Chris Hedges: America’s Death March

Regardless of the outcome, the U.S. election will not stop the rise of hyper-nationalism, crisis cults and other signs of an empire’s terminal decline, writes Chris Hedges.

By Chris Hedges
Original to Scheerpost

The terminal decline of the United States will not be solved by elections. The political rot and depravity will continue to eat away at the soul of the nation, spawning what anthropologists call crisis cults — movements led by demagogues that prey on an unbearable psychological and financial distress.

These crisis cults, already well established among followers of the Christian Right and Donald Trump, peddle magical thinking and an infantilism that promises — in exchange for all autonomy — prosperity, a return to a mythical past, order and security.

The dark yearnings among the white working class for vengeance and moral renewal through violence, the unchecked greed and corruption of the corporate oligarchs and billionaires who manage our failed democracy, which has already instituted wholesale government surveillance and revoked most civil liberties, are part of the twisted pathologies that infect all civilizations sputtering towards oblivion. I witnessed the deaths of other nations during the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and later in the former Yugoslavia. I have smelled this stench before.

The removal of Trump from office will only exacerbate the lust for racist violence he incites and the intoxicating elixir of white nationalism. The ruling elites, who first built a mafia economy and then built a mafia state, will continue under Biden, as they did under Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, to wantonly pillage and loot.

The militarized police will not stop their lethal rampages in poor neighborhoods. The endless wars will not end. The bloated military budget will not be reduced. The world’s largest prison population will remain a stain upon the country. The manufacturing jobs shipped overseas will not return and the social inequality will grow.

The for-profit health care system will gouge the public and price millions more out of the health care system. The language of hate and bigotry will be normalized as the primary form of communication. Internal enemies, including Muslims, immigrants and dissidents, will be defamed and attacked. The hyper-masculinity that compensates for feelings of impotence will intensify. It will direct its venom towards women and all who fail to conform to rigid male stereotypes, especially artists, LGBTQ people and intellectuals.

Lies, conspiracy theories, trivia and fake news — what Hannah Arendt called “nihilistic relativism” — will still dominate the airwaves and social media, mocking verifiable fact and truth. The ecocide, which presages the extinction of the human species and most other life forms, will barrel unabated towards its apocalyptic conclusion.

“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it,” Pascal wrote.

Art by Mr. Fish/Original to Scheerpost

The worse it gets — and it will get worse as the pandemic hits us in wave after deadly wave with an estimated 300,000 Americans dead by December and possibly 400,000 by January — the more desperate the nation will become. Tens of millions of people will be thrown into destitution, evicted from their homes and abandoned.

Social collapse, as Peter Drucker observed in Weimar Germany in the 1930s, brings with it a loss of faith in ruling institutions and ruling ideologies. With no apparent answers or solutions to mounting chaos and catastrophe — and Biden and the Democratic Party have already precluded the kind of New Deal programs and assault on oligarchic power that saved us during the Great Depression — demagogues and charlatans need only denounce all institutions, all politicians, and all political and social conventions while conjuring up hosts of phantom enemies.

Drucker saw that Nazism succeeded not because people believed in its fantastic promises, but in spite of them. Nazi absurdities, he pointed out, had been “witnessed by a hostile press, a hostile radio, a hostile cinema, a hostile church, and a hostile government which untiringly pointed out the Nazi lies, the Nazi inconsistency, the unattainability of their promises, and the dangers and folly of their course.

“Nobody, he noted, “would have been a Nazi if rational belief in the Nazi promises had been a prerequisite.” The poet, playwright and socialist revolutionary Ernst Toller, who was forced into exile and stripped of his citizenship when the Nazis took power in 1933, wrote much the same in his autobiography: “The people are tired of reason, tired of thought and reflection. They ask, what has reason done in the last few years, what good have insights and knowledge done us.”

After Toller committed suicide in 1939, W.H. Auden in his poem “In Memory of Ernst Toller” wrote:

            We are lived by powers we pretend to understand:
            They arrange our loves; it is they who direct at the end
            The enemy bullet, the sickness, or even our hand.

Crisis Cults Crave Conflict

The poor, the vulnerable, those who are not white or not Christian, those who are undocumented or who do not mindlessly repeat the cant of a perverted Christian nationalism, will be offered up in a crisis to the god of death, a familiar form of human sacrifice that plagues sick societies. Once these enemies are purged from the nation, we are promised, America will recover its lost glory, except that once one enemy is obliterated another takes its place.

