“Cynicism is nothing but intellectual cowardice”.
~ Henry Rollins
“Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.”
~ Peggy Noonan
“A cynic is a coward …. Cynicism always takes the easy way out. It is a form of laziness that provides someone with an excuse for not making any attempt to change the world …. Cynicism is a way to hide …. Cynics are afraid …. So, instead, they pass judgment on anyone who is trying to make a difference. They ridicule the efforts of individuals and organizations that are working hard under incredibly difficult circumstances …. Being cynical is often thought of as being composed and detached. It is considered to be a sign of sophistication. Cynics are mistakenly given credit for possessing a deep awareness regarding the limits of what humans can accomplish which is somehow lacking in those who spend their time in passionate efforts to change the world …. Being filled with cynicism is indeed a cowardly and sad way to go through life. ”
~ Michael Crawley
I came across one of the best examples I’ve seen of what is wrong with US politics and the American public. It’s a blog post by someone who calls himself the Rude Pundit.
He theoretically is for Bernie Sanders, but in the end he is a blind ignoramus partisan Democrat. As a Sanders supporter, he said to someone who voted for Hillary Clinton in the Tennessee primary that he should tell those feeling the Bern that, “Oh, tell them to shut the fuck up. They’re gonna vote for Hillary and they fuckin’ know it.”
This guy is the Rude Pundit. And he lives up to the name. But I’d just call him a clueless asshole. The motto of his blog states, “Proudly lowering the level of political discourse.” Well, mission accomplished! Not just the level of discourse, reading his blog will also lower your level of intelligence.
Explaining a bit of where he is coming from and the swell kind of guy he is, he writes:
Look, this here blogger is a future Bernie Sanders voter when the primary rolls around. He’s not a slavering Bernie whore, ready to take all the Bernie chowder he can handle the way he was with Obama in 2008. But, as the Rude Pundit’s said before, Bernie’s beliefs line up with his own better than Hillary’s, so logic would seem to dictate that he vote his heart here. However, he is well aware that Hillary Clinton may end up winning the Democratic nomination for president. In that case, he’ll go to the middle school down the street in the fall and hit a button for Hillary. How is this even a question?
Jesus Freakin’ Christ! Did he really admit to being an Obama knob gobbler? I saw right through Obama’s bullshit in 2008. That didn’t take a genius. Sanders is pretty much just a moderate progressive, somewhat in the New Deal tradition, although nowhere near as far left as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Compared to Sanders, Obama looks like a right-winger. I never thought Obama was going to particularly change anything and I wasn’t disappointed. Anyway, because the Neutered Pundit was stupid and gullible in 2008, he has learned his lesson and so will vote for Clinton if she is nominated. WTF!?!
This is why I despise Democrats and all partisan politics. I barely can get excited by Sanders’ campaign. The only reason I support him at all is because he is broadening the range of possible issues to be discussed in this campaign season. But for damn sure I’m not behind him because he is a Democrat. As far as I care, the Democratic Party and all of the lame liberals who suck on its teats can go to Hell, riding along on their road paved of good intentions.
I’m not a Democrat. And I’m not a welfare cutting, corporatist deregulating neoliberal. Nor for that matter am I a war hawk, tough-on-crime neocon. I don’t particularly favor oligarchy, plutocracy, crony capitalism, big money special interests, or any other such crap. So, why would I be so idiotic and masochistic as to vote for the likes of Clinton? To be honest, Trump is more of a progressive than entire Clinton dynasty combined. The Donald might end up reforming government just by accident.
To continue with the Clueless Pundit:
Everyone pretends like there is some Rosetta Stone to understanding some aspect of Hillary Clinton’s putative corruption or criminality, some email that says she personally ordered the Benghazi attack, some document that says she killed Vince Foster to protect her lesbian cocaine affairs, some speech where she explicitly promised endless golden whores to Wall Street executives. This shit is like searching for Bigfoot. You see something move in the forest and instead of being satisfied chasing a deer, it’s gotta be a giant, mythical man-beast. Except it’s always just a deer unless you are delusional or full of shit.
Apparently, he is both delusional and full of shit. Wanting information to be released so that voters can make an informed decision is what is called democracy. He is pretending to be obtuse about why this matters.
