Jan 26, 2017
This is the transcript of a clip from Redacted Tonight published on January 13, 2017, featuring Lee’s interview with Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-Winner, New York Times best-selling author, host of On Contact, and columnist for Truthdig. Transcribed by C. Hayes.
Lee Camp: Chris, thank you so much for joining me here. I’ll just jump right into it! We’re in the midst of this fervor of hatred toward Russia, but the mainstream media seems to have no interest in talking about the fact that, even if there were proof that they somehow outed the Podesta emails through Wikileaks – which, I’ve seen no proof, but even if there were – the mainstream media doesn’t seem to mention that, a) look, the emails revealed corruption – so if you don’t want your corruption revealed – Don’t be corrupt! And b) the mainstream media gave $5 billion of free airtime to Donald Trump, and that’s 23 times as much as Bernie Sanders during the primary. So aren’t they as equally responsible for a Trump presidency? This gets no mention!
Chris Hedges: Yeah, completely. It was a cash cow for them, and the head of CBS admitted it. Yeah, I find it all reminiscent of the manipulation of the press to invade Iraq. I don’t know whether the Russians hacked Podesta’s emails, but I know there is not a shred of evidence. And yet, across the media spectrum, they are hyperventilating – Rachel Maddow calls this a “blockbuster” – I mean – she’s just – all of them! And there’s no “there” there. That’s number 1.
And number 2, when you parse it, it’s the whole idea that tens or hundreds of thousands of Clinton supporters woke up one morning, and read the Podesta emails, and decided to vote for Trump! Either that – or remember, because they spent seven pages attacking RT, and they wildly inflate RT’s media influence – either that, or they watched RT, and decided to vote for the Green Party. That’s really what it boils down to. And they’re both equally ridiculous.
But what this is about, I think, is much more insidious. Because it is, first of all, about the Deep State, Republican and Democrat, trying to discredit Trump and essentially tarnish him as being a puppet or an agent of Vladimir Putin. Remember that immediately after the election, who was the bogeyman? It was Comey, at the FBI. But it’s kind of hard to demonize the head of the FBI. It’s a lot easier to demonize Putin. That’s number 1.
Number 2, it is part of this – and we will go back to the Washington Post article, PropOrNot, “shadowy website” – it’s about shutting down the voices of dissidents. I watched the hearings with McCain and Clapper. What’s interesting is not what Clapper said, where he talked about how RT gave voice to people who questioned our human rights, or whatever; it was the vitriol, the anger with which he said it. So it’s part of the campaign to discredit those of us who are dissidents, especially figures like Julian Assange, others – Ralph Nader, Medea Benjamin – who have already been pushed so far to the margins.
I mean, public broadcasting in this country has collapsed. You could go back to the 1960s: you could see Malcolm X, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, all these people were – the Black Panthers, Huey Newton, even. That’s gone! It’s basically underwritten by the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil. So, it’s that. It’s also this need on the part of the war machine to demonize Russia, because they are earning billions of dollars in Eastern Europe, with the expansion of NATO.
Lee: Which gets into weapons of – military-industrial complex, also speaks to Deep State and how that all keeps rolling along.
We can get back to PropOrNot, but I want to jump to, you’re saying, this is Deep State worried about Trump, an outsider to the political establishment, getting in there, and I find, every once in a while, I talk to an odd type of person, that is, a fan of mine, maybe a fan of yours, and they agree with everything we say, and then they go, “Thank goodness Trump got in there, because he’s outside this ruling elite, and he’s going to really shake things up!”
Chris: Right. Well, that shows an utter lack of understanding about where power actually lies in this country, and it doesn’t really lie with the executive branch. That’s why there was complete continuity on almost every issue between Bush and Obama, with this caveat: Obama’s assault on civil liberties was actually worse than under George W. Bush. Of course, he expanded the militarized drone wars, attacking people in countries we’ve not declared war with, he pushed the interpretation of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as giving the executive branch the right to assassinate American citizens – and of course, I’m talking about Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, his 16-year-old son.
