Chris Hedges highlights the menace of the military mind

February 5, 2014 | By | Reply More

The military has won an ideological battle in the United States. We see many of our most pervasive problems in terms of war. Once we do that, the solution is violence. Now it’s eating up all of us, based on the “culture wars.” Watching TV for any amount of time will demonstrate that Hollywood struggles to be creative, and has descended to the lowest common denominator: violence. It’s something we all understand and it captivates us because we fear it, just as we fear spiders and snakes. And listen to our modern language. We are constantly speaking in metaphors of violence. We always have, but it seems worse to my ears. Mark Johnson and George Lakoff pointed out (in Metaphors we Live By) that we employ the war as a conceptual metaphor:


Your claims are indefensible.
He attacked every weak point in my argument.
His criticisms were right on target.
I demolished his argument.I’ve never won an argument with him.
You disagree? Okay, shoot!
If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.
He shot down all of my arguments.

But it now seems worse, whenever I’m listening to those engaged in dispute (we almost always dispute rather than discuss). We Americans destroy the opposition, we kill ideas, we employ shock and awe, we look for smoking guns, we come out with guns blazing. Mary Hamer has categorized many types of speech that draw on violence in an essay called “Violent Language That Kills The Human Spirit.” It’s a long painful list. Here is her thesis:

Humans with their Superior brains, Upright posture, Linguistic ability & Opposable thumbs – are the only species on Earth: that uses Violent Language such as: Hate speech, bullying, fighting words, name calling, threats, slanderous statements, cruel metaphors & swear words — aimed at target Enemies. This violent speech can kill the human spirit – just as guns kill the physical body.

Here are some of Hamer’s examples:



*e.g. “The President of Pakistan claimed … that the Bush Administration threatened to bomb his country ‘Into the Stone Age’ If it did not co-operate with the U.S. after 9/11”. (89)

*e.g. “Wiped off the map” & Translation Issues:

The translation presented by the official Islamic Republic News Agency that “Israel must be wiped off the map” (90) has been challenged by Arash Norouzi, who says the statement ‘Wiped off the map’ was never made & that Ahmadinejad did not refer to .. Israel”. Norouzi translated Ahmadinejad’s statement as “The Imam said the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”. (91)

*DEATH THREATS: The classic death threat is the claim:

*“I am going to kill you”. This threat can be made by many forms of communication including: Verbal, in written form, in phone messages & emails.

The psychosocial impact of death threats upon the victim are significant including intense fears & anxieties. (92)

*DEFAMATION: Slander (Oral) or Libel (Written): False accusations that injure a person’s reputation & which expose the person to public hatred, contempt, ridicule or degradation. The classic examples of defamation per se are: (93)

#1. Allegations of serious sexual misconduct

e.g. An allegation of rape or gang rape.

#2. Allegations of serious criminal misbehavior

e.g. An allegation that a man likes to harm little girls.

#3. Allegations that a person is afflicted with a loathsome disease.

e.g. An allegation that a person has leprosy or a venereal disease.


*GUN METAPHOR: e.g. Sharron Angle, a Tea party candidate turned Republican primary winner in Nevada said in an interview:

*“I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep & bear arms for our citizenry. …I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems”. (94)

*GUN METAPHOR: During Gabrielle Giffords 2010 campaign a slogan used against her said: “Help remove … Giffords from office” & it invited people to “Shoot a fully automatic M16”. (95)

*GUN METAPHOR: Does the gun metaphor: Reload incite violence? CNN in a segment titled “Dangerous Rhetoric: When Heated Words incite Threats & violence” asked: Is it responsible for someone to say things like: “It’s not a time to Retreat, It’s a time to ReLoad”? The discussion centered around cross hairs on a map, gun language, militaristic language, etc.. (96)

*PRISON METAPHOR: To tell a person:

“I wish you were in a Midnight Express prison” would be a cruel metaphor.


*Speech that advocates or encourages violent acts or crimes of hate.

*Speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes.

*HATE SPEECH on COMMERCIAL RADIO: 4 Characteristics: (98)

*False facts, Flawed argumentation, Divisive language, Dehumanizing metaphors.

*FIGHTING WORDS & Other Words Limited by the U.S. 1st Amendment to the Constitution:

*The lewd, obscene, the profane, the libelous & the insulting or fighting words.

* NAME CALLING: Examples of Name Calling are:

*Terrorist, Psychopath, Satan, thug, evil, etc.

Chris Hedges points out that the violence is an ever-present reality. We are non-stop warmongerers:

When I was in Central America the U.S. officers who were providing support to the military of El Salvador or Guatemala, along with help to the Contra forces then fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, did not distinguish between us journalists and the rebel forces or the leftist Sandinista government. We were one and the same. The reporters and photographers, often after a day or two of hiking to reach small villages, would report on massacres by the Salvadoran army, the Guatemalan army or the Contras. When the stories appeared, the U.S. officers usually would go volcanic. But their rage would be directed not at those who pulled the triggers but at those who wrote about the mass killings or photographed the bodies.

This is why, after Barack Obama signed into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the U.S. military to seize U.S. citizens who “substantially support” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces,” to strip them of due process and to hold them indefinitely in military detention centers, I sued the president. I and my fellow plaintiffs won in U.S. District Court. When Obama appealed the ruling it was overturned. We are now trying to go to the Supreme Court. Section 1021 is a chilling reminder of what people like Clapper could do to destroy constitutional rights. They see no useful role for a free press, one that questions and challenges power, and are deeply hostile to its existence. I expect Clapper, if he has a free hand, to lock us up, just as the Egyptian military has arrested a number of Al-Jazeera journalists, including some Westerners, on terrorism-related charges. The military mind is amazingly uniform.

The U.S. military has won the ideological war. The nation sees human and social problems as military problems. To fight terrorists Americans have become terrorists. Peace is for the weak. War is for the strong. Hypermasculinity has triumphed over empathy. We Americans speak to the world exclusively in the language of force. And those who oversee our massive security and surveillance state seek to speak to us in the same demented language. All other viewpoints are to be shut out. “In the absence of contrasting views, the very highest form of propaganda warfare can be fought: the propaganda for a definition of reality within which only certain limited viewpoints are possible,” C. Wright Mills wrote. “What is being promulgated and reinforced is the military metaphysics—the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military.”

I have no further comment or suggestions. I’m feeling demoralized. What more can we do in a country where peace-making is ridiculed and war is glorified as a one-size-fits-all solution?


Category: Violence, War, Warmongering

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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