Saturday, July 21, 2018

Seymour Hersh meanders throughout REPORTER: A MEMOIR

Seymour Hersh is an investigative reporter whose work is legendary.  His byline is attached to important news stories from the 20th century and the 21st century.  His legend will endure.

That doesn't make him a good person -- a fact that his latest book, REPORTER: A MEMOIR, makes clear.  Nor does it make him a good writer, a fact that the book especially makes clear.


At one point, he explains that he was ticked about the delay on a piece he'd written about the mafia which required extensive editing and rewriting -- he writes the issue is mainly the first three paragraphs -- and he and A.M. Rosenthal (editor at THE NEW YORK TIMES) are exchanging back and forth memos.  Rosenthal writes:

Speaking of memos: It should interest you to note that at this moment a good part of THE NEW YORK TIMES has come to a standstill because the deputy managing editor, one assistant managing editor, one acting national editor and one assistant national editor are tied up as they have been all day, and for days past, in trying to get your series into printable form.  It seems to me that if I were a reporter whose work needed that much attention, I would be slightly embarrassed and hugely grateful.

Reading REPORTER, it's obvious that not a lot has changed.

If someone termed the book "unreadable," that could pass as a kind review.

This is slop.

In fact, "slop" may be too generous a term.  That Knof published this does not speak well for them.

Hersh writes of events, whether distant past (Vietnam) or more recent present, without providing the backstory.  Is he Cary Grant?  Does he not do recap?  He certainly seems to think he's a star -- even writing of himself in third person (for example, the top of page 233).

Hersh's strong sense of self-love is not a surprise to anyone who knows him and, yes, I know him.  In Wednesday's snapshot, I noted he was under attack and that I'd try to review the book over the next few days.  I was hoping this would be a rave.  But then I read the book.

His writing of Eugene McCarthy's campaign is probably the strongest section of the book.  It comes alive and McCarthy's such a minor (and disgusting) character that it probably doesn't matter that most people today have never heard of him -- the campaign is the point, not the person.  That's a detail that Hersh gets across repeatedly noting McCarthy's disdain for his college supporters.  Hersh's distaste for the Kennedys is well known and, when reading his swipes at RFK as a candidate in 1968, a reader should keep that in mind.  Shirley MacLaine is a far better source on RFK's campaign -- and where he stood regarding Vietnam -- than Hersh or his book.

It's really sad how, to this day, the McCarthy faction is so embedded in their own lies.  But lies started his campaign, lies and schemes by the press.  Hersh rushes over it but it's there if you read slowly -- the hideous Mary McGrory, the former CBS news honcho Blair Clark, etc, etc.  McCarthy was a made up myth.  A neocon, in fact.  It probably galls the McCarthy faction to this day knowing the reality that their little rat only got as far as he did because RFK was assassinated.  Even as far as he got, he didn't manage to get the nomination (it went to Hubert Humphrey).

It's a gossipy read, the section on McCarthy, which almost comes to life.

Anything else worthy of praise?  Maybe the footnote that starts on the bottom of page 328 and better captures the Barack Obama White House than any lengthy tome has.

The rest of the book is lifeless and dull.  It needed a strong editing hand and several rewrites to shape this nonsense.  No one has bothered to try.  Asking a reader to pay $27.95 for this book is asking a great deal.

Anyone looking for insight into the Iraq War will be disappointed.  Hersh is only interested in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and then only in passing. Page 308 of a book with 333 pages of text.

Friends of the late Senator Frank Church might wish Hersh has focused more on Abu Ghraib and less on the portrait of Church who comes off bitchy and ambitious.  Does Hersh not realize how ambitious he himself is and has been?  He certainly sees ambition as a flaw in others.

He spends a lot of time teasing the reader with things he doesn't sketch out.  Lew Wasserman's mafia connections?  A passing sentence.  Wasserman and Jules Stein built MCA with mafia help and by ripping off African-American performers like Lena Horne.  Enough years have passed, you'd think the truth could be told.

In Wednesday's snapshot, I noted past history with Hersh including the fact that I had accused him -- and he had denied -- ratting out a public protest, informing on what was planned.  I dropped out of the action because of the fact that there was a rat in the midst.  So did Coretta Scott King.  She had no idea who it was.  I believed then it was Sy Hersh.  He denied it.

One of my worst qualities -- or at least the one that always ticks me off -- is that I will doubt myself.  When I know I'm right and someone assures me that, no, they didn't do whatever it is they did, I will take their word and assume automatically that I was wrong.

Reading REPORTER, I'm suddenly reminded of how right I was to suspect Hersh and I do believe he was a rat.  Why was he present at planning sessions?  He showed up out of nowhere, this NEW YORK TIMES reporter who covered the CIA.  Just showed up.  Now he couldn't -- and he didn't -- participate in the protest for peace that took part.  As a reporter for THE TIMES, he couldn't.  And he wasn't reporting on peace protests for THE TIMES.  So why was he there?

I believe I know why he was there.  He was gathering information to sell people out.  He wanted a bigger story and was willing to do favors (such as spying and snitching).  As I said in Wednesday's snapshot, that's what I thought happened and journalists have no ethics.

This comes through repeatedly in the book.  For example, then CIA-head William Colby?  He wants a story killed in the fall of 1973 -- a rather major story that would finally emerge in 1975 -- about a submarine and Hersh agrees to kill it.  But, of course, quid pro quo.  He'll gladly drop the story but needs something in exchange.

That's the reality of reporting.

It's also probably the scariest part of the book.

