Recognizing the Language of Tyranny by Chris Hedges

by Chris Hedges
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
February 7, 2011

Empires communicate in two languages. One language is expressed in imperatives. It is the language of command and force. This militarized language disdains human life and celebrates hypermasculinity. It demands. It makes no attempt to justify the flagrant theft of natural resources and wealth or the use of indiscriminate violence. When families are gunned down at a checkpoint in Iraq they are referred to as having been “lit up.” So it goes. The other language of empire is softer. It employs the vocabulary of ideals and lofty goals and insists that the power of empire is noble and benevolent. The language of beneficence is used to speak to those outside the centers of death and pillage, those who have not yet been totally broken, those who still must be seduced to hand over power to predators. The road traveled to total disempowerment, however, ends at the same place. It is the language used to get there that is different.


via Truthdig

Copyright © 2011 Truthdig

Chris Hedges spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including Death of the Liberal Class, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009) and War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003).


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45 thoughts on “Recognizing the Language of Tyranny by Chris Hedges

  1. Pingback: Fascism in the U.S.: Are We there Yet? by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH « Dandelion Salad

  2. Angle7faith –sorry i have not gotten back to you sooner. i have been busy . and thank you for listing the 5 things about Obama . here is my response.
    in regards to the veterans i will commend him . as far as his ”incrementalism ” in so called health care reform , it is smoke and mirrors , and will actually take us in the opposite direction of health care for ALL . this incremetal apporach is critiqed well at by Ralph Nader.
    if he calls for the war agaisnt poverty then why is he for Nafta and Gatt , and the corproate bailouts ? and against unions . this is rhetoric i am talking about . also , on the altervative energy . another dodge. rhetoric . he promised along with Mccain that he was for nuclear energy .

    now let us look at more things that he has doen wrong .
    1. domsteic spying –by excutive order oabama said that U.S.govt can kill americans . not even bush went that far legally .
    2.the pardons — look at who he pardoned and who he did not pardon .this is executive privilage . he did not pardon lenoard Peltier . but just look up who he did pardon .
    3.Tax cuts for the richest of americans . ( another broken promise) and done with a full dem congress.
    4.he has done nothing to decrease the danger of inner city health problems –asbestos , lead paint , etc. he could have done that as senator . nothing . nada.
    5.him and the democratic congress voted for the biggest increase of military spending in all of american history last year. fact. look it up .

    this –plus all of things i have mentioned . and he still supports the patriot act !

    have you read chris hedges new book ”the death of liberalism ?”

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  5. Pingback: Cindy Sheehan: How the anti-war movement is asleep under Obama « Dandelion Salad

  6. You are quite right about one thing… This discussion has gotten rather delusional & filled with assumptions and, therefore, is not worth the bother because I too prefer educating people who sincere seek to enlighten themselves and help others.
    I can’t tell whose baited worm bit the water first, but I was actually being nice in my last reply…..

  7. Other than this guy being a clear member of the left and invoking the concept of churches and other institutions all being liberal this could sound more like something you’d hear from the Tea Party. Of course no one here would ever agree to that as the Tea Partiers are all ignorant racists. And everyone knows that because people say so. Only problem is what’s being spread about the Tea Party by the MSM and others is nothing short of propaganda.

    The main issue I have is this,”not unlike our own mercenary armies”. If we were mercenaries then we would be the laughing stock of the mercenary world with as little as we get paid. Mercs get paid big bucks and don’t need welfare and food stamps as some military families do. The only thing serving guarantees is a job. A job unlike any other. A job that can order you to die for your country.

    While Dr. King was anti-war he did believe in somethings deal with the same things soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen deal with and believe.

