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LUMPENPROLETARIAT   Award-winning journalist and human rights activist Chris Hedges delivered a speech on the current state of the nation at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California yesterday.  [See transcripts below.]  It is a scathing indictment of US imperialism and capitalism, itself.  This is, perhaps, the most courageous, honest, and enlightened public presentation to date by Chris Hedges about the state of the nation and capitalist society.  Mr. Hedges has come a long way from the disappointing rhetoric he espoused circa 2008 when he stood squarely in support of the Obama Presidential Campaign (and against the politically progressive Ralph Nader Presidential Campaign).  It was obvious in 2008 to keener political observers that an Obama Presidency would surely disappoint, in terms of advancing progressive political principles, socioeconomic justice, and reining in America’s imperialist tendencies.

Chris Hedges’ logical break from the Democratic Party after witnessing eight years of failures and betrayals by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party comes a bit late.  But it is better late than never.  And abandoning the corporate-controlled Democratic Party is something all people of conscience, liberals, and the left, generally, must do, if they want to get behind a real people’s party.  Liberals must recognise and finally admit the inability of the Democratic Party to function as a sincere opposition party on behalf of the working classes.  Only, then, can liberals and the left galvanise their political will into a real people’s party, which can oppose the corporate two-party system.  For his part, Chris Hedges would even go so far as to sue Obama.  He was joined in his lawsuit by other activists and concerned citizens, such as Alexa O’Brien of US Day of Rage, one of the original organisers of Occupy Wall Street.

In last night’s speech, portions of which were previously published in printed form (see “Reign of Idiots“, Truthdig, 20 APR 2017), Chris Hedges provided a sincere left critique of our society.  And he disabused many liberals of their fixation on President Trump as the bad guy, which conveniently and problematically takes the Democratic Party off the hook for its role in perpetuating the socioeconomic ills of neoliberalism, capitalism, and imperialism.  “Trump is the symptom. He is not the disease.”

Too often (especially during Republican presidencies) liberals are quick to fixate on a Republican figurehead, such as President Trump or President Bush.  But, often, this fixation on a lone bogeyman functions as obfuscation of, and apologism for, the anti-working class agenda of the Democratic Party.  The focus is placed on one figure, which, if removed, changes little to nothing about the structure of our political process.  It feels good for liberals to bash Trump or focus their energies on his ouster; but that doesn’t fundamentally transform the sociopolitical conditions, which give rise to a President Trump or a two-party system, which blocks all other alternative political parties from meaningfully participating in the national political discourse.

The American working classes must recognise that supporting the Democratic and Republican parties, who are driven by a pro-corporate agenda, is politically against their own economic interests.  We need only check the historical record, which is something Chris Hedges helps the public do.  Free speech radio KPFA (Berkeley, CA, 94.1 FM) has broadcast excerpts of this new speech and is offering copies of the speech in CD or DVD format, among other thank-you gifts, for donating to keep free speech radio alive and well. [1]  Listen (and/or download) here or here. [2] [3] [4]

Messina

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[Transcript by Messina for Lumpenproletariat, UpFront, and Flashpoints.]

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and human rights activist Chris Hedges

UPFRONT—[26 MAY 2017]  [station identification]

“Good morning.  It is Friday, May 26th.  This is UpFront.  I’m Salima Hamirani.

“On today’s show:  Last night Chris Hedges spoke at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.  We bring you that speech today.  He talks about the dying empire; Trump; the cronies that rise from the ashes to take power; and how to take back.  Getting rid of Trump isn’t the answer, he says.  Instead, we have to come to terms with the counterrevolution, that began at the end of the ’60s.  All this, after the [KPFA] News [Headlines].  (c. 00:38)

[News Headlines (read by Max Pringle) omitted by scribe]  (c. 8:14)

SALIMA HAMIRANI:  “Good morning.  It is 7:08 [am].  You are listening to UpFront.  I’m Salima Hamirani.  Thank you for joining us this morning.

“So, last night Chris Hedges spoke at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley to address a totally packed church.  Um, so this is hot off the presses.  We edited this last night to get it to you this morning.  I’m particularly tired this morning.

“Uh, Chris Hedges is a KPFA luminary.  He’s a writer, a journalist, a minister. He’s a social justice thinker and activist.  And he often talks about war, which he covered, and the government—big government, or what he calls the deep state, sometimes.

“But, this time, his talk was a little bit different.  I think, coming on the heels of [the] Trump [Presidency], he felt more powered up and a little bit more angry.  And, so, he talks a lot about something called the dying empire.  And he compares what’s happening with [President] Trump and the rise of the fascists in the U.S. to what comes out of the ashes of the empire as it collapses.  But he also some news for how to take the country back and how to fight back.

“And he thinks that the—well, I don’t wanna give too much away.  But he thinks that getting rid of [President] Trump isn’t the right answer.  Let’s go right to Chris Hedges, from last night.”  (c. 9:27)

[First audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, CA on 25 MAY 2017]

AUDIENCE[applause, cheers]

CHRIS HEDGES:  “Thank you.  [applause continues, then subsides]

“I was at a talk a few weeks ago, given by the great Noam Chomsky.  He came in with a sheet of papers about this thick and said: A lot of people say I’m boring. And I’m proud to be boring.

AUDIENCE[laughter]

CHRIS HEDGES:  “[chuckles]  So, this is thick.  But we live in a dangerous moment.  [pregnant pause]

“The decision by the deep state in ancient Rome, like the United States in 2017, dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, to strangle the emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.  Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like [President] Donald Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity.  He had commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance.  He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show.  He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts.