I disagree with Hersh, for example, about politics.  Eugene McCarthy was scum -- you didn't have to wait for his 1980 endorsement of Ronald Reagan to grasp that.  RFK would have been not just a better choice, he would have been the best choice.

Now you can disagree with that and Hersh does.

But here's what you can't disagree with: A truth teller tells truth.

Hersh isn't telling truth, not full truth.  It's half-truths and evasions.  He covers for this person or that person based on his own personal biases and beliefs.  He makes deals to conceal information and kill stories -- legitimate news stories -- based on his own capricious whims and alleged judgment.

That's not truth telling.

Sadly, it is reporting -- or what passes for it in the United States.

And that might be the saddest conclusion when you reach the last page of REPORTER: A MEMOIR  -- that and the fact that your average alley cats have more integrity, they're motivated by lust, not vanity.

Iraqis still wait for the world to support their protests

  1. In case u missed it: Large scale protests have been going on in southern recently. This powerful sign sums up the demands of the demonstrators: Revolution of the poor. Electricity. Water. Bread.

Protests continue in Iraq.  The people are asking for the basic needs.  Instead of delivering what's needed to fulfill these needs, prime minister Hayder al-Abadi sicks the military on them.  Noting the internet blackout Hayder's imposed, OIL PRICE observes:

No blackout undertaken by the Iraqi government, however, has been as intrusive as this one. This is not about ISIS, or pricing—or potentially cheating students. This is out masses of protesters who have valid grievances. They are protesting the fact that the massive oil wealth of the Basra region isn’t trickling down to the people—to the point that there is even a lack of potable water. They are also protesting the proportion of jobs handed in the oil industry to locals as opposed to foreigners.

Again, instead of meeting the needs, the people are attacked.  RUDAW reports:

Two people were killed in protests in southern Iraq on Friday evening.

"The casualties of the protests that many provinces witnessed today increased to two dead, one of them in Diwaniya and the other in Najaf. And 45 were injured, most of whom were members of the security forces," the spokesperson for Iraq's ministry of health, Sayf Badir, told al-Sumaria news.

Badir added that most of the injured had received treatment in hospital and been discharged.

The approximately 20-year-old man killed in Diwaniya was shot by a guard from the Badr organization during a demonstration outside of the Iran-backed group’s local headquarters, AFP reported.

This brings to ten the total of deaths in nearly two weeks of protests that have rocked southern Iraq.

The killing continues.

Security forces Chasing the protesters in Iraq to disperse them last night

After this goes up, my review of a book will.  I made the mistake of saying I'd write about it.  I'll make that mistake again, I'm sure.  Next time, if the book is so badly written it's practically unreadable, I'm just going to break my promise.

The following community sites updated:

  • Tell Israel to Allow Thinking in Its Schools

    By David Swanson, World BEYOND War
    Israel has passed a law allowing its Minister of Education to ban from its schools any person or group who criticizes Israel — apparently something that no teachers or students in Israel are supposed to do either (though some do). The hasbara, or pro-war propaganda, spin on this is that it is protecting Israel’s brave Troops from (rhetorical) “attacks.” But one of the chief targets of the law is understood to be Israeli troops who speak about what it is they do. And the law explicitly identifies for banning from schools those who advocate “legal or political” actions, which tend to be taken against those who make laws and political decisions, not against Troops.
    Are recruits told that their military training will reduce them to such pitiful beings that they will magically suffer if children in a school somewhere speak critically of Israeli government policies?
    If Israel were doing nothing wrong, if it had the ability to show with reasonable argument that it was doing nothing wrong, it would not need to go to such efforts to shield its young people from undesirable viewpoints. If it were trying to educate them to be thinkers and pursuers of justice, it would welcome all viewpoints. Instead it is banning advocates for peace and nonviolent rational debate and conflict resolution — violating basic principles of liberalism and also violating the law.
    As Pat Elder has pointed out to me, Israel is party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which makes the minimum age for military recruitment 18, while allowing 17-year-olds to voluntarily enlist, as Israel does, if . . .
    (a) Such recruitment is genuinely voluntary;
    (b) Such recruitment is done with the informed consent of the person’s parents or legal guardians;
    (c) Such persons are fully informed of the duties involved in such military service;
    (d) Such persons provide reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into national military service.
    But how can this be voluntary and fully informed in a state where anyone who mentions the actual “duties involved in such military service” is banned from entering any school?
    When Israel ratified the above Protocol, it added this language:
    “The Government of the State of Israel maintains the following safeguards in respect of voluntary recruitment into the armed forces so as to ensure that such recruitment is not forced or coerced: . . . Clear and precise explanation of the nature of the duties involved in military service is provided to both the person and the person’s parents or legal guardian.”
    Clear and precise? What about true or accurate or complete?
    What does Israel have to hide?
    Well, nuclear weapons. Maintaining the threat of ending the world will be the task of some recruits.
    Apartheid. Israel just passed another law to encourage the creation of Jewish-only towns, or what the United States calls sundown towns (Get your [black/Palestinian] ass out of [town name] before sundown). That will require help from military recruits.
    Arming Nazis. Israel can’t get enough weapons to Nazis in Ukraine without the work of some of its well-educated recruits.
    Genocide. Israel is gradually killing the entire population of the territories it seizes and occupies. An open discussion by honest seekers of truth and understanding might end up including some slight questioning of the morality of this.
    That won’t happen in Israeli schools, unless the world condemns fascism EVERYWHERE it arises. Here’s an email address for the Ministry of Education:
    David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
    Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
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