Russell Banks in books such as ‘Continental Drift’, ‘Affliction’ and ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ has long chronicled the struggles and inner torment that come with being a member of our dispossessed working class. In his new novel, ‘Foregone’, he turns his lens on the inner life of artists, in this case a well-known documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife. Fife, who fled to Canada, supposedly to avoid the draft, is dying from the ravages of cancer. He is confined to a wheelchair, wracked by pain, pumped full of medications, and unable to eat solid food. His final desire, in front of a camera, is to expose to his wife of 40 years the lies and myths that he has spun to create a fictional persona, perhaps a curse of all who become public figures.Continue reading
On Contact: Islamophobia, Race And Global Politics
Islamophobia is not defined solely as anti-Muslim sentiment. It is not limited to hate speech and hate crimes, racial stereotypes, or discrimination against Muslim men and women. Islamophobia, in its most pernicious and deadly form, is embodied in the wars waged by the United States in the Muslim world, as well as the laws and internal security structures that turn Muslims in the United States into “the other.” These laws include the criminalization of migrants, allowing Americans to justify the violent and illegal treatment of the undocumented, and the wholesale surveillance of Muslim communities. It includes the crippling sanctions imposed by the United States on countries such as Iraq and Iran. It includes the numerous military bases and occupation forces in Muslim countries.Continue reading
On Contact: Struggle Against Industrial Agriculture
The San Joaquin Valley in California is the most agriculturally productive farmland in the United States, but it is also plagued by high levels of poverty and water pollution, as well as the serious health risks that come with constant exposure to pesticides. These huge corporate farms in California, established over the last century, became the model for modern agrobusiness designed to exploit a transient labor force, bankrupt, and seize small family farms, exhaust the soil, and drain the aquifers and reservoirs. These agrobusinesses use their economic might to buy elected officials, deform the court system to legalize their assault on the land, and silence criticism in academia and the press.Continue reading
Chris Hedges: The Call
On September 5, 2013, I pulled my old Volvo wagon—a bumper sticker reading “This is the Rebel Base” stuck on the back by my wife, a Star Wars fan—into the parking lot at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey. I had taught college-level courses in New Jersey prisons for the past three years. But neither my new students nor I had any idea that night that we were embarking on a journey that would shatter their protective emotional walls, or that years later our lives would be deeply intertwined.
I put my wallet and phone in the glove compartment, emptied my pockets of coins, and dumped them in the console between the front seats. I made sure I had my driver’s license. I gathered up my books, plays by August Wilson, James Baldwin, John Herbert, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Miguel Piñero, Amiri Baraka, and a copy of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.Continue reading
Trauma And Transformation In An American Prison, Part 1
In part one of a two-part interview, journalist Hugh Hamilton discusses the saga of trauma and transformation in an American prison as chronicled in journalist Chris Hedges’ new book, ‘Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison’.
The US imprisons more of its people than any other country in the world. According to the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative, the American prison-industrial complex currently holds captive nearly 2.3 million people in more than 6,000 prisons, penitentiaries, jails, detention centers, and correctional facilities across the country.
In his newest and positively riveting page-turner, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges takes us behind the forbidding bars of steel at East Jersey State Prison, into a world where prisoners are people.Continue reading
Ten Years Later: Lessons For Today From The Occupy Movement
To mark the tenth anniversary, I spoke with Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign (click here for that interview) and Chris Hedges, a noted author and host of On Contact (click here for that interview), about the political and economic environment in 2011 that gave rise to the Occupy Movement, the lessons learned and what is happening now. The Occupy Movement had a tremendous impact that is still being felt today but we continue to face many serious crises.
This is a good time to reflect upon what Occupy/October2011 did right and how that could inform our current organizing. Here are a few of the lessons.Continue reading
Chris Hedges: Occupy And Building Power Now To Confront Autocracy
In his recent article, “America’s Fate: Oligarchy or Autocracy,” Chris Hedges writes that bankrupt liberals have sold out to the oligarchic class to try to prevent an autocracy from rising but that is actually creating the conditions for autocracy. Hedges speaks with Clearing the FOG about the lessons from the Occupy movement – he was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC in 2011 – and why we must build a militant movement now to confront and hold power accountable. He explains how power works, including the role of politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in protecting the interests of the wealthy classes.Continue reading
America’s Fate: Oligarchy Or Autocracy
The competing systems of power in the United States are divided between oligarchy and autocracy. There are no other alternatives. Neither are pleasant. Each have peculiar and distasteful characteristics. Each pays lip service to the fictions of democracy and constitutional rights. And each exacerbates the widening social and political divide and the potential for violent conflict.
