Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges warns Americans not to be 'fooled' by Biden: 'What's exceptional about America is its culture of sadism'

Don't be fooled by Joe Biden. He knows his infrastructure and education bills have as much chance at becoming law as the $15-dollar minimum wage or the $2,000 stimulus checks he promised us as a candidate. He knows his American Jobs Plan will never create "millions of good paying jobs – jobs Americans can raise their families on" any more than NAFTA, which he supported, would, as was also promised, create millions of good paying jobs. His mantra of "buy American" is worthless. He knows the vast majority of our consumer electronics, apparel, furniture and industrial supplies are made in China by workers who earn an average of one or two dollars an hour and lack unions and basic labor rights. He knows his call to lower deductibles and prescription drug costs in the Affordable Care Act will never be permitted by the corporations that profit from health care. He knows the corporate donors that fund the Democratic Party will ensure their lobbyists will continue to write the laws that guarantee they pay little or no taxes. He knows the corporate subsidies and tax incentives he proposes as a solution to the climate crisis will do nothing to halt oil and gas fracking, shut down coal-fired plants or halt the construction of new pipelines for gas-fired power plants. His promises of reform have no more weight than those peddled by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who Biden slavishly served and who also promised social equality while betraying working men and women.

This article originally appeared on ScheerPost.com.

Biden is the epitome of the empty, amoral creature produced by our system of legalized bribery. His long political career in Congress was defined by representing the interests of big business, especially the credit card companies based in Delaware. He was nicknamed Senator Credit Card. He has always glibly told the public what it wants to hear and then sold them out. He was a prominent promoter and architect of a generation of federal "tough on crime" laws that helped militarize the nation's police and more than doubled the population of the world's largest prison system with harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines and laws that put people in prison for life for nonviolent drug crimes, even as his son struggled with addiction. He was a principal author of the Patriot Act, which began the stripping away of our most basic civil liberties. And there has never been a weapons system, or a war, he did not support.

Nothing substantial will change under Biden, despite the hyperventilating about him being the next FDR. Biden's request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion (1.6 percent) increase over 2021, will support the disastrous military provocations with China and Russia he embraces, the endless wars in the Middle East and the bloated defense industry. Wholesale government surveillance will not be curbed. Julian Assange will remain a target. The industries that were shipped overseas and the well-paying unionized jobs will not return. The grinding machinery of predatory capitalism, and the sadism that defines it, will poison the society as mercilessly under Biden as it did when Donald Trump was conducting his Twitter presidency.

Sadism now defines nearly every cultural, social and political experience in the United States. It is expressed in the greed of an oligarchic elite that has seen its wealth increase during the pandemic by $1.1 trillion while the country has suffered the sharpest rise in its poverty rate in more than 50 years. It is expressed in extra-judicial killings by police in cities such as Minneapolis. It is expressed in our complicity in Israel's wholesale killing of unarmed Palestinians, the humanitarian crisis engendered by the war in Yemen and our reigns of terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It is expressed in the torture in our prisons and black sites. It is expressed in the separation of children from their undocumented parents, where they are held as if they were dogs in a kennel.

The historian Johan Huizinga, writing about the twilight of the middle ages, argued that as things fall apart sadism is embraced as a way to cope with the hostility of an indifferent universe. No longer bound to a common purpose, a ruptured society retreats into the cult of the self. It celebrates, as do corporations on Wall Street or mass culture through reality television shows, the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Get what you can, as fast as you can, before someone else gets it. This is the state of nature, the "war of all against all," Thomas Hobbes saw as the consequence of social collapse, a world in which life becomes "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." And this sadism, as Friedrich Nietzsche understood, fuels a perverted, sadistic pleasure.

The only way out for most Americans is to serve, as Biden does, the sadistic machine. The impoverishment of the working class has conditioned tens of millions of Americans to accept being recruited into the service of the militarized police that function as lethal armies of internal occupation; a military that carries out reigns of terror in foreign occupations; intelligence agencies that torture in global black sites; the government's vast network of spying on the citizenry; the theft of personal information by credit agencies and digital media; the largest prison system in the world; an immigration service that hunts down people who have never committed a crime and separates children from their parents to pack them in warehouses; a court system that condemns the poor to decades of incarceration, often for nonviolent crimes, and denies them a jury trial; companies that carry out the dirty work of evictions, shutting off utilities, including water, collecting usurious debts that force people into bankruptcy and denying health services to those that cannot pay; banks and payday lenders that burden the destitute with predatory, high-interest loans; and a financial system designed to keep most of the country locked in a crippling debt peonage as the wealth of the oligarchic elite swells to levels unseen in American history.

These are some of the few jobs that are well compensated. They bring with them feelings of omnipotence, for the victims are largely powerless. In service to the state or corporations, employees can abuse, humiliate and even kill with impunity, as the near daily murder of unarmed civilians by the police illustrates. This service to monolithic centers of power absolves people of moral choice. It imparts a God-like omnipotence.

We know what this sadism looks like. It looks like Derek Chauvin nonchalantly choking to death George Floyd as his police colleagues watch impassively. It looks like Andrew Brown Jr. shot five times by police in North Carolina, including once in the back of the head. It looks like Abner Louima, who had a broomstick pushed up his rectum by police in a bathroom at the 70th Precinct station house in Brooklyn, requiring three major operations to repair the internal injuries. It looks like Navy Seal Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher randomly shooting to death unarmed civilians and using a hunting knife to repeatedly stab to death an injured, sedated 17-year-old Iraqi prisoner and then photographing himself with the corpse. It looks like Iraqi civilians, few of whom had anything to do with the insurgency, naked, bound, beaten and sexually humiliated and raped, and at times murdered, by army guards and private contractors in Abu Ghraib. Prisoners in Abu Ghraib were routinely dragged across the prison floor by a rope tied to their penises and chemical lights were used to sodomize them or snapped open so the phosphoric liquid could be poured over their naked bodies. It looks like women who are tortured, beaten, degraded and sexually violated, often by numerous men, in porn films, who are then discarded after a few weeks or months with severe trauma, along with sexually transmitted diseases and vaginal and anal tears that must be repaired surgically.

Sadistic societies condemn segments of the population – in America these are poor Blacks, Muslims, the undocumented, the LGBTQ community, radical anti-capitalists, intellectuals – as human refuse. They are viewed as social contaminants. Laws, institutions and bureaucratic structures are built in sadistic societies that function, in the words of Max Weber, as an "inanimate machine." The machine forces most people into the mass, but it allows some willing to do its dirty work to rise above the multitude. Those that carry out the sadism on behalf of the power elite fear being pushed back into the mass. For this reason, they energetically carry out the degradation, cruelty and sadism the machine demands. The more they insult, persecute, torture, humiliate and kill, the more they seem to magically widen the divide between themselves and their victims. This is why Black police and corrections officers can be as cruel, and sometimes crueler, than their white counterparts.

The sadism eradicates, at least momentarily, the sadist's feelings of worthlessness, vulnerability and susceptibility to pain and death. It imparts pleasure. I was beaten by Saudi military police and later by Saddam Hussein's secret police when I was taken prisoner after the first Gulf War. The goons carrying out my beatings clearly enjoyed them. Israel's abuse of the Palestinians, the assaults of Muslims and girls and women in India and the denigration of Muslims in the countries we occupy are part of a global breakdown that extends beyond the United States. Wilhelm Reich in "The Mass Psychology of Fascism" and Klaus Theweleit in "Male Fantasies" argue that sadism, along with a grotesque hyper-masculinity, rather than any coherent belief system, is the core of fascism, although communist regimes in China and the Soviet Union could be as murderous and sadistic as their fascist counterparts.

Jean Amery, who was in the Belgian resistance in World War II and who was captured and tortured by the Gestapo in 1943, defines sadism "as the radical negation of the other, the simultaneous denial of both the social principle and the reality principle. In the sadist's world, torture, destruction, and death are triumphant: and such a world clearly has no hope of survival. On the contrary, he desires to transcend the world, to achieve total sovereignty by negating fellow human beings – which he sees as representing a particular kind of 'hell.'"

Amery's point is important. A sadistic society is about collective self-destruction. It is the apotheosis of a society deformed by overwhelming experiences of loss, alienation and stasis. The only way left to affirm yourself in failed societies is to destroy. Johan Huizinga in his book "Waning of the Middle Ages" noted that that the dissolution of medieval society provoked "the violent tenor of life." Today, this "violent tenor of life" drives people to carry out police murders, evictions of families, court-ordered bankruptcies, the denial of medical care to the sick, suicide bombings and mass shootings. As the sociologist Emil Durkheim understood, those who seek the annihilation of others are driven by desires for self-annihilation. Sadism imparts the rush and pleasure, often with heavy sexual overtones, which lures us towards what Sigmund Freud called the death instinct, the instinct to destroy all forms of life, including our own. When enveloped by a death-saturated world death, ironically, is embraced as the cure.

Corporate capitalism, which has perverted the values of American society to commodify its every aspect, including human beings and the natural world, and teaching us that the dictates of the market should govern every aspect of our existence, is infused with sadism. It is about the pleasure derived from exploiting others, as Frederick Nietzsche wrote in "On the Genealogy of Morals:"

[T]he creditor is given a kind of pleasure as repayment and compensation – the pleasure of being allowed to discharge his power on a powerless person … the delight in 'de fair le mal pour le plaisir de le faire' [doing wrong for the pleasure of it], the enjoyment of violation. This enjoyment is more highly prized the lower and baser the debtor stands in the social order, and it can easily seem to the creditor a delicious mouthful, even a foretaste of a higher rank. By means of the 'punishment' of the debtor, the creditor participates in a right belonging to the masters. … The compensation thus consist of a permission for and right to crueltyEnron energy traders, in a dialogue that could have come from any large corporation, were caught on tape in 2000 discussing "stealing" from California, sticking it to "Grandma Millie." Two traders, identified as Kevin and Bob, dismissed demands by California regulators for refunds because of the company's constant price-gouging.

Kevin: So the rumor's true? They're fucking takin' all the money back from you guys? All those money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?
Bob: Yeah, Grandma Millie, man. But she's the one who couldn't figure out how to fucking vote on the butterfly ballot.
Kevin: Yeah, now she wants her fucking money back for all the power you've charged for fucking $250 a megawatt hour.
Bob: You know – you know – you know, Grandma Millie, she's the one that Al Gore's fightin' for, you know?
Later in the same conversation, Kevin and Bob denigrate Californians.
Kevin: Oh, best thing that could happen is fucking an earthquake, let that thing float out to the Pacific and put 'em fucking candles.
Bob: I know. Those guys – just cut 'em off.
Kevin: They're so fucked and they're so like totally – –
Bob: They are so fucked.

We will not extract ourselves from predatory capitalism and its culture of sadism with meager government handouts. We will not extract ourselves because Biden's slick speech writers and public relations specialists, who use polls and focus groups to feed back to us what we want to hear, can make us feel the administration is on our side. There is no good will in the Biden White House, the Congress, the courts, the media – which has become an echo chamber of the privileged classes – or corporate boardrooms. They are the enemy.

We will extract ourselves from this culture of sadism the way the dispossessed extracted themselves from the stranglehold of crony capitalism during the Great Depression, by organizing, protesting and disrupting the system until the ruling elites are forced to grant a measure of social and economic justice. The Bonus Army, World War I veterans who had been denied pension payments, set up huge encampments in Washington, which were violently dispersed by the army. Neighborhood groups, many of them members of the Wobblies or the Communist Party, in the 1930s physically prevented sheriff departments from evicting families. In 1936 and 1937, the United Auto Workers union carried out a sit-down strike inside factories that crippled General Motors, forcing the company to recognize the union, raise wages and meet union demands for job protection and safe working conditions. It was one of the most important labor victories in American history and led to the entire automobile industry in the United States becoming unionized. Farmers, forced into bankruptcy and foreclosures by the big banks and Wall Street, founded the Farmer's Holiday Association to protest the seizure of family farms, one of the reasons bank robbers such as John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde and the Barker Gang were folk heroes. The farmers blocked roads and destroyed mountains of farm products, reducing supply and raising prices. The farmers, like unionized auto workers, endured widespread government surveillance and violent attacks from the FBI, company goons, hired gun thugs, militias and sheriff's departments. But the militancy worked. The farmers forced the state to accept a de facto moratorium on farm foreclosures. Mass demonstrations outside state capitals at the same time pressured state legislatures to block the collection of overdue mortgage payments. Tenant farmers and sharecroppers in the south unionized. The Department of Labor called their collective action a "miniature civil war." The unemployed and the hungry throughout the country squatted in vacant homes and on vacant land forming shantytowns that were known as Hoovervilles. The destitute took over public buildings and public utilities. This constant pressure, not the good will of FDR, created the New Deal. He and his fellow oligarchs eventually understood that if there was not reform there would be revolution, something Roosevelt acknowledged in his private correspondence.

It is not until people are reintegrated into the society, not until corporate and oligarchic control over our educational, political and media systems are removed, not until we recover the ethic of the common good, that we have any hope of rebuilding the positive social bonds that foster a healthy society. History has amply illustrated how this process works. It is a game of fear. And until we make them afraid, until a terrified Joe Biden and the oligarchs he serves look out on a sea of pitchforks, we will not blunt the culture of sadism they have engineered.

The real tragedy behind the collapse of the American empire

America's defeat in Afghanistan is one in a string of catastrophic military blunders that herald the death of the American empire. With the exception of the first Gulf War, fought largely by mechanized units in the open desert that did not—wisely—attempt to occupy Iraq, the United States political and military leadership has stumbled from one military debacle to another. Korea. Vietnam. Lebanon. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. The trajectory of military fiascos mirrors the sad finales of the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Russian, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Soviet empires. While each of these empires decayed with their own peculiarities, they all exhibited patterns of dissolution that characterize the American experiment.