    “If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    And as MacArthur said, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

    • Rob, I appreciate your mentioning some good points. I would add that the political party information we are provided is indeed mostly propaganda, and has been that way “forever”. I like you view concerning “If we were mercenaries ….” I have the deepest respect for our troops, but not the leaders that cause/allow the situations. The Dr King quote is excellent,of course, and I felt – from the day he spoke those words, being willing to die for something cherished did not necessarily mean military actions. MacArthur’s quote is true reality and deeply profound. Thank you for sharing~

  8. Oh, yeah, “go Barry!”

    As far as Bible prophecy goes, I take the Bible as so altered it is beyond recognition and hardly to be taken seriously at all times, unless seriously the remarks are thoroughly investigated. The church has MUCH to answer for as it perpetrates heirarchical structures, disrespect for women and children, and immoral law re many peoples. It has been mistranslated.

    The message of Jesus was LOVE,no matter how much it might feel like it might hurt to do so. LOVE is a verb, not a noun.

    OH, yes – the new corporatocracy is just GRAND, if you can justify it to yourself. So is torture, eh? The BIBLE Says so! That sure lets YOU off the hook, doesn’t it?

    I just so love the Xians who are into “prosperity consciousness” and mindless self choosing to listen to real rotten, uneducated, mind and heart numbing interpretations of GAWD’S punishment and wrath stuff – and never have to dirty their paws with the real life results of EVIL – which is humans hurting other humans + other living things.

    I see you really enjoy ARGUING, I do not. I am busy trying to figure out what I can do to help others, so I will not let you bait me again and I bid you “ADIEU. Walk in REAL peace.” As I said, when you decide to come out of your trance, give me a shout.

    • I was only referring to the Bible & prophecies for a sample of examples, not to limit learning. LOVE is so much more than just a verb. Your reference to God make it all sound so minimizing as well as ignoring the glories in the world. No, I do not “enjoy” arguing at all. To reiterate, I much prefer civil discourse.

  9. Virginia, There was no Reply link below your tirade to me, so I must respond here.
    The use of angel is not a mask. I was using my name Kathleen Young Roby via FB then it was altered via the website when I signed up for WordPress through other sites. I use the term “angel faith” to honor ancestors, friends, & a son, who are now passed. Friends & colleagues “get” the connection of it to our non-profit charity The Angel Power Emporium, Inc.” [~TAPE for Cracks in the System~ The mission is assisting low-income parents involved in higher education, and, advocacy for social issues.]
    PLEASE, do try not to get SO upset…we are simply humans involved in a discourse.
    May I ask why you are so into the “addiction world”? Are you studying addiction counseling? It is a fascinating and crucial service. It is yet another field I have also studied (& did volunteer work with).
    I am familiar with Proust and do have great respect for him. However, I am in no way “lesser” than you because I have studied with & researched many other great people too.
    You say I should focus on myself. Again, you have NO idea… On the other hand, my duty as a human being is to to focus on OTHER PEOPLE more than myself!!!
    As per “If we are not careful, the day is gonna come when the language of these rotters is going to be clear, WE ARE ALL TO BE SLAVES.” Well gosh I’ve known this for nearly 60 years…from the Bible, other prophecies, historians “predictions”, and MANY other foresighted avenues. I don’t yet believe we can truthfully predict the time of “end times”, but everything going on now “fits the bill” (as it did to people in past times too). Basically, much of what everyone is arguing about (in stead of discussing for solutions) has been “set in motion” LONG, LONG ago and, therefore, today’s leaders can really only TRY to keep the nations strong and increase preparedness.
    CETA has some good and some not so good details…just like all such things~

  10. angel –i am responding about your answer to my challenge concerning facts. i am not trying to be rude . please understand that. it is just that you asked me for more than one reason for why i do not support this president and i gave you a number of them which you dismissed as being shallow.

    that does not offend me . but if you are open minded and seek as you say real dialogue , then refute.
    believe you me , i do my homework . i have been a Nader debater for 10 years . i ran the write in campaign here in Missouri in 2004 and debated on talk radio against both democrats and republicans . also in print . in public . all i did was state the facts unemotionally .

    all i am asking for is for you to just give me 5 things that Obama has done that is real change. and i will give you many more that he has kept the Bush legacy of shame going .

    i have never insulted your intelligence. i want facts.

    now you claim to be a democratic socialist like me . fine . Obama is a corporationist. look at his corporate bailouts for the super rich . how does that jive with your socialism ? you also claim to be a christian . fine . how does that jive with his taking lives on a daily basis ?

    i am just trying to figure out how you justify this with your beliefs ?
    i dont think that that is to much to ask.

