Episode 55 - America: The Farewell Tour (w/ Chris Hedges)Bad Faith
- 1,146 views
- 18 Mar 2021
We're joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges to get his take on the state of the left: What are the structural factors and ethical rationalizations that keep congressional progressives from taking the adversarial approach required to push a united Democratic government left? How can we parse good faith excuses from the bad, and what does history tell us about the way forward? But first, we check in with Zoe Muellner who is working to organize Colectivo, a midwestern coffee chain. And at the top, Virgil and Brie briefly follow up on the controversy surrounding this week's premium episode: Has Black Twitter really canceled Virgil? Subscribe to Bad Faith on Patreon to instantly unlock our full premium episode library: http://patreon.com/badfaithpodcast Find Colectivo Collective on Instagram and at their website http://colectivounionyes.com/ Order Colectivo in person/via the app/via the website using "UnionYes[Name]" Subscribe to Bad Faith on YouTube for video of this episode. Find Bad Faith on Twitter (@badfaithpod) and Instagram (@badfaithpod). Produced by Ben Dalton (@wbend). Theme by Nick Thorburn (@nickfromislands).
Know. All right. Happy Thursday, Brianna. Happy Thursday, Virgile, another free open to the world episode of Bad Faith.
And hopefully this one won't engender so much criticism of me as our last premium episode did.
Where you're not a premium subscriber, you miss this.
We had a very spirited and fun and light conversation about the book, about the Balkanization of film consumption and consequently film critique, particularly along racial lines, but also this weird high-low film critique world. But happens, I think in particular among elite New England, Brookley, segments of a lot.
Yeah, that's another way of saying that breathed it a black person test and I failed it.
Well, look, I mean, obviously, you know, listeners know that I sometimes feel like there is a culture on the left of cultural elite. Is it like, do you know the right thing? It's not about being economically elite necessarily, but it's about being in the know of certain books and having enjoyed certain films and listening to a certain kind of music. And it's like people are allergic to the idea of being quote unquote Normy. And that has become its own identity.
And it's particularly brisling to me, because I think there's a lot of stuff that that crew does not know along racial lines. So there's a lot of claim to authority and knowledge from the very group that is woefully ignorant about some very popular, well known actors and artists who happen to be black.
They just say me, it's all about me.
And I, you know, we posted some clips from the episode. You can find our YouTube page, YouTube dotcom, bad podcast. And I just feel like I got roasted by all of Briony's black Twitter followers.
Well, to me that's funny because I felt like I was getting roasted by a multiracial cadre of people who were like, why haven't you watched more of these films? Which I think is hilarious, because almost everything that you mentioned, I had seen there was not an informational imbalance problem. I watched Twin Peaks, I watched Wes Anderson, I watched Animal House. I am making informed judgments after having consumed a culture product. You, sir, are just over there not knowing who Nia Long is.
OK, hang on. These are not the same thing.
The criticism you got was this is this is not full on on political lines. That's just from David Lynch fans.
OK, I don't I don't fuck with those people.
I'm sorry. I look, I know you enjoy your life. It's like, oh, what if a movie was weird and that's fine. You know, they're enjoyable to watch.
I agree with you, but I watch, like, David Lynch stuff and then I just never think about it ever again because you don't have to I have to follow a plot. I don't know who that guy is. It doesn't matter.
I also think it's fine, like a lot of people were like, well, why didn't you like this? You need to watch it again or tried harder. Half of the things that I'm being accused of not liking, I never actually weighed in substantively on how I felt about them. I think animals is the only one. I was like, I don't care for that. I actually disrespectful. I actually liked little Nicky.
They should have gotten there. Frank should have gotten kicked out. I'm sorry. That's just a fact.
This can be the greatest night of our lives, but you're going to let it be the worst.
You know, the thing it's like I like I don't watch something like Mulholland Drive and then immediately go to Wikipedia or film YouTube to try to understand the movie. I think that's like that's that's one of the worst impulses I think of today.
Like that's taking the place of, like, real film discussion or film criticism is like, what did the what did the tiny person mean?
Yeah, the fact of it being hard or incomprehensible like inscrutability is not a stand in for a movie being enjoyable or good, like hashtag tennet. You know, I, I don't understand this. I also understand this idea that some people were like Brown.
I bet you love Marvel movies and Sex and the City movies. And I'm like, even if I did, that doesn't exclude me from also liking high art films. Like sometimes the word enjoy means enjoy it. I mean, I thought it was good. Like we all know that I love to hate watch. So yeah, I watch the crap out of the six city movies on some transcontinental plane ride and I enjoyed every hateful moment of it, just like I enjoy the West Wing, just like I very purposefully and like avoiding a lot of stuff that I know I'll like.
But I don't want to get too emotionally invested. There's a lot going on in the world. I can't emotionally invest in good television right now.
I just thought it was something of an eye opening experience to have all these people say, I can't believe I've never seen X. And it's like, yeah, of course not, because we have four kings.
So I mean, even before. Or social media created all these micro cultures. We had a rigid race and class based cultural consumption keep it Virgile frankly, you did worse than I expected you to do.
I didn't mean to put you on the spot.
Well, that's the thing is, I'm not really representative of anyone except myself.
Well, why do you think that is? Have you seen already? Because I'm a free spirit.
I have not seen the Friday movies to see. That's something that people like white people love the Friday movies so that I just never got a chance to see them.
You had never had a chance.
I mean, I could go and see them, but there's like a million other things that I got to see.
We had Ice Cube on the show.
Why didn't you tell me I should shoot for that episode four to watch the funny episodes before you had never seen Friday? I would have said Virgil, absolutely. For research purposes, you need to do some movie viewing before we interview this man.
I have never said I mean, I guess I embarrassed myself in front of him. I've never seen never seen Friday virtually sold by Felicia.
I know what you know what they're talking about.
OK, bye, Felicia. Yeah.
You do know that it's from Friday. I did not know. It's from Friday. OK, well, now I know. All right. See, I'm learning what I like.
Like I said, I've never seen Soul Plane, never seen soul food, never played soul caliber soul food.
I just can't conflate these things. And if I said, Oh, I've never seen Mulholland Drive and also I've never seen Antman, I did watch that man the other day.
Day preparation for you would be like, why are you conflating these things? Like There's Hielo, but you can't put soul plane and soul food like me. That's just exposing layers of more.
I don't want to use the word ignorance, but like a lack of like knowledge and treating these cultural products as as serious as you would treat the next Woody Allen Mall. Bad example.
The next book I also was watching that documentary because I again, we weren't going to I like to watch things that make me that.
OK, I'm sorry.
It's not that I want to roast you, but I do think that you should take this. This is this is like just a teachable this is a teachable moment. I hope we come back as isn't homework, but I hope we are able to come back to this podcast at some point within the next few weeks. Having expanded our film catalog.
You know, you're right. I'm going to go home. I'm going to sit down and I'm going to just plow myself in front of VH one. And in a few weeks, I'm going to be so knowledgeable again.
It has to be this, like, dismissive. You don't actually muser are worthy cultural products because they're on VH1.
That's not the case. That is absolutely not true. That is misrepresenting my point of view. There's a lot of what is what is what on basic cable, my borders.
I just haven't seen it like that's it. I just have not seen these things. And so it's like I'm just not knowledgeable about them.
I'm just thinking about all of their references. In your long career as a take Havva and Pop cultural reference person, that's literally you've been your profession for the last five years.
And what looks like this is the same three cartoons every time there's a podcast called The Read, which now that I reflect on it in terms of it's like culture reference points from a black perspective is like black chapeau.
It's you should you should consider listening to it. You will understand many of it. And it will make me very happy to hear you so lost in the woods.
OK, this is something we're going to explore. This is something we're going to do. We're going to give each other some cultural homework and we're going to explore them on an episode.
I mean, are going to have to dig deep because I've watched all the David guest I worked in. I live in white land and I know I know white people. That's the joke of the episodes. I don't give people white people. I don't get mad when people haven't seen the films that I enjoy Virgile.
I don't. That's true.
When have I ever done this one? Have I ever been like Bruner's of true stories.
OK, you might not have done it to me. I will acknowledge. Oh OK. So it's not me.
So once again I'm not a stand in front any a group of you because I'm in front of you like the closest person yet, right. Well no it's right.
Thank you. You are part of a cultural cohort. It's not fair to attribute every single thing that they've ever said or done to you, obviously. So caveat the crap out of that. But I also think that we have to be honest with ourselves, like when we talk about the dirtbag left, OK, it's not just political and it's not just tone. There is a cultural component in what typifies that culture is reference heavy comedy. And the references are relatively high brow, relatively not all.
You know, there's a lot like Simpsons and cartoons and stuff, but also very particularly culturally circumscribed. And part of the joke is on people who are on the outgroup. And that's where a lot of the. Humor falls, and I enjoy those shows, I consume those shows, I enjoy a lot of that content, you know, I do a lot of the cultural content as well as sometimes consumer culture content. So I understand better the jokes that are being made and I like it.
This is not a criticism, but let's not pretend there was like an attitude that comes out of that realm that says I know all and everybody else who does everyone else is like dumber than me and doesn't know as much as me when they are, like, wholly ignorant, a really basic stuff that's going out there in the world, like the existence of leptons. That's all.
I'm with you on that. You know what? I do want to broaden my horizons. And I do want to expand my repertoire of cultural references so that my zingers are just getting sharper and more ecumenical. And that's something I'm going to do, not just because you want me to do it, but because I want to do it for myself. Maybe we can do it together once we get the twitch stream up and running where we can actually watch it together with our audience.
Yeah, I look forward to that, Virgile, and I really appreciate the grace that you've brought to this exchange. Truly your real ally. Thank you. Thank you.
Clip that part and make everyone feel bad about roasting by saying I should be fired from the show for not knowing who X, Y and Z was.
Speaking of homework, you know, I think this is the most homework intensive episode, but I think hopefully this is might be a jumping off point for a lot of the people who listen to the show and say, hey, I want to know more. Would you like to know more? There is some very useful references and information here in this action packed episode with two very excellent interviews that we've done cued up.
First, she is an organizer with a coffee chain, coffee and bakery chain in the Midwest that is currently undergoing an important union push. I think you will very much so. Enjoy hearing what Zoe Mueller has to say. And after that, we have Chris Hedges, who is, to my knowledge, not currently unionizing anything. But he does also have some interesting information and some other homework for us. It's a great slate.
Let's get to. Joining us now, she is a comedian, board gamer and coffee professional turned organizer and social media manager with the Colectivo Collective, Zoey Mueller.