Lee: And the assault, you took him to court about that.
Chris: I did, and we won, much to his surprise, and then they appealed. But this was over the destruction of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act through a section, section 1021 inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act, that permits the military to carry out acts of domestic policing. But even more than that, not only can they in essence carry out extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. streets, but they can hold them in military facilities, and strip them of due process and keep them there indefinitely.
Lee: No trial or charges.
Chris: Right. So, this is where we are going, and where we have been going for a long time, regardless of whether it’s been Bush or Obama.
Trump does not come into power with a fixed set of beliefs. He’s very protean, he’s a showman, probably a con artist. He’s not a figure like Sessions, who basically waves the Confederate flag and laments, probably goes home at night and watches “Birth of a Nation.”
Lee: But he’s surrounding himself with those people. Trump is.
Chris: Yes, he is, but that’s the difference. I’m not sure that Trump has any fixed beliefs. And it’s clear that the Deep State, the security and surveillance apparatus, the war machine, all sectors of the Deep State – Democrat and Republican – are going to put the screws on him, to ratchet up or continue this aggressive posture towards Russia, partly because there are large sections of the U.S. economy, i.e., the defense industry, for whom this is a huge profit-making venture, and it’s going to be very hard to extract large amounts of money from, you know, the budget of Poland, unless they can keep this specter of Russia as a threat. So I think for me, the difference between Clinton and Trump is that Clinton would have landed, and the green light would have been flicked on, and she has long held this posture. I think with Trump, it’ll – I could be wrong, but I don’t think so, I think with Trump what we’ve got is just a delay, but I think it’s still going to come.
Lee: In a way, does having someone like Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, as Secretary of State – does something like that, does it draw back the curtains on the corporate state? Does it reveal it for what it is, when you have the literal CEO of Exxon Mobil as Secretary of State?
Chris: Yeah, it does. It’s the ugly face of white supremacy and American exceptionalism and imperialism, which is what Trump is. That’s part of the reason they dislike him so much, because he’s a national embarrassment – he’s an international embarrassment.
Lee: He dropped the dog whistle and brought out the actual words.
Chris: Yeah! He’s the raw face that they seek to hide. But whether the policies will be radically different under – I think they will be different in this sense: that internal repression will probably be fiercer, and less – and there will be less room for people who dissent. They will be more aggressive about dealing with groups like Black Lives Matter. But look, I was out at Standing Rock, and they were firing rubber bullets, they were firing CS gas. CS gas blinds you and burns your skin.
Lee: One woman nearly lost her arm.
Chris: One woman nearly lost her arm, they were firing percussion grenades. These are against nonviolent protestors! So, it’s incremental, but it’s been incremental. I don’t see massive changes. I do think that they want to get rid of Trump, and I think that this whole intelligence report and attempting to paint him as a puppet of the Russians, it stinks of the kind of psy-ops operations that I used to cover in Latin America. And I think the machinery of the Deep State will be used to marginalize Trump to such an extent that they can finally get rid of him through impeachment.
Lee: And then have Pence in.
Chris: Right! It’s not because they love democracy! It’s not necessarily going to make things better. He doesn’t come out of that class. He’s not out of power and cycle through the Council on Foreign Relations and then back into power. C. Wright Mills writes about that. It’s just a completely hermetically sealed, circular –
Lee: He skips the revolving door.
Chris: Well, he never was in it, he’s not part of the establishment, he doesn’t come out of it.
Lee: Yeah, you talk about the crackdown of dissent. It’s been going on, it’s not like Trump would be the original version of this.
But I want to talk about Reverend Billy, a well-known activist who’s on trial right now in Iowa for protesting, nonviolently of course, against Monsanto. And in that trial, they’re seeking what may be an unprecedented ban, I don’t know, on the First Amendment defense. In their motion, they wrote to the judge, “The State of Iowa will request that the Court preclude evidence or argument regarding free speech rights, free expression, right to assemble, and/or other First Amendment arguments.”