    • Yes, I have suggested that people seriously consider democratic socialism, however, I have express purported to be aligned with any one political “label”.
      “you also claim to be a christian . fine . how does that jive with his taking lives on a daily basis?” Well, think about how many ages that whole concept has been debated by humans~
      RE: “5 things that Obama has done that is real change”…..
      1. President Obama Signs Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act into Law
      2. He got us at least a beginning for healthcare reform
      3. Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Emergency Fairness Act
      4. Obama calls for new ways to tackle poverty
      5. Obama Calls for $15 Billion for Alternative Energy Development

  11. David, I refer you again to Hedges comment: “Those who consume and perpetuate the lies—including the liberal institutions of the press, the church, education, culture, labor and the Democratic Party—abet our disempowerment.”

    • it is called ”Liberal Fascism ”. it is just as deadly as ”Conservative Fascism ”. it is all of these institutions working together to oppress . since 2006 , the House Democrats promised to end these wars if elected. they lied . they lied in 2008 making the same promises . they lied in 2010 , making the same promises. and that was after 2 years of having a Democratic president !
      President Obama ran on stopping torture in Gitmo . he lied. he ran on pulling out of Iraq. he lied. he ran on raising the minimum wage. he lied.

      but you know what, Angel7– he kept his word on jacking up the wars in Afghanistan , Pakistan . 3 days into his presidency he ordered the wiping out of a village in Pakistan . and he loves to spill blood so much that he added 2 more nations to his list –Somalia , and Yeoman . and you say that you still back this war criminal and claim to be a christian ? sounds like something the religious right has been doing for years. they claim to be Christians. Bush claimed to be one . dont you see? same actions . evil is as evil does. but you choose not to see. President Barack W. Obama has a spell on you . meanwhile the blood from his orders in these other countrys drips . can you hear it –drip drip drip .

      to stop a war according to constitution of the united states , all president has to do is pick up a pen . it doesnt take village , IT TAKES A PEN .

        • i agree 100 per cent ! that is why i was backing Nader in his 5 articles of impeachment for Bush . Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld need to be tried and put in prison for what they did . but Bush has been out of office for 2 years. Obama is keeping the Bush wars going . that is why in 2000, 20004 , and 2008 i was a volunteer for Ralph Nader for president .

          so , what we do is try Bush and insist that Obama either pull out of these wars or he be tried too . so what is holding back Bush from being tried for war crimes ? Obama is . they will not investigate. why ? because Obama and his Pentagon corporate paymasters wont allow it . cause if Bush gets tried then a precedent will be set to get Obama too.
          Obama is holding up the Bush / Cheney trial . see?

          one is either part of the problem or part of the solution . to support such evil is to being involved in evil . people have to choose if they will resist Obama or join him . there is no neutrality while lives hang in the balance and are taken daily to plunder oil and minerals in other countrys . its madness! and Christians should never be a part of it . never.

      • Rocket is correct – it takes a pen, that is all – and the WILL.

        International law demands that a nation state express the WILL to obey international dictates for human rights and obeying the rule of law. The law, GENEVA CONVENTIONS, is clear: no pre-emptive war AND no torture (let alone genocide) … Barry threw people off when he stated he wanted the closure of Guantanamo and people believed the will was there to clean up some of the mess – a mess, I might add, started by CLINTON.
        While under the Rome Statue, CIA officers have been found GUILTY of rendition, torture, illegal imprisonment – BARRY protects the offenders !!
        Switzerland has just ruled Bush is guilty of war crimes and cannot enter the country w/o arrest. Do you hear a peep out of Barry & Co? Nope.

