Good journalism

Chris Hedges has a new book out, a really terrible book on the putative ‘new’ atheists. It’s so stupid it’s unreadable. This is a little surprising, since he was a foreign correspondent for the NY Times for several years, and even though the Times is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, I would expect it to be above the kind of counter-factual drivel Hedges perpetrates in I Don’t Believe in Atheists. Or would I. No on second thought maybe I wouldn’t. Anyway the book is the kind of stupid that makes your jaw drop as you read. You don’t have to wait long, either – only five pages in you find

[The liberal church] accepts along with the atheists and the fundamentalists, Pangloss’s rosy vision in Voltaire’s Candide that we live in ‘the best of all possible worlds’ and that if we have faith and trust in the forces around us, ‘all is for the best. It is this naive belief in our goodness and decency – this inability to face the dark reality of human nature, our capacity for evil and the morally neutral universe we inhabit – that is the most disturbing aspect of all these belief systems.

He’s including atheism in that – specifically the atheism of what he calls ‘the new atheists.’ (He claims they call themselves that, which is typical of his respect for accuracy.) Really?! Dawkins and Hitchens and Dennett think we live in the best of all possible worlds? Which Dawkins and Hitchens and Dennett has he been reading?

And he enlists this kind of wildly inaccurate characterization in a stupidly belligerent attack on people and ideas and books that don’t exist. It’s cheap stuff. (I’ve heard him on the radio, too, out pushing his book – he works himself into an unpleasant lather of rage at these non-existent atheists. I felt dirty after hearing him.)

He’s on form in this piece.

The “new” atheists, in the name of reason, science and progress, endow themselves with the moral right to abuse others in the name of their particular version of goodness…These atheists, like religious fundamentalists, live in the illusion of a binary world of us and them, of reason versus irrationality, of the forces of light battling the forces of darkness. And once you set up this world, you are permitted to view as justified military intervention, occupation and even torture – anything, in short, that will subdue what is defined as irrational and dangerous.

Nice. Temperate, judicious, careful, precise, accurate, thoughtful, reasoned. Journalism at its best.

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