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A Nation of Snitches


A Nation of Snitches

Chris Hedges

A totalitarian state is only as strong as its informants. And the United States has a lot of them. They read our emails. They listen to, download and store our phone calls. They photograph us on street corners, on subway platforms, in stores, on highways and in public and private buildings. They track us through our electronic devices. They infiltrate our organizations.


“We will not be able to reclaim our democracy and free ourselves from tyranny until the informants and the vast networks that sustain them are banished. As long as we are watched 24 hours a day we cannot use the word ‘liberty.’ This is the relationship of a master and a slave. Any prisoner understands this.’”

Perhaps the first step would be for Hedges and other progressives to stop promoting the fiction that the U.S. or any capitalist country was ever a “democracy”. As for the U.S. it was set up and has always been a plutocracy. As James Madison remarked to fellow crafters of the U.S. Constitution the purpose was to model a new system, with window dressing, based on the English system of protecting the wealth of the minority from the majority. Originally only white men of property could vote. The vote would be widened and given to all except felons and the homeless indigent but the system protecting the wealth of the minority has never been stronger. The attempts to reform capitalism with unions providing a growing middle class completely failed in the twentieth century as capitalist owners only grant concessions temporarily. Capitalism is profit before people and the commodification of everyone and everything. Corporations as people and corporate money as free speech is the ultimate curse of the now U.S. Empire. Racism and classism are endemic to capitalism which divides and oppresses in order to control, protect and increase the wealth of the minority.

Every subject of the empire is brainwashed and conditioned from birth to accept and obey authority, and to accept their lot in life as their responsibility. If one doesn’t have enough and even if one falls ill it’s ones own fault for not working harder and taking better care of one’s self. THE SELF is supreme. And those that would limit the freedom of the self over others are terrorists. The police and soldiers are heroes to be worshipped. All hail the snipers and snitches that protect “our freedoms” of the self.

Fascism is the final stage of capitalism and it is the only way capitalism can continue when it comes to a dead end. There are many forms of slavery from chains to wages. The worst slavery is the slavery of one’s mind where even the clearest voice still echoes the master’s lies of “democracy” and “freedom”. Master and slave though are both imprisoned together within the boundaries of the system, each is diminished to a “little man”. Neither can be truly happy, free of fear or healthy. Only the destruction of capitalism will end the oppression of all. Only socialism is based on democracy.


Idea for a video: “If you see something, say something.” - Images of NSA computer analysts at their terminals scanning video of the streets; politicians giving speeches in exchange for big ‘donations’, otherwise known as bribes; people being foreclosed on; people being roughed up by the police; people being denied the ability to vote; corporate fatcats golfing with the President. “If you see something, say something.”


"… describes a moment when an influx of western Ukrainians who had been soldiers during World War II arrived at his camp, at Ekibastuz. The Ukrainians, he wrote, ‘were horrified by the apathy and slavery they saw, and reached for their knives.’ They began to murder the informants.

Now their offspring are wrecking havoc in eastern Ukraine. Were they put in the Gulag because of their Nazi sympathies and collaboration? I can’t believe Hedges selected this passage from the book.


More than likely they were Soviet soldiers liberated from Nazi Pow camps, or had said something considered an offense to the soviet state “boy, those americans sure make good spam!” or simply fought in the final battles for Berlin, ect. Any of those “offenses” could, and did, land you in the Gulag. As for hitchens article , I have no desire to live in Orwells 1984.


I’ve only gotten partly into this already excellent and compelling essay, but I did want to comment on this quote:

“Tyranny is always welded together by subterranean networks of informants. These informants keep a populace in a state of fear. They perpetuate constant anxiety and enforce isolation through distrust.”

There is something else to this strategy and it may be darker than the obvious. It’s that for real Solidarity to occur, there must be cohesion among persons, or ideally a sort of spiritual & ideological coalescence. Distrust is like a pin pricking that balloon. It literally diffuses “content” before it can reach a state of fullness.

