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Hedges on Hitchens

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Posted on Dec 16, 2011

Though he gives credit to Christopher Hitchens’ exceptional talent, Chris Hedges remembers the newly departed writer differently from the way others might in this clip from CBC Radio. In an unflinching appraisal, Hedges recalls what Hitchens got wrong about religion, his biggest intellectual failing and what it was like to engage him in a debate.

Click here to listen to Friday’s interview on CBC and take a look at the debate Hedges talks about in the YouTube video below.




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By Dimplesponge, January 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment
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Unfortunately religion is to Hedges, what alcohol was to Hitchens. An anesthetic to soothe the pain in their hearts, neither one of them could or can overcome their addiction.

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By southern Vancouver Island, January 3, 2012 at 12:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Be a man! Stop whining about Christopher Hitchens!

Your ‘rather unlettered’ vicious attack on a dead man is also rather un-Christian.

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By John, December 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Time for payback now there can be no reply…( )

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By redteddy, December 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

I’ve always admired and respected Hedges but I’m really disappointed with him
on his statements on Hitchens. Here he is accusing Hitchens of using personal
attacks and now that the man is dead he goes on to basically do the same:

Hitchens had no ‘moral core’, Hitchens was a ‘bully’  Hitchens came on stage
‘drunk’, Hitchens was ‘intellectually unprepared’, ‘Hitchens was out for

All of those statements are personal attacks and Hedges even has the nerve to
call Hitchens ‘vicious’. If Hedges wants to keep the ‘moral high ground’ then he
should step back from these kinds of personal characterizations less others
come to find he too lives in a glass house.  Or is it that Hedges is without fault,
without vice and incapable of mistakes?  Again, I’m disappointed with his self-
righteous tone, it just came across as pomposity.

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By Change Agent, December 27, 2011 at 8:54 am Link to this comment

Hedges is correct - It is mans capacity for darkness and evil that allows this atrocity. It is masked in the cloak of religion. If Jesus was alive today he would confront every fundamentalist christian - for they live nothing like he lived.

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By Sombrio, December 25, 2011 at 2:31 am Link to this comment

Hey Chris, the funny thing I find about the comparison between you and Hithcens is I think you’re both right but in a different sort of way. Looking at the debate he says all that what’s wrong is the application of religon and you say that’s because of the darkness in mankind’s hearts. He blames God for that and rejects the divine. You say the failing is amongst men. I never met Hitchens but God bless his memory even if he was totaly out of wack when it came to Iraq etc. What you are both right about is how religon is used as a catch all for any excuse to release that darkness so lurking close to mankinds mind. The fact that he could never make the leap of understanding of what the love he felt for humanity was akin to a universal love that the religon represents is a failing on the part those representing the religon. His idea that religon is used as a mysonginist exploitation of what is really the division of labour between male and female and not their intellectual unity cannot be faulted. And you know so what if he was a prolifragate and some what obnoxious, compared to the other denizens of the lunatic right he strikes me as honestly human as oppossed to the psychopathic righteousness of those he ended up sailing with and that is an irony that any man could fall into.

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By Tom Lardner, December 21, 2011 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I dare say that Hedges comes off sounding a bit jealous.
Despite Hitchen’s faults, he was infinitely more eloquent
and witty than the ever-more-annoying and arid Hedges.
Think about - who would you rather sit down with and
discuss things over some beers?

Hitchens could be a pain and was downright wrong at times,
but he managed to express himself with far less self-
righteousness than Truthdig’s favorite holier-than-thou
lefty preacher.

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By genia, December 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

yes these comments are applicable and “correct”- and perhaps i am being too picky here, but for Hedges
to make a judgement about Hitchens “immoral core” less then a week after his death disappoints me,
probably because of my own belief systems, which are that the first few weeks after a persons passing,
we should either being pulling for and praying for that person, or leave them alone.

i expect someone of the obvious moral authority of Hedges, not to stoop to this. i did finally watch all
the debate, and it stands as what it is. there is no need to beat the issue(s) into the ground.

as for the alcoholism issue, that certainly explains a lot- but as i said, i do not feel that now is a good
time to get judgmental about one who has just passed, because, (o CH is rolling in his grave-ha!)- it
may cause harm to whatever spirit is transitioning from here to whatever is next….....and yes, i think it
better to avoid causing harm, even to one that has made “bad” mistakes”, then to use this time to judge

it’s really interesting how much debate and dialogue the passing of this person has provoked. i’ve said it
elsewhere too, those of us that are most alive, often have capacities for both the best and the worst…....
and certainly it can be and was very annoying to see such prodigious gifts used to defend unsupportable


please excuse the form here, having trouble editing it properly…....

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By Steven, December 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good riddance. Hitchens was a scoundrel with barbaric and insane views; an articulate madman. Some people mistook his good English for intelligence.

