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The downward spiral of Chris Hedges
by Chris Burnett
Thursday Jun 19th, 2014 12:16 AM
Has anyone been following the Chris Hedges plagiarism accusations? For what its worth, my reading is that he appears guilty as charged, and now the feeding frenzy of liberal-to-NeoCon-to-corporatists will jump in on the beat down. Now, before you react, I know some of you will be saying, 'who cares, we always kinda knew that guy was an asshole!" Ok, true, but this case is illustrative of how the system attacks it's critics.
[Photo: Chris Hedges. source unknown.]

The downward spiral of Chris Hedges

Has anyone been following the Chris Hedges plagiarism accusations?

For what its worth, my reading is that he appears guilty as charged, and now the feeding frenzy of liberal-to-NeoCon-to-corporatists will jump in on the beat down. The whole thing is pretty sad, because on the one hand, whatever legitimate critiques Hedges has had will be attacked by discrediting him, and on the other, it will be used to attack left critics generally.

Now, before you react, I know some of you will be saying, 'who cares, we always kinda knew that guy was an asshole!" Ok, true, but this case is illustrative of how the system attacks it's critics. I think it's important to consider how the fallout happens. I was the first person to play Hedges on KPFK a long time ago, so I perhaps am a little more interested than most might be.

I appreciated a lot of his writings even if I don't agree with some of what he says. I was always weary of why someone like that even worked for the New York Times! I figured out how full of shit the NYT was (and still is) over 20 years ago! What the fuck was his excuse? Oh right, money and access.

I've read the accusations pretty closely now for the last couple of days, and as I said, they seem legit. I have mixed feelings because it's nice to watch when he is a rabid attack dog going after the corporate state, but not so much fun when he goes crazy on your friends (remember when David Graeber tried to reason with the guy about OWS and the BB?). But it was Hedges who pushed back against the NDAA and fought it in the public arena, and took it to the Supreme Court.

He's also come along way in writing about the history of radical texts, including Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman, etc. He's championed Jeremy Hammond and Chelsea Manning. He's done a lot of good work. How stupid for him to go down like this. What's even more disconcerting is his response, which is weak, and full of misdirection and hubris. The guy can't admit ANY fault, as was evident when Graeber reached out to him.

The religious nut-bag side of Hedges always bothered me, like calling atheists "secular fundamentalists". Only a supremely arrogant and sanctimonious asshole would attack the non-religious this way.

And because Hedges loved Occupy Wall St, he couldn't intellectually comprehend that it was anarchist theory and practice that made it successful, so when some minor property destruction happened in Oakland, he proceeded on his version of a Jihad to call anarchists, and the BB tactic, the "Cancer of Occupy", relying on some obscure blog posts which only exposed his incomprehension even more. Totally clueless. Hubris uber alles. He did a hell of a lot of damage with that hit piece, taking a small rift to national public attention, even when he got his facts completely wrong! Total asshole move from someone not even involved in the movement.

I don't think it's a coincidence that people who make a living by being media pundits and polemicists are a little bat shit crazy. They have to constantly perform for a paycheck, and the balancing act of getting paid and not crossing the party line ain't easy. Obviously, the party line is often set by the purse holder, and can often have the effect of taming ones beliefs, or ignoring glaring evidence of state crimes (in the case of 911) for fear of being thrown out on your ass, Sectarian Left Style.

But Hedges was always a kind of "fuck you" guy. He seemed to always say it like he felt it, even if that meant being a stubborn and arrogant dick about it. What a stupid way to go down.

Luckily, I have never taken a regular paycheck for media work, except for a short 2 week stint in the news department at KFPK, and that is not to say that my friends who do are compromised, just that it ain't easy sometimes! In the business of journalism and writing, plagiarism is the journalists' version of a political sex scandal.

