04 November 2010

A Call for More Rage

If Chris Hedges published "The Phantom Left" back on Sunday, I can only imagine how he feels, or what he might write, after Tuesday's elections. Hedges, an antiwar writer who has also found time to swipe at atheists in a busy publishing career, seems to have been provoked by last weekend's Comedy Central rally in Washington. John Stewart's pleas for moderate politics and moderate rhetoric only inspired disgust in Hedges.

The rally delivered a political message devoid of reality or content. The corruption of electoral politics by corporate funds and lobbyists ... was ignored for emotional catharsis. The right hates. The liberals laugh. And the country is taken hostage. The Rally to Restore Sanity, held in Washington’s National Mall, was yet another sad footnote to the death of the liberal class. It was as innocuous as a Boy Scout jamboree.
Hedges is annoyed by Stewart's attempted delegitimization of anger as a force in politics. His view is that Americans have every right and ample cause to be angry -- including the Tea Partiers. Stewart "ridiculed followers of the tea party without acknowledging that the pain and suffering expressed by many who support the movement are not only real but legitimate," Hedges writes. "Fox News’ Beck and his allies on the far right can use hatred as a mobilizing force because there are tens of millions of Americans who have very good reason to hate."

The only problem with TP anger, Hedges suggests, is that people like Beck steer it in the wrong directions. If anything, he argues, more Americans should be angry across the political spectrum. He complains that there's only a "phantom left" in the country, something little more than a figment of the center-right imagination, because those labeled as leftists by the center and the right have done next to nothing to articulate the people's grievances against corporate power in the angry langauge they deserve. Liberals themselves, the "phantom left" of reactionary fantasy, preach moderation, accommodation, compromise and acquiescence instead of resistance.

As long as the liberal class speaks in the dead voice of moderation it will continue to fuel the right-wing backlash. Only when it appropriates this rage as its own, only when it stands up to established systems of power, including the Democratic Party, will we have any hope of holding off the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.
To Hedges, this is no time for moderation. He envisions the onset of corporate-ruled "neofeudalism" in the aftermath of the "internal collapse" of a debt-ridden republic. In the face of such a threat, "Being nice and moderate will not help," nor will "funny signs, comics dressed up as Captain America or nice words." What, then, does he recommend?

If the liberal class concedes that power has been wrested from us it will be forced, if it wants to act, to build movements outside the political system. This would require the liberal class to demand acts of resistance, including civil disobedience, to attempt to salvage what is left of our anemic democratic state. But this type of political activity, as costly as it is difficult, is too unpalatable to a bankrupt liberal establishment that has sold its soul to corporate interests.
Hedges, presumably, will go on promoting his new book, The Death of the Liberal Class, no doubt summoning the masses to the barricades at every stop on the tour. If that sounds harsh from me, it's because I see it as one thing for someone like Hedges to "demand acts of resistance," and another for him to perform them. Writing a book or a column doesn't cut it, any more than posting to a blog does. For the moment, he seems more likely to profit from his outrage than to risk and costs. Again, I don't mean to say that I think he's wrong about the state of affairs in this country. I just think that if he's going to be that judgmental toward John Stewart and all the media, he ought to reflect on the extent to which he is a creature of the same media. He can go all situationist on us and speak out against the society of the spectacle, but he's part of it -- perhaps he should consult Marcuse rather than Debord, says the smartass -- until I see proof to the contrary. That proof won't be in an opinion column.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Hedges is willing to pony up the money for a leftist radio or television show. I'm guessing he doesn't read the post I and other po'd leftists write on various forums on the 'net.

Since the media is owned by the corporations there is little chance of any real leftists to get on the air. So what other venue in the public sphere do we have left? (no pun intended.)