December 1, 2015
Crisis: The Real News Interview with Chris Hedges (2013) - part 1/7
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This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, December 1, 2015.

This is a crisis file.

It also is a crisis file "new style" that will rely less on following the news and more on explaining the backgrounds of the news. I have followed the news quite closely since June 10, 2013 and till November 24, 2015, but after writing over 1000 files in the
crisis series of which most were following the news (i) I can't properly follow the news anymore, for The Guardian prevents copying; Dutch papers now only advertise on the internet (and are awful); and I had a major problem with my computer (my fault) while also (ii) after writing more than 1000 files about "the news" I have sort of got the general messages "the news" gives.

So I decided that the crisis series will go on, but it will be mostly dedicated to important news or to backgrounds or explanations.

This file is about the backgrounds. The source is an interesting interview in seven parts that The Real News's Paul Jay had with Chris Hedges in the summer of 2013.

1. The Real News Interview with Chris Hedges (2013) - part 1/7

This first item is by Paul Jay from The Real News who interviewed Chris Hedges in 2013. Here is the file:
As the title says, this is part 1 from 7 parts. I did - very briefly - review part 4 from the series in 2013, and also part 7, and possibly more, but I will now pay considerably more attention to it. Also, in case you were to ask: No, I do not think the interview is "too old" or "no longer actual".

First, here is Paul Jay introducing Chris Hedges:

PAUL JAY: Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. He's reported for more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He's received the Amnesty International global award for human rights journalism in 2002 and is the author, with Joe Sacco, of several books, including the New York Times bestseller Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. And he writes a weekly column for Truthdig. Chris also holds a master of divinity degree from Harvard University, and he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California.

In brief, Chris Hedges - whatever you think about him - is a rather famous American journalist, with considerable professional successes like the Pulitzer Prize and with several best selling books.

However, my own interest in him is mostly due to the fact that he is a real progressive and a radical, with quite a lot of criticisms of the USA, in much of which he seems right to me, or more right than wrong, and because he also is
a rather courageous activist.

To start with, here is one important reason why he ended up as a journalist and writer:

HEDGES: Well, I was always a writer, and I wrote compulsively. Language is a form of music, was something that dominated my life from the age of four or five. I wrote poems, short stories. I published my first piece in a historical journal when I was 12. I published my first piece of journalism in The Christian Science Monitor when I was still in college. But I could never square the supposed neutrality and objectivity of journalism with the social commitment that was inculcated within me, primarily by my father, who was a Presbyterian minister and was involved in the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the gay rights movement in the 1970s--very controversial stance. His youngest brother, my uncle, was gay. My father was very outspoken on behalf of gay rights, something which the church, the institutional church had great difficulty with.

I did not have that much pull towards writing, although I always could write well, and indeed was told when I was 14 or 15 and in the highschool that I did not have to write any Dutch essays anymore because, as the teacher said "then I always have to give you a 10" - the highest mark - "and that is so unfair to the others". (She did not consider the question whether this was fair to me. [1]) Also, I published my first two articles in a daily when 20, but then I also did not like either Dutch journalism or Dutch authors (always except Multatuli), so that also was the last time.

HEDGES: (...) I still (although probably would not formally consider myself religious) honor that tradition of--one could call it Christian anarchism, which is the kind of term they used to describe Dorothy Day and the Catholic worker, and went to seminary really in part--I suppose I was clashing with my nature, but I went to seminary because I felt that that social commitment was paramount.

For Dorothy Day see the link. As to Chris Hedges's being religious: At present (in 2015) he is a minister, so he was raised a Christian and always remained one, so far as I know.

In contrast, I was raised a communist, but stopped being one when I was 20, in part because the Dutch CP was too totalitarian for my tastes; in part because their analyses were mistaken and stupid; and in part because I had read quite a bit of philosophy, sociology and economics since I was 15.

Then again, I always was a liberal (in the classical 19th Century European sense: John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville) and a progressive, and still am. (Also, those who knew my father well, such as my mother, very often said to me "You are just like your father", but I do not know whether that is correct, and tend to think he and I differ: he was more of an artist; I am more of an intellectual. [2])

And that was a very important relationship for me because it wedded the love I had of language and of writing with the commitment to social justice that mainstream journalism said was an anathema to their creed of objectivity and impartiality and neutrality, which of course I later came to learn is a kind of subterfuge. It's not true, of course.

Yes, indeed. Here are the reasons why the journalistic "
creed of objectivity and impartiality and neutrality" is false and a subterfuge:

A journalist always writes in a paper of a definite political or religious kind (including "neutral"), and always writes a kind of ideology, and always reacts to things first from his or her own values and personal ideas.

Values, personal ideas and ideology are never "objective", "neutral" or "impartial" and indeed journalists are not scientists and are not supposed to be
"objective", "neutral" or "impartial", except that if they report facts, the facts ought to be true as they write it.

In fact, journalists are supposed to be partial, subjective and non-neutral, precisely because other journalists are as well, but from a different perspective. As long as they report the facts as facts, and the non-facts as non-facts, there is nothing wrong with this.