And by the way, plagiarism is obviously a serious offense, if that needed to be said. This isn't high school or some random college course. This is the political arena where arguments and credibility matters. Sources must be cited, using another author's work must be cited. When you steal shit, it's not just going to hurt you, but an entire movement. I don't buy that journalistic pressure and deadlines account for these "mistakes".

The sad part of all this is that the New Republic is a kind of corporate democrat outfit that does a lot of BS reporting. I'm not a fan. And there is no doubt that this expose will be used to politically undermine all of Hedges' critiques. But the author, Christopher Ketcham, has written some good articles in defense of people like Julian Assange. His personal grudge is apparently that Hedges lifted some of his wife's work without credit, but he openly admits it.

But Hedges brought this on himself, and it only hurts movements that try to expose corrupt state and corporate power. If Hedges chose to acknowledge some of the "mistakes", and admit he fucked up, some kind of redemption might be possible, but he didn't choose to do that. Instead, he held "strong" and is trying unsuccessfully to weasel his way out of ANY responsibility for his actions. That's a total dick move.

Take a look at the side by side examples that Christopher Ketcham illustrates in his article, especially the Hemingway quotes, which I read as irrefutable evidence of plagiarism. The Naomi Klein, Matt Katz and Neil Postman rip offs are pretty damning. But the most damning is the careful substitutions of pronouns and prepositions in paragraphs that were clearly lifted. You don't use a fine-tuned cutting tool by accident.

Anyways, here is the original article:

And here is Chris Hedges' response:


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Same
Thursday Jun 19th, 2014 4:20 PM
Wow. he always hated Christopher Hitchens, a superior intellect ( even if you vehemently have disagreed with him) in a kind of childish, jealous way. I think his writing is meh, and his politics so dystopian as to be nearly worthless. Now he appears to be a thief and a dishonest thief at that. Well played.
by Steve
Friday Jun 20th, 2014 4:32 AM
Chris Hedges is being attacked by those who support the status -quo ! F them. Hedges is a good man.
by Publius
Friday Jun 20th, 2014 8:52 AM
Chris B. was asking for your thoughts, not your feelings. Messenger aside, what do you make of the message?
by Chris Burnett
Friday Jun 20th, 2014 4:08 PM
As easily predicted, Hedges' plagiarism dilemma is being used to attack his political positions, in this case climate change. Hedges rightly condemns inaction on climate change, but over at some website called, they carefully, and meticulously, reconstruct the story of Hedges' plagiarism, and then in the last paragraph deliver this absurdity:

"As for his "causes," Hedges is a shill for the climate change hoaxers, claiming regularly in his columns at and elsewhere that man-made global warming is about to destroy the planet. Failure to respond to the crisis "will assure an ecological nightmare that will most probably be accompanied by an economic, social and political breakdown," he wrote in this 2012 column, which is typical of his global warming shtick."

(from here: )

Why a site called Natural News, which claims to be some kind of populist, anti-corporate, anti-chemicals in food site is pushing the climate-change-is-a-hoax line is beyond me. Funded by oil companies? Underwritten by the Koch's? I have no idea.

But the point is clear: any political positions Hedges has taken in the past are now fodder for disinformation campaigns.
by andy
Friday Jun 20th, 2014 9:12 PM
Christopher Hitchens was a obnoxious douche
by Bob Boldt
(deboldt(at)gmail(dot)com) Saturday Jun 21st, 2014 2:48 AM
The silence surrounding the Hedges New Republic scandal is nearly deafening. Since Hedges' rebuttal of the charges and Ketcham's response, none of the significant witnesses and players or any of the aggrieved parties have identified themselves, added comments or tried to clarify the issues in the dispute. All seem to want to sidestep as carefully around the punch bowl turd as they can. Critical opinion blogs on the Left and the Right have delivered their outraged ad hominems and now seem to be awaiting the next development. Everyone seems paralyzed. The situation is so devoid of balanced commentary that my humble comments made on Media With Conscience appear near the top of Google. That's a first for me on an issue of such national importance.

