Chris Hedges argues that corporate commodification of our natural resources and human capital will continue unabated. Transcript and video.


[Unofficial transcript provided by William Brighenti.  Please advise of any errors or omissions.  Thank you.]

Lee Camp: Welcome to Redacted Tonight VIP. I’m Lee Camp. On the show today I talk with Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author who also hosts the show On Contact here on RT America. His latest book, Wages of Rebellion, explains why revolt is a moral imperative. He doesn’t just write about these tough topics, he also walks the walk.

You filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in 2012 challenging the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows our government to indefinitely detain people without a trial or charges, including journalists. I talked with Chris earlier today while we did each other’s nails.

And in the second half of the show, I want to address the complaint that I don’t criticize Donald Trump enough. It’s a harsh and hurtful critique and that’s why I want to respond to it.

But first here’s my talk earlier today with Chris Hedges.

Hi Chris, thanks for joining me.

Chris Hedges: Sure.

Lee Camp: I have a lot of questions but most of them revolve around Brad Pitt Angelina Jolie’s divorce. I hope that’s okay.

Chris Hedges: Yeah, that’s the primary focus of my work.

Lee Camp: Yeah, I know that. No, actually first I’d like to ask you, you’ve talked before about Sheldon Wolin’s idea that we live in corporate totalitarianism ruled by the anonymous corporate state. With the case of the recent Dakota access pipeline protest, you know, there was the private security firm alongside the militarized police using dogs and pepper spray to protect basically the investment of the big banks. The big banks are our funding the pipeline. Is it fair to view those dogs as kind of the teeth of the corporate state while the actual rulers, the decision-makers, the ones calling those shots, they’re nowhere to be seen. There probably not even in the Dakotas.

Chris Hedges: Yeah, that’s very much, I think, what Wolin elucidates in his last book, Democracy Incorporated and he argues that we live in, he calls it, inverted totalitarianism. And by that he means it’s not classical totalitarianism?—it doesn’t find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader?—but through the anonymity of the corporate state.

So you’re right. It’s a faceless kind of entity. And so you have a corporate system that purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the iconography and language of American patriotism, and yet internally has seized all of the levers of power to render the citizen impotent. And you’re exactly right. So the actual figures or entities that are pulling the strings are nowhere near North Dakota.

Lee Camp: Right, and what do you make of Amy Goodman of Democracy Now being charged with trespassing for simply reporting on it?

Chris Hedges: Well, they’ve been doing that up-and-down pipelines. They were doing that when they were building the southern leg of the XL. People would actually be invited onto private land, and I think one of the things that’s most frightening, and we saw this with North Dakota, this fusion of State Security with these amorphous private mercenaries or security outfits.

I was arrested during the Occupy movement with several activists in front of Goldman Sachs but the people who actually came out and were involved in our removal weren’t NYPD. They were, they may have used former NYPD or FBI, but they were all the internal security of Goldman Sachs itself. We know that corporations have privatized the gathering of intelligence, that there is a fusion down near Wall Street of these corporate and public policing entities. Seventy percent of US intelligence of our 16 intelligence agencies is actually carried out by companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, where Snowden worked. 99 percent of it. So that that’s very frightening when you essentially are with?—and there’s no discussion of this among the public?—you are powering these subterranean unseen private security entities and giving them in essence police power and yet, they are never identified. People don’t know. What we saw with Katrina, you know, with the then black water appearing on the streets of New Orleans.

Lee Camp: Right, and in fact the police around the pipeline mysteriously disappeared when the dogs came out because I take it cops are not allowed to release dogs on protesters but private security, it’s a different scenario.

You mentioned the corporate state kind of pretends to obey electoral politics but it seems to largely be a distraction. And it seems like, I mean maybe it’s always been rigged, but it seems like we’re seeing an increasing level of rigging of these elections. We saw in the primaries how Bernie Sanders campaign was undermined every step. We’ve seen the reality of the rigging through the leaked DNC emails and the hundred thousand voters knocked off the rolls in Brooklyn, that was just Brooklyn, New York alone. And when that was happening, we were told by our mainstream media that our election system is completely just, it’s right, it can never be manipulated. Anyone saying otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.

Yet all of a sudden this weird thing has happened after the primaries where the corporate media seems to have suddenly had a change of heart. They report regularly on how the elections could be hacked, they could be rigged. CBS News did a report recently on how someone could hack an electronic voting machine with a fifteen-dollar device that is sold online. What do you make of the sudden change in the media.

Chris Hedges: Well there were many obstacles that were placed by the Democratic National Committee against the Sanders campaign. One of the biggest was that in many states they banned independents from voting in the Democratic primaries, which of course constituted most of Bernie Sanders base. Now the taxpayers pay for the primaries and yet it is the party that sets the rules and games the system with super-delegates. They stole Nevada. Well I think that at the moment the people, or let’s say the power elites, have to create a level of trust and confidence in the system even though they may know it’s rigged. And so after the fact, after it’s too late, one can go back and do a post-mortem when it can’t affect anything. But during the process itself, you’re right, anybody who questioned the legitimacy of the system, let’s call it over the corporate airwaves, was kind of dismissed as a wacko.