Crisis cults require a steady escalation of conflict. This is what made the war in the former Yugoslavia inevitable. Once one stage of conflict reaches a crescendo it loses its efficacy. It must be replaced by ever more brutal and deadly confrontations. The intoxication and addiction to greater and greater levels of violence to purge the society of evil led to genocide in Germany and the former Yugoslavia. We are not immune. It is what Ernst Jünger called a “feast of death.”

These crisis cults are, as Drucker understood, irrational and schizophrenic. They have no coherent ideology. They turn morality upside down. They appeal exclusively to emotions. Burlesque and celebrity culture become politics. Depravity becomes morality. Atrocities and murder become heroism. Crime and fraud become justice. Greed and nepotism become civic virtues.

The execution of Robespierre and his supporters on 28 July 1794. (Unknown author/Public Domain)

What these cults stand for today, they condemn tomorrow. At the height of the reign of terror on May 6, 1794 during the French Revolution, Maximilien Robespierre announced that the Committee for Public Safety now recognized the existence of God. The French revolutionaries, fanatical atheists who had desecrated churches and confiscated church property, murdered hundreds of priests and forced another 30,000 into exile, instantly reversed themselves to send to the guillotine those who disparaged religion. In the end, exhausted by the moral confusion and internal contradictions, these crisis cults yearn for self-annihilation.

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim in his classic book On Suicide found that when social bonds are shattered, when a population no longer feels it has a place or meaning in a society, personal and collective acts of self-destruction proliferate.

Societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self. This collective expresses itself through rituals, such as elections and democratic participation or an appeal to patriotism, and shared national beliefs. The bonds provide meaning, a sense of purpose, status and dignity. They offer psychological protection from impending mortality and the meaninglessness that comes with being isolated and alone. The breaking of these bonds plunges individuals into deep psychological distress. Durkheim called this state of hopelessness and despair anomie, which he defined as “ruleless-ness.”

Ruleless-ness means the norms that govern a society and create a sense of organic solidarity no longer function. The belief, for example, that if we work hard, obey the law and get a good education we can achieve stable employment, social status and mobility along with financial security becomes a lie.

The old rules, imperfect and often untrue for poor people of color, nevertheless were not a complete fiction in the United States. They offered some Americans — especially those from the white working and middle class — modest social and economic advancement. The disintegration of these bonds has unleashed a widespread malaise Durkheim would have recognized.

The self-destructive pathologies that plague the United States — opioid addiction, gambling, suicide, sexual sadism, hate groups and mass shootings — are products of this anomie. So is our political dysfunction. My book, America: The Farewell Tour, is an examination of these pathologies and the widespread anomie that defines American society.

Mocking Merit

The economic structures, even before the pandemic, were reconfigured to mock faith in a meritocracy and the belief that hard work leads to a productive and valued role in society. American productivity, as The New York Times pointed out, has increased 77 percent since 1973 but hourly pay has grown only 12 percent. If the federal minimum wage was attached to productivity, the newspaper wrote, it would be more than $20 an hour now, not $7.25.

Some 41.7 million workers, a third of the workforce, earn less than $12 an hour, and most of them do not have access to employer-sponsored health insurance. A decade after the 2008 financial meltdown, the Times wrote, the average middle class family’s net worth is more than $40,000 below what it was in 2007. The net worth of black families is down 40 percent, and for Latino families the figure has dropped 46 percent.

Some four million evictions are filed each year. One in four tenant households spends about half its pretax income on rent. Each night some 200,000 people sleep in their cars, on streets or under bridges. And these stark figures represent the good times Biden and the Democratic Party leaders promise to restore.

Now, with real unemployment probably close to 20 percent — the official figure of 10 percent excludes those furloughed or those who have stopped looking for work — some 40 million people are at risk of being evicted by the end of the year. An estimated 27 million people are expected to lose their health insurance. Banks are stockpiling reserves of cash to cope with the expected wave of bankruptcies and defaults on mortgages, student loans, car loans, personal loans and credit card debt.

The ruleless-ness and anomie that defines the lives of tens of millions of Americans was orchestrated by the two ruling parties in the service of a corporate oligarchy. If we do not address this anomie, if we do not restore the social bonds shattered by predatory corporate capitalism, the decay will accelerate.

This dark human pathology is as old as civilization itself, repeated in varying forms in the twilight of ancient Greece and Rome, the finale of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, revolutionary France, the Weimar Republic and the former Yugoslavia.

