Book Excerpt Chris Hedges Politics

Hedges: Why They Hate Us

Book excerpt explores the rupturing of social bonds, despair and rage that come from being cast aside by the ruling elites and that define the deep animus of the radical right.
People listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Chris Hedges / An excerpt from his 2018 book America, The Farewell Tour

I sat at a table in the barren dining room of the house, which was for sale, with the owner, Kat, who recently lost her job, and Scott Seddon, the founder of the militia group American Patriot the III%, or AP3. Its name was inspired by the belief that only 3 percent of the population actively fought the British during the American Revolution. 

Seddon founded AP3 when Barack Obama took office in 2009. His initial focus was to connect survivalists for the coming collapse. But the militia soon took on a political coloring. It has expanded to multiple chapters nationwide, he said, each involved with organizing protests, training militia, and teaching survival skills to prepare for an imminent natural or man‐made calamity. He estimates AP3 currently has thirty thousand to fifty thousand members. It also provides security for right‐wing protests and rallies. 

“I founded it out of fear, to be honest with you,” he said. “I saw a change starting to occur in this country that really made me scared. It started with Obama.” 

He launched into an attack on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor in Chicago who delivered fiery sermons on the evils of empire and white supremacy. He called Wright “anti‐American.” 

“Black Lives Matter went to the freaking White House,” he said of a July 2016 meeting at the White House with Obama. “Everybody is a victim in America today. 

“The majority of antifa have that victim mentality,” he went on, referring to self‐styled antifascists who advocate property destruction and violence. “There’s no excuse for them to be in rallies every other week insulting people and not holding a job. Most of these kids, 90 percent of antifa, don’t have jobs.” 

Michael Mosher, a former marine who is in charge of AP3’s statewide security, joined us at the table. He had a tattoo of crossed rifles, another read “My Fight,” and a third was the 3 percenter symbol of the militia. He also had a tatoo of the head of a buck. 

“They’re a bunch of immature kids,” Mosher said of antifa. “They’re disrespectful. If you don’t agree with them, they spit on people. They throw urine at people.” 

“They throw bottles at people,” Seddon said.

“How do they throw urine?” I asked. “In little balloons,” Mosher said.

“Every event I’ve been to where there has been antifa, there’s always one heavyset ethnic chick that does nothing but scream the entire time,” he went on. 

“They’re paid actually,” Kat, the owner of the house, said, joining the conversation. “They have paid organizers that come and recruit these kids online from Craigslist or what‐not. They do pay them like fifteen bucks an hour to come out.” 

“When we were at the rally point this morning, there was a red Cadillac across the street,” Mosher said. “An older woman was sitting in the driver’s seat. A heavyset lady was outside of the car recording. They were filming the entire time.” 

He said antifa was “funded by George Soros.” 

“They’re socialists,” Seddon said. “They’re communists. They’re the troubled youth of America who don’t want to work. They think the upper one percent should hand them everything. 

“The antifas are supposedly reaching out to the Muslim communities as well to get their backing,” he said, “which doesn’t make sense to me. Muslims are against homosexuality.” 

“A lot of antifa members are ambiguous homosexuals,” Kat said. “They’re definitely not alpha men or alpha women.” 

“They’re the misfits,” Mosher said. 

“They’re misguided,” Seddon said. “The patriot community, thank God, has a growing number of homosexual men and women. I’m a straight male, 110 percent. But some of our best, most patriotic men and women in America are gay. There’s definitely no discrimination against gay people. But antifa supports a group—Muslims—that thinks gay people are an abomination.” 

“And we don’t,” Kat said. “We’re trying to stick up for all these people who don’t understand what they’re bringing into the country, by bringing in all these Muslim refugees who are actually just migrants bringing in Sharia law and believe that homosexuality is an abomination. They’re going to kill all of us.” 

“That’s what they do in the Middle East,” Seddon said. 

“The rise in terrorism across Europe and England, we don’t want that to happen here,” Seddon said. “It’s not going to be accepted if it starts. That’s why we wanted to show up today. Just to let them know we’re here. We’re aware. We’re Americans. We love our country.” 

