Chris Hedges (born 18 September 1956 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont) is a war journalist and the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002) and What Every Person Should Know about War (2003). In 2002 Hedges was part of a group of eight reporters at The New York Times awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism.
- The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief.
- Over the last few decades these radical religious broadcasters, who have essentially taken control of the airwaves, have built a parallel information and entertainment service that is piped into tens of millions of American homes as a way of essentially indoctrinating listeners and viewers with this very frightening ideology.
- As I looked out on the crowd, I was witnessing things I had witnessed in the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina or in squares in Belgrade… it breaks my heart when I see it in my country.
- Most of these who are thrust into combat soon find it impossible to maintain the mythic perception of war.
- War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
- Patriotism, often a thinly veiled form of collective self-worship, celebrates our goodness, our ideals, our mercy and bemoans the perfidiousness of those who hate us.
- War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
- Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.
- What Every Person Should Know About War
- We on the left have forgotten that the question is not how do you get good people to rule, most people who rule are mediocre at best and usually venal. The question is how do we make those in power frightened of us and not be seduced by formal political processes.
- The glitz and propaganda, the ridiculous obsessions imparted by our electronic hallucinations, and the spectacles that pass for political participation mask the deadly ecological assault by the corporate state. The worse it gets, the more we retreat into self-delusion. We convince ourselves that global warming does not exist. Or we concede that it exists but insist that we can adapt. Both responses satisfy our mania for eternal optimism and our reckless pursuit of personal comfort. In America, when reality is distasteful we ignore it. But reality will soon descend like the Furies to shatter our complacency and finally our lives. We, as a species, may be doomed. And this is a bitter, bitter fact for a father to digest.
- To be judged by the state as an innocent, is to be guilty. It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state.
- “Happy as a Hangman,” truthdig.com, December 6, 2010
- We’ve been saturated with cultural images and a kind of cultural deification of wealth and those who have wealth. They present people of immense wealth as somehow leaders, oracles even. We don’t grasp internally what an oligarchic class is finally about, or how venal and morally bankrupt they are. We need to recover the language of class warfare to grasp what is happening to us. And we need to shatter this self-delusion that somehow if, as Obama says, we work hard enough and study hard enough, we can be one of them.
- interviewed by Paul Jay, “The Pathology of the Super-Rich”
- We live in an oligarchic state where we’ve been rendered utterly powerless. The judiciary, the legislative, the executive branch is all subservient to an oligarchic corporate elite. And the press is owned by an oligarchic corporate elite which makes sure that any critique of them is never broadcast over the airwaves.
- interviewed by Paul Jay, “The Pathology of the Super-Rich” 4:45
- When you spend that long on the outer reaches of empire, you understand the cruelty of empire ... and the lies we tell ourselves about what is done in our name.
- Paul Tillich wrote that all institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic. Reinhold Niebuhr asserted that no institution could ever achieve the morality of the individual. Institutions, he warned, to extend their lives when confronted with collapse, will swiftly betray the stances that ostensibly define them. Only individual men and women have the strength to hold fast to virtue when faced with the threat of death. And decaying institutions, including the church, when consumed by fear, swiftly push those endowed with this moral courage and radicalism from their ranks, rendering themselves obsolete.
- "The Suicide of the Liberal Church", January 24, 2016
- Kevin Kruse in his book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America details how industrialists in the 1930s and 1940s poured money and resources into an effort to silence the social witness of the mainstream church, which was home to many radicals, socialists and proponents of the New Deal. These corporatists promoted and funded a brand of Christianity—which is today dominant—that conflates faith with free enterprise and American exceptionalism. The rich are rich, this creed goes, not because they are greedy or privileged, not because they use their power to their own advantage, not because they oppress the poor and the vulnerable, but because they are blessed. And if we have enough faith, this heretical form of Christianity claims, God will bless the rest of us too. It is an inversion of the central message of the Gospel. You don’t need to spend three years at Harvard Divinity School as I did to figure that out.
- "The Suicide of the Liberal Church", January 24, 2016
- This moment in American history is what Antonio Gramsci called the “interregnum”—the period when a discredited regime is collapsing but a new one has yet to take its place. There is no guarantee that what comes next will be better. But this space, which will close soon, offers citizens the final chance to embrace a new vision and a new direction.
- "Welcome to 1984," May 14, 2016
- If you read the writings of anthropologists, there are studies about how civilizations break down; and we are certainly following that pattern. Unfortunately, there’s nothing within human nature to argue that we won’t go down the ways other civilizations have gone down. The difference is now, of course, that when we go down, the whole planet is going to go with us.
- as interviewed by Elias Isquith, salon.com
- You rebel not only for what you can achieve, but for who you become. In the end, those who rebel require faith — not a formal or necessarily Christian, Jewish or Muslim orthodoxy, but a faith that the good draws to it the good. That we are called to carry out the good insofar as we can determine what the good is.
- as interviewed by Elias Isquith, salon.com
- We are captive to systems of power until we can name the dominant myths and the intricate systems of coercion and control that extinguish our freedom.
- We are a society awash in skillfully manufactured lies. Solitude that makes thought possible—a removal from the electronic cacophony that besieges us—is harder and harder to find. We have severed ourselves from a print-based culture. We are unable to grapple with the nuances and complexity of ideas. We have traded ideas for fabricated clichés. We speak in the hollow language we are given by our corporate masters. Reality, presented to us as image, is unexamined and therefore false. We are culturally illiterate. And because of our cultural illiteracy we are easily manipulated and controlled.
