Chris Hedges Original

Chris Hedges: The Cost of Resistance

You can measure the effectiveness of resistance by the fury of the response by ruling elites.

By Chris Hedges / Original to Scheerpost

Two of the rebels I admire most, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher, and Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, are in jail in Britain. That should not be surprising. You can measure the effectiveness of resistance by the fury of the response. Julian courageously exposed the lies, deceit, war crimes and corruption of the ruling imperial elites. Roger has helped organized the largest acts of mass civil disobedience in British history, shutting down parts of London for weeks, in a bid to wrest power from a ruling class that has done nothing, and will do nothing, to halt the climate emergency and our death march to mass extinction.

The governing elites, when truly threatened, turn the rule of law into farce. Dissent becomes treason. They use the state mechanisms of control – intelligence agencies, police, courts, black propaganda and a compliant press that acts as their echo chamber, along with the jails and prisons, not only to marginalize and isolate rebels, but to psychologically and physically destroy them. The list of rebels silenced or killed by ruling elites runs in a direct line from Socrates to the Haitian resistance leader Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the only successful slave revolt in human history and died in a frigid French prison cell of malnutrition and exhaustion, to the imprisonment of the socialist Eugene V. Debs, whose health was also broken in a federal prison. Rebel leaders from the 1960s, including Mumia Abu Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Kojo Bomani Sababu, Mutulu Shakur and Leonard Peltier, remain, decades later, in U.S. prisons. Muslim activists, including those who led the charity The Holy Land Foundation and Syed Fahad Hashmi, were arrested, often at the request of Israel, after the hysteria following 9/11, and given tawdry show trials. They also remain incarcerated.

Resistance, genuine resistance, exacts a very, very high price. Those in power drop even the pretense of justice when they face an existential threat. Most rebels, like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and the tens of thousands of rebels the U.S. has had kidnapped, disappeared and brutally tortured and killed throughout American history end up as martyrs.

Once a rebel is caged the state uses its absolute control and array of dark arts to break them. Julian, whose extradition hearing is underway in London, and who spent seven years trapped as a political prisoner in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, is taken from his cell in the high security Belmarsh Prison at 5:00 am. He is handcuffed, put in holding cells, stripped naked and X-rayed. He is transported an hour and a half each way to court in a police van that resembles a dog cage on wheels. He is held in a glass box at the back of court during the proceedings, often unable to consult with his lawyers. He has difficulty hearing the proceedings. He is routinely denied access to the documents in his case and is openly taunted in court by the judge.

It does not matter that Julian, being prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, is not a U.S. citizen. It does not matter that WikiLeaks, which he founded and publishes, is not a U.S.-based publication. The ominous message the U.S. government is sending is clear: No matter who or where you are, if you expose the inner workings of empire you will be hunted down, kidnapped and brought to the U.S. to be tried as a spy and imprisoned for life. The empire intends to be unaccountable, untouchable and unexamined.

Illustratin by Mr. Fish for Scheerpost.

The U.S. created in the so-called “war on terror” parallel legal and penal codes to railroad dissidents and rebels into prison. These rebels are held in prolonged solitary confinement, creating deep psychological distress. They are prosecuted under special administrative measures, known as SAMs, to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. They are denied access to the news and other reading material. They are barred from participating in educational and religious activities in the prison. They are subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They are permitted to write one letter a week to a single member of their family, but cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and must take the one hour of recreation in a cage that looks like a giant hamster wheel.

The U.S. has set up a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists. Their sentences are arbitrarily lengthened by “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail – although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials – are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level “terrorists” are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colorado, where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation. It is Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Julian is already very fragile. His psychological and physical distress include dramatic weight loss, severe respiratory problems, joint problems, dental decay, chronic anxiety, intense, constant stress resulting in an inability to relax or focus, and episodes of mental confusion. These symptoms indicate, as Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture who met and examined Julian in prison has stated, that he is suffering from prolonged psychological torture.

If Julian is extradited to the U.S. to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act, each carrying a potential 10 years, which appears likely, he will continue to be psychologically and physically abused to break him. He will be tried in the burlesque of a kangaroo court with “secret” evidence, familiar to Black and Muslim radicals as well as rebels such as Jeremy Hammond, sentenced to 10 years in prison for hacking into the computers and making public the emails of a private security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical.