Not only does the pervasive sense of being watched cause persons to self-censor–perhaps explaining why fewer show up at major protests and such–it robs groups of the force that would allow persons to truly experience that state of UNITY that can move mountains. The spy net is covert psychological warfare. Also, it inverts one of the key covenants upon which the (would-be) Rule of Law operates: that of the presumption of innocence.

As Mr. Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, and several ACLU spokespersons speaking on Amy Goodman’s show, “Democracy Now” have all stated: this vast compilation of data can and will be used to create cases against those perceived as “problematic” or “persons of interest” as the gradual accommodations to Inverted Totalitarianism speed up. Inside this nexus, all are presumed guilty. Plus ALL of the logistics: prisons, a pervasive spy-net, macho police equipped with military tools of suppression, a “legal” framework, and lots of authoritarian “true believers” are in place. Like dry wood awaiting a spark… not much is needed to trigger a more direct showing of The Beast.


This is Fascism. It is an attempt to break down all that remains of the Community so that the peoples loyalties lie not with their neighbors or communities in which they live or the environment , but with the State and only the State, The people are individuals whose sole function is perpetuating State power and the power of the ruling class.

“Self Interest” and only “self interest” , that meme promoted by Ayn Rand and her supporters , ensures that an individual has but that one ultimate loyalty. It is in ones “self interest” to behave as the State instructs and to follow all LAWS that the State might pass because going outside of the boundaries will bring the full power of the State down upon that person and in a society devoid of community it will not be in any one else’s self interest to speak up for you.

This is not to be confused as a polemic against Government. This is one against the existing form of Government which is structured to protect the interests of that 1 percent.


“There are no rules in this dirty game. Police, like prison officials, can offer snitches deals that lack judicial oversight or control. (Deals sometimes involve something as trivial as allowing a prisoner access to food like cheeseburgers.)”

This is so eerily reminiscent of the scene from the film trilogy, “The Matrix” where one of the individuals on Neo’s “ship” sells him out (to the bureaucratic machine-like Mr. Smiths) for a steak dinner.


Your portrait is limited in that Democracy, as ideal, is yet to be achieved just about anywhere… although Europe’s social democracies–at least up until 911 prompted a robust rescinding of Civil Liberties under the guise of fighting a pervasive Terrorist enemy–had made more progress in this regard.

Painting the problem as that of America, in particular, or attaching it to Capitalism leaves out the long bloody trail of history. It reflects a constant struggle between those with power (aristocratic wealth holders along with church/royal families) and those without it. This issue is part of the human experience.

Just as this article explains, snitches and informants ARE everywhere. And they certainly show up in these threads to take aim at the writers that this site features. Hedges attracts them and that explains why on a Monday morning–workday–up first to try to chip away at Mr. Hedge’s commentary, someone like you shows up first to execute “the deed.” And you all come with immediate back-up. In this way, your little tag teams direct the comment stream YOUR way.

LONG before capitalism oppression lived and thrived.

Actually, it’s patriarchy and its control and ownership of the female–the half of the life force that actually gives life–that the undeveloped male seeketh to possess, murder, exploit, or capitalize upon. From there, it’s the same treatment applied to the natural world, i.e. MOTHER nature/Pacha Mama.

Interestingly enough, just as taunts against capitalism are ultimately vague, they run parallel to the taunts against Terrorism.

This article is about inverted totalitarianism. But you turn it to capitalism ONLY… and in my mind, this rigid stance is indicative of a card-carrying TEXTBOOK Marxist who can’t see anything outside of his own narrow frame.


… Did you mean Hedges, blight?


Your view of humanity and human nature are more dismal that Dostoyevsky’s. It’s a wonder you haven’t jumped out of the nearest window.


Would matriarchy be better than patriarchy or is not the problem authoritarianism? I would maintain that even in hunter gatherer settings those that sought power over others, such as chiefs or shamans, could do great harm through internal conflicts and wars with other groups. I would propose that the oldest struggle is between authoritarians seeking control over others and libertarians seeking equality.