‘Cause, see, this Sanders voter understands the motherfucking system as a shitstorm of mindless, violent jingoism competing with people who are trying to keep the whole fucking place from falling apart. The Rude Pundit wants Sanders to be the nominee. But he wants Donald Trump or Ted Cruz not to be president even more. Like his support of Sanders over Clinton, it’s just that simple, logical an equation. And if his vote for Clinton in the general will prevent the nation from being ass-raped by the cruel nativism and brutalist capitalism of the GOP, then he has a moral and ethical obligation to do it, even if we take every negative thing said about Clinton as true. It’s still not as bad as Trump running the joint.
It’s pure cynicism, realpolitik all the way. It’s lesser evil voting, no matter how evil it gets. So, if Hitler and Mussolini were the two main choices for president, the Cynical Pundit would be forced to hold his nose while voting for the latter because at least Mussolini didn’t send a bunch of Jews to death camps. How about not voting for either?
I’m not joking. It’s lesser evil voting that pushes the US ever closer to all out authoritarianism. It’s decades of lesser evil voting by Democrats that has made possible the rise to dominance of the reactionary right-wing and has made inevitable someone like Trump.
Like nearly every Bernie voter, he’s gonna line the fuck up, shut the fuck up, and punch that touch screen for Hillary. Or he deserves whatever fucking hell awaits on the other side.
He should wake the fuck up instead of lining the fuck up. Democracy really does matter. We either defend democracy or it dies a horrible death.
People like this, I just don’t understand. Did they ever care about democracy? Heck, do they even understand what democracy is and why it matters? Or have they simply given up on everything but fear, endless fear? This guy expresses no sense of hope. If the Democratic Party is the best we’ve got going for us, then we’re doomed anyway. What’s the point?
It’s like being in prison. There are all these dangerous and violent criminals surrounding you. Knowing you’re a wimp, you fear for your life. So, you look for the biggest, meanest looking goon around and you offer yourself up to be his personal bitch to take his big cock up your ass, in exchange for protection. You don’t fight the system, you don’t challenge why you were imprisoned in the first place, you don’t try to escape. No, you accept this horrible, unjust fate and try to make the best of it. Hey, maybe decorate your cell to make it feel more like home.
I came across the Rude Pundit’s post because a person I know posted it on social media. It seems this expressed their own views. In the comment section, my acquaintance wrote:
Resolved: Many of the Bernie supporters who would never, ever sully themselves with a Hillary vote are hipster dudebros trying to get laid.
This guy is smart. He is politically informed. Way above average. He is even a professional writer and makes a living publishing his own magazine—small and independent alternative media, I might add. But, Lordy Lordy!, that comment is beneath him… or so I hope. It’s just snarky and condescending, not to mention trying too hard to be clever or something. The sad part is, in making a statement like that, he comes off sounding like a hipster dudebro.
I’m familiar with this kind of person. They are liberals of a particular variety. It’s what happens to liberals when cynicsm comes to rule their minds. Their souls have shriveled up like a man’s ding-a-ling in icy cold water.
There are few things more sad and pathetic than a liberal turned cynical. Such cynicism easily becomes intellectual cowardice. That is what makes it dangerous, for a liberal under the influence of cynicism has no limit beyond which they won’t descend. Like a beaten dog the come cowering back. Like Charlie Brown, they think this time Lucy will let them kick the football.
Let me be clear. I’m not in the mood to be tolerant of intellectual cowardice. Democrats have been dismissing me for my entire adult life, telling me that I’m wasting my vote or else blaming me for the failure of the two party system. I’m plain tired of the endless bullshit. I can’t take it anymore… and I won’t.
If you want to criticize Sanders in favor of third party candidates, then I’m listening. If you think that the corporatist duopoly is beyond being saved, I’ll nod my head in agreement. There are reasonable arguments to be made. People have a right to be angry, maybe even a moral responsibility. But don’t give me hipster cynicism, an ironic stance of being too cool and above it all. Don’t hide behind intellectual cowardice and clever words. Get mad and get righteous, rant and scream. Just don’t be led quietly along. Don’t keep in line, never questioning where it leads. Take a stand and hold your ground.
Here is where I stand. My fight isn’t for a particular candidate nor for a particular party. Rather, my fight is against ignorance, apathy, and cynicism. I’m not a Bernie knob gobbler. But I am a slavering democracy whore.
No one will ever convince me to vote against democracy. I won’t compromise democracy, for without democracy there is nothing left to fight for other than the coming revolution. I’m one of those weirdos who would like to prevent revolution. But there will be no preventing revolution if worthless liberals remain lapdogs of power, rolling over at any potential threat.
