Hedges, c. 2007
Christopher Lynn Hedges
September 18, 1956
|Alma mater||Colgate University (BA)|
Harvard University (M.Div)
Christopher Lynn Hedges (born September 18, 1956) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Presbyterian minister, author and television host. His books include War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction; Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009); Death of the Liberal Class (2010); Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012), written with cartoonist Joe Sacco, which was a New York Times best-seller; Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (2015); and his most recent, America: The Farewell Tour (2018). Obey, a documentary by British filmmaker Temujin Doran, is based on his book Death of the Liberal Class.
Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, West Asia, Africa, the Middle East (he is fluent in Arabic), and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, NPR, Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times, where he was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years (1990-2005) serving as the paper's Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief during the war in the former Yugoslavia.
In 2001, Hedges contributed to The New York Times staff entry that received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, the University of Toronto and Princeton University.
Hedges, who wrote a weekly column for the progressive news website Truthdig for 14 years, was fired along with all of the editorial staff in March 2020. Hedges and the staff had gone on strike earlier in the month to protest the publisher's attempt to fire the Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, demand an end to a series of unfair labor practices and the right to form a union. He hosts the Emmy-nominated program On Contact for the RT (formerly Russia Today) television network.
Hedges has also taught college credit courses for several years in New Jersey prisons as part of the B.A. program offered by Rutgers University. He has described himself as a socialist identifying with Catholic activist Dorothy Day in particular.
Christopher Lynn Hedges was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the son of Thelma Louise (née Prince) and the Rev. Thomas Havard Hedges, a Presbyterian minister. He grew up in rural Schoharie County, New York, southwest of Albany. He graduated in 1975 from the Loomis Chaffee School, a private boarding school in Windsor, Connecticut. He founded an underground newspaper at the school that was banned by the administration and resulted in his being put on probation.
Hedges received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Colgate University in 1979. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University's Divinity School (where he studied under James Luther Adams) in 1983. Hedges lived in the depressed inner city neighborhood of Roxbury, the most dangerous in Boston, as a seminarian and ran a small church. He was also a member of the Greater Boston YMCA's boxing team, writing that the boxing gym was "the only place I felt safe." He studied Latin and Classical Greek at Harvard and speaks Arabic, French, and Spanish in addition to English.
Hedges began his career as a freelance journalist in Latin America. He wrote for several publications, including The Washington Post, and covered the Falkland War from Buenos Aires for National Public Radio. From 1983 to 1984 he covered the conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala for The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He was hired as the Central America Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News in 1984 and held this position until 1988. Noam Chomsky wrote of Hedges at the time that he was one of the "few US journalists in Central America who merit the title."
The Middle East
Hedges took a sabbatical to study Arabic in 1988. He was appointed the Middle East Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News in 1989. In one of his first stories for the paper he tracked down Robert Manning, the prime suspect in the 1985 bombing death in California of Alex Odeh, head of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's Western office, in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel, until Hedges discovered Manning, said it had no knowledge of Manning's whereabouts. Manning, linked to the militant Jewish Defense League and allegedly behind several murders, was extradited to the United States in 1991 where he is serving a life sentence.
In 1990, Hedges was hired by The New York Times. He covered the first Gulf War for the paper, where he refused to participate in the military pool system that restricted the movement and reporting of journalists. He was arrested by the U.S. military and had his press credentials revoked, but continued to defy the military restrictions to report outside the pool system. He entered Kuwait with the U.S. Marine Corps. He was taken prisoner in Basra after the war by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Shiite uprising. He was freed after a week. Hedges was appointed the paper's Middle East Bureau Chief in 1991. His reporting on the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein in the Kurdish-held parts of northern Iraq saw the Iraqi leader offer a bounty for anyone who killed him, along with other western journalists and aid workers in the region. Several aid workers and journalists, including the German reporter Lissy Schmidt, were assassinated and others were severely wounded.
In 1995, Hedges was named the Balkan Bureau Chief for The New York Times. He was based in Sarajevo when the city was being hit by over 300 shells a day by the surrounding Bosnia Serbs. He reported on the Serbian massacres in Srebrenica and shortly after the war uncovered what appeared to be one of central collection points and hiding places for perhaps thousands of corpses from the Bosnian Serbs' campaign of ethnic cleansing at the large open pit Ljubija mine. He and the photographer Wade Goddard were the first reporters to travel with armed units of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo. Hedges published an investigative piece in The New York Times in June 1999 detailing how Hashim Thaci, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army and former president of Kosovo, directed a campaign in which as many as half a dozen top rebel commanders were assassinated and many others were brutally purged to consolidate his power. Thaci, indicted by the special court in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes, is in detention in The Hague awaiting trial.
Hedges was based in Paris following the attacks of 9/11. He covered Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East, work for which he and the investigative team of The New York Times in 2002 won the Pulitzer prize.