“Power for Commodus, like [President] Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism, and lust for wealth.  He sold public offices, so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate [applause] a vast kleptocracy.  (c. 11:42)

“Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted to curb the unchecked power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex.  This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after three months in office.  The Guards, then, auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder.

“The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days.  There would be five emperors in 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus.

“[President] Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents.  If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored the Republic in Rome.  [words of agreement; applause]

“The choice will be between inept fascists, like [President] Trump, and competent fascists, like [Vice President] Pence.  [applause]  Our republic is dead.  The idiots, seeing in the decay the chance for personal advancement and profit, take over in the final days of crumbling civilisations.  Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars, that bankrupt the nation. [6] [7]  Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programmes for the poor and project economic growth on the basis of myth. [8]  Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil, and the air, slash jobs, and depress wages.  Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens.  Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy.  Idiot intelligence officers orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves, that give rise to enraged fanatics.  Idiot professors, experts, and specialists busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory, that buttress the politics of the rulers.  And idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore, and fantasy. (c. 14:45)

“There is a familiar check list for extinction.  We are ticking off every item on it.  The idiots know only one word: more.  They are unencumbered by common sense.  They horde wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses.  They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. [sparse laughter, then applause]  They see the state as a projection of their own vanity.  The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmein, Palavi, and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.

“And [President] Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy.  [hesitant applause]  He is what lies [applause] behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality, a sputtering, narcissistic, blood-thirsty megalomaniac.  This face, in the past, was hidden—at least to white Americans [9].  But with the destruction of democratic institutions and the disempowerment of the citizen, the oligarchs and the kleptocrats have become brazen.  They no longer need to hide the pillage.  They can steal and lie in the open.  They can wield armies and fleets against the wretched of the Earth, blithely ignore the looming catastrophe caused by global warming and canibalise the nation on behalf of global oligarchs, while at night, like some monster from the grande gueule, the Idiot-in-Chief, overseeing our self immolation, sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his beautiful Twitter account.  [audience laughter]  (c. 17:02)  [Hedges’ breath trembles]

“Forget the firing of James Comey.  Forget the paralysis in Congress.  Forget the inanity of a press, that covers the tyranny as if it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats, or a reality show starring our maniacal president and the freaks, that surround him.  Forget the noise.  The crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians, that run our dysfunctional state.

“The crisis we face is the result of a four decade-long, slow-motion, corporate coup d’état, that has rendered the citizen impotent [wide audience applause], left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent.

“The crisis has spawned a corrupt electoral system of legalised bribery and elevated public figures, that master the arts of entertainment and artifice.

“[President] Trump is the symptom.  He is not the disease. [cheers; applause]

“Our descent into despotism began with the pardoning of [President] Richard Nixon, all of whose impeachable crimes are now legal, and the extrajudicial assault, including targeted assassinations and imprisonment, carried out on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals.

“It began with the creation of corporate-funded foundations and organisations, that took control of the press, the courts, the universities, scientific research, and the two major political parties.  It began with empowering militarised police to kill unarmed citizens [with impunity] and the spread of our horrendous prison system, mass incarceration, and the death penalty. [applause]  (c. 19:16)

“It began with the stripping away of our most basic constitutional rights: privacy, due process, habeas corpus, fair elections, and dissent.

“It began when big money was employed by political operatives, such as Roger Stone, a close Trump advisor, to create negative political advertisements and spread malicious gossip and false narratives, all eagerly amplified by a media devoted to profits and ratings, not truth, to deceive the public until political debate became burlesque. [10]

“It began in the 1960s and ’70s with a war on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals, which included FBI assassinations of leaders, such as Fred Hampton.”  (c. 20:07)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “Yeah!”

CHRIS HEDGES:  “This war against radicals, President Nixon’s so-called battle for law and order put the police, the FBI, and other organs of internal security beyond the reach of the law.  And this power has steadily expanded.

“We are all under state surveillance.  And we can all become victims, if the state deems us to be a threat.  The ruling elites, terrified by the mobilisation of the left in the 1960s, or by what the political scientist Samuel Huntington called America’s excess of democracy, built counter-institutions to deligitimise and marginalise critics of corporate capitalism and imperialism.  They bought the allegiances of the two main political parties.  They imposed obedience to the neoliberal ideology within academia and the press.  This campaign laid out by Lewis Powell in his 1971 memorandum entitled ‘Attack on American Free Enterprise System‘, was the blueprint for the creeping coup, that 45 years later is complete. [11]  (c. 21:16)

“And our failure to defend the rights of those, who were demonised and persecuted, leaves us all demonised and persecuted.  Our failure to demand justice for everyone leaves us all without justice.  Our failure to halt the crushing of popular movements, that stand unequivocally with the oppressed, leaves us all oppressed.  Our failure to protect our democracy leaves us without a democracy.  The persecution of the radicals of four decades ago is not ancient history.  It is the genesis of the present.  It spawned the corporate coup and the machinery of state terror.  We will pay for our complacency.  We are trapped, like rats in a cage.  (c. 22:05)

“A narcissist, an imbecile, may be turning the electric shocks on and off.  But the problem is the corporate state.  [pounding the podium]  And, unless we dismantle the corporate state, we are doomed.”  [applause]  (c. 22:21)

[End of first audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, California.]

SALIMA HAMIRANI:  “Good morning.  It is 7:22.  You are listening to UpFront.  That was Chris Hedges.  I’m Salima Hamirani.

“And I want to remind you I’m cutting into this amazing talk to remind you that it’s actually the last day of fund drive.  Today is the last day.  And, folks, we’re really behind.