The social inequality that characterizes all states and civilizations seized by a tiny and corrupt cabal — in our case corporate — leads to an inchoate desire by huge segments of the population to destroy.

The ethnic nationalists Slobodan Miloševic, Franjo Tudjman, Radovan Karadžic? and Alija Izetbegovic? in the former Yugoslavia assumed power in a similar period of economic chaos and political stagnation. Yugoslavs by 1991 were suffering from widespread unemployment and had seen their real incomes reduced by half from what they had been a generation before.

These nationalist demagogues sanctified their followers as righteous victims stalked by an array of elusive enemies. They spoke in the language of vengeance and violence, leading, as it always does, to actual violence. They trafficked in historical myth, deifying the past exploits of their race or ethnicity in a perverse kind of ancestor worship, a mechanism to give to those who suffered from anomie, who had lost their identity, dignity and self-worth, a new, glorious identity as part of a master race.

When I walked through Montgomery, Alabama, a city where half of the population is African-American, with the civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson a few years ago, he pointed out the numerous Confederate memorials, noting that most had been put up in the last decade. “This,” I told him, “is exactly what happened in Yugoslavia.”

A hyper-nationalism always infects a dying civilization. It feeds the collective self-worship. This hyper-nationalism celebrates the supposedly unique virtues of the race or the national group. It strips all who are outside the closed circle of worth and humanity. The world instantly becomes understandable, a black and white tableau of them and us.

The Mask Is Off

Poverty in America Documentary 2017 ( YouTube)

These tragic moments in history see people fall into collective insanity. They suspend thought, especially self-critical thought. None of this is going away in November, in fact it will get worse.

Joe Biden, a shallow, political hack devoid of fixed beliefs or intellectual depth, is an expression of the nostalgia of a ruling class that yearns to return to the pantomime of democracy. They want to restore the decorum and civic religion that makes the presidency a form of monarchy and sacralizes the organs of state power.

Donald Trump’s vulgarity and ineptitude is an embarrassment to the architects of empire. He has ripped back the veil that covered our failed democracy. But no matter how hard the elites try this veil cannot be restored. The mask is off. The façade is gone. Biden cannot bring it back.

Political, economic and social dysfunction define the American empire. Our staggering inability to contain the pandemic, which now infects over 5 million Americans, and the failure to cope with the economic fallout the pandemic has caused, has exposed the American capitalist model as bankrupt.

It has freed the world, dominated by the United States for seven decades, to look at other social and political systems that serve the common good rather than corporate greed. The diminished stature of the United States, even among our European allies, brings with it the hope for new forms of government and new forms of power.

It is up to us to abolish the American kleptocracy. It is up to us to mount sustained acts of mass civil disobedience to bring down the empire. It poisons the world as it poisons us. If we mobilize to build an open society, we hold out the possibility of beating back these crisis cults as well as slowing and disrupting the march towards ecocide.

This requires us to acknowledge, like those protesting in the streets of Beirut, that our kleptocracy, like Lebanon’s, is incapable of being salvaged. The American system of inverted totalitarianism, as the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called it, must be eradicated if we are to wrest back our democracy and save ourselves from mass extinction.

We need to echo the chants by the crowds in Lebanon calling for the wholesale removal of its ruling class — kulyan-yani-kulyan — everyone means everyone.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He wrote a weekly column for the progressive website Truthdig for 14 years until he was fired along with all of the editorial staff in March 2020. [Hedges and the staff had gone on strike earlier in the month to protest the publisher’s attempt to fire the Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, demand an end to a series of unfair labor practices and the right to form a union.] He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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39 comments for “Chris Hedges: America’s Death March

  1. Michael
    August 13, 2020 at 10:46

    Thanks for this!

  2. John Drake
    August 11, 2020 at 14:50

    As usual Chris is on the mark; as long as he sticks to the past or present tense; and his prose is superb. However, much of the article, especially initially, is in the future tense. This is a risky endeavor as the future goes its merry way usually proving the predictions wrong. Life is full of twists and turns and surprises not to be counted on. I certainly hope his dire predictions are excessive.

    “The terminal decline of the United States will not be solved by elections.” Yes in the short run that may be true and the rotten violent neo-liberal system-“the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” MLK- must decline and/or disintegrate in order to change. Out of that disintegration there must come a reformed more democratic and humane system.

