, the Constitution says three-fourths of the states, 38 states, have to ratify any amendment.</p><p>HEDGES: Can you explain why that is? Because it wasn't--aren't the super PACs authorized through the judiciary?</p><p>LESSIG: Well, right, but if the Supreme Court upholds--you know, the Supreme Court didn't create super PACs. It was the D.C. circuit. But if the Supreme Court says eventually that, yes, limits on independent political action committees are unconstitutional, the only way to address that is to change the Constitution. So to amend the Constitution requires 38 states. We live in a country where there are 27 double-red states, states controlled by--both houses are controlled by the Republican Party. So I don't think there's any way to imagine an amendment to the Constitution that the Republican Party identifies as anti-Republican, right, which--if you, you know, make this a movement about how--you know, some of the more extreme versions of what the progressive movement wants to talk about, that's a sure way to guarantee it can't pass.</p><p>But if you can begin to talk about this the way it's developed in, for example, Montana, where after the Supreme Court of Montana tried to evade Citizens United and the Supreme Court of the United States slapped them down unceremoniously, without even allowing a hearing--they just sort of reversed the opinion of the Montana Supreme Court without any actual opportunity for it to be defended. In Montana there's developed a very powerful cross-partisan--both Republicans and Democrats--movement supporting this kind of reform. And Montana's legislature has passed a resolution, supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, calling on Congress to pass an amendment to reverse Citizens United. So they've found a way to talk about it in Montana that doesn't alienate Republicans or Democrats. And I think that's--my view is I want to work on the strategy that tries to find a way to move this fundamental reform without guaranteeing its ultimate defection.</p><p>HEDGES: Does this discriminate against third parties? Because obviously you could have the Green Party supporting this in a three-way race, but you know from the polling that the chances of the Green Party taking a House or a Senate seat are almost nil. So what do you do? Do support two candidates? Do you support every candidate? How do you handle that?</p><p>LESSIG: Yes. Look, the American political system that forces people into these two parties is deeply problematic, and we've got to change that. And I think there are, like, you know, 15 things we've got to think about changing--the electoral college, the gerrymandering.</p><p>But in my view the question is: what is the change that we need to do first? What's the sequence of reform? So, yeah, we will participate in this unjust two-party system to make it possible for us to bring about a more just way of funding elections. And I think that brings us to a place where we can think about the other reforms that'll be really essential in order to get us to a democracy we can be proud of.</p><p>But certainly in 2014, you know, it's possible we would support Larry Pressler, who is an independent political, you know, candidate in South Dakota. That would be, you know, non-two-party system.</p><p>HEDGES: Would that--when you say "support", does that mean, then, in essence, running television advertisements on his behalf, basically?</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, yeah, acting as an independent political action committee, coming in and showing why what he has done historically has been importantly tied to anticorruption work. He supports the idea of funding elections in a better way. I interviewed him for my book, and he had this wonderful line where he says, you know, the most striking thing about the Obamacare decision were the issues that were never even mentioned, the ideas that were never mentioned. He said, when I was in the Senate, even Republicans talked about the single-payer. Single-payer was an obvious solution to this problem. But notice how it was not even allowed to be talked about. And that's because, Larry Pressler said, the lobbyists had made it clear: if you even raise this as an issue, we will destroy you.</p><p>HEDGES: Right. And when it was talked about, it was mischaracterized in an effort to demonize it.</p><p>LESSIG: Yes, absolutely.</p><p>HEDGES: And given the weight of forces you're up against, if this has any traction, you can expect exactly the same.</p><p>LESSIG: Yes.</p><p>HEDGES: So any victory in 2014 is Pyrrhic, in the sense that you send (if you focus on five races) in people who are willing to cosponsor a bill, but of course the vast majority of elected officials in the House and the Senate are not, you know, and given that number, you know, it may never leave committee. I mean, that may be the best that you can hope for.</p><p>LESSIG: Well, the objective in 2014 is to convince people who right now think there's no way to win this issue that there actually is a way to win this issue. You know, think about it as a kind of business model. We've got investors out there, investors who would be willing to invest in bringing about a better democracy. Right now they say there's no way to achieve that. But if we in 2014 can show, look, we spent this money, we moved the dial--you know, we do polling before and after--we moved the dial this way in the way people talked about it. We actually won in these particular races. Take that same analysis and now extend it to the 50 or 60 different races you'd have to imagine being in in order to get a Congress that would bring about fundamental reform. Now you've given them something; they can begin to say, okay, I think there's a reason to invest in this as a strategy for bringing about fundamental reform.</p><p>Now, of course, people inside of Washington will not, you know, necessarily believe it's going to be possible, and the pundits will tell you it can't be done, but, you know, how many of them predicted Eric Cantor was going to go down? I don't care, really, what the insiders think about the way in which this can happen. What I care [about] is getting real data that shows that it can happen, and then recruiting the kind of resources necessary to make it possible.</p><p>HEDGES: What about the press? I mean, as you have begun this campaign, we have a press that is controlled by roughly a half-dozen corporations--Viacom. I mean, how have you found trying to get your message out through commercial media?</p><p>LESSIG: You know, in some sense the problem with American politics is mirrored with the problem of the American press, in the sense that the business model of polarization is profitable for both politics and the press. And what that means is if you're trying to move an idea which in its core should not be polarized, it's not attractive to anybody, right?</p><p>So, you know, the particular remedies that I'm talking about--changing the way we fund elections--are not necessarily ones that the press would be upset about. You know, if you were talking about cutting the cost of political campaigns in half, limiting expenditures to 50 percent of their last year's amount, then the press would be very upset, 'cause they make so much money off of political campaigns and the ads that are spent--that are bought in political campaigns. But if you're talking about just funding it differently, what do they care? They get their money either way. So there's no economic reason why they should be against this. What there will be is a desire, a strong desire to polarize it one way or the other. I mean, both sides--neither side really cares which way it's polarized. It's just polarized, and then they get to play the opposite. And so the hardest problem for us is to figure out how to move this in a way that resists that.</p><p>But, again, I don't see the press as a leading indicator of where American politics is going. It's very reactive. And, you know, it's one of the striking features of American politics today that when you sit down with strategists and you talk about an idea like this and you say, where do we have to be in order to win, they don't say, you've got to be on ABC News, they don't say you need to be on CNN or on Fox or on MSNBC. They say you've got to get onto Comedy Central, you've got to be on Comedy Central if you want an idea like this to have a chance at winning. Now, what does it say about America that the place you've got to be to bring about a fundamental change in the political system is Comedy Central?</p><p>HEDGES: What's Hillary Clinton's position on campaign finance? Do you know?</p><p>LESSIG: Well, I knew where she was in 2008, you know, because Obama clearly saw this was the way to hit her. Both he and Edwards took up this issue of fundamental reform as a way to attack her. And, you know, in 2008, she was, you know, deeply impatient with this whole argument. And, you know, she had this gaff where at the yearly of the Yearly Kos conference--which wasn't called that then, but whatever it was called, it was that conference--she made that comment about how, you know, lobbyists are people too and they represent ordinary people too, and it was kind of the laughingstock which then fueled Obama in his attack on her.</p><p>But I think, you know, the mature view of what Clinton was saying might ultimately be correct--I hope it isn't, but might ultimately be correct, which was, look, there's no way a president can take this issue up, because this issue is an issue about attacking Congress. And if you as a president make it your campaign to attack Congress, you basically guarantee you get nothing through Congress. And if you get nothing through Congress, then the business model of the American presidency, which is to run, get reelected, and then become a kind of, you know, nobility for the rest of your life, will fail. You will not get reelected. So no president could rationally make this the object of his or her administration, and therefore I won't either.</p><p>Now, Obama, you know, I mean, sounded to me--you know, and he was a friend. I knew him at Chicago. We were on the faculty together. I really believed it--stupidly, perhaps, but I really believed it. It sounded to me like he was going to take this issue up. But it's pretty clear once Hillary Clinton was no longer a rival it disappeared from his rhetoric in the campaign, and he literally did not one thing to bring about--even propose a change that would affect this problem in any fundamental way. And he went back on the promise (to reinforce your point about what politicians will do) to introduce changes to public funding for the presidential election.</p><p>You know, we forget this really important fact that until Obama, every president after Nixon got elected with public funding. Indeed, the person who benefited the most from public funding was Ronald Reagan, who would never have been President Reagan but for public funding. He would never had had a chance to run in 1976 had there not been a way for him to get money for his elections, because the Republican Party was not about to give money to this, quote, right-winger named Ronald Reagan. But because of public funding, he was a viable candidate in '76. He became the winning candidate in 1980. And in 1984, he attended four--well, it depends how you count. Let's be conservative. He attended eight fundraisers. Barack Obama in his reelection campaign attended 229 fundraisers. Right?