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Chris Hedges
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 29 August 2011
“The press, education, Wall Street, labor and our political parties are managed by trolls or have been destroyed by them.”

The Election March of the Trolls

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We have begun the election march of the trolls. They have crawled out of the sewers of public relations firms, polling organizations, the commercial media, the two corporate political parties and elected office to fill the airwaves with inanities and absurdities until the final inanity—the 2012 presidential election. Journalists, whose role has been reduced to purveyors of court gossip, whether on Fox or MSNBC, descend in swarms to report pseudo-events such as the Ames straw poll, where it costs $30 to cast a ballot. And then, almost immediately, they blithely inform us that the Iowa poll is meaningless now that Rick Perry has entered the race. The liberal trolls, as they do in every election cycle, are beating their little chests about the perfidiousness of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. It is a gesture performed not to effect change but to burnish their credentials as moralists. They know, as do we, that they will trot obediently into the voting booth in 2012 to do as they are told. And everywhere the pulse of the nation is being assiduously monitored through polls and focus groups, not because our opinions matter, but because our troll candidates understand that by parroting back to us our own viewpoints they can continue to spend their days lapping up corporate money with other trolls in the two houses of Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court and television studios where they chat with troll celebrity journalists.

The only commodity the troll state offers is fear. The corporate trolls, such as the Koch brothers, terrify the birthers, creationists, militia lovers, tea party militants, right-to-life advocates, Christian fascists and God-fearing red-white-and-blue patriots by proclaiming that, unless they vote for Perry or Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann or some other product of the lunatic fringe of our political establishment, the American family will be destroyed, our children will be corrupted and the country will turn socialist. Barack Obama, who they whisper is a closet Muslim, will take away their guns, raise their taxes and bring homosexual couples into kindergartens.

For those, usually liberals, still rooted in a reality-based world, one that believes in evolutionary science, the corporate trolls offer a more refined, fear-based message of impending doom. If you abandon the Democrats we will be governed by Bible-thumping idiots who will make us chant the Pledge of Allegiance in mass rallies and teach the account of Genesis as historical and biological fact in our nation’s schools.

And underneath it all runs the mantra chanted in unison by all the trolls—terror, terror, terror. The troll establishment spins us like windup dolls and laughs all the way to the bank. What idiots, they think. And every election cycle we prove them right.

“The only people who grasp the distinction between reality and appearance, who grasp the laws of conduct and society, are the ruling groups and those who do their bidding; scientific, technical elites who elucidate the laws of behavior and the functions of society so that people might be more effectively, albeit unconsciously, governed,” wrote James W. Carey in “Communication as Culture.”

The trolls dominate or have neutralized every major institution in the country on behalf of their corporate paymasters. The press, education, Wall Street, labor and our political parties are managed by trolls or have been destroyed by them. Sometimes these trolls speak like liberals. Sometimes they speak like conservatives. Sometimes they are secular. Sometimes they are Christians. But the language they use is a cover for the relentless march toward a totalitarian capitalism and a kingdom where the trolls, if not the rest of us, live happily ever after. Rick Perry and John Boehner overtly make war on Social Security. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi say they would like to save Social Security but are sadly powerless before the decisions of a congressional super committee they helped form. The result, of course, is the same. We get to choose the rhetoric and manner in which we are deceived and disempowered. Nothing more.

All cloying appeals to the Obama administration to use stimulus money to build public works such as schools, libraries, roads, clinics, public transit and reclaiming dams, as well as to create jobs, are about as effective as writing heartfelt appeals in the era of the old Soviet Union to Uncle Joe Stalin. The trolls have gamed the system. There is no economic, political or environmental reform, from campaign finance to environmental controls, that can be implemented to impede the march of the corporate state. The rot and corruption at the top levels of our financial and political systems, coupled with the increasing deprivation felt by tens of millions of Americans, are volatile tinder for revolt. And the trolls are prepared for this too. They have put in place draconian state controls, including widespread internal surveillance, to silence our anemic left. They know how to direct the rage of the right wing toward the last pockets of the cultural, social and political establishment that cling to traditional liberal values, as well as toward the most vulnerable among us including Muslims, undocumented workers and homosexuals. They will make sure we consume ourselves.

