Chris Hedges publishes his deeply insightful columns each week at the progressive website TruthDig.com. He was a war correspondent for nearly two decades, reporting from South America (the Falklands), Central America (El Salvador and Nicaragua for five years), the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Kosovo).He worked for the New York Times for 15 of those years and left the Times after he was reprimanded for speaking out truthfully about the Bush/Cheney administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq.
Among the 11 books authored by Hedges were these popular titles: 1) American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America; 2) War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning; 3)What Every Person Should Know About War; 4) Death of the Liberal Class; 5) Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Hedges received his B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard. Hedges has studied ancient Greek and Latin and speaks Arabic, French and Spanish. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and The University of Toronto and currently teaches prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey. In 2014, he was ordained at the Second Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He has been named an Online Journalist of the Year several times and has often been a featured speaker at Veterans for Peace events, including two in Minnesota. Several years ago he spoke at Duluth, Minnesota’s College of St Scholastica.
Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and others successfully sued Barack Obama in 2012 following the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. The lawsuit alleged that Obama’s use of indefinite detention without habeas corpus was unconstitutional. Named as co-defendants in the suit were Leon Panetta (Secretary of Defense), John Boehner, John McCain, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor. The ruling was overturned in a higher court and in 2014 the Supreme Court refused to review the case. To read the details of the actual lawsuit go to: http://nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=174.
Hedges is an articulate, knowledgeable and formidable whistle-blowing authority on many topics that involve domestic and foreign policy and thus is essentially a banned authority figure. He has the confidence and courage to question many of the myths that people live by (including the myths perpetuated by many mainstream journalists and talking heads), and thus he is rarely heard as a featured interview subject in the mainstream media, which, sadly, includes NPR, MPR, WPR and PBS. However, Democracy Now and Alternative Radio often invite Hedges to appear on their shows.
To better understand Hedges’ situation, I offer extended excerpts from two of his TruthDig columns, one from 6 1/2 years ago and one that was written this month. What Hedges said back then has come true in spades.
The first one was about the infamous and unconstitutional pro-Big Business Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling that granted personhood and unlimited monetary contributions (bribes) to political parties and politicians. Since 2010, multibillionaire elites and their inanimate, greedy, amoral, sociopathic corporations have the legal right to anonymously purchase elections.
The second column explains why the Bernie Sanders revolution was made to fail by the corporatocracy that rapidly implemented Citizens United and now “owns” both major political parties. Hedges deserves to be listened to, but the conservative, pro-war, corporate-controlled media calls the tunes these days, and it has veto power over the democratic inclinations of its journalists.
Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction:
America has been Transformed into a Corporatocracy
By Chris Hedges – TruthDig – January 24, 2010
Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.
This exploitation ensures that huge corporate campaign contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment. It ensures that heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations is interpreted as an application of the people’s right to petition the government. The court again ratified the concept that corporations are persons, except in those cases where the “persons” agree to a “settlement.” Those within corporations who commit crimes can avoid going to prison by paying large sums of money to the government while, according to this twisted judicial reasoning, not “admitting any wrongdoing.”
There is a word for this. It is called corruption.
Corporations have 35,000 (lobbyists) in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation. They use their political action committees to solicit employees and shareholders for donations to fund pliable candidates. The financial sector, for example, spent more than $5 billion on political campaigns, influence peddling and lobbying during the past decade, which resulted in sweeping deregulation, the gouging of consumers, our global financial meltdown and the subsequent looting of the U.S. Treasury.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHARMA) spent $26 million last year and drug companies such as Pfizer, Amgen and Eli Lilly kicked in tens of millions more to buy off the two parties. These corporations have made sure our so-called health reform bill will force us to buy their predatory and defective products.
The oil and gas industry, the coal industry, defense contractors and telecommunications companies have thwarted the drive for sustainable energy and orchestrated the steady erosion of civil liberties. Politicians do corporate bidding and stage hollow acts of political theater to keep the fiction of the democratic state alive.