        THE REASON Barry, Holder and Co say nothing, do nothing is that so many DemocRATS were involved from funding, to profiteering, to speechless acquiesence to breaking the RULE OF LAW.

        Give Jordan J Paust a google ,.. there is much for you to learn there, Angel. No one is putting one over on Professor Paust. He’s taught me WELL.

        I agree with Rocket, you are under a spell – the spell is called codependency. It’s okay to admit that “Daddy” is WRONG, Barry is just plain WRONG and has been for most of his miserable life.

        • I have not propounded that Obama is “perfect”, but I do see more good in him than in many others from the past & from fellow candidates. I have always been against war, yet also realize there are additional social issues at hand. Oh, & yes I know of Proust…and MANY other such “experts”.
          As per your remarks toward me, I prefer civil dialogue like I learned from great professors for across 16 of higher education endeavors~

        • You know, you get me v. upset, Angel cuz your mask is so ANGELIC.

          Professor Paust is so inconceivably educated, well respected and LOVED, it is hardly to be believed. The guy COULD have used his natural talent and education to be on THE DARK SIDE, but he did not.
          He is THE EXPERT’s EXPERT, worldwide, for heaven’s sake – and millions more people might have died due to genocide, starvation, et all if NOT for him and those he TRAINED.

          I will treat you civilly – as you put it – when you learn that yourSELF. As we say in the addiction world, keep the focus on YOURSELF.

          Even Jim Wallace of Sojourners is tiring of BARRY since the eruption of Egypt.

          Think Barry & Co will be at the Egyptian funeral on Friday for the 300 martyrs since Jan. 25? GUESS NOT, but I’ll bet if TORTURER Suleiman died, they’d send in the heavyweights.

          Let’s meanwhile stick to Hedges’ comment, shall we – just for fun.

          If we are not careful, the day is gonna come when the language of these rotters is going to be clear, WE ARE ALL TO BE SLAVES. The recent “deal” signed by Harper and Obama puts 30 corporations in charge of N. America.
          Give “CETA” a google .. this is the new moniker for North ‘American Union/Strategic Prosperity Protocol.
          See they just change the acronyms at their whim and our Wising UP. Done while eyes were diverted. SHAME. SHAME.

  12. I believe that all Americans are complicit by tolerating this president who wages war for resources and political reasons. Hedges is completely right. Those that still believe in Obama do so because they are afraid to look at the truth. Obama is no different than Bush. We as a people have collectively lost control of our government.

    Political parties (the Democrats and Republicans) are essentially the same when you consider their foreign policy. Only a few people in Congress refuse to give the executive branch the power to wage war, spy on their citizens, rape the taxpayer to benefit predatory banksters and ignoring the country’s middle-class. Americans have given their liberties up to gain some semblance of security.

    Most people I deal with want the foreign wars to end. They want outsourcing American jobs to stop. Most Americans don’t understand how many of their liberties have been taken away by the Patriot Act, The military commissions act and the John Warner Defense Bill that allows the President to federalize state national guard units and use them for police in Any state, even over objections from that state governor.

    No, Obama hasn’t brought real change to America and the world. He continues with the worst of Bush’s programs. We still kidnap and torture people while we overthrow governments in other countries. We are the rogue state.

  13. Angel7faith –how many issues do you want ?
    1. pro abortion
    2. prowar death penalty
    4. pro patriot act ( that suspends the 1st , 4th , 5th , and 8th amendment
    5. he wont shut down torture at Gitmo
    6. pro FISA
    7. anti-socialize medicine for ALL .
    8. pro corporate bailouts and corporate welfare.

    there are many many more. he said recently how much he admires ronald reagan . what does this all tell you ?

    the war in vietnam ended when Nixon alone took up a pen on t.v. and said ”the war is now over”. our pressure helped ! yes . Obama could have done that the first day in office . but he had no intention on it . why ? he is a killer. he is a murderer. God have mercy on his soul and those who support him , and those who supported Bush on the final day of judgement .

    and if you had any decency you would join us in the resistence movement lead by Ralph Nader to impeach him in the same way Nader put forth the 5 articles of impeachment for war crimes against Bush .