A society is in serious trouble when its political pariahs have at the core of their demands a return to the rule of law. This inversion, with our political and cultural outcasts demanding a respect for law, highlights the awful fact that the most radical and retrograde forces within the body politic have seized control. These forces demand that we serve the dictates of the marketplace. They are destroying all legal impediments to corporate exploitation and profit, as well as dismantling the regulatory agencies that once protected the citizen. They defend torture, offshore penal colonies, black sites and kidnapping (they call it “extraordinary rendition”) of state enemies. They protect and abet financial fraud. They wage pre-emptive war. They refuse to restore habeas corpus. Without warrants, they monitor, eavesdrop on and wiretap tens of millions of citizens. They order the assassination of U.S. citizens. They deny due process. They give corporations the status of persons. They ignore the suffering of the unemployed and the poor, slashing basic social service programs while doling out hundreds of billions in taxpayer funds to corporations. On these key issues, the only ones that really matter, there is no disagreement among trolls from either the self-identified left or the self-identified right. All their public disputes in the election cycle are a carnival act.

All conventional forms of dissent, from electoral politics to open debates, have been denied us. We cannot rely on the institutions that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. The only route left is to disconnect as thoroughly as possible from the consumer society and engage in acts of civil disobedience and obstruction. The more we sever ourselves from the addictions of fossil fuel and the consumer society, the more we begin to create a new paradigm for community. The more we engage in physical acts of defiance—as Bill McKibben and others did recently in front of the White House to protest the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico—the more we can keep alive a new, better way of relating to each other and the ecosystem.

Most important, we must stop being afraid. We have to turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for president. We have to defy all formal systems of power. We have to listen closely to the moral voices in our society, from McKibben to Noam Chomsky to Wendell Berry to Ralph Nader, and ignore feckless liberals who have been one of the most effective tools of our disempowerment. We have to create monastic enclaves where we can retain and nurture the values being rapidly destroyed by the wider corporate culture and build the mechanisms of self-sufficiency that will allow us to survive. The corporate coup is over. We have lost. The trolls have won. We have to face our banishment.

In William Shakespeare’s play “Coriolanus” the Roman consul is deposed by the mob. Coriolanus, whatever his faults, turns on those who thrust him from power to declare a valediction we should deliver to our class of ruling trolls and all those who remain in their embrace.

Brutus:    There’s no more to be said, but he is banish’d,

    As enemy to the people and his country:

    It shall be so.

Citizens:    It shall be so, it shall be so.


    You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate

    As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize

    As the dead carcasses of unburied me

    That do corrupt my air, I banish you;

    And here remain with your uncertainty!

    Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!

    Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,

    Fan you into despair! Have the power still

    To banish your defenders; till at length

   Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,

   Making not reservation of yourselves,

   Still your own foes, deliver you as most

   Abated captives to some nation

   That won you without blows! Despising,

   For you, the city, thus I turn my back:

   There is a world elsewhere.

This article was originally posted on Truthdig.

Author pic
ABOUT Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

Thanks for this. It was set

Thanks for this. It was set up and wnkriog in under 10 minutes on my dns323.One tip, the nzbget web interface shows the wrong time and timezone on all its messages. This is because the timezone is hard-coded in php to Europe/Zurich.To change, edit web/status.php line 11 and set it to your correct timezone.



Civil War I was the bloodiest

Civil War I was the bloodiest war in the history of the country. You really want another?

Civil War I was the bloodiest

Civil War I was the bloodiest war in the history of the country. You really want another?

It is not about seeking

It is not about seeking refuge in enclaves of enlightment. As Chris Hedges and other perceptive thinkers are aware, intellectual life has been so debased that for those who still value it, the FEELING is of being in a tiny enclave. And this is feeling is what is supposed to make people give up and go along with what seems to be the inevitable. It is this feeling, no matter how depressive, that we have to go into and experience before we can really understand what we are up against.

Jesse is the one who is

Jesse is the one who is asleep. His car runs on rainbows of oil and his brain has been turned to mush by the great god of mammon who he worships at the alter of the quarterly report. No one, not even Chris advocates that the government should provide everything. Get your head out of your rear end. Unregulated Capitalism is the cancer from which government of "we the people" protects "we the people" That knife in your back has your own hand on it friend. Turn off your tv and educate yourself if you have the stomach for it. Otherwise go back to sleep. The rest of us have work to do. You fail

What is it about this that

What is it about this that offends you? I'm curious. I hope you'll write more.

