Assange Chris Hedges human rights Protest

Chris Hedges: The Puppets and the Puppet Masters

The judicial proceedings against Julian Assange give a faux legality to the state persecution of the most important and courageous journalist of our generation.

This is the speech given by Chris Hedges outside the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. on Saturday October 8 at a rally that called on the U.S. to revoke its extradition request for Julian Assange.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Merrick Garland and those who work in the Department of Justice are the puppets, not the puppet masters. They are the façade, the fiction, that the longstanding persecution of Julian Assange has something to do with justice. Like the High Court in London, they carry out an elaborate judicial pantomime. They debate arcane legal nuances to distract from the Dickensian farce where a man who has not committed a crime, who is not a U.S. citizen, can be extradited under the Espionage Act and sentenced to life in prison for the most courageous and consequential journalism of our generation.

The engine driving the lynching of Julian is not here on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is in Langley, Virginia, located at a complex we will never be allowed to surround – the Central Intelligence Agency. It is driven by a secretive inner state, one where we do not count in the mad pursuit of empire and ruthless exploitation. Because the machine of this modern leviathan was exposed by Julian and WikiLeaks, the machine demands revenge. 

The United States has undergone a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. It is no longer a functioning democracy. The real centers of power, in the corporate, military and national security sectors, were humiliated and embarrassed by WikiLeaks. Their war crimes, lies, conspiracies to crush the democratic aspirations of the vulnerable and the poor, and rampant corruption, here and around the globe, were laid bare in troves of leaked documents.  

We cannot fight on behalf of Julian unless we are clear about whom we are fighting against. It is far worse than a corrupt judiciary. The global billionaire class, who have orchestrated a social inequality rivaled by pharaonic Egypt, has internally seized all of the levers of power and made us the most spied upon, monitored, watched and photographed population in human history. When the government watches you 24-hours a day, you cannot use the word liberty. This is the relationship between a master and a slave. Julian was long a target, of course, but when WikiLeaks published the documents known as Vault 7, which exposed the hacking tools the CIA uses to monitor our phones, televisions and even cars, he — and journalism itself — was condemned to crucifixion. The object is to shut down any investigations into the inner workings of power that might hold the ruling class accountable for its crimes, eradicate public opinion and replace it with the cant fed to the mob.

I spent two decades as a foreign correspondent on the outer reaches of empire in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. I am acutely aware of the savagery of empire, how the brutal tools of repression are first tested on those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” Wholesale surveillance. Torture. Coups. Black sites. Black propaganda. Militarized police. Militarized drones. Assassinations. Wars. Once perfected on people of color overseas, these tools migrate back to the homeland. By hollowing out our country from the inside through deindustrialization, austerity, deregulation, wage stagnation, the abolition of unions, massive expenditures on war and intelligence, a refusal to address the climate emergency and a virtual tax boycott for the richest individuals and corporations, these predators intend to keep us in bondage, victims of a corporate neo-feudalism. And they have perfected their instruments of Orwellian control. The tyranny imposed on others is imposed on us.

From its inception, the CIA carried out assassinations, coups, torture, and illegal spying and abuse, including that of U.S. citizens, activities exposed in 1975 by the Church Committee hearings in the Senate and the Pike Committee hearings in the House. All these crimes, especially after the attacks of 9/11, have returned with a vengeance. The CIA is a rogue and unaccountable paramilitary organization with its own armed units and drone program, death squads and a vast archipelago of global black sites where kidnapped victims are tortured and disappeared. 

The U.S. allocates a secret black budget of about $50 billion a year to hide multiple types of clandestine projects carried out by the National Security Agency, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, usually beyond the scrutiny of Congress. The CIA has a well-oiled apparatus to kidnap, torture and assassinate targets around the globe, which is why, since it had already set up a system of 24-hour video surveillance of Julian in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, it quite naturally discussed kidnapping and assassinating him. That is its business. Senator Frank Church — after examining the heavily redacted CIA documents released to his committee — defined the CIA’s “covert activity” as “a semantic disguise for murder, coercion, blackmail, bribery, the spreading of lies and consorting with known torturers and international terrorists.”

