My friend Chad posted a Youtube video of Chris Hedges (you read his work, right?) discussing the Occupy Wall Street situation and Hedges’ “involvement” in it with a CBC morning show called “Lang and O’Leary”. It’s very worth your time for many reasons.
Here’s the CBC link to the exchange (no need to “tube” it), you will have to put up with 15 seconds of crapvertising. Also, the blog, Creekside usefully offers a transcript (below) and intelligent commentary (you can watch the vid there too).
First, this has been posted around as it aired on 10/6 and I honestly think of it as “newsworthy” in itself. In other words, I wish the entire news industry would run the transcript in all national and local papers. There is in fact nothing “new” here but because the mechanics of the thing are rarely discussed we don’t often hear the messages on offer.
Let’s stick to what was said and how it was said and we’ll leave “who” these people are for your own investigations.
Let’s go to the tape! (Again, h/t Creekside!) I’ll highlight in bold what I’ll comment on.
The show opens with a clip of Obama talking about Occupy Wall Street :
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel that we have the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street. And yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practises that got us into this problem in the first place.”
We should first comment on Barack Obama’s “assessment.” I love the use of “collateral damage” here; detached war metaphors are useful to diminish real effects, as if hundreds or thousands of civilians dying as a result of the insanity called war is “collateral.” It is purposeful and we should never forget that. But more specifically, what is the “target” if there was “collateral damage?” Does this imply that the financial crisis should have only affected a select few “targets?” Well, yes, it should have. But the Bush and Obama Administrations have not only allowed but promoted the “collateral damage…all across Main Street.”
It is absolutely galling that the very next thing out of the Man who owns much of this damage is to act as if there are other designers and agents of financial collapse “out there” on whom this Occupy Wall Street ire is directed. The “same folks who acted irresponsibly” are Obama, Geithner, Summers, Paulson, Dimon, Blankfein and so on and so on. The CEOs of these major criminal organizations are still operating their Hedge Funds…still stealing your pensions, still not being prosecuted for defrauding you on your housing loans and then foreclosing on you.
It is after that preface that we begin the interview proper…I’m not sure Hedges was aware of that cue-in tape as I’d almost have guaranteed he’d have commented on it.
Dianne Buckner, fill-in host: Chris Hedges is Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author and a participant at the Occupy Wall Street rally in New York last week and in Washington today. He joins us from our Washington Bureau.
So, Mr. Hedges, you were a participant (voice inflects as a question) in the protest. How would you describe your role in this movement?
Hedges: I’m not an organizer, I’m speaking tonight at the rally in Washington and I’ve given interviews and participated in events in New York.
O’Leary : So what exactly is everyone complaining about? And also give me a sense of how much momentum this movement has because it’s pretty nothing burgers so far – just a few guys, guitars. Nobody knows what they want – they can’t even name the names of the firms that they’re protesting against – very weak, low budget.
So, this head begins his “interview” with an expected corporate media frame: the protesters are complainers like the “hippies” he tries to link them to via description (guys with guitars). They have no ideas and they know nothing of why they are protesting (stupid or ignorant of the “real” world).
Hedges : I wouldn’t agree with that assessment at all. They pulled thousands of people into the street last night and here in Washington when everyone marched past the Bank of America, they were shouting Shame! Shame! Shame! They know the names of these firms and they know what these firms have done not only to the American economy but to the global economy, and the criminal class who runs them.
Hedges easily dismisses this characterization and further offers his own framing (a true one at least!) by calling the financial industry and their government supporters the “criminal class.” *
Buckner : Well Kevin made this point that nobody knows what they want. What do you say to that? We know that this is a very diverse group, there are many different agendas at play … what is the sense you have of what this movement would like to see happen?
This is actually a useful question. We should note that this host is a “substitute” for the regular female Head.
Hedges : They know precisely what they want ; they want to reverse the corporate coup that’s taken place in the US and rendered the citizenry impotent and they won’t stop until that happens andd frankly if we don’t break the back of corporations, we’re all finished anyway since we’re rapidly trashing the ecosystem on which the human species depends for survival. This is literally a fight for life – it’s that grave, it’s that serious. Corporations, unfettered capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, is a revolutionary force – it commodifies everything – human beings, the natural world which it exploits for profit until exhaustion and collapse. The bottom line is we don’t have much time left – we are on the cusp of perhaps another major banking crisis in Europe, defaults in Greece, followed by Spain, Portugal. There’s been no restrictions, no regulations on Wall Street – they’ve looted the US Treasury, they’ve played all the games that they were playing before and we’re about to pay for it all over again.
So, Hedges calls the true tune. There is one mentality ruling our economic system and as a consequence ruling all of our systems. Note that this is a DEEP problem. It’s not about “hippies” disagreeing with the Gordon Geckos of the world. It’s about a system that EXPLOITS EVERYTHING for profit regardless of waste and ruin, regardless of consequences, until the exploitable resources run out. There will always be people willing to be the guy in charge of ruin. At least he’ll be okay, right?