    JUST TAKE A MOMENT AND THINK ABOUT THE BLOOD THAT DRIPS FROM THE CHILDREN ‘S FACES THAT HE ORDERS TO BE BOMBED , and then jokes about these drone bombs at white house dinners.

    • rocket,
      Your list (above) shows that shallow thinking & study and is still your “easy way out”. The list proves to me that you have indeed not thoroughly researched the man and his intentions. I cannot trust your opinion on anyone now. Therefore, debating you can only become a real bore. I prefer to use my time in discussions with sincere knowledgeable persons in order to work toward serious progress for our great nation.

      • There is NOTHING angelic in your response to Rocket. For heaven’s sake, open your eyes, your ears and your heart.

        Your hands are to do “god’s work” – to serve others when you find enLIGHTenment. “God” has literally sent you Rocket to see that PEOPLE COUNT OVER PROFIT$ and yet you throw stones at him.

        There is nothing the least bit shallow about Rocket. He cares and everything on that list of criticisms is legitimate and incredibly important to take in.]

        I too took in Barry/Obomber BEFORE the elections and when I saw who he associated with I decided no magical speaking ability was going to blind me into a trance. He and his “minions” and puppetmasters are Bad News.

        When your trance wears off, Angel7faith, give me a shout out. You need an awful lot of education and a moral compass that includes ALL of God’s children on the dial.

        • Virginia, you have NO clue about my background. I am all for God’s work and have been since being a missionary child decades ago, which is why I cannot go blindly into extremist republicanism…my compassion for ALL people is deeply sincere. I care more for the lives of others than my own benefit. My education is too extensive to include here. Most folks claim my eyes, ears, & heart are typically TOO open~ Only history will show who of us are entranced.

        • history is NOW ..right before your eyes as more and more innocents shed blood because you support a war criminal . republicans and democrats are equally guilty .

          it seems that you have a problem with facts. i state the facts , just some of them ( there are many more ) wrong with Obama , and you say that you have education to counter it . THEN COUNTER IT ! it is time to put up or shut up !

          no facts on your side so far. we are all waiting . the burden of proof is on you . you support him . you voted for him .

        • My problem is that what you refer to as “facts” are not “written in stone”. True, facts are facts, yet as humans we interpret facts from our own personal life-perspectives, experiences, and knowledge.
          Btw, “put up or shut up!” is not promoting decent dialogue~
          Yes, history is being made each day and cannot be adequately critiqued until time has past.
          to say “no facts on your side so far” is immensely naive and just plain silly. One might assume from such a comment that you are deaf & blind to anything other than your view of anything. At least I come here with an open minded….hoping to find SOME info decent enough to ponder~
          Anyway, there are far too many facts of proof & related links to list here.
          “President Obama’s 2011 Budget was revealed in early February to equal amounts of praise and criticism, depending on which side of the fence you land.” I repeat: “depending on which side of the fence you land.” I had to seek far & wide to anything about decent or good Bush…it was my duty as a voting citizen. I suggest you do the same~

  14. ”biased harms credibility ”. you dont say ? the Democrats having a full house and the presidency , just last year voted in the BIGGEST increase in military spending and are waging war in 5 countrys .
    therefore –they have no credibility . none .
    how can one be biased against one who has no credibility whatsover? we have another war criminal in office that needs to be inpeached like Bush needed to be impeached.

    • I agree about Bush (still!) needing impeached, but Obama himself is not as bad as the people who force his hand in such matters. Try doing like I did with Bush, first research the man himself and his own true ideas about things.