Armed and Dangerous – by Mr. Fish

All despotisms mask state persecution with sham court proceedings. The show trials and troikas in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The raving Nazi judges in fascist Germany. The Denunciation rallies in Mao’s China. State crime is cloaked in a faux legality, a judicial farce.

If Julian is extradited and sentenced and, given the Lubyanka-like proclivities of the Eastern District of Virginia, this is a near certainty, it means that those of us who have published classified material, as I did when I worked for The New York Times, will become criminals. It means that an iron curtain will be pulled down to mask abuses of power. It means that the state, which, through Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, anti-terrorism laws and the Espionage Act that have created our homegrown version of Stalin’s Article 58, can imprison anyone anywhere in the world who dares commit the crime of telling the truth.

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to fight against powerful subterranean forces that, in demanding Julian’s extradition and life imprisonment, have declared war on journalism. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to fight for the restoration of the rule of law and democracy. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to dismantle the wholesale Stasi-like state surveillance erected across the West. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to overthrow — and let me repeat that word for the benefit of those in the FBI and Homeland Security who have come here to monitor us — overthrow the corporate state and create a government of the people, by the people and for the people, that will cherish, rather than persecute, the best among us.

You can see my interview with Julian’s father, John Shipton, here.

NOTE TO SCHEERPOST READERS FROM CHRIS HEDGES: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at so I can continue to post my now weekly Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.

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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 show The Chris Hedges Report.


  1. America was never a democracy, functioning or otherwise. It’s mythology to believe we were any kind of real one at any point.

  2. Wish you well Chris.Seems like your a Don Quixote in this tragedy. Every generation must fight for its freedom otherwise it will be taken away.The Monster is never far away.
    IT really came out of the shadows with the Kennedy assassination.(Classic JuliusCesar reinactment) It’s been rapidly growing ever since.
    Imperial Rome now has reemerged in all its triumphant glory and there is no stopping it.The Power of the elite citizens in Washington is total.
    Futher slavery awaits as the masses seek salvation in another Trump like figure.He sure will not be another Moses.

    1. But, but, didn’t Moses lead the then recently freed slaves from Egypt to the Holy land that Yahweh had gifted to them? All they had to do to secure the Holy Land, that had “unholy” people living there, was to kill them all, every man, woman and child. USA. USA. USA. Kill them all. Let God sort them out. Are you sure Trump isn’t a Moses in waiting?

      1. Trump is gone (hopefully forever from political office; he could be an effective gadfly). He couldn’t start new wars. Unforgivable.
        Biden is our Moses. Nukes next?

  3. Yaaaay!! I’ve been saying all of these things for decades. & it seems Rev. Hedges has pivoted to blaming the true villains – the soulless corporation. I post about this constantly in different fora – please, everyone, spread the word. This body without a soul is now an existential threat to humanity. Our attacks on its power must be constant & relentless.

  4. … it looks like the CIA accepted the challenge and tampered with this article ( fourth paragraph last sentence ) which makes no sense to me . Excellent article Mr. Hedges despite the “ typo “ .

  5. … it looks like the security state accepted the challenge and tampered with this article ( fourth paragraph last sentence ) which makes no sense to me . Excellent article Mr. Hedges despite the “ typo “ .

  6. So, Chris, precisely how do you propose to hold these bad guys accountable, when you admit we can’t even surround them …

    You are taunting them – are you actually hoping you will be arrested and charged – become the next cause celebre ?