Bernie Sanders isn’t a step too far. If we are to be honest, he is nowhere near far enough. We need a stronger political left and grassroots movement to keep liberals honest. Don’t get me wrong, though. We can’t dismiss anyone in our seeking change. The last great American populist movement cut across ideological lines, not just the divide between left-wingers and liberals, but reached far even into the political right. Liberals who think they can go it alone are delusional. Then again, the same goes for left-wingers and right-wingers that hope to force change from the fringe.
We need a new vision, one radical enough to inspire and yet broad enough to bridge ideological chasms. What we don’t need is yet more of the same cynicism that brought us to this point of crisis.
* * *
VIDEO: Chris Hedges: In Extreme Times, ‘Liberals Are a Dead Force’ (Part 1 of 3)
interview by Paul Jay, Truthdig
But Paine understood power in a way that Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson, all of the leaders leaders, Adams, didn’t, because if you go back and look, when they began their revolt, they were hoping to make an accommodation with the British Crown. And Paine said, you don’t understand how imperialism works, you don’t understand the hubris that comes with that kind of power, you don’t understand that these people are not interested in making an accommodation with you. And so he served many vital functions, not least of which was articulating the call for revolution, not only in Common Sense, but in the Crisis papers. He was by far the most read author of the 18th century, both in Britain and the United States.
Hedges Laments The ‘Death Of The Liberal Class’
interview by Neal Conan, Talk of the Nation, NPR
Economic collapse almost certain to spiral into violence and totalitarianism, environmental disaster. Writer Chris Hedges argues that he knows who’s responsible for that bleak future: the Democratic Party.
Churches, unions, the media, artists and academia, the liberal establishment, as he calls them. Whether the motive was fear, careerism or self-preservation, Hedges argues that timid liberals marginalized themselves, purged the radicals in their own ranks and sold out.
Without a powerful liberal class to check the excesses of capitalism and corporate power, global warming and class warfare could inaugurate centuries of barbarism, he writes.
Liberals Are Useless
by Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Liberals are a useless lot. They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them. The only talent they seem to possess is the ability to write abject, cloying letters to Barack Obama—as if he reads them—asking the president to come back to his “true” self. This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision.
I am not disappointed in Obama. I don’t feel betrayed. I don’t wonder when he is going to be Obama. I did not vote for the man. I vote socialist, which in my case meant Ralph Nader, but could have meant Cynthia McKinney. How can an organization with the oxymoronic title Progressives for Obama even exist? Liberal groups like these make political satire obsolete. Obama was and is a brand. He is a product of the Chicago political machine. He has been skillfully packaged as the new face of the corporate state. I don’t dislike Obama—I would much rather listen to him than his smug and venal predecessor—though I expected nothing but a continuation of the corporate rape of the country. And that is what he has delivered.
“You have a tug of war with one side pulling,” Ralph Nader told me when we met Saturday afternoon. “The corporate interests pull on the Democratic Party the way they pull on the Republican Party. If you are a ‘least-worst’ voter you don’t want to disturb John Kerry on the war, so you call off the anti-war demonstrations in 2004. You don’t want to disturb Obama because McCain is worse. And every four years both parties get worse. There is no pull. That is the dilemma of The Nation and The Progressive and other similar publications. There is no breaking point. What is the breaking point? The criminal war of aggression in Iraq? The escalation of the war in Afghanistan? Forty-five thousand people dying a year because they can’t afford health insurance? The hollowing out of communities and sending the jobs to fascist and communist regimes overseas that know how to put the workers in their place? There is no breaking point. And when there is no breaking point you do not have a moral compass.”
I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia of which, sadly, I guess I am a member. Liberals are the defeated, self-absorbed Mouse Man in Dostoevsky’s “Notes From Underground.” They embrace cynicism, a cloak for their cowardice and impotence. They, like Dostoevsky’s depraved character, have come to believe that the “conscious inertia” of the underground surpasses all other forms of existence. They too use inaction and empty moral posturing, not to affect change but to engage in an orgy of self-adulation and self-pity. They too refuse to act or engage with anyone not cowering in the underground. This choice does not satisfy the Mouse Man, as it does not satisfy our liberal class, but neither has the strength to change. The gravest danger we face as a nation is not from the far right, although it may well inherit power, but from a bankrupt liberal class that has lost the will to fight and the moral courage to stand up for what it espouses.