</p><p>So the radical difference that Barack Obama brought about by basically giving up public funding and therefore saying that it's never going to be a part--is to completely change the way in which a presidential candidate goes about doing the job of getting elected for the presidency. And, you know, I would have thought a moral obligation, at least, after he did that would have been to come forward with an alternative to the presidential funding system that at least got us back to where we were before 2008. But he didn't even do that. And so, you know, this is the great challenge we have in the context of thinking about the presidency.</p><p>HEDGES: I mean, don't you worry that given the cynicism of figures like Obama, you're very easily bled dry? They can do what the Clintons have done, what Obama has done in two election cycles, which is, you know, especially in 2008, make the kinds of promises and commitments that he knows most Americans want. And in a way, he's not--there's no way to hold a politician like that accountable. I mean, for you to raise one or two million dollars is, you know, Herculean. I mean, it's amazing and it's fantastic. But it's nothing to these figures.</p><p>LESSIG: Well, if our super PAC works, we will have raised $12 million in 2014. And we're going to raise--you know, the numbers [incompr.] our calculations are anywhere from $300 million to $1 billion that it'll take to win in 2016. So those are not insignificant numbers.</p><p>But you're right. I mean, the fundamental problem we have is that the political system for the presidency is--again, in the mature view of what Clinton was doing--is against this kind of reform, which is why, you know, in my book I sort of mapped out a different way to think about a candidate for the presidency. You know, so I said, imagine a kind of regent president or a kind of president, as in bankruptcy judge president, who runs and says, look, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to get elected. I'm going to hold Congress hostage until they pass this reform. And once they pass this reform, I'm going to resign, and my vice president will become president. It could take a day, it could take a week. Could it take two years? I don't know how long it'll take, but this is the one thing I'm going to do. And you know that if I'm elected, I'm going to do it, because, you know, I would be a complete failure if I then said, no, no, no, that's not what I'm going to do; I'm going to do these other things. So it's credible. And it's also irresistible from Congress's standpoint, because if a person were elected who said that, then the people have spoken. You know, the thing Obama could say is that, yeah, some people thought I was for campaign finance, some thought I was for climate change, some thought I was for labor rights. You know, everybody thought that they knew who Obama was. But he was everybody. But here, here it is, I'm just this--so that it becomes the kind of transformative presidency that is self-limiting, because it's like, this is all I'm going to do. And the candidate then could fight the war in a way that no normal-presidency president could, because he's not caring about reelection, he's not caring about keeping the Democratic Party or the Republican Party happy; all he or she is concerned about is doing the thing that brings about the kind of reform.</p><p>Now, you know, if you think about the way that strategy plays out, imagine somebody took the lead doing that on one side of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Quickly, if this became popular, it would have to be matched on the other side. You know, so if the Democrat took the lead and said, this is how I'm going to run, but then Republicans are like, oh my God, we need a reform candidate too, so then quickly the election would become about the vice presidential candidates. Yeah, I'm going to have, you know, so-and-so as my vice presidential candidate. And then you'd be thinking about, well, what's the long-term going to look like and what's the short term going to be? And plausibly, if it gets enough support, they just want to get this done as quickly as they possibly can. So first day in office, there it is, the bill you sign. You don't even move into the White House.</p><p>Now, this is the kind of strategy, I think, that, you know, begins to break the paralysis of the current way in which normal presidencies work. But, of course, it requires a certain kind of figure, a certain kind of candidate to be able to credibly take this on.</p><p>HEDGES: I mean, the question really is: where does power lie? Does power lie with the president? Does power lying with an elected member of Congress? Ultimately do they have political power? Or is it, you know, Exxon Mobil and Raytheon and Goldman Sachs? And where does power lie? I mean, the Occupy movement would argue that power is not in Washington, power's on Wall Street.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah. And the question is: how does Wall Street exercise that power? So one of the most dramatic pictures of the way it exercises its power is if you just a map the breakdown of Wall Street contributions to Democrats and Republicans. So in 2006 it's roughly equal. In 2008 it's slightly more for Republicans. Two thousand ten, it's a little bit more for Republicans. Two thousand twelve, it's overwhelmingly for Republicans. So after 2012, Democrats start talking about the deregulating derivatives. Like, it's, like, like Wall Street bait to bring Wall Street back, because the party realizes it cannot survive if Wall Street is against it. And that's because Wall Street, or, you know, finance, insurance, and real estate, is the largest bloc of contributions to campaigns in Congress. So the mechanism of power is through the funding of campaigns.</p><p>Okay. Well, you know, I still think there are end runs around that. So, again, if you had this kind of president who runs a campaign about reform and elects a bunch of people with him or her also focused on reform, then that person doesn't depend on Wall Street. You know, that person's independent of Wall Street. And if you have a Congress that's been kind of, you know, elected in the context of this type of campaign, it's going to be kind of hard for them to back down from it, or at least many of them to back down from it, because there's this expectation that's been created. Here's the person we elected. This is what the election was about. You'd better do it, or two years later, when he or she is still in the white House waiting for that bill the town, there's going to be a pretty bloody midterm election about this type of--.</p><p>HEDGES: But do you envision this coming through the two-party system or outside of it?</p><p>LESSIG: Unfortunately, the way our party system is structured, I think this has to be through the two-party system. Now, you know, it's got to be a kind of independent person through the two parties, not a kind of, you know, ordinary politician wannabe who works his or her way up through the system, but somebody who's credible outside the system. And so, you know, people are talking about how that candidate gets developed and who that could be. But that might be, you know, at the--when I did the second version of my book, in the afterword I basically said this might be the only way to imagine the presidency playing a central role.</p><p>HEDGES: But then you'd have to change the internal rules of the parties themselves,--</p><p>LESSIG: Right.</p><p>HEDGES: --because after the McGovern election, where they, essentially the grassroots, won, the Democratic leadership rewrote the rules to make sure that would never happen again. And you saw--let's go back to the 2008 primaries where you had Dennis Kucinich physically not allowed into the debates, which were sponsored by corporations. The first debate was sponsored by pharmaceutical and insurance industries.</p><p>LESSIG: Right. And dramatically you saw that, I think, in the Republican primary. You know, in the Republican primary of 2012, there was arguably the most qualified candidate, Buddy Roemer, who was a governor and a four-term congressman and a person who had started a bank and made a successful community bank in Louisiana. Was not permitted to be in any debate. And why? Well, because he had tied himself to a pledge that he would take no more than $100 from anybody. He'd take no PAC money. A hundred dollars from anybody. And they said, well, you can't win, buddy. And he said, well, look, you know, I can't win if you don't let me in the debates. So they said, okay, you've got to get 1 percent national recognition. So when he got that, then they said 5 percent national recognition. When he got that, then they said, you have to have raised $500,000 in the prior six weeks. And he said, my whole campaign is about the money. You can't force me to give out the central part of this premise of my campaign to be allowed in the debates. This is just the way it is.</p><p>HEDGES: And they did the same thing to Kucinich. Remember, you had to be in the top--by the time New Hampshire rolled around, he, under their imposed rules, he had qualified, and they just--I can remember why--they didn't let him in the debate hall. He literally was standing outside in the snow. So, I mean, working within those two-party systems requires confronting those structures even to get heard.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, that's right, although, you know, I think that there's a way in which you are prominent enough that you can't be excluded. You know, Ross Perot couldn't be excluded in the '92, right, just couldn't be excluded. There was a debate that had all three. And I think, you know, Dennis Kucinich, is much as one loves him for what he stands for, did the chief the national support necessary to make it impossible to exclude him from the debate. So it's--.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, am I not correct in saying that after the Ross Perot phenomenon, the Republican Party changed the rules so there would never be another Ross Perot? I think that's right.</p><p>LESSIG: They changed the rules, and they certainly changed the rules in the debate. But we've not yet had a case where you've got somebody who's developed enough of an independent political--you know, 10 or 15 percent or 20 percent support who's been excluded in the context of the debate. The debate rules explicitly say, if you achieve this little level at a certain point, then you will be included in the debate. So no doubt the bar is much higher. And so you've got to aim for that bar. Now, whether they continue to move the bar higher and higher--.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, that's what they did. That's what they do, did they?</p><p>Well, we'll see. I mean, that's the question.</p><p>I mean, they just rewrite rewrote the rules every week. The whole goal was to keep those voices out. And we can go back to Nader. I mean, the person or the party that destroyed Ralph Nader was the Democratic Party.</p><p>LESSIG: Absolutely.