[Salima Hamirani continued appealing for listener support and donations for listener-sponsored free speech radio KPFA on the final day of the 2017 KPFA Spring Fund Drive]  (c. 28:21)

[Second audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, CA on 25 MAY 2017]

CHRIS HEDGES:  “Racist, violent, and despotic forces have always been part of the American landscape and have often been tolerated and empowered by the state to persecute poor people of colour and dissidents.  These forces are denied absolute power as long as a majority of citizens—white citizens—have a say in their own governance.  But, once citizens are locked out of government and denied a voice, power shifts into the hands of the enemies of the open society.

“When democratic institutions cease to function, when the consent of the governed becomes a joke, despots fill the political void.  They give vent to popular anger and frustration.  While arming the state to do to the majority what it has long done to the minority.  This tale is as old as civilisation.  It was played out in ancient Greece and Rome, the Soviet Union, fascist Germany, fascist Italy, and the former Yugoslavia.

“Once a tiny cabal seizes power, monarchist, communist, fascist, or corporate, it creates a mafia economy and a mafia state.

“Trump and his coterie of billionaires, generals, Christian fascists, criminals, racists, and deviants, play the role of the Snopes clan in some of William Faulkner‘s novels.

“The Snopeses filled the power vacuum of the decayed South and ruthlessly seized control from the degenerated former slave-holding aristocratic elites.  Flem Snopes and his extended family are fictional representations of the moral rot unleashed by unfettered capitalism.  The usual reference to amorality, while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive, and by itself does not allow us to place them, as they should be placed, in a historical moment, the critic Irving Howe wrote of the Snopeses.  (c. 30:39)

“Perhaps, the most important thing to be said is that they are what comes afterwards, the creatures that emerge from the devastation with the slime still upon their lips.  Let a world collapse, in the [American] South or Russia, and there appear figures of coarse ambition driving their way up from beneath the social bottom, men to whom moral claims are not so much absurd as incomprehensible, sons of bushwhackers and musics drifting in from nowhere and taking over through the sheer outrageousness of their monolithic force, Howe wrote.  They become presidents of local banks and chairmen of party regional committees and, later, a trifle slicked up, they muscle their way into Congress or the Politburo.  Scavengers without inhibition, they need not believe in the crumbling official code of their society, they need only learn to mimic its sounds.  Societies, that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy.  Demagogues pay deference to the political ideals, rituals, practices, and forms of the old democratic political system, while dismantling it.

“When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the first citizen—neutered the [Roman] Republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic.  Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crashed the autonomous soviets.  Even the Nazis and Stalinists insisted they rule democratic states.

“Despotic government, as Thomas Paine wrote, is a fungus, that grows out of a corrupt civil society.

“This is what happened to older democracies.  It is what happened to us.  (c. 32:48)

“Corporations cannibalising the federal budget are legally empowered to exploit and loot.  It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or Exxon Mobile.  [sparse, hesitant applause]  The pharmaceutical industries are legally empowered to hold sick children hostage, while their parents frantically bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters.  Banks are legally empowered to burden people with student loans, that cannot be forgiven, even by declaring bankruptcy.

“The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, text, financial, judicial, and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels are tracked, recorded, and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

“The state tortures, not only in black sites, such as the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or Guantánamo Bay, but in supermax ADX facilities, such as the one in Florence, Colorado, where prisoners suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement.  When prisoners are released, they have lost their right to vote and receive public assistance.  They are burdened with fines, that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars.  They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests.  They spend the rest of their lives marginalised as members of a vast criminal caste system.  And that is why 76 percent of those released from state penitentiaries return to prison within five years.  (c. 34:43)

“But our system of mass incarceration is not broken.  It works exactly the way it is designed to work.  [audience applause]

[End of second audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, California.]

SALIMA HAMIRANI:  “Good morning.  It is 7:34 [AM].  You’re listening to UpFront.  I’m Salima Hamirani.  I’m actually here with Quincy [McCoy] our [KPFA] station manager.”

QUINCY MCCOY:  “How are you?”

SALIMA HAMIRANI:  “I thought I was gonna be here by myself.  (c. 35:06)  [snip]

[Salima Hamirani and Quincy McCoy continued appealing for listener support and donations for listener-sponsored free speech radio KPFA on the final day of the 2017 KPFA Spring Fund Drive]  (c. 41:36)

[Third audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, CA on 25 MAY 2017]

CHRIS HEDGES:  “We are entering the twilight phase of capitalism, which, as Karl Marx understood, would see capitalists unable to generate past profits by expanding markets; and they would, he predicted, begin to cannibalise the state like ravenous parasites.  Wealth is no longer created by producing or manufacturing.  It is created by manipulating the prices of stocks and commodities and imposing a crippling debt peonage on the public.  (c. 42:14)

“Our casino capitalism has merged with the gambling industry.  And it is designed to prey on the desperate young men and women, burdened by student loans, underpaid workers burdened by credit card debt and mortgages, towns and cities forced to borrow to maintain municipal services.

“This moment in human history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white race [i.e., ethnic grouping].”

FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “Yeah!”

CHRIS HEDGES:  “It is inevitable that, for the final show, we vomited up someone as grotesque as [President Donald] Trump.  [mixed audience reactions; applause]  Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting, and polluting the Earth in the name of human progress.  They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machine on the planet; and they directed it against anyone or anything, especially indigenous cultures, which stood in their way.  They stole and horded the planet’s wealth and resources.  They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end.  And they still believe it.  (c. 43:50)

“They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless, capitalist, and imperialist expansion is ultimately dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited.  But, even as we stand on the cusp of extinction, we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from the myth of human progress.

Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940:

Amid the rise of European fascism and looming World War, a [Paul] Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating.  His eyes are staring.  His mouth is open.  His wings are spread.  This is how one pictures the angel of history.  His face is turned toward the past.  Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.  The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.  But a storm is blowing from Paradise.  It has got caught in its wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them.  The storm irresistably propels him into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.  The storm is what we call progress.