Thanks for coming on. Hi, thanks for having me. Now, for those of US coastal elites, what is Colectivo?
Colectivo is a Milwaukee based coffee roaster. There's also branches in Madison and Chicago. There is also a bakery associated. So before the pandemic, there were a total of 21 cafe locations. Now I believe we're down to 16.
And would you call this a local favorite?
I think it definitely started that way. It's starting to feel a little bit more on the corporate side as things are expanding pretty quickly. But it definitely started as like a Milwaukee hometown energy coffee shop.
Hold it. Twenty seven years, I believe.
And what's why are they in the news for unionizing? Fun fact. So we've been using unionizing for about a year publicly since August. So a little bit less than that if we win our election, which is going on currently.
So if you're a collective in make sure to vote, then we would become the biggest coffee chain in the United States to be organized, which is incredibly exciting.
How many workers are involved? It's somewhat fluctuated. There's been multiple rounds of layoffs.
So right now I believe we're between two fifty and three hundred or so.
I think a lot of listeners have been keyed in to the Amazon organizing effort and Bessemer, Alabama, for example.
So I'm curious what, if anything, motivated the urge to unionize now, what kind of conditions might have sparked this effort?
Well, I think that there's been thoughts about it for a while, but the beginning of the pandemic really amplified some things.
The cafes all closed down for two weeks right at the beginning, but only after we put out a petition both for workers and the community to sign on, asking them to shut down for those two weeks with pay. And things really kind of went from there because cafes opened up the warehouse and the roasters had to continue to work while all the cafes got to shut down. The bakery workers had to continue to work and things, I think that already existed.
Some issues like communication really got kind of like dug up and really exacerbated during the pandemic. So I think it kind of as it's done for a lot of service industry folks, really emphasized our need to get a little bit more back from our employers and ask for a little bit better working conditions.
And what's the company's response been so far? They're not really fans.
They've always portrayed themselves to be very progressive, though as soon as they found out that we were a union unionizing, they hired the Labor Relations Institute, which if you look at the Wikipedia article for union busting, they're like in the first paragraph.
So they're a pretty intense union avoidance firm that they have brought on to hold captive audience meetings, to draft emails to workers, to train managers, kind of run the whole gamut and for a pretty hefty price tag.
What kind of messages have they've been sending?
They have been sending out at least most recently, there have been emails to all of the workers except for the organizers, which that's been fun.
One of them talked about our leadership skills since there's been quite a few of the VC who are no longer with the company. And so they're saying, like, look at these people are these are folks that you want to lead.
You look at their track record like most of them aren't even with the company anymore, though, 90 percent of the people who are no longer with the company were let go.
It was not of their own volition. And that includes myself.
Oh, I didn't realize that. So at what point did they, you know, terminate your employment?
We went public August 7th and I was terminated. My position was eliminated is how they phrased it on October 16th.
So there wasn't some substantive reason given. It was what covid covered. Related? Yes.
They said that they were going to go down to one barista trainer per city. So my position was eliminated. And when I asked if I could stay on as a cafe co-worker, basically offer to take a demotion.
They said that there were no roles for me and that I could move to Milwaukee and reapply if I wanted to, or I could be put on a list where they would contact me back if positions opened up and they recently started posting hiring posters on cafes and have not reached back out.
So it seems pretty clear that this was retaliatory for union organizing rather than it actually being a coded issue. Has it affected your ability to organize?
I mean, how much has your not being at the workplace on a daily basis affected the unionization efforts?
For me, I think it was a lot more intense at the beginning. Right away, it felt like a major. Morale went way down for me and I felt like I didn't belong anymore, like I was an imposter at that point. Like, how could I even keep helping? But folks asked me to kind of, like, stay on, keep helping.
And so I have with other folks who are part of the organizers, we keep and maintain our Instagram page running and we communicate a lot, especially going into this end of the drive. We have meetings like five days out of the week. So really we just communicate a whole lot. And that's really helped. And honestly, everybody who is also an organizer has been incredibly amazing and supportive, which has been really helpful for that.
Is there a union behind this? Yes. So we have been working with the IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Have you ever organized a workplace before? Nope.
I was not very familiar with unions at all before this. The most I knew about it was from Superstore.
So when a friend told me that this was happening and what I asked if I wanted to get involved, I was like, OK, I know a little bit, but I mean, no time to learn like the present.
So I kind of just like jumped in feet first and have learned a lot, which has been honestly incredible. And it's I don't know, I feel like it's inspiring for the future because I've definitely thought about what if I open up my own coffee shop some day? And I feel like at this point I would almost offer my starting workers to be like, do you want to unionize? Because, like, we can just start there, you know?
So you jumped into this and that, you know, increased your political education. Absolutely, yeah.
What's the most surprising thing that you learned? Because I think most people, given the obviously extremely low participation rates right now, haven't been in a union, wouldn't know where to start. And it's really interesting that this happened. And you were the one who said, well, let's take this on, whereas a lot of people are wary, they're obviously being inundated with all of this anti-union messaging from the hired, what is called anti the obvious. You can't call them union busting.
What is the word for it?
Again, they call themselves a union avoidance firm and then avoidance firms euphemism Malai.
What has been most surprising for you in this education process?
I mean, part of it is somewhat like Gav's public perception of what unionizing means because they feel like there's folks like teachers and nurses who are like unionized.
But you might not hear about it at least before the pandemic. Like when you think of a union, you tend to think of like manufacturing or like something with a factory.
And just like the amount of folks who have come out of the woodwork, both within the service industry saying like, yes, this is something that we want to do that has been growing as well as community members have been incredibly supportive, has been amazing, while also seeing the opposite side of where folks have kind of been at with like the political talk against unions and how folks minds have been changed over the past couple of decades with that.
And I feel like that's been kind of mind boggling, but more so. The things that I hold to hire are like the support that we've been getting and the other folks who are doing the same thing that we're doing.
What kind of support have you received from the community and from political leaders? A lot we have had I think it was just within the past couple of days we had multiple aldermen or older people come to the Chicago cafes and like take photos with the workers ordering their coffee union.
Yes, we had three senators send us a letter of support altogether, which was incredible. We've also just had a lot of community members messaging us saying, like, what can we do? We want to support. This is incredible. Like we want to support you. We want to show how much we believe in you guys and believe in your right to unionize.
It's been pretty incredible which senators have been supportive.
It was Durbin, Duckworth and Baldwin, as Marco Rubio said, on the side of workers.
Now, I'm curious, do you have a sense of how successful you'll be? How effective has the anti-union messaging been? What kinds of messages have you had to really struggle to push back against, if any?
I mean, a lot of it is like unions don't belong here. One thing the owners have said a lot is just we don't want this.
OK, kind of not up to you, though.
So I think that, like, they're just coming from a place of I think it feels very personal to them. And so there's a certain amount of lashing out which we're trying to deal with as gracefully as we can.
But I think that honestly, having the Eleri there and all of these intense, strong fear mongering messages have kind of had the opposite effect. I feel like people will go into them either undecided or kind of anxious and fearful and unknowing and then come out of it being like, fuck that, like I'm going to vote for the union.
Like, this is some bullshit many people in our audience. Are interested in joining a union or organizing a union, and it's something that they've never done, they've never thought about doing before. What would your message to them?
I think reaching out to a few in your area and find one that is the right fit.
The reason that we went with the IBEW is because they said that they could represent all of the workers. Other folks that we had approached wanted to either only represent cafe workers or only represent the warehouse workers or only the bakery.
And the IBEW said, no, I think that we can do everyone all together and represent each and every person who works for Colectivo. And that was really important to us. And it just felt like the right fit. And like the union organizers have been incredibly supportive and wonderful. And it just I don't know, since we started working them, it's just been pretty amazing.
And what can our audience do to support you when your colleagues. So we have done a number of things.
We definitely want folks to keep patronizing the cafes, because if Colectivo goes down, we go down with it like we do not want the cafes to suffer. We do not want the company to fail. We want to build it up and make it even stronger and better than it is right now. So if you go to a Colectivo or if you say order your coffee online, ordering a union. Yes. So having your name be say like union. Yes.
Dan or union. Yes. Samantha, it kind of just I don't know. They've already blocked IBEW Strong. They took out the IBEW any time somebody started to order it that way.
So so we're finding different ways around it and it just kind of keeps showing them like now there's a lot of support here. And so that's been really a good and kind of easy way to do stuff following our social media at Colectivo Collective and honestly, like talking to people, because there might be people in similar situations who feel like this is just a service industry, this is the way it is, and it doesn't have to be that way.
And if you can just find a way to make some, like, positive change, like create some systemic change where there's like regulations and things that it can positively impact other people's lives that you know and I don't know, I feel like everyone should do that.
I agree absolutely less about anything else. But no, I that's great. I really appreciate you coming to talk to us, though, and for participating when a lot of folks might have said I have better things to do or this is confusing or weird. And it's really heartening to hear from someone who is figuring it out because they think a lot of people, to your point, are in that same situation and figuring it out and realizing that there is a better way and that it's so radicalizing.
So thank you for telling us about it today.
I also shout out to all the folks who feel like they like can't be a vocal part of a unionizing effort because of either retaliation or their workplace, not feeling like a safe space for them because we've definitely had that be part of our story. We're like people of color have felt like they can't put their necks on the line because it's already harder for them to work there.
So I just want to recognize those folks, too. It's like you're still doing stuff and keeping it strong solidarity with you and your colleagues.
And best of luck this week.
Thank you so, so much. You know, well, we received an email a few days ago about this union push of the organizers, and they actually brought up this one piece of information that I wish that we had said.
But I'm just going to say it to you at one of these mandatory antiunion meetings, the union avoidance task force, whatever the hell they call it, the owner of the company literally drew an equivalence between the union drive and the Rwandan genocide.
In what way? The union in genocide both have the letter in in that like, I don't know.
I mean, maybe they run a radio station. I don't I don't know. Maybe McNulty's involved.
Would people what what is McNulty have to do with it?
He wanted the U.N. guy in Hotel Rwanda. Well, there's a movie I haven't seen. So you got me on about that kind of a black movie.
Yeah, it does. Let's shuffle along, shall we, to our interview with Chris Hedges.
Kindred Spirit. I've been wanting to talk to you a really long time. I think you guys will enjoy. Let's meet our guest for 15 years, he was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He's the author of books, including War is a Force That Gives US Meaning Death of the Liberal Class and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Journalist, author, activist Chris Hedges, thank you for joining us so much today, Chris.