Imperial ineptitude is matched by domestic ineptitude. The collapse of good government at home, with legislative, executive and judicial systems all seized by corporate power, ensures that the incompetent and the corrupt, those dedicated not to the national interest but to swelling the profits of the oligarchic elite, lead the country into a cul-de-sac. Rulers and military leaders, driven by venal self-interest, are often buffoonish characters in a grand comic operetta. How else to think of Allen Dulles, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Trump or the hapless Joe Biden? While their intellectual and moral vacuity is often darkly amusing, it is murderous and savage when directed towards their victims.

The two-decade-long wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have only left in their wake one failed state after another. Yet, no one in the ruling class is held accountable.

There is not a single case since 1941 when the coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, U.S. sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars or military interventions carried out by the United States resulted in the establishment of a democratic government. The two-decade-long wars in the Middle East, the greatest strategic blunder in American history, have only left in their wake one failed state after another. Yet, no one in the ruling class is held accountable.

War, when it is waged to serve utopian absurdities, such as implanting a client government in Baghdad that will flip the region, including Iran, into U.S. protectorates, or when, as in Afghanistan, there is no vision at all, descends into a quagmire. The massive allocation of money and resources to the U.S. military, which includes Biden's request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion, or 1.6 percent increase, over 2021, is not in the end about national defense. The bloated military budget is designed, as Seymour Melman explained in his book, "The Permanent War Economy," primarily to keep the American economy from collapsing. All we really make anymore are weapons. Once this is understood, perpetual war makes sense, at least for those who profit from it.

The idea that America is a defender of democracy, liberty and human rights would come as a huge surprise to those who saw their democratically elected governments subverted and overthrown by the United States in Panama (1941), Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Honduras (2009) and Egypt (2013). And this list does not include a host of other governments that, however despotic, as was the case in South Vietnam, Indonesia or Iraq, were viewed as inimical to American interests and destroyed, in each case making life for the inhabitants of these countries even more miserable.

I spent two decades on the outer reaches of empire as a foreign correspondent. The flowery rhetoric used to justify the subjugation of other nations so corporations can plunder natural resources and exploit cheap labor is solely for domestic consumption. The generals, intelligence operatives, diplomats, bankers and corporate executives that manage empire find this idealistic talk risible. They despise, with good reason, naïve liberals who call for "humanitarian intervention" and believe the ideals used to justify empire are real, that empire can be a force for good. These liberal interventionists, the useful idiots of imperialism, attempt to civilize a process that was created and designed to repress, intimidate, plunder and dominate.

The liberal interventionists, because they wrap themselves in high ideals, are responsible for numerous military and foreign policy debacles. The call by liberal interventionists such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice and Samantha Power to fund jihadists in Syria and depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya rent these countries—as in Afghanistan and Iraq—into warring fiefdoms. The liberal interventionists are also the tip of the spear in the campaign to rachet up tensions with China and Russia.

Russia is blamed for interfering in the last two presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump. Russia, whose economy is roughly the size of Italy's, is also attacked for destabilizing the Ukraine, supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, funding France's National Front party and hacking into German computers. Biden has imposed sanctions on Russia—including limits on buying newly issued sovereign debt—in response to allegations that Moscow was behind a hack on SolarWinds Corp. and worked to thwart his candidacy.

At the same time, the liberal interventionists are orchestrating a new cold war with China, justifying this cold war because the Chinese government is carrying out genocide against its Uyghur minority, repressing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and stealing U.S. patents. As with Russia, sanctions have been imposed targeting the country's ruling elite. The U.S. is also carrying out provocative military maneuvers along the Russian border and in the South China Sea.

The core belief of imperialists, whether they come in the form of a Barack Obama or a George W. Bush, is racism and ethnic chauvinism, the notion that Americans are permitted, because of superior attributes, to impose their "values" on lesser races and peoples by force. This racism, carried out in the name of Western civilization and its corollary white supremacy, unites the rabid imperialists and liberal interventionists in the Republican and Democratic parties. It is the fatal disease of empire, captured in Graham Greene's novel "The Quiet American" and Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient."

The crimes of empire always spawn counter-violence that is then used to justify harsher forms of imperial repression. For example, the United States routinely kidnapped Islamic jihadists fighting in the Balkans between 1995 and 1998. They were sent to Egypt—many were Egyptian—where they were savagely tortured and usually executed. In 1998, the International Islamic Front for Jihad said it would carry out a strike against the United States after jihadists were kidnapped and transferred to black sites from Albania. They made good on their threat igniting massive truck bombs at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead. Of course, the "extraordinary renditions" by the CIA did not end and neither did the attacks by jihadists.

Our decades-long military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, are called "micro-militarism." The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) when they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. The defeat triggered successful revolts throughout the Athenian empire. The Roman empire, which at its height lasted for two centuries, created a military machine that, like the Pentagon, was a state within a state. Rome's military rulers, led by Augustus, snuffed out the remnants of Rome's anemic democracy and ushered in a period of despotism that saw the empire disintegrate under the weight of extravagant military expenditures and corruption. The British empire, after the suicidal military folly of World War I, was terminated in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Britain was forced to withdraw in humiliation, empowering Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over its few remaining colonies. None of these empires recovered.

"While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power," the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book "In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power": "Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way."

The worse it gets at home the more the empire needs to fabricate enemies within and without. This is the real reason for the increase in tensions with Russia and China. The poverty of half the nation and concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny oligarchic cabal, the wanton murder of unarmed civilians by militarized police, the rage at the ruling elites, expressed with nearly half the electorate voting for a con artist and demagogue and a mob of his supporters storming the capital, are the internal signs of disintegration. The inability of the for-profit national health services to cope with the pandemic, the passage of a Covid relief bill and the proposal of an infrastructure bill that would hand the bulk of some $5 trillion dollars to corporations while tossing crumbs—one-time checks of $1,400 to a citizenry in deep financial distress—will only fuel the decline.

The façade of empire is able to mask the rot within its foundations, often for decades, until, as we saw with the Soviet Union, the empire appears to suddenly disintegrate.

Because of the loss of unionized jobs, the real decline of wages, de-industrialization, chronic underemployment and unemployment, and punishing austerity programs, the country is plagued by a plethora of diseases of despair including opioid addictions, alcoholism, suicides, gambling, depression, morbid obesity and mass shootings —since March 16 the United States has had at least 45 mass shootings, including eight people killed in an Indiana FedEx facility on Friday, three dead and three injured in a shooting in Wisconsin on Sunday, and another three dead in a shooting in Austin on Sunday. These are the consequences of a deeply troubled society.

The façade of empire is able to mask the rot within its foundations, often for decades, until, as we saw with the Soviet Union, the empire appears to suddenly disintegrate. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will probably mark the final chapter of the American empire. In 2015, the dollar accounted for 90 percent of bilateral transactions between China and Russia, a percentage that has since fallen to about 50 percent. The use of sanctions as a weapon against China and Russia pushes these countries to replace the dollar with their own national currencies. Russia, as part of this move away from the dollar, has begun accumulating yuan reserves.

The loss of the dollar as the world's reserve currency will instantly raise the cost of imports. It will result in unemployment of Depression-era levels. It will force the empire to dramatically contract. It will, as the economy worsens, fuel a hyper-nationalism that will most likely be expressed through a Christianized fascism. The mechanisms, already in place, for total social control, militarized police, a suspension of civil liberties, wholesale government surveillance, enhanced "terrorism" laws that railroad people into the world's largest prison system and censorship overseen by the digital media monopolies will seamlessly cement into place a police state. Nations that descend into crises these severe seek to deflect the rage of a betrayed population on foreign scapegoats. China and Russia will be used to fill these roles.

The defeat in Afghanistan is a familiar and sad story, one all those blinded by imperial hubris endure. The tragedy, however, is not the collapse of the American empire, but that, lacking the ability to engage in self-critique and self-correction, as it dies it will lash out in a blind, inchoate fury at innocents at home and abroad.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. His most recent book is "America: The Farewell Tour" (2019).

'Quintessentially American': The worst aspects of US society are sacralized by a heretical form of Christianity

Robert Aaron Long, 21, charged with murdering eight victims, six of whom were Asian women, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors, told police that he carried out the killings to eliminate the temptations that fed his sexual addiction. His church, Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, Georgia, which opposes sex outside of marriage, issued a statement condemning the shootings as "unacceptable and contrary to the gospel."

This article originally appeared on ScheerPost.

The church, however, also immediately took down its web site and removed videos, including one that was captured by The Washington Post before it was deleted where the church's pastor, the Rev. Jerry Dockery, told the congregation that Christ's second coming was imminent. And when Christ returned, Dockery said, he would wage a ruthless and violent war on nonbelievers and infidels, those controlled by Satan.

"There is one word devoted to their demise," the pastor said. "Swept away! Banished! Judged. They have no power before God. Satan himself is bound and released and then bound again and banished. That great dragon deceiver – just that quickly – God throws him into an eternal torment. And then we read where everyone – everyone that rejects Christ – will join Satan, the Beast and the false prophet in hell."

I heard a lot of these types of sermons by fundamentalist preachers during the two years I crisscrossed the country for my book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I attended Bible studies, prayer groups, conventions, tapings of Christian television shows, rallies held by Patriot Pastors, talks by leaders such as James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and Tony Perkins and creationist seminars. I visited the 50,000-square-foot Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, took an Evangelism Explosion course, joined congregations at numerous megachurches for Sunday worship and participated in right-to-life retreats. I spent hundreds of hours interviewing scores of believers.

The simplistic message was always the same. The world was divided into us and them, the blessed and the damned, agents of God and agents of Satan, good and evil. Millions of largely white Americans, hermetically sealed within the ideology of the Christian Right, yearn to destroy the Satanic forces they blame for the debacle of their lives, the broken homes, domestic and sexual abuse, struggling single parent households, lack of opportunities, crippling debt, poverty, evictions, bankruptcies, loss of sustainable incomes and the decay of their communities. Satanic forces, they believe, control the financial systems, the media, public education and the three branches of government. They believed this long before Donald Trump, who astutely tapped into this deep malaise and magic thinking, mounted his 2016 campaign for president.

The killings in Atlanta were not an anomaly by a deranged gunman. The hatred for people of other ethnicities and faiths, the hatred for women of color, who are condemned by the Christian right as temptresses in league with Satan, was fertilized in the rampant misogyny, hypermasculinity and racism that lie at the center of the belief system of the Christian right, as well define the core beliefs of American imperialism. The white race, especially in the United States, is celebrated as God's chosen agent. Imperialism and war are divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, is shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism are intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. In short, the worst aspects of American society are sacralized by this heretical form of Christianity.

Believers are told that Satanic forces, promoting a liberal creed of "secular humanism," lure people to self-destruction through drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography and massage brothels. Long, who had frequented two of the massage parlors he attacked, was arrested on his way to Florida to attack a business connected with the pornography industry. He had attempted to block porn sites on his computer and sought help for his fascination with porn from Christian counselors.

The secular humanists, along with creating a society designed to tempt people into sin, are blamed for immigration programs that fuel demographic shifts to turn whites into a minority. The secular humanists are charged with elevating those of other races and beliefs – including Muslims whose religion is branded as Satanic – along with those whose gender identities challenge the sanctity of marriage as between a man and a woman and patriarchy. The secular humanists are believed to be behind an array of institutions including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations, the State Department, major foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), elite universities and media platforms such as CNN and The New York Times.

In D. James Kennedy's book "The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: The Attack on Christianity and What You Need to Know to Combat It," he writes that although the United States was once a "Christian nation," that is no longer the case because today "the hostile barrage from atheists, agnostics and other secular humanists has begun to take a serious toll on that heritage. In recent years, they have built up their forces and even increased their assault upon all our Christian institutions, and they have been enormously successful in taking over the 'public square.' Public education, the media, the government, the courts, and even the church in many places, now belong to them."

The incendiary rhetoric creates an atmosphere of being under siege. It imparts a sense of comradeship, the feeling that although the world outside the walls of the church or the home is dangerous and hostile, there is a select community of brothers and sisters. Believers only owe a moral obligation to other Christians. The world is divided between comrades and enemies, neighbors and strangers. The commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself" is perverted to "Love your fellow Christians as yourself." Nonbelievers have no place on the moral map.

When Christ returns, believers are told, He will lead the elect in one final apocalyptic battle against the people and groups blamed for their dislocation and despair. The secular world, the one that almost destroyed them and their families, will be eradicated. The flaws in human society and in human beings will be erased. They will have what most never had: a stable home and family, a loving community, fixed moral standards, financial and personal security and success and an abolition of uncertainty, disorder and doubt. Their fragmented, troubled lives will become whole. Evil will be physically vanquished. There will be no more impurity because the impure will no longer exist.

This externalization of evil, however, is not limited to the Christian Right. It lies at the core of American imperialism, American exceptionalism and American racism. White supremacy, which dehumanizes the other at home and abroad, is also fueled by the fantasy that there are superior human beings who are white and lesser human beings who are not. Long did not need the Christian fascism of his church to justify to himself the killings; the racial hierarchies within American society had already dehumanized his victims. His church simply cloaked it in religious language. The jargon varies. The dark sentiments are the same.

The ideology of the Christian right, like all totalitarian creeds, is, at its core, an ideology of hatred. It rejects what Augustine calls the grace of love, or volo ut sis (I want you to be). It replaces it with an ideology that condemns all those outside the magic circle. There is, in relationships based on love, an affirmation of the mystery of the other, an affirmation of unexplained and unfathomable differences. These relationships not only recognize that others have a right to be, as Augustine wrote, but the sacredness of difference. This sacredness of difference is an anathema to Christian fundamentalists, as it is to imperialists, to all racists. It is dangerous to the hegemony of the triumphalist ideology. It calls into question the infallibility of the doctrine, the essential appeal of all ideologies. It suggests that there are alternative ways to live and believe. The moment there is a hint of uncertainty the ideological edifice crumbles. The truth is irrelevant as long as the ideology is consistent, doubt is heretical and the vision of the world, however absurd, absolute and unassailable. These ideologies are not meant to be rational. They are meant to fill emotional voids.

