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5.12.01

"Our biggest threat is abstract thought." -- Chris Hedges, Colgate class of 1979

I spent 3.5 hours today around Mr. Hedges, a New York Times war correspondent. Marty had too much work to do, so he had to skip the dinner at the President's house with Hedges that he had RSVPed for. So I went instead. Jane Pinchin kept telling me how glad she was that I could make it, and that it was "fabulous" that I was there.

Hedges had been a reporter in Central America, Bosnia, Gaza, and most recently tracking Mohammad Atta across Europe. We mostly asked him about the conflict in Israel and Palestine, and the war in Afghanistan. The stuff he said really resonated with things I already knew and figured out. And it squared with everything Christine had told me about how horrible life in Palestinian areas is. So they start to feel like death is the only way they can bring meaning to their life. It becomes easy to project all their problems into a religious framework, which gives them a black and white abstraction as a worldview. He was particularly distressed that the same thing had happened to us, with the widespread jingoism in this country and Bush essentially issuing a fatwa on bin Laden and al-Qaida.

He also had a lot of interesting things to say about the biases in newspaper reporting of war. About how the New York Times has three reporters in Jerusalem doing a good job of investigating the subtleties of the Israeli situation, but no one in Ramallah or Gaza to complete the story. And about how the army siezes reporters' satellite phones in Afghanistan so that they have to call in their stories from military phones.

I feel like I should be able to say so much more of substance here, because it was a really great dinner discussion and lecture afterward. Maybe it's because what he said made so much sense, and just reinforced so much of what I'd been thinking, that it doesn't quite stick as "this was Chris Hedges' argument."

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