Chris Hedges On The Silencing Of Dissent

Authored by Chris Hedges via,

The ruling elites, who grasp that the reigning ideology of global corporate capitalism and imperial expansion no longer has moral or intellectual credibility, have mounted a campaign to shut down the platforms given to their critics. The attacks within this campaign include blacklisting, censorship and slandering dissidents as foreign agents for Russia and purveyors of “fake news.”

No dominant class can long retain control when the credibility of the ideas that justify its existence evaporates. It is forced, at that point, to resort to crude forms of coercion, intimidation and censorship. This ideological collapse in the United States has transformed those of us who attack the corporate state into a potent threat, not because we reach large numbers of people, and certainly not because we spread Russian propaganda, but because the elites no longer have a plausible counterargument.

The elites face an unpleasant choice. They could impose harsh controls to protect the status quo or veer leftward toward socialism to ameliorate the mounting economic and political injustices endured by most of the population. But a move leftward, essentially reinstating and expanding the New Deal programs they have destroyed, would impede corporate power and corporate profits. So instead the elites, including the Democratic Party leadership, have decided to quash public debate. The tactic they are using is as old as the nation-state—smearing critics as traitors who are in the service of a hostile foreign power. Tens of thousands of people of conscience were blacklisted in this way during the Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s. The current hyperbolic and relentless focus on Russia, embraced with gusto by “liberal” media outlets such as The New York Times and MSNBC, has unleashed what some have called a virulent “New McCarthyism.”

The corporate elites do not fear Russia. There is no publicly disclosed evidence that Russia swung the election to Donald Trump. Nor does Russia appear to be intent on a military confrontation with the United States. I am certain Russia tries to meddle in U.S. affairs to its advantage, as we do and did in Russia—including our clandestine bankrolling of Boris Yeltsin, whose successful 1996 campaign for re-election as president is estimated to have cost up to $2.5 billion, much of that money coming indirectly from the American government. In today’s media environment Russia is the foil. The corporate state is unnerved by the media outlets that give a voice to critics of corporate capitalism, the security and surveillance state and imperialism, including the network RT America.

My show on RT America, “On Contact,” like my columns at Truthdig, amplifies the voices of these dissidents—Tariq Ali, Kshama Sawant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Medea Benjamin, Ajamu Baraka, Noam Chomsky, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Rania Khalek, Amira Hass, Miko Peled, Abby Martin, Glen Ford, Max Blumenthal, Pam Africa, Linh Dinh, Ben Norton, Eugene Puryear, Allan Nairn, Jill Stein, Kevin Zeese and others. These dissidents, if we had a functioning public broadcasting system or a commercial press free of corporate control, would be included in the mainstream discourse. They are not bought and paid for. They have integrity, courage and often brilliance. They are honest. For these reasons, in the eyes of the corporate state, they are very dangerous.

The first and deadliest salvo in the war on dissent came in 1971 when Lewis Powell, a corporate attorney and later a Supreme Court justice, wrote and circulated a memo among business leaders called “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” It became the blueprint for the corporate coup d’état. Corporations, as Powell recommended in the document, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the assault, financing pro-business political candidates, mounting campaigns against the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and the press and creating institutions such as the Business Roundtable, The Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Federalist Society and Accuracy in Academia. The memo argued that corporations had to fund sustained campaigns to marginalize or silence those who in “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, and the intellectual and literary journals” were hostile to corporate interests.

Powell attacked Ralph Nader by name. Lobbyists flooded Washington and state capitals. Regulatory controls were abolished. Massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy were implemented, culminating in a de facto tax boycott. Trade barriers were lifted and the country’s manufacturing base was destroyed. Social programs were slashed and funds for infrastructure, from roads and bridges to public libraries and schools, were cut. Protections for workers were gutted. Wages declined or stagnated. The military budget, along with the organs of internal security, became ever more bloated. A de facto blacklist, especially in universities and the press, was used to discredit intellectuals, radicals and activists who decried the idea of the nation prostrating itself before the dictates of the marketplace and condemned the crimes of imperialism, some of the best known being Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Sheldon Wolin, Ward Churchill, Nader, Angela Davis and Edward Said. These critics were permitted to exist only on the margins of society, often outside of institutions, and many had trouble making a living.