Three of Hedges' articles were based upon the stories of Iraqi defectors, who had been furnished to Hedges by the Information Collection Program of the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress. The program promoted stories to major media outlets in order to orchestrate U.S. intervention in Iraq in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Most significant of his reports in this period was a November 8, 2001, front-page story about two former Iraqi military commanders who claimed to have trained foreign mujahedeen how to hijack planes without using guns. Hedges quoted a man whom he believed to be an Iraqi general: "These Islamic radicals ... came from a variety of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco. We were training these people to attack installations important to the United States". The two defectors also asserted there was a secret compound in Salman Pak facility where a German scientist was producing biological weapons.
According to Jack Fairweather in Mother Jones: "The impact of the article ... was immediate: Op-eds ran in major papers, and the story was taken to a wider audience through cable-TV talk shows. When Condoleezza Rice, then President George W. Bush's national security adviser, was asked about the report at a press briefing, she said, 'I think it surprises no one that Saddam Hussein is engaged in all kinds of activities that are destabilizing.'" As late as 2006, according to Fairweather in the same article, conservative magazines including The Weekly Standard and National Review continued to use this article to justify the invasion of Iraq.
It later was revealed that the story which Hedges reported was "an elaborate scam". The defector whom Hedges quoted, who had identified himself as Lt. General Jamal al-Ghurairy, was a former sergeant. The real Ghurairy had never left Iraq. Hedges said that he had taken on reporting this account at the request of Lowell Bergman of Frontline, who wanted the defectors for his show but could not go to Beirut for the interview. The trip had been organized by Ahmed Chalabi, whom Hedges considered to be unreliable. Hedges said he had done the piece as a favor to Bergman, explaining, "There has to be a level of trust between reporters. We cover each other's sources when it's a good story because otherwise everyone would get hold of it." Hedges had relied on the U.S. embassy in Turkey for further confirmation of the man's identity.
Hedges wrote two more articles that year that were informed by Chalabi-coached defectors. The second one, claiming that Iraq still held 80 Kuwaitis captured in the 1991 Gulf War in a secret underground prison, was also found to be baseless.
Hedges was an early critic of the Iraq War. In May 2003, he delivered a commencement address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, saying: "We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security." His speech was received with boos, "two students approached the stage to push [him] off the podium" (as he told an interviewer), and his microphone was shut off three minutes after he began speaking.The New York Times, his employer, criticized his statements and issued him a formal reprimand for "public remarks that could undermine public trust in the paper's impartiality".
In 2005, Hedges left The New York Times to become a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, and a columnist at Truthdig, in addition to writing books and teaching inmates at a New Jersey correctional institution.
In March 2008, Hedges published the book titled I Don't Believe in Atheists, in which he expresses his belief that new atheism presents a danger that is similar to religious extremism.
Hedges appeared as a guest on an October 2011 episode of the CBC News Network's Lang and O'Leary Exchange to discuss his support for the Occupy Wall Street protests; co-host Kevin O'Leary criticized him, saying that he sounded "like a left-wing nutbar". Hedges said "it will be the last time" he appears on the show, and compared the CBC to Fox News. CBC's ombudsman found O'Leary's heated remarks to be a violation of the public broadcaster's journalistic standards.
On November 3, 2011, Hedges was arrested with others in New York as part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration, during which the activists staged a "people's hearing" on the activities of the investment bank Goldman Sachs and blocked the entrance to their corporate headquarters.
On September 20, 2014, a day before the People's Climate March, Hedges joined Bernie Sanders, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, and Kshama Sawant on a panel moderated by WNYC's Brian Lehrer to discuss the issue of climate change. Hedges and Klein also participated in the 'Flood Wall Street' protests that occurred shortly thereafter.
On November 11, 2014, Hedges published an article explaining why he and his family have become vegan. He explained that this is "the most important and direct change we can immediately make to save the planet and its species".
He contended at the Left Forum in 2015 that with the "denouement of capitalism and the disintegration of globalism", Karl Marx has been "vindicated as capitalism's most prescient and important critic". He said that Marx "foresaw that capitalism had built within it the seeds of its own destruction. He knew that reigning ideologies--think neoliberalism--were created to serve the interests of the elites and in particular the economic elites."
On April 15, 2016, Hedges was arrested, along with 100 other protesters, during a sit-in outside the U.S. Capitol during Democracy Spring to protest the capture of the political system by corporations.
--Chris Hedges on the Ruling class, 2019
On May 27, 2020, Hedges announced that he would run as a Green Party candidate in New Jersey's 12th congressional district for the 2020 elections. However, he was informed the following day that he could not run because under FCC rules he was not permitted to run for federal office (Hedges was at that time hosting the Emmy-nominated television show On Contact broadcast nationally on RT America).
