Bill Moyers and Chris Hedges: How Whole Regions of America Have Been Destroyed in the Name of Quarterly Profits
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BILL MOYERS: But there is a price, as you have said, to be paid for stepping outside of the system that enabled your name and reputation and becoming a critic of that system. I mean, what price do you think you've paid?
CHRIS HEDGES: I don't think I paid a price, I think I would've paid a price for staying in. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. You know, I was pushed out of “The New York Times” because I was publicly denouncing the invasion of Iraq. And again, it comes down to that necessity to speak a truth, or at least the truth as far as you can discern it.
I've spent months of my life in Iraq. I knew the instrument of war. I understood in all the ways that this was going be a disaster-- including upsetting the power balance in the Middle East. It's one of the great strategic blunders of the United States, it's empowered Iran. And to remain silent would've been the price. Was it good for my career? Well, of course not.
But my career was never the point. I didn't drive down Mount Igman into Sarajevo when it was being hit with 2,000 shells a day because it was good for my career. I went there because what was happening was a crime against humanity. And as a reporter, I wanted to be there to chronicle it.
BILL MOYERS: Well, you should. But, so you don't think journalism is futile?
CHRIS HEDGES: I think journalism is essential. I think it's essential. And we're watching its destruction. You know, journalism, the power of journalism is that it is rooted in verifiable fact. You go out as a reporter, you seek to find out what is factually correct. You crosscheck it with other sources. It's sent to an editor. It's fact-checked, you put it out. That's all vanishing.
That's what we're really losing with journalism. Yes, you know, commercial journalism, there were things they wouldn't write about. You know, as Schanberg says, "The power of great newspapers like “The Times” is that at least it's stopped things from getting worse." I think that's right.
BILL MOYERS: But can it make things better? I mean, do you think you can accomplish more as a dissenter, and I look up on you now, when I ask you what's your faith, I think your faith is in dissent, if I may say so. It's in "This far and no further." But do you think you can accomplish as much as a dissenter than as a journalist?
CHRIS HEDGES: Yeah, it's not a question that I've asked. Because the question is, “What do you have to do?” I certainly knew after 15 years at “The New York Times” that running around on national television shows denouncing the war in Iraq was, as a news reporter, tantamount to career suicide. I mean, I was aware of that.
And yet, you know, as Paul Tillich writes about, you know, "Institutions are always inherently demonic, including the Church." And you cannot finally serve the interests of those institutions. That for those who seek the moral life, there will always come a time in which they have to defy even institutions they care about if they are able to retain that moral core. And in essence, what, you know, “The New York Times,” or other institutions were asking is that I muzzle myself.
BILL MOYERS: But all institutions do that, don't they?