“The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable.  Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished.  The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have turned much of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s, at least for white Americans.  Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species.  Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored.  War and the huge profits that war generates for corporations becomes the principal business of the kleptocratic state.  (c. 47:04)

“Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures.  It defines the ideology of capitalism:  Quotas and projected sales can always be met.  Profits can always be raised.  Growth is inevitable.  The impossible is always possibleHuman societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into a capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive.

“The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy.  We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status, career advancement.  We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states.  It is characterised by the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes.  [scant audience laughter; applause]  And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem.  We must have more faith. We must envision what we want.  We must try harder.  The system is never to blame.  We failed it.  It does not fail us.

“And all of our systems of information, from self-help gurus in Hollywood to political monstrosities, such as [President] Trump, sell us this snake oil.  What, now, does this resistance look like?  It will not come by investing hope in the Democratic Party [slightly delayed cheers and applause], which has steadily lost power, not because of Comey or the Russians, but because it betrayed working men and women on behalf of corporate power [applause], because it used its machinery to deny the one candidate—Bernie Sanders—who could have defeated Trump, from getting the nomination.  [applause]  (c. 49:50)

[End of third audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, California.]

[The following two paragraphs are patched into this transcript from the previously published article by Chris Hedges entitled “Reign of Idiots“, as they followed from the last audio excerpt in the previously published printed form.]

“We blind ourselves to impending collapse.  Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear.  The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism.  It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans, such as “Make America great again.”  Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.

“Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored.  Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world.  He is its natural expression.  He is the king of the idiots.  We are his victims.”

SALIMA HAMIRANI:  “Good morning.  You’re listening to UpFront.  I’m Salima Hamirani.  And we’re just listening to Chris Hedges from last night, a talk he gave at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley [California].

[Salima Hamirani and Quincy McCoy continued appealing for listener support and donations for listener-sponsored free speech radio KPFA on the final day of the 2017 KPFA Spring Fund Drive]  (c. 59:59)

Learn more at UPFRONT.

***

KPFA RADIO—[26 MAY 2017, 10:00 PST]

[Introduction by Philip Maldari]

[snip]  (c. 59:59)

Learn more at KPFA RADIO.

***

KPFA RADIO—[26 MAY 2017, 14:00 PST]

[snip]  (c. 59:59)

Learn more at KPFA RADIO.

***

FLASHPOINTS—[26 MAY 2017]  [KPFA station identification by Mike Biggs]  “Today on Flashpoints, a powerful new speech by radical activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges.  In fact, he was in Berkeley [California] last night and he blew the roof off of the house.  I’m only speaking metaphorically.  This is Dennis Bernstein.  All that straight ahead on Flashpoints.  Stay tuned.

[Flashpoints theme continues]

DENNIS BERNSTEIN:  “And you’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio, this is Dennis Bernstein.  And I’m gonna go home and practice saying my own name.  I’ve only been doing this for 27-and-a-half years.  And the half, the last half year, may have been the hardest.  But it is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with you today.  This is the last day, the last hour or two of the [KPFA] fund drive.  We’re about $60,000 dollars down.  It would take a miracle to raise that money.  But we can raise that money.  And you can start calling now.  We’re gonna give you the [Chris] Hedges [speech as a thank-you gift for your monetary support to free speech radio].  But, right now, we’re gonna give you some sound from Chris Hedges, speaking on fire last night in Berkeley.  Mike, let’s hit ’em hard.”

[First audio excerpt from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, CA on 25 MAY 2017]

CHRIS HEDGES“[applause]  Thank you.  I was at a talk a few weeks ago, given by the great Noam Chomsky.  He came in with a sheet of papers about this thick and said: A lot of people say I’m boring. And I’m proud to be boring.

AUDIENCE[laughter]

CHRIS HEDGES:  “[chuckles]  So, this is thick.  But we live in a dangerous moment.  [pregnant pause]

“The decision by the deep state in ancient Rome, like the United States in 2017, dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, to strangle the emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.  Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like [President] Donald Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity.  He had commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance.  He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show.  He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts.

“Power for Commodus, like [President] Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism, and lust for wealth.  He sold public offices, so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVos and Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate [applause] a vast kleptocracy.

“Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted to curb the unchecked power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex.  This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after three months in office.  The Guards, then, auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder.

“The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days.  There would be five emperors in 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus.

“[President] Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents.  If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored the Republic in Rome.  [words of agreement; applause]

“The choice will be between inept fascists, like [President] Trump, and competent fascists, like [Vice President Mike] Pence.  [applause]  Our republic is dead.  The idiots, seeing in the decay the chance for personal advancement and profit, take over in the final days of crumbling civilisations.  Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars, that bankrupt the nation. [6] [7]  Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programmes for the poor and project economic growth on the basis of myth. [8]  Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil, and the air, slash jobs, and depress wages.  Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens.  Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy.  Idiot intelligence officers orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves, that give rise to enraged fanatics.  Idiot professors, experts, and specialists busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory, that buttress the politics of the rulers.  And idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore, and fantasy.

“There is a familiar check list for extinction.  We are ticking off every item on it.  The idiots know only one word: more.  They are unencumbered by common sense.  They horde wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses.  They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. [sparse laughter, then applause]  They see the state as a projection of their own vanity.  The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmein, Palavi, and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.

