who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
This is a Nederlog of June 7, 2015. This is the - extended -
comments file on the series of interviews that Chris Hedges (<- Wikipedia) made in
2014 with Sheldon
Wolin (<- Wikipedia). The series
interviews is in the previous file, where the links if pressed move
you to one of the following sections in this file:
[1.2] On the lack of alternative methods
[1.3] On "neoliberals" versus "neoconservatives"
[1.4] On corrupt academics
[1.5] On eight general points
[1.7] On a
professional revolutionary class
[1.8] On the many successes of the rich right
[2.1] On propaganda
On the unexplicated
[2.3] On what holders of power do and do not
[2.4] On real science and its relative
[2.5] On SCOTUS's "Citizen United" decision
[2.6] On Bill Clinton and the Third Way
totalitarianism and "public relations"
age(s) of adulthood
quite rare among academics
[3.4] On some of the effects of McCarthyism
explicitly stated by careerists and conformists
[4.2] On how modern elections are won
[4.3] Superpower and inverted
[4.4] Power and technology
[4.5] On the chasm between ideology and
[4.6] On the public
[4.7] On the gifts of the average as very
[4.8] On fragmentation
[4.9] Consequences of deception and
[5.1] On liberty and equality
[5.2] A pluriform democracy of small
power and the
[5.4] On careerism and censorship
[5.5] On revolution
[5.6] On "revolution" and "radical
change" (no new
[5.7] Revolutions and spying
[5.8] Revolutionary elites
[5.10] The enlightened public
In fact, these are all
expanded forms of my remarks. Also, this file can be read by itself.
[1.1] On having feasible plans
I am quite skeptical about mass movements
that are not propelled by some good understanding of a topic and
feasible plans - which means that I cannot support most mass movements
I have known about the last 45 years, and indeed nearly all of them
also have failed (except as mechanisms to launch a few - mostly
very undeserving - persons to what
later became obvious were mostly corrupt careers).
The same holds for small movements: I want both feasible plans and
rational ideas about what is and should be the case. Without these I
will not take part (whether or not I am ill).
This means that I am in general quite skeptical - which is justified
because most of politics
is irrational, secretive and dishonest.
[1.2] On the lack of alternative methods
This is by Sheldon Wolin:
"We still have
elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media.
But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a
coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an
alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be
I agree, but the main reason
that there are hardly any rational
alternatives is that the great majority does not have the intelligence
that is required to reason out such alternatives.
"neoliberals" versus "neoconservatives"
is less about capitalism as it is about the current
(aka and better: neoconservative) proponents of a special form of it,
that reduces everything to the
question "which recipe makes the most (economical) profit?" - which is
just stupid ideologizing,
but for that very reason also is quite
And see [3.1] below (for in fact there is a fairly
deep theme here).
[1.4] On corrupt academics
The class of
academics has, once again (see Benda), betrayed both
the people's rights and the
nurturing of rational critical ideas, and instead sold out to the money
corporations and bullshit:
seen that whole
process in Holland, from the 1970s onwards:
Nearly everybody was lying;
nearly everybody was only interested in a career; and the
got the best of jobs, and also destroyed the real
universities and reduced them to colleges, while in fact their whole
idea of "a revolution" was any movement that gets me (the
"revolutionary" "academic") a tenured position.
For all of this happened in Dutch universities that were given to
the students in 1971 by an act of parliament, and most of these
students pretended to be some kind of "marxists",
while in fact nearly
all were careerists.
(In 1995 everything
was turned back.)
[1.5] On eight general points
So let me make a list of points. Here are
eight of them:
I think these points are
- Democratic rituals and
institutions are these days largely a facade for unchecked global
- Academics, intellectuals
and journalists these days function as echo chambers for elites,
courtiers and corporate systems managers.
- The corporations have
succeeded in seizing nearly all forms of political and social power.
- All the institutions
that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered
impotent and ineffectual.
- What is especially
missing as regards ideas is a crucial, continuous opposition
- What is especially
missing as regards facts is any effective
organized opposition: The "left"
has become "Third Way",
i.e. right wing lite, and helped destroy the
trade unions and helped installing austerity for the poor.
- Capitalism, or at least
its ideologists, wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political
order subservient to the needs of the economy, and has reduced economy
the question "what is most profitable for the rich".