I have been looking forward to talking to you for a long time, in part because as you were well aware, there is a certain heterodoxy in the media and those of us who occupy the broad left. It can be a very isolating experience in general. But when I listen to you, I there are few figures who I listen to, who I feel I have as much identity of spirit and politics with.
So I wanted to ask you to see if you could weigh in on some of the issues we've been trying to work through on this podcast about what the left should do in this moment in the midst of a fight, an administration that doesn't meet the needs of the moment. And at a time when a lot of the kind of active spirit of last summer and the spirit of pushback that existed under Donald Trump has largely dissipated even among some factions of the left who seem to have adopted the view that all that needs to be done or the bulk of it needs to be done in this moment is to kind of rally around the progressive members of Congress, work hard to elect more progressive members of Congress, and to kind of abstractly organize.
At the same time, there's an acknowledgement that organizing is very difficult right now, given low union participation rates and the absence of the kind of structures that the left broadly used to be able to rely on. So what do you make at this current moment and what our priorities should be for advancing some of the issues like climate change, for instance, that really can't wait?
Well, I think it's important to recognize and I think the one point nine trillion dollars covid relief bill, the American rescue plan, kind of made this clear that the Biden administration and the Democratic Party have no intention of addressing the structural inequalities. They wouldn't even raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. They won't impose taxes or regulations on corporations or the billionaire class, which saw its wealth increase by one point one trillion dollars since the start of the pandemic.
They have used the bill to funnel tens of millions of dollars to our for profit health care system, rather than reforming that system and establishing single payer universal health care for all its language, its bellicosity, both in the Middle East, towards Iran, towards China, as I think illustrated that they will not cut this bloated military budget. All of the structural issues that created the massive social inequality that gave rise to a figure like Trump are not being addressed.
And that's very dangerous. I mean, this sending out checks for one thousand four hundred dollars, about 280 million Americans extending unemployment benefits at three hundred dollars a week until the end of August, giving this tax credit, I think, three thousand six hundred for a child under the age of six, three thousand for children between six and 17 starting in July. All of this money is going to get swallowed by landlords and lenders and medical providers and credit card companies.
So it's a one off it. And that frightens me because I think it's this social inequality that gave rise to a figure like Trump, the betrayal by the Obama administration. And so when you talk about the left, I think the Democratic Party has been quite effective, not just in the last presidential campaign, but going back all the way to the Bush administration in frightening progressives and the left into backing a party that is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America.
So part of that is the idea that everyone should vote blue no matter who which, you know, we've talked about on this podcast a lot. You're one of the few people who didn't kind of fall in line and encourage people to vote for Joe Biden. I wrote an article last year about the need for some kind of litmus test and making me, I think, pretty obvious argument that if you declare kind of a primary that you're going to vote for whomever has the D next to their name, no matter who they are, what they do, whether they're a Bloomberg figure, that is might as well be Republican.
And there's a credible argument that that could be even worse than Trump. Then what does it mean? What what are we saving the country from? Exactly. And as I'm sure you're aware, that kind of argument gets a lot of pushback. Right? It feels like we keep coming up against the same issue, including over the fifty dollar minimum wage, where there are these tension points where either elected representatives or people organize masses that people themselves can withhold.
The vote can force a vote on something like Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House or on the 15. Minimum wage to gum up the works in the way that moderates like Joe Manchin seem to have no hesitation to do. Do you think it's necessary for us to progress, to be willing to draw those kinds of lines in the sand, to adopt some kind of litmus test, to be willing to be more adversarial in our approach?
Well, we should have done that a long time ago. So nineteen ninety four, the Clinton administration passes NAFTA, which is the greatest betrayal of the American working class since the Taft Hartley Act of nineteen forty seven. We should have walked out on the Democratic Party then what Clinton and Tony Coelho and others did is transform the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. Obama picked Biden as his vice president because he votes Republican and he, in essence, is a Republican.
His long years in Congress have illustrated that, I mean, even to the point where he was antibusing and has called for cuts in Social Security and the horrific crime bill that exploded our prison population, militarized our police. Biden was instrumental, including writing the Patriot Act. So the problem with progressives on the left is that they never draw a line in the sand and they keep walking backwards and each administration gets worse. I mean, what Clinton did is transform the Democratic Party into the Republican Party, the party of law and order, the party of aggressive foreign policy and wars, the party of austerity.
It was Clinton that destroyed our welfare system. It's Clinton that deregulated the FCC and allowed a half dozen corporations to seize control of the airwaves. It's Clinton that ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks by revoking the nineteen thirty three Glass-Steagall Act. All of that was Clinton. Obama's assault on civil liberties, of course, continuing the Clinton policies. I mean, there's complete continuity on almost every issue between Bush and Obama. With this exception, Obama's assault on civil liberties were worse than those under Bush, his misuse of the Espionage Act.
So the problem with progressives in the left is they don't stand for anything and that is hollowed out. The left I have not voted for a Democratic candidate since 2000 when I started voting for Nader and eventually was Ralph speechwriter. And I think Ralph was right that at that point, the only way to put pressure on the Democratic Party was to pull five, 10, 15 million people away into a third party and force the Democrats to respond to politics is a game of fear.
And we just don't have any counterweight because we don't have any counterweight. The country has undergone what Jon Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d'etat in slow motion. And it's over. We get to pick which wing of the corporate party we want. We want this nativist, racist, Islamophobic wing flying the Confederate flag, or do we want the polite Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden wing that talks about diversity but only diversity in terms of those we're willing to serve the system, which is just a species of corporate colonialism.
I just want to clarify one point. You mentioned that Obama's violations of civil liberties were more egregious than Bush's. By what metric?
First of all, the use of the Espionage Act to shut down whistleblowers misuse up until the Obama administration, which nineteen seventeen act passed by Woodrow Wilson, the equivalent of our British Foreign Secrets Act. So it's designed to punish people who give information to a hostile power. It's not designed to go after whistleblowers like John Kiriakou or Edward Snowden. Obama used that nine times during his administration. Obama misinterpreted the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as allowing the executive branch to serve as judge, jury and executioner and carry out targeted assassinations through militarized drones against US citizens.
It was Obama that passed Section Ten Twenty one of the National Defense Authorization Act that overturned the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act and permits the US military to act as a domestic police force. All of that came under Obama in, I believe, 2012.
You, as a private citizen, sued the Obama administration. Could you describe for our audience what that lawsuit was about and how it turned out?
That was over Section ten. Twenty one of the NDAA. Obama signed it into law at midnight the last day of 2011, I guess, assuming nobody would notice. And the lawyers, Bruce Afren and Kharma and I took it to federal court, the Southern District Court of New York. And we sued the Obama administration. We didn't think we were going to win. We just did not want that further erosion of constitutional protection and that firewall that prohibited the military from being deployed to American streets and.
I should add, being empowered to carry out extraordinary rendition of US citizens, stripping them of due process and habeas corpus, which that section allows them to do, and we we won. We we won. And the Obama administration immediately appealed and sent it to the Second Circuit. And then the Second Circuit waited because it's a clear black and white constitutional issue. So it put the Second Circuit in a difficult position and they waited until there was a Supreme Court ruling and Clapper vs.
Amnesty International, which was about wholesale government surveillance, especially of journalists. This was all done before Snowden that got to the Supreme Court. The government lawyers argued that I and the other plaintiffs had no concern. Well, you know, concern, legitimate concern, and that the government would tell us if we were being surveilled, which we now know is ridiculous. And so they threw it out saying we didn't have standing. And then the Second Circuit said, well, Hedges doesn't have standing in Clapper vs.
Amnesty International. Therefore, he does not have standing in hedges versus Obama. And so it's law. But that was Obama.
That's always standing, isn't it?
It's always, always standing. Yeah, exactly. So, I mean, what's happened is that our constitutional rights have been stripped of us by judicial fiat. And you're exactly right. The way that the courts, which are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate America function, is that they deny us standing. That's exactly right. I mean, the whole Citizens United interpreting Citizens United as the right to petition the government or a form of free speech is just a complete inversion of constitutional rights.
Yeah. And for, you know, nonlawyers and normal people, to me, you know, standing with the notion that you have to have some not attenuated relationship to the claim to bring it right. The idea is you don't want me as a random person saying person and got hit by a car by a person B and so I'm going to sue on behalf of a person. I have no relationship to them. Ostensibly, it's supposed to mean that you have some relationship to the claim you're bringing.
But what often happens, for example, in environmental cases is you'll say, well, I don't want them to drill and the park in my city and the court will say, sure, I guess maybe on the books you have a claim, but you can't prove you. If you can't prove that you have a relationship to that park, where you planning to go to the park to use the park. You live four blocks away from the parks. They're not really that close to the park.
And they'll get rid of your claim on those kinds of grounds. And it happens often.
Yeah. I want to ask you about this 15 dollar minimum wage again, because as you mentioned, it was the most structural aspect of the relief bill it would have been had it been included.
And it doesn't feel like an accident that that is the part that didn't make the cut, the part that would have actually lasted beyond three months or six months or the end of this crisis.
And I'm curious if there is anything you would have liked to have seen differently from progressives, whether in the Senate or the House, that might have resulted in a different outcome, given that you're someone who has used the courts, who have used this kind of nater esq tools at your disposal and traditional tools at your disposal to make yourself heard.
Well, we should have surrounded the capital and demanded fifteen dollars minimum wage. That would be the only way to begin to frighten the power elites into responding. And you're right, everything in this bill is temporary. And so what happens when in a few months this government support is gone? What are people supposed to do when the checks don't arrive anymore? Are they going to pass another federal government massive relief bill? I don't think so, given the configurations of Congress and Mitch McConnell and the cautiousness of the Biden administration.
And so we're going to be right back to where we started.
Well, all the progressives now are tweeting and live streaming and saying the fight is not over. We've got to push. And I think understandably, a lot of progressive individuals, voters, citizens are responding kind of cynically, like, why are you saying organize? Why aren't you saying something more concrete? Why aren't you telling us to meet me at a certain point in protest? Why aren't you naming Joe Biden? Why aren't you naming the figures that are responsible for this not being included in the bill?
And. Sure. Why are you acting like you're one of us instead of someone with a relatively large amount of power and authority? You're an actual legislator. But making those kinds of criticisms of these figures, it's divisive. And there are some on the left who say we're already so small. We've already taken this blow in the blow of Bernie Sanders not winning. We can't have this kind of infighting.
What do you think the approach should be toward these progressive members of Congress who obviously are so much better than, you know, the policies of the world and the corporate Dems that were used to. But who still seem to not be calling upon the public to do the sorts of things that you think would move the ball forward meaningfully?