And to insist that journalists ought to be "impartial", "objective" and "neutral" is a subterfuge (aka bullshit): Firstly it quite mistakenly attributes scientific norms to journalists, and second in practice it means that ordinary journalists should not express values, should not defend people, should not be partial, and should not be subjective - but leave all these things to their editorial bosses. It is cowardice to be a real journalist, defended by the lie that journalists are like and must be like scientists.

Here is another reason why Chris Hedges made an impressive journalistic career:

JAY: So how did you last at The New York Times for 15 years with thoughts like that?

HEDGES: Because nobody wants to go to Gaza. Nobody wants to. When I told the executive editor of The New York Times that I wanted to go to Sarajevo, at that point, 45 foreign correspondents had been killed, dozens wounded. He said, well, I guess the line starts and ends with you. They would much rather sit in Paris or follow the secretary of state around. And yet institutions like The New York Times need reporters who are willing to go in those places, and those were the only places I wanted to go into. And so I actually had a fairly, you know, prominent and rewarded career at The Times because I was quite selective about where I went.

It is not quite true that "nobody wants to go" to Gaza: see Amira Hass. Then again, it is true enough, and I suppose it is also true enough that the great majority of present-day "journalists" "
much rather sit in Paris or follow the secretary of state around". (Most of these "journalists" are mere recorders, who record what the state's politicians or bureaucrats tell them, and relay that, without really critical questions of any kind, to their public.)

Then there is this on American journalism:

HEDGES: Well, let's be clear. I mean, American journalism, unlike European journalism, is quite restrictive in its form. And you ingest the form of The New York Times. You know how to write a New York Times story. So the form itself precludes--the boundaries are so narrow that you can't do the kinds of things you could do if you were writing for Liberazione or The Guardian or something, which is make comments outside that would be considered editorializing. So the form itself is constrictive. That's the first part. The second part is that because I was writing on the ground, I mean, even though I was in Gaza, I was writing what I saw. So I was in Gaza, for instance, when Israeli F-16s bombed Gaza. I went to the site where the bombing was. I counted the number of corpses. I described those who appeared to be children or those--it was quite hands-on.

I have never been a journalist, and I have also never been in the USA, so I have to accept this mostly on faith. But I certainly agree with Chris Hedges that much American journalism - e.g. of the New York Review of Books - seems rather artificial and formulaic to me. (This is why I rarely read the NYRB, though I know it since the 1960ies: too formulaic, too artificial.)

Here is the last bit I will quote from this part, that explains the main motive Chris Hedges sees for - what others consider to be - his radicalism:

And I think for a white person of relative privilege to confront the cruelty of what we do to poor people of color in this country and to begin to understand institutional forms of racism, all the mechanisms by which we ensure that the poor remain poor in, you know, what Malcolm X and Martin Luther King correctly called these internal colonies really rattled me, really shook me. It made me question all sorts of things--the myth we tell ourselves about ourselves, the nature of capitalism, the nature of racism, exploitation.

In contrast, I was raised in a quite poor, quite proletarian family in Amsterdam, and when I was young there were few black people in Holland. Then again, I was told from a very young age by my parents that the society in which I lived was neither fair nor honest; that things could be organized very much more rationally and fairly; and that the only thing to make society much more fair and honest was something like a revolution - for my parents were genuine revolutionaries. [3]

There is more to follow later, for I like the whole interview.

2. On the Settings addition to the opening of the site

The second item is a repeat from yesterday:

There is a small but important addition to the opening of the site:

There is now a small file called Settings (on the left, in the middle) that
specifies what are the preferences for displaying my site well (in Firefox or Seamonkey). (Basically: Verdana 13 points in the Firefox Preferences menu.)

In case the site does not display well one quite probable cause is the settings of your browser, and this may avoid some problems. The choices in settings are fairly standard, except for the background colors, that relate to the years of my eye problems, that started in 2012, and still continue, though they are considerably less than they were. And you do not need to set the background color to my preference.

If you are using Firefox or Seamonkey, the above settings (which are very easy to do - and undo - via Edit:Preferences) should make my site work quite well. In case you are using other browsers, it still will probably help, but I don't have other browsers, so there you are on your own.

[1] I did not mind (and had I minded, it would have made no difference) but this was an example of a rather typical Dutch value: "Everybody is equivalent" i.e. "everybody is of the same value" (you, me, Einstein and Hitler, for example: all persons of the same value, not only according to Dutch values but also according to Dutch laws) - and those who disagree should be, somehow, made to be equivalent. Also, you may excel only if you come from an excelling and well-to-do family, and then preferably in sports.

[2] I went to university and got my full M.A. degree with excellent marks, all made while I was ill, and could do so because there was then a rather fair loan system for students, that now is extinct. My father - who was very intelligent - could not study or go to a school preparing for a university for lack of money, and the same holds for my mother.

However, apart from that, I am much more of an intellectual and theoretical type than my father was, who was much more of an artistic type (he was considerably more musical and a better draughtsman than I am) and more of a practical type.

[3] Actually, I still agree with all that, except that I am a bit less of a revolutionary than my parents were, in part because I know that nearly all revolutions fail. And also I am far less political than my parents were.

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