The World As it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress
March 1, 2011
Hectoring collection of Internet jeremiads by the former Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times war correspondent.
Since leaving the Times, Hedges (Death of the Liberal Class, 2010, etc.), perhaps best known for his 2002 bestseller War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, has gained a following on the American left for his weekly essays on Truthdig, from which this anthology was assembled. Taken in that dose of once per week, the author’s mordant critiques—of American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East; of the news media and its obsequious relationship to power; of the two American political parties, which, despite their noisy disagreements, share the same corporatist agenda—come across as bracing and bold. Read in one sitting, however, they grow to be strident, repetitive, humorless and sanctimonious. In his introduction, Hedges quotes a colleague who told him, “You’re not a journalist. You’re a minister pretending to be a journalist.” In fact, the author, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was working toward a divinity degree at Harvard before he decided to switch to journalism, and Hedges shakes his finger at everybody: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, the Times, Fox News, right-wing Christians, left-wing atheists, etc. Many of his well-aimed barbs hit their targets, but there is precious little relief in this self-righteous collection. By far, his best pieces are two lengthy bits of reporting, one from the Palestinian side of the Green Zone wall in the West Bank, the other from Hosni Mubarak’s security state in Egypt. Here, Hedges shows why his journalism won awards, as he takes us to places few dare to go.
Best either for serious Hedges fans or read in small doses.
March 7, 2011
Former New York Times correspondent Hedges (The Death of the Liberal Class) offers a collection of his recent articles (many culled from his regular column at Truthdig.com), grouped under a handful of topics: “Politics,” “Israel and Palestine,” “The Middle East,” “The Decay of Empire.” It’s indicative of the longtime war correspondent’s experienced eye and commitment to social justice that these areas include subject matter of especially pressing concern, whether the task is understanding the assault underway on organized labor in Wisconsin and elsewhere, liberal disillusionment with Obama, or the dynamics of foreign dictatorships subsidized by the U.S., as in the timely “Inside Egypt” and other dispatches providing vivid background and astute observations on a roiling Middle East. Hedges is equally direct and damning in assessments of Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestine, including some stirring reportage from within the shadow of the mammoth and destructive separation wall. While things may be changing given the current international upsurge of mass public democratic action, the author’s pointed descriptions of the dangers of American “political passivity” deserve careful consideration along with much else in these powerfully written pages. (Apr.)