Well, they don't have any power. I mean, as Pelosi has kind of pointed out more than once, if you talk about the squad, how many people you're talking about, five people, they have no power with the power of the Democratic Party. The reason Schumer and Pelosi have so much power is they're the funnels for the money that goes to the anointed candidates. And if you run afoul of them, you don't have any money. And your campaign, your ability to get re-elected or elected is almost nil.
In the case of Bernie Sanders, what was acceptable is very critical of Bernie, by the way, on a couple of points. First of all, I never believed that the Democratic Party was ever going to allow them to have the nomination and he should have broken out and started a third party movement, even though he wouldn't have won. It's going to take longer than an election cycle for us to build a viable third party. And secondly, Sanders just wouldn't take on the military industrial complex, which has to be dismantled.
If we are going to address the social inequality and the suffering that now afflicts tens of millions of Americans, probably at least half the country. I mean, let's go back and look at the Sanders campaign. You had Lloyd Blankfein, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, making it very clear, along with other major Democratic Party donors, that if somehow Sanders got the nomination, they would vote for Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump was an embarrassment to the empire.
They wanted to restore the kind of decorum and gravitas that an Obama had or even a Bush had and that that Trump had destroyed and that Biden would. But they could live with Trump. They could live with the Trump policies. I worry about the left. I mean, I think the left has to stand unequivocally with those people within the country who have been dispossessed and against the Democratic Party. Otherwise, especially among the white working class, we are going to see another Trump, if not Trump, perhaps a competent Trump.
We must remember that the elites embodied by figures like Biden, Clinton, Bush in both parties, the lies that the elites told to the American public about the consequences of NAFTA, of trade deals, of dismantling welfare, Glass-Steagall, austerity measures, deregulating Wall Street.
When I ran for president four years ago, I pledge to end welfare as we know it. I have worked very hard for four years to do just that. It is true that the Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate to the economy in which we lived. It worked pretty well for the industrial economy, which was highly organized, much more centralized and much more nationalized than the one in which we operate today. But the world is very different.
Let us roll up our sleeves to roll back this awful tide of violence and reduce crime in our country. We have the tools now.
Let us get about the business of using them, these horrific crime bills, the endless wars in the Middle East, the bailing out of the big banks and Goldman Sachs rather than the victims of their fraud.
These lies were far, far more damaging to the public than any of the lies told by Trump. And I think that that what's happened is that the elites have been found out there's a loss of credibility. And this isn't just within the United States. You see it because these policies are global. These global speculators have seized control, in essence, of not only the American economy, but most economies. And that's why Biden's a dangerous figure, because what Biden and those around him are attempting to do is recreate the old regime to go back to this kind of utopian conservatism.
And it isn't going to work.
In nineteen thirty two in Germany, the traditional conservative class gathered around von Poppen because they were terrified of the rise of the Nazis and tried the same thing. And it failed. And that is is what is so frightening that I think the elites don't get that it's over. And you see that tremendous loss of credibility is a loss of political influence. That's right. So you see all these people outside the mainstream. Alex Jones, I'm of course, I detest Alex Jones, but figures like Joe Rogan or Matt Taibbi or Glenn Greenwald, these people who weren't groomed by the media conglomerates and who speak outside of that power circle, I mean, look at CNN, look at MSNBC, even FOX, they're just courtiers.
I mean, they spin it from one angle or another, but they're they're like courtiers at Versailles. And meanwhile, most of the country which is suffering has been rendered invisible. This has been, of course, true for poor people of color for decades, but it's also true for the white working class, which I'm not defending the way that's often expressed. But that. The suffering is real, and I speak my family comes from working class towns in Maine that have been utterly destroyed, the mills are gone and the town where my grandparents are from, the bank is boarded up and there's methamphetamine clinics all over the place.
The suffering is real but unacknowledged by corporate media. And so we're entering a really dangerous moment, which has all been exacerbated by covid. So, I mean, if you look at just the figures that are out there and this bill, of course, does nothing to address this, you have this was last year before covid, 50 percent of the households accounted for one percent of the nation's wealth and the top 10 percent have seventy six percent of the wealth, which it's now worse.
18 million Americans depend to survive on unemployment benefits and businesses are falling and small businesses are falling right and left. Eighty one million Americans can't meet their basic household expenses. Twenty two million lack enough food on a daily basis. 11 million can't make their next house payment. These are the real kind of New Deal structural issues that, if we don't address, will bring a very frightening blowback.
Over the past year, you warned of an impending eruption of violence.
That Trump is right was increasingly unbound by social or legal norms when the capital was stormed on January six. Did you feel vindicated?
Well, no, I felt horrified. It's not something I wanted to see. I know these people. I've spent a lot of time with them. I mean, going back 10 years ago, I wrote a book on the Christian right called American Fascists The Christian Right in the War on America. That was two years inside their megachurches and their creationist seminars and Right to Life weekend. So I know I know these people and they are frightening. And I didn't use the term fascist lightly.
I think that they're I speak as a seminary graduate and grew up in the church. My father was a minister. It's a heretical form of Christianity that is Few's, the worst aspects of American capitalism and nationalism with the symbols of the Christian religion, which is exactly what the pro Nazi German Christian church did in Germany. You know, I don't want to see what I think is coming come. I mean, that's part of the reason I speak out.
But I think that the violence I mean, I worry about political assassinations when people like this feel cornered and we've had several near misses. But, you know, one day they're going to succeed. There are so many echoes of Yugoslavia. I covered the breakdown of Yugoslavia in the war in Yugoslavia for the New York Times. I see many, many echoes of that, which was driven by financial economic collapse.
How do you see us getting out of this then? Because, you know, when I asked the question about progressives, it's not to pretend that they have the ability to wave a magic pen and pass 15 dollar minimum wage, which somehow sometimes has characterized. But I also it also kind of can feel like there is an absence of accountability if you don't acknowledge that there is a kind of power that exists by leveraging their enormous popularity and the fact among people outside of Congress, outside of Capitol Hill, and that when you say things like we should have been rallying outside of Congress, we should have been protesting for the ten dollar minimum wage, these are all people, Senator Sanders included, who at various times have used their text message platforms in their online platforms to urge people to participate in mass protest events, exactly of that sort, but who have declined to do so in this moment.
Is that something that we should be expecting of public figures like this? And if not, then who should we be looking to? Because it feels like there's a real void. A lot of talk. I think that's well intended and correct about the need to organize, but also this feeling that it would be impetuous of any given person to stand what to step into that role that we want leaderless movements, that a lot of people who are well positioned to do that work are just choosing not to.
And that's what's leaving a lot of people, I think, feeling really unsettled.
Yeah, I mean, no movement is leaderless, but there is a danger of having a very hierarchical leadership. I mean, I spent a lot of time in Zuccotti Park with Occupy. I think it would be wrong to call Occupy leaderless, but it was leadership by consensus and it wasn't dependent on one particular leader or the engine of Occupy, at least in New York, was the direct action committee. I don't know how many people were on it. Not a lot, probably under 20.
And they really set the agenda. We can't look to political leaders. I mean, Bernie Sanders has made it very clear that he will dance to the tune that Chuck Schumer plays. I think that was Bernie's political mistake, although Bernie is not wrong, actually spoke to Bernie about it with the chamusso on to the socialist city councilwoman. We did an event. The night before the climate march, before he announced in 2016 and Shoma in particular really pushed him to run as a third party, and Bernie's answer was, I don't want to end up like Nader now, but he's not wrong.
He would've ended up like Nader. The Democratic Party would have destroyed him, turned him into a pariah, and he just wasn't willing to pay that political price.
And he was a loyal member of the Schumer wing of the Democratic Party for four years. And I would argue that they did to him in 20, 20 exactly what they did in twenty sixteen, which was pull every dirty trick they could in the book, including on the eve of was in South Carolina, North Carolina, getting everybody to withdraw. That was Obama to make sure that Biden was the nominee. But we can't look to figures like Sanders. We have to look for people outside formal systems of power.
We have to begin to stand with the working class and be willing to sacrifice and and even be marginalized, because if we don't, especially the white working class is going to get funneled into the hands of these professors. I think that is the mistake of the left and progressives. I mean, the old radicals, the old communists, the old Wobblies, even the old socialists, the old CIO, they want to play this game with the Democrats and we have to stop playing it as well.
Have you given any thought to how to get around the obvious media narrative that says, you know, I mean, we all heard it. If you don't play the game, if you don't vote for Biden, you are enabling fascism, you are enabling Trump. I think I am in complete agreement with you about obviously, we're all powerless.
Everything's terrible. Yes. But, you know, to the limit, to the extent that there does seem to be something that the corporate parties are afraid of, it is third parties and you see it in all of the ways that they work to disempower them further. You see it in the ways that they make villains out of figures like Ralph Nader and Jill Stein.
And way farther down the list, random people who are anonymous that happen to vote for Jill Stein in twenty sixteen.
You know, so I'm asking this question because I'm curious how you get a meaningful number of people to actually do that in a way that can be framed. Not like you are the one throwing the country to Trump. You are the one who's indifferent to the needs of the marginalized, etc., which is what what goes on now and have.
Third party voters are characterized now, but the Democratic Party had a choice to meet our needs and it chose fascism instead, because meeting our needs meant undermining the oligarchy in a way that they were not willing to compromise on. Have you given thought to how, as a media person, how we can start to win that rhetorical battle if we do step out and challenge the ruling elites and in particular the Democratic Party ruling elites?
Those are the nice things they're going to say. But I think that, in fact, part of the problem with the left is there's no relationship. And this I would exclude the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, which I found very heartening, not only because of their courage to go out into the streets, but also because they weren't gaslighted. I wasn't there, but I sensed a political sophistication that I found very, very heartening.
They didn't care whether Nancy Pelosi wore a kente scarf for mayor of Washington, painted thirty five foot high letters on a street saying Black Lives Matter.
The same time she was calling for a fifty million dollar increase in the police budget. You know, they didn't care if cops took the money. They got it. I think the part let's talk about a white liberal class, which is the majority they have no they don't know people in prison and they don't know people in the inner cities. They don't have any relationship with the oppressed. The oppressed are an abstraction. So I've taught in the New Jersey prison system for a decade.
Half of my students would not be in that prison. But for Biden and Clinton and how can I walk out of the prison and vote for Biden, destroyed their lives, destroyed the lives of their families, destroyed the lives of their children, impoverished and destroyed their communities, inflicted reigns of terror and terror is not the wrong word in these communities. Corrupted a court system so that everyone is coerced and I mean coerced to take plea deals often for crimes they didn't commit.
