Why Does Chris Hedges Hedge His Bets?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 30 Sep 2019
Edward Curtin – TRANSCEND Media Service
27 Sep 2019 – Revelations about the machinations of the so-called “deep state’s” conspiracies often conceal deeper truths that go unmentioned. This is quite common, whether it is done intentionally or not.
Sometimes it is intentional and is directed by the intelligence agencies themselves or their accomplices in the media, who operate a vast propaganda network. In that case, it is because the secret rulers have been caught doing some evil deed, and, not being able to fully deny it, they admit to part of it while concealing deeper secrets. This is termed “a limited hangout.” It is described by ex-CIA Deputy Director Victor Marchetti, author of The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, as follows:
Spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.
For the average person, it is very hard to read between the lines and smell a skunk. The subterfuge is often very subtle and appeals to readers’ sense of outrage at what happened in the past. After the Church Hearings in the 1970s, and then Carl Bernstein’s limited hangout article in Rolling Stone in 1977, where he named the names and “outed” many major media and individuals for having worked with the CIA, many people breathed deeply and consigned these evil and propagandistic activities to the bad old days. But these “limited hangouts” have been going on ever since, allowing people to express outrage and feel some sort of redemption is at hand in the naïve belief that the system is reformable. It is a pipe dream induced by the smallest puff on the media’s latest recreational drug, for which no prescription is needed. The media that more openly and proudly than ever reveal their jobs as stenographers for the intelligence agencies (see my US Media Propaganda. Drawing “Liberals” and “Leftists” into the CIA’s Orbit. NPR) .
In The Iceman Cometh, the playwright Eugene O’Neill puts the delusional nature of so much public consciousness thus:
To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.
Truth may never have been popular, but if one studies the history of propaganda techniques as they have developed in tandem with technological changes, it becomes apparent that today’s incredibly sophisticated digital technology and the growth of screen culture that has resulted in what Guy Debord has called “the society of the spectacle” has made the manipulation of truth increasingly easier and far trickier. News in today’s world appears as a pointillistic canvas of thousands of disconnected dots impossible to connect unless one has the desire, time, determination, and ability to connect the points through research, which most people do not have. “As a result,” writes Jacques Ellul in his classic study, Propaganda, “he finds himself in a kind of kaleidoscope in which thousands of unconnected images follow each other rapidly” and “his attention is continually diverted to new matters, new centers of interest, and is dissipated on a thousand things, which disappear from one day to the next.” This technology is a boon to government propagandists that make sure to be on the cutting edge of new technology and the means to control the flow of its content, often finding that the medium is the message, one that is especially confounding since seemingly liberating – e.g. cell phones and their easy and instantaneous ability to access information and “breaking news.”
Then there are writers, artists, and communicators of all types, whether consciously or not, who contribute to the obfuscating of essential truths even while informing the public of important matters. These people come from across the political spectrum. To know their intentions is impossible, unless they spell them out in public to let their audiences evaluate them, which rarely happens, otherwise one is left to guess, which is a fool’s game. One can, however, point out what they say and what they don’t and wonder why.
A recent article, Our Invisible Government, by the well-known journalist, Chris Hedges, is a typical case in point. As is his habit, he sheds light on much that is avoided by the mainstream press. Very important matters. In this piece, he writes in his passionate style that
The most powerful and important organs in the invisible government are the nation’s bloated and unaccountable intelligence agencies. They are the vanguard of the invisible government. They oversee a vast “black world,” tasked with maintaining the invisible government’s lock on power.
This, of course, is true. He then goes on to catalogue ways these intelligence agencies, led by the CIA, have overthrown foreign governments and assassinated their leaders, persecuted and besmirched the names of those – Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, et al. – who have opposed government policies, and used propaganda to conceal the real reasons for their evil deeds, such as the wars against Vietnam, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. He condemns such actions.
He spends much of his article referencing Stephen Kinzer’s new book, Poisoner in Chief: Sydney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control and Gottlieb’s heinous exploits during his long CIA career. Known as “Dr. Death,” this Bronx born son of Jewish immigrants ran the CIA’s mind control programs and its depraved medical experiments on unknowing victims, known as MK-ULTRA and Artichoke. He oversaw the development of various poisons and bizarre methods to kill foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba. He worked closely with Nazi scientists who had been brought to the United States by Allen Dulles in an operation called Operation Paperclip. Gottlieb was responsible for so many deaths and so much human anguish and suffering that it is hard to believe, but believe it we must because it is true. His work on torture and mind control led to Abu Ghraib, CIA black sites, and assorted U.S. atrocities of recent history.
Hedges tells us all this and rightly condemns it as “the moral squalor” and “criminality” that it is. Only a sick or evil person could disagree with his account of Gottlieb via Kinzer’s book. I suspect many good people who have or will read his piece will agree with his denunciations of this evil CIA history. Additionally, he correctly adds:
It would be naive to relegate the behavior of Gottlieb and the CIA to the past, especially since the invisible government has once again shrouded the activities of intelligence agencies from congressional oversight or public scrutiny and installed a proponent of torture, Gina Haspel, as the head of the agency.
This also is very true. All these truths can make you forget what’s not true and what’s missing in his article.
But something is missing, and some wording is quite odd and factually false. It is easy to miss this as one’s indignation rises as one reads Hedges’ cataloguing of Gottlieb’s and the CIA’s obscenities.