One Iraqi child that died was worth more than this arrogant son of bitch. He should have died on the front lines fighting the war he supported. But no, he was a coward.

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By kazy, December 20, 2011 at 11:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The one thing that Hitchens got right was his take on religion. Where Hitchens was a complete and utter failure on was his views on women. He came off as a hateful bitter mess. Some woman broke his heart or maybe several did and knowing his personality, it’s not a surprise, but it seems all women in his eyes paid for whatever perceived disappointment his pathetic, annoying and petty grievances were.

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By truthbug, December 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

Hedges agrees with Hitchins that wrong-minded people are behind religion, and he also says, “the problem is not religion,” claiming that, if there were no religion, the evil doers would find another way to do their dirty deeds.  Okay, why doesn’t Hedges admit that Hitchins has a valid suggestion to do away with religion, for then we might focus on the real problem?  Aside from all that logic, such a discussion can only be theoretical and has no utility whatsoever.

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By NABNYC, December 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment

Christopher Hitchens was obviously a very smart man, probably born with a strong brain and lucky enough to attend good schools.  He also was a terrific writer, which presumably was the result of both talent and hard work.  I am sorry he is dead, sorry he suffered from cancer.

But Chris Hedges’ comments seem muted to me, yet entirely fair.  Hitchens was apparently a drunk, an alcoholic, and/or simply someone who drank heavily.  He was formerly on the left but ran to embrace the right at exactly the moment when the left had no funding or support, and the right was flush with cash, happy to pay any talking head who would support their neo-fascist agenda.  In this, he reminds me of David Horowitz, a left-winger who decided very late in life, at a time when the right was throwing money around to anyone who would come join them, to align himself with their neo-fascist agenda and get terribly rich in the process.  These people have no scruples or ethics, think of themselves as better than anyone else, and really don’t care how many people suffer because of their dishonest propaganda.

Beyond that, Hitchens was a sad case, a trained monkey in a bar spouting off witticisms for money or a drink. I don’t blame him or hate him for his problems with alcohol, but I also see no reason to deny the terrible effect that it had on his life.

I’ve often wondered why society gathers together to cover up the addictions, alcohol and otherwise, of their favorite sons.  It’s as if there is a collective agreement that we will not mention the obvious, will pretend it didn’t matter or did not impair his brain.  I’d say most of Hitchens’ later years are typical for any drunk:  mean, unfocused, trouble thinking, lack of morality or concern for others, pathetically and desperately seeking out the spotlight for a few more minutes, guzzling drinks between acts to steady his hand, hopeing to get off stage before he thorougly exposed himself. 

Again, he was a smart guy and a terrific writer.  But there’s no legitimate purpose in ignoring the tragic end to his life, the alcohol, the besotted brain, him engaging in these silly “debates” about whether there is a god.  Honestly, who cares.  It’s an easy way to get money and attention, but essentially nobody cares what he thinks about the existence of God except some morons on the right-wing. 

Chris Hedges, as always, is honest and accurate in his statements.

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By genia, December 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

i wish Hedges had not done this. i am still a huge admirer, though i do wish he
had kept silent, just this once, since the person in question is, after all dead.
i also had problems with the last book on atheists that resulted from their debate.
Hedges is too important a spokesperson to make these kinds of mistakes….......

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By Night-Gaunt, December 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

If you are evolved to believe you can still be serious and intelligent. But it is all directed to protect that feeling. Why most of humanity automatically follow it or creates it. From an evolutionary standpoint it makes sense if it allowed for the human species to survive. It sure did. However if the environment changes but the behavior doesn’t it could easily lead, and has done so in the past, to extinction at worst, marginalized at best.

It is why I concentrate more on the people than their belief systems. But such systems can facilitate their lower natures. Until we evolve out of it it will be our monster in our minds.

Remember that to the believer any who don’t follow as they do in or outside religion is irrational to them.

Fascism uses religion to inflame the people and keep them happy or to support privation in times of “national emergency” for long periods. We have one here that caters to the rich and powerful making them the epitome of the blessed. If you aren’t rich and powerful you are treated as bad Christians. Dominionists in fact preach a global war of domination to prepare the earth for their Nordic-Aryan strongman to return and not before. Social “Darwinism” is also part of their creed.

Christopher Hitchens seemed more like a former Liberal that turned hard line Nationalist and war monger. The USA can do no wrong. Typical Reich wingism. So he is a mixed bag to me. I can agree and disagree with him on different issues at the same time. I’m sorry he is gone.

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By Don Ediger, December 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hitchens was a self-promoting little war monger, a person who will be all but forgotten in a few years. His belief system was a mere footnote to a biography that only Hitchens himself reveled in reading.

