Chris Hedges: Empire of Illusion

Journalist Chris Hedges discusses his recent book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and The Triumph of Spectacle. In it, he charts the dramatic rise of a post-literate society that craves fantasy, ecstasy, and illusion. Hedges argues we now live in two societies: one, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world and can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth; the other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic where serious film and theater, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins. Also author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University. He writes for many publications, including Foreign Affairs, Harpers and TruthDig.

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The Triumph of Spectacle

Chris Hedges on GritTV: How did such a sizeable portion of modern society develop into a post-literate, fantasy-fueled, perma-reality show?  Noted reporter Chris Hedges speaks to the wonderful Laura Flanders about his new book: The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

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The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free

Journalist Chris Hedges writes of a Kafka-esque landscape in the world today where corporate advertising, lobbying and control of media fogs the distinction between lie and fact.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, left, and Miles O’Brien rehearse with the network’s “news wall” in the background.
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, left, and Miles O’Brien rehearse with the network’s “news wall” in the background.

The ability of the corporate state to pacify the country by extending credit and providing cheap manufactured goods to the masses is gone. The pernicious idea that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the freedom to accumulate vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others has collapsed. The conflation of freedom with the free market has been exposed as a sham. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out and people get a taste of Bill Clinton’s draconian welfare reform. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance.

Our economic crisis—despite the corporate media circus around the death of Michael Jackson or Gov. Mark Sanford’s marital infidelity or the outfits of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest incarnation, Brüno—barrels forward. And this crisis will lead to a period of profound political turmoil and change. Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy. The most important struggle will be to wrest the organs of communication from corporations that use mass media to demonize movements of social change and empower proto-fascist movements such as the Christian right. Continue reading “The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free”

The American Empire Is Bankrupt

Chris Hedges examines moves by Russia/China to dump the Dollar as a global reserve currency stating that “it marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That’s over. It is not coming back.”

I’d also recommend the Michael Hudson article De-Dollarization: Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire referred to by Hedges.

This week marks the end of the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That’s over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.

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Where’s Rev. Wright When You Need Him?

Chris Hedges examines the boycott of the UN conference on racism explaining that “racism, an endemic feature of Israeli and American society, is not, we have decided, open for international inspection.”

Barack Obama prays during services at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in this 2004 photo. Obama resigned his 20-year membership in Trinity after controversial remarks by his longtime pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright threatened to derail his presidential candidacy.
Barack Obama prays during services at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in this 2004 photo. Obama resigned his 20-year membership in Trinity after controversial remarks by his longtime pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright threatened to derail his presidential candidacy.

Israel and the United States, which could be charged under international law with crimes against humanity for actions in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, will together boycott the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Geneva. Racism, an endemic feature of Israeli and American society, is not, we have decided, open for international inspection. Barack Obama may be president, but the United States has no intention of accepting responsibility or atoning for past crimes, including the use of torture, its illegal wars of aggression, slavery and the genocide on which the country was founded. We, like Israel, prefer to confuse lies we tell about ourselves with fact.

The Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute CIA and Bush administration officials for the use of torture because it wants to look to the future is easy to accept if you were never tortured. The decision not to confront slavery and the continued discrimination against African-Americans is easy to accept if your ancestors were not kidnapped, crammed into slave ships, denied their religion and culture, deprived of their language, stripped of their names, severed from their families and forced into generations of economic misery. The decision not to discuss the genocide of Native Americans is easy if your lands were not stolen and your people driven into encampments and slaughtered. The doctrine of pre-emptive war and illegal foreign occupation is easy to accept if you are not a Palestinian, an Iraqi or an Afghan.

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Israel’s Racist in Chief

Chris Hedges on Israel’s Racist in Chief Avigdor Lieberman.

Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stands in a field just outside the Gaza Strip. Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party had an impressive showing in Israel’s recent election, campaigning with the slogan “Without loyalty, there is no citizenship.”
Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stands in a field just outside the Gaza Strip. Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party had an impressive showing in Israel’s recent election, campaigning with the slogan “Without loyalty, there is no citizenship.”

It was unthinkable, when I was based as a correspondent in Jerusalem two decades ago, that an Israeli politician who openly advocated ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory, as well as forcing Arabs in Israel to take loyalty oaths or be forcibly relocated to the West Bank, could sit on the Cabinet. The racist tirades of Jewish proto-fascists like Meir Kahane stood outside the law, were vigorously condemned by most Israelis and were prosecuted accordingly. Kahane’s repugnant Kach Party, labeled by the United States, Canada and the European Union as a terrorist organization, was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1988 for inciting racism.
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Resist or Become Serfs

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is overseeing the use of billions of taxpayer dollars to protect Wall Street financiers from their bad investments. (AP photo / Susan Walsh)

‘If we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate,’ writes Chris Hedges. ‘The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them.’

America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs. Continue reading “Resist or Become Serfs”

America Is in Need of a Moral Bailout

Traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. (AP photo / M. Spencer Green)

‘The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant,’ writes Chris Hedges. ‘Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. Our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.’

In decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled. Once the spotlights go on they read their lines with appropriate emotion. Once the lights go off, they make sure Goldman Sachs and a host of other large corporations have the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses they incurred playing casino capitalism repaid with taxpayer money. Continue reading “America Is in Need of a Moral Bailout”

War as an Addiction

hedges_chris In War as an Addiction Chris Hedges explains the myths around war and the ugly truth that lies behind its seductive veil.

Drawing on a wide variety of sources such as Freud’s Civilisation and its Discontents, the Iliad, Swank and Marchand’s WW2 study of soldier psychology and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism this lecture contains not just emotional depth, from Hedges own experiences, but a profoundly detailed analysis of war.

For more see his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

War as an Addiction (53:31): MP3

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It’s Obama’s War Now

USMC / LCpl Michael J. Ayotte

TruthDig: This is the text of a talk by Chris Hedges that will be read at anti-war gatherings to be held by The World Can’t Wait in New York’s Union Square, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Nashville, Louisville, Chicago and Berkeley on March 19 to protest the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

Barack Obama has shown that he is as capable of doublespeak as any other politician when he announced an end to the war in Iraq. Combat troops are to be pulled out of Iraq by August 2010, he said, but some 50,000 occupation troops will remain behind. Someone should let the Iraqis know the distinction. I doubt any soldier or Marine in Iraq will notice much difference in 19 months. Many combat units will simply be relabeled as noncombat units. And what about our small army of well-paid contractors and mercenaries? Will Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater (which recently changed its name to Xe), all of whom have made fortunes off the war, pack up and go home? What about the three large super-bases, dozens of smaller military outposts and our imperial city, the Green Zone? Will American corporations give up their lucrative control of Iraqi oil?

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