The financial meltdown of 2008 not only devastated the global economy, it exposed the lies propagated by those advocating globalization. Among these lies: that salaries of workers would rise, democracy would spread across the globe, the tech industry would replace manufacturing as a source of worker income, the middle class would flourish, and global communities would prosper. After 2008 it became clear that the “free market” is a scam, a zombie ideology by which workers and communities are ravaged by predatory capitalists and assets are funneled upward into the hands of the global 1 percent. The endless wars, fought largely to enrich the arms industry and swell the power of the military, are futile and counterproductive to national interests. Deindustrialization and austerity programs have impoverished the working class and fatally damaged the economy.

The establishment politicians in the two leading parties, each in service to corporate power and responsible for the assault on civil liberties and impoverishment of the country, are no longer able to use identity politics and the culture wars to whip up support. This led in the last presidential campaign to an insurgency by Bernie Sanders, which the Democratic Party crushed, and the election of Donald Trump.

Barack Obama rode a wave of bipartisan resentment into office in 2008, then spent eight years betraying the public. Obama’s assault on civil liberties, including his use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers, was worse than those carried out by George W. Bush. He accelerated the war on public education by privatizing schools, expanded the wars in the Middle East, including the use of militarized drone attacks, provided little meaningful environmental reform, ignored the plight of the working class, deported more undocumented people than any other president, imposed a corporate-sponsored health care program that was the brainchild of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, and prohibited the Justice Department from prosecuting the bankers and financial firms that carried out derivatives scams and inflated the housing and real estate market, a condition that led to the 2008 financial meltdown. He epitomized, like Bill Clinton, the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party. Clinton, outdoing Obama’s later actions, gave us the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the dismantling of the welfare system, the deregulation of the financial services industry and the huge expansion of mass incarceration. Clinton also oversaw deregulation of the Federal Communications Commission, a change that allowed a handful of corporations to buy up the airwaves.

The corporate state was in crisis at the end of the Obama presidency. It was widely hated. It became vulnerable to attacks by the critics it had pushed to the fringes. Most vulnerable was the Democratic Party establishment, which claims to defend the rights of working men and women and protect civil liberties. This is why the Democratic Party is so zealous in its efforts to discredit its critics as stooges for Moscow and to charge that Russian interference caused its election defeat.

In January there was a report on Russia by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The report devoted seven of its 25 pages to RT America and its influence on the presidential election. It claimed “Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary [Hillary] Clinton.” This might seem true if you did not watch my RT broadcasts, which relentlessly attacked Trump as well as Clinton, or watch Ed Schultz, who now has a program on RT after having been the host of an MSNBC commentary program. The report also attempted to present RT America as having a vast media footprint and influence it does not possess.

“In an effort to highlight the alleged ‘lack of democracy’ in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates,” the report read, correctly summing up themes on my show.


“The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’ ”

It went on:

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.


RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse.

Is the corporate state so obtuse it thinks the American public has not, on its own, reached these conclusions about the condition of the nation? Is this what it defines as “fake news”? But most important, isn’t this the truth that the courtiers in the mainstream press and public broadcasting, dependent on their funding from sources such as the Koch brothers, refuse to present? And isn’t it, in the end, the truth that frightens them the most? Abby Martin and Ben Norton ripped apart the mendacity of the report and the complicity of the corporate media in my “On Contact” show titled “Real purpose of intel report on Russian hacking with Abby Martin & Ben Norton.”

In November 2016, The Washington Post reported on a blacklist published by the shadowy and anonymous site PropOrNot. The blacklist was composed of 199 sites PropOrNot alleged, with no evidence, “reliably echo Russian propaganda.” More than half of those sites were far-right, conspiracy-driven ones. But about 20 of the sites were major left-wing outlets including AlterNet, Black Agenda Report, Democracy Now!, Naked Capitalism, Truthdig, Truthout, CounterPunch and the World Socialist Web Site. The blacklist and the spurious accusations that these sites disseminated “fake news” on behalf of Russia were given prominent play in the Post in a story headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during the election, experts say.” The reporter, Craig Timberg, wrote that the goal of the Russian propaganda effort, according to “independent researchers who have tracked the operation,” was “punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy.” Last December, Truthdig columnist Bill Boyarsky wrote a good piece about PropOrNot, which to this day remains essentially a secret organization.

The owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, also the founder and CEO of Amazon, has a $600 million contract with the CIA. Google, likewise, is deeply embedded within the security and surveillance state and aligned with the ruling elites. Amazon recently purged over 1,000 negative reviews of Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened.” The effect was that the book’s Amazon rating jumped from 2 1/2 stars to five stars. Do corporations such as Google and Amazon carry out such censorship on behalf of the U.S. government? Or is this censorship their independent contribution to protect the corporate state?

In the name of combating Russia-inspired “fake news,” Google, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Agence France-Presse and CNN in April imposed algorithms or filters, overseen by “evaluators,” that hunt for key words such as “U.S. military,” “inequality” and “socialism,” along with personal names such as Julian Assange and Laura Poitras, the filmmaker. Ben Gomes, Google’s vice president for search engineering, says Google has amassed some 10,000 “evaluators” to determine the “quality” and veracity of websites. Internet users doing searches on Google, since the algorithms were put in place, are diverted from sites such as Truthdig and directed to mainstream publications such as The New York Times. The news organizations and corporations that are imposing this censorship have strong links to the Democratic Party. They are cheerleaders for American imperial projects and global capitalism. Because they are struggling in the new media environment for profitability, they have an economic incentive to be part of the witch hunt.

The World Socialist Web Site reported in July that its aggregate volume, or “impressions”—links displayed by Google in response to search requests—fell dramatically over a short period after the new algorithms were imposed. It also wrote that a number of sites “declared to be ‘fake news’ by the Washington Post’s discredited [PropOrNot] blacklist … had their global ranking fall. The average decline of the global reach of all of these sites is 25 percent. …”

Another article, “Google rigs searches to block access to World Socialist Web Site,” by the same website that month said:

During the month of May, Google searches including the word “war” produced 61,795 WSWS impressions. In July, WSWS impressions fell by approximately 90 percent, to 6,613.


Searches for the term “Korean war” produced 20,392 impressions in May. In July, searches using the same words produced zero WSWS impressions. Searches for “North Korea war” produced 4,626 impressions in May. In July, the result of the same search produced zero WSWS impressions. “India Pakistan war” produced 4,394 impressions in May. In July, the result, again, was zero. And “Nuclear war 2017” produced 2,319 impressions in May, and zero in July.


To cite some other searches: “WikiLeaks,” fell from 6,576 impressions to zero, “Julian Assange” fell from 3,701 impressions to zero, and “Laura Poitras” fell from 4,499 impressions to zero. A search for “Michael Hastings”—the reporter who died in 2013 under suspicious circumstances—produced 33,464 impressions in May, but only 5,227 impressions in July.


In addition to geopolitics, the WSWS regularly covers a broad range of social issues, many of which have seen precipitous drops in search results. Searches for “food stamps,” “Ford layoffs,” “Amazon warehouse,” and “secretary of education” all went down from more than 5,000 impressions in May to zero impressions in July.

The accusation that left-wing sites collude with Russia has made them theoretically subject, along with those who write for them, to the Espionage Act and the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires Americans who work on behalf of a foreign party to register as foreign agents.

The latest salvo came last week. It is the most ominous. The Department of Justice called on RT America and its “associates”—which may mean people like me—to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. No doubt, the corporate state knows that most of us will not register as foreign agents, meaning we will be banished from the airwaves. This, I expect, is the intent. The government will not stop with RT. The FBI has been handed the authority to determine who is a “legitimate” journalist and who is not. It will use this authority to decimate the left.

This is a war of ideas.

The corporate state cannot compete honestly in this contest. It will do what all despotic regimes do - govern through wholesale surveillance, lies, blacklists, false accusations of treason, heavy-handed censorship and, eventually, violence.


Paul Kersey ThePhantom Sun, 09/24/2017 - 23:50 Permalink

Hedges if right about Chomsky being blacklisted, and his fight with Deep State goes way back:

"It turns out the CIA was keeping tabs on MIT professor Noam Chomsky, after all. The CIA denied this was the case for years, but a document obtained by Foreign Policy from a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI reveals that the FBI and the CIA were discussing a trip by antiwar activists to North Vietnam that Chomsky had endorsed. According to an expert on FBI-CIA cooperation interviewed by Foreign Policy, the memo suggests that the CIA destroyed its Chomsky file, hence the repeated denials that any file exists. Chomsky, of course, was not surprised when told he’d been watched. “Some day it will be realized that systems of power typically try to extend their power in any way they can think of,” he said.