Evil for the Christian fundamentalists is not something within them. It is an external force to be destroyed. It may require indiscriminate acts of violence, but if it leads to a better world this violence is morally justified. Those who advance the holy crusade alone know the truth. They alone have been anointed by God or, in the language of American imperialism, western civilization, to do battle with evil. They alone have the right to impose their "values" on others by force. Once evil is external, once the human race is divided into the righteous and the damned, repression and even murder become a sacred duty.

Immanuel Kant defined "radical evil" as the drive, often carried out under a righteous façade, to surrender to absolute self-love. Those gripped by radical evil always externalize evil. They lose touch with their own humanity. They are blind to their own innate depravity. In the name of western civilization and high ideals, in the name of reason and science, in the name of America, in the name of the free market, in the name of Jesus, they seek the subjugation and annihilation of others. Radical evil, Hannah Arendt wrote, makes whole groups of human beings superfluous. They become, rhetorically, living corpses before often becoming actual corpses.

This binary world view is anti-thought. That is part of its attraction. It gives to those who are alienated and lost emotional certitude. It is buttressed by hollow cliches, patriotic slogans and Bible passages, what psychologists call symbol agnostics. True believers are capable only of imitation. They shut down, by choice, critical reflection and genuine understanding. They surrender all moral autonomy. The impoverished language is regurgitated not because it makes sense, but because it justifies the messianic and intoxicating right to lead humankind to paradise. These pseudo-heroes, however, know only one form of sacrifice, the sacrifice of others.

Human evil is not a problem to be solved. It is a mystery. It is a bitter, constant paradox. We carry the capacity for evil within us. I learned this unsettling truth as a war correspondent. The line between the victim and the victimizer is razor thin. Evil is also seductive. It offers us unlimited often lethal power to turn those around us into objects to destroy or debase to gratify our most perverted desires or both. This evil waits to consume us. All it requires to flourish is for us to turn away, to pretend it is not there, to do nothing. Those who blind themselves to their capacity for evil commit evil not for evil's sake, but to make a better world. This collective self-delusion is the story of America, from its foundation on the twin evils of slavery and genocide to its inherent racism, predatory capitalism and savage wars of conquest. The more we ignore this evil, the worse it gets.

The awareness of human corruptibility and human limitations, as understood by Augustine, Kant, Sigmund Freud and Primo Levi, has been humankind's most potent check on evil. Levi wrote that "compassion and brutality can coexist in the same individual and in the same moment, despite all logic." This self-knowledge forces us to accept that no act, even one defined as moral or virtuous, is ever free from the taint of self-interest. It reminds us that we are condemned to always battle our baser instincts. It recognizes that compassion, as Rousseau wrote, is alone the quality from which "all the social virtues flow."

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that "some are guilty, but all are responsible." We may not be guilty of the murders in Atlanta, but we are responsible. We must answer for them. We must accept the truth about ourselves, however unpleasant. We must unmask the lie of our pretended innocence. Long's murderous spree was quintessentially American. That is what makes it, along with all other hate crimes, along with our endless imperial wars, police terror, callous abandonment of the poor and the vulnerable, so frightening. This evil will not be tamed until it is named and confronted.

Chris Hedges on 'America's death spiral': 'The elites collectively sold out the public to corporate power'

The established ruling elites know there is a crisis. They agreed, at least temporarily, to throw money at it with the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 bill known as American Rescue Plan (ARP). But the ARP will not alter the structural inequities, either by raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour or imposing taxes and regulations on corporations or the billionaire class that saw its wealth increase by a staggering $1.1 trillion since the start of the pandemic. The health system will remain privatized, meaning the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations will reap a windfall of tens of billions of dollars with the ARP, and this when they are already making record profits. The endless wars in the Middle East, and the bloated military budget that funds them, will remain sacrosanct. Wall Street and the predatory global speculators that profit from the massive levels of debt peonage imposed on an underpaid working class and loot the U.S. Treasury in our casino capitalism will continue to funnel money upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal. There will be no campaign finance reform to end our system of legalized bribery. The giant tech monopolies will remain intact. The fossil fuel companies will continue to ravage the ecosystem. The militarized police, censorship imposed by digital media platforms, vast prison system, harsher and harsher laws aimed at curbing domestic terrorism and dissent and wholesale government surveillance will be, as they were before, the primary instruments of state control.

This article originally appeared on ScheerPost.com.

This act will, at best, provide a momentary respite from the country's death spiral, sending out one time checks of $1,400 to 280 million Americans, extending $300 weekly unemployment benefits until the end of August and distributing as much as $3,600 to families per child for a year starting on July 1. Much of this money will be instantly gobbled up by landlords, lenders, medical providers and credit card companies. The act does, to its credit, bail out some 1 million unionized workers poised to lose their pensions and hands $31.2 billion in aid to Native communities, some of the poorest in the nation.

But what happens to the majority of Americans who get government support for only a few months? What are they supposed to do when the checks stop arriving at the end of the year? Will the federal government orchestrate another massive relief package? I doubt it. We will be back where we started.

By refusing to address the root causes of America's rot, by failing to pump life back into the democratic institutions that once gave the citizen a voice, however limited, and make incremental and piecemeal reform possible, by not addressing the severe economic and social inequality and dislocation that afflicts at least half the country, the anomie and ruptured social bonds that gave rise to a demagogue like Donald Trump will expand. The American empire will not staunch its disintegration. The political deformities will metastasize.

When the next demagogue appears, and the Republican Party has banked its future on Trump or his doppelgänger, he or she will probably be competent. The Republican Party in 43 states has proposed 250 laws to limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting and mandate stricter ID requirements, as well as reduce the hours at voting sites and the numbers of voting locations potentially disenfranchising tens of millions of voters. The party has no intention of playing by the rules. Once back in power, cloaked in the ideological garb of Christian fascism, the new or the old Trump will abolish what little is left of democratic space.

The established elites pretend that Trump was a freakish anomaly. They naively believe they can make Trump and his most vociferous supporters disappear by banishing them from social media. The ancien régime, will, they assert, return with the decorum of its imperial presidency, respect for procedural norms, elaborately choreographed elections and fealty to neoliberal and imperial policies.

But what the established ruling elites have yet to grasp, despite the narrow electoral victory Joe Biden had over Trump and the storming of the capital on January 6 by an enraged mob, is that the credibility of the old order is dead. The Trump era, if not Trump himself, is the future. The ruling elites, embodied by Biden and the Democratic Party and the polite wing of the Republican Party represented by Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, is headed for the dustbin of history.

The elites collectively sold out the American public to corporate power. They did this by lying to the public about the consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trade deals, dismantling welfare, revoking Glass-Stegall, imposing austerity measures, deregulating Wall Street, passing draconian crime bills, launching endless wars in the Middle East and bailing out the big banks and financial firms rather than the victims of their fraud. These lies were far, far more damaging to the public than any of the lies told by Trump. These elites have been found out. They are hated. They deserve to be hated.

The Biden administration — and Biden was one of the principal architects of the policies that fleeced the working class and made war on the poor — is nothing more than a brief coda in the decline and fall, set against which is China's rising global economic and military clout.

The loss of credibility has left the media, which serves as courtiers to the elites, largely powerless to manipulate public perceptions and public opinion. Rather, the media has divided the public into competing demographics. Media platforms target one demographic, feeding its opinions and proclivities back to it, while shrilly demonizing the demographic on the other side of the political divide. This has proved commercially successful. But it has also split the country into irreconcilable warring factions that can no longer communicate. Truth and verifiable fact have been sacrificed. Russiagate is as absurd as the belief that the presidential election was stolen from Trump. Pick your fantasy.

The loss of credibility among the ruling elites has transferred political influence to those outside established centers of power such as Alex Jones, celebrities and those, such as Joe Rogan, Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi who were never groomed by the media conglomerates. The Democratic Party, in an effort to curb the influence of the new centers of power, has allied itself with social media industry giants such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Patreon, Substack and Spotify to curtail or censor its critics. The goal is to herd the public back to Democratic Party allied news organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. But these media outlets, which in the service to corporate advertisers have rendered the lives of the working class and the poor invisible, are as reviled as the ruling elites themselves.

The loss of credibility has also given rise to new, often spontaneous groups such as Black Lives Matter, as well as the lunatic fringe that embraces conspiracy theories such as QAnon. None of these groups or individuals, whether they are on the left or the right, however, have the organizational structure, coherence and ideological cohesiveness of radical movements of the past, including the old Communist Party or militant labor unions. They traffic in emotional outrage, often replacing one outrage with another. They provide new forms of identity to replace the identities lost by tens of millions of Americans who have been cast aside. This energy can be harnessed for laudable causes, such as ending police abuse, but it is too often ephemeral. It has a tendency to transform political debate into grievance protests, at best, and more often televised spectacle. These flash mobs pose no threat to the elites unless they build disciplined organization structures, which takes years, and articulate a vision of what can come next. This is why I support Extinction Rebellion, which has a large grassroots network, especially in Europe, carries out effective sustained acts of civil disobedience and has a clearly stated goal of overthrowing the ruling elites and building a new governing system through people's committees and sortition.

This amorphous, emotionally driven anti-politics is fertile ground for demagogues, who have no political consistency but cater exclusively to the zeitgeist of the moment. Many of those who support demagogues know, on some level, they are con artists and liars. But demagogues are revered because, like all cult leaders, they flout conventions, are outrageous and crude, claim omnipotence and disdain traditional decorum. Demagogues are weaponized against bankrupt well-heeled elites who have stripped the public of opportunities and identities, extinguishing hopes for the future. A cornered population has little left but hate and the emotional catharsis expressing it brings.

Time is not on our side. The old world is never going to return. The new one is fraught with minefields that, if we do not bring down the ruling elites, will make most of our lives miserable. Vladimir Lenin urged his followers to be as radical as reality itself. What he meant is that once you understand the radical forces arrayed against you — Wall Street, militarism, the climate emergency, government surveillance, the prison system, militarized police, corporate controlled elections and legislation and austerity measures — you must embrace a radical response. These malevolent forces, and the political elites such as Biden that do their bidding, will not save us. We will only save ourselves.

Chris Hedges: Ruling elites are 'architects of social murder' — 'they cannot claim ignorance, only indifference'

The two million deaths that have resulted from the ruling elites mishandling of the global pandemic will be dwarfed by what is to follow. The global catastrophe that awaits us, already baked into the ecosystem from the failure to curb the use of fossil fuels and animal agriculture, presage new, deadlier pandemics, mass migrations of billions of desperate people, plummeting crop yields, mass starvation and systems collapse.

This article originally appeared on ScheerPost.com.

The science that elucidates this social death is known to the ruling elites. The science that warned us of this pandemic, and others that will follow, is known to the ruling elites. The science that shows that a failure to halt carbon emissions will lead to a climate crisis and ultimately the extinction of the human species and most other species is known to the ruling elites. They cannot claim ignorance. Only indifference.

The facts are incontrovertible. Each of the last four decades have been hotter than the last. In 2018, the UN International Panel on Climate Change released a special report on the systemic effects of a 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperatures. It makes for very grim reading. Soaring temperature rises — we are already at a 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels — are already baked into the system, meaning that even if we stopped all carbon emission today, we still face catastrophe. Anything above a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius will render the earth unhabitable. The Arctic ice along with the Greenland ice sheet are now expected to melt regardless of how much we reduce carbon emissions. A seven-meter (23-foot) rise in sea level, which is what will take place once the ice is gone, means every town and city on a coast at sea level will have to be evacuated.

Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, whose nonviolent acts of mass civil disobedience offer the last, best chance to save ourselves, lays it out in this video:

As the climate crisis worsens, the political constrictions will tighten, making public resistance difficult. We do not live, yet, in the brutal Orwellian state that appears on the horizon, one where all dissidents will suffer the fate of Julian Assange. But this Orwellian state is not far away. This makes it imperative that we act now.

The ruling elites, despite the accelerating and tangible ecological collapse, mollify us, either by meaningless gestures or denial. They are the architects of social murder.

Social murder, as Friedrich Engels noted in his 1845 book "The Condition of the Working-Class in England," one of the most important works of social history, is built into the capitalist system. The ruling elites, Engels writes, those that hold "social and political control," were aware that the harsh working and living conditions during the industrial revolution doomed workers to "an early and unnatural death:"

"When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live — forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence — knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains."

— Friedrick Engels, "The Condition of the Working-Class in England"

The ruling class devotes tremendous resources to mask this social murder. They control the narrative in the press. They falsify science and data, as the fossil fuel industry has done for decades. They set up committees, commissions and international bodies, such as UN climate summits, to pretend to address the problem. Or they deny, despite the dramatically changing weather patterns, that the problem even exists.

Scientists have long warned that as global temperatures rise, increasing precipitation and heat waves in many parts of the world, infectious diseases spread by animals will plague populations year-round and expand into northern regions. Pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, which has killed approximately 36 million people, the Asian flu, which killed between one and four million, and COVID-19, which has already killed over 2.5 million, will ripple across the globe in ever more virulent strains, often mutating beyond our control. The misuse of antibiotics in the meat industry, which accounts for 80 percent of all antibiotic use, has produced strains of bacteria that are antibiotic resistant and fatal. A modern version of the Black Death, which in the 14th century killed between 75 and 200 million people, wiping out perhaps half of Europe's population, is probably inevitable as long as the pharmaceutical and medical industries are configured to make money rather than protect and save lives.

Even with vaccines, we lack the national infrastructure to distribute them efficiently because profit trumps health. And those in the global south are, as usual, abandoned, as if the diseases that kill them will never reach us. Israel's decision to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to as many as 19 countries while refusing to vaccinate the 5 million Palestinians living under its occupation is emblematic of the ruling elite's stunning myopia, not to mention immorality.

What is taking place is not neglect. It is not ineptitude. It is not policyfailure. It is murder. It is murder because it is premeditated. It is murder because a conscious choice was made by the global ruling classes to extinguish life rather than protect it. It is murder because profit, despite the hard statistics, the growing climate disruptions and the scientific modeling, is deemed more important than human life and human survival.