I have once again gone over all the arguments pro and con contained in Ketcham's article and tried to make sure there is not some redemption possible for Hedges. My conclusion remains that, short of clear duplicity on the part or Ketcham or Ross, the discovery that there was no real Harper's fact checker and the categorical denial of the NR facts by the Harper's executives, there can only be one conclusion in the matter: Hedges committed plagiarism in the manuscript Harper's rejected. The fact that Harper's rejected the manuscript itself remains a damning fact as well.

In spite of Hedges' weak defense in addressing the other charges of serial plagiarism vis-a-vie Hemingway et al, I think any serious observer has to stand by the most damning side-by-side citations from the original NR piece itself.

"Concerning the Bartosiewicz (Ketcham's wife) plagiarism, Hedges, as detailed in my piece, does not address—and continues here to fail to address—why he made so many small changes to the original text (this includes the tweaking of some sentences and lines but not others, the adding of a hyperlink not in the original, and the changing of certain phrases)."

Christopher Ketcham

As Ketcham demonstrates in citation after citation in the original piece, Hedges mixes verbatim sentences with other sentences where subtle changes were made from the plagiarized material. Hedges can't have it both ways. Either steal the whole passage without the subtle changes and call it an honest failure to attribute-- or 'patchwork' all the material and hope the fact checker doesn't find it--but don't do both in the same paragraph? That's not even clever!

Some of Hedge's weak rebuttal to the NR center around publication dates and "mistakes" as he calls them. Unfortunately, unless you are willing to take his word over an equally reputable commentator (Ketcham) you boil it down to a he-said-he-said. Of course the only way to resolve this definitively is in court. This is the only way Hedges' has to un-tarnish his mortally damaged reputation. A libel suit would force out the reluctant and unidentified parties at Harper's to depose their understanding of the events and dates so critical. Discovery would also open the unpublished Camden document to review as well. I'm sorry to say that, based on my review of the pros and cons of the case, the only recourse Hedges has is to sue. Refusal to do so cannot be viewed in any way other than an admission of guilt.

There are broader, even more tragic ramifications in this case as well. I think this tempest may have nearly as great an impact on the further marginalizing of the Progressive Left as the election of Barack Obama. Those of us who have moved from trying to reform the system from within and those of us who have moved from protest to resistance largely have Christopher Hedges to thank for helping us understand all the different, often contradictory realities at play. His insistence on non-violence. His participation in the Occupy movement and his articulation of its position have been immensely valuable. His wisdom forged on the barricades of world revolutionary movements has given us a critical balancing in our own plans to birth our own revolution here at home. Still we stand on the brink of chaos as our civilization and humanity begins the slide into extinction. Hedges has been a bright beacon of sanity in insane times. To lose his voice now, at this most critical time will have incalculable consequences for us all.
by Chris Burnett
Saturday Jun 21st, 2014 12:24 PM
Bob Boldt,

Very good reading of the situation. The cricket sounds we are hearing as a result of the silence from the parties closely aligned to Hedges speaks volumes. I get the sense that they feel the best strategy is to just not get involved and hope it blows over, but sadly, I don't think that will happen. I also get the feeling that the silence is due to the fact that the evidence appears very strong.

As I discussed above, I certainly disagree with some of Hedges positions, but I don't have an axe to grind. What concerns me most is the effect this can have on broader social movements, which is why we should be discussing this.

Anytime someone like Hedges, who has a national platform, speaks, people listen, as was illustrated by the "Cancer in Occupy" article. That article, as Graeber noted, opened the door to more violence being directed against anyone in a hoody or mask, that wanted anonymity, regardless if it was black bloc related or not. That kind of national influence is a source of power, and when that power is used deceptively, WE have a problem.