I mean, look at Chicago. I mean, Chicago in terms of torture is like Guatemala or Israel. I mean, there was another one. I mean, I heard Obama I spent seven years in the Middle East for The New York Times and months of my life in Gaza. I'm an Arabic speaker. I heard Obama when he was running, give this speech to AIPAC. And I thought, I don't care if I'm the only person in America.
I am not betraying the Palestinian people. I am not voting for him, especially when Ralph was running. And so we have to begin to stand firm around these moral issues that have inflicted such misery. On people within the country, and that's the first step, but we're not there yet, and yet most of those people from those protests, I would I would suggest to you, Chris, did go ahead and vote for Biden.
I think it was great that the protests were multiracial. Some people say that it was an indictment of the protests. I disagree with that. But I think the reality is that those legions, millions, millions globally, but locally, millions of people who are participating in those protests at the end of the day never connected the demands to the Biden agenda and never threatened to withhold their vote. So at the same time, there are millions of people in the street.
Last summer, we had the national convention where Democrats were talking about how they were also tough on crime, how to fund the police was going to get Trump re-elected. You had Joe Biden in the leaked tape with civil rights leaders just weeks after he was elected, being roundly dismissive of every senior civil rights actor in the country. And then when the tape was leaked, when the call was leaked, no pushback, no embarrassment from the participants in the call who basically, you know, people I have enormous amount of respect for, like Sherrilyn Ifill, who pushed back against Biden in that call more than others who ultimately was ignored.
And she said, here are executive actions. Here's things you can do for criminal justice issues that you can do independently with executive authority. And Joe Biden says, I'm not going to use my executive authority and also defund the police is bad, a complete non sequitur. But clearly, that's a touchstone that he likes to go to. So it's not that I doubt the concern level or credibility of the people in the streets, but the missing link, it seems to me, is connecting that anger to some kind of electoral political agenda and making it so that there are consequences for ignoring millions of people on the street, because right now that doesn't seem to be the case.
Well, that's exactly right. Which will take a lesson from Cornell West when they disrespect you walk out, which is what he just did at Harvard, number one. No, to my students and their families can't vote. They all have felony convictions. So I suspect and this is just hypothetical, that a lot of those people in the streets who can vote came from a different economic strata. It may not have been hugely different economic strata, but a different economic strata from the students that I teach in the prison.
And what I'm saying is that if my students can't vote, if my students live and their families under a range of police terror, if my students never got a fair trial and of course, almost nobody in this country gets a fair trial unless they have a lot of money. If my students lives are condemned, then we have to stand with them. We have to stand against the people, including Joe Biden, who did this to them. That's the problem.
That is the fundamental problem. And that means stepping outside the system. And when you step outside the system and you really stand with the oppressed, you're going to get treated like the oppressed. And that is the only way forward from a recent article of yours.
None of these groups or individuals, whether they are on the left or on the right, however, have the organizational structure, coherence and ideological cohesiveness of radical movements of the past, including the old Communist Party or militant labor unions. They traffic in emotional outrage, often replacing one outrage with another. They provide new forms of identity to replace the identities lost by tens of millions of Americans who have been cast aside. That's a very succinct and I would say very true look at the radicalism that has increased percolated in the past 10 years.
My question then is what organizational structure ideology would make an effective left movement?
Well, one that understands the configurations of power and grasps that reform is not going to come from Democratic or the Republican Party that we have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d'etat in slow motion. And it's over and it's a matter of reading power. I think a lot of these groups, however well-meaning, have failed to read power. They still think that despite, for instance, all of Obama's policies, that somehow he's receptive to a progressive agenda, which he never was.
First of all, he's a product of the Chicago political machine. Remember when Obama was a state senator, there was all that stuff with Birju and the torture in Chicago. Obama never said a word and then came out and backed Daley's reelection campaign. And Daley had been the attorney general when when we're talking about dozens and dozens of people were being tortured with electric cattle prods and electric shocks and beaten, severely beaten and suffocated with plastic bags, especially in area two in Chicago.
So, you know, we just we have. To embrace a radical Islam, Lenin said, you know, we have to be as radical as reality itself. And what he meant by that is when you look at the with a cold lens of what your government does and not just what it does to poor people, but what it's doing to Muslims in the Middle East, what it does within our prison system, what it what it does to children who go to bed hungry, then you have to respond with the same kind of radicalism.
And and we need to recover that radicalism going forward, which means really accepting, certainly becoming a pariah and with the ability of the surveillance state to monitor us. This will be very, very difficult. But it is absolutely imperative. I mean, the only way, as soon as the Democrats caved on the minimum wage, we should have rung the Capitol with tens of thousands of people because that's the only way these people are going to respond. And I saw communist regimes.
I cover the revolutions in Eastern Europe. Five hundred thousand people in Alexanderplatz outside the Communist Party headquarters. Five hundred thousand people invents a lot of square in Prague. Even the most despotic regimes are frightening them. And then I covered Romania, where the crowd turned on the Ceausescu and they couldn't get to the roof fast enough to get a helicopter out of there. That's what we got to do. It's difficult.
I mean, it was hard enough before, just on a logistical basis.
But now post one six, I feel like there's this whole weird valence to me calls to do that, which suggests that you are you're comparable to the right wing insurrectionists.
I personally have been called in at least two articles now, you know, sympathetic to the right, accused of wanting to take a cue from the right, because I agree that a certain level of direct action is going to be necessary. And maybe the answer is just ignore it. Who cares? They're going to say where they're going to say. But I think who's going to make the call is basically the issue. Who is going to be the one that directs folks to go and protest?
Because it's obvious that as much as squad members of progressives are willing to say give to this ActBlue account to fundraise for people suffering from the power going out in Texas or Hunts Point activism, all these good, wonderful, positive things.
And they might even say, come participate in a friendly pride event or something like that. They aren't willing to so much as, say, the name of their colleague that is obstructing math benefit programs like fifty dollar minimum wage, much less. They can protest them actively. And all of the hope that we had in the seas of the world who opened their tenure in Congress by participating in a sit in and Nancy Pelosi's office. I don't see that coming from them.
I also don't see it coming from certain left organizations, including DSA, who I learned through in the force the vote debacle that they don't ideologically support marches, mass marches at the Capitol because it's expensive. Organizations like in in others who have been the leaders of the Medicare for All Fight chose in that moment not to choose that lane of activism. Maybe they might at some point in the future, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence that they will. So that's the issue is not that I disagree at all about the approach, but I think where I'm stuck in, where a lot of people are stuck is that there doesn't seem to be anybody well positioned.
Black lives matter matter leaders in many ways, the figureheads who it identified with Black Lives Matter are very much enmeshed with the establishment.
And you see them. You know, I don't I don't mean this as an attack, but you see people like Michael Mallory performing at what was the Grammys last night or the night before, you know, as part of a Black Lives Matter themed musical performance.
You know, there's been a lot of commodification of the protest from last summer.
Yeah, no, you're right. You're right. I mean, but can you imagine Malcolm X doing that?
I really hope not. But time times and assure you that it wouldn't happen.
The words Malcolm, you know, where's the new Malcolm?
Probably locked up. Oh, dear. I mean, you should see the students. I have my teach to Rutgers. I mean, I've said it many times and people think I'm just being nice to black people, but it's totally true. My students could bury the kids I've taught at Princeton. There's no comparison. The whole level of discussion begins at a place the kids in Princeton are not even cognizant of because they don't even know how to ask the questions.
Because these people understand America, they understand the judicial system. They understand white supremacy. They know institutional racism. I know why the police are militarized and it has nothing to do, of course, with justice. It's because these places have been stripped of all meaningful employment and prisons. And police are the two primary forms of social control. They're locked up. I mean, they're locked up, especially if they're of color. And the other point you make is very important about what happened on the 6th, because what was the response of the corporate state after the sixth?
It was to criminalize speech and not for the right wing. Two hundred and five laws are being considered in forty five states to curtail the right to peacefully assemble and protest. And they are doing that by expanding the definition of rioting, heightening the penalties for existing offenses, creating new crimes associated with any form of public assembly, and that's Arizona. That's Arkansas, that's Minnesota. That's Oregon, Oklahoma, Mississippi. There are laws in in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Florida that would give drivers the green light to, quote unquote, accidentally run over protesters who are preventing them from fleeing a riot.
That's what's coming there. There. I mean, it's I mean, these I've taught both in the men's and women's prison in New Jersey. They're they're they're not fooled by the Democratic Party, not for a minute. But they've been so effectively shackled, I mean, quite literally. So, I mean, August Wilson said it. I mean, the greatest black warriors in America are in prison because they tried to get for their family what their family needed when there was no other option.
That is right. So I think we have to stand with those people, even if it's if it appears to be utterly ineffective, because that's the only route. And you're right, we will be attacked. I mean, that's a good reason not to be on social media because. Why? I'm not on social media.
I don't I'm not on Twitter. I don't have a Facebook page. There's a Twitter account, but somebody else runs it. I can't I can't read Twitter. We just have to stop caring. I mean, a fifteen dollar minimum wage. Imagine what that would have meant for the white working for everyone, but for the white working class. That would have been to just turn on the Democratic Party when they betrayed that promise, you know, would have been a statement.
In fact, the left, by being so spineless, is essentially removing itself from the political configurations and only ensuring the rise of another demagogue, but this time probably a competent demagogue who won't when they carry out a coup d'etat mess up.
Well, that's what's so maddening about this whole thing, right? Because one is that they like to pretend they don't have any power when they do. I mean, the progressive I understand the broader point about the limitations of their power. But in this instance, you had an ability for seven progressives in Congress, six progressives in Congress say I'm not going to vote for the relief bill unless it includes a fifty dollar minimum wage.
Now, there is a an interesting moral question about whether or not one should take a stand like that that holds up so much desperately needed aid for so many people in America. But obviously, the leverage comes from the fact that there are so many people in need and that there are political costs to being perceived as not allowing that to go through for the people who are blocking the minimum wage as as well as the people who are blocking the bill because it doesn't include the minimum wage.
Right. It goes both ways. And there's no confidence from my perspective. There's no confidence in the public and that the public will side with the people who want the minimum wage in the bill over the people who want the minimum wage out of the bill. And in the Democratic Party, as we've discussed in this program, did a lot of work to try to obscure the causality of why the wage was in the bill, really emphasizing the parliamentarian, emphasizing the role of business that in the end, Joe Manchin pretending like palms aren't greased and deals aren't done and senators aren't persuaded, ever pretending like it's normal to have that kind of defection within parties as opposed to convenient for Democrats to always have a foil to gum up the works that would prevent any structural change from actually happening at all.