</p><p>HEDGES: They were terrified. He held a rally in Madison Square Garden. He didn't have the money to rent the hall. He said, everyone has to pay $five and he filled it. And at that point the Democrats set out and did destroy him. So it's not just the structure of campaign finance, it's not just a corrupt political system, but it is essentially parties that have atrophied in the sense that they have locked out any kind of genuine grassroots candidates, anybody who--nobody rises from the base.</p><p>LESSIG: No, that's right. Through the party.</p><p>HEDGES: They are anointed by the moneyed and political elite, which is how we have been reduced to this monstrosity of, you know, a few ruling families. We may very well have election between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. It's like the end of Rome.</p><p>And so I guess, you know, the question is: how far gone is the system? And I think you probably believe that it isn't--that it's still transformable internally.</p><p>LESSIG: I don't have to believe that to believe that this is what I should do. I could believe that it's not transformable. But in the face of it being non-transformable, you still have to act openly and honestly to transform it. And if there are enough people beaten down doing exactly that, that's the conditions for making it so the structure that makes it the way it is weakens. Now, so maybe not this generation or the next, but what else to do, right?</p><p>HEDGES: But what about the German political system, where you have a party that kind of militantly represents labor? It never polls more than 5 percent, as far as I know. But it is a factor that has to be taken into consideration. Of course, it's a parliamentary system, but it is a factor that has to be--. It doesn't sound from what you're saying that this money is going to go to third-party candidates. It is going to be funneled into the traditional parties. And third-party candidates--you know, I mean, Nader would certainly argue that that is the only way to build pressure, especially on the Democratic Party, is to separate from the party and build independent political movements.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, and I would agree with that after we find a way to neutralize the money. I mean, the difference between Germany and the United States, you pointed to it: it is that's a proportional parliamentary system. So having 5 percent is to have a lot, because then that's the difference between winning and losing for the majority parties. But in the United States having 5 percent is nothing, because we've allowed this two-party system to lock us down into this constant battle between parties which on most important issues, the money issues, there's no difference between them.</p><p>I mean, and this is what's so interesting about the polarization debate: America's not polarized; it's inconsistently polarized. So the parties--there's one party on money. You know, think of Clinton's race to deregulate Wall Street. But then the social issues, they're radically opposed to each other. But that's a nice strategy for flushing money out of the base, because you scare them because they're pro abortion or pro gay rights, while at the same time sitting down with the Wall Street bankers and saying basically the same thing.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, it's both parties have adopted a fear-based ideology, and they whip up the fear--you know, homosexuals will be teaching your children in kindergartens kind of stuff. And yet you're right, they're all feeding from the same trough. And, you know, at that point, to use Sheldon Wolin's term, we've walked away from anything that can honestly be called a democracy. At that point we live in what he calls inverted totalitarianism, we live in a corporate totalitarian system. And the way that you effect reform and change within a totalitarian structure is very different from the way you effect change within a liberal capitalist democracy.</p><p>LESSIG: Maybe. But I think the historical difference here is the enormous capacity for violence, organized violence. You know, it's one thing to resist in a direct, powerful way in a world where there are muskets and redcoats, but you saw firsthand in the Occupy movement what happens when it's spun around so that they could invoke the right to deploy, literally, jackbooted troops in to suppress the uprisings and to restore peace. You know, it's in--my view is it's a scary time. And it might be that historically you look back and you say, yeah, what happened is people organized and they, you know, rose up and overthrew the government. I'm not sure we have the technical capacity to rise up against that amount of force, you know, legitimized force right now.</p><p>HEDGES: But I covered the revolutions in Eastern Europe, and the only way you do it, as you saw with--we're now at the 20th anniversary of Tienanmen Square. When Beijing sent in troops, beep people surrounded the convoys for four days, brought them food and water, invited them into their homes, and paralyzed that military structure. This is what happened in Czechoslovakia. It's what happened and East Germany. And when the--.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, but remember--let's stop with Tienanmen Square, because I was in China literally--my plane was supposed to land on June 3, and I was diverted and I came in two weeks later. Within two weeks it was almost impossible to find anybody in China would say anything good about the youth movement that had--. So, yeah, there's a guy standing in front of a tank in an effort to sort of slow them down, but they won, right? And they won largely because of this overwhelming force that they could deploy. And people realize they have this force.</p><p>Now, Eastern Europe is different story, right, because Eastern Europe was filled with these Potemkin village-like forces. And once people saw this all collapsing, it was easy to imagine escaping it. And people did. You know, the reality of United States right now is not weakness in the security dimension. This is the one thing we do well. Like, we have guns and tanks and bazookas and drones. We've got everything they need. And if we ever get this fight framed in a we've got to keep the peace dimension, yeah, it's not just that we lose. We die.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, that's why it has to remain nonviolent.</p><p>LESSIG: Nonviolent, yeah.</p><p>HEDGES: But, I mean, I covered the STASI state, which was the most sophisticated security and surveillance state until ours. And they brought it down with Erich Honecker tried to send down an elite paratroop division to Leipzig to fire of the demonstrators and they refused. Honecker last another weekend. And I think revolutions, despite the mythology, are usually nonviolent and that what broke the czar was the Cossacks going to Petrograd, refusing to fire on--indeed, fraternizing with the crowd, and the czar abdicates.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, but my point is not whether they are nonviolent or not. My point is whether they can be framed as violent when they are not.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, that's what they always seek to do.</p><p>LESSIG: They always seek to do, right. And--right. So I want to structure this in a way that makes it almost impossible to characterize it. So I want to do it in the old, you know, high school civics like way. Like, we're talking about organizing people to vote and we're talking about turning out to force candidates to answer questions and we're talking about--. Now, that might not work. You know, it might need another strategy, might be out there. But I want to try all these strategies and I'm going to play the side that you cannot begin to say that I'm a revolutionary, right? I'm not. I'm ordinary, working within the system to bring the system.</p><p>HEDGES: I guess that's the distance difference between the two of us.</p><p>LESSIG: Yeah, that's exactly right. That's why we need both. We need both of these.</p><p>HEDGES: And, you know, it doesn't really matter at this point if--you know, sitting around wondering whether it's going to work or not work, because if you don't do anything, you know it isn't going to work.</p><p>LESSIG: Right.</p><p>HEDGES: So everything should--you know, pressure from every point should be pushed, with a clear understanding of what we're up against. How would you handle a candidate--. Let's take the candidate to beat Cantor in the primary. So he did rail against Wall Street, but it is a kind of, you know, proto-fascist Tea Party populism, and it's frightening. And you can see it within Ron Paul, where on issues of civil liberties and empire he's really good; there are very problematic questions about issues of race, you know, the welfare state. What happens when you get these far-right-wing populists who on this issue are good?</p><p>LESSIG: Well, I think what happens is we ideally bring them together with progressives who want to change the system to. We change the system. And then we go into a fight about what our democracy stands for.</p><p>You know, what's interesting in Arizona, which is one of the, you know, three publicly funded elections states at the state level, is that many of the mainstream Republicans in Arizona now hate public funding, 'cause they say, look what public funding did in Arizona. You got all these crazy right-wingers who took over politics in Arizona. And my response is, well, you know, that's Arizona. That's the people.</p><p>But I don't actually think the people in the nation, you know, poll to that extreme. I mean, there are people at that extreme. Fine. But that's what democracy is about. It's about saying, okay, we've got people at this extreme and people at that extreme. They've got to find a way to build a coalition to govern that's not going to be at those extremes.</p><p>So, you know, I read what Brat said. What I was impressed about with Brat is that number two on his list of issues was, quote, crony capitalism and the way in which these people have sold out to the moneyed interests. Fine, I take that. I want that. That's exactly the kind of rhetoric I want. And then I'm going to say, we're going to bracket the immigration stuff. We're not going to have that conversation. I'm not having that conversation with you. I'm going to have the conversation with you where we can find a common ground to bring about a change so that we're not fighting the money interest.</p><p>You know, people--you know, people, especially some progressives--you know, and I talk about creating vouchers so that people can put their money together. They say, oh my gosh, we're going to have the people doing all sorts of crazy special interest legislation to benefit the people. And I'm like, you know, that's a tiny problem, in my view, compared to the special interests that we're getting on behalf of the funders of campaigns right now. So I don't support the idea of elite governing America. I support--I'm a populist in this sense; I support the idea of the people, recognizing I'm not going to agree with what the people do on a whole bunch of cases. But I don't know the alternative that I in the long-term would turn to other than that.</p><p>HEDGES: That's great. Thank you very much.</p><p>LESSIG: Thank you.