Chris Hedges: Exuberant journalism with egg on its face
The lamentable consequences of the toxic combination of pack journalism and rampant self-righteousness
Chris Hedges is a highly intelligent person who most of the time gets things right. He is totally wrong however on Srebrenica and the Bosnian war, including here in this YouTube lecture excerpt entitled "American Nonintervention and the Bosnian War". In this video, right from the start (:34 seconds), his unpardonable bias, bordering on fabrication, is laid bare. The Serbs did not, as Hedges claims, commit genocide by killing 250,000 people in Bosnia. It was established by a Bosnian research institute and confirmed by ICTY demographer Ewa Tabeau that total casualties for all three sides between 1992 and 1995 were about 100,000. So Hedges is either ignorant of basic facts pertaining to the subject he lectures about or he is misleading the audience that he is pompously exhorting.
There is another item in his speech, which is not merely false but also intuitively nonsensical. It is the assertion, obviously made for dramatic effect, that 2,000 heavy artillery shells were fired by the Serbs daily on Sarajevo, an area he claims is twice the size of Central Park, killing an average of four people per day (1:40 2:10 seconds). Having been there, unlike the majority of his listeners, Hedges is presumably aware that Sarajevo is much bigger than two Central Parks, but that is a relatively minor point which goes to his credibility on a minor matter. The point that goes to common sense is the claim that 2,000 projectiles raining down on an urban area would cause an average of only four deaths a day. Under the conditions Hedges describes, the daily death toll should have been in the dozens, if not hundreds. Chris Hedges ranges from the heights of keen social criticism to the depths of obnoxious, factually challenged moralistic ranting. The video is an example of the latter. He may not be religious anymore, but he cannot get the insufferably self-righteous Protestant seminarian out of himself. An enormous amount of Srebrenica research has been done since Hedges formed his prejudices on the subject more than two decades ago, but he has painted himself into a corner and his ego does not allow him to budge. We invited him to a dialogue on Srebrenica recently. He chickened out and did not even respond.
Carl Sagan diagnosed Chris Hedges' condition perhaps the best: "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back."
We agree with Chris Hedges on many more issues than we do with Carl Sagan, but we are with Sagan on this one.