Here are two brief quotes from Hedges that I would like to call attention to:
“The longer we believe in the fiction that we are included in the corporate power structure, the more easily corporations pillage the country without the threat of rebellion. Those who know the truth are crushed. Those who do not are lied to. Those who consume and perpetuate the lies – including the liberal institutions of the press… and the Democratic Party – abet our disempowerment.” [full source]
“The liberal class… prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state…. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside. The liberal class is incapable of reforming itself. It does not hold within its ranks the rebels and iconoclasts who have the moral or physical courage to defy the corporate state and power elite.” [full source]
While Hedges correctly criticizes the “liberal class” and Democratic Party, which all-too effectively push aside our most important truth-tellers and movements for change, I would like to point out an aspect of Hedges’ critique that I believe is overlooked and discuss a more subtle method of suppression: the role of so-called “independent” media. This is where an important lesson is to be learned.
Whether they are aware of it or not, so-called “independent” liberal/progressive online news sites are pivotal divide and conquer pawns. The more established and well-funded progressive outlets are crucial players in suppressing mass movements for meaningful change.
Most people who read news on the internet are aware of the inherent corporate/political elite biases within the mainstream media, but the more insidious biases within some of the more popular online media sites are rarely questioned. I’m not talking about the obvious progressive viewpoints of sites like The Nation, Think Progress, AlterNet, Truth Out, Common Dreams, Mother Jones, Daily Kos, Media Matters, etc., I’m talking about the divisive partisan rhetoric these sites use and the destructive influence their funding sources have upon their reporting.
Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for these sites. They do very important investigative reporting and help advance our understanding of many vital issues. However, we must also be aware that they are funded in large part based on their commitment to engaging in divisive partisanship. These organizations are heavily dependent on partisan foundations and political organizations that adhere to the tenets of the two-party system. Therefore, their editorial framing is most often “Republicans bad, Democrats good.” They are critical of the Democratic Party to a point, no question about that, but a large part of their reporting and rhetoric serves to support the two-party system in service of the Democratic Party by consistently focusing blame on the Republican Party.
They frequently run headlines and commentaries that are purposefully aimed at dividing people along partisan lines and limiting thoughts into groupthinking traps, for this they are rewarded with financial support. It is clearly understood within the “independent” media community that if you focus your attack on the symptoms of the system (Republicans, Koch brothers, Fox News, Tea Party, etc.), you will be funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, if you effectively focus your attack on the root underlying system and go against both political parties, you will not be funded. That’s why these sites always default over to the Democratic Party, that’s where the money is. (The same can be said for libertarian/conservative sites who blame Democrats in favor of Republicans.)
Organizations that engage in these divide and conquer strategies are therefore playing a key role in suppressing a much needed evolution of understanding and unified mass movement.
As I wrote in The Two-Party Oligarchy Vs. The People:
“When Progressive news sites complain about Republicans, or Conservative sites complain about Democrats, I can’t help but think that they are insuring their own demise, and the rest of the country’s for that matter. By buying into the Democrat versus Republican charade they have become the most important cog in suppressing any organized resistance.”
For anyone who wants to make the tired old argument that there are no alternatives to the two parties, and wants to line up in the “vote for the lesser of two evils” crowd, you must acknowledge that it is your unwillingness to embrace alternatives, and give them a platform to grow their influence, which ensures the continued tyranny of the two-party system. On top of that, just look at where your unconditional support for your party has gotten us.
I’ve learned from experience that you can unite people across the political spectrum on the core issues that are at the root of the crisis we are in – those key issues being: campaign finance, lobbying, the revolving door, breaking up the banks and the concentration of media ownership. These are the key systemic issues that we must focus on and can rally around together. There are many other issues that are important, but until these core common ground issues are solved we will ultimately find our other efforts to be futile.
It is obviously not easy to unite people on these core systemic issues and break through all the partisan noise when so many popular “independent” media outlets are primarily focused on the Democrat Vs Republican sideshow distraction. But if you’re serious about changing the corrupted system that we toil in, if you are ready to roll up your sleeves, if you prefer justice and truth over short-term comfort and privilege, you have to stop fighting yesterday’s war and evolve. Don’t fall into the same short-sighted thinking that plagues the super-wealthy and current politicians. The inability to look at the longer-term ramifications, in favor of short-term profits and comfort, ensures our continued decline. If we (99.5% of the population) can’t unite against the top economic 0.5% who control both political parties, our standard of living will continue on its downward spiral.
Do Progressive Leaders Really Want Change?
