Monday, February 6, 2012

Chris Hedges' Very Public Meltdown

Oh dear. My man Chris Hedges is on the warpath now. Appears that "the Black Bloc anarchists" have got his panties in a big old wad. For someone who's been around the block as many times as he has, this strikes me as a bit odd, as if something personal may have happened to him vis a vis "the Black Bloc anarchists," and he's lashing out for some reason.

I haven't finished the article yet, so I'll go back to it now and return anon to unpack it.

Bless his heart.
All right, it is clear something has happened, but I don't know what. Chris Hedges is lashing out wildly, targeting "the Black Bloc anarchists" for his rage, but not comprehensibly. For example, someone called "Venomous Butterfly" wrote something highly critical of the Zapatistas (remember them?) that was published in a now defunct magazine called "Green Anarchist" -- and here's Chris posting a link to a website that has archived this undated article in a magazine that no exists and he's waving his arms and screaming, "See! See! Cancer!"

OK. I thought he was both smarter and more mature than this.

Something happened, I don't know what. Not only is he dredging up irrelevancies from doG knows when, but he is obsessed -- as so many Occupy "advocates" suddenly seem to have become -- with the tiny handful of individuals who have been out sporting now and then in black costumes, causing mischief to be sure (somebody, for example, lit a box on fire during a Fuck the Police march in Oakland in January, and the police had to walk around it when they were clearing the street. )"Violence! Anarchy! Wobblies!"

A bottle was thrown! Don't you understand???!!!

Uh. Yes. I do understand. And a mature response to a bottle thrown does not include going into hysterics and having a very public and very sad melt-down over it. Which is what is happening to Chris Hedges -- and apparently a lot of others in the Nonviolence Community.

I've been exposed to more outright hysteria and extraordinarily hostile and quite violent rhetoric from the Nonviolence Community in the last few days than I have ever been exposed to in my life.

There have been some really intense and emotionally charged internal confrontations connected with Occupy and Black Bloc since the beginning, but not until now have so many Nonviolence people got so in touch with their Inner Rage and let it out so passionately, using such violent rhetoric. In fact, I can't recall anyone in the Nonviolence Community doing so prior to the aftermath of J28 -- which I assume was the trigger, but I'm not sure. And over what?

Somebody wrote something years ago critical of the Zapatistas?

A bottle was thrown? In November?

No, I think it is pretty plain it is something else.

J28 marked the re-emergence on the public stage of the Occupy Movement, and it was very violent. It happened in Oakland where a flag was burned in front of an AP camera, and that image was plastered everywhere as "emblematic" of the Movement I guess. Actually, there was more than one flag burned, but we'll let that go. There was also an intense street "battle" -- of sorts -- in front of the Oakland Museum, during which a thousand or so unarmed demonstrators, some with makeshift shields and carts full of furniture (for the aborted "move in" at the Oakland Auditorium -- I'm old; that's what I know it as) confronted a line of several dozen cops who liberally and repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and various other kinds of "less lethal" munitions into the crowd.

There were other incidents of nonviolent -- but confrontational -- crowds being subjected to random munitions fire, bludgeons and attempts at kettling that climaxed with the mass arrest of hundreds and hundreds of people in front of the YMCA who were not allowed to disperse.

While there may have been Black Bloc participation in these incidents, I can't say for certain that Black Bloc was involved at all; some Black Bloc tactics were employed, notably protecting the wounded, but otherwise, there were few demonstrators dressed in black, and so far as I recall (it's been days, and I watched hours of video, some of it out of sequence) there was no actual Black Bloc contingent in the demonstration at all.

As I and others have reported, there were some incidents of individuals mostly in front of the crowd on Oak Street, none dressed in black that I recall, throwing back munitions that had been fired at them by police. There were reports -- and I saw at least two incidents -- in which individuals in the crowd on Oak St threw other objects at the police, including a garden chair. If they reached the police lines -- the chair didn't even come close -- I doubt they caused any physical harm. Given the intensity and frequency of the police fire, what was thrown at them in response was essentially nothing.

But none of that seems to be chapping Hedges behind. No, he's raging because someone in black threw a bottle in New York in solidarity with Oakland and someone else threw some trash in the street. BLACK BLOC!!! CANCER!!!! WOBBLIES!!!! REDS!!!!