- The vast majority of the
academics have sold out, already in the 80-ies,
and have destroyed the universities and remade them into colleges were
almost anyone with an IQ higher than 100 can get some sort of diploma,
if only in "multimedia studies", provided he or she has the money to
pay for it.
I see little grounds for hope, apart from
major economic collapse.
In fact, that is almost the only hope I have,
for I think a major economic collapse is likely, though this also will
lead to much harm, much repression and much poverty for very many, and most
revolutions fail, at least in the sense that the eventual outcome
tends to be quite different fom what the revolutionaries wanted.
professional revolutionary class
Firstly, you do not "create classes", and secondly the whole
idea of "a professional
revolutionary class" seems
to me outdated (and bound to be
scoped up by the NSA).
Also, it did not work out well for
Soviet Union or China: Being revolutionized by a very small "professional revolutionary class" meant the members of that - extremely
small - class kept power for at least 60 years, and all
maintained their own dictatorships.
On the many successes of the rich right
The right has
been quite successful, and its members have built up their
policies from the early seventies onwards.
The reasons they
quite successful are mainly that they had a lot of money; they worked
(and work) in
secret; and they were not opposed by neither the political
parties nor the
academics (who indeed for forty years mostly "sat around writing incomprehensible laws and
boring policy papers") nor
the trade unions. (And the formerly leftist political parties were
corrupted by the bullshit
of the "Third Way"
by Clinton, Blair and others, like the Dutchman Kok).
[2.1] On propaganda
see it (which may not
be as Wolin or Hedges sees it) the main reasons
development is the realization that
lying - works, for the vast
majory can be deceived
(2) this propaganda is mostly quite irrational
and simpleminded, and
(3) most propaganda
works by treating people and politics as if they are family, as
are one's own kind - which is a lie in several
It is not only
simply false, it also very much simplifies things. And in fact, this
development mostly goes back to Edward Bernays
is on my site.
Also, Hedges is quite right that the corporations use the same
of lies to try to make the people who work for them feel as if they are
family through working for the same corporations. And note this really
is an enormous, completely false propagandistic simplification of
politics, economics, and religion to a personalized
family-scheme of values that even the most stupid
TV-viewer can understand.
Finally, it is important to see that by now most men, women and
children see and read more advertisements - propaganda
from the big corporations, for the most part - than they get any
other type of written information, while they also tend to be
surrounded by ads wherever they assemble.
[2.2] On the unexplicated
This continues the previous remark. One
reason the ruling ideology never chrystallized as a public policy
is simply that it is far too irrational: it needs to be able to
boss and the
party in many inconsistent ways, and it does this in the end by
loyalties, that are rarely explicated but all the time used in
advertisements and propaganda.
The other reason that the ruling ideology is
rarely explicated is that
a considerable part is based on hypocrisies,
looking away, not
acknowledging criticisms, pretending everything is OK etc. etc. and
these things are by far the best done if the ideology that is defended
mostly tacitly is itself never clearly explicated (or only very
partially and in propaganda
On what holders of power do and do not understand
I agree with Wolin that
most politicians and CEOs I
have heard talking indeed cannot be suspected of understanding much or
anything of politics
in any high rational way.
But no, in
the sense that they all do know who to serve: the
own rich kind. Thus, politicians and CEOs are against higher taxes for
the rich, simply
because this would loose them some money, and they do not want
for civilizing anyone else than their own - rich -
are what we pay for civilized society", Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Jr.: If you don't want to pay taxes it is because
you are against a civilized society, and against something like fair
sharing - but that is what many of the rich want: Not fair
sharing, but getting as much as they can for themselves.
On real science and its relative
for 12 years tried to stop and undo the politication of the Dutch
universities (in which I totally failed, simply because most
and most staff found it much easier, and much more
pleasant to teach
or learn left-wing politics rather than real science, until
since when most
students and most staff found it much easier, and much
to teach right-wing politics rather than real science):
earlier about how because corporate forces have essentially taken over
not only systems of media but systems of education, they’ve effectively
destroyed the capacity within these institutions for critical thinking.
And what they’ve done is educate generation–now probably a couple of
generations of systems managers, people whose expertise, technical
expertise, revolves around keeping the system, as it’s constructed,
viable and afloat, so that when there’s a–in 2008, the global financial
crisis, they immediately loot the U.S. Treasury to infuse a staggering
$17 trillion worth of money back into the system.
