Hedges and Wolin (6/8): Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist?

Click for Source Video Interview and text of Sheldon Wolin by Chris Hedges on THE REAL NEWS NETWORK

Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist, publishes Mondays on Truthdig — Two decades as a foreign correspondent in 50+ countries and has written nine books, including “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008).

Interview with Professor Sheldon Wolin, Professor of Politics at Berkeley and Princeton, Author of seminal works on political philosophy, including Politics and Vision and Democracy Incorporated.

HEDGES: Superpower corrupted academia, in the wake of WW II by increasing integration of academics into the power system compromising their voices — You describe it as inverted totalitarianism where all power is always projected outwards to the ELITISTS — Our system of inverted totalitarianism is constantly expanding–adding hundreds of bases around the world; now we occupy most of the Middle East — Causing America to be detested because the LIFE-CHANGING facts on the ground with direct occupation and mass MURDER in two countries = Proxy wars carried out in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen — Empowering ISIS(L) and AQ to grow and propser. Could you talk about what USA constantly projecting power outward does to the nation and to democracy itself.

SHELDON WOLIN, PROF. EMERITUS POLITICS, PRINCETON: It’s apparent what it does to governing institutions — enhances their power and it increases their scope, and at the same time renders them less and less responsible, even though we’ve kept the outward framework of elections and criticism and all the free press, etc. But the power is there, and it is–thanks particularly to contemporary technology, it is power that’s kind of endlessly expandable.

WOLIN: USA imperialism is very different from the 18th or 19th centuries imperialism, where resources always was limited to territorial expansion. Now expansionism is accompanied by imposing cultural and political norms on populations that did not have them — A tremendous increase in imperial reach as it’s becoming easier to rationalize not only at home, but also abroad.

HEDGES: What are the consequences? You talk in Politics and Vision about the ancient greeks warning the Athenians that constant expansion, would ultimately destroy Athenian democracy by bringing home the mechanisms of Harsh Violence of empire control to Athens itself. Now we see this in USA from the use of drones to militarized police forces, to the security and surveillance state. What are the physical consequences of superpower on the population?

WOLIN: It creates an enormous chasm between what is taught in our high school, grammar school, even college, and the reality of where we are — Perilous because our education is not about the world we actually live in, but about a world where we idealize SUPREME place in it. Our AGGRANDIZED SUPREME USA SELF-IMAGE makes it very difficult for Americans to truly measure OUR leaders actions — Always casts self-confirming values for the whole world — We don’t really have a critical attitude in the best sense of the word — Sure we are disgruntled and out of sorts, but we don’t really deal with things as they really are, but apply a simple negativism — Most Americans can’t make sense out of where we are, because requires a level of political education that we simply haven’t begun to explore — there’s no longer what Dewey and others called the public — The public is now so fragmented and almost comatose in so many ways that it becomes very difficult to reach them = So many AVENUES of entertainment and diversion and so on that the factual political message, when rarely presented as public-spirited ideals, just gets lost. — very, very perilous period, because the net effect is to render the political powers more independent even while they proclaim their democratic basis.

HEDGES: The superpower bureaucracy which operates in secret and THE PEOPLE can no longer see the internal operation of the ELITISTS SUPERPOWERS. Obama has harshly attacked those few whistleblowers who have reached out through the press–Edward Snowden and Assange — to present to the public the workings of power, misusing the Espionage Act — foreign secrets act — to shut down this lens into how power works. The disease of superpower itself has now been brought back.

WOLIN: The difficulty is really so enormous now in trying to educate a public to what is ACTUALLY happening to THEM because of so many countervailing methods of conditioning and misinforming the public — The whole idea of a public is in jeopardy and ceased to a self-aware entity — Now around 35% even bother to vote in mid-term elections. But the real question is: did these that voted think of themselves as a public, as performing a public act, a political act of a citizen? Or did they simply express personal resentments or frustrations -this quandary today threatens our democracy — Low level of public knowledge and public political sophistication.

HEDGES: The public is encouraged to express their fragmented interests by design — People are broken down according to their “INTERESTS” not as a citizen within a democracy, but as a particular group that seeks to acquire certain rights, power, economic advantages. DIVIDE AND CONQUER fragmentation is cultivated by GOV-MSM–Opinion Polls — Modern public relations mechanisms target these fragments to keep them fragmented.

WOLIN: That’s true and it’s a very significant development that BREAKS the notion of the public’s cohesive character with a set of commonalities. That day has long since gone, because of the deliberate fragmentation of it — PR skills have sliced and diced the public into ever smaller fragments that can be appealed to — Each fragment in relative isolated from what’s happening to the other fragments or to the society as a whole. PR can target these fragments now in a way that NORMAL PEOPLE can NOT — A blunt instrument called public opinion and relations shapes eacch fragmet and shapes them into a ELITIST CONTROLLED WHOLE — It’s far more sophisticated lines of distinction that set one public against another — PR can antagonize one public fragment and motivate another fragment to manipulate voting for your cause — A highly, highly sophisticated operation that has no counterparts in our previous political history. It makes Walter Lippman look benign — his public was a coherent whole, even if it’s a little crazy.

HEDGES: It’s frightening the way not only the public has been fragmented, but the way that these fragments are manipulated to be turned one against the other. Corporate capitalism strips workers of benefits and job protection, pensions, medical plans, and then very skillfully uses that diminished fragment to turn against public sector workers, such as teachers, who still have those benefits — PR Asks a fragment why do they have those benefits you lost? — Manipulated by forces of propaganda and public relations.

WOLIN: This new ability to use a fragmentation strategy for targeting and fashioning messages to specific audiences and insulating those messages from other audiences. A refinement of Divide and Conquer — clearly a new chapter fraught with all kinds of dangerous possibilities against democracy. — So ruling groups can now operate without the traditional public mind and use tools to exploit disparities and differences to undermine Public cohesiveness with Fragmented different distinct groups to create tension and in fighting between fragments — artificial competitions to become a melee to fashion majorities.

HEDGES: It is the conscious destruction of the public.

WOLIN: Absolutely, the fragmented publics aren’t aware of their being manipulated and motivated to fight other FRAGMENTS — victimhood of ONE GROUP BY ANOTHER GROUP.

HEDGES: That characterizes the right wing. The propaganda reason for our economic and social decline is undocumented workers, or liberals, or homosexuals or whatever — A time-honored strategy of divide and conquer and now subdivide and conquer — Good students of Hobbes.


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