Also, note, Hedges does not shy away from Marx. Let’s be clear. Karl Marx was a brilliant political economist and philosopher. Primarily he set out to describe the economic system that had emerged and been promoted by the classical, liberal economists–men like John Stuart Mill, David Ricardo and Adam Smith–called Capitalism; his work on Capital was an attempt to take these economists at their word and to detail and describe, using the economic theories of those men, the very effects of that system that had already begun to destroy the world. He was not a Bolshevik (which is what “we” were taught to fear in the guise of Russian Communism, or “State Communism”); he wasn’t even a “Marxist”. He was a student, a newspaper reporter, and a scholar; a husband and father; and nearly always destitute.
O’Leary : Listen don’t take this the wrong way but you sound like a left wing nutbar. If you want to shut down every corporation, every bank, where are you going to get a job? Where are you gonna work? Where’s the economy gonna go?
Um…there it is. This is the quality of discourse you get on television. Now, however, I would have to say that this is a very valuable thing to examine. Will we examine it in the interview?
Hedges : Corporations don’t produce anything and
O’Leary : Oh really!?
Hedges : No. Financial corporations on Wall Street
Feeling his oats, O’Leary jumps, but Hedges clarifies.
O’Leary : Are you driving a car to the protest?
That again, an example of an attempt to derail substantive communications on dire issues with a very feeble attempt at a kind of relativist “gotcha”–you drive a car! You’re just as guilty!
Hedges : They are speculators. I’m talking about the financial institutions like Goldman Sachs. They don’t manufacture, they don’t make anything – they gamble, they use money, and they believe falsely that money is real as we dismantle our manufacturing base and send jobs over the border to Mexico and finally into the embrace of China.
Hedges is not talking, at least here, about dismantling our economic system. He’s talking about Finance, an abstraction of an abstraction called “money”.
Buckner : Well I see that you and Kevin could get into an actually huge argument here.
Hedges : Well you know I don’t usually go on shows where people descend to character assassination. If you want to discuss issues, that’s fine but this sounds like Fox News and I don’t go on Fox News. Either you discuss the issues and … look, you have had very eloquent writers – people like John Ralston Saul in Canada** who have laid this out with incredible lucidity – and to somehow attack this critique by calling someone a nutcase engages in the kind of trash talk that’s polluted the corporate airwaves.
O’Leary : Excuse me, let’s debate the issues then. …
Hedges : You were the one who started it – you were not debating the issues.
[crosstalk] …I did not call you a nutcase, I called you a nutbar.
Hedges : You said [I] sounded like a leftwing nutcase .. bar
O’Leary : Yes, bar, nutbar.
Hedges : That’s an insult.
O’Leary : Are you left wing in leaning at least would you say?
Hedges : No, I would say ..
O’Leary : You’re a centrist?
Hedges : Can I finish?
O’Leary : Please.
Hedges : I would say that those who are protesting the rise of the corporate state are in fact on the political spectrum the true conservatives because they’re calling for the restoration of the rule of law. The radicals have seized power and they have trashed all regulations and legal impediments to a corporate reconfiguration of American society into a form of neo-feudalism. And that’s what we’re really asking for – is the restoration of the rule of law.
O’Leary : Ok, but you don’t see any value in the banking system providing a financial infrastructure …
Hedges : That’s not what I said.
O’Leary : I’m asking you.
Hedges : A banking system that functions as a banking system should. And in Canada you do not have a banking crisis because you did not tear down the walls between commercial and investment banks and turn all of your banks into hedge funds. If, instead of handing massive sums of money to CitiBank, Wells Fargo – which are basically zombie banks that still hold tremendous toxic assets – we had created ten regional banks with $10 billion each and leveraged them 10 to 1, people could have been saved. Six million people have been pushed out of their homes because of foreclosures and mortgages. We could have reinvested in communities, small businesses which cannot get credit would have gotten credit. Instead they’re just sitting on the capital and not lending it.
O’Leary : So we’re certainly giving you an opportunity to speak your mind. Just so we can come full circle, what do you suggest should be done with Goldman Sachs specifically?
Hedges : They should be prosecuted
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. When you shove sub-prime mortgages on families that you know can’t repay it and then you dice up those mortgages as assets and sell them and bet against them through AIG, that’s fraudulent activity.
Buckner : Alright, well thank you so much for joining us – we like to hear your thoughts.
Hedges : Well it’ll be the last time.
*From Camus’s The Rebel:
“There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined. But the Penal Code makes the convenient distinction of premeditation. We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose–even for transforming murderers into judges.”
**“The collapse of globalism and the rebirth of nationalism” by John Ralston Saul