There is no national institution left that can accurately be described as democratic. Citizens, rather than participate in power, are allowed to have virtual opinions to preordained questions, a kind of participatory fascism as meaningless as voting on “American Idol.” Mass emotions are directed toward the raging culture wars. This allows us to take emotional stands on issues that are inconsequential to the power elite.
Our transformation into an empire, as happened in ancient Athens and Rome, has seen the tyranny we practice abroad become the tyranny we practice at home. We, like all empires, have been eviscerated by our own expansionism. We utilize weapons of horrific destructive power, subsidize their development with billions in taxpayer dollars, and are the world’s largest arms dealer.
Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.
They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president.
And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media’s censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.
Liberals, socialists, trade unionists, independent journalists and intellectuals, many of whom were once important voices in our society, have been silenced or targeted for elimination within corporate-controlled academia, the media and government….This is also why Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, along with intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, are not given a part in our national discourse.
The uniformity of opinion is reinforced by the skillfully orchestrated mass emotions of nationalism and patriotism, which paints all dissidents as “soft” or “unpatriotic.” The “patriotic” citizen, plagued by fear of job losses and possible terrorist attacks, unfailingly supports widespread surveillance and the militarized state.
This means no questioning of the $1 trillion in defense-related spending. It means that the military and intelligence agencies are held above government, as if somehow they are not part of government. The most powerful instruments of state power and control are effectively removed from public discussion.
We, as imperial citizens, are taught to be contemptuous of government bureaucracy, yet we stand like sheep before Homeland Security agents in airports and are mute when Congress permits our private correspondence and conversations to be monitored and archived. We endure more state control than at any time in American history.
The civic, patriotic and political language we use to describe ourselves remains unchanged. We pay fealty to the same national symbols and iconography. We find our collective identity in the same national myths. We continue to deify the Founding Fathers. But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis.
Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression. The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.
By Chris Hedges – TruthDig – September 11, 2016
The naive hopes of Bernie Sanders’ supporters—to build a grass-roots political movement, change the Democratic Party from within and push Hillary Clinton to the left—have failed. Clinton, aware that the liberal class and the left are not going to mount genuine resistance, is running as Mitt Romney in drag. The corporate elites across the political spectrum, Republican and Democrat, have gleefully united to anoint her president. All that remains of Sanders’ “Our Revolution” is a 501(c)(4) designed to raise money, including from wealthy, anonymous donors, to ensure that he will be a senator for life. Great historical events happen twice, as Karl Marx quipped, first as tragedy and then as farce.
The multibillion-dollar extravaganza of our electoral Circus Maximus is part of the smokescreen that covers the ongoing devastation of globalization, de-industrialization, trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, endless war, climate change and the intrusion into every corner of our lives by the security and surveillance state.
<<<Kneeling Before Wall Street and the War Machine>>>
Our democracy is dead.
Clinton and Donald Trump do not have the power or the interest to revive it. They kneel before the war machine, which consumes trillions of dollars to wage futile wars and bankroll a bloated military. To defy the fortress state is political suicide. Politicians are courtiers to Wall Street. The candidates mouth the clichés of justice, improvements in income equality and democratic choice, but it is a cynical game. Once it is over, the victors will go to Washington to work with the lobbyists and financial elites to carry out the real business of ruling.
While there is a difference in the temperament of the two major presidential candidates, that difference will play out only in how our poison will be delivered. Political personalities serve global corporate centers of power. They do not control them. Barack Obama illustrates this.
To neoliberals, everyone and everything are disposable. The failed states that have risen up across the Middle East, Africa, the Caucasus and Asia in the wake of the Cold War herald a neoliberal world driven by violence, corruption, greed and desperation. The drug traffickers, smugglers, pirates, kidnappers, jihadists, criminal gangs and militias that roam huge swaths of territory where central authority has vanished are the real faces of globalization. These nihilists define Islamic State just as they define the corporate state.