“We’re not going to give up our country the way England and London has,” Mosher said. 

“I’m quite sure Europe is going to be one big Islamic state, probably in the next twenty to thirty years,” Kat said. 

“Yeah,” Seddon said, “except Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe is standing their ground.” 

About 100 demonstrators rallied along with Patriot Prayer, Three Percenters, and pro-Trump groups to support early reopening of PetBiz, a pet-grooming salon, in Vancouver, Washington on May 16, 2020. (Photo by John Rudoff/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

“France, U.K., Germany, I think Finland was having a problem,” Kat said. “Sweden, they’re all having problems. Poland is going to resist. Look up the rape capitals of the world. They’re all going to be where these large immigrant populations are. And also, missing people. Look it up. It’s going to be where all these refugees are. They’re the number one in the slave trade, the sex slave trade, too. I just want to protect my family. I don’t want that here.” 

“I’ve spent six years in the Marine Corps,” Mosher said. “I’ve been overseas to Iraq, Afghanistan. I’ve fought them. I don’t want them here. I’ve met people who I guess you would call moderate Muslims. They were normal people. I never had any issues with them. When I went over there, it was a whole lot different—they hate us so bad.” 

“Why?” I ask. 

“To be honest with you, I think part of it comes from the United States getting involved in a lot of conflict overseas,” he said. “But it also is in the Koran, anybody that doesn’t follow them is supposed to be beheaded or whatever. I’ve seen their book. Their job is to kill us unless we convert to Islam.” 

“They’re already inside our federal government,” Seddon said. “Homeland Security has some people who are deeply entrenched. What’s the name of the [Palestinian American] female speaker that [New York City] mayor [Bill] de Blasio loves? [Linda] Sarsour. She’s right there next to de Blasio when he makes speeches at events. She’s put up on a pedestal. Listen, in this country, Sharia law just ain’t happening. It violates our entire Constitution. We’re a free country. Anytime you start implementing a law that tells you, ‘You have to do this, you have to abide by this,’ you’re going against the Constitution of the United States.” 

“Why are there so few African Americans in militias?” I asked. 

“Because the left spins us as being racist bigots, when [actually] we allow anybody into the group,” Seddon said. “Like I said, we have homosexuals in the group. We have a lot of Mexicans, believe it or not. Veterans. The media spins us as racist KKK members. Listen, we accept almost anybody into AP [American Patrol]. The only people I’d scrutinize a little more, unfortunately, would be the Muslim community. And no felons.” 

“Do you have any Muslims?” I asked.

“They have no interest in the group,” Seddon said.

“Our country is divided completely,” Mosher said. “Some people think it’s going to lead to a civil war or a revolutionary war. I hope it happens during my time and not my son’s.” 

Mosher said about 85 percent of the militia’s members were vets. Mosher and Seddon left the house to join the other militia members standing around the bonfire in the backyard. The light was fading. 

Kat, recently divorced, lost her job in February 2017 as the cheer coach at Ithaca College. She had been there only a year. She is the mother of three boys and a girl, ages twenty‐two, twenty‐one, fourteen, and twelve. 

“This [losing her job] was for my views of being a Christian Trump supporter,” she said. “That’s all it was.” 

“We went on break right after the election because the school shuts down from December to January after finals,” she said. “We came back after inauguration. A couple of my girls [on the cheer team] seemed to be upset all the time. One of them was a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. The other one was of Asian descent. I’m pretty sure she was a lesbian.” 

A few of the girls she coached confronted her about the pro‐Trump opinions she had posted on Facebook, including a photo she had put up after the Women’s March in Washington of a veteran woman captioned, “The real women who marched for us.” 

“They were fired up, started calling me a racist,” she explained. “I said listen, I understand you’re upset about the election. I understand these things. But it is what it is. This is how democracy works. This is your president now. You can’t keep missing practices and getting up and calling me names. 

“They weren’t having it,” she said. “This went on for over an hour. I was so tired. I couldn’t even talk anymore.” The verbal altercation ended when two girls stormed out of the cheerleading practice. “‘We’re not coming back if you’re still here,’” she recalled one of the girls saying. 

