Chris Hedges the Prophet: Liberal Democracy Headed for Breakdown

Chris Hedges thinks the writing is on the wall, Nebuchadnezzar. In his most recent essay at Truthdig (“The Globalization of Hollow Politics”), he writes the following:

A breakdown of liberal democracy [in the United States], which seems to be where we are headed, may not bring with it a salutary change. The most retrograde forces within the corporate state, such as the Koch brothers, will lavish racists, homophobes, demagogues, birthers, creationists and gun-carrying, flag-waving idiots with money once the political center crumbles.

Chaos accompanied by authoritarianism. Is that really what Hedges appraises as likely for America?


[W]idespread discontent could very easily be manipulated by the corporate elites to ensure our enslavement. I watched this happen in the former Yugoslavia. This is the real battle before us.

Is Chris Hedges coming unhinged? What, exactly, are these parallels between the former Yugoslavia and the United States that Hedges sees playing out?

There’s a lot to be depressed about in America (a Mitt Romney presidency is one). And, to quote Thoreau, “there are many keen and subtle masters” that already enslave Americans, “both North and South.” The obesity epidemic is an example. But I don’t see any evidence that American democracy in 2012 is as politically fragile and vulnerable to demagogues as, say, Wiemar Germany was in the 1920s and early 30s.

The Republican Party is larded with whacked-out fundamentalists, but Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum (thank God).

I’ve always liked reading Hedges; he’s an important public intellectual (and, generally, a good one). But he needs to start connecting the dots a bit better than this. A public intellectual’s task is to make distinctions; to complexify, not oversimplify.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Chris Hedges the Prophet: Liberal Democracy Headed for Breakdown

  1. andrewclunn says:

    When we’re fear mongering about imagined dystopias, where remains any space for reasonable argument?

  2. Adam says:

    Maybe I’m just an optimist…

    But if the economy collapses (Due to the parasitic nature of the banks) what makes Chris Hedges think we will flock towards the extremists in the end? Will we flock towards people who push more free market rhetoric? People who promise us more austerity, more individualization and what not?
    Maybe we will at first… maybe we will suffer at first.

    But I feel in the end the truth will rise to the surface.. and from this froth change will begin. It happened in the great depression and it will happen again. What Chris Hedges seems to believe is that we need the powers that be… but we’ve never needed the powers that be. They’ve always needed us.

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