We need to ceremoniously, as

We need to ceremoniously, as a Whole People, withdraw our consent from the current corrupt government and give that consent to a new group of people like Chris Hedges, Thom Hartman, Denis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Amy Goodman, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Medea Benjamin who can propose the fundamental economic changes we need directly to the people for their vote in response. Alas, a peaceful revolution!

Everything Chris says is

Everything Chris says is true, and laudable--but there is very little of substance in his article when it comes to concrete actions to take, beyond "listening to" a bunch of (super cool smart) middle aged-t0-ancient white men. Nothing against Noam, Wendell, or Ralph, they all rock, but they are representing, shall we say, a slice of life. We need to do more than just "listen to" them: we need to listen to the voices of the marginalized, the poor, the young, and ACT ACCORDINGLY. We cannot just keep making observations and coming to conclusions--we need to live out the implications of those conclusions. MOVE YOUR MONEY OUT OF THE TOO-BIG-TO-FAIL BANKS. STOP BUYING SHIT FROM BIG BOX STORES. STOP DRIVING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. STOP EATING FACTORY-FARMED MEAT. AND STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP WATCHING TELEVISION! Personal responsibility, people. Learn it, and we will earn oursevles the change Chris Hedges wants to see.

Yay! Hippie punchin is so

Yay! Hippie punchin is so fun.(It's cause you know they were right, innit.)

Finally, another person who

Finally, another person who sees clearly what our country is and has become. We are living in a Plutocratic Oligarcy more than a democracy. You cannot have a democracy with only 25% participation in elections. The worst traits of humanity are glorified in our culture and the illusion of past accomplishments is nearly all that remains of a once worthy nation. Money is power and therefore must be regulated. Wealth is power and therefore must constrained by taxation. Freedom is earned by each new generation and therefore must be fought for. As history shows, success is a greater threat to freedom than external foes. The terrorists are not in Pakistan, Afganistan, Iraq or Iran. The terrorists are in the Tea Party, College Administrations, Local Police forces, Corporate Boards and Financial Institution Boards. They are right here with a gun to your head and economic chains to enslave you. WAKE UP AMERICA! THE ENEMY IS IN YOUR HOUSE!

We need to ceremoniously, as

We need to ceremoniously, as a Whole People, withdraw our consent from the current corrupt government and give that consent to a new group of people like Chris Hedges, Thom Hartman, Denis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Amy Goodman, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Medea Benjamin who can propose the fundamental economic changes we need directly to the people for their vote in response. Alas, a peaceful revolution!

Actually, Jesse has a valid

Actually, Jesse has a valid point: whereas the critique that Hedges makes of the un-enlightened and destructive forces that dominate our culture today are on the mark, the idea that we should seek refuge in enclaves of enlightenment stinks of nihilism.

Al Gore actually won the

Al Gore actually won the election against GWB. It didn't matter. In both the 2000 and 2004 elections, polls indicated more votes for the Democrat (Gore, Kerry) than Republican (Bush), and yet somehow those anomalies were explained away. Note that exit poll discrepancies only indicate corrupted elections in OTHER countries, not the United States.

Jesse is seriously, blindly

Jesse is seriously, blindly stupid, isn't he.

Three inescapable words:

Three inescapable words: Civil War II



The Election Uprising of 2012

The Election Uprising of 2012 is poised and ready for action. A candidate of great substance bolts from the Democratic party and runs as an independent. The blogesphere catches fire. All of the great betrayals of Obama's one term are addressed in the candidate's platform, with an overall tone of ending corruption and hypocrisy in D.C. politics. Jobs, unions, sustainability, energy policy, the wars, lobbyist powers, the poor, medical care for all and banking and wall street regulations each get planks. We are poised and ready. Just come up with that great candidate and it will happen.

Paul Krugman? Feingold?

Paul Krugman? Feingold? Sanders? Matt Damon? Jesse Ventura would beat out what we've got. There's plenty of time for someone to step up. What're Brad Pitt's leanings? It's got to be someone with guts, conscience and fame.

