Meet the Censored: Chris Hedges

Meet the Censored: Chris Hedges. By Matt Taibbi.

This past weekend, celebrated journalist and author Chris Hedges woke up to find six years of episodes of his Russia Today show On Contact vanished from the show’s account on YouTube. …

From The New York Times to Russia Today (RT) to Substack:

One of the few frontline American reporters who spoke Arabic, Hedges knew instantly the Iraq war would be a disaster and said so at every opportunity. He was booed offstage at a commencement address at Rockford College in 2003 by a crowd chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!,” and hustled off campus so fast that the school wouldn’t let him grab his jacket on the way out. …

Episodes like this accelerated his departure from the New York Times and into the wilds of independent media, where paying options for dissident voices had been shrinking. …

By the 2010s, one of the last places where media figures pushed off the traditional career track could pick up a paycheck was Russia Today. In an arrangement Hedges plainly describes as a cynical marriage of convenience, the Russian state was happy to give voice to figures covering structural problems in American society, and those quasi-banned voices were glad for the opportunity to broadcast what they felt is the truth, even understanding the editorial motivation. Hedges ended up working at RT for six years hosting On Contact, where he interviewed authors and thinkers resting outside the cultural mainstream…

The speech-control one-two he’s just experienced — first herded out of the mainstream for ideological offenses into a shrinking space of “allowable” dissent, then forced to watch as that space is demonized out of existence — is part of an effective pattern. “It’s how this works,” he sighs….

Hedges denounced Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “criminal act of aggression” after it began, and believes that if RT had been allowed to stay on YouTube, he — along with similarly critical former RT contributors like Jesse Ventura — wouldn’t have been permitted by the Kremlin to stay on air. On the other hand, seeing an American company vaporize six years of interviews having nothing to do with Russia shows space for voices like his continues to shrink in the West. In this sense he represents a kind of person we’ll be seeing more of in the future, caught between a censorship rock and a hard place, an outcast in domestic and foreign media systems.

You can find Chris’s work on Substack now at the Chris Hedges Report … The launch of the new site has gone very well, but he warns that no place in media is safe now. “They’ll shut down Substack, I absolutely know. Either that, or they’ll create a way that sites like yours and mine won’t be on it,” he says.

Chris Hedges, from his intro on Substack:

You cannot teach morality. You can only show it. …

Institutions … are always demonic, unable to achieve the morality of the individual because their primary concern is with perpetuating themselves.

I was a journalist for many years. But as my friend Stephen Kinzer once said, “You are not really a journalist. You are a preacher pretending to be a journalist.” This is true. For the best journalists, like the best preachers, are concerned with truth.

As a reporter my job was to manipulate facts. I could spin those facts to placate the powerful and bolster my own career, to obscure what really happened, or I could use them to impart the truth, a truth many did not want exposed. This is also the task of the preacher, to speak the hard and difficult truth. You can be attacked for this truth. My father was. So was I. The message system in my phone at The New York Times was daily filled with death threats for my denunciation of the Iraq War.

Our view of the world is shaped by the media, so it matters to us what happens to people who don’t toe the line.