An Interview with Chris Hedges
interview by David Barsamian, The Progressive
The press doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s one of the pillars of the liberal establishment. So I decided to write about all of the traditional pillars of the liberal establishment—not just the press, but liberal religious institutions, higher education, culture, labor, and, of course, the Democratic Party—and show how the foundations of the liberal state have been degraded or destroyed.
When you have a liberal class that no longer functions, when those people who traditionally defend and care about a civil society no longer do so, then you cede power to very frightening, deformed figures, all of which we are watching leap up around the fringes of our political establishment—this lunatic fringe, which has largely taken over the Republican Party. And the legitimate rage on the part of working men and women is directed not only towards government but, I think quite correctly, towards liberals, who speak in a very hypocritical language about caring for their interests and yet support institutions that carry out an assault against working men and women. […]
The disappointment with Obama comes from people who don’t understand the structure of power. The charade of politics is to make voters think that the personal narrative of the candidate affects the operation of the corporate state. It doesn’t really matter on the fundamental issues whether the President is Republican or Democratic. The imperial projects will continue, Wall Street will be unimpeded in its malfeasance and criminal activity, social programs will continue to be cut, maybe not at the same speed as under a Republican Administration, but it’s all headed in the same direction. […]
He never presented himself as a peace candidate, to be fair to him. This was just wishful thinking on the part of the left. He talked about downsizing in Iraq. But, remember, at the time he was saying that Afghanistan was the war we really have to fight. So the failure was not Obama but the fecklessness of the left, which was seduced by the propaganda. People believed somehow that he didn’t really mean what he was saying, that once in office he would carry out a progressive agenda. But if you look at the two-year voting record he had in the Senate, it’s awful. It’s one corporate giveaway after another. There wasn’t a bill he supported that wasn’t an embrace of corporatism. I got the voting record, I read it, and I made my decision to vote based on that voting record. And that’s what we all should have done. […]
I think that it was an understanding that the two-party system, the corporate duopoly, no longer functions to further the rights or interests of citizens, and that the longer we’re fooled by this belief that reform can come through these formal structures of power, the more disempowered we’re going to become.
If we don’t hold fast to our moral principles, nobody’s going to. We don’t have to have a majority, but once ten, fifteen, twenty million people start voting left, we’ll scare the piss out of the Democrats, and they’ll have to respond. But they’re not going to respond to us until that happens.
We are facing another economic meltdown. The ecosystem, on which the human species depends for life, is being destroyed at a rate that has not even been anticipated by climate scientists. We don’t have a lot of time left. So either we get out and fight or we’re finished. Fear is the only thing the Democratic Party has to offer—fear that the Republican Party is worse.
The question is, how do you stop the power elite from doing as much damage to you as possible? That comes through movements. It’s not our job to take power. You could argue that the most powerful political figure in April of 1968 was Martin Luther King. And we know Johnson was terrified of him. We have to accept that all of the true correctives to American democracy came through these movements that never achieved formal political power and yet frightened the political establishment enough to respond.
The last liberal President we had was Richard Nixon. He signed the Mine Health and Safety Act, and he agreed to create OSHA and the EPA, not because he was a liberal but because we still had the remnants of movements that scared him.
So it’s time to turn your back on the Democrats and begin to regain a new kind of democratic militancy. If we don’t do that, if we remain fearful, then we will be further stripped of power as we barrel towards this neofeudalistic state where there is a world of masters and serfs, a kind of permanent underclass. That’s what’s happening; that’s what’s being created. Rapacious corporate business interests have shattered all kinds of regulations and controls. They have carried out a coup d’etat in slow motion. And it’s over; they’ve won.
Liberal Pundits Aren’t Amused By Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Anymore—They’re Terrified
by Kevin Gosztola, In These Times
Democrats, along with President Obama’s administration, have spent the last eight years protecting capitalism from populist calls for reform, which would diminish the power and influence of corporations. The Affordable Health Care Act was a prime example, where Medicare for All was immediately taken off the table, and the political party manipulated citizens into believing requiring private insurance companies to offer insurance to all consumers was the best that could be accomplished.
It is one thing to vote for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, who are more than happy to serve the moneyed elite, if you actually believe in what she stands for as a presidential candidate. But it is quite another thing to delude people into voting for her simply because it is your view that Bernie Sanders’ vision is difficult to make a reality. That position accepts the status quo and embraces a politics of low expectations, where the best elected officials can do is triage the effect of wealth and power becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of the few.