“And [President] Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy.  [hesitant applause]  He is what lies [applause] behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality, a sputtering, narcissistic, blood-thirsty megalomaniac.  This face, in the past, was hidden—at least to white Americans [9].  But with the destruction of democratic institutions and the disempowerment of the citizen, the oligarchs and the kleptocrats have become brazen.  They no longer need to hide the pillage.  They can steal and lie in the open.  They can wield armies and fleets against the wretched of the Earth, blithely ignore the looming catastrophe caused by global warming and cannibalise the nation on behalf of global oligarchs, while at night, like some monster from the grande gueule, the Idiot-in-Chief, overseeing our self immolation, sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his beautiful Twitter account.  [audience laughter]  [Hedges’ breath trembles]

“Forget the firing of James Comey.  Forget the paralysis in Congress.  Forget the inanity of a press, that covers the tyranny as if it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats, or a reality show starring our maniacal president and the freaks, that surround him.  Forget the noise.  The crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians, that run our dysfunctional state.

“The crisis we face is the result of a four decade-long, slow-motion, corporate coup d’état, that has rendered the citizen impotent [wide audience applause], left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent.

“The crisis has spawned a corrupt electoral system of legalised bribery and elevated public figures, that master the arts of entertainment and artifice.

“[President] Trump is the symptomHe is not the disease. [cheers; applause]

“Our descent into despotism began with the pardoning of [President] Richard Nixon, all of whose impeachable crimes are now legal, and the extrajudicial assault, including targeted assassinations and imprisonment, carried out on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals.

“It began with the creation of corporate-funded foundations and organisations, that took control of the press, the courts, the universities, scientific research, and the two major [American] political parties.  It began with empowering militarised police to kill unarmed citizens [with impunity] and the spread of our horrendous prison system, mass incarceration, and the death penalty. [applause]

“It began with the stripping away of our most basic constitutional rights: privacy, due process, habeas corpus, fair elections, and dissent.

“It began when big money was employed by political operatives, such as Roger Stone, a close Trump advisor, to create negative political advertisements and spread malicious gossip and false narratives, all eagerly amplified by a media devoted to profits and ratings, not truth, to deceive the public until political debate became burlesque. [10]

“It began in the 1960s and ’70s with a war on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals, which included FBI assassinations of leaders, such as Fred Hampton.”  (c. 20:07)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “Yeah!”

CHRIS HEDGES:  “This war against radicals, President Nixon’s so-called battle for law and order put the police, the FBI, and other organs of internal security beyond the reach of the law.  And this power has steadily expanded.

“We are all under state surveillance.  And we can all become victims, if the state deems us to be a threat.  The ruling elites, terrified by the mobilisation of the left in the 1960s, or by what the political scientist Samuel Huntington called America’s excess of democracy, built counter-institutions to deligitimise and marginalise critics of corporate capitalism and imperialism.  They bought the allegiances of the two main political parties.  They imposed obedience to the neoliberal ideology within academia and the press.  This campaign laid out by Lewis Powell in his 1971 memorandum entitled ‘Attack on American Free Enterprise System‘, was the blueprint for the creeping coup, that 45 years later is complete. [11]

“And our failure to defend the rights of those, who were demonised and persecuted, leaves us all demonised and persecuted.  Our failure to demand justice for everyone leaves us all without justice.  Our failure to halt the crushing of popular movements, that stand unequivocally with the oppressed, leaves us all oppressed.  Our failure to protect our democracy leaves us without a democracy.  The persecution of the radicals of four decades ago is not ancient history.  It is the genesis of the present.  It spawned the corporate coup and the machinery of state terror.  We will pay for our complacency.  We are trapped, like rats in a cage.

“A narcissist, an imbecile, may be turning the electric shocks on and off.  But the problem is the corporate state.  [pounding the podium]  And, unless we dismantle the corporate state, we are doomed.  [applause]

“Racist, violent, and despotic forces have always been part of the American landscape and have often been tolerated and empowered by the state to persecute poor people of colour and dissidents.  These forces are denied absolute power as long as a majority of citizens—white citizens—have a say in their own governance.  But, once citizens are locked out of government and denied a voice, power shifts into the hands of the enemies of the open society.

“When democratic institutions cease to function, when the consent of the governed becomes a joke, despots fill the political void.  They give vent to popular anger and frustration.  While arming the state to do to the majority what it has long done to the minority.  This tale is as old as civilisation.  It was played out in ancient Greece and Rome, the Soviet Union, fascist Germany, fascist Italy, and the former Yugoslavia.

“Once a tiny cabal seizes power, monarchist, communist, fascist, or corporate, it creates a mafia economy and a mafia state.

“Trump and his coterie of billionaires, generals, Christian fascists, criminals, racists, and deviants, play the role of the Snopes clan in some of William Faulkner‘s novels.

“The Snopeses filled the power vacuum of the decayed South and ruthlessly seized control from the degenerated former slave-holding aristocratic elites.  Flem Snopes and his extended family are fictional representations of the moral rot unleashed by unfettered capitalism.  The usual reference to amorality, while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive, and by itself does not allow us to place them, as they should be placed, in a historical moment, the critic Irving Howe wrote of the Snopeses.

“Perhaps, the most important thing to be said is that they are what comes afterwards, the creatures that emerge from the devastation with the slime still upon their lips.  Let a world collapse, in the [American] South or Russia, and there appear figures of coarse ambition driving their way up from beneath the social bottom, men to whom moral claims are not so much absurd as incomprehensible, sons of bushwhackers and musics drifting in from nowhere and taking over through the sheer outrageousness of their monolithic force, Howe wrote.  They become presidents of local banks and chairmen of party regional committees and, later, a trifle slicked up, they muscle their way into Congress or the Politburo.  Scavengers without inhibition, they need not believe in the crumbling official code of their society, they need only learn to mimic its sounds.  Societies, that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy.  Demagogues pay deference to the political ideals, rituals, practices, and forms of the old democratic political system, while dismantling it.

