Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

What To Think of Whenever You Hear “The Worst of the Worst”?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

There are some phrases, mostly referring or belonging to government which frequently mean the opposite of what they say, or which are shorthand for entire libraries of lies promoted by the powerful to turn reality on its head. Terms like “military intelligence,” “public charter school,” “public-private partnership,” “extraordinary rendition,” “congressional oversight” and “humanitarian intervention” are among those that come readily to mind. We take this moment to focus on a current favorite phrase oft deployed by our masters of deceit to conceal their official crimes.

That phrase is “the worst of the worst.” Official spokespeople and corporate media apply this term to those unjustly confined for torture and indefinite sentences with no trial or formal charges, like those at Guantanamo, Bahgram, Diego Garcia and an archipelago of known and unknown prisons and surrogate facilities. It's been shown again and again that the so-called “worst of the worst” in such places are often completely innocent, and sometimes include children.

No matter. The “worst of the worst” label is an open invitation to invent even more lies, to dismiss their lives, their families and the rules of international law and human decency in their cases. One of the signal policy innovations of the Obama administration over the Bush-Cheney regime is said to be the simple murder of such persons with drones rather than locking them up.

The “worst of the worst” phrase is deployed by domestic officials as well, usually to refer to the United States' world-leading total of more than 70,000 in solitary confinement in thousands of federal, state and local jails and prisons. It has become standard procedure across the country to put prisoners in solitary confinement for years for such offenses as refusing to confess an alleged gang affiliation, engaging in anything that looks like unsanctioned self-help or self-improvement organizing, the possession of books that one's jailers disapprove of, having a history of political activism on the outside, or experiencing an awakening of political consciousness while a prisoner.

The assertion of jailers that the 70,000 in solitary confinement on any day in the United States are “the worst of the worst” is nothing less than cynical doublespeak to conceal their own crimes. Solitary confinement, when prolonged for more than a few days is recognized under international law as torture, and crimes always are doubly diabolical when committed anyone on a public payroll.

Hence whenever we hear media spokespeople, military or civilian officials on any level refer to those in their dungeons and their gunsights at home and abroad as “the worst of the worst” we should not let that stand. We should know, and let everyone in our reach know we and they are hearing the worst kind of calumny, designed to conceal official wrongs committed in all our names. It's our jailers and their official enablers, not our prisoners here and around the world who are truly “the worst of the worst.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20130612_bd_worst_of_the_worst.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:23pm EDT