The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Seymour Hersh lies - and is proud of it!

Way back on July 15 2004, I wrote about lectures Hersh had been giving suggesting revelations to come on Abu Ghraib much worse than those that had previously been made.

In particular, that
there are videos of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib.

Hersh's implied promise was that, later, in some form or other, he would provide the evidence.

He then published a book, a few weeks before the general election, for maximum impact. The book had zippo on sodomy videos.

Hersh had been lying.

A New York magazine piece by Chris Suellentrop homes in on Hersh's habit of saying much more on the lecture circuit than he offers in cold print.

Bait and switch, I believe they call it.

Or, as the man himself is quoted as saying,
I get paid to do speeches. . . . And I’m not there to be on straight. I’m there to tell, you know, give somebody, exchange views with people.

His sodomy tease went like this, apparently:
Some of the worst things that happened that you don’t know about. Okay? Videos. And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking. That your government has. They’re in total terror it’s going to come out.

What Hersh said wasn’t entirely correct. His book Chain of Command would deliver the authoritative Seymour M. version: “An attorney involved in the case told me in July 2004 that one of the witness statements he had read described the rape of a boy by a foreign contract employee who served as an interpreter at Abu Ghraib,” Hersh wrote. “In the statement, which had not been made public, the lawyer told me, a prisoner stated that he was a witness to the rape, and that a woman was taking pictures.”

Hersh had issued a false prospectus, presumably for the purpose of stoking interest in the story in general, and in his forthcoming pot-boiler in particular. (No pictures, no story is the Iron Rule of TV Journalism, of course. And, No TV, no bestseller is pretty potent, too.)

Suellentrop points out that, of the bloggers who fell on his words,
Nearly everyone took it for granted that Hersh had seen the videotapes himself because he’d described their horrifying soundtrack.

A patently valid inference to make - except for those privy to Hersh's double standard.

Hersh evidently thought we all were privy - and was shocked to learn the, er, truth:
The speech was so widely blogged that the ACLU says Hersh asked it to remove part of the video—including the sodomy allegation—from the organization’s Website, which it proceeded to do.

The great man commented to Suellentrop (as quoted)
I actually didn’t quite say what I wanted to say correctly. It wasn’t that inaccurate, but it was misstated.

The President does it all the time - why not little me? he might have said. But didn't.

Suellentrop's sympathy's are clearly with the erring scribe. Thus, he fills us in on yet another arcanum of journalism:
Investigative reporting is often an elaborate dance around truths, large and small, wherein journalists hint at explosive revelations in order to induce sources to spill some relevant bit of compromising information to steer them onto the right path. Investigative stories often read like code, and they are hard to decipher (and evaluate).

Never give a sucker an even break confirmed yet again as the journalists' motto. Their pieces are in code - and the poor shmucks who pay their salary think they're reading text in clear! No wonder Hersh thinks we're such easy marks.

Suellentrop's final graf, following his treatment of the video that never was, gives Hersh a virtual free pass to lie away to his heart's content [1]:
Yet a more careful Hersh may not be what the world needs at this moment. Former Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong puts it this way: Say Hersh writes a story about how an elephant knocked someone down in a dark room. “If it was a camel or three cows, what difference does it make? It was dark, and it wasn’t supposed to be there.”...

Of course, if you were the wrongly accused elephant, and they were taking you off to be electrocuted like Topsy, then it would make a fuck of a lot of difference!

The Pew Research Center's Trends 2005 report on the media (PDF) continues the long and heartening trend towards zero of the American public's trust in journalism.

A piece like Suellentrop's shows just how merited that decline is!

  1. There is an expression in British police circles: noble cause corruption. Applied to the planting of evidence, coercion of confessions and the like, where the coppers know that have the guilty man, but haven't enough for to satisfy the judiciary.

    Hersh, it seems, is merely engaged upon noble cause lying.

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