Yes - and I objected
against this from 1977 onwards, but I was one of the very few,
in fact because I was one of the very few who was really
interested in real
science. (I must have been effective in some sense because I was,
although I was ill, the only person to be removed from a Dutch
univertsity because I said what I thought in an invited talk. This
removal was grossly illegal, but no one else protested.)
In any case,
Hedges is quite right that (1) the decline of the universities and
schools also started in the late Sixties and Seventies and (2)
consisted in considerable part in replacing science by propaganda,
while pretending the propaganda - like Diederik
Stapel's utter and
complete bullshit - was "real science".
On SCOTUS's "Citizen United" decision
The Supreme Court's
decisions that corporations are
people, and that money is free speech, are both completely false
conservative articles of faith, that only
help the very rich.
Also, since one must be very
to see this, and since most members of the Supreme Court are far from
stupid, I assume this was done quite intentionally
by the majority that
decided this - and this also means that majority
was quite clear about the fact that they were no longer legalizing but
On Bill Clinton
and the Third Way
this on the Democratic Party:
HEDGES: Well, didn’t
Clinton just turn the Democratic Party into the Republican Party and
force the Republican Party to come become insane?
WOLIN: Yeah, it’s true.
Yeah, I mean, it’s true that beginning with the Clinton administration,
the Democratic Party has kind of lost its way too.
Precisely - and Clinton did
so by insisting that his propaganda
was the Third Way,
an utterly false
amount of pure bullshit
quite unreadable for
anyone with a decent logical mind) that only served to obscure that
what he really
did was destroying the left, as did Tony Blair in England.
On regulated and unregulated capitalism
This is from Part 5 that has the title
and in fact I have already
stated my answer:
Yes - but
there are two fundamental
forms of capitalism: regulated
and unregulated capitalism,
the former is quite compatible with democracy, while the latter is not.
(The last two links are quite fundamental.)
Also, there are quite a few
quite deep questions hidden here. I will
name one, and before that I observe that Chris Hedges does not clarify
his position about the forty years - 1939-1979 - of regulated
capitalism, in which the incomes of everyone who lived in the West went
up, while there also were many fundamental liberties.
The basic question exists in
particular for those who do not believe
socialism will solve much, because it concentrates far too much power
in the government
(see the Soviet Union and Communist China):
It would seem as if capitalism
does exist also "with a human
face", at least in Western Europe, the U.S.A., Canada, Australia
and New Zealand, in the period 1939-1979 (and minus the years of war)
especially when contrasted with the state socialism of the Soviet Union.
Then again, this may have been
a fluke, e.g. if one compares those 40
years with the 40 years from 1874-1914, which were much harder on the
The age(s) of adulthood
There is a somewhat
interesting theme here, although I think this will
not be popular with the majority: The age(s) of adulthood.
Speaking for myself, and
judging much later than my twenties and
While I got to be an
legal adult at age 21, I hadn't even stopped growing then and I'd say
now - at 64, though still looking 44 or so, after 30
years of megavitamins - I was a child till 16 and an adolescent
next 10 years or so, and only started to be a real adult from
thirties onwards (which also meant I changed considerably less from
then onwards than I did until 30).
And while it is true that I am
a slow developer, I also think this is
biologically correct, and indeed was also admitted by the Ancient
Greeks, who used various age limits for various functions,
to me quite sensible.
Good writing is
quite rare among academics
vast majority of academics just cannot write, period. There are
quite a few other reasons why so much of academic prose is rather
awful, but one very important one is that very few can really
write - and I know, because I have read very many academics, of
all kinds, and it was only rarely that I had to say "he" - Jacob
Burckhardt, C. Wright Mills, William James, Bertrand Russell - "can
compared with their academic peers, and real writers of novels.
some of the
effects of McCarthyism
McCarthyism had quite a few
major consequences. For one example, I
did find the academic stuff, especially in American sociology, that I
read in the late Sixties and early Seventies, much of which went back
to the 1950ies, quite
boring and quite cramped and artificial, indeed also with the exceptions
Wright Mills (who never was fully accepted) and Vance Packard
(who had to work as a journalist) and a few others.
