Wake Up Progressives


Posted by Bob Lord

I'm juxtaposing the views of  Chris Hedges, who I think is the clearest thinking journalist around, and a right-wing viral email I recently read, and the message is clear: Progressives, wake up. Or, in the words of Samuel Jackson, "wake the f*&*k up." 

This is a lengthy post. Sorry for that. Ultimately, my point is that while progressives are hyper-focusing on issues like abortion rights, spending enormous amounts of energy to elect spineless politicians destined to disappoint them, and celebrating what they believe is the implosion of the Republican Party, we are headed towards a disastrous outcome in America. If you have time and inclination, join me after the jump.

First, Hedges, in, Locking Out The Voices of Dissent, discussing the challenges facing a populist uprising on the left:

The security and surveillance state, after crushing the Occupy movement and eradicating its encampments, has mounted a relentless and largely clandestine campaign to deny public space to any group or movement that might spawn another popular uprising. The legal system has been grotesquely deformed in most cities to, in essence, shut public space to protesters, eradicating our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The goal of the corporate state is to criminalize democratic, popular dissent before there is another popular eruption. The vast state surveillance system, detailed in Edward Snowden’s revelations to the British newspaper The Guardian, at the same time ensures that no action or protest can occur without the advanced knowledge of our internal security apparatus. This foreknowledge has allowed the internal security systems to proactively block activists from public spaces as well as carry out pre-emptive harassment, interrogation, intimidation, detention and arrests before protests can begin. There is a word for this type of political system—tyranny. 


Our voices, our rights and our aspirations are no longer of concern to the state. And if we try to assert them, the state now has mechanisms in place to shut us down.

In an interview with Truthdig Radio, Wall Street and Corporations Are Pulling the Strings, Hedges explains the danger presented by supposed liberals who don't deliver on promises of economic justice:

“When you have the figures like Obama who continue to speak in that traditional language of liberalism and yet cannot respond to chronic unemployment, underemployment, you know, foreclosures, bank repossessions, and everything else, and in fact are running a system where the assaults against the underclass are only getting worse, then what happens is there becomes a deep disdain for not only liberal ideology but traditional liberal institutions—you saw the same thing in Weimar—so that when there is an uprising, oftentimes people want nothing to do with not only liberal elites, but the supposed liberal values, quote unquote, that these elites were purportedly espousing,” Hedges says.

“And that is a very real danger,” he continues, “because when you have figures like Obama that present themselves as traditional liberals and yet are unable to be effective in terms of dealing with the suffering and the misery of the underclass, that—and this is what happened in Yugoslavia—that when things exploded, you vomited up these very frightening figures—Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudman—in the same way that the breakdown in Weimar vomited up the Nazi Party. And that’s what frightens me, because we don’t have the movements, the populist movements on the left, and because we live in a system of political paralysis.”

Put Hedges aside for a bit, and focus on what's happening in America on the populist right. I've previously written about right-wing viral emails because I find them laughably illogical or flat out moronic. But one I recently received, and the attitude of my conservative friend who sent it to me, is chilling. The email is essentially a cut and paste of a four-year old  blog post by Frosty Wooldridge, How Immigration and Multi-Culturalism Destroyed Detroit. The post lays the decline of Detroit at the feet of the three groups most scapegoated in America — Blacks, Mexican Immigrants, and Muslims — in a fashion designed to maximize the anger and disgust of a tea party reader. 

I was curious, so I googled Wooldridge and found that he is an unabashed eugenicist, as set forth in his 2011 post, Overpopulation: Human Rights, Human Responsibilities and Eugenics. This paragraph forms part of his worldview:

If humanity is to survive on this planet for even a very short period of time every human being must understand that society has the right to determine how many children he or she has and that right does not exist on an individual level. Since all of humanity is competing for the same finite resources the Earth can supply our species, any group who uses the penis and the womb to increase its number in relation to any other group is committing an act of war and must be destroyed. Humanity cannot survive a breeding war with each group attempting to produce more children than every other group. A breeding war will lead to the short term collapse of civilization as we know it and to the horrific deaths of billions of human beings. Humanity must understand that the old concept of group power based upon the number of individuals in the group is obsolete and must be eliminated from human society.