On a June 2020 episode of the Jimmy Dore Show, Dore asked Hedges if Bernie Sanders had rolled over "for the corporate state" by refusing to confront the Democratic Party hierarchy about its subservience to corporate power. Hedges responded by saying that Sanders has always carried water for the Democratic party leadership, pointing out that he campaigned for Bill Clinton in 1996 after Clinton had passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which militarized the police and hired 100,000 new police officers, provided $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and nearly doubled the prison population by imposing harsher sentencing laws. Hedges stated that Sanders has never seriously confronted the Democratic Party leadership, fearing retribution that would derail his ability to caucus with the Democrats in Congress and jeopardize his political career. He said, for this reason, Sanders was "morally and temperamentally unfit to lead this fight."
Hedges has repudiated the view that the Founding Fathers of the United States represented a legitimate form of democracy, writing that they rigged America's electoral process to thwart direct democracy and to protect the property rights of the aristocracy. He has written that the Electoral College has served to disenfranchise women, Native Americans, African-Americans, and men who do not own property. Hedges stated during the US labor wars, hundreds of workers were killed and thousands were wounded. He has praised the abolitionists, workers, civil rights movements, women's suffragists, and anti-war activists for helping change the initial structure of the U.S. government.
Hedges told Julian Casablancas, the lead singer for The Strokes who interviewed him for Rolling Stone on December 23, 2020, that one of the few events worth celebrating in American history took place on June 26, 1876 when Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, annihilated the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
In 2012, after the Obama Administration signed the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, Hedges sued members of the U.S. government, asserting that section 2021 of the law unconstitutionally allowed presidential authority for indefinite detention without habeas corpus. He was later joined in the suit, Hedges v. Obama, by activists including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg. In May 2012 Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York ruled that the counter-terrorism provision of the NDAA is unconstitutional. The Obama administration appealed the decision and it was overturned in July 2013 by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Hedges petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but the Supreme Court denied certiorari in April 2014.
On October 5, 2014, Hedges was ordained a minister within the Presbyterian Church. He was installed as Associate Pastor and Minister of Social Witness and Prison Ministry at the Second Presbyterian Church Elizabeth in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He noted having been rejected for ordination 30 years earlier, saying that "going to El Salvador as a reporter was not something the Presbyterian Church at the time recognized as a valid ministry, and a committee rejected my 'call'".
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In 2003, University of Texas classics professor Thomas Palaima wrote an article for the Austin-American Statesman accusing Hedges of plagiarizing a sentence from Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms in his 2002 book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. According to Palaima, Hedges attributed the issue to "careless transcription from his notepads". The wording of the sentence was modified in a subsequent edition, but because there was still no attribution to Hemingway, Palaima considered the plagiarism unresolved.
In June 2014, Christopher Ketcham published an article in The New Republic accusing Hedges of repeated plagiarism. Ketcham described a manuscript which Harper's Magazine declined to publish because it contained significant sections copied from an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer by journalist Matt Katz. The article further identifies several passages in Hedges' published work that are apparently identical or similar to the work of other authors. In addition to the Hemingway passage previously identified by Palaima, Ketcham alleges that Hedges plagiarized Naomi Klein, Neil Postman, and Ketcham's wife: Petra Bartosiewicz. Five days later, The New Republic published a response from Hedges, and Ketcham's counter-response. Hedges' editors at Nation Books and Truthdig stood by his work; in a statement quoted in Ketcham's original article, the publisher of Truthdig suggested that Ketcham might be seeking to damage the reputation of Hedges and his publishers for "personal, economic and commercial gain". Truthdig also noted that "Years ago we received one request and one complaint from a Harper's editor representing Christopher Ketcham and his wife. We resolved those issues with notes, links and clarifications to the satisfaction of everyone involved."
The Washington Examiner described Ketcham's article as "detailed", "voluminous", and "explicitly damning". Ed Ericson of The Baltimore Sun found the article suggestive of "personal animosity", and opined that "some of the examples arguably [would] have not have been called plagiarism until very recently." The article brought attention to the practice of 'patchwriting', defined in the article as "restating a phrase, clause, or one or more sentences while staying close to the language or syntax of the source".
The Washington Free Beacon reported The New York Times spokesman saying that it "did not have reason to believe Hedges plagiarized in his work for the paper" and had no plans to investigate Hedges for plagiarism.The American Prospect and Salon declined to publish Ketcham's article. Some progressive organizations spoke out in defense of Hedges, describing the Ketcham article as a "hit piece."
Chris Hedges of The New York Times wrote a page-one piece headlined "Defectors Cite Iraqi Training for Terrorism".
How a fake general, a pliant media, and a master manipulator helped lead the United States into war.