Monday, May 11, 2015

Seymour Hersh's Sad Decline

If you've been sucked into the hoopla over Seymour Hersh's piece on the supposed vast conspiracy behind Bin Laden's assassination, you may want to read this, the most methodical debunking, from Vox.

I couldn't make it further than a few hundred words into Hersh's article; too many micro-doubts kept pinging me, starting with the fact that the longtime New Yorker veteran had published the article in London Review of Books. It's painfully obvious that his magazine of residence for the past 22 years had rejected the blockbuster story. That, just in itself, is an extremely bad sign.

It appears the 78 year old Hersh has fallen into conspiracy mongering, and gone (as Max Fisher puts it in that Vox piece) off the rails.

In recent years...Hersh has appeared increasingly to have gone off the rails. His stories, often alleging vast and shadowy conspiracies, have made startling — and often internally inconsistent — accusations, based on little or no proof beyond a handful of anonymous "officials." ...his reports have become less and less credible. He's claimed that much of the US special forces is controlled by secret members of Opus Dei, that the US military flew Iranian terrorists to Nevada for training, and that the 2014 chemical weapons attack in Syria was a "false flag" staged by the government of Turkey. Those reports have had little proof and, rather than being borne out by subsequent investigations, have been either unsubstantiated or outright debunked. A close reading of Hersh's bin Laden story suggests it is likely to suffer the same fate
Conspiracy mindedness, like collecting or offense-taking, appears to be a viral madness. Anyone can catch it.

Hersh may have begun his descent earlier than is widely recognized. A quick read of the "Criticism" and "Use of anonymous sources" sections of Hersh's Wikipedia page show a side I wasn't aware of. Ouch:
Hersh's 1997 book about John F. Kennedy, The Dark Side of Camelot, made a number of controversial assertions about the former president, including that he had had a "first marriage" to a woman named Durie Malcolm that was never terminated, that he had been a semi-regular narcotics user, that he had a close working relationship with mob boss Sam Giancana which supposedly included vote fraud in one or two crucial states in the 1960 presidential election. For many of these claims, Hersh relied only on hearsay collected decades after the event. In a Los Angeles Times review, Edward Jay Epstein cast doubt on these and other assertions, writing, "this book turns out to be, alas, more about the deficiencies of investigative journalism than about the deficiencies of John F. Kennedy." Responding to the book, historian and former Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called Hersh "the most gullible investigative reporter I've ever encountered."

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