I agree with you about Hedges limitations. I have referred to him as a radical liberal but nevertheless even though he would save and reform capitalism he writes insightfully about it and corporatism(fascism). He is a very good reporter but is personally limited by the authoritarianism of his Christianity and capitalism which are hierarchal class systems.

Those that take criticism of Hedges as attacks do not want critical dialog. I agree most of the time with Hedges and have enjoyed his fine books, columns and lectures for years. As I am not a person of faith(belief without proof) I have no gods and my personal heroes are flawed just as I am.


… Obama was in town here in Oregon last Thursday and Friday. He came to try and drum up support for His T.P.P. trojan horse. I joined the protest rally on Thursday outside a hotel where he was hosting a fund raiser. I made a sign 4’ x 3’ which was an exact duplicate of that old Monopoly game ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, only instead of the place in the upper left hand corner, which read ‘chance’ (chance/community chest), I substituted the initials -in bold letters- T.P.P… It was quite a hit, if I do say so myself…
… a few hours later after all protesters left -but a hand full of us die hard’s- I noticed someone directly across the street from me, with a large telephoto lens -inside the hotel lobby, behind the glass- taking slow, deliberate pictures of me and my sign. For some reason I did not get the impression that he was one of my enthusiastic admirers of my very creative sign. Just another stoolie… :-p


I cannot help but think that Hedges makes an error in lauding the murder of people without a fair trial. I’m certain he could identify a better way to deal with the issue than a bunch of prisoners in a Soviet prison. East Germany was more of a surveillance state than the U.S.S.R. as a whole, and the downfall of both was due to the genius of President Reagan. Certainly our duly elected leaders will deal with any current difficulties, as necessary.


I think that a world ruled by ordinary, “not insane, power-mad”, men and women would be a great antidote. Fathers are also protective and not all men like wars but some women do. Sanity not their sex is the antidote.

History is a river of blood. The thinking of clinical psychopaths is so different from normal thinking that any analysis that leaves out this factor fails from the outset. The tragedy is that psychopaths have always ruled thanks to their inability to feel guilt or empathy which allows them to quickly rise and assume positions of power. In other words history has been largely run by the insane and humans have progressed despite it.

In the U.S. and probably in the U.K. there is overwhelming evidence that the elite circles have transformed themselves into an exclusive club of psychopaths and trusted sycophants. Our collective situation as normal humans grows more perilous every day as our insane destructive elites not only possess weapons of mass destruction but are blindly causing an environmental catastrophe.

Brain scans can now detect psychopaths and should be given like random drug tests to all in positions of authority. But I suppose they would kill us all before that was allowed so the odds are is that they will continue to go unchecked and will soon destroy the human race pursuing their short term goals.


The above picture of the Empire’s propaganda sign in a Washington Metro station imploring American citizens to spy on each other and to report any ‘disguised packages’ is way beyond irony — in that the biggest ‘disguised package’ in Washington is precisely this Disguised Global Capitalist Empire, which is merely ‘posing’ as, and HQed in, our former country.


Psychopaths tell the sociopaths who to kill. Dr. James Fallon discovered that he was a psychopath and that he was related to the serial killer Lizzie Borden when studying brain scans of serial killers. I recommend his book The Psychopath Inside. I also recommend the book The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout. Even the corporate world is now trying to screen out sociopath job applicants as they are destructive and can ultimately bring a corporation to ruin.

Differences Between a Psychopath vs Sociopath
“Psychopathy and sociopathy are different cultural labels applied to the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. Up to 3 percent of the population may qualify for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. This disorder is more common amongst males and mostly seen in people with an alcohol or substance abuse problem, or in forensic settings such as prisons. Psychopaths tend to be more manipulative, can be seen by others as more charming, lead a semblance of a normal life, and minimize risk in criminal activities. Sociopaths tend to be more erratic, rage-prone, and unable to lead as much of a normal life. When sociopaths engage in criminal activity, they tend to do so in a reckless manner without regard to consequences.” John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

You can also watch videos of Dr. James Fallon lecturing on the brains of serial killers and videos by others on psychopaths and sociopaths on YouTube.