Roger is being held in Pentonville Prison in London which was built in 1842 and is in disrepair. He is charged with breaking bail conditions over an action that saw activists throw paint on the walls of the four major political parties, as well as conspiracy to cause criminal damage. A Green Party member leaked to the British police a recorded Zoom discussion Roger was having with three other members of Burning Pink, an anti-political party organized to create citizen assemblies to replace ruling governing bodies, as they discussed upcoming actions. The homes of the four activists on the Zoom meeting – Roger Hallam, Blyth Brentnall, Diana Warner, Ferhat Ulusu and Anglican priest Steven Nunn – were raided on August 25. Their electronic devices were confiscated by police and they were arrested.

Roger is housed in a dirty, vermin-infested cell and denied books and visitors. A vegan, he is forced to live on a diet of cold cereal and bread. On many days there is no hot food served in the prison. Violent altercations within the prison are commonplace. The overcrowded cells often lack lighting and heat. He has no change of clothes and has been unable to wash the clothes he is wearing for weeks. He stuffs bed sheets and paper in the cracks of the door to block mice and cockroaches. The toilet in his cell has no seat, is covered in excrement and does not flush properly. He goes days without access to the outside. His reading glasses are broken. He is waiting on a request for tape to fix them. The COVID-19 pandemic is in the prison. Two of the staff have died from the virus. Roger could be imprisoned in these conditions until February if he is denied bail in a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Roger’s arrest came as Extinction Rebellion was planning the blockade of the printing presses of News Corps Printworks, which prints the newspapers The Times, Sun on Sunday, Sunday Times, The Daily Mail and The London Evening Standard. The blockade took place on September 4 to protest the failure of the news outlets to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency. The blockade delayed distribution of the papers by several hours.

“The days of standing up to tyranny have long faded,” Roger writes from prison. “The life-and-death struggle against Hitler and fascism is consigned to the history books. Today’s liberal classes believe only in one thing: maintaining their privilege. Their one priority is power. The number one rule is: preserve our careers, our institutions at all cost. The historical rule number one of fighting evil is the willingness to lose your career and to risk the closing down of your institution. The prospect of death and destruction is lost in a postmodernist haze. Leadership has decayed into sitting behind a desk, following public relations protocols (otherwise known as lying). Leading from the front, the first to go to prison Martin Luther King-style died with the passing of the World War II generation.” 

“The game is up,” Roger continued. “The old alliance with the liberal classes is dead. New forms of revolutionary initiative and leadership are rising up. Members of the new political party Burning Pink have thrown paint at the doors of the NGOs and political parties calling for open dialogue and public debate. The response, true to form, has been a lethal and deafening silence. We are now in prison from where I write this article after a Green Party member recorded a Zoom call and passed it to the police. We have not been let out for exercise for the first five days. We have no kettle, no pillows, no visits. But we don’t give a shit. We are doing something about Evil.”

[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for Scheerpost twice a month. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2020 Chris Hedges.


  1. Are they doing anything about Evil beyond bringing it on themselves? In the US we have become the land of the freaked and the home of the slave. Nobody knows and nobody cares, except for a few marginal dissidents, as far as I can see. Materialism has conquered and we are dead souls.

    1. Materialism is the recognition of how underlaying material conditions are a crucial and part of human life . It´s not materialism what has conquered us. It´s deceptive idealism, consumerism, nihilism and neoliberalism.

      1. Consumerism, nihilism and neoliberalism are derivatives of materialism. Materialism is the belief that wealth and power are the only things that count, and the human spirit is an illusion.

      2. “Consumerism, nihilism and neoliberalism are derivatives of materialism” for the win. mig’s view is that of a marxist – not a horrible thing in and of itself but marxism is just as much a branch of materialism, modernism and industrial society as capitalism. it just has a different view of how the material should be used and distributed. usually the sight of marxists vs capitalists reminds me of the hatfields and mccoys: just a bunch of goofy white folks fighting over something most observers wouldn’t care about in the first place.

    2. Mr Eaton, with our permission, I am borrowing “we have become the land of the freaked and the home of the slave. ” It is very musical and utterly true.. I will cite you.

    3. Mr Easton,

      “we have become the land of the freaked and the home of the slave”

      That is kool music and utterly true.
      May I use it in one of my own texts?
      I will be sure to cite you.

  2. History is made bloody and ugly by those who detest the Truth.
    Mortality, great equaliser, is our only consolation.