The elites thrive in this system, as long as they serve the dictates of what Lewis Mumford called the "megamachine," the convergence of science, economy, technics and political power unified into an integrated, bureaucratic structure whose sole goal is to perpetuate itself. This structure, Mumford noted, is antithetical to "life-enhancing values." But to challenge the megamachine, to name and condemn its death wish, is to be expelled from its inner sanctum. There are, no doubt, some within the megamachine who fear the future, who are perhaps even appalled by the social murder, but they do not want to lose their jobs and their social status to become pariahs.

The massive resources allocated to the military, which when the costs of the Veterans Administration are added to the Department of Defense budget come to $826 billion a year, are the most glaring example of our suicidal folly, symptomatic of all decaying civilizations that squander diminishing resources in institutions and projects that accelerate their decline.

The American military — which accounts for 38 percent of military spending worldwide — is incapable of combating the real existential crisis. The fighter jets, satellites, aircraft carriers, fleets of warships, nuclear submarines, missiles, tanks and vast arsenals of weaponry are useless against pandemics and the climate crisis. The war machine does nothing to mitigate the human suffering caused by degraded environments that sicken and poison populations or make life unsustainable. Air pollution already kills an estimated 200,000 Americans a year while children in decayed cities such as Flint, Michigan are damaged for life with lead contamination from drinking water.

The prosecution of endless and futile wars, costing anywhere from $5 to $7 trillion, the maintenance of some 800 military bases in over 70 countries, along with the endemic fraud, waste and mismanagement by the Pentagon at a time when the survival of the species is at stake is self-destructive. The Pentagon has spent more than $67 billion alone on a ballistic missile defense system that few believe will actually work and billions more on a series of dud weapons systems, including the $22 billion Zumwalt destroyer. And, on top of all this, the U.S. military emitted 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon emissions between 2001 and 2017, twice the annual output of the nation's passenger vehicles.

A decade from now we will look back at the current global ruling class as the most criminal in human history, willfully dooming millions upon millions of people to die, including those from this pandemic, which dwarf the murderous excesses of the killers of the past including the Europeans that carried out the genocide of the indigenous peoples in the Americas, the Nazis that exterminated some 12 million people, the Stalinists or Mao's Cultural Revolution. This is the largest crime against humanity ever committed. It is being committed in front of us. And, with few exceptions, we are willfully being herded like sheep to the slaughter.

It is not that most people have faith in the ruling elites. They know they are being betrayed. They feel vulnerable and afraid. They understand that their misery is unacknowledged and unimportant to the global elites, who have concentrated staggering amounts of wealth and power into the hands of a tiny cabal of rapacious oligarchs.

The rage many feel at being abandoned often expresses itself in a poisoned solidarity. This poisoned solidarity unites the disenfranchised around hate crimes, racism, inchoate acts of vengeance against scapegoats, religious and ethnic chauvinism and nihilistic violence. It fosters crisis cults, such as those built by the Christian fascists, and elevates demagogues such as Donald Trump.

Social divisions benefit the ruling class, which has built media silos that feed packaged hate to competing demographics. The greater the social antagonisms, the less the elites have to fear. If those gripped by poisoned solidarity become numerically superior — nearly half of the American electorate rejects the traditional ruling class and embraces conspiracy theories and a demagogue — the elites will accommodate the new power configuration, which will accelerate the social murder.

The Biden administration will not carry out the economic, political, social or environmental reforms that will save us. The fossil fuel industry will continue to extract oil. The wars will not end. Social inequality will grow. Government control, with its militarized police forces of internal occupation, wholesale surveillance and loss of civil liberties, will expand. New pandemics, along with droughts, wildfires, monster hurricanes, crippling heat waves and flooding, will lay waste to the country as well as a population burdened by a for-profit health care system that is not designed or equipped to deal with a national health crisis.

The evil that makes this social murder possible is collective. It is perpetrated by the colorless bureaucrats and technocrats churned out of business schools, law schools, management programs and elite universities. These systems managers carry out the incremental tasks that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death work. They collect, store and manipulate our personal data for digital monopolies and the security and surveillance state. They grease the wheels for ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They write the laws passed by the bought-and-paid-for political class. They pilot the aerial drones that terrorize the poor in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan. They profit from the endless wars. They are the corporate advertisers, public relations specialists and television pundits that flood the airwaves with lies. They run the banks. They oversee the prisons. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps and medical coverage to some and unemployment benefits to others. They carry out the evictions. They enforce the laws and the regulations. They do not ask questions. They live in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot's "the hollow men," "the stuffed men." "Shape without form, shade without color," the poet writes. "Paralyzed force, gesture without motion."

These systems managers made possible the genocides of the past, from the extermination of Native Americans to the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians to the Nazi Holocaust to Stalin's liquidations. They kept the trains running. They filled out the paperwork. They seized the property and confiscated the bank accounts. They did the processing. They rationed the food. They administered the concentration camps and the gas chambers. They enforced the law. They did their jobs.

These systems managers, uneducated in all but their tiny technical specialty, lack the language and moral autonomy to question the reigning assumptions or structures.

Hannah Arendt in "Eichmann in Jerusalem" writes that Adolf Eichmann was motivated by "an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement." He joined the Nazi Party because it was a good career move. Arendt continued:

"The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.

The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such."

Hannah Arendt, "Eichmann in Jerusalem"

The Russian novelist Vasily Grossman in his book "Forever Flowing" observed that "the new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful, devout disciples. The new state did not even require servants — just clerks." This metaphysical ignorance fuels social murder.

We cannot emotionally absorb the magnitude of the looming catastrophe and therefore do not act.

In Claude Lanzmann's Holocaust documentary "Shoah," he interviews Filip Müller, a Czech Jew who survived the liquidations in Auschwitz as a member of the "special detail., "

"One day in 1943 when I was already in Crematorium 5, a train from Bialystok arrived. A prisoner on the 'special detail' saw a woman in the 'undressing room' who was the wife of a friend of his. He came right out and told her: 'You are going to be exterminated. In three hours, you'll be ashes.' The woman believed him because she knew him. She ran all over and warned to the other women. 'We're going to be killed. We're going to be gassed.' Mothers carrying their children on their shoulders didn't want to hear that. They decided the woman was crazy. They chased her away. So, she went to the men. To no avail. Not that they didn't believe her. They'd heard rumors in the Bialystok ghetto, or in Grodno, and elsewhere. But who wanted to hear that? When she saw that no one would listen, she scratched her whole face. Out of despair. In shock. And she started to scream. How do we resist? Why, if this social murder is inevitable, as I believe it is, do we even fight back? Why not give in to cynicism and despair? Why not withdraw and spend our lives attempting to satiate our private needs and desires? We are all complicit, paralyzed by the overwhelming force of the megamachine and bound to its destructive energy by our allotted slots within its massive machinery."

Filip Müller to Claude Lanzmann, "Shoah"

Yet, to fail to act, and this means carrying out mass, sustained acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in an attempt to smash the megamachine, is spiritual death. It is to succumb to the cynicism, hedonism and numbness that has turned the systems managers and technocrats that orchestrate this social murder into human cogs. It is to surrender our humanity. It is to become an accomplice.

Albert Camus writes that "one of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it."

"A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object," Camus warns. "But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object."

The capacity to exercise moral autonomy, to refuse to cooperate, to wreck the megamachine, offers us the only possibility left to personal freedom and a life of meaning. Rebellion is its own justification. It erodes, however imperceptibly, the structures of oppression. It sustains the embers of empathy and compassion, as well as justice. These embers are not insignificant. They keep alive the capacity to be human. They keep alive the possibility, however dim, that the forces that are orchestrating our social murder can be stopped. Rebellion must be embraced, finally, not only for what it will achieve, but for what it will allow us to become. In that becoming we find hope.

Chris Hedges: Trump 'was a symptom' of US societal  breakdown — 'not the disease'

The death spiral of the American Empire will not be halted with civility. It will not be halted with the 42 executive orders signed by Joe Biden, however welcome many are, especially since they can, with a new chief executive, be immediately revoked. It will not be halted by removing Donald Trump, and the crackpot conspiracy theorists, Christian fascists and racists who support him, from social media. It will not be halted by locking up the Proud Boys and the clueless protestors who stormed the Congress on January 6 and took selfies in Mike Pence's Senate chair. It will not be halted by restoring the frayed alliances with our European allies or rejoining the World Health Organization or the Paris Climate Agreement. All of these measures are window dressing, masking the root cause of the demise of America — unchecked oligarchic power and greed. The longer wealth is funneled upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal, who put Biden into office and whose interests he assiduously serves, we are doomed.

This article originally appeared on Scheerpost.

Once an oligarchy seizes power, deforming governing institutions to exclusively serve their narrow interests and turning the citizenry into serfs, there are only two options, as Aristotle pointed out — tyranny or revolution. The staggering concentration of wealth and obscene avarice of the very rich now dwarfs the hedonism and excesses of the world's most heinous despots and wealthiest capitalists of the past. In 2015, shortly before he died, Forbes estimated David Rockefeller's net worth was $3 billion. The Shah of Iran looted an estimated $1 billion from his country. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos amassed between $5 and $10 billion. And the former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was worth about a billion. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are each at $180 billion.

The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century. It was made possible by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton who, in exchange for corporate money to fund their campaigns and later Clinton's foundation and post-presidency opulent lifestyle, abolished the regulations that once protected the citizenry from the worst forms of monopoly exploitation. The demolishing of regulations made possible the largest upwards transference of wealth in American history. Whatever you say about Trump, he at least initiated moves to break up Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other Silicon Valley monopolists, none of which will happen under Biden, whose campaign these corporations bankrolled. And that has to be one of the reasons these digital platforms disappeared Trump from social media.

The new robber barons peddle the classless identity politics of the Democratic Party to deflect attention from their stranglehold on wealth and power, as well as their exploitation of workers, especially those that make their products overseas. Corporations such as Walmart have 80 percent of their suppliers in China. These corporations are full partners in China's state-controlled capitalism and suppression of basic labor rights and wages, where most Chinese workers make less than $350 a month and toil in Dickensian conditions.

There is no political will among the ruling elites to defend the rights of Amazon workers who are aggressively blocked by the company, the country's second largest employer, from forming unions, work all night in drafty, COVID-19-infested warehouses or deliver packages for $15 an hour, which leaves thousands of Amazon workers dependent on food stamps. Likewise, this is no political will among the elites to defend the rights of workers in China, often forced to work 100 hours of overtime a month in sweatshops for as little as $2 or $3 an hour.

History has repeatedly illustrated the dire consequences of extreme social inequality. It foments revolutionary ferment, which can come from the left or the right. Either a leftwing populism that smashes oligarchic power takes control or its counterfeit, a rightwing populism, built on the poisoned solidarity of hate, racism, vengeance and violence — and bankrolled by the hated oligarchs that use it as a front to solidify tyranny. We are barreling towards the latter.

The soaring levels of social inequality are laid out in stark statistics that are reflected back to us in the pain, despair and suffering afflicting perhaps 70 percent of the US public. The wealth of US billionaires has increased to over $1.1 trillion since mid-March 2020, when the pandemic began to ravage the country, a nearly 40 percent leap during the past 10 months. The total wealth of America's 660 billionaires, $4.1 trillion, is two-thirds higher than the $2.4 trillion in total wealth held by the bottom half of the population, 165 million Americans. An additional eight million Americans were recently classified as "newly poor" as the poverty rate increased 2.4 percentage points from June to December 2020. It is now at 11.8 percent, although many economists argue that the official poverty rate of $26,500 for a family of four masks the fact that perhaps half the country lives in real poverty.

The official poverty rate for Blacks has climbed 5.4 percent to 23.6 percent just between June and December, but again is probably at least twice that number. Blacks, along with Hispanic and Native American people, are also dying from COVID-19 at almost three times the rate of white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, despite the fact that many Blacks work in the health care industry they are being inoculated at percentages far below those of whites. In Maryland, for example, Black people make up 30 percent of the population and 40 percent of the health care industry yet account for just 16 percent of those who have been vaccinated. Since the beginning of the pandemic, landlords have filed more than 227,000 evictions in just the 27 cities in five states that the Princeton Eviction Lab tracks — and that is with a national eviction moratorium. Twelve million renters, who owe an average of $5,600 in back rent and utilities, now face being thrown out of their homes. By the end of 2020 there were an estimated 50 million food-insecure Americans, up from 35 million in 2019. One in four households with children, according to a report from Feeding America, experienced food insecurity in 2020.

The response by the ruling oligarchs is the equivalent of tossing coins from their gilded carriages to the despised masses. The Democrats have proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15, but not until 2025. Biden has actually called for reducing the proposed third stimulus check — a $1,200 check for eligible adults was issued last spring and a $600 per person check was issued earlier this month — from $2,000 to $1,400. The oligarchs have bristled at even these meager responses. Larry Summers, Clinton's treasury secretary who orchestrated the Wall Street bailout in 2008, called the $2,000 checks — crumbs compared to the trillions handed to Wall Street speculators —- a "serious mistake." Elon Musk, now one of the two richest humans, said that a second "government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people."

The response by a morally bankrupt ruling class are symbolic, given that we are enduring the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and an estimated one-third of all Americans are struggling to pay their bills. It illustrates how woefully disconnected the elites are from the lives of those they dominate.

Unless families receive regular monthly payments of at least $2,000 until the pandemic ends; unless the country has access to universal health care, especially during a national health crisis; unless the nation radically pivots from fossil fuels to halt the looming ecocide; unless the crippling debts that are draining the bank accounts of American families are reduced or forgiven; unless there is an unassailable moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; and unless manufacturers at home and overseas are forced through stringent trade agreements and labor laws to pay decent wages, abide by strict labor regulations and permit independent unions, the oligarchs will only accelerate their pillage.

The class warfare is global. Not until workers in sweatshops in China, Mexico, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh are lifted out of poverty will the American working class be lifted out of poverty. This class war is the real fight, which corporate-owned media platforms and bankrupt liberals refuse to discuss.

"In a real sense all life is inter-related," Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. "All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."

Liberalism, which Rosa Luxemburg called by its more appropriate name — "opportunism" — is an integral component of capitalism. When the citizens grow restive, or when capitalism goes into crisis as it did in the 1930s, liberals ameliorate capitalism's cruel excesses. Franklin Delano Roosevelt correctly said his greatest achievement was that he saved capitalism.