    All this stuff you say is true – and has been for some time and if the American people don’t know it by now, it’s because they don’t want to know … Or perhaps they don’t really care … they have other things on their mind …. so keep preaching – its all true but in the absence of any plan to change it, to make it better – it’s like spitting in the wind …

  7. A tragic and predictable story. Another Australian, Wilfred Burchett went to Hiroshima in the first days following the atomic bomb. He photographed the victims, the devastation the horror, done by the USA. and he wrote about it all.
    What happened to Burchett’s record of this – it disappeared, along with the never-ending persecution of him, and his banishment from his own country.
    They’ll do it more subtly to Assange. They’ll aim to break his spirit and his mental health.
    For Australia, America’s lackey – the best face-saving outcome will be – to make Assange plead guilty. Then he spends some time in the cruellest USA prison. then a “kindly” U.S. President magnaminously lets him go to and Australian gaol. Some years later, a completely discredited and broken Julian is released, when they’re sure he’s forgotten by the public.
    But world-wide journalists won’t forget- they have been shown how they must toe the USA line.

    1. Noel, thanks.
      Wilfred Burchett (1911-1983) intentionally disobeyed US instructions when he went into Hiroshima and warned the world about the deceit and consequences of The Bomb; and for his lifetime of reportage covering the savagery of US empire in the post_WW2 he was ridiculed as a commie, his passport disappeared, and in Australia, to this day, he is still held in contempt by mainstream commentators and historians who strive to maintain the status quo.

      For readers unaware of Burchett his story – especially travelling to Hiroshima on a train full of retreating Japanese soldiers train – is one of bravery and courage, and standing up and speaking truth to power.

      Julian stands on the shoulders of a long tradition of journalists who would not be cowered by the powerful.
      And after watching Stella Moris tell John Bolton – to his face – that he should be indicted for war crimes, she too is not afraid to call ‘bullshit’ to those who would want to rule the rule world.

      1. Noel and Graeme,

        Thank you for the information and links about Wilfred Burchett! Another hero of true Journalism. May there be more!

  8. Successive Australian Gutlessments, oops I mean Governments, could have stood up to the Empire of Ignorance War Hypocrisy and Greed but they’ve licked boots instead.
    Pathetic, pale imitations of humanity they are.

  9. Thank you, Chris, for this excellent essay. I consider Assange, Snowden, Manning and other brave whistle-blowers to be heroes of the 21st century, just as Ellsberg was in the 20th. To tell important truths openly is to court persecution, as all of those have experienced.

    Sadly, many of my family and friends believe that Wikileaks went too far in exposing the secrets of our National Security State. Worse even, I have come to conclude that we are already deep into the modern feudal age, so deep that most of us cannot see it because we grew up in it and have always believed that we were free.

    I think the Industrial Revolution marked the end of meaningful freedom, as small self-sufficient farmers were systematically driven off the land. The hippie dream of back-to-the-land was just that — a dream. Only the Amish retain any sustainable independence from industrial-technological serfdom, and they do so by sacrificing much personal freedom — more than most of us could adapt to.

    We are serfs (wage-slaves), unless we are wealthy to the point of independence, or retired with enough to live on. Hence the constant anxiety about finding work, or keeping a job, especially one that pays a living wage. If slaveholders in the Old South had understood how profitable it is to have serfs (share-croppers) instead of slaves, the American civil war would not have been necessary.

    What will it take for the serfs to rise up against the aristocracy? Well, the plagues in Europe in the 14th century led to some improvement in labor status and conditions, suggesting that a major upheaval may be sufficient. Whether such upheaval is necessary, I don’t think anyone knows. But as humanity is headed for a perfect storm of climate, population, and resource depletion, I think upheaval is coming.

  10. Well, the Global Elites and their well paid puppets want nothing less but to see Assange dead, just like they are willing to fight to the last Ukrainian- no matter the cost. We’re dealing with pure evil.

  11. One of the most acute problems with the left-ish, Neo Progressive white-washing attempt to anoint Assange into sainthood is that we ignore the most important aspect of the Wikileaks phenomenon, namely the overly secretive nature of governments and, specifically, whether vigilante publishing of sporadic, random and haphazard stolen documents, which exposes both the ‘whistle blowers’ and their publishers to due process, is the best way to deal with it.

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