When she was fired the next day — she received a terse email saying her contract had been terminated — her world disintegrated. She was still trying to cope from a recently dissolved marriage. 

“This was my life,” she said. “This was all I ever knew. I cheered for fourteen [years] myself. And I’ve been coaching for six [years]. I was so heartbroken. I guess my life is going to be different now. . . . I didn’t know what to do. . . . I have to figure it out.” 

She was planning on moving to Ithaca after she sold the house she had shared with her ex‐husband. Now she had nowhere to go. She began spending more time on the Internet. 

“I didn’t understand why these girls hated me so much. . . . I’ve been crying all week about what happened at school,” she said. “I started reaching out on Facebook. Told everyone what happened. I put out publicly what happened to me at Ithaca College in a long post. I was embarrassed. I just lost my job. My career is over. My career is over! All of a sudden I started getting all these shares, ‘I’m so sorry about what happened to you.’ I heard about . . . the refugee crisis in Europe. People started talking to me about Islam.” 

Then it hit her. One of the cheerleaders who argued with her was Muslim. 

The newfound fear and need to resist gave her a mission in life. She had to help save America from Muslims. 

“At the time I was really not all that familiar with Islam,” she said. “I thought it was a real religion. I did not know why that Muslim girl didn’t like me . . . because on the news you don’t get correct information. You’re getting very one‐sided biases. On Facebook, we share real information with each other. 

“A lot of us were afraid to say anything during the Obama administration because you’ll be called a racist,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, when we felt comfortable when Trump got in, I think everyone started waking up and started to be vocal, and learning more, and sharing information.” 

She came to believe, after reading posts on Facebook, that Islam is “a death cult basically started by a Satan‐worshipper who came from a tribe that sacrificed children.” She was mortified. The newfound fear and need to resist gave her a mission in life. She had to help save America from Muslims. 

“I feel a very big threat to our humanity now. . . . I had done so much research on Islam,” she said. “I basically made it my job. . . . I was as passionate about cheer as I am about this patriot movement,” she said. “There’s a lot of Muslim organizations that are behind the scenes putting people in offices, just like they did in Europe. You’ve got a Muslim mayor in London. 

“Obama was the Manchurian candidate, wouldn’t you agree?” she asked. “He was a plant. He was in the Muslim Brotherhood’s back pocket. He was placed there on purpose. They’re going to kill all of us. 

“I got very vocal on Facebook,” she said. “I’m sharing information. Next thing I know, I went from 1,200 followers to 5,000. They’re Friending me. Basically, people are listening. They’re waking up. I’m really, really excited about it. We’re all coming out and starting to fight back. We are the resistance. 

“I want to keep people safe,” she said. “I want to fight for women. Not have their genitals cut off. Not be stoned to death. Or shamed or honor‐killed.” 

These sentiments, revolving around a perceived assault by Muslims, African, Americans, Latinos, feminists, gays, liberals and intellectuals against national identities, dominate the ideology of right‐wing hate groups. 

Stefan Meyer, twenty‐five, a four‐year Marine Corps veteran, sat in a bar in Parkville, Maryland. He was a member of the Maryland Chapter of Proud Boys. He joined the riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. He wanted to fight Black Lives Matter and antifa. 

“[Freddie Gray] rammed his head into the walls of the police van so that it would look like police brutality,” he said. “He hit himself against a bolt. So he killed himself trying to frame the cops. And people started destroying my city. I was furious.” 

Meyer was a commercial driver who was going through a divorce. He went to work at 4:30 in the morning and got home at 4:30 in the afternoon. 

“I break my back at work for $20 an hour,” he said. “Out of the $800 a week that I make, I see maybe almost $500 of it. Which for all intents and purposes isn’t bad. But most of it is going to rent. Rent is not cheap. Rent is $1,040 for one bed, one bath. And a tiny kitchen. 

“These days, I just sit at home and sleep,” he said. “That’s about it. [Being a part of the Proud Boys,] it gets me out more. I got to see the White House. I’ve never seen it before.” 