The oligarchs from the establishment Republican Party, figures such as Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, George and Jeb Bush and Bill Kristol, have joined forces with the oligarchs in the Democratic Party to defy the autocrats in the new Republican Party who have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump or, if he does not run again for president, his inevitable Frankensteinian doppelgänger.Continue reading
On Contact: Anti-Capitalist Chronicles, Part 1
On the show, the first of a two-part interview, Chris Hedges discusses with Professor David Harvey the reconfiguration of global capitalism, the contradictions of neoliberalism, the financialization of power, the commodification of spectacle, rate versus mass of surplus value, and other issues fundamental to economic theory.
David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is a leading theorist in the field of urban studies. Library Journal calls Professor Harvey “one of the most influential geographers of the later 20th century.” Professor Harvey earned his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and was formerly professor of geography at Johns Hopkins, a Miliband fellow at the London School of Economics, and Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at Oxford.Continue reading
On Contact: Inverted Totalitarianism
In his books ‘Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism’ and ‘Politics and Vision’, a massive survey of Western political thought that his former student Cornel West calls “magisterial,” Wolin lays bare the causes behind the decline of American empire and the rise of a new and terrifying configuration of corporate power he calls “inverted totalitarianism.” Wolin throughout his scholarship charted the steady devolution of American democracy and in his last book, ‘Democracy Incorporated’, wrote: “One cannot point to any national institution[s] that can accurately be described as democratic, surely not in the highly managed, money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial presidency, the class-biased judicial and penal system, or, least of all, the media.”Continue reading
On Contact: WWII America’s Historical Myths
On the show this week, Chris Hedges discusses the historical myths about World War II with Danny Sjursen, Retired US Army Major, author and historian. Knowledge, or what the historian Howard Zinn called the knowledge industry, is a vital form of power. Yes, the ruling elite’s monopoly on force is a direct form of power, but just as important, as Zinn points out, is the ability to shape perceptions about our origins and identity, inculcating beliefs and narratives that legitimate and often glorify the centers of power.
The knowledge industry, which consists of universities, colleges, schools and the mass media, Zinn argues, is not primarily about truth but deception. Truth is dangerous. It implodes the myths and lies used to legitimate the status quo and the ruling elite’s monopoly on violence.Continue reading
On Contact: American Coup d’Etat
Dennis Kucinich served as a US representative from Ohio from 1997 to 2013, losing his seat after the state Democratic Party machine redrew Ohio’s 10th Congressional district, a redistricting designed expressly to oust him, although he is a Democrat, from his seat, which is what happened. He was also the 53rd mayor of Cleveland. As mayor he took on the entrenched power of the big banks and business interests, along with the mob, which controlled City Hall. His anti-corruption campaign included battling back against the efforts to privatize the city’s municipal electric utility, a scheme that would have jacked up utility rates for the city’s residents and netted millions in profits for the banks and the privately owned Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company.Continue reading
On Contact: The Trial Of Ghislaine Maxwell
On the show this week Chris Hedges talks to investigative journalist Nick Bryant about the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell.
The British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, held at New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center and denied bail, will be tried this fall on sex-trafficking charges for allegedly recruiting and grooming teenage girls to engage in sex acts with the late American financier Jeffrey Epstein. She is reputed to have procured teenage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004 and allegedly paid the girls hundreds of dollars in cash after each encounter with Epstein. Epstein died in a New York jail cell in August 2019 in what authorities ruled was a suicide, although a doctor hired by Epstein’s family to conduct an independent autopsy has disputed that conclusion.Continue reading
On Contact: The Life And Work Of Susan Sontag
On the show this week, Chris Hedges discusses the writer and intellectual Susan Sontag with her biographer Benjamin Moser.
Susan Sontag, who wrote about art, feminism, politics, celebrity, style, homosexuality, illness, fascism, and war, was that rare species in American society – an intellectual celebrity. She traveled to Cuba as a naive political pilgrim, North Vietnam during the war, now older and more skeptical, and was in Germany when the Berlin Wall was breached and eradicated as a barrier between East and West Germany. She was in Sarajevo when the city was being hit with hundreds of shells a day and under constant sniper fire from the besieging Bosnian Serbs. An average of 10 people were killed in the city daily.Continue reading
On Contact: Pandemic Two
On the show this week, in the second of a two-part interview, Chris Hedges continues his discussion with philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the social, political and psychological consequences of prolonged lockdowns and social distancing, as well as the mass illness and death caused by the pandemic.
In his new book, ‘Pandemic 2: Chronicles of a Time Lost,’ Zizek argues the failure of global capitalism to cope with the pandemic presages, he fears, a systems collapse, a dress rehearsal for a frightening new form of authoritarianism in which the world is starkly divided between the elites and the rest of us. “…[T]he return to normality thus becomes the supreme psychotic gesture, the sign of collective madness,” Zizek writes.Continue reading