In reply to by ThePhantom

SixIsNinE WernerHeisenberg Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:55 Permalink

yeah - so very very very few people that make an impact are completly honest...i used to be into hedges & truthdig & truthout ...their slant became too much for mei have the advantage of being able to tune out what no longer interests me...i'm amazed ZH is the only one i'm still enthusiastic about and enjoy the comment section more than anywhere else -that being said, i looked at a .uk post today about Hildabeast and her book signings - and wow, the comments were uniformly clued into how horrible she is  and that she should disappear from public life - their comments are equally as good as a zh thread,so that's pretty cool - the days turmoil about football had NO observable effect on the readers comments about Hitlery,  seems to not be a minus for Trumpus. 

In reply to by WernerHeisenberg

Escrava Isaura loebster Mon, 09/25/2017 - 05:12 Permalink

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First, Hedges had hands on experience by living in nations under colony rules and/or dictators. Second, Hedges did that in many nations, and in 4 continents, meaning, Hedges can benchmark, compare, and connect the trends/dots. A person that lived under only one or two would not be able to make the comparison. Also, he spoke the languages of most of these nations. Third, Hedges knows and understand the gospels, meaning, that US evangelicals are fascists thus undermining religion and hurting Christianity in the process.  

In reply to by loebster

Sid Davis ThePhantom Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:19 Permalink

If you think "Hedges is the Man" you don't know him well.

He is an extreme left winger, i.e., a socialist.

Obviously he describes the problem well, but instead of restoring freedom by eliminating the laws that grant privilege and market advantage to the likes of corporate America, he would expand the role of politicians and bureaucrats into our lives and business.

Socialist states always deteriorates into tyranny because people must be forced to act against their own best interest. Under socialism we all become slaves to the state, and wealth is equalized meaning poverty for everyone except those occupying the seats of government power.

The rational solution to America's problems is to repeal the gargantuan state. Restore freedom and free markets. Eliminate the limited liability privilege of corporate ownership, the corrupt monetary system, and the countless number of laws that supposedly protect us, but instead rig the markets in the favour of the groups that paid politicians to write the laws.

In reply to by ThePhantom

Internet-is-Beast Sid Davis Mon, 09/25/2017 - 03:58 Permalink

I confess I find Chris Hedges creepy. i used to read him and I think I bought a book of his once. He makes an emotional appeal laced with facts. That makes it much harder to justify any misgivings you may have. Facts are facts but it is how you use them that counts. He lists all these "honest dissenters," the first being Tariq Ali. But Tariq Ali, when cornered, refused to condemn stoning of women. Hedges says things that appeal to the disenfranchised, which now includes Trump's dwindling voter base. For instance, he sees through the anti-Russian propaganda (no great challenge for someone with a brainstem).

Like all so-called "progressives" (unlike us "regressives") he seems to be jockeying for power every time he puts his pen to keyboard.

In reply to by Sid Davis

BigJim Internet-is-Beast Mon, 09/25/2017 - 07:00 Permalink

It's a bit tricky, this. I can't think of a single person I agree 100% with on everything all the time (Ron Paul probably comes close). I'm not familiar with Tariq Ali (and the stoning of women is a pretty big "but") *but* let's say you agree with 95% of everything else he says. Do you totally disavow Tariq Ali on these grounds? If Tariq Ali writes an article on some subject that doesn't have anything to do with the stoning of women, and seems a novel, trenchant, even brilliant analysis that you totally agree with and want to share with everyone you know because you think it's truly enlightening, do you say to yourself: "yeah, but he didn't disavow the stoning of women during that (completely unrelated) interview 5 years ago" and refrain from sharing it?It's even trickier if you disagree with (say) 50% of an article but think the rest is excellent... as with this piece by Hedges, whose diagnosis, analysis and prognosis are great, but whose prescription (even more Statism) is an utter disaster.

In reply to by Internet-is-Beast

Herdee Sun, 09/24/2017 - 23:09 Permalink

Sounds like Nazi Germany with the Media Gestapo Police showing up at the door. Is that the FBI's job to be the Media Police? I can remember politicians asking them to take down Dish's when they first came out on the sides of people's homes and the politicians were told that they weren't the Dish Police.