Is Bernie Sanders an American Empire Denier?
by Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News
Setting himself up as a one-man vanguard to define socialism on behalf of the benighted and brainwashed masses, Hedges preaches with the certainty of those who have seen the light and know the way to secular salvation, whether in Athens, Barcelona, or Peoria. But he loses himself in a sectarian wilderness, offering no way to get from where we are to where we want to go.
Welcome to the old-time religion. In nearly every American election, purists like Hedges push the left into the same sterile debate. Should we fight within the Democratic Party, where we will likely be co-opted? Or should we create a third party, where we will likely be ineffective? Both are usually dead ends, convincing many of us to put the majority of our energy into organizing and direct action outside the electoral and Congressional arena, as we did in the civil rights, free speech, and anti-war movements of the 1960s.
But that was then, this is now. Thanks primarily to the energy and common-sense proposals of Bernie Sanders, millions of Americans have opened their minds to the possibility of a democratic and egalitarian control of the economy, which is not a bad working definition of socialism for the 21st century. We need to talk to, work with, and learn from these Americans, and most of them will vote in the Democratic primaries.
A Response to Chris Hedges Concerning Bernie Sanders
by Vincent Emanuele, ZNET
Without doubt, a lot of smart and talented organizers are working on Sanders’ campaign. It would be useful to challenge these folks. The Left can do so, but only by approaching these activists and organizers with respect, not by mocking or dismissing their efforts.
If the Left consistently isolates itself during election cycles, or sits on the sidelines, making armchair critiques, while offering very limited alternatives like voting for the Green Party/Jill Stein, how can we expect people to become radicalized? Moreover, why should people even pay attention to us?
Leftists can formulate devastating critiques, but we can’t organize for shit. And that is the Left’s primary dilemma: the inability to provide alternatives to the dominant political parties and institutions of our time. When people are exposed to the Left, they are often turned-off by the experience. Until the Left can provide serious alternatives, we’ll be relegated to the sidelines.
In the end, the Left should spend more time looking in the mirror, and less time critiquing liberals.
Liberalism and the Millennials
by Corey Robin
The only reason Clinton and her supporters on Twitter can so reflexively attack Sanders over this issue—not his support for the Sandinistas or Castro, but his opposition to US intervention—is that, thanks to two decades of liberal support for regime change and humanitarian intervention, the whole discourse of liberal anti-interventionism has practically disappeared from the scene. Today, the only solid and reliable anti-interventionists you can find are either left-wing anti-imperialists, paleo- or other brands of conservative at outlets like The American Conservative, or an ever narrowing circle of IR realists like Steve Walt.
Which brings me to the millennials. I know a number of young leftists, in their 20s or early 30s, who have no experience or memory of this liberal anti-interventionism that I’ve been describing here. When they think liberal, they think of the Clintons and their allies, who are not only terrible on the issue of US power around the world, but also terrible on the question of economic justice and equality at home. They have no memory of a generation of left liberals who fought firmly for labor unions, who pushed hard for universal health care, public housing, and the like. They have no memory of a young Arthur Schlesinger rejecting Communism but nevertheless affirming that “class conflict is essential if freedom is to be preserved, because it is the only barrier against class domination.”
For liberals or leftists of my generation, or for even older liberals and leftists, the discourse of anti-liberalism on the left has a resonance. It calls to mind some of the most bruising battles of the 20th century—Communists against parliamentary socialists, Popular Fronters and Henry Wallace Progressives against the Americans for Democratic Action, Irving Howe-style socialists against the New Left, and so on. For someone like myself, who identifies with the left but who nevertheless has a great deal of respect for the tradition of liberalism, it is imperative that there be a good and productive tension between liberalism and the left.
So I can imagine when liberals and leftists of my generation, or those who are even older, hear the flat refusal of millennials on the left to even entertain the possibility of a dialogue with liberalism, it can seem scary, like a return to some of the worst moments of intra-liberal/left fratricide. But this is where history can get in the way. For the millennials, the bankruptcy of liberalism is not Walter Reuther or Hubert Humphrey or A. Phillip Randolph or Bayard Rustin; it’s Clinton, Clinton, and Clinton.
The gulf today between liberalism and the left is not of the millennials’ or even of the left’s making; it’s the product of a liberalism that has been moving right for decades and that, whatever feints to the left it has been making more recently, still has some way to go before there can be a useful and productive dialogue of difference.