As this Chris Hedges quote, which I just paraphrased above and featured in the introduction to this piece, states: “The liberal class… prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members.” This critique also extends into the leadership of the more popular progressive websites. Ironically, and to their credit, AlterNet recently ran a report entitled, “Are Well-Off Progressives Standing in the Way of a Real Movement for Economic Justice?” The fact that this is framed as a question is rather comical, but here is an important point made within the article:
“By and large, the people who work at progressive think tanks, media outlets and policy centers are well-compensated – some extravagantly so… they have solid health-care benefits and 401(k)s…”
This quote is central in understanding how the so-called “independent” media world functions. It is open to debate whether or not the executive directors and leaders of these organizations are genuinely interested in uniting people to create meaningful change. Most of them are making a very comfortable living off the existing system and are content with their place within the status quo. As the quote above states, many of them make large salaries, get 4-6 weeks paid vacation and have multiple homes. They are also well-aware of the boundaries in which they operate, as to how “radical” they can be before they cross a line that would jeopardize their hefty paycheck.
It seems to me that if they were truly interested in change, they would make every effort to unify people against the forces that control both political parties, instead of use the divisive rhetoric that they often engage in. Their dogmatic adherence to only featuring voices that are in complete agreement on a wide range of issues also demonstrates a closed-minded groupthink approach that further obstructs an effective and broader mass movement.
These progressive leaders have built up an incestuous core cadre of contributors. Many of them have been indoctrinated by think tanks that are not open to any voices that may deviate in the slightest from partisan opinion. Fortunately, there is now an entire movement of bloggers who disdain the two-party divide and conquer approach and seek to unite people across the political spectrum. They are growing in influence, yet most all of them are kept off of popular progressive sites, even when they champion progressive views. I understand that it is obviously up to their discretion as to who to feature on their sites, but it is nonetheless indicative of their closed-off divisive partisan nature and intentions, and demonstrates how they stifle mass movements. If they truly wanted the change they claim to stand for, they would be much more inclusive in their approach.
The fact that they often include the opinions of a critic like Chris Hedges is important to note and a positive development. However, giving voice to critics like Hedges is very rare. It seems Hedges serves their interests as a token critic, as he has achieved a stature and level of popularity that they otherwise couldn’t ignore or silence. One could assume that they believe it is better to embrace him than be exposed as partisan hacks.
I must conclude, in agreement with Chris Hedges, that these “careerist” progressive leaders are unfortunately more interested in collecting a paycheck than creating change.
Leading By Example – My Personal Experience
After working in independent media for the past decade, I understand what needs to be done to be funded by partisan organizations. I realize how these institutions undermine serious mass movements for change. As time has gone by, I have become more effective at critiquing the system. My reporting and commentaries have received support from progressives, libertarians, conservatives, anarchists, from almost every political group outside of the economic top 0.01%. Due to the broad appeal my work has had and my ardent refusal to play into the two-party partisan trap, I am now considered to be “too radical” by partisan sites that have published my work in the past. One of them was honest enough to tell me that they will not publish my work anymore in fear of upsetting a major financial supporter. This is not to say that these sites don’t have other reasons for not publishing my work. Some of them now see our site as a competitor to theirs, so they fear losing readership by bringing attention to our work, despite the fact that we consistently link to them whenever they reveal important investigative information. Whatever the case may be, I have been marginalized by many of the people that I naively thought were partners in our fight.
To be clear, I am not denouncing most of the people who work for these groups. I know some of them personally and have great respect for their work, it is primarily their leadership and funding sources who keep them trapped within divisive groupthinking boxes that I take issue with. If anyone who runs these organizations would like to publicly debate these issues, I welcome it.
I will most likely be attacked for speaking out on this topic, but my primary motivation is to expose and break through the partisan divide that is holding back serious movements for structural change. This issue of how independent media organizations are funded is a pivotal impeding force in blocking this effort. I’ve already lost funding, been threatened with lawsuits, had my site repeatedly knocked offline, had computers hacked, been personally harassed and been pushed aside by these partisan groups that I thought we were in solidarity with, all for attempting to expose deep truths and unite people from across the political spectrum.
I could have easily played into this partisan trap and made a decent living off of it, but after realizing how these groups function to further divide a population that desperately needs to unite, I consciously choose to eliminate myself from partisan funding sources. I refuse to be part of the problem. This may ultimately lead to my exit from independent media and further personal financial hardship, but I rather be knocked out of independent media than be a part of the disease. I didn’t get involved in journalism to make a living and collect a paycheck. I got involved to create change. So I have no interest in bowing to all these partisan groups who have thus far managed to effectively muzzle and stifle meaningful dissent.
In summation, so-called “independent” media organizations that engage in partisanship are not interested in real change. They are the insidious servants of the status quo. They are divide and conquer pawns. They are a significant reason why, even at this late stage in our crisis, there is still no effective mass movement for desperately needed structural change. They are pivotal players in the downfall of America. This is a bold and blatant truth – a truth that we must urgently come to grasp and overcome if we are going to keep our society from continuing on its downward spiral.
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