But capitalism, Luxemburg argued, is an enemy that can never be appeased. Liberal reforms, such as the New Deal legislation, are used to temporarily stymie organized resistance and then later, when things grow quiet, dismantled to reinstitute capitalist slavery. The history of capitalism illustrates this constant seesaw between liberal reforms and unregulated, capitalist exploitation. The last century of labor struggles in the United States, which has seen unions largely obliterated, and the advent of neoliberalism, austerity, rampant militarism and deindustrialization amply prove Luxemburg's thesis.

Fascism is the result of a failed liberalism. With liberalism corrupted, as it has been in the hands of the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton, all self-identified liberals have left to peddle is cloying appeals for tolerance and civility, shorn of economic justice. This politesse, which epitomizes the Biden White House, fuels an animus towards the ruling elites, along with the feckless liberals and the liberal values they purport to defend.

The elevation of women, people of color and those with different sexual orientations to managerial positions in the oligarchic state is not an advance. It is a species of corporate colonialism. It is branding. It is the substitution of cultural politics for real politics.

When the Belgian colonizers could no longer openly exploit the Congo, they installed the corrupt and compliant puppet Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, after, of course, assassinating the courageous independence leader and first prime minister Patrice Lumumba. Mobuto, who embezzled between $4 and $15 billion during his bloody dictatorial reign, served his colonial masters until the end. Expect the same prostrations before corporate power from the diverse appointments in Biden's cabinet and, should it be required, the same state repression.

The political, cultural and judicial systems in any capitalist state are centered around the sanctity of private property. Laws and legislation are instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or, as Luxemburg writes, "those who have some property against those who have none at all." This inherent bias in capitalist societies, however, becomes criminal once monopolies, from Wall Street Banks to Silicon Valley, seize the organs of power. These monopolists create, by abolishing regulation and oversight, as political economist Karl Polanyi writes, first a mafia economy and then, inevitably, a mafia state.

The Democrats and Republicans have legalized a level of greed and fraud that even heirs of the robber barons thought unsustainable. David Rockefeller's "enlightened capitalism," however self-serving, along with his call for a nation of stakeholders and his formation of the Trilateral Commission, have been pushed aside to license unchecked corporate pillage.

Bill Clinton and his two treasury secretary enablers, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, instituted a system of unregulated capitalism that has resulted in financial anarchy. This anarchic form of capitalism, where everything, including human beings and the natural world, is a commodity to exploit until exhaustion or collapse, is justified by identity politics. It is sold as "enlightened liberalism" as opposed to the old pro-union class politics that saw the Democrats heed the voices of the working class. Financial anarchy and short-term plunder have destroyed long-term financial and political stability. It has also pushed the human species, along with most other species, closer and closer towards extinction.

The more workers are dehumanized, as Polanyi notes, the more the ruling elites are morally degraded. Unheard-of wealth creates unheard-of poverty. "Scholars proclaimed in unison that a science had been discovered which put the laws governing man's world beyond any doubt," Polanyi writes of laissez-faire capitalists. "It was at the behest of these laws that compassion was removed from the hearts, and a stoic determination to renounce human solidarity in the name of the greatest happiness of the greatest number gained the dignity of a secular religion." Workers, abandoned by the state, reach a point where they resemble more "spectators that might haunt a nightmare than human beings."

The shipping of jobs overseas, where workers toil in conditions that replicate the worst abuses of the early industrial revolution, leaves those in the industrialized world unable to compete. A living wage, job security and benefits are replaced by the insecurity of the "gig" economy. This global market forces workers, whether in the Rust Belt or in China, to surrender before the dictates of their corporate masters. The bondage of the working class, at home and abroad, cannot be corrected by legal or legislative reform when the political system is hostage to corporate money and political office is defined by legalized bribery.

Global capitalism relentlessly searches the globe to exploit cheap, unorganized labor and plunder natural resources. This is its nature, as Karl Marx understood. It buys off or overthrows local elites. It blocks the ability of the developing world to become self-sufficient. At the same time, it strips workers in the industrialized world of good paying jobs, benefits and legal protections, pushing them into crippling debt peonage, which further swells the bank accounts of these global speculators. Its two unrelenting goals are the maximization of profit and the reduction of the cost of production, which demands that workers be disempowered and treated like prisoners. This global assault on the working class is fueling a global rage. And its visage, as we see among the white, dispossessed working class in America, can often be very ugly.

Apple, one of the most profitable companies in the world, is the epitome of "enlightened" global capitalism. WIRED reported that "employees at Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Oracle have contributed nearly 20 times as much money to Biden as to Trump since the beginning of 2019. According to data released by the Federal Election Commission, which requires individuals who contribute $200 or more to a presidential campaign to report their employer, employees at these six companies have contributed $4,787,752 to Biden and just $239,527 to Trump."

Employees at Alphabet, Google's parent company, WIRED reported, are Biden's biggest financial backers in Silicon Valley. They donated nearly $1.8 million, more than one-third of the money raised from employees of the six companies. Open Secrets, a campaign finance watchdog, found that contributions from Alphabet's employees and political action committee to the Biden campaign collectively exceed those from any other company. Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, Open Secrets found, account for five of the seven largest donors to the Biden campaign on that basis.

Apple in China, however, treats its workers little better than 19th-century serfs. Jenny Chan, Mark Selden and Pun Ngai in Dying for an iPhone, chronicle the endemic labor abuses, including substandard wages and wage theft, long hours, union busting, a refusal to pay sick leave, unsafe labor conditions, a harsh work environment and pressure to meet quotas, that contribute to a high rate of worker suicides in factories that make Apple products. Workers are crammed into overcrowded dormitories next to factories "to facilitate high-speed, round-the-clock production" and are forced to put in as much as 130 overtime hours a month.

The disenfranchised white working class embraced Trump because he taunted and belittled the globalists and monopoly capitalists who destroyed their communities and their lives. For them, Trump's vulgarity was a welcome respite from the cloying language of inclusivity and political correctness used by the oligarchs to mask the crimes of monopoly capitalism. The connecting tissue, in the United States, between these disparate, disenfranchised groups of white workers is Christian fascism.

Biden, a tool of global oligarchy, who naively intends to resurrect the ancien régime, is paving the way for a frightening despotism, one where voices of dissent, from the left and the right, are censored and all who refuse to accept the new global order are labeled as domestic terrorists and pounded into submission. Societal breakdown, which is looming, brings with it grotesque political distortions. Trump was a symptom of this breakdown. He was not the disease. This the dystopian future, one that will probably end in the United States in a form of Christian fascism, has been bequeathed to us by the ruling global elites, who in another era would have been found promenading thought the halls of Versailles or the Forbidden City.

[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

'The truth hurt': Civil rights attorney explains why the empire is not done with Julian Assange

Shortly after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes — including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints — the towering civil rights attorneys Michael Ratner and Len Weinglass, who had defended Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers case, met Julian Assange in a studio apartment in Central London, according to Ratner's newly released memoir "Moving the Bar".

This article originally appeared on Scheerpost.

Assange had just returned to London from Sweden where he had attempted to create the legal framework to protect WikiLeaks' servers in Sweden. Shortly after his arrival in Stockholm, his personal bank cards were blocked. He had no access to funds and was dependent on supporters. Two of these supporters were women with whom he had consensual sex. As he was preparing to leave, the Swedish media announced that he was wanted for questioning about allegations of rape. The women, who never accused Assange of rape, wanted him to take an STD test. They had approached the police about compelling him to comply. "I did not want to put any charges on Julian Assange," texted one of them on August 20 while she was still at the police station, but "the police were keen on getting their hands on him." She said she felt "railroaded by the police." Within 24 hours the chief prosecutor of Stockholm took over the preliminary investigation. He dropped the rape accusation, stating "I don't believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape." Assange, although not charged with a crime, cancelled his departure and remained in Sweden for another five weeks to cooperate with the investigation. A special prosecutor, Marianne Ny, was appointed to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange was granted permission to leave the country. He flew to Berlin. When Assange arrived in Berlin three encrypted laptops with documents detailing US war crimes had disappeared from his luggage.

"We consider the Swedish allegations a distraction," Ratner told Assange, according to his memoir. "We've read the police reports, and we believe the authorities don't have a case. We're here because in our view you are in much more jeopardy in the US Len [Weinglass] can explain why."

Assange, Ratner recalled, remained silent.

"WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political," Weinglass told Assange. "As we learned in the Pentagon Papers case, the US government doesn't like the truth coming out. And it doesn't like to be humiliated. No matter if it's Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets. And if they have to destroy you and the First Amendment and the rights of publishers with you, they are willing to do it. We believe they are going to come after WikiLeaks and you, Julian, as the publisher."

"Come after me for what?" asked Julian.

"Espionage," Weinglass continued, according to the memoir. "They're going to charge Bradley Manning with treason under the Espionage Act of 1917. We don't think it applies to him because he's a whistleblower, not a spy. And we don't think it applies to you either because you are a publisher. But they are going to try to force Manning into implicating you as his collaborator. That's why it's crucial that WikiLeaks and you personally have an American criminal lawyer to represent you."

Ratner and Weinglass laid out potential scenarios.

"The way it could happen," Ratner said, "is that the Justice Department could convene a secret grand jury to investigate possible charges against you. It would probably be in northern Virginia, where everyone on the jury would be a current or retired CIA employee or have worked for some other part of the military-industrial complex. They would be hostile to anyone like you who'd published US government secrets. The grand jury could come up with a sealed indictment, issue a warrant for your arrest, and request extradition."

"What happens if they extradite me?" asked Julian.

"They fly you to where the indictment is issued," Weinglass told Assange. "Then they put you into some hellhole in solitary, and you get treated like Bradley Manning. They put you under what they call special administrative measures, which means you probably would not be allowed communication with anyone. Maybe your lawyer could go in and talk to you, but the lawyer couldn't say anything to the press."

"And it's very, very unlikely that they would give you bail," Ratner added.

"Is it easier to extradite from the UK or from Sweden?" asked Sarah Harrison, who was at the meeting.

"We don't know the answer to that," Ratner replied. "My guess is that you would probably have the most support and the best legal team in a bigger country like the UK In a smaller country like Sweden, the US can use its power to pressure the government, so it would be easier to extradite you from there. But we need to consult with a lawyer who specializes in extradition."

Assange's British lawyer, also at the meeting, proposed that Assange return to Sweden for further questioning.

"I don't think that's wise," Weinglass said, "unless the Swedish government guarantees that Julian will not be extradited to another country because of his publishing work."

"The problem is that Sweden doesn't have bail," Ratner explained. "If they put you in jail in Stockholm and the US pressures the government to extradite you, Sweden might send you immediately to the US and you'd never see the light of day again. It's far less risky to ask the Swedish prosecutor to question you in London."

The US government's determination to extradite Assange and imprison him for life, despite the fact that Assange is not a US citizen and WikiLeaks is not a US based publication, Ratner understood from the start, will be unwavering and relentless.

In the 132-page ruling (pdf) issued today in London by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates' Court the court refused to grant an extradition request only because of the barbarity of the conditions under which Assange would be held while imprisoned in the US.

"Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at [Her Majesty's Prison] Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide," said Baraitser, "and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge."

Assange is charged with violating 17 counts of the Espionage Act, along with an attempt to hack into a government computer. Each of the 17 counts carries a potential sentence of 10 years. The additional charge that Assange conspired to hack into a government computer has a maximum sentence of five years. The judge ominously accepted all of the charges leveled by US prosecutors against Assange — that he violated the Espionage Act by releasing classified information and was complicit in assisting his source, Chelsea Manning, in the hacking of a government computer. It is a very, very dangerous ruling for the media. And if, on appeal, and the US has already said it would appeal, the higher court is assured that Assange will be held in humane conditions, it paves the way for his extradition.

The publication of classified documents is not yet a crime in the United States. If Assange is extradited and convicted, it will become one. The extradition of Assange would mean the end of journalistic investigations into the inner workings of power. It would cement into place a terrifying global, corporate tyranny under which borders, nationality and law mean nothing. Once such a legal precedent is set, any publication that publishes classified material, from The New York Times to an alternative website, will be prosecuted and silenced.

Assange has done more than any contemporary journalist or publisher to expose the inner workings of empire and the lies and crimes of the US ruling elite. The deep animus towards Assange, as fierce within the Democratic Party as the Republican Party, and the cowardice of the media and watchdog groups such as PEN to defend him, mean that all he has left are courageous attorneys, such as Ratner, activists, who protested outside the court, and those few voices of conscience willing to become pariahs in his defense.

Ratner's memoir, which is a profile in courage of the many dissidents, including Assange, he valiantly defended, is also a profile of courage of one of the greatest civil rights attorneys of our era. There are few people I respect more than Michael Ratner, who I accompanied to visit Assange when he was trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. His memoir is not only about his lifelong fight against racial injustice, a rising corporate totalitarianism, and the crimes of empire, but is a sterling example of what it means to live the moral life.

Assange earned the eternal enmity of the Democratic Party establishment by publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. The emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and identified both nations as major funders of Islamic State [ISIL/ISIS]. They exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. They exposed Clinton's repeated mendacity. She was caught in the emails, for example, telling the financial elites that she wanted "open trade and open borders" and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy, a statement that contradicted her campaign statements. They exposed the Clinton campaign's efforts to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee. They exposed Clinton's advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate. They exposed Clinton as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

The Democratic Party, which routinely blames Russia for its election loss to Trump, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers. Hillary Clinton has called WikiLeaks a Russian front. James Comey, the former FBI director, however, conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary, and Assange has said the emails were not provided by "state actors."

Journalists can argue that this information, like the war logs, should have remained hidden, but they can't then call themselves journalists.

A few weeks after Ratner's first meeting with Assange, WikiLeaks published 220 documents from Cablegate, the US State Department classified cables that Chelsea Manning had provided to WikiLeaks. The cables had been sent to the State Department from US diplomatic missions, consulates, and embassies around the globe. The 251,287 cables dated from December 1966 to February 2010. The release dominated the news and filled the pages of The New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País.