The Death of the Liberal Class (2010)
- Hope will come with the return of the language of class conflict and rebellion, language that has been purged from the lexicon of the liberal class. This does not mean we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of working class enslavement, but we have to learn again to speak in the vocabulary Marx employed. We have to grasp, as Marx and Adam Smith did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good.
- p. 17
“Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System” (2011)
truthdig.com April 10, 2011
- The United States ... celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
- To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside.
- I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self-respect.
- The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. ... Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think.
- Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves.
- Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings. The fulfillment of an imposed law is morally neutral. The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason.
- As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think.
A lecture delivered on 29 March 2014 at the "One Nation Under Surveillance" civil liberties conference at Central Connecticut State University
- The irony is that Barack Obama would not even be president if it were not for the courage of persecuted dissidents such as Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, spied upon by their own government. But Obama understands where power lies. It does not lie with the citizen. It lies with Wall Street and our corporate boardrooms, which have carried out a slow motion coup d’état. And a system of mass surveillance is designed to keep these elites in these boardrooms powerful and the rest of us powerless.
- Totalitarianism no longer comes in the form of communism or fascism. It comes now from corporations. And these corporations fear those who think and write, those who speak out and form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their power and their profits. Our democracy, as Snowden I think has revealed, has become a fiction. The state, through elaborate forms of political theater, seeks to maintain this fiction to keep us passive. And if we wake up, the state will not shy away from draconian measures. The goal is complete subjugation, the iron rule of our corporations and our power elite.
- Moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, and to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle.
- Moral courage ... is always defined by the state as treason. ... It is the courage to act and speak the truth. Thompson had it. Daniel Ellsburg had it. Malcolm X had it. Martin Luther King had it. What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden.
- An omnipresent surveillance state ... makes democratic dissent impossible. Any state that has the ability to inflict full spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state.
- The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.
- The government officials, along with the courtiers and the press, ... insist that congressional and judicial oversight, the right to privacy, the rule of law, the freedom of the press, the right to express dissent remains inviolate. They use the old words and old phrases, old laws and old constitutional guarantees, to give our corporate totalitarianism a democratic veneer.
- We now live in what the German political scientist Ernst Fränkl called the dual state. Totalitarian states are always dual states. ... The outward forms of democracy, of democratic participation, voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation remain, but are hollow political stagecraft. And Fränkl called those who wield this unchecked power over the citizenry “the prerogative state.” The masses in a totalitarian structure live in what he termed “the normative state.” The normative state, he said, is defenseless against the abuses of the prerogative state.
- All those who challenge the abuses of power by the prerogative state, like Snowden, who expose the crimes carried out by government, are turned into criminals. Totalitarian states always invert the moral order. It is the wicked that rule, and it is the just that are damned.
- This deadly impasse, the tightening of the corporate totalitarian noose, would have continued if Snowden had not jolted the nation awake by disclosing the massive crimes of the prerogative state.
- Societies such as ours that once had democratic traditions or periods when relative openness was possible are often the most easily seduced into totalitarian systems because those who rule and build totalitarian structures continue to pay outward fealty to the ideals, practices and forms of the old system.
- Reform will come and only come through the building of mass movements and alternative centers of power that can overthrow—let me repeat that word for Homeland Security—overthrow the corporate state. If we fail to sever these chains, we will become like many who did not rise up in time to save their civil society’s human chattel. This means we too must defy the law and engage in civil disobedience
"The Illusion of Freedom" (2015)
- December 27, 2015 Online at truthdig.com
- The more communities break down and poverty expands, the more anxious and frightened people will retreat into self-delusion. Those who speak the truth—whether about climate change or our system of inverted totalitarianism—will be branded as seditious and unpatriotic. They will be hated for destroying the illusion. This, as Gabler noted, is the danger of a society dominated by entertainment. Such a society, he wrote, “… took dead aim at the intellectuals’ most cherished values. That theme was the triumph of the senses over the mind, of emotion over reason, of chaos over order, or the id over the superego. … Entertainment was Plato’s worst nightmare. It deposed the rational and enthroned the sensational and in so doing deposed the intellectual minority and enthroned the unrefined majority.”
- Those rebels who rise up to try to wrest back power from despotic forces will endure not only the violence of the state, but the hatred and vigilante violence meted out by the self-deluded victims of exploitation. The systems of propaganda will relentlessly demonize those who resist.
"Reform or Revolution" (2016)
- May 22, 2016 Online at truthdig.com
- Liberalism, which Luxemburg called by its more appropriate name—“opportunism”—is an integral component of capitalism. When the citizens grow restive, it will soften and decry capitalism’s excesses. But capitalism, Luxemburg argued, is an enemy that can never be appeased. Liberal reforms are used to stymie resistance and then later, when things grow quiet, are revoked on the inevitable road to capitalist slavery. The last century of labor struggles in the United States provides a case study for proof of Luxemburg’s observation.
The political, cultural and judicial system in a capitalist state is centered around the protection of property rights. And, as Adam Smith pointed out, when civil government “is instituted for the security of property, [it] is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” The capitalist system is gamed from the start. And this makes Luxemburg extremely relevant as corporate capital, now freed from all constraints, reconfigures our global economy, including the United States’, into a ruthless form of neofeudalism.
- Democracy, in this late stage of capitalism, has been replaced with a system of legalized bribery. All branches of government, including the courts, along with the systems of entertainment and news, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. Electoral politics are elaborate puppet shows.