Oldwood slyder wood Sun, 09/24/2017 - 23:33 Permalink

He is complaining about corruption from corporations....corporations doing so at the behest of our government, a government that socialist progressives are begging to provide more authority and control.They will lament the deplorable's need for better and bigger weapons, yet they want the biggest and best in the world. At heart they are insecure, an insecurity that can only be met with self sufficiency, something they do not believe exists, so they yearn for more and more power that can only come from organized government, organized about THEIR agenda. This same all-powerful government falling into another agenda's hands is their ultimate crisis. Trump. They will scream and cry about a "tyrannical government" when it is not in their hands, but where were they under Obama. Now they come out and in retrospect condemn it, but when they believed the ring of power was firmly in their hands, compromises were made.Where WERE all the antiwar protestors when Obama was in office?

In reply to by slyder wood

fleur de lis Herdee Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:21 Permalink

We have always been told that Obama was a brilliant professor of Constitutional Law.Even if he didn't have a license.Instead of telling crazy spooky fairy stories about the Ruskies, it would be better for him to focus on his credentials.And maybe think about letting us see his university transcripts since he's so brilliant.  

In reply to by Herdee

Oldwood fleur de lis Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:40 Permalink

People study to master, to learn its?strengths and weakness, how to use that knowledge to advance your agenda, your mission.Obama, CONSTITUTIONAL?scholar, or not, sought to defeat or negate the Constitution. The Constitution DEFINES the federal governments limitations of power over us. The ONLY reason a progressive would study it is to defeat or negate the Constitution, as their singular obsession is total unlimited power.As Barney Frank once supposedly said when being questioned about a particular Bill's constitutionality, that the Constitution was not relevant as the bill was designed to "help" people. Besides the absurdity of this statement, what is relavent is that progressives believe the Constitution only limits them from doing harm, and as their INTENT was only to "help", the Constitution should not even be considered.Progressives "morality?" is designed upon INTENT. They insist that regardless of how destructive their programs might be, their INTENT to do good is the only accountable factor.Conservatives, being already prejudged to be morally lacking, are immediately guilty as there is NO program which they can promote that is not tainted by their low character, regardless of any outcome.There can be no debate. The only deciding factor was decided many years ago. Now is simply going through the technical motions.

In reply to by fleur de lis

what happened Oldwood Mon, 09/25/2017 - 07:39 Permalink

 There are children that are dying and being abused everyday from the so called child protection racket.  This is a program that should be abolished.  It has only been enhanced and strenghthened by Clintons Adoption and Safe Families Act,which has resulted in profiting from adoptions and human trafficking.  This article is a milestone in its revelaiton of the truth and our general population ignores it at our peril.…

In reply to by Oldwood

joego1 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 23:33 Permalink

"veer leftward toward socialism to ameliorate the mounting economic and political injustices endured by most of the population." No- that doesn't work, the injustices never seem to be obliged and then you have no one who will be willing to work. They seem to be pushing on that angle with a big lie.

CC Lemon Sun, 09/24/2017 - 23:49 Permalink

This is going to be a slow blob like grab of power. Ten years or so, everybody will forget about and pledge allegiance to Alphabet

khnum Sun, 09/24/2017 - 23:54 Permalink

Pandoras box has been open now for 16 years anyone with a search engine and half a brain knows enough about world affairs and our leaders corruption and malfeasance to know they have been bullshitting us for a long time by all means have a hissy fit and delete those that dont fit the narrative- you can control that -but you cant erase human memory

Oldwood khnum Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:17 Permalink

Sure there's corruption. Lots of it. And the reason it exists is not because they have been hiding it. It exists because most of us enable a great deal of it.It would be nice to just assume most people are stupid, but in reality, even though we ARE thoroughly ?indoctrinated, I believe we know in our gut it has always been rigged. Maybe well enough in the past that they didn't force us to acknowledge it, but we went along, bought in, either because we thought that as "everybody else" was in in it we wanted to get our cut of the something for nothing, or we simply didn't want to rock the boat, risk losing what we had.This will change when WE decide to change it, and given what I just wrote, I believe it will be a cold day in hell....things will have gotten really bad, we will have our ultimate freedom....nothing left to lose.

In reply to by khnum

khnum Oldwood Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:34 Permalink

There always has been a ruling elite and most of the time they wear a smiley face, but when they dont the masses press reset and the game starts again and in time the same sort of bastards rise from the dead and rule again.The spectrum ranges from the illusion of freedom to tyranny,freedom isnt what this planet endorses but we do have free will and thats what they are working now- mass submission- and unfortunately its going to be only a select few available for the revolution this time,most have given up the ghost.

In reply to by Oldwood