“When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the first citizen—neutered the [Roman] Republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic.  Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crashed the autonomous soviets.  Even the Nazis and Stalinists insisted they rule democratic states.

“Despotic government, as Thomas Paine wrote, is a fungus, that grows out of a corrupt civil society.

“This is what happened to these older democracies.  It is what happened to us.

“Corporationss cannibalising the federal budget are legally empowered to exploit and loot.  It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or Exxon Mobile.  [sparse, hesitant applause]  The pharmaceutical and insurance industries are legally empowered to hold sick children hostage, while their parents frantically bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters.  Banks are legally empowered to burden people with student loans, that cannot be forgiven, even by declaring bankruptcy.

“The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts, financial, judicial, and medical records, along with every website we visit, and our physical travels are tracked, recorded, and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

“The state tortures, not only in black sites, such as the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or Guantánamo Bay, but in supermax ADX facilities, such as the one in Florence, Colorado, where prisoners suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement.  When prisoners are released, they have lost their right to vote and receive public assistance.  They are burdened with fines, that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars.  They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests.  They spend the rest of their lives marginalised as members of a vast criminal caste system.  And that is why 76 percent of those released from state penitentiaries return to prison within five years.

“But our system of mass incarceration is not broken.  It works exactly the way it is designed to work.  [audience applause]

“We are entering the twilight phase of capitalism, which, as Karl Marx understood, would see capitalists unable to generate past profits by expanding markets; and they would, he predicted, begin to cannibalise the state like ravenous parasites.  Wealth is no longer created by producing or manufacturing.  It is created by manipulating the prices of stocks and commodities and imposing a crippling debt peonage on the public.

“Our casino capitalism has merged with the gambling industry.  And it is designed to prey on the desperate young men and women, burdened by student loans, underpaid workers burdened by credit card debt and mortgages, towns and cities forced to borrow to maintain municipal services.  (c. 22:10)

“This moment in human history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white race [i.e., ethnic grouping].”

FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER:  “Yeah!”

CHRIS HEDGES:  “It is inevitable that, for the final show, we vomited up someone as grotesque as [President Donald] Trump.  [mixed audience reactions; applause]  Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting, and polluting the Earth in the name of human progress.  They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machine on the planet; and they directed it against anyone or anything, especially indigenous cultures, which stood in their way.  They stole and horded the planet’s wealth and resources.  They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end.  And they still believe it.

“They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless, capitalist, and imperialist expansion is ultimately dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited.  But, even as we stand on the cusp of extinction, we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from the myth of human progress.  (c. 23:45)

Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940:

Amid the rise of European fascism and looming World War, a [Paul] Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating.  His eyes are staring.  His mouth is open.  His wings are spread.  This is how one pictures the angel of history.  His face is turned towards the past.  Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.  The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.  But a storm is blowing from Paradise.  It has got caught in its wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them.  The storm irresistably propels him into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.  The storm is what we call progress.

“The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that ‘what worked in the past will work in the future’, that ‘progress is inevitable’.  Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished.  The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have turned much of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations [i.e., public protections] are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s, at least for white Americans.  Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species.  Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored.  War and the huge profits war generates for corporations becomes the principal business of the kleptocratic state.  (c. 26:35)

“Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures.  It defines the ideology of capitalism:  Quotas and projected sales can always be met.  Profits can always be raised.  Growth is inevitable.  The impossible is always possibleHuman societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into a capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive(c. 27:12)

“The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy.  We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status, career advancement.  We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective.  This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states.  It is characterised by the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes.  [scant audience laughter; applause]  And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem.  We must have more faith. We must envision what we want.  We must try harder.  The system is never to blame.  We failed it.  It does not fail us(c. 28:21)

“And all of our systems of information, from self-help gurus in Hollywood to political monstrosities, such as [President] Trump, sell us this snake oil.  What, now, does resistance look like?  It will not come by investing hope in the Democratic Party [slightly delayed cheers and applause], which has steadily lost power, not because of Comey or the Russians, but because it betrayed working men and women on behalf of corporate power [applause], because it used its machinery to deny the one candidate—Bernie Sanders—who could have defeated Trump, from getting the nomination.  [applause]

“And, in war, especially when the heavy shells landed on crowds in Sarajevo, sites so gruesome that, to this day, I cannot eat a piece of meat, you could feel, as frantic family members desperately sought out loved ones among the wounded and dead, the concentric circles of death and love, death and love, like rings from the blast of a cosmic furnace.  A life of faith—and we are all called to faith—is a life of confrontation.  [applause]  (c. 30:17)

“As Flannery O’Connor writes of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, and instructing catechumens,

The dragon sits by the side of the road watching those who pass.  Beware, lest he devour you.  We go to the father of souls.  But it is necessary to pass by the dragon.  No matter what form the dragon may take, it is this mysterious passage, past him or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell.

“And this being the case, it requires considerable courage, at any time in any country, not to turn away.”

[End of first audio excerpt featured by Flashpoints from the Chris Hedges speech in Berkeley, California.]