Do the math. The writings of a eugenicist who stirs up hatred and anger towards the groups most scapegoated in America are circulating as viral emails in the right-wing community.

And Wooldridge is not the only voice on the right promoting this thinking. Five years or so ago, Mark Steyn wrote America Alone, an adventure in anti-Muslim fear mongering, the central thesis of which was that the scary Muslims were taking over the planet because they were breeding faster than the rest of us. At one point, Steyn explained Serbian atrocities in Bosnia on the basis of the higher fertility rate of Bosnian Muslims. And many conservative politicians promoted Steyn's book. 

It gets worse. When I explained to my friend why I find this so troubling, I didn't move his view one millimeter. My friend obviously is ignorant, but I don't think he's a hater. So, if he looks at the world this way, the rest of right-wing America has to be right there with him.

Unlike my friend, most of right-wing America is angry and filled with hate, hate directed at Blacks (especially Obama), Muslims and of course immigrants. How angry and hateful are they? I can't say precisely, but I know they're angry and hateful enough to demonize a 17-year old kid who was shot and killed when he went out to buy Skittles for his brother.

And they're armed to the teeth. 

Can America's current power structure maintain its grip indefinitely in the face of simmering discontent on the left and and the hatred and anger on the right? Or, as I've asked many times in my posts: How much wealth and how much income can we jam into the top 1% before the bottom 90% explodes.

I beileve America's corporate elite has held on as long as it has because it has succeeded in playing the populist right against the populist left. While the progressive community understands the damage that corporate America has done and continues to do, the tea party right blames our economic woes on scapegoats — Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, union members — and politicians who purport to be progressive, but really aren't (Obama).

But ultimately the bottom 90% will explode. The real question is what the nature of the explosion will be. There are two possibilities: A nonviolent uprising on the populist left, or a violent takeover by the populist right. 

In another recent interview, Chris Hedges: The horror, the horror, Hedges provides the scenario for the nonviolent explosion I hope will take place when he explains how entrenched, imperialist power structures like today's American elite ultimately can crumble in the face of mass protest:

Mass protests that begin to scare the hell out of these people and begin to disrupt systems that they care about, that really is the only solution. I think they're very fragile. I think internally they know how corrupt they are, which is why they passed the NDAA, because they want to be able to pull the military on the streets, because I think ultimately they don't trust the police to protect them. And those are the sentiments of a dying elite. 

So I think when we begin to organize against all the formal structures of power, I think that they may crumble as the Stasi state in East Germany, which when I was in East Germany appeared monolithic, fell in about a week, and it fell in a week because Honecker, Erich Honecker, the dictator for 19 years, sent an elite paratroop division down to Leipzig to fire on 70,000 demonstrators, and they refused to do it. And after that, in the same way that the tsar sent the Cossacks in to crush the Petrograd bread riots and they fraternized with the crowd, both Honecker and the tsar only lasted another week in power. And once the foot soldiers of the elite will not protect the elite, they're done.

That's what will be required for progressive solutions to our economic woes to take hold. Those who believe they can accomplish real change at the ballot box are delusional. 

Unfortunately, there is the possibility that the explosion takes the form of a violent takeover by the populist right. The ingredients are all there: mass dissatisfaction with the state of the economy; intense anger directed at scapegoats; and the weaponry needed to take power by force or threat of force. If the emotions of those on the right evolve to acceptance of eugenics as a solution (perhaps they already have), it could be ghastly. 