Constrains are rarely explicitly
careerists and conformists
The following is quoted because
I was removed
- as the only student to whom this happened since WW II - from
faculty of philosophy in 1988, briefly before getting my M.A. there,
because of my publicly
Note that the constraints are rarely
stated, and mostly "understood" (and accepted
by all careerists
and all conformists),
and that they also serve mostly
WOLIN: Well, yes, it
certainly cast a kind of set of constraints, many of which you didn't
really recognize till later, about what you could teach and how you
would teach and what you wouldn't teach. And its influence was really
simply very great, because people--it's not so much what they said as
what they didn't inquire into.
HEDGES: Well, and also
it's who's let into the club.
WOLIN: Yeah. Oh, yes.
Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.
to exclude topics of
research and indeed also topics of
Inverted totalitarianism and
Yves Smith (who
introduced this part of the interview) may
the entrance of the professional liars from the public
offices, for she says at the end:
The sort of
fragmentation that this interview mentions is in part a result of the
Karl Rove strategy of focusing on hot-button interests of
narrowly-sliced interest groups, along with media fragmentation which
has made it easier to target, as in isolate, them.
For no: That was
much Karl Rove's idea, as it was the result of applying
relations" techniques to voting, and that happened from
the 1970ies onwards, and indeed was done by all major parties.
Before that, it was used
and perfected from the late 40ies onwards to
sell commodities to consumers.
On how modern elections are won
You win an
election by concentrating on the few states or districts (or
whatever) in which the total election will be won or lost; you isolate
a group of voters there and ask them everything about their
voting and preferences; and based on that you derive suggestions of
what the party leaders have to say and promise to win
(which is totally
forgotten - Obama! - as soon as the leader is
This is quite
how commodities are sold as well, and it
works because most of
the electorate do not
have strong political opinions, do not
have much political
knowledge, and are easily misled and deceived - indeed again as they are
nearly all of the
commodities they buy or want.
Superpower and inverted
and "inverted totalitarianism" are two aspects of the same process,
which is that both governments and big corporations got much
more power, which was taken away from the electorate, largely
misleading them, by classifying a lot, and by decades of deregulation.
Power and technology
And it is
also true that a good part of the increase in power of the
governments and big corporations is due to technology - that
was also intentionally classified,
kept secret, and abused.
(This might have been quite different
in a more open and more democratic society.)
On the chasm between ideology and
Sheldon Wolin says amounts to saying that the ordinary
people do not
anymore, in considerable part because they still
believe the idealized and simplified pictures they were offered in high
schools and colleges.
I think that is quite
correct: Most ordinary people "understand" things
in terms of ideologies,
and not on the basis of real science or real knowledge.
(Indeed, this is true of nearly everybody about nearly everything: Only
a few know one science decently, and most know no science well, and
thereby have to judge most things
from the point of view
of some ideology).
On the public
As to the public: I mostly
agree, but "public" is a difficult concept, and I would say that it
mostly disappeared because most private - real, non-corporate - persons
do not get any room to
have their voices heard in public, since all must do so by means of
some corporation, that
does not want to have their voices heard, and especially
not if it is
radical, clear and intelligent.
On the gifts of the average as
government and the big corporations got much
more powerful, but I do not have rosy ideals about the gifts of the
average - and indeed it would seem to me that the gifts of the average are a very
important part of a true explanation of what happened - which
involves that the average were mostly misled and deceived, and believed
the lies they were told as if it was the truth.
the fragmentation is a consequence of, firstly, the application of public
relations techniques, which is a fancy way of saying: professional
techniques designed to deceive, to politics and to voting, and,
of the ease with which the majority of the population can be
deceived due to lack of knowledge or lack of intelligence.
Consequences of deception
while I agree
with Hedges and Wolin, at least on the level of Obama and other leaders
of government, I would also say that a good part of this was a more or
less automatic consequence of applying the techniques of deception to "the people", who in
also have agreed to the propaganda
that they are all individuals without moral responsibilities for almost
anyone who does not belong to their own groups of family and friends.
On liberty and equality
with, here is a quote on De Tocqueville from the Wikipedia:
Tocqueville was an
ardent supporter of liberty. He wrote "I have a passionate love for
liberty, law, and respect for rights”, he wrote. “I am neither of the
revolutionary party nor of the conservative...Liberty is my foremost
passion.” He wrote of "Political Consequences of the Social State of
the Anglo-Americans" by saying "But one also finds in the human heart a
depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the
strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring
equality in servitude to inequality in freedom".