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By me, December 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why argue about this.  There is better things to
discus.  I have the utmost respect for Hitchens, he
was a genius and his opinions will be missed but they
were not always correct. Like the rest of us he is
human.  Sadly he is no longer here to defend himself
so he is now a lot easier to argue with. I am a
massive fan of Hedges but in my view this attack, on
the recently departed, demeans Hedges more than
Hitchens. The problem is not in the human heart (as
Hedges asserts (this is a clear cop-out for the
easily led (I <3 brackets)(the problem is in
indoctrination (to various creeds (capitalism
included))), this point is now obvious since the
human heart seems to be responsible for the recent
uprising against tyranny. This is simply a clash of intellectuals that Hedges should have let go with
Hitchen’s death. “it always descended to character assassination”, Character assassination is so much
easier when people are not here to defend them-
selves. No individuals opinions should be taken as
fact but all should be free to express their
opinions, i detect bitterness in what hedges is at
here. I fell shame for Hedges (I’ll still follow him
and hang on his every word because i understand he is
not a deity and can be as wrong as everyone else).

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By bpawk, December 18, 2011 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Religion has no place in the government/courts. You can believe whatever you want, but there should be a clear separation of church and state with no tax breaks or special respect for religion. Religion is also incompatible with science in terms of creation so the real self-identity is: are you scientifically oriented or are you supernaturally oriented? That is the question.

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By voxvegan, December 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

Thanks, Chris, for your unfailing honesty and commitment to truth.

Journalist, scoundrel Christopher Hitchens dies at 62 - from World Socialist Web

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By Shyla, December 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jessie said “There are not good and bad people, there are healthy and ill people and ill people, such as psychopaths have actual brain damage that disallows them to identify with other humans and so allows them to commit atrocity easily.”

This explains a lot but how do you account for the propensity of ordinary, healthy humans to commit evil acts when confronted with social, political or economic breakdown? (Classic/trite example: ordinary German people complicit in Nazi crimes.)

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By balkas, December 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment

sorry, but all popes were thought of as infallible until jus years ago.
and i do not see all that much difference between falwell, haggee and the like, and
calvin, luther, hus, et al.
i follow events in the balkans and find the catholic and orthodox churches there in
deep hate of one another and much against any equality among people and peoples.
and islam on kosovo, in albania, and bosnia is as much against justice and equality
for all people AND PEOPLES as the christians.
it is not as bad, tho, an islam as in arab and other lands.

let’s face at least one fact: the more people get equal in law and daily living and the
more they get educated the more priests, imams, rabbis, buddhist monks, hindu
gurus, lose their eclat and inflated importance.
and that cannot do. so they always side with fascists and demonize equality/justice
builders. tnx

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By berniem, December 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

Any belief system that becomes dogma or institutionalized is potentially hazardous to those who would not subscribe to it. Those in opposition to the will of the perceived masses, or more specifically those in position of power and acting as arbitor, are deemed heretics and are subject to varying degrees of sanction. The goring of sacred cows is amusing grist for stimulating debate but serves little purpose when we are confronted by serious oxen in dire need lethal impaling! FREE BRADLEY MANNING!!!!

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By Robespierre115, December 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment

@balkas, but you forget the Reformation and the Radical Reformation where events such as the German Peasants’ War, the Anabaptist movement and revolutionary figures like Thomas Muntzer planted some of the early seeds of communist/socialist thought and broke the power of the Catholic Church in many areas. So again, the problem isn’t religion itself, because humans will always come up with some big explanation for existance, the problem is humans themselves.

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By balkas, December 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

it had been priests who invented supremacism; or division of people into a more and less
to oppose it in deed or word, meant death, exile, torture, or incarceration, etc.
that had been so in the middle east for at least 8 k yrs. even in europe, until just 300 yrs or
so, only a ‘noble’ [read, please, criminal] cld be a priest.
the laws that they have passed and the ideology they invented still rules much of the world.

it is true that in some lands priests control only about 30% of the pop; however, many
people who do not go church, but believe in a ‘god’, still obey priests, bible, torah, quran.

and such books—or, rather their teachings appear much antihuman.
so, ‘religions’ [cults really] do have an enormous influence and mostly used against the
weakest people and peoples. tnx

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By Jesse Francis, December 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris is almost right… evil is found in the human
brain, not heart. The ‘heart’ he speaks of is the
attitudes of the mind which is the product of the
brain, a product of environmental and self-repetitive
programming. There are not good and bad people, there
are healthy and ill people and ill people, such as
psycopaths have actual brain damage that disallows
them to identify with other humans and so allows them
to commit atrocity easily.