Is this a ramping up of restricting of rights of Freedom of Speech?
Chris: That’s already been imposed through terrorism laws on Muslims who are charged. Special Administrative Measures –SAM. This is the danger: when you essentially create a system where rights become privileges, and you have revoked these rights for demonized segments of the society – poor people of color – I mean, any African-American in a marginal community does not live in a democracy, they live in a kind of mini-police state that maintains control through terror, through murder, through indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians, and mass incarceration and a court system that’s farcical, and everything else.
So, when you create both the legal and the physical conditions for that, for a demonized segment of the population, it becomes – Hannah Arendt actually writes about this, in The Origins of Totalitarianism, it becomes very easy, at the flick of a switch, to impose that on the wider society.
I think that is always where we have been headed, but I think it will be accelerated under Trump administration. And I think the example that you picked out is a good one to show how this is expanding beyond the borders of these demonized groups.
Lee: I just love the idea that anyone can go in front of a judge and say “exclude Freedom of Speech argument —
Chris: But that’s what SAMs are. You don’t have attorney-client privilege; you can’t meet with your lawyers to prepare a defense – that’s legal!
Lee: And of course, since it’s against Monsanto, shows the power of the corporations.
Chris: Oh, Monsanto’s – yeah, there you go! I’m a vegan, largely for environmental reasons. But the animal agricultural industry is so fierce that there are “Ag-Gag” laws, they call them. You can’t even talk about the environmental impact of livestock in terms of methane emissions, and pollution and everything else.
Lee: Yeah, it’s illegal to film them, using animals. It’s amazing.
Before we run out of time, I wanted to get to something you say in your book, Wages of Rebellion. You say, “I don’t know if we can build a better society. I don’t even know if we’ll survive as a species, but I do know that the corporate forces have us by the throat, and they have my children by the throat. I do not fight Fascists because I will win. I fight Fascists because they are Fascists.”
Can you talk a little bit about what it is to have hope without optimism?
Chris: Right! Well, that’s kind of Camus, in a way. American society has a kind of mania for hope. This is Oprah, this is Hollywood, this is the Christian Right, positive psychology –
Lee: You can do anything with positive thinking, so therefore—
Chris: Right! So, reality is never an impediment to what you want and what you’re going to get. This is kind of what, you know, children think. And we have to grow up, especially on the issue of climate change. Noam Chomsky, who I admire intensely, of course, is now walking around and saying “It’s over, we’re doomed, it’s finished” and everybody’s going, “he’s so bleak.”
No, no, he’s describing our reality! We can’t effectively resist until we ingest what is actually happening around us. And it is very bleak, and very frightening, and we may not succeed, but I write this as a father of four children, and I at least want my children to look back and say, he tried. We have a moral imperative, that’s “the wages of rebellion,” the moral imperative, we have a moral imperative to stand up for – without being melodramatic, life. We may fail, but the consequences of doing nothing, I think, ensure, finally, the extinction of the human species, and probably a lot sooner than we think.
Lee: There’s an incredible imperative. People want to argue about the science, but 50% of mammals have gone extinct in the last 40 years. We’re in the middle of a great extinction.
Chris: Right. And every time you read a climate report, they say, “oh, it’s accelerating at a rate far faster than we predicted” – especially with the melting of the polar ice caps. So, yeah, we’re in a very precarious moment in human history. And unfortunately, these corporate forces have a complete lock on power. And we have lost the democratic institutions that made reform possible. There are no institutions left, including the Democratic Party, that can be authentically called “democratic.” And we’re going to have to rebuild from scratch, and it’s going to be difficult, and we’re going to have to do it without this mania for hope, this kind of false optimism, because actually that lulls us, I think, into inaction.
Lee: Absolutely! Well, when they’re calling those who stand for revolutionary change “traitors” –
Chris: –Well, they are!
Lee: Call me what you want, I’m going to keep doing it!
Thank you so much, Chris.
To view the entire show, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6UJBn7dLec
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