All of this is going on, but at the same time, we do have a larger than ever number of genuinely unbought, you know, grassroots funded Democrats, progressives in Congress who did have the power in this moment to clarify the power dynamics which are so often obscured in Congress, they don't do it. And now the left is in a position where it has to ask itself whether it's willing to make enemies of those people. I mean, I don't want they make enemies.
That's like that's how they would characterize it. And it's absurd. But to, frankly, put pressure on those people, I think what you're saying is if they don't do it, we've got to do it.
I don't look at me as an enemy. She's been bought. I mean, she's. What do you mean by that?
What do you mean when you say that?
Well, I think her heart is probably in the right place. I don't know. I never met her, but I don't look at her as an enemy. The way I look at Tom Cotton or somebody or Mitch McConnell is just two of the most venal human beings ever walk the planet, along with Trump and Steven Miller, who looks like something out of a Bela Lugosi film.
So but I think we have to be clear in terms of our understanding of how power works, that these people have been emasculated and they've shown it. They have decided that their political career is more important than confronting the monolith. And so they're not going to confront it.
Do you really think that's what's going on with people like. Yeah, yeah. Pelosi these are for forget the public face. So, I mean, I work for. The New York Times, so I got a good look at what the inside of the machinery looks like, and these people are really vicious, vindictive figures who will destroy you if you cross them and see and everyone's figured that out.
So when someone like as he says, I would rather be a one term congressperson, you know, this is what she's saying when she's running, I would rather be a one term congressperson than to forsake my values.
I understand over time even someone like Biden who wasn't in the grand scheme of Congress, didn't come from an affluent family, political family or anything like that.
Once you're in there for 30, 40 years. Yeah, you're invested. That's how you make your money. And but someone like AFSC, your brand new eye, as much as I'm characterized, is like being antagonistic to her. I'd be willing to give her a lot more benefit of the doubt than most because she hasn't invested as much as a lot of other people in playing this game and staying in Congress. So that's part of why it's so confusing and frustrating when people like her who just a year or two ago were saying, I'd rather be a one term congressperson than forsake my values.
Why are we you know, it's ridiculous. The Democrats haven't ever force a vote on Medicare for all. Like, she's literally just set those things within the past twenty four months is now not choosing to leverage her power. And is it just as simple as I want to stay in Congress, I am enjoying this one hundred seventy eight thousand dollars salary.
Yeah, it's that and also the belief that my being here is better than mine not being here. I mean, they'll rationalize it.
I think that that's more of it. I think that it's very easy to say I am doing some good a good deal of good. And then that's better than me not being here at all or being replaced by someone who's a lot worse.
Yeah, but she's powerless within the structure. She has no power at all. I mean, she has a media presence because Fox News gives it to her. They need a foil. They needed a foil for Trump. She was the foil in the independent.
The fact of a certain kind of independent, democratized media. I would argue the you know, you can say what you want about Twitter, but AFC has more Twitter followers than anybody in Congress.
Well, to quote Noam Chomsky, what can you really communicate over what is the one hundred and seventy seven words or something?
Well, we got to start thinking about going. We go. But the idea is, if you if you're saying, though, Chris, if you're saying that the the problem is nobody's calling for mass protests. And as he has 14 million Twitter followers or whatever it is, and we have seen the demonstrated power of her sitting out a tweet and collecting millions of dollars overnight and directing millions of dollars of aid and getting people getting boots place that she can do that.
So I don't think it's fair to say that just because these people don't have power internally, I agree with you, they don't have power internally. But that's why they should be using the power of the people.
But they won't because they'll be destroyed. They will end up. Bernie is not wrong. The machine will destroy them. What does that I mean, look what the look what they did to Cynthia McKinney. Yeah. I mean, there's a long list. You are sure that was largely over Palestine, right? They are very unforgiving. I mean, you can just see example after example going all the way back to George McGovern to in seventy two, he gets the nomination, the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership unite to destroy him.
And then they take down a Senate seat and he's out. He's finished. So she's figured the game out. And if she were to start calling for mass protests, they'd crush her and she knows it. So she won't.
I just I guess I want to talk about that in more concrete terms, because I understand if someone has your kid in a locked safe somewhere with a gun in there, I mean, like, obviously the level of coercion that I would expect everyone to cave in.
But if we're talking about you don't get to be in Congress anymore, you get Ralph Nader, you're a pariah. People are mean to you. I remember he came to speak in college my freshman year and I was excited to go see him. And he was getting, you know, this was twenty three, twenty four.
So he got booed and it was a whole kerfuffle. But I get that. I get that. I don't understand given the stakes, I guess why people care. I don't get why someone like Bernie Sanders is at the end of his political career anyway.
I never, I never go. I don't know.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your upbringing?
Because I've heard you speak really compellingly about kind of where your ethics and your drive to keep pursuing these objectives, despite what happens to you professionally or what have you, where that comes from in terms of your upbringing and your and your father. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, it comes from I mean, I was raised in a religious household, but a very progressive religious household. My father was involved in the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement in the nineteen seventies. His brother was gay, my uncle. That was at a time when the church was very unforgiving for people talking about the right of the GEVALT community to be ordained and married and have full rights, which the Catholic Church will look back on this.
And I watched him. I mean, he lost his job finally over that last issue. But I remember as a boy, people walk. Out of his sermons, I lived in an all white farm town in upstate New York where Martin Luther King was one of the most hated man in America. And I don't think you can teach morality. I think you have to show it. And I watched it and it was painful. It was very close to my dad.
I was just determined that I was not going to betray my father and everything that he stood for, no matter what. And that meant just standing unequivocally with people who are being oppressed, whoever they were, wherever they were. And I spent well, when I was in seminary, I lived in Roxbury and ran a small church across from the mission main mission extension housing project and commuted every day into Cambridge to Harvard Divinity School. Well, that was a wake up call as to what liberals were people sitting around talking about empowering people they never met.
And that's just I spent 20 years in Latin America and Africa and the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia and came back and went right into the prison program. And so I think the problem is that we do have to have that kind of moral commitment to people who are being demonized and crushed by the ruling powers around them and be willing to go down with them. And that's just a whole different way of looking at the world. It's not practical. I mean, there's nothing practical about it.
I've done a pretty good job of throughout my career making myself more and more marginal. But I can live with myself. And you know what? I can lock in that prison and live with myself. I can go back to to Gaza. And I failed, but I never I was very outspoken against the call to invade Iraq. I lost my job at The New York Times for it. I never voted or supported anyone who embraced those wars. And I think as a white male, you know, the best that can be said is that I've maybe earned the right to ask for their forgiveness.
And that's just a different way of looking at the world.
Under Trump resistance, liberals would repeat the mantra, this is not normal, that we all had an obligation to remind ourselves of this so we don't become the frog in a pot of boiling water as the country becomes more fascist. But as long as my adult life, I've seen domestic surveillance and less wars and the periphery military vehicles patrolling the streets and recently refugee kids in cages covid that's the capital being turned into a green zone. Now, these formerly abhorrent, unthinkable things have melted into the background of daily life.
What is this process of normalization, in your view, and how do we put an end to it?
Well, that is exactly the point. And it gets to the earlier Lenin quote of being as radical as reality itself. And you're right, it has been completely normalized and accepted. All of these forms of barbarity and barbarity is the right word. I just can't get over the prison system. We drive by those prisons, many of us, and nobody ever asks what's happening to the inside. Yes, there is a kind of acclimatisation to the horror and that's dangerous.
And I think that that has created the kind of political devolution that vomited up a figure like Trump. I mean, I watched in the dysfunctional Yugoslavia has these similar buffoonish figures like Radovan Karadzic or Franjo Tuzman or Slobodan Milosevic were all vomited up. That's what happens in dysfunctional societies because these demagogues, they give a voice to the hatred. Much of that anger, of course, is legitimate. They directed and very self-destructive and socially destructive ways about these demagogues are revered because they flout the conventions.
They're outrageous, they're crude. They claim omnipotence. But most importantly, they call for war against the traditional elites that have betrayed the population. All of the social conditions that you mentioned, coupled with the refusal on the part of the Democratic Party to address the social inequities, means that this rage is not only not going to go away, it's going to grow. And my biggest fear, and I really deeply hope I'm wrong, is that the only thing that's happening now is they're fertilizing the ground for a demagogue and an authoritarian system, at which point there is no turning back.
Could you elaborate on that point? Well, what has been the response of the ruling elites? Well, they I was opposed, by the way, to taking Trump off of social media because you're giving power to these amorphous entities, Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, to essentially erase people from the media landscape. Now, these entities are totally opaque. They know everything about us. We know nothing about them. We watched how they did things like. The New York Post out of its own Twitter account when The New York Post published the information on the abandoned laptop by Hunter Biden, even The New York Times is guilty of this.
I mean, they used to refer in the lead up to the election. They would refer to the Podesta emails as disinformation. That's not disinformation. They're real. Nobody's ever challenged the veracity of the Podesta emails. I'm also a strong supporter of Assange and WikiLeaks. I mean, there's just another one I know Julian that visited him in the embassy. I'm not going to ever vote for a Biden, given the fact that the Democratic Party persecutes my friend Julian as aggressively as the Republican Party.
So I think that we are seeing essentially an attempt I just mentioned the kind of raft of laws that are being pushed through by the states to shut down peaceful protest, left or right, no matter where it comes from. We're seeing a very heavy censorship. We already have algorithms imposed. I'm hit with those algorithms to marginalize content on the Internet. And so the ruling elites have made it clear that there won't be substantial reforms. What there will be is harsher forms of draconian controls.
Biden has called for a new domestic terrorism law and censorship, and that is essentially laying the groundwork for a more formal and naked form of authoritarianism, probably centered around a demagogue.
Most people, I think, recognize the signs of civilizational decline that you've been writing about for the past few decades.
And as we talk about on this show as well. Polling data confirms that people, by and large, do what left wing solutions they do want to get profit out of. If they want commodification, even if they're not going to call it that, they want to profit out of things like health care, education, basic human needs. Something that you wrote.
I think you maybe you wrote this, you gave a speech about it. Is that yet? People are afraid. People are correctly afraid of ruling elites. How do people get out of that fear when they know that this is wrong? They know we're on the wrong track. They're being fed spectacle from mainstream media. They're being sold new identities to replace an idea of politics. How do we short-circuit that system?
