Chris Hedges Bets on Grim Future

Prize-Winning Journalist Talks Occupy Montreal

Veteran foreign correspondent Chris Hedges gives a bleak assessment of global challenges and the Occupy movement in a keynote speech on Jan. 27. Photo Natalia Lara Diaz Berrio

In a keynote speech ending a day of workshops and discussions on the Occupy movement, veteran foreign correspondent Chris Hedges gave a bleak assessment of the challenges that he thinks the world is facing.

“If we continue to put our faith in traditional systems of power, which are corporate, […] they will kill us. They will kill you and they will kill your children,” said Hedges, addressing an audience of nearly 300 at the Grande bibliothèque nationale’s auditorium on Friday night.

“If we continue to put our faith in traditional systems of power, which are corporate, […] they will kill us. They will kill you and they will kill your children,” said Hedges

The former New York Times journalist and author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and Death of the Liberal Class said that the consequences of climate change leave the world very little time to fight against a corporate state that is “hollowing out the [United States] from the inside.”

Hedges emphasized the importance of protest in the face of these threats. He compared the Occupy movement to revolutions he covered in Eastern Europe.

Small, individual protests helped “keep alive another narrative” which, according to Hedges, led to events such as the 1989 revolution that restored democracy to Czechoslovakia.

“No act of resistance is ever wasted,” he said.

During the question period, Hedges stressed that the current protests remain non-violent and the need to incorporate labour into the Occupy movement.

Hedges, who has supported the Occupy movement since its early days and was arrested protesting American investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in November, focused on the history of radical movements in the United States.

He made reference to Canada’s fortune in not deregulating its banking sector and compared Prime Minister Stephen Harper with former American president George W. Bush.

Despite the dire tone of the talk, Dan Parker, an Occupy Montreal protestor who took part in the workshops throughout the day, said that “everyone is going to walk away with a few inspiring points.”

The event, organized by Media@McGill, was often lively.

At the beginning of Hedges’ talk, a man yelled, “Vive le Québec libre!,” and asked Hedges to say a few words in French.

Occupy Montreal members made their presence known, several of them ‘up-twinkling’—the wiggling of the fingers to express approval, common at Occupy protests—whenever they heard something they agreed with.

During the panel discussion before Hedges’ talk, an audience member called a “mic check”—a method of quickly grabbing the audience’s attention—because organizers asked someone who was filming the event to stop.

Within a few minutes a motion was called by the audience to resolve the issue, a block of the audience raised its hands, wiggled its fingers and declared that the man was allowed to continue recording.

The organizers acquiesced soon after, and the panel moderator thanked the crowd for a “helpful and democratic intervention.”

“It wasn’t our intention to ban the filming. It was just our intention to control it,” said Theodora Tsentas, the project administrator for Media@McGill, who helped organize the day.

According to Tsentas, the consent forms that the speakers signed were meant only for certain media outlets and Media@McGill could have been in breach of contract if the talk were to be distributed elsewhere. Tsentas said under the circumstances, however, the organizers decided to permit the filming.