    However now we are faced with a choice between apocalypse now or a a slow moving train wreck. It would be easier to deal with a slow moving train wreck than someone, whom his own niece describes as a psychopath; and who appears to be dedicated to rapidly and completely destroying what is left of the severely compromised American democratic system.

  3. peter mcloughlin
    August 11, 2020 at 14:22

    “The mask is off. The façade is gone.” Yet nothing changes?
    The raison d’etre for empire is power – gaining it and keeping it. But every empire eventually faces its own destruction. Every empire, new and old, deludedly thinks it is unassailable: it always forgets history. Nothing will change as long as power (often hidden in illusion) is the real motivation.

  4. August 11, 2020 at 12:08

    From the article.

    “What these cults stand for today, they condemn tomorrow. At the height of the reign of terror on May 6, 1794 during the French Revolution, Maximilien Robespierre announced that the Committee for Public Safety now recognized the existence of God. The French revolutionaries, fanatical atheists who had desecrated churches and confiscated church property, murdered hundreds of priests and forced another 30,000 into exile, instantly reversed themselves to send to the guillotine those who disparaged religion. In the end, exhausted by the moral confusion and internal contradictions, these crisis cults yearn for self-annihilation.”

    Mister Hedges spends a great deal of time creating a picture of hopelessness. Of course he will deny that, that he is really describing a exploitive destructive society that can be fixed with a little more take to the streets action. Does anyone doubt where that is heading as he describes during the French Revolution above?

    Yes, there is an aggressive, almost suicidal Washington bent on finding and provoking enemies, too much money in the hands of too few, deliberate actions to divide us by opportunistic asses, and more but what that all cries for is more political involvement using the tools the founders gave us which have been approved over time.

    That path is not an easy one but what Mr. Hedges comes very close to advocating is not the way we will get rid of the dysfunctions which are very prevalent and evident today.

    • Desmond Kahn
      August 11, 2020 at 15:46

      I basically agree with Herman in my comment below (please see). Some people will be sucked in by the depiction of total chaos and despair, with little to no possibility of effective political action to counter the trends that Chris describes. I am not one of them.

  5. Sven Anders
    August 11, 2020 at 03:49

    Chris Hedges is excellent except when he comes to his analysis of Yugoslav politics because of his obvious sympathy for the Bosnian Muslims. One of the errors observers made at the time was that they equated Bosnian Muslims with Palestinians. However, this analysis was flawed for the following reason – during WW2 the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians committed genocide against the Serbs killing 550,000 in grotesque conditions under German tutelage. Thus, during the wars of the 90s, the Serbs did not commit any genocide, they were merely fighting to remain in their own state out of fear of falling under the rule of those who had actually committed genocide against them. The charge of genocide against the Serbs came about to counter the obvious historical fact that the Serbs were fighting wars against those who had committed genocide.

    • August 11, 2020 at 10:46

      Hedges may also have ignored fact that after Tito was gone, Yugoslavia essentially became a multi-cultural country involving a long history of relationships. That enabled leaders with strong connections to that history influenced by the flux of rapid change. There may be a lesson here in our present day need to possibly maintain a connection to what a few decades ago involved the markers of identity that are now being torn apart through an establishment seeking to establish what was the reality after WW2, the USA being the dominant country on this planet. Only now the money and power wants access to diminishing world-wide resources and access to growth-providing cheap labor. Trump, maybe unwittingly, made gaining those goals less tenable by touching on a need in the midst of social flux to regain the past security and stability built into American identity. Possibly best personified as a laconic aw-shucks Gary Cooper leaning against a white picket fence who is now potentially being identified as an exploiter of Indian nations. All in the midst of a complex disorienting pandemic.

  6. Zhu
    August 11, 2020 at 02:36

    Yup, it sounds like the USA as I knew it before I left. Whether the situation can be reversed, I do not know.

  7. Barry La Fontaine
    August 10, 2020 at 21:40

    Unfortunately none of the media comment in Australia about the upcoming Presidential election has anything to say about the enormous decline of the living standards of the US citizens and focuses entirely on second order differences promoted by Biden and Trump.
    As an Australian living in a medium sized, globally exposed country, what worries me most is if the US becomes so hyper national as Chris portrays, and given its huge military power, that to justify its national erosion of confidence, it starts a process of war that becomes global and results in the use of nuclear weapons. A far, far worse fate than COVID-19.