"The extent and importance of the Cablegate revelations took my breath away," Ratner, who died in 2016, wrote in his memoir. "They pulled back the curtain and revealed how American foreign policy functions behind-the-scenes, manipulating events all over the globe. They also provided access to US diplomats' raw, frank, and often embarrassing assessments of foreign leaders. Some of the most stunning revelations:

  • In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered US diplomats to spy on UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other UN representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK. The information she asked for included DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords. US and British diplomats also eavesdropped on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • The US has been secretly launching missile, bomb, and drone attacks on terrorist targets in Yemen, killing civilians. But to protect the US, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Gen. David Petraeus, "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."
  • Saudi King Abdullah repeatedly urged the US to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities to "cut off the head of the snake." Other leaders from Israel, Jordan, and Bahrain also urged the US to attack Iran.
  • The White House and Secretary of State Clinton refused to condemn the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya, ignoring a cable from the US embassy there that described the coup as "illegal and unconstitutional." Instead of calling for the restoration of Zelaya, the US supported elections orchestrated by the coup's leader, Roberto Micheletti. Opposition leaders and international observers boycotted those elections.
  • Employees of a US government contractor in Afghanistan, DynCorp, hired "dancing boys" — a euphemism for child prostitutes — to be used as sex slaves.
  • In various cables, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is called "an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him." Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and her husband Néstor Kirchner, the former president, are described as "paranoid." President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is described as "thin-skinned" and "authoritarian." Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is called "feckless, vain, and ineffective."
  • Perhaps most important, the cables said that Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had "lost touch with the Tunisian people" and described "high-level corruption, a sclerotic regime, and deep hatred of . . . Ben Ali's wife and her family." These revelations led to the eventual overthrow of the regime in Tunisia. The Tunisian protests spread like wildfire to other countries of the Middle East, resulting in the widespread revolts of the Arab Spring of 2011.

Secretary of State Clinton said after the release of the cables, "Disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper functioning of responsible government." Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department was conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation into WikiLeaks." Then US Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) called WikiLeaks "a terrorist organization." Former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called for WikiLeaks to be shut down and Assange treated as "an enemy combatant who's engaged in information warfare against the United States."

"For those who ran the American empire, the truth hurt," Ratner writes. "For the rest of us, it was liberating. With the 2010 release of the Collateral Murder video, the Afghan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs, and Cablegate, WikiLeaks went far beyond traditional investigative reporting. It proved that in the new digital world, full transparency was not only possible, but necessary in order to hold governments accountable for their actions."

"On November 30, 2010, two days after the initial release of Cablegate, Sweden issued an Interpol 'Red Alert Notice' normally used to warn about terrorists," Ratner goes on. "It also issued a European Arrest Warrant seeking Assange's extradition to Sweden. Since he was wanted only for questioning about the sexual misconduct allegations, it seemed clear from the timing and severity of the warrant that the US had successfully pressured the Swedes."

The efforts to extradite Assange intensified. He was held for ten days in solitary confinement at Wandsworth Prison before being released on bail of 340,000 pounds. He spent 551 days under house arrest, forced to wear an electronic anklet and check in with police twice a day. Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, and Western Union refused to process donations to WikiLeaks.

"It became virtually impossible for anyone to donate to WikiLeaks, and its income immediately plummeted by 95 percent," Ratner writes. "But none of the financial institutions could point to any illegal activity by WikiLeaks, and none had imposed any restrictions on WikiLeaks' mainstream co-publishers. The financial blockade applied only to WikiLeaks."

Ratner was soon spending several days a month in England conferring with Assange and his legal team. Ratner also attended the trial at Fort Meade in Maryland for Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning), certain that it would illuminate how the US government intended to go after Assange.

"Prosecutors in the Bradley Manning case revealed internet chat logs between Manning and an unnamed person at WikiLeaks who they said colluded with Manning by helping the accused traitor engineer a reverse password," he writes. "Without supporting evidence, prosecutors claimed the unnamed person was Assange. Both Manning and Assange denied it. Nonetheless, it was clear that what Len [Weinglass] and I had predicted was happening. The case against Bradley Manning was also a case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The two were inextricably linked."

Manning was charged with 22 violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Espionage Act, including aiding the enemy — which carries a possible death sentence — wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet, and theft of public property.

"I couldn't get over the irony of it all," Ratner writes. "On trial was the whistle-blower who leaked documents showing the number of civilians killed in Iraq, the Collateral Murder video, Reuters journalists being killed, children being shot. To me, the people who should be the defendants were the ones who started the Afghan and Iraq wars, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the officials who carried out torture, the people who committed the very crimes that Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks exposed. And those who should be observing were the ghosts of the dead Reuters journalists and the ghosts of the children and others killed in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"A week after Manning's arraignment, WikiLeaks published an internal e-mail dated January 26, 2011 from the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor)," Ratner goes on. "Part of a trove of five million e-mails that the hacker group Anonymous obtained from Stratfor's servers, it was written by Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, a former State Department counter-terrorism expert. It stated clearly: 'We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.' Another of Burton's e-mails was more vivid: 'Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He'll be eating cat food forever.'"

"The e-mails revealed how far the US government would go to protect its dirty secrets, and how it would use its own secrecy as a weapon," Ratner writes. "Somehow Stratfor, which has been called a shadow CIA, had information about this sealed indictment that neither WikiLeaks, Assange, nor his lawyers had."

Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to the maximum ten years in federal prison for the Stratfor hack and leak. He remains imprisoned.

On June 14, 2012, the UK Supreme Court issued its verdict affirming the extradition order to Sweden. Assange, cornered, was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he would remain for seven years until British police in April 2019 raided the embassy, sovereign territory of Ecuador, and placed him in solitary confinement in the notorious high-security HM Prison Belmarsh.

The arrest eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities, embraced by the Ecuadorian, British and US governments, in the seizure of Assange were ominous. They presaged a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes — especially war crimes — carried out by corporate states and the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. They presaged a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power will be hunted down, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms in solitary confinement. They presaged an Orwellian dystopia where news is replaced with propaganda, trivia and entertainment.

Under what law did Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno capriciously terminate Julian Assange's rights of asylum as a political refugee? Under what law did Moreno authorize British police to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy — diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory — to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador? Under what law did Prime Minister Theresa May order the British police to grab Assange, who has never committed a crime? Under what law did President Donald Trump demand the extradition of Assange, who is not a US citizen and whose news organization is not based in the United States?

"As a journalist and publisher of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange had every right to asylum," Ratner writes. "The law is clear. The exercise of political free speech — including revealing government crimes, misconduct, or corruption — is internationally protected and is grounds for asylum. The US government has recognized this right, having granted asylum to several journalists and whistleblowers, most notably from China."

"My view is that mass surveillance is not really about preventing terrorism, but is much more about social control," Ratner writes. "It's about stopping an uprising like the ones we had here in the US in the '60s and '70s. It shocks me that Americans are passively allowing this and that all three branches of government have done nothing about it. Despite mass surveillance, my message for people is the same one that Mother Jones delivered a century ago: organize, organize, organize. Yes, the surveillance state will try to scare you. They will be watching and listening. You won't even know whether your best friend is an informant. Take whatever security precautions you can. But do not be intimidated. Whether you call it the sweep of history or the sweep of revolution, in the end, the surveillance state cannot stop people from moving toward the kind of change that will make their lives better."

Chris Hedges: Here's the real lesson we should learn from the rise of demagogue Trump

Joe Biden and the systems managers of the deep state and empire are returning to power. Trump and his coterie of buffoons, racists, con artists and Christian fascists are sullenly preparing to leave office. U.S. pharmaceutical corporations are starting to disseminate vaccines to mitigate the globe's worst outbreak of COVID-19 that has resulted in more than 2,600 deaths per day. America, as Biden says, is back, ready to take its place at the head of the table. In the battle for the soul of America, he assures us, democracy has prevailed. Progress, prosperity, civility and a reassertion of American prestige and power are, we are promised, weeks away.

This article originally appeared at ScheerPost.com.

But the real lesson we should learn from the rise of a demagogue such as Trump, who received 74 million votes, and a pandemic that our for-profit health care industry proved unable to contain, is that we are losing control as a nation and as a species. Far more dangerous demagogues will arise from the imperial and neoliberal policies the Biden administration will embrace. Far worse pandemics will sweep the globe with higher rates of infections and mortality, an inevitable result of our continued consumption of animals and animal products, and the wanton destruction of the ecosystem on which we and other species depend for life.

"One of the most pathetic aspects of human history," Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, "is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun."

Biden's appointments are drawn almost exclusively from the circles of the Democratic Party and corporate elite, those responsible for the massive social inequality, trade deals, de-industrialization, militarized police, world's largest prison system, austerity programs that abolished social programs such as welfare, the revived Cold War with Russia, wholesale government surveillance, endless wars in the Middle East and the disenfranchisement and impoverishment of the working class. The Washington Post writes that "about 80 percent of the White House and agency officials he's announced have the word 'Obama' on their résumé from previous White House or Obama campaign jobs." Bernie Sanders, apparently rebuffed in his efforts to become secretary of labor in the Biden administration, has expressed frustration with the Biden nominations. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was denied a seat by House Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee because of her support for the Green New Deal. The message of the Biden administration to progressives and left-wing populists is very clear – "Drop dead."

The list of new administration officials includes retired General Lloyd J. Austin III who is being nominated to be secretary of defense. Austin is on the board of Raytheon Technologies and a partner at Pine Island Capital, a firm that invests in defense industries and also includes Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee to be secretary of state. Blinken, who was deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state, is a strong supporter of the apartheid state of Israel. He was one of the architects of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and a proponent of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, resulting in yet another failed state in the Middle East.

Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chair under Barack Obama, is slated to be Treasury Secretary. Yellen as the chair of Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) and later as a member of the board of the Federal Reserve, backed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which led to the banking crisis of 2008. She supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She also lobbied for a new statistical metric intended to lower payments to senior citizens on Social Security. Yellen backed "quantitative easing" that provided trillions in virtually no-interest loans to Wall Street, loans used to bail out banks and corporations and engage in massive stock buy-backs while the victims of financial fraud were abandoned.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is to become a special envoy for climate. Kerry championed the massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production, largely through fracking, and, according to Obama's memoir, worked doggedly to convince those concerned about the climate crisis to "offer up concessions on subsidies for the nuclear power industry and the opening of additional U.S. coastlines to offshore oil drilling."

Avril Haines, a former Obama deputy CIA chief, is to become Biden's director of national intelligence. Haines oversaw Obama's expanded and murderous drone program overseas and backed Gina Haspel's nomination to be the head of the CIA, despite Haspels' direct involvement in the CIA torture program carried out in black sites around the globe. Haines called Haspel "intelligent, compassionate, and fair." Brian Deese, the executive who was in charge of the "climate portfolio" at BlackRock, which invests heavily in fossil fuels, including coal, and who served as a former Obama economic adviser who advocated austerity measures, has been chosen to run the White House's economic policy.

Neera Tanden, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, has been picked to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden, as the head of the Democratic Party's thinktank, the Center for American Progress, raised millions in dark money from Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Her donors include Bain Capital, Blackstone, Evercore, Walmart and the defense contractor Northrup Grumman. The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, also gave the thinktank between $1.5 million and $3 million. She relentlessly ridicules Sanders and his supporters on cable news and social media. She also proposed a plank in the Democratic platform calling for the bombing Iran.

The perpetuation of the deeply unpopular wars and onerous neoliberal policies by the Biden administration will be accompanied by a fevered demonization of Russia, most recently blamed for cyber-attacks. A new Cold War with Russia will be used by the corporate Democrats to discredit domestic and foreign critics and deflect attention from the political stagnation and the corporate pillaging of the country. It will allow MSNBC and The New York Times, which spent two years slogging empty Russiagate conspiracies, to disseminate a daily stream of emotionally charged rumors and shady accusations about Russia. Cable celebrities such as Rachel Maddow will hyperventilate night after night about Russia while ignoring the corruption of the Biden administration. The only reason Russia is not blamed for rigging the election in 2020, as opposed to 2016, by the Democratic Party is because Trump was defeated.

Biden, after his defeat in the Democratic Party Caucus in Nevada by Bernie Sanders, where Sanders got more than twice his vote, immediately played the Russian card, telling CBS News that the "Russians don't want me to be the nominee, they like Bernie." Hillary Clinton started this dirty game when she attacked 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein as a "Russian asset" and in 2020 leveled the same charge against Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The Democrats need an enemy, real or fictious, and Silicon Valley and major manufacturers will not allow them to target China.

More of the same means more disaster. If we want to reclaim our open society and save the ecosystem, we must abolish the corporate stranglehold on global economic and political power. If we want to avert zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, swine flu, avian flu, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow disease), Ebola, and SARS we must stop consuming animals and their bodily secretions. We must abolish factory farming and adopt a vegan diet. And we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Razing the rainforest for cattle grazing and vast tracts of farmland devoted to growing monocrops to feed animals destined for human consumption are responsible for up to 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction since 1970. The loss of forests is one of the single biggest contributors to climate change. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead zones. Oceans could be devoid of fish by 2048. Each minute, 7 million pounds of feces are produced by the animals raised for human food in the US alone. The continued destruction of natural habitat, coupled with the vast factory farms which use 80 percent of the antibiotics in the U.S. and incubate drug-resistant pathogens that spread to human populations, presage new forms of the Black Death.

The belief that we can maintain current levels of consumption, especially of animal products, capitalist expansion, imperial wars, a reliance on fossil fuels and abject subservience to unfettered corporate power, which has solidified the worst income inequality in human history, is not a form of hope but suicidal self-delusion. We are not headed under the policies of the Biden administration and the global ruling elite for the broad sunlit uplands of a new and glorious future, but economic misery, vast climate migrations, waves of new and more virulent pandemics, of which COVID-19 is a mild precursor, along with irreversible ecological systems collapse and frightening forms of societal breakdown, authoritarianism and neofascism.