I quite agree, but I
know many have "a depraved
taste for equality", which indeed worked out as De Tocqueville said it
A pluriform democracy of small
That is - or
would be - what I call a
pluriform democracy, precisely because it protects and safeguards
the rights of any group (supposing it is legal) to play some
real role in determining what is and is not
to happen in society.
Also, it seems to me
that the conditions for its
existence have been
mostly destroyed, for a good part intentionally.
On power and the
The main tool
for the governments and the corporations "to shape and direct society" these days is the internet, and indeed especially
all the secret data-mining that is happening these days as a matter of
(See item 1.)
On careerism and censorship
Yes, quite so -
know this very well from my own experiences, where my goose was
cooked and I became a persona
non grata in Holland in 1988 simply by asking only
questions in a
public talk to the faculty of philosophy:
I was thrown out - removed,
excluded - from the
faculty of philosophy; my chances for getting an M.A. in philosophy (to
which I was
very close) were deliberately and illegaly destroyed,
quite on purpose
also: I was too intelligent and too honest to tolerate.
In fact, I had not at all
counted with the possibility that simply
speaking up would lead to my removal (followed by a complete
refusal to answer any of my mails and letters, while no one ever
mentioned it in the press), I suppose because I was educated by real
communist parents, and did have a - quite naive - ideal about speaking the
truth as I saw it. (And I only asked questions - but yes: in
a faculty and a university where the vast majority believed or
at least pretended to believe that "everybody knows that truth does not
Finally, in my case it was censorship
- not of my text (that
was duly published in a students' journal) but of my physical
presence in the faculty of philosophy of the University of
Amsterdam, where I also had been one of the best students, and all in
my illness and my general loathing of the university climate.
(Hedges:) When you have
a system of totalitarianism, in
this case inverted totalitarianism, when you have effectively
fragmented and destroyed the notion of the public, when you have
institutions that define themselves as democratic and yet have
abandoned civic virtue and the common good and in fact harnessed their
authority and their power to the interests of corporations, which is
about creating a neo-feudalism, a security and surveillance state,
enriching a small, global oligarchic elite, perpetuating
demilitarization of the society and superpower itself, which defines
itself through military prowess, is that a point at which we should
begin to discuss revolution?
As I indicated, the last
paragraph is a quotation from Chris Hedges. My
own comment is this (and my family was Marxist, for 40
years also): You
can talk about a revolution any time, as far as I am concerned, but real
revolutions do not occur very often and generally do not
produce the results that inspired the original revolutionaries.
On "revolution" and "radical
change" (no new
I'd much like to see radical
change (which may be the term
sought for) without violence, and I also think that if you want
to have any hope of being heard or read in the main media, it is wise
avoid the term "revolution".
But no, in the sense that, apart
care of your terminology, I do not think "a new
kind of vocabulary" is a good
idea: it will mainly confuse people (and will be only "transparent" to
some of the educated few, if it is to be a major change).
Revolutions and spying
I agree that it
probably quite impossible "to
persuade the powers that be and the structure to change course or
modify their behavior and modify their beliefs" and I also agree that anything that may be called "a
revolutionary force" would have to be created "outside the power structure", while that is quite
difficult, especially with all the internet spying
(which is not done
for your safety, but for the safety of the powers that be).
were - true,
intelligent, though not highly educated - communist
forty years, so I do know this idea quite
well from Lenin, whom I've also read, as I did read Plato and
Well... it didn't work
for my parents, nor for the Dutch Communist
Party, though my parents
worked hard for it. (And these days there are hardly any "revolutionary
communists" left in the West.)
elites: I don't know. I suppose it is wise to avoid the word -
but that is
ordinary people do not like the word in some
everyone knows that
people are not equals, and almost everyone
that people with high
intelligence and a university degree, or people
with a talent
for sports or theater,
are somewhat different in make-up and chances,
ordinary people see no
objections to wildly admiring
someone who can kick a
ball well or is a
The enlightened public
radical change, one must put one's ideas "where an enlightened public would take a stand".
And it is - alas, and for a
good part due to quasi-leftists like
Clinton, Blair and Kok - also quite true
that "there's no concerted
movement which can profess to
represent a large body of opinion that's opposed to these kind of