Outspoken critic

Journalist Chris Hedges blames Bush and Obama for enabling corporate control

Chris Hedges quit his job at The New York Times after being reprimanded for speaking up against the Iraq invasion back in 2003. Today, the reporter continues to speak out on controversial issues, such as corporate control of America.

Chris Hedges quit his job at The New York Times after being reprimanded for speaking up against the Iraq invasion back in 2003. Today, the reporter continues to speak out on controversial issues, such as corporate control of America.

Photo By Kyle delmar

Pulitzer Prize-winning war and terrorism reporter Chris Hedges pulled no punches when he spoke at Chico State Monday (Oct. 4), offering up a nonstop, gloom-and-doom vision of an America controlled by insatiable corporate monsters.

“America’s biggest enemies are not Islamic radicals, but those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization,” Hedges said. “They have devastated the very foundations of our society.”

As a result, desperation is spreading across the United States at a pace unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, said the former foreign correspondent of such media icons as National Public Radio and The New York Times. The latter is where he and a team of reporters won the 2002 Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting on global terrorism.

Hedges has taken his lumps as a reporter. Public outrage against his 2003 speech at Rockford College’s commencement (viewable on YouTube) condemning the Iraq invasion led to a reprimand from The Times and his resignation in protest. He has also been imprisoned by Iraqi soldiers and beaten by Saudi military police.

Hedges is the author of seven books, including the 2002 best-seller War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. A line from the book (“The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”) was used at the start of the film The Hurt Locker, which won an Academy Award last year for Best Picture. Today, Hedges is also a columnist for the progressive web magazine Truthdig.

During his talk at Chico State, the 54-year-old Hedges gave the impression that the battle against these controlling corporate interests is nearly futile.

“These corporate forces will never permit real reform,” he told about 200 people at the Rowland-Taylor Recital Hall. “It would mean their extinction, and that would devastate their profits.”

Hedges warned that times of major financial turmoil have “vomited up” tyrants such as Hitler, Mussolini and the Bolshevik regime. He went on to say that America is the victim of “inverted totalitarianism,” where the nation is not ruled by a tyrannical leader, but by wealthy corporate interests.

“Politicians are elected by popular vote, but are ruled by armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitols who offer laws and get the legislators to pass them.” he said.

Though Hedges may be considered far-left, he doesn’t play favorites between Democrats and Republicans. He refers disdainfully to the United States’ two most recent presidents, calling them “brand Bush” and “brand Obama”—both of whom have served primarily corporate interests, he said.

Many Americans elected President Obama because he seemed radically individualistic and new, said Hedges. But our society is still controlled by the same two forces, corporate power and the military-industrial complex, he asserted.

Hedges said “brand Obama” escalated the war in Iraq and killed 700 civilians in drone plane attacks near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. On the home front, he criticized the president for not ending the nation’s for-profit health-care system and allowing almost 3 million people to lose their homes in 2009 through foreclosures.

But modern corporate control over Democrats started before the Obama administration, he noted.

“It was President Clinton who led the Democratic Party to the corporate watering trough,” Hedges said.

The labor deregulation that came with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, passed during Clinton’s presidency in 1994, was pushed by corporate interests. Hedges said he thinks this was an inhuman act that drove a knife into the backs of workers in both the United States and Mexico.

“Human beings are not commodities or goods to be bought and sold,” he said. “They raise children and have real families.”

Hedges said America’s decline began during the Vietnam War, when our country turned from being an empire of production to one of consumption. We began to borrow heavily and rely more on foreign oil, he said.

“The bill is now due,” he proclaimed, ominously.

Hedges cited the shift from a print-based to image-based culture, which includes the Internet, as a main influence on the nation’s decline. This facilitated quick and easy access of corporate influence upon consumers. One of the answers, he said, is to cut off exposure to corporate bombardment and engage in community projects such as sustainable agriculture and farmers’ markets.

“Electrical hallucinations are imprisoning us,” he said.