Lee Camp: Yeah and I want to ask one more question about the election before I move on to something else. I saw some my cousins this weekend, and they want, I think, a lot of the same things that you or I want: they want more equality in our country; they want less racism; they want more privacy and less war. And they, like many Americans, say if you want those things, you have no choice but to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton. What’s wrong with that logic?

Chris Hedges: Well, because it’s neoliberal policies, globalization, which has created the phenomena of Trump and enraged disenfranchised supporters, primarily white, and if Clinton wins the election and continues these policies, we are going to get somebody worse than Trump. Trump as a figure may disappear from the political landscape but until we halt the assault of neoliberalism, the programs of austerity, the corporate assault?—I mean, you go to cities like Scranton, Pennsylvania, everything, they just sold their sewer system, everything is privatized, they sold their parking authority, they’ve already sold their water system. Rates are going through the roof. This kind of constant gradual gouging of the underclass?—and half of the country lives in poverty or, you know, relative poverty?—will create a backlash.

Trump is not the phenomenon; he’s responding to the phenomena, and unless we break that phenomena, then we are headed the way all societies that essentially seize up and refuse to respond to legitimate grievances of citizens are headed towards: whether that’s by Weimar Germany which ended in the Nazis or Yugoslavia which I covered which ended with the rise of ethnic religious nationalists like Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karavich and Franjo Tudjman and others.

And you know, we have to stop looking beyond this election cycle and see that this corporate driven ideology, you know, this commodification of the culture, this constant extracting of blood from us as citizens to pay what in essence were private debts of the banks which engaged in casino capitalism, has political consequences. History has taught us that. And Hillary Clinton is only going to further that process.

Lee Camp: Yeah, absolutely. You started to jump ahead to my next question. You touched on it. You were a war correspondent in many countries. You saw the devastation and the chaos, and you saw what led up to it. And in your book, Wages of Rebellion, you see the same things in America now. Can you speak to what it is you saw that mirrors other countries? What you see now that mirrors other countries?

Chris Hedges: Yeah, well, what mirrors is that there is in this case a corporate cabal, a tiny group of the power elite, that has seized the machinery of government to serve their own interests at the expense of the vast majority. So this creates what I would call political paralysis because the normal functions of the state, the common good, you know, we’re seeing it with hedge funds taking over school systems, through charter schools, which is because they want the 600 some billion dollars they spend. You know, it’s not about teaching disadvantaged children to read or write. There’s a cannibalization, actually Karl Marx wrote about this as the final stage of capitalism and I have watched countries that have whether it’s a kind of proto-fascist or, you know, an ethnic nationalist cabal, seize power to serve their own interest.

I’ve watched the explosion that takes place, and we are no different from them. We’re really playing now with potentially deep unrest especially with the proliferation of weapons in this country and political breakdown. That’s the game we’re playing. And I think history has amply illustrated that.

Lee Camp: Yeah I mean it’s kind of inevitable when you have a corporate state that will just exploit everything, exploit the resources and the people, to the breaking point, that eventually there will be a response.

Many believe that in a capitalist society the corporate entities will always ultimately take over the levers of the state and they will use the state to further their ends. We talked some about that earlier with the Dakota pipeline and really with bailing out the banks in 2008. So does that mean capitalism is fatally flawed and if so what type of system do you think people should be pushing for?

Chris Hedges: I lost the last part, could you repeat the question?

Lee Camp: Yeah the question was is capitalism fatally flawed in that way and if so what type of system should people be pushing for?

Chris Hedges: Right. Well I think we have to differentiate between different types of capitalism. There’s the penny capitalism that took place in the farm community where I grew up where farmers came in and sold their produce. There’s regional capitalism, that is, a business owner owns a small factory and sits on the school board, invests in the community. And then there’s something else which is global corporate capitalism, which essentially eviscerates national borders, pushing through trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPP, driving down, doing what capitalism always does, which is maximize profit and drive down labor costs.

So that the protections that workers had garnered in the industrialized world, now only about six percent of the private sector is unionized, is destroyed because we can use sweatshop workers in Bangladesh who make 22 cents an hour. So I’m not actually anti-capitalist but capitalism, and again this is something Marx understood, has to be heavily controlled. And to break up monopolies, to break up of as we see with the banks, these institutions that are “too big to fail” and that are global?—that have no loyalty to the national state?—and unfortunately these corporate capitalists have taken over the system so the government now accelerates this assault, as you correctly pointed out, not only on working men and women, the poor, and now the middle class, but of course we can’t forget the ecosystem itself.

Lee Camp: Right. I think part of that heavy regulation is to make sure that capitalism doesn’t put a price on everything, such as air, water….

Chris Hedges: That’s what it has done. That’s what it has done. It’s the commodification of everything and they will do what they do, which is that they will exploit, whether it’s the natural world or whether it’s human capital, until exhaustion or collapse. And now there are no impediments left.

Lee Camp: Chris, I can’t thank you enough. I hope you’ll come back sometime, and keep fighting.

Chris Hedges: Thank you.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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