Meyer said he was bullied and excluded at school.

“I was tiny,” he said. “I barely broke a hundred in high school.” When he began dating a girl in high school, they agreed to keep their relationship secret so she wouldn’t be teased. He once tried to give her a bracelet in front of her friends at school. 

“She had this horrified look on her face,” Meyer recalled. “So I said, ‘Hey, I forgot to give this back to you, I’m so sorry.’ I didn’t want to embarrass her.” 

“Everyone will just say, ‘I just want to fucking kill someone.’ It’s not out of hate or rage. It’s just what was drilled into them for so long, for so many years.” 

— Stefan Meyer, Proud Boy

Meyer joined the Marines after high school.

“I would have liked to go when Afghanistan was still going on,” he said. “There were a lot of men out there that are a lot better than I am. It upsets me a lot of people died that I didn’t get to take that bullet for. 

“Since day one,” he said of Marine Corps boot camp, “You’re just screaming, ‘Kill!’ There’s nothing behind it. There’s no ‘Kill this.’ There’s no ‘Kill that.’ It’s just, ‘Kill.’ Which is why we’re such an effective fighting force. That’s our job. To go in and win battles and win wars. At least it used to be. That’s how wars were won. Now [the battle] happens on the news. I’m not sure which is worse.” 

Meyer described how he and other militia members, also veterans, casually spoke of killing people when they gathered at events such as the Freedom of Speech rally in Washington, D.C., in June 2017. 

“Everyone will just say, ‘I just want to fucking kill someone,’” Meyer said. 

“It’s not out of hate or rage,” he went on. “It’s just what was drilled into them for so long, for so many years.” 

The Democratic Party blamed its 2016 election defeat on Russian interference in the election, the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, and FBI director James Comey’s decision, shortly before the vote, to send a letter to Congress related to Hillary Clinton’s private email server. It refused to acknowledge the root came of its defeat, the abandonment of workers, deindustrialization, the wars in the Middle East, and vast social inequality. The party’s rhetoric about watching out for the working and middle class worked for three decades. But it has lost credibility among those it had betrayed. The idea that tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of Clinton supporters read the Podesta emails and switched their votes to Trump, or were swayed by the Comey announcement to abandon Clinton, is absurd. The failure to confront reality is ominous, not only for the Democratic Party, but American democracy. 

The failure to confront reality is ominous, not only for the Democratic Party, but American democracy. 

The malaise that infects Americans is global. Hundreds of millions of people have been severed by modernity from traditions, beliefs, and rituals, as well as communal structures, which kept them rooted. They have been callously cast aside by global capitalism as superfluous. This has engendered an atavistic rage against the technocratic world that condemns them. This rage is expressed in many forms — Nativism, neofascism, jihadism, the Christian right, alt‐right militias, and the anarchic violence of antifa. The resentment spring from the same deep wells of despair. This despair exacerbates racism, bigotry, and xenophobia. It poisons civil discourse. It celebrates hypermasculinity, violence, and chauvinism. It promises the return to a mythical past. 

Corporate elites, rather than accept their responsibility for the global anarchy, define the clash as one between Western civilization and racist thugs and medieval barbarians. They see in the extreme nationalists, anarchists, religious fundamentalists, and jihadists a baffling irrationality that can be quelled only with force. They have yet to grasp that the disenfranchised do not hate them for their values. They hate them because of their duplicity, greed, use of indiscriminate industrial violence, and hypocrisy. 


[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2018 Chris Hedges

18 comments

  1. Democrats put years of work into pitting middle class against poor, workers against those left jobless, further split by race. The ruling duopoly won, the proverbial masses lost. There’s not much left to say.

  2. Chris Hedges, along with Noam Chomsky, is among the prophets of our time.

    The capitalist establishment learned their lesson from FDR’s implementation of New Deal legislation on behalf of the American working class; the establishment would never let the working class obtain an advantage ever again in American society.