  3. “Today’s liberal classes believe only in one thing: maintaining their privilege. Their one priority is power. The number one rule is: preserve our careers, our institutions at all cost.” Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, currently jailed in Britain. With this statement my understanding of our severely broken political system is clearer – hopeless.

  4. And you are one of my heroes in the resistance. Your articulate insights are fuel for our souls and for our fight. We need you just as much.

  5. Chris Hedges:

    Thank you for a brilliant article that confirms what, sadly, I’ve seen and sensed. We can call this the post-dissent era. Like Russia, where decades of systematic oppression have rendered its citizens numb to all appeals for reform.

    I have a follow up question to something you noted in your article:
    Why did the Green Party turn in the head of the XR?
    An article on the Green Party would be salient. Most of us know little to nothing about them. Although I sense it’s appropriate to mistrust their leadership.
    Thank you very much.
    Patricia Wolfenden

    1. Good question, Patricia. I can’t really add to your already good point other than my assumption is the Green who turned in Hallam is of the British Green Party, and that the European Greens are somehow different than the American Greens. I’ve not looked any of this up so, like you, I don’t know much at all about European Greens.

    2. Patricia, it could also be an infiltrator – an “agent provocateur” who turned them in and not a sincere Green Party member. That happens a lot

  6. as amerikans have transformed into automatons they must viscously attack the truth more aggressively….Boorstin wrote in the mid 1960’s, “amerikans live in a thicket of illusions; amerikans demand illusions about themselves”

    1. I don’t know where I would be without the likes of Julian , Roger and Chris.

      I would add Matt Taibbi and John Pilger and Noam Chomsky.

      These are the brains that fight back against the brutality of neoliberalism and fascism.

      I really, really hope that somehow , someway these two brave and incredibly talented humanitarians make it on through to the beautiful lives they must be returned to.

  7. And with our seemingly exponentially-growing prison system, the elites have zero problem arresting anyone who even thinks of radically upending the American apple cart and tossing them in the can to preserve their precious supply of cheap labor, as that ‘socialist’ Kamala Harris advocates.

    While the seed of slave labor was planted by the Founders, the US had a chance to eradicate it for good but instead opted to enshrine it in the 13th Amendment. We have slavery all over the place: prisons, undocumented workers, drug and alcohol rehab centers, even internships. We’ve long been past the event horizon on this issue, there’s no going back to fix anything. America, at least in this regard, is irredeemable.

    They’re not tossing people into prison because they’re merely mean people. Sure there are quite a few sickos who get off on it like they’re doing with Hallam and Assange. But far more than that, there’s a profit motive in it, and a massive one. Because the more slavery a nation has and indulges in, the richer it becomes. And that’s all that matters in America at the end of the day; not freedom, liberty or any of that other crap, it’s simply wealth.

    “A égalité d’oppression des masses, plus un pays a de prolétaires et plus il est riche.”
    Karl Marx

    “…the labour of the poor being the mines of the rich.”
    John Bellers

  8. Thanks for the article, Chris. Bless you for speaking. Heart breaking. But it spurs me on

  9. I am speechless. Thank you for writing this. This government is truly evil. I wish I lived in the UK & could stand outside Pentonville. But there must be people doing that. What is happening on the legal front with Roger?

  10. I recall someone referring to the Earth as the Insane Asylum for the Universe back around 1985. There is no doubt in my mind now. And the inmates are running the asylum on top of it all. At least the ongoing exponential climate catastrophe will put us all out of our misery hopefully sooner than later as everything is collapsing rapidly now economically and politically.

  11. The idea that there is a correlation between resistance, or even civil disobedience and the reason Assange and Hallam are in jail now is easy to refute. After all, while the number of people participating in the ‘resistance’ Hedges speaks of is in the hundreds, if not in the thousands, only a handful spent any time incarcerated, and those who did remained in prison for pissing on the rule of law, while none was imprisoned or tried for their resistance.

    It is not bravery which got Assange and Hallam into the predicament their are in, but their own delusion that their righteous cause allow them to act as if they are above the law, or in the least outside of it.

    1. When the law is perverted to support oppression, it is the duty of the morally aware to resist it. Cruel, severe punishments for relatively minor infractions are the telltale sign of totalitarianism. As well as a double standard for who gets to use what means – in a consistent pattern. Breanna Taylor’s boyfriend was within the law to shoot his gun in his own house against home invaders — the police, who had NO discernible reason for the no-knock warrant. The only thing that mattered? Damage to the common wall between their apartment and another. The price paid? One murdered paramedic and two acquitted policemen. The law is not sufficient to resolve for whom and for what it is perverted. More simply: The American colonists broke the law. Many laws. That’s why we have America. Another example: Slavery was legal — so a war was fought to resolve that “question,” as Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address. He himself hijacked the Constitution, in order to change the law, giving equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to ALL human beings “on this continent.”