DENNIS BERNSTEIN:  “Wow.  Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, investigative reporter, human rights activist, a canary-in-the-global coalmine of disinformation and resistance to fascism.  That was Chris Hedges on fire last night, in Berkeley, at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley last night, tearing down the place.  A powerful event hosted by Hard Knock [Radio]‘s Greg Bridges. [12]

“Um, and um—well, this is it, folks.  Here’s the cold, hard truth:  We have about $50,000 to go to make it.  We have not a lot of time.  Now, I’m not sure we can make the 50.  But I’m hoping, with some really powerful support, and standing with Chris Hedges on this final day, we can get, we can really take a chunk out of that final bit.  We’d love to make it.  We could, we could—you have the power, you listening now, you all have the power to make it, to help us make this goal.  We can really make a dent.  That, I’m sure of.  (c. 32:36)

“So, if you want to get a copy of that mighty powerful speech just made last night by Chris Hedges celebrating free speech radio, you can get a CD copy for a $75 contribution.  You can do it by dialing, by hitting the buttons 1.800.439-5732.  1.800.439-5732.  You can go online, kpfa.org, hit the pledge button and you are with us.  You can use your smartphone.  (c. 33:12)

“Again, $75 dollars gets you the CD version.  $100 dollars, you can get the same speech last night, tearing down the house, really powerful stuff, uh, $100 dollars for the DVD.

“We have a Chris Hedges collection you can get for $150.  And, then, we have a Chris Hedges Magna-Pack.  They all have this speech given last night.  So, the Chris Hedges Magna-Pack is all Chris Hedges CDs, $375.  And the Chris Hedges speech—well, let’s just say: Chris Hedges Magna-Pack, that’s everything, $375.  You want last night’s speech?  As simple as can be: $75 as a CD, $100 dollars as a DVD. 

“It is a most extraordinary speech.  It would be—if I could get a hundred of you to stand up right now [for free speech radio], it would make a real big difference in a hurry.  It would make a big dent.  Can I do that?  I’m gonna count them. (c. 34:31)  [snip]  (c. 34:44)

“If you wanna subscribe for $100 dollars, you can get the [KPFA] hoodie.  You can get the pullover, the zipper, in all the sizes.  You tell [the phone volunteers] the size.  [snip]  Somebody gave us a $1200 contribution and gave me 12 hoodies to do with as I please.  Can you imagine?  All my friends are gonna be walking advertisements—um, not exactly advertisements—right?—’cos we’re non-corporate.  They will be our walking representatives.  You will be.  Get this beautiful hoodie and use it as a talking point.  There goes my Brooklyn accent.  When I get tired, it comes charging back.  And let your hoodie be a talking point for free speech radio.  (c. 35:36)

“Frankly, for my money—and I don’t have much of it—this Chris Hedges speech is off the edge.  It’s incredibly powerful.  And we need somebody speaking with this emotion behind the information.  It’s a combination of information and emotion.  As I’ve said before, the people, who were founded this radio station, KPFA [in 1949], they were not interested in newscasts, in which you did not feel the broadcaster and the story.  They did not like the soap suds advertisement right after the news of war, sounding the same way with the same melodic voice.  They wanted the people’s emotion in the work—emotion and information.  Information is power.  (c. 36:25)

“Chris Hedges puts it together, a Pulitzer Prize-winner reporter saw it all as a New York Times reporter and couldn’t take it, couldn’t be silent.  He couldn’t get it in the news page.  And he began to speak out.  And he has become one of the most powerful social critics of our time.  He gave a speech for KPFA/Pacifica [Radio Network] last night in Berkeley, blew the roof off.  And we are in the last hour of our [KPFA fund] drive here, the last hour or so of our drive here.  It’s 5:37 [pm]; and I’m hoping we can pull out all the stops.  1.800.439-5732.

[Dennis Bernstein continued appealing for listener donations to free speech radio.]  (c. 37:24)

“Please stand up.  We only have a few minutes left.  This is our last chance to really drive this, uh, fundraiser home, to make sure we remain powerful here at KPFA, that we can have these microphones for the people, who need them, that we can build the infrastructure, rebuild the infrastructure here at KPFA and across the [national radio] network.  We need your help to do it now.  This radio station—you know it.  You cannot argue with me on the fact that this radio station is more important now than it has ever been, since its invention, in the age of [President] Trump, in the age of corporate television and radio.  We are there to hold them accountable.  We are there to give voice to the voiceless.  We are there to monitor the centers of power and reveal what the people need to know to make decisions about their own lives, what we all need to know.  And we use this marvelous, scrappy, fight-back media as our university.  (c. 38:30)

“Make us stronger now.  Stand up now for free speech radio!  Please!  Stand up now.  We’re trying to catch up.  We’re trying to get close to that goal.  And you can make a difference.  There are hundreds of you out there, who have not done this yet.  Won’t you do this now?  I mean let’s make some history.  1.800.439-5732.  1.800.439-5732.  1.800.HEY-KPFA.  Or online at kpfa.org.  Hit the pledge button and join us.  (c. 39:12)

[Dennis Bernstein continued appealing for listener donations to free speech radio.]  (c. 39:42)

“But, either way, we love sharing Chris Hedges.  We live—this radio station lives to give a platform to the likes of—there’s nobody quite like Chris Hedges.  But we are here to give a platform to Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader, Alice Walker, you name it, all the extraordinary people you have heard over these airwaves.  Name them.  Think about it.  Think about how you’ve heard Noam Chomsky, Noam Chomsky, who can not get [on the corporate media], who is censored, who is one of the smartest people in the world, the most important linguist in the world [next to Dr. George Lakoff], the most powerful critic of U.S. social policy in the world.  (c. 40:07)

[snip]

[snip]  (c. 59:59)

Learn more at FLASHPOINTS.

***

[1]  Do yourself, and your community, a favour and support free speech radio as a counter to profit-over-people radio, which doesn’t keep us informed or connected with our communities.  For profit radio prioritises its profit motive over the well-being of our communities.  Listener-sponsored free speech radio prioritises community, regional, and national well-being over profit motive.  In fact, the nation’s largest (and oldest) listener-sponsored free speech radio network, Pacifica Radio does not operate for profit and is even democratically governed, with listener-members having a democratic vote in the governance of the radio network.