Global warming is inevitable. It cannot be stopped. At best, it can be slowed. Over the next 50 years the earth will most likely heat up to levels that will make whole parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people will be displaced. Millions of species will go extinct. Cities on or near a coast, including New York and London, will be submerged.

Oceans absorb much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters, resulting in the deoxygenation of the oceans. Each of the earth's five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one part of what climate scientists call the "deadly trio" – warming, acidification and deoxygenation of the oceans. The next mass extinction of sea life is already under way, the first in some 55 million years.

This is not defeatism. It is realism. We appear to have bought four years with Biden's election, but if we do not use it wisely – and there is nothing in the Biden nominations that offer any encouragement – we are merely reconstructing a shabby Potemkin village that will soon be flattened by the gale-force political and environmental hurricanes that are gathering around us.

One of the lessons I learned from covering wars and revolutions as a foreign correspondent is that the political, economic and cultural systems that are erected by any society are very fragile. The façade of power remains in place, as I saw in Eastern Europe during the 1989 revolutions and later in Yugoslavia, long after terminal rot has consumed the foundations. This façade fools a society into thinking the structures of authority remain solid, impervious to collapse. So, when collapse comes, which should have been long predicted, it appears sudden and incomprehensible. The ensuing chaos is disorienting and frightening. The cognitive dissonance between the perception of power and its rapid dissolution feeds self-delusion. It creates, as I witnessed in the former Yugoslavia, what anthropologists call crisis cults, as well as bizarre conspiracy theories, fascism and the embrace of inchoate violence to purge society of the demons blamed for the national debacle. Hatred becomes the highest form of patriotism. The vulnerable are scapegoated. Intellectuals, journalists and scientists rooted in a fact-based world are despised. Ruling elites and ruling structures lose all credibility. This collapse is often a portal to a world of nihilism and blood-drenched fantasy.

After four years of lies, the stoking of racist violence, stunning ineptitude, rampant corruption and an abject failure to cope with a national health crisis, Trump expanded his base by 11 million votes. This should be a huge, flashing red light. Worse, 70 percent of Trump voters, 51 million Americans, believe that "radical Left Democrats" and the deep state rigged the elections through "voter fraud," including the importation of Venezuelan voting software, illegitimate mail-in ballots and the wholesale destruction of Trump ballots by election officials. One hundred and twenty-six Republican House members joined a lawsuit filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general asking the Supreme Court to overturn Biden's victory. The vast majority of Republican senators refused to acknowledge the election results following the November vote. Electors from the Electoral College were forced in several states to deliver their votes to state legislatures under armed guard. Some two dozen armed protesters carrying American flags and chanting "Stop the Steal" descended on the home of Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Seven hundred members of the white nationalist group the Proud Boys took over streets in Washington last weekend to protest the alleged theft of the election, leading to more than three dozen arrests, four stabbings, the vandalizing of four Black churches, and Black Lives Matter banners and signs ripped down and burned.

Trump may be gone soon, but he leaves behind a party that is openly authoritarian, dismissive of democratic norms, an enemy to science and fact-based discourse and which attempted a coup d'état. The next time around they won't be so disorganized and inept. This hostility to democracy by one of the two ruling parties, supported by millions of Americans, many of whom were betrayed by Biden and the leaders of the Democratic Party, will not dissipate but grow, especially as the hammer of economic dislocation, including the looming evictions of millions of Americans, pummels the country.

The decades-long corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts, universities and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored. These Cassandras, locked out of the national debate, are dismissed as unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. The country is consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth. It is this delusional hope that will doom us.

The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, who with a handful of other writers and artists desperately tried to warn of the suicidal folly of World War I, wrote of what he called "the mental superiority of the defeated." His anti-war play Jeremiah, based on the Biblical prophet Jeremiah who issued warnings in vain, illustrated that those who face reality, however bitter, are able to endure and rise above it.

"Awaken, doomed city, that thou mayest save thyself," the prophet cries out in Zweig's play. "Awaken from your heavy slumbers, heedless ones, lest you be slain in sleep; awaken, for the walls are crumbling, and will crush you; awaken."

But the warnings from Jeremiah, called "the weeping prophet," were ignored and ridiculed. He was attacked for demoralizing the people. There were plots against his life. When the Babylonian army captured Jerusalem, Jeremiah, like Julian Assange, was in prison.

"I was always attracted to showing how any form of power can harden a human being's heart, how victory can bring mental rigidity to whole nations, and to contrasting that with the emotional force of defeat painfully and terribly ploughing through the soul," Zweig wrote in his memoir, "The World of Yesterday". "In the middle of war, while others, celebrating triumph too soon, were proving to one another that victory was inevitable, I was plumbing the depths of the catastrophe and looking for a way to emerge from them."

We cannot use the word hope if we refuse to face the truth. All hope rooted in self-delusion is fantasy. We must lift the filter from our eyes to see the danger before us. We must heed the warnings of our own prophets. We must destroy the centers of power that lure us and our children, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, to certain doom. The walls, daily, are closing in around us. The radical evil we face is as real under Trump as it will be under Biden. And if this radical evil is not smashed, then the world ahead will be one of torment and mass death.

[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost every two weeks. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The liberal class's Faustian bargain: Profit from the ravages of neoliberalism while we descend into Christianized fascism

Liberals who express dismay, or more bizarrely a fevered hope, about the corporatists and imperialists selected to fill the positions in the Biden administration are the court jesters of our political burlesque. They long ago sold their soul and abandoned their most basic principles to line up behind a bankrupt Democratic Party. They chant, with every election cycle, the mantra of the least worst and sit placidly on the sidelines as a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership betray every issue they claim to support.

This article originally appeared on ScheerPost.com.

The only thing that mattered to liberals in the presidential race, once again, was removing a Republican, this time Donald Trump, from office. This, the liberals achieved. But their Faustian bargain, in election after election, has shredded their credibility. They are ridiculed, not only among right-wing Trump supporters but by the hierarchy of the Democratic Party that has been captured by corporate power. No one can, or should, take liberals seriously. They stand for nothing. They fight for nothing. The cost is too onerous. And so, the liberals do what they always do, chatter endlessly about political and moral positions they refuse to make any sacrifices to achieve.

Liberals, largely comprised of the professional managerial-class that dutifully recycles and shops for organic produce and is concentrated on the two coasts, have profited from the ravages of neoliberalism. They seek to endow it with a patina of civility. But their routine and public humiliation has ominous consequences. It not only exposes the liberal class as hollow and empty, it discredits the liberal democratic values they claim to uphold. Liberals should have abandoned the Democratic Party when Bill Clinton and political hacks such as Biden transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party and launched a war on traditional liberal values and left-wing populism. They should have defected by the millions to support Ralph Nader and other Green Party candidates.

This defection, as Nader understood, was the only tactic that could force the Democrats to adopt parts of a liberal and left-wing agenda and save us from the slow-motion corporate coup d'état. Fear is the real force behind political change, not oily promises of mutual goodwill. Short of this pressure, this fear, especially with labor unions destroyed, there is no hope. Now we will reap the consequences of the liberal class's moral and political cowardice.

The Democratic Party elites revel in taunting liberals as well as the left-wing populists who preach class warfare and supported Bernie Sanders. How are we supposed to interpret the appointment of Antony Blinken, one of the architects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and supporter of the apartheid state of Israel, as Secretary of State? Or John Kerry, who championed the massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production, largely through fracking, and, according to Barack Obama's memoir, worked doggedly to convince those concerned about the climate crisis to "offer up concessions on subsidies for the nuclear power industry and the opening of additional U.S. coastlines to offshore oil drilling" as the new climate policy czar? Or Brian Deese, the executive who was in charge of the "climate portfolio" at BlackRock, which invests heavily in fossil fuels, including coal, and who served as a former Obama economic adviser who advocated austerity measures, to run the White House's economic policy? Or Neera Tanden, for director of the Office of Management and Budget, who as president of the Center for American Progress raised millions in dark money from Silicon Valley and Wall Street while relentlessly ridiculing Bernie Sanders and his supporters on cable news and social media and who proposed a plank in the Democratic platform calling for bombing Iran?

The Biden administration resembles the ineffectual German government formed by Franz von Papen in 1932 that sought to recreate the ancien régime, a utopian conservatism that ensured Germany's drift into fascism. Biden, bereft like von Papen of new ideas and programs, will eventually be forced to employ the brutal tools Biden as a senator was so prominent in creating to maintain social control – wholesale surveillance, a corrupt judicial system, the world's largest prison system and police that have been transformed into lethal paramilitary units of internal occupation. Those that resist as social unrest mounts will be attacked as agents of a foreign power and censored, as many already are being censored, including through algorithms and deplatforming on social media. The most ardent and successful dissidents, such as Julian Assange, will be criminalized.

The shock troops of the state, already ideologically bonded with the neofascists on the right, will hunt down and wipe out an enfeebled and often phantom left, as we saw in the chilling state assassination by U.S. Marshals of the antifa activist Michael Reinoehl, who was unarmed and standing outside an apartment complex in Lacey, Washington, in September when he was shot multiple times. I witnessed this kind of routine state terror during the war in El Salvador. Reinoehl allegedly killed Aaron Danielson, a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during a pro-Trump rally in Portland, Oregon in August.

Compare the gunning down of Reinoehl by federal agents to the coddling of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of killing two protesters and injuring a third on August 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Police officers, moments before the shooting, are seen on video thanking Rittenhouse and other armed right-wing militia member for coming to the city and handing them bottles of water. Rittenhouse is also seen in a video walking toward police with his hands up after his shooting spree as protesters yell that he had shot several people. Police, nevertheless, allow him to leave. Rittenhouse's killings have been defended by the right, including Trump. Rittenhouse, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for his legal fees, has been released on $2 million bail.

We stand on the cusp of a frightening authoritarianism. Social unrest, given a continuation of neoliberalism, the climate crisis, the siphoning off of diminishing resources to the bloated war machine, political stagnation and the failure to contain the pandemic and its economic fallout, is almost certain. Absent a left-wing populism, a disenfranchised working class will line up, as it did with Trump, behind its counterfeit, a right-wing populism. The liberal elites will, if history is any guide, justify state repression as a response to social chaos in the name of law and order. That they, too, are on the Christian Right and the corporate state's long list of groups to be neutralized will become evident to them when it is too late.

It was Friedrich Ebert and the Social Democratic Party of Germany, siding with the conservatives and nationalists, that created the Freikorps, private paramilitary groups composed of demobilized soldiers and malcontents. The Freikorps ruthlessly crushed left-wing uprisings in Berlin, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Halle, Leipzig, Silesia, Thuringia and the Ruhr. When the Freikorps was not gunning down left-wing populists in the streets and carrying out hundreds of political assassinations, including the murder of Walther Rathenau, the foreign minister, it was terrorizing civilians, looting and pillaging. The Freikorps became the antecedent of the Nazi Brownshirts, led by Ernst Röhm, a former Freikorps commander.

All the pieces are in place for our own descent into what I suspect will be a militarized Christianized fascism. Political dysfunction, a bankrupt and discredited liberal class, massive and growing social inequality, a grotesquely rich and tone-deaf oligarchic elite, the fragmentation of the public into warring tribes, widespread food insecurity and hunger, chronic underemployment and unemployment and misery, all exacerbated by the failure of the state to cope with the crisis of the pandemic, combine with the rot of civil and political life to create a familiar cocktail leading to authoritarianism and fascism.

Trump and the Republican Party, along with the shrill incendiary voices on right-wing media, play the role the antisemitic parties played in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th century. The infusion of anti-Semitism into the political debate in Europe destroyed the political decorum and civility that is vital to maintaining a democracy. Racist tropes and hate speech, as in Weimar Germany, now poison our political discourse. Ridicule and cruel taunts are hurled back and forth. Lies are interchangeable with fact. Those who oppose us are demonized as human embodiments of evil.

This poisonous discourse is only going to get worse, especially with millions of Trump supporters convinced the election was rigged and stolen. The German Social Democrat Kurt Schumacher in the 1930s said that fascism "is a constant appeal to the inner swine in human beings" and succeeds by "mobilizing human stupidity." This mobilized stupidity, accompanied by what Rainer Maria Rilke called "the evil effluvium from the human swamp," is being amplified and intensified in the siloed media chambers of the right. This hate-filled rhetoric eschews reality to cater to the desperate desire for emotional catharsis, for renewed glory and prosperity and for acts of savage vengeance against the phantom enemies blamed for our national debacle.

The constant barrage of vitriol and fabulist conspiracy theories will, I fear, embolden extremists to carry out political murder, not only of mainstream Democrats, Republicans Trump has accused of betrayal such as Georgia governor Brian Kemp and those targeted as part of the deep state, but also those at media outlets such as CNN or The New York Times that serve as propaganda arms of the Democratic Party. Once the Pandora's box of violence is opened it is almost impossible to close. Martyrs on one side of the divide demand martyrs on the other side. Violence becomes the primary form of communication. And, as Sabastian Haffner wrote, "once the violence and readiness to kill that lies beneath the surface of human nature has been awakened and turned against other humans, and even made into a duty, it is a simple matter to change the target."

This, I suspect, is what is coming. The blame lies not only with the goons and racists on the right, the corporatists who pillage the country and the corrupt ruling elite that does their bidding, but a feckless liberal class that found standing up for its beliefs too costly. The liberals will pay for their timidity and cowardice, but so will we.

The widening disconnect from reality by ruling elite is masking their complicity —  here's how

Joe Biden's victory instantly obliterated the Democratic Party's longstanding charge that Russia was hijacking and compromising US elections. The Biden victory, the Democratic Party leaders and their courtiers in the media now insist, is evidence that the democratic process is strong and untainted, that the system works. The elections ratified the will of the people.

But imagine if Donald Trump had been reelected. Would the Democrats and pundits at The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC pay homage to a fair electoral process? Or, having spent four years trying to impugn the integrity of the 2016 presidential race, would they once again haul out the blunt instrument of Russian interference to paint Trump as Vladimir Putin's Manchurian candidate?

