Friday, August 3, 2012

The Jacobin: Chris Hayes of MSNBC

A couple of weeks back, TPM ran an interview with far-left cable host Chris Hayes, "MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: No Symmetry Between Fox News And MSNBC."

There's a whole lot there worthy of ridicule, and Tim Graham performs some of it at NewsBusters, "MSNBC's Chris Hayes Disses Most of Network's Hosts, Claims MSNBC Is So Much Fairer Than Fox." But what caught my attention was Hayes' response to the very first question:
Can you describe what you read, how you get the news?

I subscribe to a number of magazines. I’ve always been a magazine lover from the time I was 11 or 12. My dad subscribed to a bunch of magazines. If you asked me at 14 what my dream in adulthood would be, it would have been to someday have a David Levine caricature of me in the New York Review of Books. So I read the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, The Nation, Harper’s, The Baffler, Jacobin. As far as my daily media consumption habits, I’ve almost entirely abandoned RSS, which I think is interesting because at one point it was so central. But now I mostly just do it through Twitter...
Keep reading for the rest of Hayes' news regime, but notice the highlighted section. This guy is f-king far-left revolutionary in the mold of Maximilien Robespierre.

And I would't have thought much more of it, but a couple of days ago Connor Kilpatrick linked me in an essay at Naked Capitalism, and then Kipatrick's piece was cross-posted to Alternet.  It turns out that the dude's the managing editor at Jacobin magazine. When I clicked around at the essay, "The Libertarian Con: Favorite 'Rebel' Ideology of the Ruling Class," one of the links took me over to the Jacobin, a piece by Seth Ackerman, "Burn the Constitution." I read that, then clicked "main" and voila! I see the banner headline for the Jacobin's interview with the one and only Chris Hayes, "The Age of Illusion: An Interview with Chris Hayes."

I had to chuckle a bit, because the serendipity was too perfect. And what does Hayes have to say in his Jacobin interview? Lots actually, but this is interesting:
JB [Jake Blumgart]: With the massive power differentials you describe, how can we hope to enact real reform? In the case of, say, abolition or civil rights there were other powerful groups for the oppressed to ally with. Or a strong labor movement, or mass based political party that wasn’t dependent on wealthy. That seems harder to imagine here. I don’t really see a power base that can push back.

CH [Chris Hayes]: The argument I make in the book, and it’s a tentative argument, but I do think there is a potential for a radicalized upper-middle class. We already see that, it’s just a question of how that gets channeled. Everything about the Netroots, the anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment ... One of the interesting things about the way our certain kind of fractal inequality has manifested, the people who see it the most, have the closest proximity to it, say, the top 2 to the top 20 percent: ‘I went to law school with Joe and I have some job at a firm and I’m doing alright, but he went into a hedge fund and is making $10 million.’

That is a lot of power, resources, cultural capital, network, class, monetary power. The working class has already been ground into dust in terms of political power, as I cite in the book the Martin Gilens and Larry Bartels studies showing [the preferences of voters in the top one-third of income distribution are represented in the votes of senators to the exclusion of everyone else]. It’s not uncommon for revolutions to stem from a radicalized group just outside the circle of power. That’s what the French Revolution was all about, that’s what the American Revolution was. The question is will all those groups, because of the nature of partisan polarization and ideological polarization, just going to fight each other? Or is there capacity to organize?
That's a Marxian analysis in essence, but reading much of Hayes' interview, he doesn't appear a doctrinaire Marxist. He says, for example, that he rejects the necessity of Marx's crisis of capitalism, which requires the complete breakdown of the market and a concomitant "immiseration of the proletariat" that would require unemployment at levels to rival the Great Depression. Hayes rejects that scenario:
Its [the system's] potential for crisis is clear to everyone but the actual depth and acuteness of the current crisis [is felt by] people who are poor or unemployed. It’s horrible and miserable and acute. But 8 percent unemployment is not 20 percent unemployment. There is this weird, frustrated sense of unhappiness with the status quo, and yet, a sort of return normalcy. I want us to make the changes we need to make, and redistribute power in the way we need to, but I don’t wish for crisis.
Hayes then rejects an endogenous crisis in favor of outside ("exogenous") shocks:
So what you really need to do is create disruption, because there is either going to be exogenous disruption, which will mean another shock, another crisis, or you create the disruption through movements, through street protests, through all sorts of creative ways to say no, this is not tenable.
And what would be the vehicle for that? The "Occupy mobilization," to quote Hayes. The problem with that, then, is how Hayes --- who considers himself one of the comfortable elite, who is no doubt interested in retaining that privilege --- ends up equivocating and obfuscating his fundamentally radical revolutionary agenda. The Occupy movement is in fact "communism reborn." Its roots are in the anarco-syndicalism of the campus fee-hike protests and in the ACORN-style "boring-from-within" mobilizations designed to bring about systemic crisis and demands for all-powerful government and the destruction of capital. Many sympathizers either ignore the true goals of Occupy or are ignorant of them. But its objectives are ultimately the revolutionary overthrow of the oppressor class, the capitalist overlords of racism and imperialism.

That's where Chris Hayes is coming from. And remember, this is the guy who recently generated a firestorm of outrage with his comments about the American military, "MSNBC's Chris Hayes 'Uncomfortable' Honoring Fallen U.S. Troops, Spews About 'Rhetorically Proximate' Justifications for More War."

This is all much needed context for understanding the programming available every night on MSNBC. Amazingly, Hayes claims that his network is "objective" and "mainstream," in contrast to Fox News, which he argues is ideologically conservative, essentially Republican in its partisan agenda. And that tells you something: Progressives like Hayes live in a rarefied intellectual milieu in which all other media phenomena are biased or extreme, outside of the appropriate centrist meme. That's an illusion, of course, and it's fueled by a foundation of the hard-left intellectualism that Hayes cites as teeth-cutting ideological fodder --- the ideological Gatorade of the academy. And his agenda is obviously marketable to large numbers of people who question the historic model of mobility in America, and the constitutional priority of limited government that favors the individual. Yet Hayes is too smart to come out hitting like a revolutionary firebrand and vanguard of the proletariat. But that doesn't mean he's not actualizing that role in his perch at the far-left network MSNBC.