We, the people, need at least 50% of the radio spectrum to be public radio for public purpose, to keep our communities informed, so that they are empowered to make informed decisions in terms of civic engagement and political participation in developing truly participatory and emancipatory democracy.  There is no reason why virtually all of our radio stations should be dominated by corporate, for-profit agendas.  We need unfettered news and information, which is free from corporate censorship and obfuscation.  The radio airwaves belong to the people.  The radio airwaves do not belong to for-profit corporations, who don’t speak for the people.

[2]  UpFront, 26 MAY 2017.

Broadcast summary from the archive page at kfpa.org:

On today’s episode, host Salima Hamirani plays clips from a speech Chris Hedges gave on May 25 at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. Chris Hedges, a journalist, Princeton professor, and minister, discusses the “dying empire” and Trump. He says that to resist Trump, we much look to a counterrevolution that began in the 60s.

[3]  Special Programming [filled in for Letters and Politics].  [This broadcast archive has lamentably been removed from public access.]

Broadcast summary from archive page at kpfa.org:

Forget the firing of James Comey, forget the paralysis in Congress, forget the innanity of our dissent into tyranny as if it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats or a reality show starring our maniacal President and the freaks that surround him.  Forget the noise, the crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians that run our dysfunctional state.  The crisis we face is the result of a four decade long slow-motion corporate coup d’etat that has rendered the citizen impotent.  Left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent.  The crisis has spawned a corrupt electorial system of legalized bribery and elevated public figures that master the arts of entertainment and artifice.

Trump is the symptom he is not the disease

[4]  We have included two transcripts below.  The first transcript below is of UpFront.  The second transcript is of Flashpoints, whose broadcast featured more of the Chris Hedges speech.  The other two special broadcasts listed below also featured excerpts of the Chris Hedges speech, but were removed from public access before we were able to transcribe them or patch together as much of the speech as possible from the various excerpts.  Thus, we have transcribed both broadcasts (UpFront and Flahspoints) separately, despite the repetition of text.  This gives readers a better sense of the actual broadcasts, as well as some of the context provided by the two broadcasters, Salima Hamirani and Dennis Bernstein.

[5]  Time-stamps in transcript correspond to the running play-time of the audio stream file.

[6]  For an example of contemporary satirisation of idiot generals, see the recently released Netflix Original film entitled War Machine (2017) starring Brad Pitt based on the nonfiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings.  It is a fictionalised version of the events in the book, based on the firing of United States Army General Stanley McChrystal.

[7]  With regard to the United States facing fiscal insolvency, or going “bankrupt” as Chris Hedges said, we must recall modern monetary theory (MMT, or modern money theory), which shows that a sovereign currency issuer, such as the United States can never go bankrupt.  In other words, the USA will never face fiscal insolvency, as it can always afford to spend in its own currency.

Our modern monetary system, unlike our monetary system prior to 1971, makes it possible for the US federal government to spend without fiscal constraints.  In fact, it was the American desire to perpetuate the occupation of, and escalate the military aggression against, Vietnam, which did bankrupt the United States.  But, back then, the U.S. dollar was backed by gold.  In other words, the U.S. had agreed to international convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold prior to 1971 under the Bretton Woods system of monetary management.  After 1971, the U.S. dollar became a purely fiat currency, which means that the U.S. government can spend without fiscal constraints.  This is why the U.S. government’s unprecedented military spending, not to mention the roughly $29 trillion dollars in Global Financial Crisis of 2008 bail out spending, does not create inflation problems nor destabilise the economy in any way.  However, it bears noting that the American public has engaged in significant political demonstrations to oppose war, oppose war spending, and to advocate for social spending, such as for jobs, education, and health care.

[8]  As with footnote [7] above, for an accurate understanding on the purpose and function of taxes and taxation, see MMT.  MMT debunks many economic myths perpetuated by corporate media and misinformed or mendacious legislators and politicians.  Many economic myths are also exposed, given a close examination of the contentious academic struggle between neoclassical economics and heterodox economics.

It’s safe to assume, by idiot economists, Chris Hedges means neoclassical economists.

[9]  For example, we recall the historical record on Donald Trump’s history of racial residential segregation associated with his rental properties.  Or, for another example of Donald Trump’s history of racism, we recall his racist campaign against the Central Park Five.

[10]  For an introduction to the right-wing political operative Roger Stone, also (critically) see the Netflix Original documentary, Get Me Roger Stone (2017).  This documentary, however, tends to romanticise the dirty politics of Roger Stone, a man who dropped out of college to work in Richard Nixon‘s storied Committee to Re-elect the President.  As The Wall Street Journal‘s John Anderson has written:

Get Me Roger Stone… ought to come with a bottle of Purell—not just because it immerses the viewer in squalid politics, but because the filmmakers seem so shamelessly infatuated with their subject.

Manohla Dargis, of The New York Times, has called the film a “sometimes illuminating, often slapdash and frustrating affair …”

[11]  For more on this history of the right-wing, anti-working class, political backlash against the progressive, pro-working class, gains made between the time of the Great Depression and the 1960s Civil Rights and social justice movements, see the excellent documentary film entitled Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? (2017).

[12]  Radio host Greg Bridges is a contributor to free speech radio’s Hard Knock Radio.  But Davey D and Anita Johnson are the primary hosts for Hard Knock Radio.  Greg Bridges is the host of free speech radio’s Transitions On Traditions, “a soulsonic rhapsody of sound”, which emphasises the intersections between jazz, fusion, soul, and R&B.

***

[Trump image by source, used via Creative Commons.]

[26 MAY 2017]

[Last modified at 16:43 PST on 3 JUL 2017]

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