This reaction is so over the top, so inappropriate and so apparently coordinated, I'm "beginning to wonder" if there isn't something afoot here.

Well, of course there is. Jeebus, were we born yesterday?

For Hedges, the problem may be that he is seeing the Revolution he plighted his troth to go off on another path without him. I remember the video of him literally in tears in Times Square last October or November, so moved he was that The Revolution he had hoped for had finally come. It was really very touching. I'll see if I can find the video. It happened October 15.

If he still believed what he is saying here, then he would know full well that Black Bloc is an insignificant, nearly nonexistent, element in the Occupy firmament -- especially in New York -- and those who adopt Black Bloc tactics can't take over the Movement, nor, in my estimation, do they want to.

What I've seen and heard from them and experienced is that they sincerely want to help. They believe sincerely that their disruptive tactics can and do help focus public attention on the violence of the system and who and what is responsible. What they seem to want more than anything is to be heard out and respected. An individual throwing a bottle -- whether or not dressed in black -- is not Black Bloc. Frustration and anger can affect anyone -- obviously including Chris Hedges, poor man -- and sometimes people will act out if they feel they have no other option.

At first I suspected the Black Bloc actions during General Strike Day in Oakland last November were the product of provocateurs, but then I saw more extensive video and assessed the targets and it was clear to me this was Black Bloc, not police provocateurs -- though I'm still suspicious of some of the later actions that caused damage closer to the City Hall. These actions, in my estimation, were spectacular, but they didn't really help the Movement, at least not in the short run, and one should note: they have not been repeated, despite all the hyperventilating about thrown bottles and makeshift shields.

There apparently is a Black Bloc learning curve, duh.

I can't say that right now for the Nonviolence purists like Hedges never seemed to be before.

That's what so odd about his outburst. He has never seemed to be a Nonviolence purist or pacifist or anything like that. He's been in Revolutionary situations; he knows what happens. It's messy, people do the best they can; and purges can wait.

The attacks on Occupy from within are clearly a coordinated effort to purge the anarchists who gave rise to the movement to begin with (not all anarchists follow Black Bloc methods and tactics). This is almost a duplication of what happened in Russia when the anarchists were purged from the Revolution. The rationale escapes me, however.

Unless -- as some have suspected -- the purpose is to ensure the Movement can't be effective, but perhaps persists as a sort of adjunct to the co-opted progressive left.

A coordinated effort at purging anarchists by co-opted progressives is deeply troubling if that's what's happening.

Or if it is as personal as it seems to be with Hedges, and his Revolution walked out on him, then it's sad...

At any rate, I'll give Chris a pass on this one for now; it's been a hard slog to this point, and people's nerves are really on edge.


  1. What's with Hedges' endorsement of violence in Greece and his hysteria about violence here? That dichotomy was pointed out by several commenters in the article that appeared on TruthDig.

  2. Hi Alcuin,

    Your comment got auto-filtered by Blogger; I just found it and released it.

    You are welcome to comment here whenever you like. Blogger's auto-filters seem almost completely arbitrary, though (I haven't blocked anyone from commenting) and it may take me a few days to find and release comments that Blogger has filtered.


    As for the apparent discrepancy between Hedges' admiration for Greece's riots and his denunciation of "black bloc anarchist" activists here, he says that all he meant in writing with admiration for the Greeks was that the Greeks were taking their outrage to the streets, whereas Americans (at the time) were not. This was in his KPFA interview yesterday.

    I'll take him at his word on that, but he seemed so chastened in that interview yesterday that I doubt he'll be so lazy and ill informed in his denunciations again. He's been spanked hard.



  3. I don't know if you've read it or not, but I thought Dr. Bramhall's article at OpEd News explains a lot about Hedges and some mutual acquaintances at another blog - committed NVAs, all.

  4. Alcuin, thanks for the link. I've seen her article at another site, even bookmarked it, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

    When protecting the state is seen as protecting oneself, then pretty much anything goes.

    Results are predictable.

    You might be interested in this (lengthy) panel discussion which includes Hedges, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, and some firebrands from OWS who challenge conventional wisdom.....