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Chris Hedges Talk on OWS Shows He Doesn’t Have a Clue on Astini News

After wasting part of my Saturday morning listening to this speech, I have the sense that Chris Hedges is a very well educated idiot. So, he makes several references to Cicero and the end of civilization but it's all hand waving. It's a vague comparison to today that only holds up if you already agree with him, i.e. the gladiatorial games were the end of civilization and so is reality TV. Sure, Chris, whatever.

Meanwhile, he repeatedly fails to connect basic threads of his own thought in ways which would be detrimental to his project. So, for instance, he opens by bemoaning the death of a vibrant progressive movement via the US entrance into World War One. How tragic that incipient Marxism was brought low by war profiteering banks eager to realize a return on their investment in the UK and France (who can't pay back loans if they lose the war). But Hedges glosses over the fact that Wilson himself was a leading progressive of his day. And so the end of progressive power and the subsequent use of propaganda in society, which Hedges also deplores, was ultimately a progressive project. He throws the banks in as a convenient villain, but never really sorts out how they are guilty but progressives leaders were not. Somehow, corporations and the Nazis are guilty for their use of propaganda while the American progressives like Wilson are…what? Just great men making mistakes? Hedges never quite says, he just moves on.

The next clever theory he raises is that America has moved to a consumerist society in which it is necessary to borrow ever more money to keep the gravy train going. He sees this as a form of infantilization of the populace. Now, my first thought was that he might be on to something. He may in fact be echoing the Tea Party's concern about endless government debt which threatens the future of the Republic. But no, that turns out to be a foolish hope. Somehow, Hedges believes that our debt is the result of people demanding too much even as he simultaneously argues that health care and education should be recognized as human rights and thus free (not a cheap project that).

Think this through with me. We have a series of progressives politicians who create Social Security and Medicare in an ever expanding promise by government to citizens. These two programs alone wind up being something like 40% of the budget (about the amount we borrow every year now) and growing. Hedges clearly believes that this is good yet he simultaneously wants to whine about our debt as a sign that society is collapsing under a deluge of needs. Again, why don't these two concurrent ideas in his brain ever interact?

I would argue (with the benefit of facts) that it is the progressive entitlement state that is bankrupting us and making us infants rather than producers. In fact, just replace the word consumer with the word beneficiary and you see the connection that Hedges somehow does not. We're not going broke as a nation because people are buying too many plasma TVs (though we do have a trade deficit with Japan). We're going broke primarily because of big government transfer payments started and perpetuated by people like Chris Hedges! Indeed, his current concern is how to start more of them.

After forty-five minutes of preliminaries, he does eventually get around to the stated topic of his speech which is Occupy Wall Street. He starts by contrasting them with the Tea Party. You'll be shocked to learn that the Tea Party is racist and homophobic and possibly "fascist" while OWS is "mainstream." So the people arguing that we need to put the brakes on the gravy train that Hedges just said was a sign of the end of civilization are the villains and the people arguing for more entitlements (free tuition and health care for everyone!) are the heroes in his little drama.

Hedges literally suggests a new New Deal in which we spend a few trillion dollars more addressing the needs of the occupiers. Anything else is a sign to Hedges that the political class is woefully out of touch. It's as if he hasn't seen any news from Greece or Spain in the last year. There's absolutely no downside in Hedges mind or imagination to vastly more government spending.

And there's that troubling lack of mental connection between ideas again. Somehow, spending money on women's studies degrees is not an example of rampant consumerism which could be reigned in by people if only they'd act more like adults instead of infants. Hedges literally mocked the idea of Oprah telling people to look within and give themselves everything, but then 10 minutes later he wants free degrees for everyone. Am I the only person listening who thinks Oprah would shout a hearty Amen! to that? Apparently this possibility doesn't even occur to Hedges.

He returns to the topic of propaganda in order to claim that the NY Post somehow used "vicious" hateful propaganda to shut down OWS, while simultaneously blaming Obama. In Hedges view, the rolling crime spree that was OWS didn't deserve any unkind media coverage. Reporting rape, arson, theft, vandalism, and murder at the camps is all propaganda. By contrast, the airy political speculation of a group of dope-smoking, 20-somethings is a thing of great importance which must be taken very seriously indeed.

In truth, there was propaganda surrounding OWS. It was a numerically insignificant movement of anarchists and Marxists. At its height, there were perhaps 50k people involved in this project and within a few weeks that number was perhaps 10k nationwide (with the exception of a couple marches in Oakland). They were never large enough to do more than shut down one port in a nation of 300 million people. They weren't a party or a force of nature, OWS was always, first and foremost, a media spectacle designed to change the political narrative. (And to some degree they were successful on that front). We have a name for colorful media spectacle designed to shift the debate using images and slogans (We are the 99%!) in place of reason and facts. We call it propaganda. I think Chris was talking about it earlier, so surely he'll see the connection…

Nope. Nothing.

OWS was in fact propaganda for the far left (started by anti-capitalist propagandist Kalle Lasn at Adbusters). But once again, Hedges synapses don't fire that direction so he remains blissfully unaware that he's indicted OWS in his own speech praising them.

Fifty minutes in, Hedges makes another fact-challenged aside about Brandon Darby, claiming that the two "kids" arrested by the FBI for intending to use Molotov cocktails as part of the "RNC Welcoming Committee" were railroaded. Wrong again, Chris. Wrong again.

At this point, with the Q&A still to come, I tuned out. There's only so much pernicious nonsense one can listen to on a Saturday morning. I'd have been better off skipping all of this but in case you're a glutton for punishment, here's the clip:

Click here to view the embedded video.

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