    And the establishment effectively bamboozles the (mostly credulous) misinformed public convincing them that the problem is “Muslims” and “Latin American migrants coming to take your jobs” when it fact it is the capital class 1% that is waging a war against their own working class.

    And they don’t want the working class to know this.

    Mr. Hedges does know this and he exposes the truth for all who will listen. America owes a profound debt of gratitude to Mr. Hedges for allowing all who will listen to awaken from their dogmatic slumber of believing in the capitalist system that threw them, the working class, under the bus forty years ago with Reagan.

  3. Thank’s Chris,

    I don’t have a lot of hope for the future given the situation we are in, but I will die knowing I understood the truth. If I have to choose between justice and truth or power and wealth as a true Christian it will be the former and not the latter.

    Best regards
    Rob

  4. “The malaise that infects Americans is global. Hundreds of millions of people have been severed by modernity from traditions, beliefs, and rituals, as well as communal structures, which kept them rooted…”

    I’m all for dumping on modernity. Humanity has been pretty hopelessly overmatched by the living conditions our human ingenuity has produced since probably even before our march of human progress toward where we find ourselves now got shifted into high gear with the outbreak of civilization.

    I would say, though, that the malaise Chris refers to is a pre-existing condition that we human beings just got used to before the more and more “technocratic world” we’ve chosen for ourselves turned it into strains of itself that we haven’t grown used to yet.

    I believe we should not be too ready in these awful anomic times to forget that the “traditions, beliefs, and rituals, and [the] communal structures” that have kept groups of us rooted (including the groups Chris’s interviewees belong to) have been responsible for a whole lot of woman’s and man’s inhumanity to one another since long before the current iteration of modernity set in.

    Chris offhandedly writes off antifa’s doings as “anarchic violence”. And maybe that’s all they are. There’s no reason for anyone to be surprised anymore by how low groups of us can go (as Cornel West suggested in a recent interview with Chris).

    But maybe interviewing a few well-chosen members of antifa with the same amount of sympathy Chris extends to these militia members would elicit a not necessarily anarchic wish to be done with all the so timeworn traditions and beliefs and rituals and communal structures that lead to stuff like slavery and genocide and the worshipping of father figures no matter how bent they are on sowing nothing but divisions between some of us and others.

    It seems to me our species should fix all this unrootedness by coming up with new, more universal traditions and beliefs and rituals and communal structures that are all about taking good care of the bonds of human solidarity.

  5. Not sure I am feeling a lot of sympathy here. I am not arguing that most people have been left behind and had their lives destroyed by the Capitalist Empire. I am not saying we cannot react to their plight or try help them out of their desperation, but some of this is of their own making. They have chosen to believe lies and fill their hearts with hate, whereas plenty of others in the same situation or much, much worse have chosen not to. To chalk it all up to economics robs them of their moral responsibility and is even more condescending to them than how coastal elites treat them.

    1. As someone who grew up working class in Alabama (father was a house painter, mother a waitress and eventually a stand-up forklift driver) and who is currently working class in Alabama (a gardener) I have to agree with Mr. Nelson’s comment above.

      I’m an admirer of Chris Hedges’ work, commitment, ethics and intelligence, but his constant need to excuse the choices others make in life is quite disheartening.

      1. Having followed Hedges and still do I don’t take it that he blames all the disruptions on just economics. He is trying to expose the weaknesses of those claims and helping to those who have been crushed by circumstances they are being led in the wrong direction(s). The working class of this country has been sold out by the financiers into the corrupt dreams of globalization as the cure for all our ills; not so. And, done by both major political parties. The worst is that the Democrats, the party that was the refuge for labor has been brutally betrayed and the result of the awful proffer of HC for the 2016 presidential election was the final straw and it gave this country Donald Trump. The rest is and will be history. Too many Americans are confused as to where they stand within this society. Chris Hedges attempts to open the dialogue for further discovery of self-interest and the non-necessity of using racism, violence, or any other forms of nationalisms to understand what is happening. (caveat: Not a member of either major US political party).

    2. I understand the feeling to withhold sympathy because I’ve been there myself on other issues. But the more I learn about people, their brains, and all the things big and small that contribute to how those brains function and cause those people to do what they do, the more sympathy I find myself having.