In theory Hedges makes some

In theory Hedges makes some obvious valid points, but who doesn't think we would live in a different world if an idealistic Ralph Nader Presidential campaign hadn't tipped the scales in favor of George W. Bush? There IS a difference between Democrats and extremist right wingers. Just let Rick Perry get elected and see what happens.

Al Gore actually won the

Al Gore actually won the election against GWB. It didn't matter. In both the 2000 and 2004 elections, polls indicated more votes for the Democrat (Gore, Kerry) than Republican (Bush), and yet somehow those anomalies were explained away. Note that exit poll discrepancies only indication corrupted elections in OTHER countries, not the United States.



Why are these our only two

Why are these our only two choices? 70% of congressmen would not be re-elected if elections were held today, according to a recent poll. If ever there was a time that a 3rd party or "no party" candidate could win, it's now. The campaign season is just beginning and the world is changing every minute. Election time will be different than where we're sitting today. The Republicans are gunning for stealing the election from the Dems, as they have the last 2 out of 3.

That's more why I feel defeated - they are passing voter suppression laws in every state. It doesn't matter if it's Perry or whoever - they will make sure they "win," and I don't see much in the way of Democrats or anyone else standing up to the groundwork they're laying right now.

Thank you! First article I

Thank you! First article I think I've ever read by you, and I just posted to my page, saying that you have come very close to expressing what I've been saying for quite some time now...that voting is obsolete and that we must walk away from the two established parties. When people say to me "oh, but you must hold your nose and vote for Obama, mustn't you?" I say, "No, no, I don't, in fact. I have voted in every election local to federal, for 30 years and my vote is precious. I must begin at some point, to honor what I truly believe in - that this country will continue on this path of destruction until we have publicly-funded elections - at the very least. I must start somewhere with being among those who are turning the tide, and it will be in 2012." I have become a delegate with Americans Elect 2012 - one hope I have for a direct Democracy candidate. Visit

Well said. Thumbs up to the

Well said. Thumbs up to the education as a number one policy goal of anyone who believes in democracy. Without it we become pawns first, then slaves. It is happening.

Gee! Thanks Jesse. That

Gee! Thanks Jesse. That clears up that issue. I guess the demands of the real world are more succinctly provided by our present system of phonied up puppet shows that pass for elections, the intestinal churning of Goldman Sachs that passes for an economy, the grand and glorious blessings of capitalism that have proved to be more than as good as its word about providing for the needs of society, (except when it doesn't), that is just soooooooo relevant. The last best hope of democracy is crushed on the shore of corporate greed and the necessity of wealth, but that's ok because it's been replaced with something even better, the loving grace of a hedge fund manager.

I am a huge Chris Hedges fan,

I am a huge Chris Hedges fan, but more and more think he has gone off the deep end rhetorically. Since the Empire of Illusion the argument has been so hysterical that regardless of the considerable merits I just want to cover my ears after a while. I use some of his writing in political media classes, but think I will pass on this one unless it's used as an example of how to drive away a sympathetic audience.

Well, this is damn

Well, this is damn depressing. Essentially, you're telling us to drop out. Not an option for a public school teacher.

Depressing? Yes. Dropping

Depressing? Yes. Dropping out? Not at all. He's encouraging you forge a new beginning. How long does it take to create an educated human? This is not supposed to be easy. I will not vote for Obama or any of the Republicans. I am currently a delegate with Americans Elect 2012 - a non-partisan, direct Democracy process for choosing a presidential candidate. If you haven't joined, I highly encourage you to.

So make like Cori­olanus and

So make like Cori­olanus and go away already. Go to a magical land where everything you say, no matter the level of exaggeration or truthfulness, is immediately treated by your fellow trolls as sacrosanct and deep. A land where cars run on rainbows and happiness and there's no need for capitalism because a government provides everything for everyone and no one is left with the bill. In short, go back to sleep because your dreams are probably the only place your drivel is relevant.

Jesse is seriously, blindly

Jesse is seriously, blindly stupid, isn't he.

Jesse is seriously, blindly

Jesse is seriously, blindly stupid, isn't he.

NO ONE says it clearer than

NO ONE says it clearer than Chris, if I were to die tomorrow I would be safe knowing he speaks truth and I could sleep.....forever.

