Chris Hedges was a war correspondent for 20 years and has become a prophetic voice in modern society. When he was with the New York Times, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the war on terrorism, and one of his 11 books, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His most recent work is a collection called The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress. We spoke with Hedges about covering war, how to get to love from anger, why he thinks fundamentalists are heretics, and how war has changed his view of human nature.
Q You have said that war is an addiction and like a narcotic and that so is covering war. How so?
A Colors are brighter. You’re aware of things you’ve never been aware of … You don’t sleep. If you spend long enough in its grip,
you never want to leave it.
Q Your books are so angry—at politicians, news media, gullible populations, corporations and so on—but there’s always a discussion about love. How do you get there after you’ve seen what you have seen?
A Isn’t that what Isaiah and Elijah and all the prophets did? They were angry. Augustine said Hope has two beautiful daughters— anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and courage to see that they don’t remain the way they are. A deep anger at injustice and human cruelty is an expression of empathy and love. It is an anger that is bred out of compassion and identification with human suffering when you’ve seen the callousness and cruelty of what we do.
Q You say that fundamentalism ￼banishes love. What does that mean?
A Fundamentalism is about authority. Fundamentalists say they’re about Jesus, but then they want to put up the 10 Commandments, which is [about] Moses, in the courthouse. If they want to nail the Beatitudes up, I’m all behind them. And my frustration with the liberal church is that they have not denounced these people and have refused to call them what
they are, which is heretics.
Q Fundamentalists are heretics?
A Those who preach the gospel of prosperity and have fused the language of Christianity with the state are heretics. That’s a perversion of the core message of the Gospel. This radical message is something that has to be fought for.
Q After what you’ve seen covering conflict, what do you feel about human nature?
A I’ve seen that human beings like to destroy things and others. I’ve seen that through fear, whole populations can be rendered compliant in evil. I’ve seen lonely figures speak truth at the cost of their own lives but that it’s important to bear witness. I’ve also seen how the more incomprehensible kindness is, the more powerful it is. Death is powerful, but love is powerful too.