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The Curse of Moral Purity

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/08/26/curse-moral-purity

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“Liberals and the left have wasted the last two years attacking Donald Trump as a Russian asset…” ah, er… which “left?”

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Richard Rorty (via Hedges) with uncanny prescience, sez in his 1998 book Achieving Our Country:

“Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future.”

The American (sic) future of 1998 become the USAn present of 2019. Uncanny prescience, indeed.

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… it do kinda read like the bearded-man on the old TV, in “They Live” before the lizard’s attack? Me, I kinda figured it was just Yves Smith’s “crapification” finally hitting K Street, Madison Ave and wealthy ivy league interns overwheling all the media outlets; with NPD-addled, vacuous grandiosity and specious obliviousness? Clueless smug hyenas, content to cut&paste Hill+Knowlton ciggy & asbestos agitprop from 1947? Who listens anymore, anyway. Hitler’s große Lüge decries nuance as bourgeois: Make the lie BIG, keep it SIMPLE and repeat it!

The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodern professors will no longer be calling the shots.

This description as to how a strongman appeals to angry voters fits perfectly with what I have encountered in my talks with Trump supporters (and, yes, I think progressives need to talk with Trump supporters if we are to fully understand how how dangerous our political system has become). When I’ve asked why they voted for Trump, the almost universal answer has been they wanted someone in the White House who would “shake things up”, “drain the swamp”, blah blah blah. The more the establishment squawks at the latest Trump misstep or disgusting tweet, then, the more these folks love it and interpret it as Trump doing a good job. When I’ve tried to pin them down on issues or pointed out how Trump has been actually filling the swamp, not draining it, many of these Trump voters bailed out, telling me they don’t follow politics much. They just know Trump is doing a good job because “everyone is out to get him”.

The Democrat party establishment chose to ignore this voter anger or, worse, yet, was so out of touch as to be ignorant of it in 2016. You would think they would have learned something by it, but, as Hedges points out, they just continue to feed it and/or dismiss these people as racists, deplorables and so on.

I will give credit to Bernie Sanders, though. He’s gone on Fox News, he’s gone to coal country, he’s gone to farm country, he’s gone to the Rust Belt and he’s had the guts to talk with Trump supporters. This is the way you beat Trump. Go, Bernie, go.

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Mr. Hedges analysis and commentary is always articulate and well reasoned. His description of the ills of our society and the catastrophes it faces are always well-written clarion calls to save ourselves. His piece today is perhaps the most important in that it describes in exquisite detail exactly HOW we are deluding ourselves and WHY any hope of saving ourselves depends on recognizing this fact.

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“ . . . mounting social inequality, a bloated military, endless foreign wars, out-of-control deficits and gun violence—means the inevitable snuffing out of our anemic democracy . . .

. . . the looming social, political, economic and environmental catastrophes . . .

. . . mounting polarization and rage . . .

. . .orchestrated our grotesque income inequality, deindustrialization, out-of-control military machine, neutered media and muzzled scholarship . . .

. . . out-of-control gun violence, opioid addiction and sexual sadism—in an attempt to cope with dislocation, impotence and pain . . .

. . . emblematic of a society in deep distress, unable to cope rationally with the problems besetting it . . .”

Sounds like a great place to have children. Yeah.

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Liberals and the left have wasted the last two years attacking Donald Trump as a Russian asset and look set to waste the next two years attacking him as a racist.

I notice other posters have noticed this. This is where I stopped reading. What the HELL? It sounds like Hedges is pulling out all the stops, however fanciful, to affect balance: “There are terrible people on both sides, indeed most of them everywhere.” (I’m paraphrasing there, but only slightly.)

Apparently Hedges’ spiritual pursuits have steered him into pointless misanthropy. Too bad. What a depressing fact to encounter this morning: Hedges is losing his (once incisive) mind. Perhaps Hedges’ personal tragedy is a message: on the advisability of some types of spiritual pursuit.

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Jimmy Dore and Aaron Mate do great work debunking Russiagate and here the New York Times pathetic explanation for buying into the hoax.

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Well, yeah. Some of us have noticed, on the left, reluctance to resurrect McCarthyism. Hedges hasn’t yet caught up to what folks have been discussing since he ascended his mountaintop.

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I read this as Hedges pointing out the dilemma we’re facing: two seemingly disparate narratives with one common goal, that of sowing confusion and apathy among the electorate, such that the 1% holds and increases its power, regardless of “which party” is momentarily in the majority.