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/8aNomAfAhdM" width="560"></iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/6pb6aLX0D-Q" width="560"></iframe></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/EnDPfXk9t_E" width="560"></iframe></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:56:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, The Real News Network 1011609 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Activism News & Politics larry lessig chris hedges Chomsky: The System We Have Now Is Radically Anti-Democratic http://www.alternet.org/media/noam-chomsky-tells-chris-hedges-how-our-ruling-elite-leading-america-catastrophe <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A fascinating, wide-ranging interview on major issues facing the public.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/noam_chomsky.jpg?itok=YLeYHpb0" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>All three videos featuring Chris Hedges' interview with Noam Chomsky are embedded at the bottom of this post.</em></p><p>CHRIS HEDGES, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Let's begin with a classic paradigm which is throughout the Industrial Revolution, which has been cited by theorists from Marx to Kropotkin to Proudhon and to yourself, that you build a consciousness among workers within the manufacturing class, and eventually you lead to a kind of autonomous position where workers can control their own production.</p><p>We now live in a system, a globalized system, where most of the working class in industrial countries like the United States are service workers. We have reverted to a Dickensian system where those who actually produced live in conditions that begin to replicate almost slave labor--and, I think, as you have written, in places like southern China in fact are slave [labor]. What's the new paradigm for resistance? You know, how do we learn from the old and confront the new?</p><p>NOAM CHOMSKY, LINGUIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution. It was, of course, earlier in England, but let's take here in the United States. The Industrial Revolution took off right around here, eastern Massachusetts, mid 19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system--men and women, incidentally, women from the farms, so-called factory girls--and they bitterly resented it. It was a period of a very free press, the most in the history of the country. There was a wide variety of journals, ethnic, labor, or others. And when you read them, they're pretty fascinating.</p><p>The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings who were being forced into what they called wage slavery, which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact, this was such a popular view that it was actually a slogan of the Republican Party, that the only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for a wage is supposedly temporary--pretty soon you'll be free. Other than that, they're not different.</p><p>And they bitterly resented the fact that the industrial system was even taking away their rich cultural life. And the cultural life was rich. You know, there are by now studies of the British working class and the American working class, and they were part of high culture of the day. Actually, I remembered this as late as the 1930s with my own family, you know, sort of unemployed working-class, and they said, this is being taken away from us, we're being forced to be something like slaves. They argued that if you're, say, a journeyman, a craftsman, and you sell your product, you're selling what you produced. If you're a wage earner, you're selling yourself, which is deeply offensive. They condemned what they called the new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self. Sounds familiar.</p><p>And it was extremely radical. It was combined with the most radical democratic movement in American history, the early populist movement--radical farmers. It began in Texas, spread into the Midwest--enormous movement of farmers who wanted to free themselves from the domination by the Northeastern bankers and capitalists, guys that ran the markets, you know, sort of forced them to sell what they produced on credit and squeeze them with credit and so on. They went on to develop their own banks, their own cooperatives. They started to link up with the Knights of Labor--major labor movement which held that, as they put it, those who work in the mills ought to own them, that it should be a free, democratic society.</p><p>These were very powerful movements. By the 1890s, you know, workers were taking over towns and running them in Western Pennsylvania. Homestead was a famous case. Well, they were crushed by force. It took some time. Sort of the final blow was Woodrow Wilson's red scare right after the First World War, which virtually crushed the labor movement.</p><p>At the same time, in the early 19th century, the business world recognized, both in England and the United States, that sufficient freedom had been won so that they could no longer control people just by violence. They had to turn to new means of control. The obvious ones were control of opinions and attitudes. That's the origins of the massive public relations industry, which is explicitly dedicated to controlling minds and attitudes.</p><p>The first--it partly was government. The first government commission was the British Ministry of Information. This is long before Orwell--he didn't have to invent it. So the Ministry of Information had as its goal to control the minds of the people of the world, but particularly the minds of American intellectuals, for a very good reason: they knew that if they can delude American intellectuals into supporting British policy, they could be very effective in imposing that on the population of the United States. The British, of course, were desperate to get the Americans into the war with a pacifist population. Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 election with the slogan "Peace without Victory". And they had to drive a pacifist population into a population that bitterly hated all things German, wanted to tear the Germans apart. The Boston Symphony Orchestra couldn't play Beethoven. You know. And they succeeded.</p><p>Wilson set up a counterpart to the Ministry of Information called the Committee on Public Information. You know, again, you can guess what it was. And they've at least felt, probably correctly, that they had succeeded in carrying out this massive change of opinion on the part of the population and driving the pacifist population into, you know, warmongering fanatics.</p><p>And the people on the commission learned a lesson. One of them was Edward Bernays, who went on to found--the main guru of the public relations industry. Another one was Walter Lippman, who was the leading progressive intellectual of the 20th century. And they both drew the same lessons, and said so.</p><p>The lessons were that we have what Lippmann called a "new art" in democracy, "manufacturing consent". That's where Ed Herman and I took the phrase from. For Bernays it was "engineering of consent". The conception was that the intelligent minority, who of course is <em>us</em>, have to make sure that we can run the affairs of public affairs, affairs of state, the economy, and so on. <em>We're</em> the only ones capable of doing it, of course. And we have to be--I'm quoting--"free of the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd", the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders"--the general public. They have a role. Their role is to be "spectators", not participants. And every couple of years they're permitted to choose among one of the "responsible men", <em>us</em>.</p><p>And the John Dewey circle took the same view. Dewey changed his mind a couple of years later, to his credit, but at that time, Dewey and his circle were writing that--speaking of the First World War, that this was the first war in history that was not organized and manipulated by the military and the political figures and so on, but rather it was carefully planned by rational calculation of "the intelligent men of the community", namely <em>us</em>, and we thought it through carefully and decided that this is the reasonable thing to do, for all kind of benevolent reasons.</p><p>And they were very proud of themselves.</p><p>There were people who disagreed. Like, Randolph Bourne disagreed. He was kicked out. He couldn't write in the Deweyite journals. He wasn't killed, you know, but he was just excluded.</p><p>And if you take a look around the world, it was pretty much the same. The intellectuals on all sides were passionately dedicated to the national cause--all sides, Germans, British, everywhere.</p><p>There were a few, a fringe of dissenters, like Bertrand Russell, who was in jail; Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, in jail; Randolph Bourne, marginalized; Eugene Debs, in jail for daring to question the magnificence of the war. In fact, Wilson hated him with such passion that when he finally declared an amnesty, Debs was left out, you know, had to wait for Warren Harding to release him. And he was the leading labor figure in the country. He was a candidate for president, Socialist Party, and so on.</p><p>But the lesson that came out is we believe you can and of course ought to control the public, and if we can't do it by force, we'll do it by manufacturing consent, by engineering of consent. Out of that comes the huge public relations industry, massive industry dedicated to this.</p><p>Incidentally, it's also dedicated to undermining markets, a fact that's rarely noticed but is quite obvious. Business hates markets. They don't want to--and you can see it very clearly. Markets, if you take an economics course, are based on rational, informed consumers making rational choices. Turn on the television set and look at the first ad you see. It's trying to create uninformed consumers making irrational choices. That's the whole point of the huge advertising industry. But also to try to control and manipulate thought. And it takes various forms in different institutions. The media do it one way, the academic institutions do it another way, and the educational system is a crucial part of it.</p><p>This is not a new observation. There's actually an interesting essay by--Orwell's, which is not very well known because it wasn't published. It's the introduction to <em>Animal Farm</em>. In the introduction, he addresses himself to the people of England and he says, you shouldn't feel too self-righteous reading this satire of the totalitarian enemy, because in free England, ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. And he doesn't say much about it. He actually has two sentences. He says one reason is the press "is owned by wealthy men" who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed.</p><p>But the second reason, and the more important one in my view, is a good education, so that if you've gone to all the good schools, you know, Oxford, Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it wouldn't do to say--and I don't think he went far enough: wouldn't do to think. And that's very broad among the educated classes. That's why overwhelmingly they tend to support state power and state violence, and maybe with some qualifications, like, say, Obama is regarded as a critic of the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because he thought it was a strategic blunder. That puts him on the same moral level as some Nazi general who thought that the second front was a strategic blunder--you should knock off England first. That's called criticism.