« Bellum intestinum | Main | Pasture time »

Oooh that Shakespeherian rag

By Michael J. Smith on Friday May 20, 2011 11:59 AM

Speaking of Cornel West, what on earth is the matter with Chris Hedges?

The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment....

Perhaps there was never much of a struggle in Obama’s heart. Perhaps West only provided a moral veneer. Perhaps the dark heart of Emanuel was always the dark heart of Obama. Only Obama knows. But we know how the play ends. West is banished like honest Kent in “King Lear.” Emanuel and immoral mediocrities from Lawrence Summers to Timothy Geithner to Robert Gates—think of Goneril and Regan in the Shakespearean tragedy—take power. We lose....

No one grasps this tragic descent better than West.

Good Lord. That mountebank West, a Shakespearean hero? Shakespearean, maybe, but on the order of Malvolio, most vilely cross-gartered.

The morality play reference was really more on target, perhaps more than Hedges realizes, unless he's read more morality plays lately than I suspect he has done. The genre incorporates, with increasing prominence over time, an element of stark buffoonery which would suit Cornel West right down to the ground.

Comments (12)


Not only that, but... casting conspicuously Jewish Rahm Emanuel as Satan in a morality play... could Hedges really not have thought of a better metaphor than one that so directly conjures up such a horrific history of anti-semitism?

I mean, I'm no fan of Emanuel -- far from it -- but reading this left me feeling dirty. Hedges is a weird dude, and this kind of writing creeps me out. This demonization of Emanuel is the flip-side of Hedges' canonization of West: he imbues both of these jokers with more gravitas than they deserve. I'll chalk it up to Hedges' fondness for religious narratives interfering (as it has in the past) with his otherwise admirable ability to think and write effectively.

On the upside, at least he went with Lear and not The Merchant of Venice. Oy.


And West, a "moral philosopher"? I can't get over it. I'll see your oy and raise you a gevalt.

I got to the 6:02 mark in the video (from the post below this one) and then went looking for a gun to shoot myself in the face.


I got as far as the word Satan.

Hedges writes the same column every week. It's called, "Here comes the Christian Fascists."


I love the picture, by the way. It's not too often that somebody from the University of Chicago gets to look cool and superior next to a grovelling, grimacing "tenured professor" from Princeton. Since I'm a recovering U of C alum myself, there's a little tiny corner of my mind where a Super Mario avatar is doing the fist pump and saying "Yesss!"


Even here : Hedges "his otherwise admirable ability to think and write effectively"?

I'll admit a withering fondness for bashing Pastor Hedges on the weekend: as was said, he comes out with the same dull column every week, a psychodrama of self-ennobling zither dribble about self-sacrifice, monasticism, his hairshirts, his hairshirt friends... Yeah, he can be correct about the "Evil" of his targets, but anyone with a functioning brain is well aware of all that.

I grew up with this folk-music religious twaddle. I should definitely give this Pastor-bashing a rest, but it helps, it helps.

The word that just does not work is "effective" in being applied to Pastor Jesus H. Hedges. He is "effective" (as in, what, actual real world results) to the same extent that "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (Coca-Cola)" by the harmony Signers was. To the same extent that Arnold is going to be elected president of NOW.


The word that just does not work is "effective" in being applied to Pastor Jesus H. Hedges.

Point taken. I was trying to soften my criticism, but you're right that "effective" is the wrong word to apply to Hedges.

What I should have said is that, for all his religious twaddle, I appreciate Hedges' attempts at honest moral assessment of the political world. It's sort of touching, when it's not annoying.


Hedges' earnestness is indeed rather touching and sympathetic. The trouble is that it seems to have diminished his capacity for savage contempt and his appreciation of low comedy. Both these faculties are much needed by anybody who undertakes to comment on the current political scene. But Hedges can't really quite dismiss anybody, can he?

Christians were not always thus. Two words: John. Milton.

Maybe it's liberal Christianity that's the problem.


Hedges needs new material and, yes, a sense of satire. His biggest oppressor is not the corporate-fascist state but his own humorlessness.


Hedges writes the same column every week. It's called, "Here comes the Christian Fascists."

"...and brilliant Meritocrats educated at Our Nation's Finest Schools, bearing Gilded Parchment Proof of their Superiority, are the vanguard of change to a more noble society."

That's the whole Hedges schtick right there. What can a reader expect, though? Hedges is as much a part of the Privileged and Pampered Caste as his heroes and role models.

Michael Hureaux:

It's that old story about the scorpion and the tortoise all over again. The tortoise agrees to carry the scorpion across the river just so long as the scorpion promises not to sting him. Halfway across the river, the scorpion gets happy, and stings the tortoise. As the tortoise is dying from his wound and sinking in the middle of the river, he says to the scorpion, "You fool, now I'm dying, now you're going to drown, we're both going to die.". And the scorpion says, "Who's the fool? You knew what I was when you invited me onto your back.".

The ruling class can't help being what it is, and it is tiresome to have to listen to people whine and cry when the buggers sting just like they promised they would. And odds are, many of those who are "incensed" today will be rallying the peasantry to vote for Obama as the "lesser evil" once again in fifteen short months.

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Friday May 20, 2011 11:59 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Bellum intestinum.

The next post in this blog is Pasture time.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31