Author Archives: Jason Hirthler

The reluctant outsider

In the end, Sanders chose to keep his friends

It is sad to some, infuriating to others. The slow devolution and flame out of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign will go down in history as yet another article of indictment against the claim that capitalist parties can be reformed from within. This argument has been made time and again, only for it to resolve itself in the most odious and macabre fashion. Whether Henry Wallace, George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, or Bernie Sanders, progressives fail to change a party the historical role of which is to sideline progressivism. Progressives don’t change the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party changes progressives. Continue reading

The temple of self-gratification

Author David Foster Wallace once said that America is, “One enormous engine and temple of self-gratification and self-advancement.” The spectacle of American consumerism comes galloping to mind. But the pageant of gluttony with which we sate ourselves on a weekly basis is a pale reflection, at least in its intensity, of American foreign policy. Continue reading

America’s fever pitch

Chaos, panic, and pandemic

American author Stephen Crane, who penned a masterpiece about war without having ever stepped foot on a battlefield, once wrote a short story called “The Open Boat.” It was a tale of a handful of survivors of a shipwreck who were stranding aboard a lifeboat, exposed to the elements, thrashing rain and a hot beating sun, which sapped what little strength they’d had. The boat rocks sickly through the open sea, and finally dumps the men into the wintry water as they make for a distant shore. The fittest and strongest of the bunch dies in the deep. The unfit cook, an injured captain, and a despondent correspondent all survive through good fortune. Some say Crane was mocking the ascendent Darwinian worldview, revealing the indifference of nature to our scrupulously mapped destinies and our inflated sense of our own power. Indeed, it seems an apt tale for modern times, when the fittest seem to have forsaken the public realm and left us scrambling through an undertow of political idiocy to evade one crashing catastrophe after another. Continue reading

The second time as farce

We’ve seen it all before

When Karl Marx popularized a phrase he borrowed from Friedrich Engels about history repeating itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, he was referring to the tragedy of Napoleon and the subsequent farce of his “grotesque mediocrity” of a nephew, Napoleon the Third. Marx might as well have been writing about monopoly capitalism, as we are now witnessing a repeat of the capitalist grotesqueries of the early twentieth century. But ignorance is bliss, and such mental oblivion precipitates the crude repetitions of time. Continue reading

The oracle of American exceptionalism

Obama on the world stage

Listening to our statesmen wax idyllic about America’s role in the world, you may find yourself conceding that these people actually believe what they’re saying. They believe in American exceptionalism, in the noble purpose of the “indispensible” nation. Continue reading

The New York Times on Greece: Business as usual

Misinterpreting a Greek tragedy

It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine The New York Times journalists as a stuffy band of blue bloods sitting around a men’s clubhouse some place, puffing cigars, sipping scotch, and fiddling with their monocles as they composed the day’s news—only the news fit to print. At least one participant snoozes softly in an armchair. Such is the level of excitement one gets reading the Times. By design, all traces of righteous anger, the furies of injustice, and the ire of the powerless have been erased from the (paper of) record. No emotional response is permitted, regardless of the crime. Continue reading