      To say plenty of others in similar situations have made different choices would be correct, but to say they were the “same” situations isn’t necessarily accurate or fair. While circumstances may seem the same on the surface, one never knows what particular little item – a chemical difference in the brain; a specific incident of abuse; a certain interaction with an individual who taught an important component of critical thinking, or, even, that’s it’s ok to question one’s immediate authorities (family or church, for instance); an encounter with someone who showed a unique and unexpected kindness – will tip an individual’s inner scale and set them on a different trajectory. People and life are way too complex to assume that just because one individual made a certain choice, another in seemingly similar circumstance would even have the wherewithal – inner or outer -to be able to do so.

      Coming around to this realization has greatly impacted my own patience with others. A while ago I decided to make a conscious effort to try to treat the folks I cross paths with as though I might be the very last person with whom they interact who might have a chance of showing them the kindness they need to open their own heart or mind – or even to hang on for another day.

      1. Last night I spoke with a friend who is losing his relationship with his elderly mother because she has fallen into a Trump hole so deep that she can no longer even treat her son, a gay, liberal schoolteacher, with respect and courtesy.

    3. Robert:

      I wanted to address the lack of sympathy, which I have felt at times and also received at times, as well as the anger, hatred that leads to destructive choices. I think of anger sometimes as a kind of defense mechanism, where someone feeling things are out of control or alienated, can assert control and make a (temporary) connection, even if in the long run it’s self-defeating and a hurtful, rather than loving connection.

      I think it’s fair to say our society is materialistic and success is often measured by that. Many people crave a kind of normalcy our society offers: a secure income that allows them to go shopping, have a home and a “good” life. I suspect a lack of sympathy comes partly from a place of fear: fear of finding yourself with not enough means to have a good life. Capitalism both tries to deal with scarcity, and sometimes purposefully creates it, so that one person or group can gain advantage over another. Is it any surprise that such a competitive society would engender lack of sympathy and see some as un-deserving? Even if you are ultimately in control of your response to the world, it takes incredible patience, love and persistence to overcome the alienation our society can create.

    4. I think most of this is of their own making. These are people who have made an art form of separation, willing to fight to the death and commit all sorts of atrocities to keep “those others” away from them. Eventually, the world passed them by.
      Dr. Johnathan Metzl does an excellent job of explaining this in his book, Dying of Whiteness.
      Since time began, regardless of what group we’re in, power seeking leaders have used our prejudices more to control us than to vanquish our enemies, both real and imagined. If we’re dumb enough to buy into their garbage we earn the wages of ignorance and prejudice. Nativism is a powerful drug.

  6. Synopsis.
    A guy worth 15MM$ walks into a bar and asks the patrons why they’re mad. They say no one is listening to them and he reports back; capitalism.

  7. It is telling that 3 percenters were founded at Obama’s election.
    That their genesis is driven by the election of a Black Romney-like clone yet the actual white Romney would not give rise to it, is not fully explained. There is another elephant in the room.

  8. Searching the web, I cannot locate any news posts on Kat being fired from Ithaca!?

    1. Great understanding of all of this coming for years then does Chris or anyone have a answer or solution or way forward ??? What the hell are we suppose to be doing besides protesting which does nothing.

  9. I have followed your writings for some time now. I do thank you for your contribution of truth and clarity, even it it does come with a heavy price of concern as to what our future will become for my children and my grandchildren. I had largely ignored the large issues of society, bigotry, race, politics, capitalism, globalism, and militarism through most of my adult life. I was consumed by work and economic survival. Then 2008 happened. It was like starting over in life, 20 years behind. In my 50’s, marginally employable in our “new” economy. Which forced me to look broader at my condition and the condition of my fellow man, country and planet. Which led me to people like Chris Hedges, whose clarity helped me sort through the massive smokescreens, lies, and charades of the media and politicians. Thank you Chris Hedges. Please continue your crusade. You are fighting for the joint survival and hopefully liberation of the people of this planet.sssssssssss

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