Corruption may be more naked and cruder in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it has its parallel in the for-sale politicians and political parties that dominate the United States and Europe. The common good—the building of community and solidarity—has been replaced through decades of corporate indoctrination with the callous call to amass all you can for yourself and leave the stranger bleeding on the side of the road.
Is the Goldman Sachs commodity trader, who hoards futures of rice, wheat, corn, sugar and livestock to jack up prices on the global market, leaving poor people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to starve, any less morally repugnant than the drug trafficker?
Are F-16 pilots who incinerate families in Raqqa morally distinct from jihadists who burn a captured Jordanian pilot in a cage?
Is torture in one of our black sites or offshore penal colonies any less barbaric than torture at the hands of Islamic State?
Are the decapitations of children by military drones any more defensible than decapitations of Egyptian laborers on a beach in Libya by self-described holy warriors?
Is Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, who raised the price of the lifesaving EpiPen by 400 percent or more and whose compensation since 2007 has risen by 600 percent to above $18 million a year, any less venal than a human trafficker who sends an overloaded boat and its occupants to their doom on the coast of Libya?
There is a new world order. It is based on naked exploitation. It—not democracy—is what we have exported across the globe. And it looks a lot like the anarchic state that Hobbes feared. . The criminal gangs that deliver migrants to Europe make about $100 million a month for their work. They exploit and traffic human beings just as highly paid CEOs do.
The failed states of Iraq, Syria and Libya, a direct result of globalization, have their counterparts in Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Baltimore, Atlanta, Milwaukee and the south side of Chicago. They are our versions of Mogadishu, complete with lawlessness, senseless killings, armed gangs, widespread hunger, fear, a population retreating into the numbing embrace of opiates, crippling poverty, dysfunctional state institutions, the growth of private security companies that protect the elites, and indiscriminate police violence that creates reigns of terror aimed at the poor.
The more the global corporate forces extract from us in the name of austerity and the maximization of profit, the more parts of the U.S. will descend into domestic versions of the failed states overseas. The same system exists here and abroad. And it has the same result here and abroad. It may appear first in Somalia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Libya, but it will soon come to characterize much of America. The proliferation of weapons will do to our society what it has done to every other failed state where there has been unchecked access to arsenals—hand power to those with a penchant for violence.
History has amply demonstrated where this will end up. The continued exploitation by an unchecked elite, and the rising levels of poverty and insecurity, will unleash a legitimate rage among the desperate. They will see through the lies and propaganda of the elites. They will demand retribution. They will turn to those who express the hatred they feel for the powerful and the institutions, now shams, that were designed to give them a voice. They will seek not reform but destruction of a system that has betrayed them.
Failed states—czarist Russia, the Weimar Republic, the former Yugoslavia—vomit up political monstrosities. We will be no different.
A form of fascism has already taken hold in two nations on the edges of the European Union, Hungary and Poland. Far-right parties, reacting to the flood of more than a million migrants that descended on Europe last year, are gaining ground in France, Austria, Sweden, Germany and Greece.
Nationalism, buttressed by a deification of the military, will be used to compensate for individual powerlessness and a loss of national identity. Dissent in the U.S. will become “anti-American,” a form of treason. Enemies at home will be vilified along with enemies abroad. And this will lead to even more warfare in the Middle East. The far-right political parties in Eastern Europe flirt rhetorically with military conflict with Russia. And because of its membership in NATO, the United States would be obligated to enter any hostilities.
Voting for Hillary Clinton will not halt this slide into the apocalypse. It will only accelerate it. Donald Trump may vanish from the political landscape, but someone even more venal, and probably more intelligent, will take his place.
Our job is to dismantle the machinery that is pushing toward the cliff. And this means sustained and massive civil disobedience.
As exemplified by the protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and by prisoners across the nation who carried out work stoppages last Friday, it means doing everything possible not to cooperate with the elements of authority. It means disrupting the mechanisms of power. It means overcoming fear.
It means no longer believing the lies we are told.