      • I researched Obama a long time ago , before he even ran for office. that is why i agree with Ralph Nader when he said 2 days before the election that ”if Obama is elected it wil be the biggest con job in American history ”. not just one of the ..but THE BIGGEST !

        and we see it . he has put the peace movement to sleep . he has upped the war in Iraq and Afghanistan , and has invaded Somalia , Pakistan ,. and Yeoman . would you tolerate that in a republican president ? why should you ? and yet those who claim to be for peace tolerate that in a democratic one . why ? because he is a con man . he talks a big game . he triangulates. he speaks with forked tongue . ask those woman who have lost their sons and daughters in these countrys that he ordered to be slaughtered or maimed for life. tell them that he is such a good guy . no Kathleen –evil is as evil does ! to support him now after 2 years makes you personally complicit in willful murder.

        it has been over 2 years since he has been in office . he is the commander in chief and he is a war criminal . his 15 minutes are up . this president wont give peace a chance. IMPEACH !

        • I always deeply research them all. I do not know how you can credibly say that “the peace movement” is asleep, at all…we are all very upset with the situations, and are quite “vocal about it”. I belong to many large multi-news source networks and follow the comments. It provides a much broader view of American opinions than we typically get from the media, etc. Obama is NOT ALLOWED to make decisions by himself, he has to also & please the other politicians, et al. To infer I am “complicit in willful murder” is to infer that ALL who let war occur, sent their family members into war, anyone who voted for any politician that allowed war, as well as those veterans…is complicit in murder — and that is quite unAmerican, non-credible, indecent thinking!!!

        • Kathleen, these are the facts:

          1. the commander-in-chief can unilaterally decide to end a war by the power of the pen. He needs no other branch of the government to do it.

          2. Barack Obama made it clear in 3 televised debates with John McCain that he was going to kill people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is all documented.

          3. the war casualties under his administration are astronomical, including the amount of money that could have been used on social programs for this country but instead has been wasted on war that has wasted human lives.

          Again I repeat these are the facts.

          Knowing where he stood on escalating the war as he said during the campaign and voting for him anyway it has proven that you are supporting a war monger. You are not a pacifist, you are not a Democratic Socialist, and every time Obama kills someone it is as if he is crucifying Christ.

          Tell me, Kathleen, who would John Lennon bomb?

          For all of John Lennon’s personal problems at least he would have been consistent and he would not have supported President Obama’s wars.

        • I am apart of the peace movement…always have been, and I see how active & active they still are & are increasing action. Dear John would not bomb anyone, nor would I. In fact, the truth is that it was our peace movement that brought an end to the war in Vietnam!!!
          I don’t agree with Obama’s view on current wars…at all, yet I fully understand there is a LOT more involved in decisions of Presidents. Furthermore, it is irresponsible to be against a President over just one issue.

  15. It is rather sad to see what Chris Hedges writes about occur in the real world. I was a part of the war apparatus working to further the interests of empire, even though at that time I naively thought I was fighting communism.
    There is nothing misleading about those who “abet our disempowerment”. It is a fact that one who has lived history rather than studied it will understand more clearly.

  16. I know history rather well myself and did find the article interesting…when not biased. However, to infer that Democrats are “wrong” & the only ones doing so, e.g., “Those who consume and perpetuate the lies—including the liberal institutions of the press, the church, education, culture, labor and the Democratic Party—abet our disempowerment”, is simply misleading and therefore evaporates some of your credibility.

    • Kathleen,

      You are the one making inferences, not Hedges. Would you rather he take the easy route and attack Palin and the Tea Party like the majority of lazy/compliant “progressives?” His sterling credibility remains intact.

      • David Williamson,
        I did not infer anything. I only pointed an unnecessary bias in just one sentence. You did the same thing as he, in your reply to my comment: “…he majority of lazy/compliant “progressives?” Bias harms credibility. Folks with a broader “world view” and truths from history and avidly keep well informed, take any biased information with a grain of salt….and know better. I am familiar with Hedges’ views. David Walters, above, provided a good response. Arguing politics won’t help our progress, whereas unbiased discussions can lead to real progress.

        • Sorry Kathleen, you are mistaken. You inferred that Hedges thinks that “Democrats are “wrong” & the only ones doing so, e.g.,” which is a ridiculous misrepresentation of his views.

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