Vote Hope 2008 :5: Chris Hedges

Where are the opportunities for real change in the 2008 election? To find out, we spoke to some grassroots organizers, national leaders, and elected officials who are working for change.

Vote Hope :: 5 of 6

Facing Down Despair


Sarah van Gelder: Where do you see opportunities in the coming election to address the trends you describe in American Fascists?

Chris Hedges: The fundamental problem that contributes to the rise of a radical Christian mass movement is the personal and economic despair that has gripped tens of millions of Americans through the outsourcing of jobs and the slashing of federal and state assistance programs. This process has left parts of the United States looking like the Third World, including the former mill towns where my family comes from in Maine.

Until that issue is addressed, until the American working class and now increasingly the American middle class are given hope, some kind of stability, and some kind of belief in the future, this movement is going to grow.

It will suffer setbacks as it did in 1980 when Pat Robertson ran for president and got shellacked—but the engine of this movement is personal and economic despair, and that's only gotten worse.

Sarah van Gelder: Why does this despair turn into support for fascism?

Chris Hedges: When the reality-based world no longer works, people look for magic, miracles, and a mythic world—one where they have a specially anointed destiny. That's precisely what has happened to the American working class.

And now we're seeing the same kind of pernicious assault by corporations on the middle class. Anything that can be put on software is being outsourced, from engineering to architecture.

We live in a country where the top 1 percent controls more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, and democracies cannot be sustained in oligarchic states.

With the exception of Dennis Kucinich and maybe Ralph Nader—and I don't know if Ralph is running—nobody is addressing the fundamental issue that is distorting and destroying American democracy and giving rise to a mass movement under Christian banners that seeks political power and that has fused with the corporations.

Sarah van Gelder: Just last year, when the Democrats took Congress, some people felt that this period was winding down.

Chris Hedges: It seems pretty clear that the Democrats regained control of Congress on the issue of Iraq, which is unequivocally a disaster. The Democrats have not proved adept at doing much about the war, and it now appears that the Democratic Party will continue to fund the war through the end of the Bush administration. That's going to hurt the Democrats a lot.

Sarah van Gelder: What do you think it's going to take to open up the political dialogue?

Chris Hedges: We have to break the power of the corporations. Eighty percent of American media is controlled by six or eight companies. Television is a wasteland. We are a country that is woefully uninformed, not only about what we do abroad, but how we're perceived by others. The very cable news networks that sold us the war no longer report the war, because it doesn't fit the mythic narrative of us as a great and glorious nation liberating oppressed Iraqis.

It's very hard to work in a society that's lost the ability to discern what's true and what isn't, and is willfully kept in darkness.

Photo of Sarah van Gelder

Read Sarah's full interview with Chris Hedges in original, transcript form.

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