</p><p>And sometimes it's kind of outlandish. For example, there was just a review in <em>The New York Times Book Review</em> of Glenn Greenwald's new book by Michael Kinsley, and which bitterly condemned him as--mostly character assassination. Didn't say anything substantive. But Kinsley did say that it's ridiculous to think that there's any repression in the media in the United States, 'cause we can write quite clearly and criticize anything. And he can, but then you have to look at what he says, and it's quite interesting.</p><p>In the 1980s, when the major local news story was the massive U.S. atrocities in Central America--they were horrendous; I mean, it wasn't presented that way, but that's what was happening--Kinsley was the voice of the left on television. And there were interesting incidents. At one point, the U.S. Southern Command, which ran--you know, it was the overseer of these actions--gave instructions to the terrorist force that they were running in Nicaragua, called the Contras--and they were a terrorist force--they gave them orders to--they said "not to (...) duke it out with the Sandinistas", meaning avoid the Nicaraguan army, and attack undefended targets like agricultural cooperatives and, you know, health clinics and so on. And they could do it, because they were the first guerrillas in history to have high-level communications equipment, you know, computers and so on. The U.S., the CIA, just controlled the air totally, so they could send instructions to the terrorist forces telling them how to avoid the Nicaraguan army detachments and attack undefended civilian targets.</p><p>Well, this was mentioned; you know, it wasn't publicized, but it was mentioned. And Americas Watch, which later became part of Human Rights Watch, made some protests. And Michael Kinsley responded. He condemned Americas Watch for their emotionalism. He said, we have to recognize that we have to accept a pragmatic criterion. We have to ask--something like this--he said, we have to compare the amount of blood and misery poured in with the success of the outcome in producing democracy--what we'll call democracy. And if it meets the pragmatic criterion, then terrorist attacks against civilian targets are perfectly legitimate--which is not a surprising view in his case. He's the editor of <em>The New Republic</em>. <em>The New Republic</em>, supposedly a liberal journal, was arguing that we should support Latin American fascists because there are more important things than human rights in El Salvador, where they were murdering tens of thousands of people.</p><p>That's the liberals. And, yeah, they can get in the media no problem. And they're praised for it, regarded with praise. All of this is part of the massive system of--you know, it's not that anybody sits at the top and plans at all; it's just exactly as Orwell said: it's instilled into you. It's part of a deep indoctrination system which leads to a certain way of looking at the world and looking at authority, which says, yes, we have to be subordinate to authority, we have to believe we're very independent and free and proud of it. As long as we keep within the limits, we are. Try to go beyond those limits, you're out.</p><p>HEDGES: But that system, of course, is constant. But what's changed is that we don't produce anything anymore. So what we define as our working class is a service sector class working in places like Walmart. And the effective forms of resistance--the sitdown strikes, you know, going back even further in the middle of the 19th century with the women in Lowell--I think that was--the Wobblies were behind those textile strikes. What are the mechanisms now? And I know you have written, as many anarchists have done, about the importance of the working class controlling the means of production, taking control, and you have a great quote about how, you know, Lenin and the Bolsheviks are right-wing deviants, I think, was the--which is, of course, exactly right, because it was centralized control, destroying the Soviets. Given the fact that production has moved to places like Bangladesh or southern China, what is going to be the paradigm now? And given, as you point out, the powerful forces of propaganda--and you touched upon now the security and surveillance state. We are the most monitored, watched, photographed, eavesdropped population in human history. And you cannot even use the world <em>liberty</em> when you eviscerate privacy. That's what <em>totalitarian</em> is. What is the road we take now, given the paradigm that we have, which is somewhat different from, you know, what this country was, certainly, in the first half of the 20th century?</p><p>NOAM CHOMSKY, LINGUIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's pretty much the same, frankly. The idea still should be that of the Knights of Labor: those who work in the mills should own them. And there's plenty of manufacturing going on in the country, and probably there will be more, for unpleasant reasons. One thing that's happening right now which is quite interesting is that energy prices are going down in the United States because of the massive exploitation of fossil fuels, which is going to destroy our grandchildren, but under the, you know, capitalist morality, the calculus is that profits tomorrow outweigh the existence of your grandchildren. It's institutionally-based, so, yes, we're getting lower energy prices. And if you look at the business press, they're, you know, very enthusiastic about the fact that we can undercut manufacturing in Europe because we'll have lower energy prices, and therefore manufacturing will come back here, and we can even undermine European efforts at developing sustainable energy because we'll have this advantage.</p><p>Britain is saying the same thing. I was just in England recently. As I left the airport, I read <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>, you know, I mean, newspaper. Big headline: England is going to begin fracking all of the country, even fracking under people's homes without their permission. And that'll allow us to destroy the environment even more quickly and will bring manufacturing back here.</p><p>The same is true with Asia. Manufacturing is moving back, to an extent, to Mexico, and even here, as wages increase in China, partly because of labor struggles. There's massive labor struggles in China, huge, all over the place, and since we're integrated with them, we can be supportive of them.</p><p>But manufacturing is coming back here. And both manufacturing and the service industries can move towards having those who do the work take over the management and ownership and control. In fact, it's happening. In the old Rust Belt--you know, Indiana, Ohio, and so on--there's a significant--not huge, but significant growth of worker-owned enterprises. They're not huge, but they're substantial around Cleveland and other places.</p><p>The background is interesting. In 1977, U.S. Steel, the, you know, multinational, decided to close down their mills in Youngstown, Ohio. Youngstown is a steel town, sort of built by the steelworkers, one of the main steel-producing areas. Well, the union tried to buy the plants from U.S. Steel. They objected--in my view, mostly on class lines. They might have even profited from it. But the idea of worker-owned industry doesn't have much appeal to corporate leaders, which means bankers and so on. It went to the courts. Finally, the union lost in the courts. But with enough popular support, they could have won.</p><p>Well, the working class and the community did not give up. They couldn't get the steel mills, but they began to develop small worker-owned enterprises. They've now spread throughout the region. They're substantial. And it can happen more and more.</p><p>And the same thing happened in Walmarts. I mean, there's massive efforts right now, significant ones, to organize the service workers--what they call <em>associates</em>--in the service industries. And these industries, remember, depend very heavily on taxpayer largess in all kinds of ways. I mean, for example, let's take, say, Walmarts. They import goods produced in China, which are brought here on container ships which were designed and developed by the U.S. Navy. And point after point where you look, you find that the way the system--the system that we now have is one which is radically anticapitalist, radically so.</p><p>I mean, I mentioned one thing, the powerful effort to try to undermine markets for consumers, but there's something much more striking. I mean, in a capitalist system, the basic principle is that, say, if you invest in something and, say, it's a risky investment, so you put money into it for a long time, maybe decades, and finally after a long time something comes out that's marketable for a profit, it's supposed to go back to you. That's not the way it works here. Take, say, computers, internet, lasers, microelectronics, containers, GPS, in fact the whole IT revolution. There was taxpayer investment in that for decades, literally decades, doing all the hard, creative, risky work. Does the taxpayer get any of the profit? None, because that's not the way our system works. It's radically anti-capitalist, just as it's radically anti-democratic, opposed to markets, in favor of concentrating wealth and power.</p><p>But that doesn't have to be accepted by the population. These are--all kinds of forms of resistance to this can be developed if people become aware of it.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, you could argue that in the election of 2008, Obama wasn't accepted by the population. But what we see repeatedly is that once elected officials achieve power through, of course, corporate financing, the consent of the governed is a kind of cruel joke. It doesn't, poll after poll. I mean, I sued Obama over the National Defense Authorization Act, in which you were coplaintiff, and the polling was 97 percent against this section of the NDAA. And yet the courts, which have become wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state, the elected officials, the executive branch, and the press, which largely ignored it--the only organ that responsibly covered the case was, ironically, <em>The New York Times</em>. We don't have--it doesn't matter what we want. It doesn't--I mean, and I think, you know, that's the question: how do we effect change when we have reached a point where we can no longer appeal to the traditional liberal institutions that, as Karl Popper said once, made incremental or piecemeal reform possible, to adjust the system--of course, to save capitalism? But now it can't even adjust the system. You know, we see cutting welfare.</p><p>CHOMSKY: Yeah. I mean, it's perfectly true that the population is mostly disenfranchised. In fact, that's a leading theme even of academic political science. You take a look at the mainstream political science, so, for example, a recent paper that was just published out of Princeton by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, two of the leading analysts of these topics, what they point out is they went through a couple of thousand policy decisions and found what has long been known, that there was almost no--that the public attitudes had almost no effect. Public organizations that are--nonprofit organizations that are publicly based, no effect. The outcomes were determined by concentrated private power.