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Wed Nov 14, 2012, 07:15 PM

Once Again, Death of the Liberal Class


The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become.

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to hold the president accountable—although how or when or what this movement will look like they cannot say. They didn’t hold him accountable during his first term. They won’t during his second. They have played their appointed roles in the bankrupt political theater that passes for electoral politics. They have wrung their hands, sung like a Greek chorus about the evils of the perfidious opponent, assured us that there is no other viable option, and now they will exit the stage. They will carp and whine in the wings until they are trotted out again to assume their role in the next political propaganda campaign of disempowerment and fear.

Populist movements, from labor unions to an independent press to socialist third parties, have been destroyed in the United States. A protofascist movement that coalesces around a mystical nationalism, that fuses the symbols of the country with those of Christianity, that denigrates reason and elevates mass emotions will have broad appeal. It will offer to followers a leap from the deep pit of despair and frustration to the heights of utopia. It will speak in the language of violence and demonize the vulnerable, from undocumented workers to homosexuals to people of color to liberals to the poor. And this force, financed by the most retrograde elements of corporate capitalism, could usher in a species of corporate fascism in a period of economic or environmental instability.

For a poor family in Camden, N.J., impoverished residents in the abandoned coal camps in southern West Virginia, the undocumented workers that toil in our nation’s produce fields, Native Americans trapped on reservations, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, those killed by drones in Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or those in the squalid urban slums in Africa, it makes no difference if Mitt Romney or Obama is president. And since it makes no difference to them, it makes no difference to me. I seek only to defy the powers that orchestrate and profit from their misery.

The corporate state, faced with rebellion from within and without, does not know how to define or control this rising power, from the Arab Spring to the street protests in Greece and Spain to the Occupy movement. Rebellion always mystifies the oppressor. It appears irrational. It does not make sense. The establishment asks: What are their demands? Why do they hate us? What do they want? The oppressor can never hear the answer, for the answer is always the same—we seek to destroy your power. The oppressor, blind to the brutality and injustice meted out to sustain dominance and prosperity, escalates the levels of force employed to protect privilege. The crimes of the oppressor are seen among the elite as the administering of justice—law and order, the war on terror, the natural law of globalization, the right granted by privilege and power to shape and govern the world. The oppressor cannot see the West’s false humanism.

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction,” Baldwin wrote, “and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

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Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply Once Again, Death of the Liberal Class (Original post)
rbnyc Nov 2012 OP
banned from Kos Nov 2012 #1
BouzoukiKing Nov 2012 #3
cprise Nov 2012 #4
BouzoukiKing Nov 2012 #5
mojowork_n Nov 2012 #2
The Stranger Nov 2012 #8
muriel_volestrangler Nov 2012 #6
mojowork_n Nov 2012 #7
muriel_volestrangler Nov 2012 #9
mojowork_n Nov 2012 #11
jade3000 Nov 2012 #10

Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Wed Nov 14, 2012, 07:39 PM

1. Fuck - this sounds like Hedges.



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Response to banned from Kos (Reply #1)

Wed Nov 14, 2012, 11:41 PM

3. That was my first thought, too.

And it was...

But Hedges has his place - albeit an impractical one. Such absolutism in the face of adversity is essentially the same as how the Republicans have spent thirty years moving the Overton Window - and there's value in moving it in the other direction.

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Response to BouzoukiKing (Reply #3)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 10:32 AM

4. Wait until the next IPCC report

then see if you can make the same statement.

In any case, we *will* get overt fascism if we keep smearing the center-Left as "absolutists" and "purists".

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Response to cprise (Reply #4)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 11:04 AM

5. You maintain that Hedges is center-left?


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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Wed Nov 14, 2012, 10:02 PM

2. 3rd paragraph down nails it. Last sentence, too.

If you think in big picture, stand-way-back terms and don't mind that the word artist is using a pretty broad brush.

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Response to mojowork_n (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 03:18 PM

8. The problem with "holding him accountable" is that he faces an opposition that is better funded,

better organized, better coordinated, and fueled upon two of the most powerful forces in the world - fear and racism.

So let's say you try to "hold him accountable" and he doesn't come through. What then? Do you desert him and the power he has access to? And when next will anyone be able to effectively counter the better funded, better organized, better coordinated Right?

When Raphael had thus made an end of speaking, though many things occurred to me, both concerning the manners and laws of that people, that seemed very absurd, . . . —yet since I perceived that Raphael was weary, and was not sure whether he could easily bear contradiction, remembering that he had taken notice of some, who seemed to think they were bound in honour to support the credit of their own wisdom, by finding out something to censure in all other men’s inventions, besides their own, I only commended their Constitution, and the account he had given of it in general; and so, taking him by the hand, carried him to supper, and told him I would find out some other time for examining this subject more particularly, and for discoursing more copiously upon it.