It's imperative to discuss this, not necessarily for Hedges sake, but for the sake of movements against illegitimate authority, for the sake of any movement that Hedges has aligned himself with.
by Paco
Saturday Jun 21st, 2014 9:01 PM
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Chris Hedges, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Hedges. The noble Christopher Ketcham
Hath told you Hedges was a plagiarizer:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Hedges answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Ketcham and the rest--
For Ketcham is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honourable men...

by RWF
Monday Jun 23rd, 2014 1:35 PM
"His insistence on non-violence. His participation in the Occupy movement and his articulation of its position have been immensely valuable. His wisdom forged on the barricades of world revolutionary movements has given us a critical balancing in our own plans to birth our own revolution here at home."

Unfortunately, Hedges was ignorant of what was happening with the Black Bloc and others in Occupy and showed no interest when confronted with the facts. Hedges has done good work in excavating the repressive aspect of US society, but, when challenged on his insistence upon non-violent martyrdom as a political response, he withdrew into a reliance upon factual inaccuracies that supported his dubious stance. I don't think that any revolutionary movement can be built upon an unwillingness to support people who act in self-defense (as he did when he equivocated and refused to support the notion that people should throw tear gas canisters back at the police who fired them at them, better, I guess, that they retain their political purity and choke on it). Hedges also rather oddly wrote in defense of the violent Greek resistance to austerity while adamantly opposing it here. There are no easy answers when it comes to violence and political activism (my own view is that recourse to violence is a decision that should be left to the people who are most vulnerable and most victimized, instead of middle and upper middle class activists on either side of the divide), and Hedges is, in effect, promoting a simplistic answer that prioritizes his progressive Christianity to the detriment of those who would act upon it.
by Ed King
(thewestendnews [at] Tuesday Jul 1st, 2014 8:48 PM
I agree that Hedges appears guilty as charged. I have a hard time understanding how a writer as prolific as he is can avoid taking shortcuts somewhere along the line. It seems impossible for him to be in as many places as he is and understand so many issues well enough to write about them. I don't think he is the only national writer in this position - having to be experts on issues of which they don't really have a lot of understanding. I agree that his outing as a plagiarist does damage the 'movement' he is supposed to be supporting.
by Hedge Chrises
Wednesday Jul 23rd, 2014 9:32 AM
The Black Bloc were idiots who destroyed Occupy with their infantile insistence on property destruction, convincing potential supporters of Occupy that they should stay away rather than associate with people who think a rock is a political statement, and doing the cops' dirty work for them.

They were, without a doubt, the best ally the cops and big business could have asked for. That's why cops in other cities so often pursue "false flag" operations--because they know how effective it is at undermining popular movements. Luckily for them, they didn't have to do it in Oakland because some morons there were only too happy to do it voluntarily. (Or are they? Maybe it's naive to believe they were *not* working for the cops.)

We have to gain a new respect for Chris Hedges, as he has recently reported as an eyewitness, that Palestinian children have been killed on purpose by the Israeli military. He says Israel is a pathological double speak liar.
by Jerry Kann
(jerrykann99 [at] Wednesday Nov 22nd, 2017 2:55 PM
You may have a point about Hedges, and I know this all flared up three years ago, but...that's my point, or one of 'em. He hasn't disappeared, he's as widely read as ever. That seems to indicate it was just a hatchet job. What really makes that seem to be the case is the way *everybody* was piling on. Looks just a little too pat, a little too contrived. (I'm not saying this about *you*, but I do think you were a bit too quick to say he was a goner.)

Consider the recent story from the Boston liberals, the bombshell that Julian Assange's big dream is to be Australia's ambassador to the U.S. Hmmm... Was this scoop derived from a quote from Assange? Well, no. From some other person at Wikileaks? No... just from "Wikileaks." That's really how the story reads. Now, I suppose the story might be true, but it sorta sounds...made up.

Nobody deserves a free ride. But I think the very few writers reaching a big audience who also keep pounding the plutocrats...I think they deserve the benefit of a doubt at the very least.