Since neither D nor R leadership is likely to raise a critique of corporate capitalism, the real source of our world of woes, throwing red meat to their respective bases is all they’ve got left. If there’s any hope to be found, it’s that dissatisfaction with politics-as-usual is growing bigger and faster that satisfaction with any of the common tribalisms.

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Kinda hard to blame him. I’m thinking lots of us (who had difficulty with coworkers, family members and friends being turned into goose-stepping, sesech’ bigots in 2008) became singularly unimpressed by our fahklempt Yuppie Resistance™ friends morphing into dead eyed shambling George Romero extras… babbling RussiaRussiaRussia? Their portfolios are hurting, now… but they still need anysomebody else to blame. Like Donald Sutherland as a screaching, pointing pod peon? Cheering to see our victims thrust ever further into peoage.

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Hedges is clearly losing his mind. Stupid, manifestly untrue generalizations about the left, lumping legitimate concern about racism together with illegitimate Russiagate – these are tools of someone so stuck on his own vision of purity he can’t see it in anyone else. Stirring up more confusion, just when we don’t need any more. Thanks, Chris.

It’s hard to blame anyone for slouching into misanthropy these days. Doing so is rarely an aid to clarity. We have allies all over. It’s important to connect with them.

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Hedges has a recurring habit of conflating the behavior of journalists with larger trends among liberals and centrists. He practices amateur sociology in an unhelpful way. Sometimes he’s a cogent and helpful investigative journalist. But when he writes about religion, for example, he makes a lot of unsupported assertions, which often happen to conflict with the available quality research (Pew, for example).

Here, I can’t help feeling he’s about to say, any second, “Trans rights are a distraction,” or some such BS. It feels like he’s mad at people for not prioritizing his very specific point of view instead of their own. I can’t dispute his critique of liberal journalism, but the idea that the rest of us are somehow complicit in the bad writing and lack of analysis? Speak for yourself, I hear people everyday saying things that are far more perceptive and insightful than anything i read online or hear on TV.

Bottom line for me: he is exhausting and unreliable, often engaging in poor analysis, and conflation as argument.

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I’ve recently begun describing our current political circus as a puppet show, with the hidden oligarch holding a red sock puppet on his right hand and a blue sock puppet on his left hand, staging distracting superficial entertainment (contrived media arguing points) while any meaningful social cohesiveness is deliberately undermined.

Mr. Hedges understands this and exposes the failure of the nominal ‘Left’ as the “inauthentic opposition”. If there is any hope of us correcting our trajectory before experiencing the fast-approaching great extinction event, it is ABSOLUTELY imperative that we understand it as well. Trump was vaulted into office by an electorate who came to understand that the system has failed, but who themselves fell for his lies. If we are to look for allies in reclaiming our democracy, we cannot create new ones from thin air, we need to understand that it is these same disgruntled voters, who have already been roused to action, that we must recruit.

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Hedges may be many things to many people, but I’m not yet willing to include “stupid” among them. I have no doubt he understands Manichaeism well enough to frame his thesis as two mutually antagonistic visions of moral purity.

So while racism is all too real, and “Russiagate” a sad fig leaf unable to cover Brand D fecklessness, neither is an impeachable offense—more’s the pity. We have to do better, as plainly D “leadership” lacks both the will and the chops.

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I didn’t say Hedges was stupid. I said the generalization “The left has wasted years attacking Donald Trump as a Russian asset” is both stupid (I have no idea why smart people say dumb things) and manifestly untrue (I have no idea why Hedges seeks to destroy his own credibility this way). Sure, he’s intelligent enough. I’m saying he’s bonkers. Another casualty of existential stress.

If I’m not mistaken, this is Hedges’ second emission since his sabbatical. So far the pattern is wiggier and wiggier, much to my dismay!

Unfortunately too many. There is a lot of left news shows like TYT who have fallen for this tripe and are now no better than M$M. In addition progressive candidates like Bernie still parrot this conspiracy theory.

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Yet I still have to rationalize my vote for him. Seriously, I’ll try to make voting for him sound rational to myself, but my gut tells me Bernie’s a fool when I hear stuff like this. It gets harder and harder to be woke. I think it’s driving me bonkers.

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The fact of the matter remains: The NYTimes and MSNBC called anyone who didn’t agree with Russiagate being the story of the century Putin puppets. That happened repeatedly in this supposedly liberal forum. And dumbasses like Adam Schiff, and frankly, Bernie, handed Trump a gift.

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