  8. Ho Y. Wong
    August 10, 2020 at 21:27

    The new Chomsky, even better, IMHO.

  9. DH Fabian
    August 10, 2020 at 19:48

    It’s impossible to understand our current situation while ignoring the consequences of the Democrats’ “war on the poor.” Party loyalists have already begun rehearsing their theme song, “Russia Stole the Election!” We are the generation that failed this country.

  10. Desmond Kahn
    August 10, 2020 at 18:14

    Well, gee, Chris, thanks for throwing us a crumb of hope at the very tail end of your prediction of decay and mass violence! That was big of you. Is it possible you got a teeny bit carried away? You left out the national uprising against police brutality, certainly a hopeful sign. Too hopeful for the downer you wanted to lay on us, no doubt.
    Your essay totally ignored Biden’s recent announcement of a New-Deal-like plan to spend hundreds of billions on things like infrastructure and energy efficiency.

    • trevor forry
      August 11, 2020 at 05:45

      your not reading between the lines to protect your fear of accepted hopelessness of being part of the process…. he isn’t making any body wrong or right….he is stating Co do tips that are present and in motion….
      it is your judgements and dependancies that you are seeing as objectionable. .. bottomline. …we need to changet our ….the countries ways by standing up to the economic choking from the profiteering fantasies we as with our ancestors were convinced was our right and remedy for realizing satisfaction and happiness and fulfillment and as Chris corrrectly laid out…. it’s a mistake that we can change. … not another item to blame someone for..
      but a condition that can be resolved and bring back the national and international unity necessary for our planet to work in unison… not the out of control secularism and enmity encouraged by the obsession of capitalism that just breeds hopelessness, discouragement and hate… my opinion

    • August 11, 2020 at 10:33

      Chris Hedges is,unfortunately spot on.And does paint a gloomy picture,but true.As for anything Biden offers to do.Lets face it, the poor guy already forgot;Biden is not in any better shape than Reagan was at the end of his last term.Biden doesn`t even know the time of the day.We are going to replace a guy with a three year old mind with one with a dead one.And we call that progress..??

    • Trish Cameron
      August 11, 2020 at 11:30

      The investment in infrastructure is a give to corporations that will design, supply, build existing infrastructure, which itself supports a NONSUSTAINABLE way of life. What is needed for people to feel their society and their lives have meaning and hope is 1) universal living wage (which would force employers to provide living wages to attract workers); 2) universal health care, including preventive programming that would support GOOD HEALTH (the USA has a horrifying level of preventable disease, mostly due to unregulated “food” system, environmental pollution and toxins, and poverty); 3) a cap on CEO and management salaries and significant wealth tax (these folks only got obscenely rich because they are massively subsidized by the citizenry on whom they prey, either directly by government hand-outs/bail-outs and corrupted legislation and indirectly by things like the publicly funded highways systems, electrical grid, education); 4) massive investment in regulation, inspection, and appropriate penalties for corporate malfeasance of all kinds.

    • Alex Cox
      August 11, 2020 at 12:12

      +1. The destruction of Yugoslavia was a NATO project. It privileged Croatia, which supported the Nazis in WW2, and punished the Serbs, who were our allies. Same policy as Ukraine, and a huge blind spot for Hedges.

  11. M. K. Brussel
    August 10, 2020 at 17:26

    Diana Johnstone, who spent considerable time there, has a different take about the demise of Yugoslavia, partially discussed in her memoir, Circle of Darkness. The “west”, Germany and the USA foremost, had much to do with the dissolution of that nation and the war waged by NATO against it.

    • AnneR
      August 11, 2020 at 10:26

      William Blum, too, in his books….He is so well worth the read (albeit very depressing). What he writes about, describes, condemns, is what Empire is all about.

  12. August 10, 2020 at 17:19

    Chris Hedges….a prophet for our times! He tells it like it is and what it will be. He is greatly appreciated by the many who have no voice! Thank you, Chris.

  13. Paul Citro
    August 10, 2020 at 16:48

    Even while we struggle to save our dying civilization we should seriously consider the possibility that it may collapse. In that case we should be prepared to try to preserve human knowledge during the coming dark age. Technology may take a giant step backward and all our electronic wizardry could disappear in a flash leaving us to fall back on what we have preserved in books. Maybe someone should establish a cashe somewhere in remote mountains.

  14. Patricia Wilson
    August 10, 2020 at 16:29

    Christopher Hedges is right. Every word a nail in the coffin.