He omits mentioning the Clinton administration’s dismantling wars against Yugoslavia, including 78 days of non-stop bombing of Serbia in 1999 that killed thousands of innocent people in the name of “humanitarian intervention,” wars he covered for the New York Times, the paper he has come to castigate and the paper that has a long history of doing the CIA’s bidding.
He claims that Gottlieb and the CIA’s scientists failed in their “vain quest” for mind control drugs or electronic implants that might, among other things, get victims to act against their wills, such as acting as a Manchurian candidate, and as a result, “abandoned” their efforts. That they failed is not true, and that they abandoned their efforts is unknowable, unless you wish to take the CIA at its word, which is a hilarious thought. How could Hedges possibly know they abandoned such work? A logical person would assume they would say that and continue their work more secretly. On one hand, Hedges says, “It would be naive to relegate the behavior of Gottlieb and the CIA to the past,” but then he does just that. Which is it, Chris? By definition, the “invisible” government, the CIA, never reveals their operations, and lying is their modus operandi, especially with their brazen in-your-face biblical motto: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
He says the invisible deep state “failed to foresee…the 9/11 attacks or the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.” This is factually wrong and quite absurd, as is well documented. They simply lied about these matters ex post facto. He suggests such failures were due to “ineptitude,” a coy word used by numerous other writers who find reasons to deny intentionality to the “deep state.”
He therefore is implying that the attacks of September 11, 2001, a subject that he has consistently failed to address over the years even while he has written in detail about so much else, did not involve America’s “invisible government forces.” The ineptitude explanation fails elementary logical analysis. Does he think it was intelligence ineptitude that allowed operatives to wire the highly-secure Twin Towers and Building 7 for controlled demolition that brought those buildings down, as the testimony of one’s eyes and that of hundreds of NYC firefighters who reported explosions throughout the buildings affirm? Ineptitude is another word for avoidance of evidence, gathered over the years by careful scholars and researchers. Ineptitude is another word for the belief “in miracles,” as David Ray Griffin has phrased it.
What does he think Colin Powell was doing at the United Nations on February 5, 2003 with CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind him when he lied repeatedly and fabricated evidence for Iraq having weapons of mass destruction to promote and justify the U.S. war against Iraq? Ineptitude? A failure of intelligence?
Chris Hedges is a very intelligent man, so why does he write such things?
Most importantly, why, when he writes about the past evil deeds of the intelligence operatives – Gottlieb and the CIA’s overseas coups and assassination of foreign leaders, etc. – does he fail to say one word about the CIA’s assassination of domestic leaders, including President John Kennedy in 1963, the foundational event in the invisible government’s takeover of the United States. Can an act be more evil and in need of moral condemnation? And how about the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968, or Malcolm X in 1965? Why does Hedges elide these assassinations as if they are not worthy of attention, but Gottlieb’s sick work for the CIA is? Like the attacks of September 11, 2001, he has avoided these assassinations throughout the years.
I don’t know why. Only he can say. He is a very well-read man, who is constantly quoting from scholars about various important issues. His books are chock full of such quotations and references. But you will look in vain for references to the brilliant, scholarly work of such writers on these assassinations, the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the CIA’s criminal and morally repugnant activities as James Douglass, David Talbot, David Ray Griffin, William Pepper, Graeme MacQueen, Lisa Pease, and so many others. Is it possible that he has never read their books when he has read so much else? If so, why?
As I said before, Chris Hedges, who has a passionate but mild-mannered style, is not alone in his disregard of these key matters. Other celebrity names on the left have been especially guilty of the same approach: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Alexander Cockburn, to name just a few (Zinn and Cockburn are dead). They have avoided these issues as if they were toxic. Nor would they logically explain why. The few times they did respond to those who criticized them for this, it was usually through a dismissive wave of the hand or name calling, a tactic such as the CIA developed with the term “conspiracy theory.” Cockburn was particularly nasty in this regard, priding himself on dismissing others with words such as kooks, lunatics, and idiots, even when his logic was deplorable. He liked to use ineptitude’s synonym, “incompetence,” to explain away what he considered intelligence agency failures. “Why,” he wrote in one piece attacking September 11 critics while upholding the government’s version, “does the obvious have to be proved?” “Brillig!” as Humpty Dumpty would say. Absolutely brillig!
The CIA’s mind control operations need to be exposed, as Hedges does to a degree in this latest article. But revealing while concealing is unworthy of one who condemns “creeps who revel in human degradation, dirty tricks, and murder.” It itself is a form of mind control.
Perhaps he will see fit to publicly explain why he has done this.
Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. Website: Behind the Curtain
Tags: Activism, CIA, Conflict, Journalism, Media, Military, Pentagon, Politics, Power, Torture, Trump, USA, Violence, War
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Sep 2019.
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One Response to “Why Does Chris Hedges Hedge His Bets?”
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Dear Edward Curtin,
Noam Chomsky AND Chris Hedges are among my 12 Favorite anti-imperialist intellectuals and activists outside Transcend.
I think we should not criticise them because of their rhetorical style. I have the impression that the secret services in the anglosphere do NOT dominate their heads of state. A CIA-boss is today only one of a dozen under the security czar.
But thank you for the books you recommended! The top politicians there all beat a Romulus Augustulus. VERY FUNNY.
Werner T. Meyer