</p><p>There's a long record of that going way back. Thomas Ferguson, a political scientist near here, has shown very convincingly that something as simple as campaign spending is a very good predictor of policy. That goes back into the late 19th century, right through the New Deal, you know, right up till the present. And that's only one element of it. And you take a look at the literature, about 70 percent of the population, what they believe has no effect on policy at all. You get a little more influence as you go up. When you get to the top, which is probably, like, a tenth of one percent, they basically write the legislation.</p><p>I mean, you see this all over. I mean, take these huge so-called trade agreements that are being negotiated, Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic--enormous agreements, kind of NAFTA-style agreements. They're secret--almost. They're not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing them. They know about it, which means that their bosses know about it. And the Obama administration and the press says, look, this has to be secret, otherwise we can't defend our interests. Yeah, our interests means the interests of the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. Take the few pieces that have been leaked and you see that's exactly what it is. Same with the others.</p><p>But it doesn't mean you have to accept it. And there have been changes. So take, say--in the 1920s, the labor movement had been practically destroyed. There's a famous book. One of the leading labor historians, David Montgomery, has a major book called something like <em>The Fall of the House of Labor</em>. He's talking about the 1920s. It was done. There had been a very militant labor movement, very effective, farmers movement as well. Crushed in the 1920s. Almost nothing left. Well, in the 1930s it changed, and it changed because of popular activism.</p><p>HEDGES: But it also changed because of the breakdown of capitalism.</p><p>CHOMSKY: There was a circumstance that led to the opportunity to do something, but we're living with that constantly. I mean, take the last 30 years. For the majority of the population it's been stagnation or worse. That's--it's not exactly the deep Depression, but it's kind of a permanent semi-depression for most of the population. That's--there's plenty of kindling out there which can be lighted.</p><p>And what happened in the '30s is primarily CIO organizing, the militant actions like sit-down strikes. A sit-down strike's very frightening. It's a step before taking over the institution and saying, we don't need the bosses. And that--there was a cooperative administration, Roosevelt administration, so there was some interaction. And significant legislation was passed--not radical, but significant, underestimated. And it happened again in the '60s. It can happen again today. So I don't think that one should abandon hope in chipping away at the more oppressive aspects of the society within the electoral system. But it's only going to happen if there's massive popular organization, which doesn't have to stop at that. It can also be building the institutions of the future within the present society.</p><p>HEDGES: Would you say that the--you spoke about propaganda earlier and the Creel Commission and the rise of the public relations industry. The capacity to disseminate propaganda is something that now you virtually can't escape it. I mean, it's there in some electronic form, even in a hand-held device. Does that make that propaganda more effective?</p><p>CHOMSKY: Well, and it's kind of an interesting question. Like a lot of people, I've written a lot about media and intellectual propaganda, but there's another question which isn't studied much: how effective is it? And that's--when you brought up the polls, it's a striking illustration. The propaganda is--you can see from the poll results that the propaganda has only limited effectiveness. I mean, it can drive a population into terror and fear and war hysteria, like before the Iraq invasion or 1917 and so on, but over time, public attitudes remain quite different. In fact, studies even of what's called the right-wing, you know, people who say, get the government off my back, that kind of sector, they turn out to be kind of social democratic. They want more spending on health, more spending on education, more spending on, say, women with dependent children, but not welfare, no spending on welfare, because Reagan, who was an extreme racist, succeeded in demonizing the notion of welfare. So in people's minds welfare means a rich black woman driving in her limousine to the welfare office to steal your money. Well, nobody wants that. But they want what welfare does.</p><p>Foreign aid is an interesting case. There's an enormous propaganda against foreign aid, 'cause we're giving everything to the undeserving people out there. You take a look at public attitudes. A lot of opposition to foreign aid. Very high. On the other hand, when you ask people, how much do we give in foreign aid? Way beyond what we give. When you ask what we should give in foreign aid, far above what we give.</p><p>And this runs across the board. Take, say taxes. There've been studies of attitudes towards taxes for 40 years. Overwhelmingly the population says taxes are much too low for the rich and the corporate sector. You've got to raise it. What happens? Well, the opposite.</p><p>It's just exactly as Orwell said: it's instilled into you. It's part of a deep indoctrination system which leads to a certain way of looking at the world and looking at authority, which says, yes, we have to be subordinate to authority, we have to believe we're very independent and free and proud of it. As long as we keep within the limits, we are. Try to go beyond those limits, you're out.</p><p>HEDGES: Well, what was fascinating about--I mean, the point, just to buttress this point: when you took the major issues of the Occupy movement, they were a majoritarian movement. When you look back on the Occupy movement, what do you think its failings were, its importance were?</p><p>CHOMSKY: Well, I think it's a little misleading to call it a movement. Occupy was a tactic, in fact a brilliant tactic. I mean, if I'd been asked a couple of months earlier whether they should take over public places, I would have said it's crazy. But it worked extremely well, and it lit a spark which went all over the place. Hundreds and hundreds of places in the country, there were Occupy events. It was all over the world. I mean, I gave talks in Sydney, Australia, to the Occupy movement there. But it was a tactic, a very effective tactic. Changed public discourse, not policy. It brought issues to the forefront.</p><p>I think my own feeling is its most important contribution was just to break through the atomization of the society. I mean, it's a very atomized society. There's all sorts of efforts to separate people from one another, as if the ideal social unit is, you know, you and your TV set.</p><p>HEDGES: You know, Hannah Arendt raises atomization as one of the key components of totalitarianism.</p><p>CHOMSKY: Exactly. And the Occupy actions broke that down for a large part of the population. People could recognize that we can get together and do things for ourselves, we can have a common kitchen, we can have a place for public discourse, we can form our ideas and do something. Now, that's an important attack on the core of the means by which the public is controlled. So you're not just an individual trying to maximize your consumption, but there are other concerns in life, and you can do something about them. If those attitudes and associations and bonds can be sustained and move in other directions, that'll be important.</p><p>But going back to Occupy, it's a tactic. Tactics have a kind of a half-life. You can't keep doing them, and certainly you can't keep occupying public places for very long. And was very successful, but it was not in itself a movement. The question is: what happens to the people who were involved in it? Do they go on and develop, do they move into communities, pick up community issues? Do they organize?</p><p>Take, say, this business of, say, worker-owned industry. Right here in Massachusetts, not far from here, there was something similar. One of the multinationals decided to close down a fairly profitable small plant, which was producing aerospace equipment. High-skilled workers and so on, but it wasn't profitable enough, so they were going to close it down. The union wanted to buy it. Company refused--usual class reasons, I think. If the Occupy efforts had been available at the time, they could have provided the public support for it.</p><p>This happened when Obama virtually nationalized the auto industry. There were choices. One choice was what he took, of course, was to rescue it, return it to essentially the same owners--different faces, but the same class basis--and send them back to doing what they had been doing in the past--producing automobiles. There were other choices, and if something like the Occupy movement had been around and sufficient, it could have driven the government into other choices, like, for example, turning the auto plants over to the working class and have them produce what the country needs.</p><p>I mean, we don't need more cars. We need mass public transportation. The United States is an absolute scandal in this regard. I just came back from Europe--so you can see it dramatically. You get on a European train, you can go where you want to go in no time. Well, the train from Boston to New York, it may be, I don't know, 20 minutes faster than when I took it 60 years ago. You go along the Connecticut Turnpike and the trucks are going faster than the train. Recently Japan offered the United States a low-interest loan to build high-speed rail from Washington to New York. It was turned down, of course. But what they were offering was to build the kind of train that I took in Japan 50 years ago. And this was a scandal all over the country.</p><p>Well, you know, a reconstituted auto industry could have turned in that direction under worker and community control. I don't think these things are out of sight. And, incidentally, they even have so-called conservative support, because they're within a broader what's called capitalist framework (it's not really capitalist). And those are directions that should be pressed.</p><p>Right now, for example, the Steelworkers union is trying to establish some kind of relations with Mondragon, the huge worker-owned conglomerate in the Basque country in Spain, which is very successful, in fact, and includes industry, manufacturing, banks, hospitals, living quarters. It's very broad. It's not impossible that that can be brought here, and it's potentially radical. It's creating the basis for quite a different society.</p><p>And I think with things like, say, Occupy, the timing wasn't quite right. But if the timing had been a little better (and this goes on all the time, so it's always possible), it could have provided a kind of an impetus to move significant parts of the socioeconomic system in a different direction. And once those things begin to take off and people can see the advantages of them, it can become quite significant.