Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"The Power of Nightmares" -- Scapegoating Edition

The Power of Nightmares, Part 1, 2004

Part 2

Part 3

[Interestingly, "The Power of Nightmares" is apparently no longer available in full on the internet, though other BBC/Adam Curtis material still is. Here's a link to a 22 minute excerpt, a link to the final episode, and here is a link to a transcript.] 

[Further Update: As if by magic, "The Power of Nightmares" has re-appeared at Archive.org, so get it while it is hot... The other two episodes are at the link...]

Well, this has been an interesting morning. Not a pleasant one, but interesting.

Went to bed last night thinking about how really sickened I was by Chris Hedges' polemic, specifically at how harmful his dehumanization and scapegoating is. I understand it's "his way." At times, I can even appreciate it, but this one really stuck in my craw because it was a frontal assault on Occupy Oakland.

I think it's pretty clear that though I am not a direct participant in Occupy Oakland affairs, I do support them somewhat more strongly than other Occupies I also support, and I defend anarchists, especially those who have been given the rawest deal by ignorant people who have no idea what anarchism is or what anarchists believe. I'm still learning, but I wouldn't have had more than casual and very peripheral contact with anarchist thought and anarchists in person were it not for Occupy. I'm an old man, and it's kind of a thrill to have a whole new way of looking at things be opened to me at this late age.

In the course of my Occupy activities, I have dealt with people who wanted to engage in unspecified but clearly Black Bloc type Diversity of Tactics. They were very sincere, dedicated, not at all wild-eyed radicals intent on assassinations and bombings -- which is basically all most Americans have ever heard about or think they know about "anarchists."

I've dealt with them, and I am not at all afraid of them. They have no interest in harming me or any other human being. They want, sincerely, to help make things better, and they believe, sincerely, that Diversity of Tactics can hasten that better world we all claim as possible.

Thus when I see something like Hedges' egregious attack on what is really a phantom, a ghost of Black Bloc at all, my skin crawls. He uses the weapons of dehumanization and scapegoating against his target, which isn't really "the Black Bloc anarchists," it's Occupy Oakland, where these phantoms, these black-clad ghosts, loom so very large in his reveries.

His weapons of dehumanization and scapegoating are right out of "The Power of Nightmares," Adam Curtis's extraordinary 2004 documentary about how peoples can be driven by the politics of fear.

We fear what we don't understand or what we are told to fear, and we are prevented from understanding by the political need to instill fear in order to manage and control... you and me.

I don't fear anarchists or Black Bloc because I know them well enough to respect them, even if I don't agree with their positions or tactics. Hedges is counting on the fact that Americans by and large don't know anything about anarchists or Black Bloc -- except to fear them. And he ratchets fear of them up to the point of stark hysteria.

Scapegoating and demonization are extremely dangerous weapons in such a highly charged situation as we face now within the Occupy Movement. The external pressure from the authorities is only going to get worse as this election year and its numerous National Special Security events take place.

The anti-Occupy repression and propaganda campaigns haven't even begun compared to what's coming, and the notion that somehow by purging "the anarchists" -- Black Bloc or not -- now, the Movement will assure its safety and preservation is, in my view, whack. Purges can wait. The police are going to attack violently anyway.

I posted a version of my Chris Hedges' Meltdown piece over at dKos, and the response was fascinating. Not only was there an enormous amount outright hostility expressed toward my rejection of Hedges' thesis, there was an extraordinary amount of sheer ignorance on display; ignorance especially about anarchists and anarchism, Black Bloc, Oakland, what is and is not "violence," and so on. People don't know, and they are not meant to know. (Power of Nightmares again) Makes it surprisingly easy to inspire fear and dread, even hatred toward "the Other" by the Powers That Be, and in this case, it's Chris Hedges who is doing it.

I think it is shameful.

So, apparently, do some others, but I didn't see any shame at all in the comments to my essay; instead, I saw nodding approval of Hedges -- and frequent, full throated denunciation of "the anarchists" and their so-called violence.

I've encountered this phenomenon over and over and over again the past few weeks, so many times and in so many places with so many different kinds of people who almost all say the same thing: "Anarchists bad, they violent, smash them!" that I'm truly gobsmacked. How can people be so easily misled?

Well, we know, don't we?

Some counterpoint to the stupid:

OLA Anti-Social Media, an online Black Bloc site for Occupy Los Angeles, takes Hedges to the woodshed and smothers him with... some of his own medicine. And love. Oh yes. Don't forget the love!

Truth Addict's take:
A Reply to Chris Hedges' 'The Cancer in Occupy': Stop Scapegoating Black Bloc, Look Within

And then there was this, posted at dKos shortly after my post that really, really ought to cause Hedges and all of his drooling adherents a LOT of heartburn, because Diane goes right to the point of why this kind of shit is so damned wrong.

We haven't seen the end of it by any means; the effort to purge "the anarchists" will continue until the Overclass embraces the Occupy!

Solidarity Some Day! Yaaaaay!


  1. I'm going to say something that is perhaps uncharitable about Chris Hedges. He's a dilettante.

    If the Occupy movement fails, he goes back to do whatever it is he was doing before he got involved with it. He might feel bad, provided it never got too militant for him, but he won't be much worse off materially.

    On the other hand, a lot of people involved with the Occupy movements are on the edge of the cliff, and the Occupy movement is the rope they are hanging onto. They are looking at poverty, degradation, and possibly death if the movement fails. In the vernacular, failure is not an option.

    Ivory tower pronouncements on morals, even hypocritically disguised as tactical advice (OLA ANTISOCIAL MEDIA points out that he didn't have a problem with much more extreme tactics in Greece) from such a person need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    I don't yet need the Occupy movement to succeed, personally. I'm in far worse shape than Chris Hedges though, so I'm invested in its success because it would only take a small shift in the Wheel of Fortune (a very small shift) to make me homeless. So I simply wish very strongly for it to succeed, and to the extent I worry about the Black Bloc's tactics it is only that they not be counterproductive.

    Here's an article I like, ELITE VERSUS ELITNY By Mark Ames. It's about Wal-Mart and Old Navy, but it goes into the problem with Left wing dilettantes.

  2. Thanks, pws.

    Your comment is exactly what needs saying about this dilettantish bullshit, whether it is from Hedges or anybody else.

    People have said he was "crowned King of OWS" by acclimation in New York -- prior to his latest missive -- and the very idea of it gave me the willies. He might have a role to play, but King is not it. Sheesh.

    The lifeline aspects of the Occupy Movement are there, but they seem to be overwhelmed right now, in some of the fiercest internal conflicts since the beginning.

    As for Black Bloc tactics, you realize there has been no Black Bloc action within Occupy since Oakland General Strike Day in November of last year? It was really a one-off, which some people at the time were trying to point out. It was done once; it hasn't been tried since. Maybe because it was counterproductive to the Movement?

    Gee. You mean "the anarchists" can think these things through? Duh.

    Of course what happens to Hedges at this point is not in my control. I have no idea what might be in the planning stages... snicker.