Also google “tests for antisocial personality disorder”


Earl Shorris’ “Nation of Salesmen” and Morris Berman’s nation of hustlers in “Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline” are also very accurate assessments of why our country has now metastasized into this Disguised Global Capitalist Empire in which as Orwell said:

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me.
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.


Yes, Rusty, the “U.S. Empire” as you note, or more specifically this Disguised Global Capitalist Empire merely ‘posing’ as, and HQed in, the U.S. has a devastating effect on the 99% of people by the tiny ruling elite of the Hidden Empire — but this effect can be described in a natural way.

Many of us appreciate and live by the natural cycles of our earth like the rising and falling tides, but Empire acts differently to alter nature in this way:

"Empire is what the privileged elite do to insure that only they have a suite on the yacht during a rising tide, and that all ‘others’ are excluded.

But deceit is what the ruling elite do to insure that those ‘others’ pay the full fare every time a sinking boat goes down on an ebbing tide."

Thus the oft deified “Rule of Law” in the extra-legal sector of this Empire might be written in stone as “Heads they win, tails we loose.”


fake_french said:

So if governments stayed small corporations wouldn’t try to hijack them? God, I’m so sick of this rightist claptrap. Why do libertarians and other right wing crackpots come to CommonDreams anyway? There’s nothing for you here, just trust that your capitalist heroes are winning the day, regulations are falling everywhere, soon you’ll have the freedom to piss in the GMO-encrusted cereal of your slaves and legally obligate them to eat it. Your ilk will destroy the world soon enough in your blind loyalty to Merka and the almighty dollar. Congratulations. Freedom.

TJ says:
That’s right fake french,

Now you’ve got it. Small, LOCAL government won’t be corrupted by Wall Mart and will block them from building their slave stores in the town, since small LOCAL government knows Wall Mart will kill off countless small businesses in the area and throw every local person into poverty in the long run, since Wall-Street-Mart never pays any workers or taxes at all.

Your HUGE centralized Federal Government that you love so much, will send the FBI and NSA after “activists” who are getting in the way of Wall Street’s eternal war against Main Street. The crushing of Unions, Co-ops, Local Banks and protests are ample evidence of this. FOIA tells us that FBI catalogued “Occupy Wall Street” as domestic terrorists and made plans (never executed) to have snipers take out peaceful protestors.

This is your huge Phucking Federal Government model that you love so much.

Where I think you go wrong, is you assume that the government and Wall Street are different things.

They aren’t any more! They are one in the same. Ralph Nader says the line between government and Big Business is completely blurred. Wall Streets CEO’s and henchmen float back and forth, complete with their golden parachutes and glaring conflicts of interest, and Uncle Sam Smiles wickedly at the whole charade. The Raiders rob us in broad daylight without any SEC, DOJ or RICO worries for the Racketeers to worry about, since the Feds are corrupted by Washington Lobbyists. No government at all is better than the illusion of regulation.

When there’s this much gangrene smell in the room, radical surgery is necessary. Of course, the same time we amputate Washington D.C. we must amputate Wall Street also. Will the patient called Unregulated Capitalism survive? God I sure hope not, but anything is possible.

Common Dreams is about common ground between all citizens. We will never be a force to be reckoned with if we run off the third largest party: The Libertarians or even Right-Wingers who are just now plucked out of the Boob-Tube Matrix and looking for answers at one of the only news outlets that tells the truth. The point they make is a good one. The opposite of the current Totalitarian government we suffer under is Anarchy or Libertarianism. We should shift away from the 1984 hellscape we are now in toward less control of the individual and less protection of the Corporate Hydra by the state.