I was pleasantly surprised the PoI invited Hedges on, and have listened to this a couple of times now.
Knowing Hedges through hearing other debates (i.e. with Harris) rather than through his writings, I found the interview revealing more of his weaknesses than his strengths.
Right up front, I think the one thing he gets spot on is the raw imperial racism truly animating people like Harris and Hitchens. If anything Hedges is too polite in understating the severity of this aspect. He seems to accept at face value DJ’s repeated suggestion that that these ‘New Atheists’ are really seriously interested (any more than Bush, Cheney or the Likudniks) in bringing ‘secular values’ to the Muslim world. Again, their ‘secularism’ is the thinnest of pretexts, a kind of renaiscent “white man’s burden” mythology—it remains a lie even if some secular idiots really believe this is what their cluster-bomb cluster-f**k wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their nuclear threats against Iran are really about.
That said, I find many of the criticisms that people have made above about Hedges are also useful.
He certainly expresses a special kind of arrogance througout the interview. I don’t think, though, that it’s really as he would have us believe, about his profound life experience or the ‘values’ he has supposedly learned to cherish from first-hand knowledge of human ‘evil’. Not only do his philosphical/literary musings come straight from the dictionary of received ideas (‘Heart of Darkness’? give me a freaking break!), but his politics do not rise above the self-serving bromides of Clintonite ‘human-rights’ imperialism.
What really comes accross in Hedges self-important, pompous manner is the attitude one would expect from a celebrated imperial journalist who ‘knows’ the empire’s subject peoples, and has nothing but contempt about commentators who have not bothered to learn their language and cultures with intimacy. And 99 times out of a hundred he can count on his experience trumping the insular, racist ignorance on the part of the people he is arguing with about the broader world. This time the stand-in for predictable American parochialism was DJ, who was rendered speechless as soon as Hedges b-slapped him a few times with his ‘name a country, any country - which theocracy? They’re all different’!
Others have commented above on Hedges’ cultural relativism, even post-modernist tilt ... What is ‘cultural relativism’ of the pc liberal left, but imperialist racism inverted on itself - in the form of blanket patronizing and pandering toward all forms of social backwardness? ‘Who are WE to judge?’ asks the guilt riddled liberal, still clinging to the imperial ‘we’ (the operative concept). His dismissive sneering against ‘utopia’ - by which he means Marxism, is actually a straight out rejection that there is any such thing as class solidarity across national and cultural boundaries established by the rulers (who he never mentions), and nothing in our common humanity worth struggling for. This is where his reactionary shit about ‘evil’ comes in. What is that supposed to mean? It’s nothing but primitive supernaturalism dressed up as cliched ‘moral’ profundity.
Interesting that Hedges idolizes none other than the utterly impotent Socialist Party of Norman Thomas. So much of the same sanctimonious liberal nonsense on display in this interview was already pretty long in the tooth when Trotsky polemicised against John Dewey in the delightful pamphlet ‘Their Morals and Ours’ (1938).
Moralists of the Anglo-Saxon type, in so far as they do not confine themselves to rationalist utilitarianism, the ethics of bourgeois bookkeeping, appear conscious or unconscious students of Viscount Shaftesbury, who at the beginning of the 18th century(!) deduced moral judgments from a special “moral sense” supposedly once and for all given to man. Supra-class morality inevitably leads to the acknowledgment of a special substance, of a ’’moral sense’’, ’’conscience’’, some kind of absolute which is nothing more than the philosophic-cowardly pseudonym for god. Independent of “ends”, that is, of society, morality, whether we deduce it from eternal truths or from the “nature of man”, proves in the end to be a form of “natural theology”. Heaven remains the only fortified position for military operations against dialectical materialism.