Trump and Giuliani are vulgar and buffoonish, but they play the same slimy game as their Democratic opponents. The Republicans scapegoat the deep state, communists and now, bizarrely, Venezuela; the Democrats scapegoat Russia. The widening disconnect from reality by the ruling elite is intended to mask their complicity in the seizure of power by predatory global corporations and billionaires.

"This is a disgraceful thing that was done in this country," Giuliani said at his recent bad-hair-day press conference. "Probably not much more disgraceful than the things these people did in office, which you didn't and don't bother to cover and you conceal from the American people, but we let this happen, we use largely a Venezuelan voting machine in essence to count our vote. We let this happen. We're going to become Venezuela. We cannot let this happen to us. We cannot allow these crooks, because that's what they are, to steal an election from the American people. They elected Donald Trump. They didn't elect Joe Biden. Joe Biden is in the lead because of the fraudulent ballots, the illegal ballots, that were produced and that were allowed to be used, after the election was over."

Giuliani's rant was topped by those of Sidney Powell, until yesterday another of Trump's lawyers, who blamed software designed for Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, for Trump's loss, as well as "the massive influence of Communist money." The software "was created so Hugo Chavez would never lose another election, and he did not after that software was created," Powell said. "He won every single election and then they exported it to Argentina and other countries in South America, and then they brought it here."

Compare this to how Hillary Clinton, during the recent primary campaign, warned that the Russians were "grooming" a female candidate, widely assumed to be Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, to run as a third-party candidate to serve Russian interests. Previously, Clinton called the 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein a "Russian asset." She insisted, although the Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors found no evidence to support her charge, that the Trump campaign worked closely in 2016 with Moscow and WikiLeaks — which she insists is a Russian front — to defeat her. Hillary's staff put together a "hit list" in the final days of her 2008 campaign, according to the book, "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, listing those who were loyal to the Clintons those who were not. They used a scale of 1 to 7.

"Step back and think about it," Clinton wrote in her book, "What Happened," about the 2016 election. "The Russians hacked our election systems. They got inside. They tried to delete or alter voter information. This should send a shiver down the spine of every American."

Never mind that both ruling parties are silent about the massive interference in our elections by Israel, which uses its lobbying groups to lavishly fund political candidates in both parties and flies members of Congress and their families to Israel for junkets at seaside resorts. Israel's intrusion in our political process, including when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2015, without informing then President Barack Obama, to attack the president's Iran nuclear deal, dwarfs that of any other country, including Russia.

The two warring factions within the ruling elite, which fight primarily over the spoils of power while abjectly serving corporate interests, peddle alternative realities. If the deep state and Venezuelan socialists or Russia intelligence operatives are pulling the strings no one in power is accountable for the rage and alienation caused by the social inequality, the unassailability of corporate power, the legalized bribery that defines our political process, the endless wars, austerity and de-industrialization. The social breakdown is, instead, the fault of shadowy phantom enemies manipulating groups such as Black Lives Matters or the Green Party.

"The people who run this country have run out of workable myths with which to distract the public, and in a moment of extreme crisis have chosen to stoke civil war and defame the rest of us – black and white – rather than admit to a generation of corruption, betrayal, and mismanagement," Matt Taibbi writes.

These fictional narratives are dangerous. They erode the credibility of democratic institutions and electoral politics. They posit that news and facts are no longer true or false. Information is accepted or discarded based on whether it hurts or promotes one faction over another. While outlets such as Fox News have always existed as an arm of the Republican Party, this partisanship has now infected nearly all news organizations, including publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the major tech platforms that disseminate information and news. A fragmented public with no common narrative believes whatever it wants to believe.

I first assumed this job posting from The New York Times for a Moscow correspondent was a parody posted by the Onion. It wasn't. It speaks volumes about the self-immolation of The New York Times and the press.

JOB DESCRIPTION: Vladimir Putin's Russia remains one of the biggest stories in the world. It sends out hit squads armed with nerve agents against its enemies, most recently the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. It has its cyber agents sow chaos and disharmony in the West to tarnish its democratic systems, while promoting its faux version of democracy. It has deployed private military contractors around the globe to secretly spread its influence. At home, its hospitals are filling up fast with Covid patients as its president hides out in his villa. If that sounds like a place you want to cover, then we have good news: We will have an opening for a new correspondent as Andy Higgins takes over as our next Eastern Europe Bureau Chief early next year.

Of course, every charge leveled here against Russia regarding foreign interference can be leveled in spades against the United States, both in the present and past, and even the implied criticism of its pandemic response seems like a textbook case of projection. More to the point, why should the Times even send someone to Moscow to report on what Russians think, feel and how they view themselves and the world if they have already decided they are a cartoon villain? Why have a Moscow bureau at all?

A parody response circulating on the internet imagined a parallel posting by Pravda for a U.S. correspondent:

JOB DESCRIPTION: Donald Trump's America remains one of the biggest stories in the world. It sends out its armies, its drones, and its agents around the world to kill its enemies. It has its cyber agents sow chaos and disharmony, undermining and overthrowing regimes, while promoting its faux version of democracy. It has deployed private military contractors around the globe to secretly spread its influence. At home, its hospitals are filling up fast with Covid patients as its president hides out on the golf course. If that sounds like a place you want to cover, then we have good news. We will have an opening for a new correspondent.

I was a foreign correspondent for twenty years, fifteen of them with The New York Times. My job was to become bicultural, which requires hundreds of hours of language classes, to see the world from the perspective of those I covered and reflect it back to an American audience. But this type of reporting is now anachronistic. The paper might as well rehire the con artist Jayson Blair to sit in his apartment and snort coke while filing fictional variants on the preordained narrative the paper demands. Or maybe computer algorithms can do the job.

I guess I should not be surprised. After all, it was the Times that produced a ten-part podcast by its reporter Rukmini Callimachi based on interviews with a Muslim identified as Abu Huzayfah al-Kanadi who claimed to have been a member of ISIS in the Middle East. He provided lurid accounts of murders and crucifixions he supposedly carried out. His stories, catering to the rampant Islamophobia that poisons American society, were the audio version of snuff films. They were also a lie. The Canadian "Abu Huzayfah," whose real name was Shehroze Chaudhry, was arrested in September 2020 by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and charged under Canadian hoax laws for fabricating his story.

The flagrant partisanship and discrediting of truth across the political spectrum are swiftly fueling the rise of an authoritarian state. The credibility of democratic institutions and electoral politics, already deeply corrupted by PACs, the electoral college, lobbyists, the disenfranchisement of third-party candidates, gerrymandering and voter suppression, is being eviscerated.

Silicon Valley billionaires, including Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, donated more than $100 million to a Democratic super PAC that created a torrent of anti-Trump TV ads in the final weeks of the campaign to elect Biden. The heavy infusion of corporate money to support Biden wasn't done to protect democracy. It was done because these corporations and billionaires know a Biden administration will serve their interests.

The press, meanwhile, has largely given up on journalism. It has retreated into competing echo chambers that only speak to true believers. This catering exclusively to one demographic, which it sets against another demographic, is commercially profitable. But it also guarantees the balkanization of the United States and edges us closer and closer to fratricide.

When Trump leaves the White House millions of his enraged supports, hermetically sealed inside hyperventilating media platforms that feed back to them their rage and hate, will see the vote as fraudulent, the political system as rigged, and the establishment press as propaganda. They will target, I fear, through violence, the Democratic Party politicians, mainstream media outlets and those they demonize as conspiratorial members of the deep state, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. The Democratic Party is as much to blame for this disintegration as Trump and the Republican Party.

The election of Biden is also very bad news for journalists such as Matt Taibbi, Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberley, Glenn Greenwald, Jeffrey St. Clair or Robert Scheer who refuse to be courtiers to the ruling elites. Journalists that do not spew the approved narrative of the right-wing, or, alternatively, the approved narrative of the Democratic Party, have a credibility the ruling elite fears. The worse things get – and they will get worse as the pandemic leaves hundreds of thousands dead and thrusts millions of Americans into severe economic distress –the more those who seek to hold the ruling elites, and in particular the Democratic Party, accountable will be targeted and censored in ways familiar to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, now in a London prison and facing possible extradition to the United States and life imprisonment.

Barack Obama's assault on civil liberties, which included the repeated misuse of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers, the passage of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to permit the military to act as a domestic police force and the ordering of the assassination of U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists in Yemen, was far worse than those of George W. Bush. Biden's assault on civil liberties, I suspect, will surpass those of the Obama administration.

The censorship was heavy handed during the campaign. Digital media platforms, including Google, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, along with the establishment press worked shamelessly as propaganda arms for the Biden campaign. They were determined not to make the "mistake" they made in 2016 when they reported on the damaging emails, released by WikiLeaks, from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. Although the emails were genuine, papers such as The New York Times routinely refer to the Podesta emails as "disinformation." This, no doubt, pleases its readership, 91 percent of whom identify as Democrats according to the Pew Research Center. But it is another example of journalistic malfeasance.

Following the election of Trump, the media outlets that cater to a Democratic Party readership made amends. The New York Times was one of the principal platforms that amplified Russiagate conspiracies, most of which turned out to be false. At the same time, the paper largely ignored the plight of the disposed working class that supported Trump. When the Russiagate story collapsed, the paper pivoted to focus on race, embodied in the 1619 Project. The root cause of social disintegration — the neoliberal order, austerity and deindustrialization — was ignored since naming it would alienate the paper's corporate advertisers and the elites on whom the paper depends for access.

Once the 2020 election started, The New York Times and other mainstream outlets censored and discredited information that could hurt Biden, including a tape of Joe Biden speaking with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, which appears to be authentic. They gave credibility to any rumor, however spurious, which was unfavorable to Trump. Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story about the emails allegedly found on Hunter Biden's discarded laptop. Twitter locked the New York Post out of its own account for over a week. Glenn Greenwald, whose article on Hunter Biden was censored by his editors at The Intercept, which he helped found, resigned. He released the email exchanges with his editors over his article. Ignoring the textual evidence of censorship, editors and writers at The Intercept engaged in a public campaign of character assassination against Greenwald. This sordid behavior by self-identified progressive journalists is a page out of the Trump playbook and a sad commentary on the collapse of journalistic integrity.

The censorship and manipulation of information was honed and perfected against WikiLeaks. When WikiLeaks tries to release information, it is hit with botnets or distributed denial of service attacks. Malware attacks WikiLeaks' domain and website. The WikiLeaks site is routinely shut down or unable to serve its content to its readers. Attempts by WikiLeaks to hold press conferences see the audio distorted and the visual images corrupted. Links to WikiLeaks events are delayed or cut. Algorithms block the dissemination of WikiLeaks content. Hosting services, including Amazon, removed WikiLeaks from its servers. Julian Assange, after releasing the Iraqi war logs, saw his bank accounts and credit cards frozen. WikiLeaks' PayPal accounts were disabled to cut off donations. The Freedom of the Press Foundation in December 2017 closed down the anonymous funding channel to WikiLeaks which was set up to protect the anonymity of donors. A well-orchestrated smear campaign against Assange was amplified and given credibility by the mass media and filmmakers such as Alex Gibney. Assange and WikiLeaks were first. We are next.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told CNN during this campaign that Russian disinformation efforts are "more problematic" than in 2016. He warned that "this time around, the Russians have decided to cultivate U.S. citizens as assets. They are attempting to try to spread their propaganda in the mainstream media."

This will be the official mantra of the Democratic Party, a vicious redbaiting campaign without actual reds, especially as the country spirals out of control. The reason I have a show on Russia-funded RT America is the same reason Vaclav Havel could only be heard on the US-funded Voice of America during the communist control of Czechoslovakia. I did not choose to leave the mainstream media. I was pushed out. And once anyone is pushed out, the ruling elite is relentless about discrediting the few platforms left willing to give them, and the issues they raise, a hearing.

"If the problem is 'American citizens' being cultivated as 'assets' trying to put 'interference' in the mainstream media, the logical next step is to start asking Internet platforms to shut down accounts belonging to any American journalist with the temerity to report material leaked by foreigners (the wrong foreigners, of course – it will continue to be okay to report things like the 'black ledger')," writes Taibbi, who has done some of the best reporting on the emerging censorship. "From Fox or the Daily Caller on the right, to left-leaning outlets like Consortium or the World Socialist Web Site, to writers like me even – we're all now clearly in range of new speech restrictions, even if we stick to long-ago-established factual standards."

Taibbi argues that the precedent for overt censorship took place when the major digital platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google, Spotify, YouTube – in a coordinated move blacklisted the right-wing talk show host Alex Jones.

"Liberal America cheered," Taibbi told me when I interviewed him for my show, "On Contact":

They said 'Well this is a noxious figure. This is a great thing. Finally, someone's taking action.' What they didn't realize is that we were trading an old system of speech regulation for a new one without any public discussion. You and I were raised in a system where you got punished for speech if you committed libel or slander or if there was imminent incitement to lawless action, right? That was the standard that the Supreme Court set, but that was done through litigation. There was an open process where you had a chance to rebut charges. That is all gone now. Now, basically there's a handful of these tech distribution platforms that control how people get their media. They've been pressured by the Senate, which has called all of their CEOs in, and basically ordered them, 'We need you to come up with a plan to prevent the sowing of discord and spreading of misinformation.' This has finally come into fruition. You see a major reputable news organization like the New York Post — with a 200-year history — locked out of its own Twitter account. The story [Hunter Biden's emails] has not been disproven. It's not disinformation or misinformation. It's been suppressed as it would be suppressed in a Third World country. It's a remarkable historic moment. The danger is that we end up with a one-party informational system. There's going to be approved dialogue and unapproved dialogue that you can only get through certain fringe avenues. That's the problem. We let these companies get this monopolistic share of the distribution system. Now they're exercising that power.

In the Soviet Union the truth was passed, often hand to hand, in underground samizdat documents, clandestine copies of news and literature banned by the state. The truth will endure. It will be heard by those who seek it out. It will expose the mendacity of the powerful, however hard it will be to obtain. Despotisms fear the truth. They know it is a mortal threat. If we remain determined to live in truth, no matter the cost, we have a chance.

Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost every two weeks. Click here to sign up for email alerts.



Original illustration by Mr. Fish

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