I think we short-circuit the system by understanding how the system works. But the system is never going to tell you how it works. So you're not going to get it from social media. You're not going to get it from images, most of which are corporate driven. You're really going to have to go back to print. You're going to have to read the great writers on totalitarianism are great. We lost a couple of years ago. Political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in Democracy, Inc.
. The writers, Hannah Arendt. I think you have to read Marx. I'm not a Marxist, but Marxist analysis along with Engels. Great. Eighteen forty five work conditions of the English working class. I mean, you have to understand how capital works. You have to understand how systems of power work. I do think that that severance from a print based society has hurt us. I wrote a book called Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Totalitarian Systems. Just Spectacle very, very well. If you go back and look at the old radicals in a Lower East Side and stop for look at the Black Power movement of the 1960s, including the Panthers, there was such a heavy degree of study. I mean, they read they reds friends, vanel the wretched of the Earth and losing that ability to put our situation in context, to understand where we came from. And remember that the corporate state has a vested interest in historical amnesia, in keeping us rootless and not understanding.
If we don't understand how we got here, we understand where we are. We don't understand why we are here. So, I mean, that's the old guy in me. I really think that we have to go back to these seminal texts. I mean, there isn't that kind of censorship because no one reads you can still get all these books if they're there, you can't get.
And I think social media does facilitate this podcast, the proliferation of these kind of conversations and YouTube. And I'm not trying to trying to be glib or self promotional, but a lot of people know you and are able to hear you and other people that Ralph Nader and Richard Wolffe of the world because you participate in forums like this. So for one, that's why I appreciate you coming here and talking to us. But also, I wouldn't undersell the value of walking through some of that history.
I mean, I've heard you talk in other contexts about, for example, the Powell memo and the purposefulness and the planning that went into creating the right wing world we live in now, 40, 50, whatever, years later. And I remember and law school, what I learned about that, that was a real radicalizing experience for me, because it's one thing. To say there's evil Republicans out in the world, it's another thing to say that this is a multi decade plan that has come to fruition and these are the kinds of things are going to have to undo to get back to a more just world.
Would you mind explaining briefly, if you can, when I think that I think the podcasts and all of that, I mean, obviously I do them and I think in that sense the media. But it has to function more as a guide. I mean, you have to go read. You have to go read the Powell memo. You have to read. And so Richard Wolffe and Cornel West and I a few years ago were in some despair and decided we would do a lecture every year based on a radical thinker, WBB Dubois, a Grammy, a Rosa Luxemburg, in the hopes that it would give people a taste of these authors and send them back to their books.
So I think that making people I mean, that's why you teach in a classroom. You make your students aware of these thinkers and and give them a sense of who they are and what it is they have to say. But there's no substitute for going back and reading them. But of course, the media platforms have constricted to such an extent. I mean, I have a show on Air America for which I'm roundly criticized. And my response is, if you don't like it, don't watch it.
But it's a it's a really wonky show interview. I don't know who would watch it. It's interviews with authors because I know as an author there's nowhere to go. And I always read the books and that show should be on public TV or NPR or something at 1:00 in the morning with some old writer interviewing other writers.
But it isn't it doesn't exist. It doesn't exist. And so I think you're right. But I don't think that that can be a substitute for not being grounded in the print based culture.
I think that's fair. I also think that there's people like No-Name, who's a hip hop artist, who has a radical book club that has gotten a lot of people into reading radical left material that might not have, if not for her social media presence and obviously are having a platform.
No, you're right. You're exactly right. And that is why it's worth doing. Yeah, but you want them to go read George Jackson?
You know I do. So go ahead and do it. Right.
Well, I was going to switch gears, but if you follow me, if you go I was just going to pick up on something you said a little while ago, which was that you read Marx, but you're not a Marxist.
And I've heard you said that in other interviews with no dog in that fight. I'm just curious why you don't identify as a Marxist.
Because I don't believe in the solution. I mean, Marx is just a form of Gaylene ism. It's he's replacing Hegel's idea of history as the route towards inevitable human progress with the proletariat. I don't think I don't you know, I take a much darker view of human nature. I don't think human progress is in any way inevitable, nor do I think it's necessarily going to come from the proletariat, nor do I think the state is ever going to wither away.
Nor do I think that industrialized societies, I mean, Marx, even the Bolsheviks all thought everything was going to come from industrialized Germany. I didn't I didn't buy any of that. However, Marx's analysis of capitalism is, I think, unrivaled. And so the first volume of capital is, I think, a central reading and an 18th broodmare. I mean, there's a lot of other Marx writings that are important, but Marx ism is about a particular power system or a way to achieve power that I don't buy.
This is a point that makes you one of the more heterodox thinkers on the left is are you do you believe in an essential human condition?
Yes. Do I believe I don't think human nature changes. I think the tools change. But I think that's why you go back and read The Ancient Greeks. I studied classics and you're talking about over two thousand years ago. And they speak to you because there's an understanding both within Greek drama and the Greek myths, as Freud understood, about the reality of human nature. And that's why the wisdom of the past is so important, because these great writers, these great artists, these great thinkers are grappling with the same kinds of issues.
I mean, what makes the Greeks so interesting is they believe that moral dilemmas had to be played out in extreme circumstances. You murder your father and marry your mother, you know, kind of stuff. And I think that's right. So I have I have a I don't believe that, unlike Steven Pinker and others, that we're perfecting ourselves or moving anywhere. I think that part of what's most important is, as Primo Levi and other writers have understood, is grappling with the evil within us.
And I know coming from war that the line between the victim and the victimizer is razor thin. Under the right circumstances, we can all become victimizers. And it's knowing that that gives you a kind of protection. One of the things that's so frightening about the Christian right is that they externalize evil. Evil is embodied in the other, in the Muslim, in the nonbeliever who has to be eradicated. That's a very dangerous concept. So, yeah, I'm with Konrad.
I think that we have to guard against the evil within us, and it's all of us have it, and human nature is something that is a constant.
You've been a critic of the values of oligarchs who will gladly throw their principles overboard, multiculturalism, due process of the old enlightenment, liberal values, if necessary, to maintain their power. Does that presume then that there is another set of morals that should supplant what we could call liberal or neo liberal morality?
Well, we have to be clear about what liberalism is. Neo liberalism and liberalism are antithetical. Of course, neo liberalism is just unregulated laissez faire capitalism. Ralph, keep saying don't use the word neo liberalism. It's too confusing. But liberalism Chomsky has written the best about this. Liberalism is a functional part of a capitalist democracy because it ameliorates the system. It acts as a kind of safety valve in moments of extremity to keep the capitalist system in place.
And the classic example of that is Roosevelt. So Roosevelt understood that with the breakdown of capitalism, there was no jobs then the government had to employ 12 million people, had to impose Social Security, had to lift the bans on labor unions. And as Roosevelt said, his greatest achievement was that he saved capitalism. So the myopia of the ruling elites is that they didn't destroy, just destroy the radical movements, particularly starting in the early 1970s after the uprisings in the 60s.
But they destroyed the liberal institutions themselves, which are actually a fundamental part of keeping the balance of a capitalist democracy in place. And so, for instance, let's go to the minimum wage. If you go back to I think it's since 1970 or something right around there, production has risen by seventy seven percent. And as The New York Times correctly pointed out, if the minimum wage had kept pace with production, the minimum wage today would be twenty dollars an hour.
But it was purposely suppressed and is still being purposely suppressed because debt peonage is such an important component of the profits gleaned by the predatory Wall Street speculators. And then they want that broken surplus labor. That's another reason why they've made war on labor unions, because they're malleable, they can control them. So the destruction of liberalism and I wrote a book on this called Death of the Liberal Class has and Clinton was really at the epicenter of this in the same way that Tony Blair was with New Labour in Britain has been, I think, the root cause of our political and economic dysfunction.
And there's a direct line from that assault to Trump.
So if you don't think that there is this kind of linear, inexorable decline of capital that's coming, how do you think we get out of it?
What is the solution, the non Marxist solution that you anticipate?
Well, Marx was right about the late stage of capitalism, which is what we're in now, the late stage of capitalism. They hate markets. They build giant monopolies, Google, Facebook, Citibank, Bank of America, etc. and then they destroy as Amazon. I mean, Amazon is destroyed more small businesses than probably any other entity in the United States. They hate the free market. So they build monopolistic markets. They impoverish citizenry's until they function as little better than serfs.
And then in order to continue their profit margins, they begin to cannibalize the state itself. That's Marx. And he's right. So that's where you get the privatization of health care, the privatization of education. 70 percent of our intelligence operations are outsourced to private companies like Booz Allen Hamilton. That's where you get whole mercenaries, Halliburton, Raytheon, Blackwater and all what it's called now, Z or something. You know, that's that is the late stage of capitalism.
But by cannibalizing the host itself, you weaken the system tremendously. So there's a self-destructive quality. Carl Polyana in his book The Great Transformation nails it. It's a look at what happens when you have deregulated capitalism. And he said, what happens is you first create a mafia economy and then you create a mafia state. And that's right, because you allow these entities to commodify everything. The human beings are commodities. The natural world is a commodity that you then exploit until exhaustion or collapse.
And that's why the environmental crisis is twinned with the social crisis that we face.
I got it. I got to be a stickler for the the solution that that's what we're all waiting for with bated breath. No, no.
Three very oriented. I'm sorry. I was trying to get out of that.
I think the solution is to stop asking what the solution is and to start asking what the moral imperative is. For instance, to say, well, if you won't pass the minimum wage, then you have become my enemy, if you will. Release two thirds of the people locked up in our prison system, which is twenty five percent of the world's prison population, 40 to 40 percent of the people in our prison system have never been charged with physically harming another person.
I think we have to draw a line based not on the practical, because it won't certainly at the inception be practical. It may never be practical, but that's our only hope. And it comes for standing up for our values, standing up for what we believe in. And I watched, for instance, throughout the world, in Eastern Europe and everywhere else, how these principled figures stood up in Palestine, in Central America. I covered the war in El Salvador, in Eastern Europe with Vaclav Havel.
You know, Fosterville was a non-person from nineteen seventy seven when he founded Charter seventy seven until nineteen eighty nine. I was in the Magic Lantern Theater with Hovell every night during the Velvet Revolution. He was not a good speaker. He wasn't particularly charismatic, but everybody knew he wouldn't sell them out. Now, when you don't sell people out like Fred Hampton assassinated by the FBI in Chicago, then they are frightened of you. Has they were frightened of Hampton?
Twenty one years old. They're out there. They're there. But those people who can't be bought, those people who actually hold fast to a moral imperative, they frighten the state following up on that.
