The phantom left

Chris Hedges writes:

The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for “moderation.” And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power—masked, ruthless and unexamined—happily devour the state.

The loss of a radical left in American politics has been catastrophic. The left once harbored militant anarchist and communist labor unions, an independent, alternative press, social movements and politicians not tethered to corporate benefactors. But its disappearance, the result of long witch hunts for communists, post-industrialization and the silencing of those who did not sign on for the utopian vision of globalization, means that there is no counterforce to halt our slide into corporate neofeudalism. This harsh reality, however, is not palatable. So the corporations that control mass communications conjure up the phantom of a left. They blame the phantom for our debacle. And they get us to speak in absurdities.

The phantom left took a central role on the mall this weekend in Washington. It had performed admirably for Glenn Beck, who used it in his own rally as a lightning rod to instill anger and fear. And the phantom left proved equally useful for the comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who spoke to the crowd wearing red-white-and-blue costumes. The two comics evoked the phantom left, as the liberal class always does, in defense of moderation, which might better be described as apathy. If the right wing is crazy and if the left wing is crazy, the argument goes, then we moderates will be reasonable. We will be nice. Exxon and Goldman Sachs, along with predatory banks and the arms industry, may be ripping the guts out of the country, our rights—including habeas corpus—may have been revoked, but don’t get mad. Don’t be shrill. Don’t be like the crazies on the left.

“Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?” Stewart asked. “We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here [in Washington] or on cable TV.”

The rally delivered a political message devoid of reality or content. The corruption of electoral politics by corporate funds and lobbyists, the naive belief that we can somehow vote ourselves back to democracy, was ignored for emotional catharsis. The right hates. The liberals laugh. And the country is taken hostage.

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3 thoughts on “The phantom left

  1. Vince J.

    Chris Hedges rocks!!!!!
    The only point I disagree with him relates to 9/11, which he argues that the US was attacked by the official lie.
    In that regard, I suggest watching on you tube the destruction of the North Tower. The video is a good analysis of the collapse/demolition made by Archtets for 9/11 thruth. It is a shocking video! Ad this video to the list of what was inside WTC7 and the false flag military operation becomes clear…
    I often check Chris Hedges’s article and videos on

  2. Christopher Hoare

    Again, one should read the whole article.
    Did you ever read a novel that didn’t have a happy ending? After hundreds of pages of your being invested in the tribulations of a certain group, they ended up destroyed. It’s a good job it only happens in fiction.
    The only certainty in this universe is the inevitability of change. Not always the change we might hope for. One never receives the change one hopes for unless one invests some energy — blood, sweat, and tears — into it. Remember the hurricane — at the centre, nothing happens.

  3. Colm O' Toole

    Indeed very true. I think the last remnants of a left wing movement in the US was during the WTO riots in Seattle 99. Sadly the situation in Europe is similar, even though we have many institutional protections like the unions, protected by law, and able to rake in large membership fees.

    Thankfully though there is some signs of light ahead. In Portugal that ruling Socialist Party has dropped 25% while the Communist and Bloco (Anti-Capitalist) Party has jumped to 18%.

    Obviously Greece is the epicenter of the far left movement at present with France moving just behind it. I’m fully expecting some sort of protests/riots to break out in Ireland (where I’m from) as well, probably in Decemember, when the budget is revealed.

    As for the US, I don’t know how things lay. Exit Polls from the midterms seem to point to dislike of democrats but larger disdain for republicans but it looks like the R’s will still get in.

    The main wonder I’m thinking is what will happen in Foreign Policy if Republicans win back congress. Marc Lynch at FP reckons that they will use the purse strings to impose massive sanctions on Iran over Obama’s objections (not good). Also naturally if Obama loses Netanyahu will be emboldened in his strategy of “waiting Obama out”.

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