Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author Chris Hedges will be the keynote speaker at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's anniversary gala, "Living the Legacy of Nonviolence," on Saturday night at First Congregational Church.
In addition to serving as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times for 12 years, Hedges has written 12 books, including: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction in 2003. A veteran war correspondent, Hedges has reported from more than 50 countries and was part of a team of reporters at the Times that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. Hedges currently works as a senior fellow at The Nation.
Flyer: As keynote speaker, are there any topics related to the work of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center that you'll be addressing?
Chris Hedges: I'm obviously going to look at the whole Occupy movement and the serious problem that we face with political climate change and corporate power.
How effective do you think Occupy Wall Street was, and how effective is nonviolent protest these days?
If it wasn't effective, the state wouldn't have been so scared of it.
Where do you see peaceful protest under the current Obama administration?
We know from the redacted FBI documents that there was an effort to shut it down. [Hedges is referring to FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through the Freedom of Information Act.]
on Truthdig.com, you wrote about people monitored by the federal government for being involved with the Occupy movement. Have you experienced harassment for being a commentator on the movement?
Yes, I spoke in Italy, and on my way back, I was taken and held by Homeland Security [officials] for an hour without explanation and then released. I overheard the official tell another guard that I was on a watch [list]. He didn't say it directly to me, but he told another guard, "He's on a watch, but he can go." I sat there for an hour with people who were suspected of having forged visas before they let me leave.
Do you see social media outlets as helping or hindering rapid news output?
The problem with social media is there's very little reporting done on it. Traditional media does the bulk of reporting, but as traditional media dies, the reporting is being diminished. There's less and less being reported on. A lot of people who write on social media [websites] don't get paid a cent, so states are going dark, which is dangerous because it exacerbates the abuse of power.
The Peace and Justice Center spent much of 2012 fighting wage theft in Memphis. How big a problem is unfair treatment of unregistered workers in America?
It's a huge problem, because even documented workers no longer have any protection. We have no unions anymore. We have states with right-to-work programs. Union activity has never been strong in the South, especially in areas like agriculture, landscaping services, the hotel industry, and the restaurant industry. Undocumented workers have very little legal protection, but workers across the country, unregistered and registered, are suffering because their rights have been taken away.