</p><p>There are kind of islands like that around the country. So take Chattanooga, Tennessee. It happens to have a publicly organized internet system. It's by far the best in the country. Rapid internet access for broad parts of the population. I suspect the roots of it probably go back to the TVA and the New Deal initiatives. Well, if that can spread throughout the country (why not? it's very efficient, very cheap, works very well), it could undermine the telecommunications industry and its oligopoly, which would be a very good thing. There are lots of possibilities like this.</p><p>HEDGES: I want to ask just two last questions. First, the fact that we have become a militarized society, something all of the predictions of the Anti-Imperialist League at the end of the 19th century, including Carnegie and Jane Addams--hard to think of them both in the same room. But you go back and read what they wrote, and they were right how militarized society has deformed us economically--Seymour Melman wrote about this quite well--and politically. And that is a hurdle that as we attempt to reform or reconfigure our society we have to cope with. And I wondered if you could address this military monstrosity that you have written about quite a bit.</p><p>CHOMSKY: Well, for one thing, the public doesn't like it. What's called <em>isolationism</em> or one or another bad word, as, you know, <em>pacifism</em> was, is just the public recognition that there's something deeply wrong with our dedication to military force all over the world.</p><p>Now, of course, at the same time, the public is frightened into believing that we have to defend ourselves. And it's not entirely false. Part of the military system is generating forces which will be harmful to us, say, Obama's terrorist campaign, drone campaign, the biggest terrorist campaign in history. It's generating potential terrorists faster than it's killing suspects.</p><p>You can see it. It's very striking what's happening right now in Iraq. And the truth of the matter is very evident. Go back to the Nuremberg judgments. I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but in Nuremberg <em>aggression</em> was defined as "the supreme international crime," differing from other war crimes in that it includes, it encompasses all of the evil that follows. Well, the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq is a textbook case of aggression. By the standards of Nuremberg, they'd all be hanged. And one of the things it did, one of the crimes was to ignite a Sunni-Shiite conflict which hadn't been going on. I mean, there was, you know, various kinds of tensions, but Iraqis didn't believe there could ever be a conflict. They were intermarried, they lived in the same places, and so on. But the invasion set it off. Took off on its own. By now it's inflaming the whole region. Now we're at the point where Sunni jihadi forces are actually marching on Baghdad.</p><p>HEDGES: And the Iraqi army is collapsing.</p><p>CHOMSKY: The Iraqi army's just giving away their arms. There obviously is a lot of collaboration going on.</p><p>And all of this is a U.S. crime if we believe in the validity of the judgments against the Nazis.</p><p>And it's kind of interesting. Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor, a U.S. justice, at the tribunal, addressed the tribunal, and he pointed out, as he put it, that we're giving these defendants a "poisoned chalice", and if we ever sip from it, we have to be treated the same way, or else the whole thing is a farce and we should recognize this as just victor's justice.</p><p>HEDGES: But it's not accidental that our security and surveillance apparatus is militarized. And you're right, of course, that there is no broad popular support for this expanding military adventurism. And yet the question is if there is a serious effort to curtail their power and their budgets. They have mechanisms. And we even heard Nancy Pelosi echo this in terms of how they play dirty. I mean, they are monitoring all the elected officials as well.</p><p>CHOMSKY: Monitoring. But despite everything, it's still a pretty free society, and the recognition by U.S. and British business back 100 years ago that they can no longer control the population by violence is correct. And control of attitude and opinion is pretty fragile, as is surveillance. It's very different than sending in the storm troopers. You know, so there's a lot of latitude, for people of relative privilege, at least, to do all sorts of things. I mean, it's different if you're a black kid in the ghetto. Yeah, then you're subjected to state violence. But for a large part of the population, there's plenty of opportunities which have not been available in the past.</p><p>HEDGES: But those people are essentially passive, virtually.</p><p>CHOMSKY: But they don't have to be.</p><p>HEDGES: They don't have to be, but Hannah Arendt, when she writes about the omnipotent policing were directed against the stateless, including ourself and France, said the problem of building omnipotent policing, which we have done in our marginal neighborhoods in targeting people of color--we can have their doors kicked in and stopped at random and thrown in jail for decades for crimes they didn't commit--is that when you have a societal upheaval, you already have both a legal and a physical mechanism by which that omnipotent policing can be quickly inflicted.</p><p>CHOMSKY: I don't think that's true here. I think the time has passed when that can be done for increasing parts of the population, those who have almost any degree of privilege. The state may want to do it, but they don't have the power to do it. They can carry out extensive surveillance, monitoring, they can be violent against parts of the population that can't defend themselves--undocumented immigrants, black kids in the ghetto, and so on--but even that can be undercut. For example, one of the major scandals in the United States since Reagan is the huge incarceration program, which is a weapon against--it's a race war. But it's based on drugs. And there is finally cutting away at the source of this and the criminalization and the radical distortion of the way criminalization of drug use has worked. That can have an effect.</p><p>I mean, I think--look, there's no doubt that the population is passive. There are lots of ways of keeping them passive. There's lots of ways of marginalizing and atomizing them. But that's different from storm troopers. It's quite different. And it can be overcome, has been overcome in the past. And I think there are lots of initiatives, some of them being undertaken, others developing, which can be used to break down this system. I think it's a very fragile system, including the militarism.</p><p>HEDGES: Let's just close with climate change. Like, I read climate change reports, which--.</p><p>CHOMSKY: Well, unfortunately, that's--may doom us all, and not in the long-distance future. That just overwhelms everything. It is the first time in human history when we not only--we have the capacity to destroy the conditions for a decent survival. And it's already happening. I mean, just take a look at species destruction. Species destruction now is estimated to be at about the level of 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth and ended the period of the dinosaurs, wiped out huge numbers of species. Same level today, and we're the asteroid. And you take a look at what's happening in the world, I mean, anybody looking at this from outer space would be astonished.</p><p>I mean, there are sectors of the global population that are trying to impede the catastrophe. There are other sectors that are trying to accelerate it. And you take a look at who they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call <em>backward</em>: indigenous populations, the First Nations in Canada, you know, aboriginals from Australia, the tribal people in India, you know, all over the world, are trying to impede it. Who's accelerating it? The most privileged, advanced--so-called advanced--educated populations in the world, U.S. and Canada right in the lead. And we know why.</p><p>There are also--. Here's an interesting case of manufacture of consent and <em>does it work?</em> You take a look at international polls on global warming, Americans, who are the most propagandized on this--I mean, there's huge propaganda efforts to make it believe it's not happening--they're a little below the norm, so there's some effect of the propaganda. It's stratified. If you take a look at Republicans, they're way below the norm. But what's happening in the Republican Party all across the spectrum is a very striking. So, for example, about two-thirds of Republicans believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and all sorts of other things. You know. So it's stratified. But there's some impact of the propaganda, but not overwhelming. Most of the population still regards it as a serious problem.</p><p>There's actually an interesting article about this in the <em>Columbia Journalism Review</em> which just appeared, current issue, the lead critical review of journalism. They attribute this to what they call the doctrine of fairness in the media. Doctrine of fairness says that if you have an opinion piece by 95, 97 percent of the scientists, you have to pair it with an opinion piece by the energy corporations, 'cause that'd be fair and balanced. There isn't any such doctrine. Like, if you have an opinion piece denouncing Putin as the new Hitler for annexing Crimea, you don't have to balance it with an opinion piece saying that 100 years ago the United States took over southeastern Cuba at the point of a gun and is still holding it, though it has absolutely no justification other than to try to undermine Cuban development, whereas in contrast, whatever you think of Putin, there's reasons. You don't have to have that. And you have to have fair and balanced when it affects the concerns of private power, period. But try to get an article in the <em>Columbia Journalism Review</em> pointing that out, although it's transparent.</p><p>So all those things are there, but they can be overcome, and they'd better be. This isn't--you know, unless there's a sharp reversal in policy, unless we here in the so-called advanced societies can gain the consciousness of the indigenous people of the world, we're in deep trouble. Our grandchildren are going to suffer from it.</p><p>HEDGES: And I think you would agree that's not going to come from the power elite.</p><p>CHOMSKY: It's certainly not.</p><p>HEDGES: It's up to us.</p><p>CHOMSKY: Absolutely. And it's urgent.</p><p>HEDGES: It is. Thank you very much.</p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/bwRf5HHm2Mo" width="560"></iframe><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/UFyFzTq1Wws" width="560">&amp;lt;br /&amp;gt;</iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/TFHicJHuO6Y" width="560"></iframe></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:52:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, The Real News Network 1011575 at http://www.alternet.org Media Culture Media News & Politics noam chomsky chris hedges How America's Sporting Events Have Turned into Mass Religious Events to Bless Wars and Militarism http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-americas-sporting-events-have-turned-mass-churches-give-blessings-imperial <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The religious reverie—repeated in sports arenas—is used to justify our bloated war budget and endless wars. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_78319606-edited.jpg?itok=VwwXe2sE" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>BOSTON—On Saturday I went to one of the massive temples across the country where we celebrate our state religion. The temple I visited was Boston’s Fenway Park. I was inspired to go by reading <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Breach-Trust-Americans-Soldiers-American/dp/0805082964" target="_blank">Andrew Bacevich’s thoughtful book</a> “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country,” which opens with a scene at Fenway from July 4, 2011. The Fourth of July worship service that I attended last week—a game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles—was a day late because of a rescheduling caused by Tropical Storm Arthur. When the crowd sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” a gargantuan American flag descended to cover “the Green Monster,” the 37-foot, 2-inch-high wall in left field. Patriotic music blasted from loudspeakers. Col. Lester A. Weilacher, commander of the 66th Air Base Group at Massachusetts’ Hanscom Air Force Base, wearing a light blue short-sleeved Air Force shirt and dark blue pants, threw the ceremonial first pitch. A line of Air Force personnel stood along the left field wall. The fighter jets—our angels of death—that usually roar over the stadium on the Fourth were absent. But the face of Fernard Frechette, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who was attending, appeared on the 38-by-100-foot Jumbotron above the center-field seats as part of Fenway’s “Hats Off to Heroes” program, which honors military veterans or active-duty members at every game. The crowd stood and applauded. Army National Guard Sgt. Ben Arnold had been honored at the previous game, on Wednesday. Arnold said his favorite Red Sox player was Mike Napoli. Arnold, who fought in Afghanistan, makes about $27,000 a year. Napoli makes $16 million. The owners of the Red Sox clear about $60 million annually. God bless America.</p><p>The religious reverie—repeated in sports arenas throughout the United States—is used to justify our bloated war budget and endless wars. Schools and libraries are closing. Unemployment and underemployment are chronic. Our infrastructure is broken and decrepit. And we will have paid a crippling $4 trillion for the useless and futile wars we waged over the last 13 years in the Middle East. But the military remains as unassailable as Jesus, or, among those who have season tickets at Fenway Park, the Red Sox. The military is the repository of our honor and patriotism. No public official dares criticize the armed forces or challenge their divine right to <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/more-than-50-of-us-government-spending-goes-to-the-military/18852" target="_blank">more than half</a> of all the nation’s discretionary spending. And although we may be distrustful of government, the military—in the twisted logic of the American mind—is somehow separate.</p><p>The heroes of war and the heroes of sport are indistinguishable in militarized societies. War is sold to a gullible public as a noble game. Few have the athletic prowess to play professional sports, but almost any young man or woman can go to a recruiter and sign up to be a military hero. The fusion of the military with baseball, along with the recruitment ads that appeared intermittently Saturday on the television screens mounted on green iron pillars throughout Fenway Park, caters to this illusion: Sign up. You will be part of a professional team. We will show you in your uniform on the Jumbotron in Fenway Park. You will be a hero like Mike Napoli.</p><p>Saturday’s crowd of some 37,000, which paid on average about $70 for a ticket, dutifully sang hosannas—including “God Bless America” in the seventh inning—to the flag and the instruments of death and war. It blessed and applauded a military machine that, ironically, oversees the wholesale surveillance of everyone in the ballpark and has the power under the National Defense Authorization Act to snatch anyone in the stands and hold him or her indefinitely in a military facility. There was no mention of targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens, kill lists or those lost or crippled in the wars. The crowd roared its approval every time the military was mentioned. It cheered its own enslavement.</p><p>War is not a sport. It is about killing. It is dirty, messy and deeply demoralizing. It brings with it trauma, lifelong wounds, loss and feelings of shame and guilt. It leaves bleeding or dead bodies on its fields. The pay is lousy. The working conditions are horrific. And those who come back from war are usually discarded. The veterans <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/health/veterans-dying-health-care-delays/" target="_blank">who died waiting</a> for medical care from Veterans Affairs hospitals could, if they were alive, explain the difference between being a multimillion-dollar-a-year baseball star and a lance corporal home from Iraq or Afghanistan. At best, you are trotted out for a public event, as long as you read from the script they give you, the one designed to entice the naive into the military. Otherwise, you are forgotten.</p><p>All religions need relics. Old uniforms, bats, balls, gloves and caps are preserved in the Baseball Hall of Fame, like the bones of saints in churches. In that Cooperstown, N.Y., museum you walk by glass cases of baseball relics on your way to the third-floor display bearing the words “Sacred Ground: Examining ballparks of the past and present, this exhibit takes a look at America’s cathedrals of the game.” At ballparks the teams display statues of their titans—there is one of left fielder Ted Williams outside Fenway Park. And tens of thousands of dollars are paid for objects used by the immortals. A 1968 <a href="http://www.robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2014_spring_preview/20.html" target="_blank">Mickey Mantle jersey</a> was auctioned in May for $201,450. Team minutiae and statistics are preserved, much as monasteries preserve details of the lives and deaths of saints. Epic tales of glory and defeat are etched into the permanent record. The military has astutely deified itself through the fans’ deification of teams.</p><p>The collective euphoria experienced in stadiums, especially among those struggling to survive in the corporate state, gives to many anxious Americans what they crave. They flock to the temples of sport while most places of traditional religious worship in the United States are largely deserted on the Sabbath. Those packed into the stadiums feel as if they and everyone around them speak the same language. They believe those in the crowd are one entity. And they all hate the same enemy. To walk through Fenway Park in a New York Yankees shirt is to court verbal abuse. To be identified as a Yankees fan after a game in one of the bars outside the park is unwise. The longing to belong, especially in a society where many have lost their sense of place and identity, is skillfully catered to by both the professional sports machine and the military propaganda machine.</p><p>Many sports devotees return after the games to dead-end jobs, or no jobs, to massive personal debt, to the bleakness of the future. No wonder supplicants at Fenway Park part with such large sums of money to be entranced by fantasy for a few hours. And no wonder it is hard to distinguish the fantasy of a game from the fantasy of the military. Life in the Army or the Marines begins to look like spending a few years at Fenway. And that is why the military invests so much in sponsoring sporting events. Between innings Saturday, the screen above my head flashed segments called “U.S. Army Presents Top Prospects” that showcased promising ballplayers. Recruitment ads appeared at intervals. And the logo “Discover a Stronger Future. There’s Strong. There’s Army Strong” was ubiquitous. The Pentagon spends some $4.7 billion a year on recruiting, advertising, public affairs and psychological operations, according to a 2009 report published by The Associated Press. And much of that is targeted at the audiences of professional sports.</p><p>The owners of coal companies at the turn of the 20th century in southern West Virginia found that by funding local baseball teams they could blunt the solidarity of workers. Towns and coal camps rallied around their individual teams. Workers divided themselves according to team loyalty. Sport rivalries became personal. The owners, elated, used the teams to help fracture the labor movement. And the infernal logic is no different today. The players on a baseball team—who usually do not come from the city they represent—are used to promote a provincial chauvinism and a false sense of belonging and empowerment. And the financial, emotional and intellectual energy invested by fans in these well-choreographed spectacles keeps the onlookers docile and supine.</p><p>The Boston Globe and the Knight-Ridder media chain reported in 2005 that Phillip H. Morse, a minority partner of the Boston Red Sox, chartered his private jet to the Central Intelligence Agency, which used it to pick up terrorism suspects in the Middle East and Europe and fly them to Guantanamo Bay. The plane was spotted in Cairo on Feb. 18, 2003, according to Knight-Ridder. The imam of Milan, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan_Mustafa_Osama_Nasr" target="_blank">Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr</a>, also known as Abu Omar, had been kidnapped the day before on a Milan street by the CIA and the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service. He was then flown clandestinely to Egypt. It is nearly certain that Morse’s plane was used for that flight. The imam was allegedly beaten and tortured in an Egyptian-run “black site.” The Gulfstream jet, the Globe reported, <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/03/21/cia_uses_jet_red_sox_partner_confirms?pg=full" target="_blank">rented for $5,365 an hour</a>, which, it calculated, worked out to $128,760 for a 24-hour day, or about $900,000 a week. Not even the highest-paid star on the Red Sox makes that much money. </p><p>The use of the Morse jet to carry out <a href="http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/20-extraordinary-facts-about-cia-extraordinary-rendition-and-secret-detention" target="_blank">extraordinary rendition</a> exposes the dark side of professional sports, how it is used by oligarchs and the military to manipulate and control us. The Red Sox logo that normally adorns the plane was missing. But the logo in any case would not have been visible to the imam, whose head would have been covered with a hood. The only difference between the imam and the rest of us is that we don’t require blindfolds.</p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 08:27:00 -0700 Chris Hedges, Truthdig 1010107 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Belief News & Politics Fenway Park memorial day war