Well done Chris! I have been

Well done Chris! I have been trying to communicate these ideas for awhile now. It will help to have this piece to refer to.
However, I think there is one area where there is still the possibility of implementing institutional change in spite of the trolls: the state ballot initiative. There is currently a mandatory GMO labeling initiative being prepared for the 2012 ballot in California, with citizens across the state volunteering time and money to ensure transparency in labeling of GMO ingredients.
This deceptively simple strategy allows "consumers" (formerly known as citizens) to vote with their wallets. In countries where labeling is mandatory, this has led to a vast reduction in the use of GMO ingredients. In the EU, for example, about 5% of food contains GMO ingredients, clearly labeled. In the US, where the FDA and Monsanto et al work vigorously to avoid labeling, over 70% of the food is contaminated.
I also feel compelled to point out that by speaking out this way you are doing the opposite of turning your back on society and forming an insular enclave. You are instead continuing to educate, to try to combat the trolls by accurately describing the tactics they use to divide and conquer. The world needs more of this, not less! I sincerely believe that the ability to analyze and resist propagandistic manipulation is a skill that can be taught. The last thing we need to do is sing to the choir--rather educate the choir to keep on engaging in active, democratic subversion by running for local elections and writing and passing citizen driven initiatives, while also building and maintaining systems of self-sufficiency. Let's just not be monastic, please! :) It is time now, more than ever, to engage.
For more information on the GMO campaign, please see

“Liberals beating their

“Liberals beating their little chests about the perfidiousness of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama” will then go to the polls like obedient trolls and vote as they are told.
Your grasp of the left blogosphere, at least, seems limited. Many of the self-styled liberals, such as those at Daily Kos, who will probably do as you say at the polls are fierce Obama partisans who jump all over anyone who dares to question him. Firedoglake bloggers, who have been dubbed “Firebaggers” by trolls from Kos, and who do regularly beat their chests, big or little, about the Dems and Obama, are currently in an intense discussion about what to do. The majority, as I see it, will never, ever vote for Obama. The real question is, what then? Vote third party? sit the election out? Write in a name, whether candidate or not? This is a serious, passionate discussion and I resent your heavy sarcasm and too ready contempt. Also your many times repeated litany of “We lost.”
As for Bill McKibben, he tends to be somewhat politically naïve, at least in his statements, and continues to say things like this is a chance for Obama to live up to what he said he believes in since he can make this decision (on the Keystone pipeline) on his own without interference from Congress. That strikes me and many Firebaggers as naïve. I long ago gave up on Obama doing anything but what his corporate masters tell him to do. Sort of Troll in Chief. But Jane Hamsher and others at FDL joined the sit in and were arrested and marched to jail alongside McKibben. FDL is doing all it can to spread the word about the sit in and Keystone. I think your naysaying and insistence that “We lost!” does little to galvanize people to take action.

It does seem pretty hopeless

It does seem pretty hopeless when the average citizen cannot sort truth from fiction,sensationalism from fact and moral from immoral!There needs to be a critical mass shift of consciousness from fear to empowerment. Where the hell are the true leaders?

Watch this Old School Liberal

Watch this Old School Liberal NOT march to the polls in November 2012. Go on.. watch me. Thanks much. HLB

Ang Gree's picture

two words: Green Party

two words: Green Party

or in fact almost any 3rd

or in fact almost any 3rd party.

this struggle will not be won in one election and maybe not in one generation.

A wonderful article -as a

A wonderful article -as a former American living in Canada - watching the general hysterical stupidity of the US news and US politics is a tragedy indeed - a once great country that has been hollowed out. The education standards have been reduced to a point that the ridiculousness and stupidity of the politics and the media is simply a reflection of the ridiculousness and stupidity of American culture.

It's beyond nauseating to

It's beyond nauseating to realize that people of goodwill have been defeated by the trolls, and that really is what they are. That we are outnumbered is no consolation. Since the trolls were already well known in Shakespeare's time, Mr. Hedges, as your book title states, human progress is a myth. That doesn't mean, however, that anyone who is aware should stop fighting. Perhaps the breakthrough that took place on the eastern shore of North America in the late eighteenth century can be replicated. One hopes...

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