Friday, May 20, 2011

Not For the Faint Hearted

There is a new book by Chris Hedges, "The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress," which consists of columns Hedges wrote for over the past few years. This is not a book for the faint hearted or for those who cannot entertain rebellious thoughts about our current state of affairs. The first essay is entitled "It is Not Going To Be OK," and in it he writes about Sheldon Wolin who is now 86 and has been a political scientist for a long time. In his latest book, Wolin writes about "inverted totalitarianism," which does not revolve around a particular leader but "finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions." According to Wolin, "Under inverted totalitarianism...economics dominates politics-and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness."

This makes me think of the prominence of Tocqueville today and especially his account of "soft despotism," a prominence I have wondered about. Perhaps this is a way of distracting us from the reality of what Wolin calls "Democracy Incorporated," which is the title of his latest book. Such distractions are common especially when useful. If we think about Tocqueville, we won't be thinking about our current situation or will fail to see our situation as it really is....."real reality" as I like to call it.

Here is another passage, this all Hedges, from the "Introduction": "My former employer, the New York Times, with some of the most able and talented journalists and editors in the country, not only propagated the lies used to justify the war in Iraq, but also never saw the financial meltdown coming. These journalists and editors are besotted with their access to the powerful. They look at themselves as players, part of the inside elite. They went to the same colleges. They eat at the same restaurants. They go to the same parties and dinners. They live in the same exclusive neighborhoods. Their children go to the same schools. They are, if one concedes that propaganda is a vital tool for the power elite, important to the system....All that talent, all that money, all that expertise, all those resources proved useless when it came time to examine the two major cataclysmic events of our age. And all that news, however objective and balanced, turned out to be lies." [p. xii]

Good stuff but, as noted, not for the faint hearted.

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