By Chet Yarbrough
Reporter (A Memoir)
By: Seymour M. Hersh
Narrated by: Arthur Morey
Semour M. Hersh (Author, investigative journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner)
“Reporter” reveals why freedom of the press is both feared and revered. Seymour Hersh is an investigative reporter. After listening to “Reporter”, one realizes Hersh is among the best journalists of the 20th and 21st century. To many newspaper readers (embarrassingly including this reader) Hersh is not well known. Hersh’s reporting uncovered the My Lai massacre early in his career and followed that with revelations about the clandestine bombing of Cambodia, CIA exposure of domestic spying, and a still controversial contention that Obama lied to the American people about the Abbottabad raid that leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
Hersh’s reporting uncovered the My Lai massacre early in his career.
The tenor of “Reporter” is personal to Hersh as one suspects all his reporting has been throughout his career. His tenacity in confirming facts before writing a story lets one know Hersh is relentless. When one is interviewed by Hersh, one suspects there is fear of being misunderstood or misquoted. “Reporter” alludes to that fear in anecdotes of his search for facts.
The NYT’s paper on 10.11.21 writes about a difference of opinion about how news should be covered.
Hersh shows no fear or favor but his pursuit of facts gives no value to reasons for misleading public perception of events. This is not criticism of the duties of an investigative reporter, but facts do not always speak for themselves.
One knows America’s government has mislead the public many times in its history. Whether that misleading is justified or not is not the concern of reporters like Seymour Hersh. To Hersh, all that matters is–facts speak for themselves. Therein lies the fear of freedom of the press.
The problem with thinking that facts speak for themselves is that all the facts revealed are never all the facts.
The many books that have been written about historic figures is ample evidence of the problem. With the principle of facts speak for themselves there would be no revisionist history. History is re-written in every generation. One wonders what the perception of Vladimir Putin will be after the events of his Ukranian war.
This is not to denigrate the great work reporters like Hersh provide to Americans. Without freedom of the press America would not be America.
Even though all the facts are never known, those that are known should be revealed in real time. How else can freedom be preserved? Hersh, like all good investigative reporters, is not always on the right side of history. Not because his facts are wrong, but that they fail to tell the whole story.
One presumes Russian historians will view Putin differently than western or Ukrainian historians. Hero or villain? –to most Ukrainians, one suspects the latter rather than the former. To Russia’s residents, Putin’s Ukrainian war may be either or both.
Every human being is trapped in their own world of experience and genetic predisposition. Facts are by nature pieced into our personal experience and predisposition. Facts do not change but they are influenced by one’s perception of reality.
Many consider Henry Kissinger to have been one of the most highly regarded Secretary of States in the 20th century. Hersh uncovers facts which suggest that is wrong. Hersh’s facts are compelling. They show Kissinger lies and distorts the truth.
Kissinger flatly denies spying on government employees while Hersh reveals facts that clearly show Kissinger lied. To Hersh, much of the secret opening of China to America happens as a result of an Arab go-between, not Kissinger’s diplomatic skill.
The covert bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war is a policy soundly supported, if not initiated, by Kissinger. Hersh’s facts speak for themselves, but one doubts they tell the whole story. The whole story is left to historians. Though it may seem a contradiction, investigative reporter’s revelations in real time are good for American government. Only with transparency, can government become better.
Secret American bombing of Cambodia.
A most interesting chapter of Hersh’s book is an episode to expose the bad deeds of Gulf and Western Oil in the 70s.
His investigation is toned down and effectively stopped by his employer’s lawyers because of fear of its repercussion. Hersh concludes it is imprudent to expose seamy activities of corporate America because of potential negative economic consequence to publishers. Hersh does not back off from private industry investigations but he only refers to one other effort to expose corporate shenanigans. “Reporter” primarily focuses on government employee and policy miss-directions and lies.
Though Hersh is a Democrat, he shows no favor. Hersh notes that facts show President Obama distorted the truth in the hunt and killing of Osama bin Landen.
Hersh dutifully reveals evidence that strongly suggests Pakistan cooperated in the plot to capture or kill bin Laden. Facts suggest bin Laden was not buried at sea but his bullet-ridden remains were dropped from a helicopter into the sea. Those may be the facts but do they explain the whole truth?
“Reporter” is a memoir of a great newsman who is justifiably proud of his contribution to freedom of the press. America needs driven reporters like Seymour Hersh even though print and media news can never reveal all the facts in real time.
There is good reason to both fear and revere freedom of the press. Fear comes from truthful as well as false reporting of facts. Freedom is dependent on good reporting by reputable reporters.