  15. Andrew Thomas
    August 10, 2020 at 16:00

    Marvelous writing, as usual, Mr. Hedges. Bravo to this and to Saturday’s interview of Greg Palast.

  16. August 10, 2020 at 16:00

    As always, excellent observations by Chris Hedges, and supported by some great historical quotes.

    The truth is people do not change in their fundamental character, at least over non-evolutionay time.

    Given similar circumstances, they will fall into the same traps as others have.

    And there is nothing to protect Americans from what happened in the past in other societies, as in Germany.

    Only believers in American exceptionalism, a kind of secular religion, think otherwise.

    Unfortunately, that belief in exceptionalism remains a bedrock tenet of faith in the American Civic Religion.

    And as it is easy to confirm from the histories of nation-states and religion, tenets of faith always blind followers to truth, making it difficult or impossible to avoid threatening approaching events.

    The great American journalist and historian of the Nazi era, William L Shirer, said that perhaps America would be the first country to go fascist voluntarily.

    He was a sharp observer, and he saw many things in American society supporting his words.

    I fear, the ugly, desperate American words and acts we see today towards China and Russia and Iran, may just repeat Germany’s war, too.

  17. Jools
    August 10, 2020 at 15:35

    Bread lines miles long, jack booted tugs crushing political dissidents, surveillance exceeding perniciously, even beyond Orwell’s expectation, our treasury being raided by political leaders’ avarice greed, how long b4 this country detonates?? Luv Chris Hedges and for heaven sakes Chris, get a podcast already, this country’s in trouble!!

  18. paul easton
    August 10, 2020 at 15:29

    This relentless gloom is part of the problem, not the solution. Today I read an article in NYTimes about people in the rural evangelical segment of Trump’s base. I felt I could talk to those people, since I am also religious, as Hedges used to be. It is the Empire that has set us at each others throats. If we could talk to each other directly, in a space unmediated by the Empire, we would find we had enough in common to coexist and to unite against the oligarchy. It would be easy to have these conversations via the internet. I am waiting for some activist group to set it up.

    • Richard Lemieux
      August 10, 2020 at 18:52

      I agree it’s good to know where our society is at this point in a historical perspective and Chris shows us the landscape where the establishment is driving us in. However I am not all gloom and doom. As you mention the Internet should be our best friend. I am not thinking existing social media software but something different aimed at developing social awareness. Freedom of speech combined with civility has to be learned and it has to be enforced by moderators on that new platform. Technology took us here at this conjuncture where all people over the Earth can communicate; it’s not the time to loose the sense of direction and become depressive. There is turbulence ahead of course but we also have tools and a challenge to steer the Ship in the direction we want.

    • Darrel delaRonde
      August 10, 2020 at 23:18

      It worked in Cairo and Tripoli during the Arab spring, why not here as well?
      You’re spot on

  19. August 10, 2020 at 15:20

    Trump is America’s Picture of Dorian Gray, and he pulled the cloth off the canvas himself.

    “Joe Biden, a shallow, political hack devoid of fixed beliefs or intellectual depth, is an expression of the nostalgia of a ruling class that yearns to return to the pantomime of democracy.”

    I wish Hedges wouldn’t be so nice to Biden.

    • Andrew Thomas
      August 10, 2020 at 18:12

      YES! The Picture of Dorian Gray! Exactly!

    • DH Fabian
      August 10, 2020 at 19:51

      The catch is that Democrats already set the stage to blame Russia again, and their loyalists are rehearsing their scripts.

    • Alan Lipowitz
      August 11, 2020 at 17:36

      here’s the difference between Trump & Biden. Trump has surrounded himself with cabinet members and advisors who do not seem to care about anything but money and there promotion of harsh conservatism. Biden, hopefully, will surround himself with cabinet/advisors who truly recognize the needs of us all. I do not mean to imply that a Biden administration will be clean as driven snow. But. I am confident ti will be better for all than Trump.

  20. James Whitney
    August 10, 2020 at 15:10

    “The dark yearnings among the white working class for vengeance and moral renewal through violence”

    Would it nor be more accurate to write “…among a part of the white working class …”?

    On the whole Chris Hedges is right on target as he is prettly much always.

  21. Dienne
    August 10, 2020 at 14:42

    “These crisis cults, already well established among followers of the Christian Right and Donald Trump, peddle magical thinking and an infantilism that promises — in exchange for all autonomy — prosperity, a return to a mythical past, order and security.”