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 12:05 PM

6. It's a good exercise to take the quote from Stern, and replace 'they' with 'Hedges'

and see how accurately it describes his stance. Hedges seems to want a revolution against liberals, and I'm not sure he wouldn't see a fascist one as a slight improvement on liberalism.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #6)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 01:55 PM

7. quote from Stern...?

Stern, who? Howard? Isaac? National Basketball Association commissioner David? Avraham?

In any case, you may be trying to put Hedges in too narrow a frame. He's so far off the reservation that when he turns out to have been kind of prescient, it's worth a second look.

I remember reading a column or two of his, on the need for getting bodies into the street, as the only means of effective protest and getting real change. I was thinking, "yeah, right." That was a few months before the Occupy movement took off.

Maybe it's just me, but speaking of fascists, when I go back to Milton Mayer:



...and insert Hedges into that frame, what he's saying now is much easier to understand.

Thom Hartmann's former producer sort of does that (the other way around), referencing Mayer, in a spoof of Ann Coulter, here:


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Response to mojowork_n (Reply #7)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 03:34 PM

9. The quote in the article:

The historian Fritz Stern in “The Politics of Cultural Despair,” his book on the rise of fascism in Germany, warns repeatedly of the danger of a bankrupt liberalism. Stern, who sees the same dark, irrational forces at work today that he watched as a boy in Nazi Germany, argues that the spiritually and politically alienated are the prime recruits for a politics centered around cultural hatreds and personal resentments.

“They attacked liberalism,” Stern writes of the fascists emerging at the time in Germany, “because it seemed to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it; the bourgeois life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sense in liberalism the source of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their faith.”

The strange thing is that, back in 2005, Hedges was quoting Stern as a defender of liberalism, not "warn(ing) repeatedly of the danger of a bankrupt liberalism":

"Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics," he said of prewar Germany, "but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."
"There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented," he said. "There was a longing for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness. There are some similarities in the mood then and the mood now, although also significant differences."

HE warns of the danger in an open society of "mass manipulation of public opinion, often mixed with mendacity and forms of intimidation." He is a passionate defender of liberalism as "manifested in the spirit of the Enlightenment and the early years of the American republic."

"The radical right and the radical left see liberalism's appeal to reason and tolerance as the denial of their uniform ideology," he said. "Every democracy needs a liberal fundament, a Bill of Rights enshrined in law and spirit, for this alone gives democracy the chance for self-correction and reform. Without it, the survival of democracy is at risk. Every genuine conservative knows this."


Of course, Hedges spends a fair amount of time attacking atheists, writing books about it. You'd think he wouldn't be so quick to do so if he had listened to Stern on the subject of religion.

More on Stern, and how misleading the claim by Hedges that he "warns repeatedly of the danger of a bankrupt liberalism":

I recalled that brief if unsatisfying exchange while reading Fritz Stern’s compelling book. During the anti-liberal Age of Reaganism he had written a N.Y. Times Op Ed in defense of liberalism, then and now under bitter assault by everyone from the Bush-Cheney administration to their army of liberal-haters. For Stern, the liberal path has been one of “America’s noblest traditions” [which] created “the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” Not to mention Social Security, Medicare, the GI Bill, et.al. (Which is not to say that liberals have not committed memorable self-inflicted and unforgivable wounds, most significantly Vietnam).

Today, Stern remains an outspoken liberal, tolerant in the face of intolerance on and off the campus, his life forever marked by the destruction of the liberal if flawed Weimar Republic in his native Germany. Five Germanys includes analyses of Weimar, the Third Reich, West and East Germany and united Germany and is a valuable recognition of the absolute necessity for democratic societies to accept and welcome open debate and the questioning of authority. Stern only hints at the possible similarity with the current breed of American policy and opinion makers who have created so much damage at home and abroad, though he is quite serious about their incompetence and intolerance, characteristics his family witnessed in the destruction of the short-lived democratic, if flawed Weimar Republic.


Stern is a defender of liberalism; he doesn't think it's 'bankrupt'. That's Hedges putting his own views in Stern's mouth. I think Hedges is part of the radical left that Stern also warns about.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #9)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 04:38 PM

11. Got it, thanks

I had read the article earlier in the week and not paid much attention to the source of the citation in it. What you've pasted up in the excerpts -- 'in defense of liberalism' -- looks like good stuff.

But this whole thread seems kind of circular to me, as in elements of a circular firing squad. Mayer, what I see above in Stern, Hedges and that last link I added, Thom Hartmann on 'myth of victimhood' are all either writing reminiscences about Germany in the 30's, or drawing direct parallels. In what appear to me to be very similar ways. But maybe using the same vocabulary in superficially conflicting ways.

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Response to rbnyc (Original post)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 04:02 PM

10. we do need to keep him accountable

that is all.

(side note: 1 of 2 issues is better than 0)

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