      1. Neither Assange nor Hallam are in jail for resisting secrecy laws (Assange) or environmental law (Hallam), but rather for resisting the notion that the laws of bail conditions are applicable to them.

        The idea that the perversion of one or two laws by government is a license to random vigilantly disregard to any law that prevent them from a desired action, implied in your comment, is bizarre to say the least.

        I would also suggest that you revise your knowledge of the US Civil War, which is lacking. For one, it was the seceding South, following Lincoln election to office and his decree against slavery. For another, the word ‘Constitution’ is not mentioned at all in the Gettysburg Address.

    2. Lincoln didn’t start the war, it’s true. But he knew it was inevitable if he was going to stand up to Confederate slavery — the actual and sole justification for secession. It’s what made the moral force of the Federal government irresistible. Most in the North has or were divesting from slavery.
      Nor did I say the breaking of a few trivial laws justified the anarchy of breaking any and all laws, willy nilly. In fact I said the reverse: a few minor transgressions by dissenters does NOT justify the kind of government retribution Hedges is describing. And these prisoners are broken to deter the will of the people from changing the repressive status quo.

      1. There is no evidence that the North was divesting from slavery. Northern economic interests benefited handsomely from slavery. Ask yourself, why lent the money to the southern planters? Who spun their cotton into cloth? Who operated the fugitive slave-hunting gangs who terrorized Northern blacks? Enough with this Northernets-were-saintly propaganda!

      2. Neither Assange nor Hallam are in jail for braking laws that are even remotely related to their causes (secretive government and environmental devastation, respectively).

        And while government retribution is both obvious and unjustifiable, so is their disregard for the law. It was naive, ignorant and arrogant for them to do so, not brave or praiseworthy, and they deserve our pity, not admiration.

  12. Thanks for the amazing work Chris. I’m so glad that there are people like you who never sold out.

  13. All this is true. This is about bravery and cowardice. To take these people on, you have to decide that you dont care about what they will do to you right at the start. You do it because you have to. Because of the children. But you have also to be a blade runner. You have to be tricksy. If you stand up in front of the machine, it will roll over you. Snowden had the right idea. Mother Nature herself will eventually take them down. It seems to be happening.

    1. This was a wonderful response. I wish I had the tricksy, Blade Runner level of courage you describe.

  14. chris is the most valuable citizen we have, but he is human and has inner structures like the rest of us— fwiw i was a psychotherapist

    3 criticisms
    climate- ive studied hard and accept that co2 cannot by itself cause the massive change predicted–its part of the enslavement effort

    covid-deaths numbers are about 30% fabricated for political reasons and became a money racket as well–it was needed to be “deadly” to deflect the pitchforks–right out of the playbook

    he dosent see that trumps election was the most recent instinctive effort by the people to push back on those who are trying to enslave them-i said ‘effort’ –they elected a non politician, as is AOC–
    they did the best they could, and it should have given us all heart


    he’s not chris’ kind of guy –so …”junk the whole thing” and give the political power to pelosi, schumer, schiff, blumenthal

    i am not voting “for” trump ,but against those ghouls

    and again ,if anyone can ,please direct me to evidence of right wing mob violence anywhere near the scale of the left–i search but cannot find it

    1. I believe you are mainly correct. The evidence regarding covid is so distorted that we don’t know. I would not be surprised if we learn in 3 years that 75% of deaths attributed to c19 were actually caused by pulmonary, kidney, heart disease

      1. HIV by itself doesn’t kill. You die of secondary infections and diseases. Would you then say that HIV is exaggerated and not a problem? Think about it.

  15. i did type it

    and entered all info requested

    i saw it printed and fed back to me but without my punctuation

  16. “The high cost of livin’
    Ain’t nothing like the cost of livin’ high” – Jamey Johnson

    The postmodernist stupor and fog of drugs, alcohol, inane t.v. and media sources, cheap junk food, crisis cults and myriad ways to just zone out in a mindless, vaguely contented mental state is resulting in the highest cost possible – collapse of civilization, irreversible collapse.
    We must sober up and and wise up and face these challenges in a clear-headed state of mind.

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