    I’m sorry, but doesn’t this also describe the Joe Biden cult? We cannot have any criticism of a clearly cognitively disabled candidate with a clear history of lying, segregationism, predatory chauvanism, and total corporate devotion. Don’t say anything, don’t do anything that could “hurt his chances” against Trump. In exchange, he will return us to that magical, blissful time of peace and prosperity (and, yes, order and security) we all enjoyed during the Obama years. Well, if you define “all” as rich whites, anyway.

    • August 10, 2020 at 17:09

      Well, except that that is completely NOT at all what the whole article is saying. Did you only read the one sentence?

    • dave
      August 10, 2020 at 20:22

      Joe Biden, a shallow, political hack devoid of fixed beliefs or intellectual depth, is an expression of the nostalgia of a ruling class that yearns to return to the pantomime of democracy. They want to restore the decorum and civic religion that makes the presidency a form of monarchy and sacralizes the organs of state power.

      Donald Trump’s vulgarity and ineptitude is an embarrassment to the architects of empire. He has ripped back the veil that covered our failed democracy. But no matter how hard the elites try this veil cannot be restored. The mask is off. The façade is gone. Biden cannot bring it back.

      Yeah, you’re right, Dienne. He totally let Biden off the hook!

  22. Aaron
    August 10, 2020 at 14:27

    Excellent and mind-opening! This is an exceptionally accurate and powerful piece. And it’s not an overstatement or hyperbolic. To consider how far we’ve deteriorated in just a few months is jaw-dropping. Man I’d argue we’re more than sputtering, we’re at full speed toward the end. I’m finding it difficult to mentally handle the worse and worse news every day. I got the news that another friend of mine from high school took his own life, and it seems like a perfect example of the anomie that has set it. I think your point about cults is exactly right on. It’s the only way to explain peoples’ beliefs and behaviors now. And all the ideal conditions are present for the formation of cult leaders to emerge. It seems like about half of the country has a death wish, judging from the way they think about this pandemic. Surely the back-to-school idea is going to even make this worse. And right when we would like to have a candidate for president that could really reverse this accelerating downward spiral, we are presented with Joe Biden, it’s soul-crushing and augurs for more and more anomie. And after following the climate change science for the last 20 years, I bet that the top experts have, perhaps not publicly, but privately, given up any hope for a solution. I guess I’ll have to just vote for third party so I can at least respect myself and sleep at night without the ‘lesser of two evils’ crap influencing me anymore. Been there, done that.

  23. Carolyn L Zaremba
    August 10, 2020 at 13:54

    Great article, Chris. Thank you.

  24. Drew Hunkins
    August 10, 2020 at 12:54


    Nothing at all morally or ethically suspect with hyper nationalism. Of course it’s crucial that the nationalism totally subdues the imperialist impulse and staunchly upholds the Bill of Rights for all its citizens. The Left needs to get patriotic in the manner that supports anti-war activists and working people. One way to do this is to enforce strong nation-state borders to prevent labor arbitrage.

    Left patriotism and democratic nationalism is the way out of our current FUBAR.

    The nation-state can be a divine instrument for good for struggling U.S. citizens, after just some of the benefits the nation-state has rained down on us: Medicare, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and the Wagner Act. We as collective U.S. citizens can get much more if we eschew our irrational fears of nationalism and make common cause with patriotic working U.S. citizens.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      August 10, 2020 at 14:02

      As a Marxist, I disagree vehemently with your opinion about nation states. In a global economy, the nation state is a hindrance to the advancement of humanity. Nation states constantly jockeying for influence at the expense of other nation states. Nation states spending billions on bloated militaries. Nation states not publishing scientific information for all the world to have access to because science has now become “intellectual property”. Capitalism is the cause of this and capitalism must be replaced by socialism. Under socialism, health care would be free (unlike Medicare, which does not cover everything and for which a monthly premium is extracted from social security benefits). Under socialism, everyone would receive a pension that one could live on.

      I know something about this because I am a senior worker who cannot retire because the ridiculously small social security benefit doesn’t even cover my rent. Drug companies are competing for Covid-19 vaccines under cover of darkness so they can be first to make a profit from them at the expense of citizens. Trillions are given to corporations when lawmakers diddle over chump change to desperate people who have lost everything. More trillions are wasted on war and the build-up to more war.

      You can take your nationalism and shove it.

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