BILL MOYERS: But do you think taking sides marginalizes your journalism? When you were being arrested, and some businessman was quoted in the paper passing by and looking at those of you being carried away and said, “Bunch of idiots.” He needs to hear what you, read what you say. Do you think he will once he knows you’ve taken sides?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I think that in life we always have to take sides.
BILL MOYERS: Do journalists always have to take sides?
CHRIS HEDGES: Yes. Journalists always do take sides. You know, you’ve been a journalist a long time. The idea that there’s something objective and impartial is just a lie. We sell it. But I can take the same set of facts— I was a newspaper reporter for a long time, and I can spin that story one way or another. We manipulate facts. That’s what we do. And I think that the really great journalists—
BILL MOYERS: Not necessarily to deceive though. Some do, I know, but—
CHRIS HEDGES: Right, but we do.
BILL MOYERS: We choose the facts we want to organize—
CHRIS HEDGES: Of course, it’s selective. And it’s what facts we choose, how we place, where we put the quotes. And I think the really great journalists, like the great preachers, care fundamentally about truth. And truth and news are not the same thing.
And the really great reporters, and I’ve seen them, you know, in all sorts of news organizations, are management headaches because they care about truth at the expense of their own career.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean truth as opposed to news?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, let’s take the Israeli occupation of Gaza. You know, if I had a dinner with any Middle East correspondent who covered Gaza, none of us would have any disagreements about the Israeli behavior in Gaza, which is a collective war crime. And yet to get up and write it and say it within American society is not a career enhancer.
Because there’s a powerful Israeli lobby, and it’s a lobby that I don’t think represents Israel, it represents the right wing of Israel. And you know it. But the great reporters don’t care. And they’re there.
But you know, large institutions like “The New York Times” attract huge numbers of careerists like any other large institutions, the Church of course, being no exception. And those are the people who are willing to take moral shortcuts to promote themselves within that institution.
And when somebody becomes a headache, even if they may agree with them, even if they may know that they are speaking a truth, and it puts their career in jeopardy— they will push them out or silence them.
So I think that one can take sides, and Orwell becomes the kind of model for this. But one can never not tell the truth. And I’ve often written stories that are not particularly flattering. And there’s much in this book about people in Pine Ridge or Camden, you know, that is not flattering. I mean, we’re interviewing people that are drug addicts and this kind of stuff. And—
BILL MOYERS: Drug dealers—
CHRIS HEDGES: —prostitutes and—
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, drug dealers—
CHRIS HEDGES: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: —prostitutes.
CHRIS HEDGES: So we’re not, you know, the lie of omission is still a lie. But I don’t think any foreign correspondent who covers war, whether it was in Bosnia or whether it was in Sarajevo can be indifferent to the tremendous human suffering before them and not want that human suffering to stop.
BILL MOYERS: But there is a price, as you have said, to be paid for stepping outside of the system that enabled your name and reputation and becoming a critic of that system. I mean, what price do you think you’ve paid?
CHRIS HEDGES: I don’t think I paid a price, I think I would’ve paid a price for staying in. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.