And I think this could possibly serve as our last question. Something you've written about is Atami nihilism, the consequences of our imperial decline.
And as to what you just said about being guided by our moral principles, America is full of false prophets and false creeds. You wrote a book about one and every single person in the Christian right thinks they're acting authentically with their moral principles. So just to reiterate the question, what moral principles should guide us?
Right. Well, that's a good question, because that's the difference between moral absolutism and morality as self reflection. I mean, it's one of the reasons why I worship James Baldwin. I don't think you can understand America if you don't read Baldwin fundamentally. Not only although Baldwin grew up in the church, too, his father was a minister, he said used, and he was a child preacher himself. He said he left the he left the pulpit to preach the gospel.
That's a Baldwin quote. But Baldwin the power of Baldwin like George Orwell or is that he had that moral core, but he was so hard on himself. And it was even hard on the black community, he was just fierce, he was such a fierce truthteller and of course, I would argue so incredibly prophetic. And so it's a matter of how you see yourself. And if you're a moral absolutist, then you see yourself as the embodiment of good.
And that is very dangerous. But if you grasp a moral imperative, you're constantly struggling with your own capacity for evil and you know it's there. I mean, Baldwin writes this devastating essay. He after Martin Luther King dies, he has a suit and he it's a new suit and he announces he won't wear it anymore. And he goes and a friend of his who was still poor in Harlem, grew up in Harlem, writes and said, well, give me the suit.
And Baldwin just castigates himself for having lost touch with his own community. I mean, it's a really brilliant essay. You need that kind of constant self-criticism and self reflection. That's the moral quality that I'm talking about, not the moral absolutism of the Christian right, which is a form of totalitarianism.
Chris Hedges, thank you so much for joining us. It's been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for doing it. Where can people find you?
There is a Twitter account, Chris Lynn Hedges, but it's not. Well, but it's run by a really great guy.
And he doesn't send out any personal messages from me. But it's all the articles and interviews that I do is on it that Chris Hedges and working people on your show.
It's on YouTube for now until PBS picks it up. There you go.
That's right. So, yeah, MSNBC, that's what I'm waiting for. Yeah, it's on YouTube. On contact. Mostly, mostly, probably 70 percent are writers. Well, thank you.
We will definitely include links to those things in the show notes. And we appreciate where we're going to encourage everybody to read. OK, we're going to keep beating ourselves, but we appreciate you bringing us the sparks spark that I know that's important to. That's important.
Well, thank you, Chris. And please do take care. OK. Well, hey, now, I got a lot of crap to doing on watching the star tracks.
Got to got to read all the damn books I got to watch what did I have to watch that it's like love and basketball.
There's a lot there, Virgil. But you could you could start with a little maybe like a Love Jones best man combo, I think. A little high low. A little light, a light, a little bit more serious.
But we're moving on to Hannah Arendt.
Yes. Look, I struggle with this because obviously I don't want to be anti intellectual. And I obviously understand that it's important to read the original sources and not just be going off of the podcast, on the article, on the book.
But I don't just go about it. Just go by what the pod say, Jon Karl, because, I mean, look, there is there's solid resource.
But the thing is, you know, people are inundated with stuff all day, every day. And there's just people are busy, people have jobs. And I'm also I'm sensitive to that. I'm sensitive to the fact that I think that why a lot of folks like myself love podcasts, because you can multitask. Reading requires you sit down and only do that one thing and other forms of media are a little bit more flexible. So it's not that I disagree, but understanding that 99 out of 100 people you tell read a book aren't going to do it.
I like to think that we could get them a little bit of the good stuff. It's true.
And which is not to be skeptical of people's intellectual capacities, but I mean, I think to some degree you have to meet people where they are and just saying, hey, you have to read this book and at least 15 bucks is not going to be an efficient way to radicalize someone.
Yeah, I mean, I've been reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which is like an 80 page book like I mean, I picked it up.
I like read the book. I put it if I have a more flexible schedule than most, who is just a podcast or who literally is in our apartment 24/7, who has no children or other responsibility, I'm struggling to get through what is basically a pamphlet. You know, I just want to be sensitive to the fact that there are people might be struggling with something similar.
That I have a question of is, is it necessarily true that other forms of media contain less information or can are less capable of conveying information than the written word?
Yeah, I'm I'm I'm a skeptic. I'm receptive to the idea that certain forms of non written communication might be more susceptible to misrepresentation. You know, there's a telephone game that can happen where people are translating ideas through all of these forms and they might undermine what's actually the original point was or it's easy to misrepresent what someone's talking about when you're paraphrasing them, but it's not as though misinformation was invented with the cable news cycle or television or podcasts.
And the fact of the matter is that so many people are getting their information that way anyway. And I don't think this is what Chris is saying, but I don't think it would be wise to wage the battle against Alex Jones with a bunch of books you were going to lose, lose that battle.
No, you need another screaming guy. You see another Alex Jones. That's how you win. I'm also I mean, I'm also a firm believer. It's not and I'm not necessarily saying that Chris was arguing against this war. I'm a firm believer in the idea that art can express certain things conceptually, that a literal treaties cannot.
The Nazis were not just banning Sociales literature. They were banning art.
Same with all of the Chinese Cultural Revolution stuff. Sorry to the class. Once in college, it was my foreign cultures requirement. Anyway, I really enjoyed the interview. It's difficult sometimes. I think when you're interviewing someone that you agree so much with, you know, to find tension points.
But, you know, my ongoing tension point with a lot of folks is that I really I do get frustrated at the defining the problem stage because I think that we, you know, 53 episodes and or whatever we are, I think we're all kind of on the same page about what the problems are in broad strokes.
Sure. And I forget who we ask this, but we have someone else like who is the next.
Recently we ask them who's the next revolutionary figure, John Nicholson. Oh, yeah.
OK, John, we keep coming back to this. You know, Chris Hedges, you know, his answer is that they're incarcerated. Well, maybe one day they'll get out. But the point is, should we be going through halfway houses looking for the next Malcolm X? I think part of what I'm asking really, Virgil, because this is this is something this is a pressure that I feel. Let me just be honest. What I feel like is that the people who are in a position to do it are not the people who have necessarily earned it through the lived experiences and how people reject that framing.
But through the experiences that I just describes, having been, you know, directly affected by our criminal justice system, to have seen all of the dysfunction of our society really proximately. But to Chris's point, obviously, a lot of people in that situation don't have the platform, don't have the trappings of credibility that unfortunately, oftentimes you need to be taken seriously. Don't speak in a way that is perceived as credible, rightly or wrongly, wrongly, by the mainstream and all of those things.
So what you end up with is people getting really excited about an AOC because she is poised and charismatic and beautiful and says the right things. Ninety nine percent of the time. But then you get frustrated with that figure because they are part of a system that no longer allows them to use their powers for good.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's a handful of people today who come from that background and have been welcomed into the academy, but it's not to the degree that it once was.
So here we are. And I feel like when I look at the blowback that even we got over for us to vote for daring to like start a black channel or attending attending a protest and all of the comments that were like, you're not a leader, how dare you, like, organize, but like not you. You don't do it. You're not allowed what? You're not the certified organizer. It seems to be this push, push and pull where it feels like, whether it's purposeful or not, a circular firing squad where nobody is allowed to stand up.
I do I will acknowledge feeling a certain amount of pressure sometimes to like occupy that space while feeling wholly I'll be the first one to say I'm wholly unqualified to be there.
But I also recognize there's so few people who are independent, don't work for some organisation, have the politics that you want at the same time as having some of these trimmings of institutional authority that comes from having gone to the right schools and stuff, you know, has an identity that is accepted by liberals. Right, that's part of the AOC charm that she's a Latina woman and all of this stuff and it's like a part of me feels like a responsibility to like, go ahead and do the thing that obviously needs to be done.
And a part of me feels like, well, what is my obligation to get to go through go through halfway houses?
And so we find the next Malcolm X or looking for the next Dalai Lama.
Or find the next Corie Bush, who was one of these people who managed to kind of go from living in her car to being a congresswoman, but who now is maybe maybe not acting in the way that we'd like someone who has that up close view of how the system works to act in a moment of exigency, like the fight over the fifty dollar minimum wage.
I mean, it's worth noting, at one point Krysten Sinema was almost Glencross, it is worth noting.
So, I mean, I do think that there's something we just talked about with with Chris Hedges that once you get welcomed into the system, it changes you, changes your view of power dynamics.
And it wasn't like Martin Luther King came from some down and out family. He was from a middle class family. He was college educated, very famously, went to college at age 15 or something, all prodigy style, a Morehouse man.
Well, if you I mean, if the point of the segment was to answer the question that we're not going to do, we I'm just going to go right now taking our patients for the next Malcolm X.
I do like I do like this idea that you said like at the top of this, that, you know, we're like one fifty five episodes in. We still haven't solved all the problems yet.
No, no, no. I think that we all have a pretty good idea of what the what, what the problems are, what the obstacles are.
And almost feels to me like a little bit of I don't want to say like it is, but there's an obvious hesitance. No one wants to be the one to say that they're going to try. It's what we talked about with John Nichols. You expose yourself, there's a vulnerability and saying, I'm actually going to take this on. I'm going to try I'm going to plan the protest and maybe 12 people are going to show up. I'm going to stick my neck out there and say, you guys actually, I don't think you should vote for Joe Biden, which is something I even stopped short of saying explicitly.
As much as I was critical of the four of us, no matter who and what it feels like, as we're all just like collectively like edging this idea up and knowing the difference between all of us in the commentary it and the Malcolm X is that none of us are committing to doing the thing. And it could be any of us. It should be many of us. Should it be one person?
Obviously, it shouldn't just be a solitary figure, if only because that solitary figure can and historically has been killed by the state.
I mean, I'm happy I'm happy to leave it up there. Yeah. I'd like to hear from you guys. Let us know what you what you think and how you're feeling and when you plan to run for office, start a revolutionary organization.
We're taking applications for revolutionary organization right now, maybe something modeled after the old communists. There's a radical labor movement.
There's a five dollar application fee. You can send it to Patriot dotcoms. You have to submit your manifesto.
Will that and make sure that you would hear to certain ideological principles. But other than that, I think we're out of here, right?
Yeah. I mean, that's. Thanks for listening. And as always, keep the faith. Keep going with me. To win me another day at the peak of. Doing well on the ground with be. Fell in love with me another day at the above me, all right. And where we need to make up his cooping. Never to the to what you were thinking, fuck, you thought it was Utah that couldn't meet the needs of.