Nevertheless Mr Hitchins is also correct. Religions
that were created by psychopaths to control other
people are not helpful to mankind and doing away with
them would be very helpful to contributing toward a
more peaceful and compassionate society. The primary
issue with religion is that it allows good men to do
evil things. All the men in war do not suddenly turn
evil… they are fighting for noble causes… god and
country. It is the existence of those ‘causes’ or and
ideological axioms that allow a caring man to kill
another caring man. It is not just religion that we
need to do away with, it is unquestionable dogmas of
any sort. Religion is undeniably amongst them.

Capitalism is another example but so is communism,
socialism and indeed any ideologically insisted ism.

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By Mark Lindley, December 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr Koch, I too am an atheist and I too try to avoid
buying into crap; but I think you are missing some
important points. Most people who are theists are
that way because it was inculcated in them as
children. Billions of them are quite good people
and they should certainly not be subjected to the
horrors of war on account of their not having
converted to atheism. (And on the other hand,
*some* atheists are pretty awful people—just as
awful as, for instance, Dick Cheney.) So, it’s not
a simple matter. Try to become so serenely secure
of your atheism that it doesn’t seem to you to be
threatened by people like Chris Hedges.
Atheism isn’t always *the* most important thing. If
everyone was like Chris Hedges and no one was like
Stalin, life on Earth would be a lot better than it

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By annenigma, December 17, 2011 at 9:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Too bad Christ Hitchings couldn’t recognize our national religion of Capitalism. God, only Satan could be so willfully blind as to not see or recognize that one. 

Christ also did not have the intellectual capacity to grasp that simply because the government or other authority didn’t name it as such, Capitalism is a Religion and Money is worshipped as God.

Apparently, without a long, historical record to wrap his mind around, he simply couldn’t grasp it. Or maybe Capitalism was the only Religion he accepted, worshipped at its altar, and felt as dedicated to it as he did to War. After all, they are one and the same sacrifice to the Gods.

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By Robespierre115, December 17, 2011 at 12:04 am Link to this comment

@de Koch, You’re just recycling the same paranoid mush Hitchens and other blowhards specialize in. You seriously consider religion more of a danger than capitalism? Europe’s current fall into an abyss made worse by an IMF dictatorship has nothing to do with religion (aren’t cathedrals closing fast in that corner of the world), the uprisings in the Arab world have been mostly against secularist regimes, not to justify theocracies, but it’s an example of how the problem is obviously not religion itself. Maybe the right atheist candidate hasn’t appeared in this country. A good chunk of the planet believes in supernatural crap, some people believe in God, some in ghosts, others in the Tarot deck, that’s simply never going to end. Jesus could be 100% proven a fiction tomorrow and people will find something else. The problem here is this paranoid idea that somehow religion is causing all the world’s ills. I’m sure Wall Street is happy with that explanation.

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By Bacilo de Koch, December 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

The only ‘rigid adherence to ideological systems’ being discussed here is the
continued, and irrational belief in a ‘supreme being’ despite science holding
answers to most questions, granted, not all.  Some things are simply beyond
our ability to test and explain.  Somehow, I’m OK with that and I don’t feel the
need to explain everything around me by using ‘faith’.

One look at the current state of politics in this country, and it is evident that a
belief in a ‘supreme being’ is hardly a contrarian position.  Seriously
Robespierre, would a declared atheist get anywhere near a nomination?  The
bunch of clowns we have chasing the republican nomination are doing nothing
but pandering to a demographic that would be happier had the enlightenment
never happened.  And sadly, the democrats would not do much better either.

If anything, religion is on the rise in the world, and with visible consequences.

I used to be merely an atheist.  I did not believe but could care less what others
thought.  However, I feel more aligned with Hitchens in the need to be an
antitheist.  Religion is nothing but the cause of misery, war, and suffering, and
it takes advantage of human stupidity.

Humanity is moving backwards.

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By rumblingspire, December 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris.  You are a beautiful man.  A real two for one.  In the heart!

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By Robespierre115, December 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

Hedges makes good points. The Hitchens cultists of course go bonkers.

As Alexander Cockburn wrote today in Counterpunch:

“He courted the label “contrarian”, but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the expression of dangerous opinions. Hitchens never wrote anything truly discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair. Attacking God? The big battles on that issue were fought one, two, even five hundred years ago when they burned Giordano Bruno at the stake in the Campo de’ Fiore. A contrarian these days would be someone who staunchly argued for the existence of a Supreme Being.”

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By theway, December 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm Link to this comment

Mr Koch, it is obvious that you haven’t listened to the interview. His intellectual failing, according to Chris Hedges was his ‘inability to hold nuance’, and his ‘rigid adherence to ideological systems’.

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By Bacilo de Koch, December 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

So, not believing in religion is an intellectual failing now…  Great, Mr. Hedges,
please remember to sleep soundly this Christmas Eve, you would not want to run
into Santa and spoil Christmas.

Oh, yes, ant the tooth fairy called to tell you there is no god.

But I guess my intelligence fails me for not buying into this crap.

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