Which is the more likely outcome? Consider what's needed for a movement on either the right or left to occur and succeed: A leader, crtical mass, and resignation by the current power structure. Start with leadership. On which end of the spectrum is a populist leader more likely to emerge? Undoubtedly, on the right. Look at the vastly differing levels of exposure given to the voices outside the mainstream on the left and right. Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck and others on the right are heard regularly by huge audiences. There are no voices out there as extreme on the left as they are on the right. But even the sane voices on the left — Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and Ellen Brown, for example — are relegated to books and blog posts. Why? Because corporate America controls the airwaves. Corporate America may not entirely share the views of right-wing extremists, but it does not fear them the way it does the views of those on the left. Thus, on the likelihood of a leader emerging, advantage right. 

On which side is a movement more likely to achieve critical mass? Again, the likelihood is far greater on the right. As Hedges notes, the security state already is set up to prevent a movement from taking hold on the left. The same is not true with respect to movements on the right. That could change, if a right-wing movement became threatening. But at that point, the movement already would be on its way to critical mass.   

Lastly, to what side is today's elite more likely to cede power? Consider the differing dynamics on the right and left. On the left, we need the elite to attempt to snuff a movement out violently and, as Hedges states, a refusal by the foot soldiers of the elite to protect the elite. There's little question that the elite would resort to violence to snuff out a movement on the left. But a refusal by the foot soldiers to carry out orders, I believe, is far less likely here. Why? Because a majority of the foot soldiers of the elite in America sympathize with the right, whose leaders demonize those on the left far more than they do the elite. The dynamic here is far different than in other places where nonviolent movements have succeeded, because in America the status quo appears to be a democracy and a huge segment of society (the political right) believes the problem lies not in the corporate elite that is stealing from them, but in the progressive left. 

The formula for a movement on the right to prevail is different. An uprising on the right likely would involve the threat of force, as that is the mindset of its members. Could the right overthrow the government by force? No, but it would not need to. In the face of right-wing movements, governments make concessions to achieve temporary peace. After all, corporate America, the real power structure behind our offical government, does not fear the extreme right. And several members of the elite — the Koch brothers, for example — actually identify with the extreme right. If an uprising on the extreme right were to succeed, corporate America would retain its economic power, as corporate Germany did when the Nazis took power. So, again, advantage right.

All of which brings us back to Hedges point:

…when you have figures like Obama that present themselves as traditional liberals and yet are unable to be effective in terms of dealing with the suffering and the misery of the underclass, that—and this is what happened in Yugoslavia—that when things exploded, you vomited up these very frightening figures—Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudman—in the same way that the breakdown in Weimar vomited up the Nazi Party.

Could America vomit up a Ted Cruz or Steve King? Easily. It could even vomit up something along the lines of a Slobodan Milosevic. After all, there's not much vapor between Miolosevic and Foxley Wooldridge, and Wooldridge's views seem to be catching fire in the right-wing community.


  1. Donna, you really are not “hyper-focused” on reproductive rights, at least by my way of thinking. Hyper-focusing to me means focusing to the exclusion of everything else. You don’t do that. You get the importance of issues related to exonomic justice. I didn’t mean to suggest that progressives should roll over on reproductive rights and let conservatives send us back to the stone age. But when we allow a politician’s position on reproductive rights and LGBT rights to be the sole condition for support from the progressive community, that’s a problem.

  2. I don’t disagree with your conclusion but I’m not apologetic about my hyper-focus on reproductive rights. I wish they were a non-issue but the other side is hyper-focused on stripping women of their basic right to determine when or whether to have children. And anti-choice policies are not simply a thorn in the side of ladies. They lead to lots and lots of unplanned babies. Which are expensive for their parents and everyone else. It really is a crucial social and economic justice issue.

    Furthermore, as your first commenter Thucydides so amply demonstrates, the anti-choice movement is rife with historically and scientifically inaccurate and just plain fantastical beliefs. Not the sort of thing that should be ignored or encouraged.

  3. You are what you fear. It was Charles Darwin, hero of the left, who named the Germans the master race, not Adolph Hitler. His theory wasn’t natural selection but the domination and differentiation of the “favoured races.” Thus was born Eugenics and the moral permission to feed 3 million Jews into the furnaces and 3 million babies into the abortion mills. Darwin specifically gave approval to the eradication of Jews and Africans.

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