by Stephen Lendman
Longtime investigative journalist Seymour Hersh addressed it. More on what he said below. Others like him did years earlier. They included HL Mencken, Charles Edward Russell, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, and IF Stone among others.
Stone (1907 – 1989) said he “tried to bring the instincts of a scholar to the service of journalism; to take nothing for granted; to turn journalism into literature; to provide radical analysis with a conscientious concern for accuracy, and in studying the current scene to do (his) very best to preserve human values and free institutions.”
He deplored the ascendancy of “right-wing kooks” taking over America. Ralph Nader called him a modern day Tom Paine. He was “as independent and incorruptible as the come,” he said. He was “journalism’s Gibraltar.” He was a crusader.
He was an irritant. He spoke truth to power. He did it forthrightly. FBI agents monitored him for years. They tapped his phone. They intercepted his mail. They amassed a file on his activities threefold their size for Al Capone. He was a journalist’s journalist. He was a newspaperman at heart.
He said: “The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins….”
He lectured young students wanting to enter the profession. He told them: “All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed.” Media liars reflect the same problem.
Hersh understands. He’s furious about what passes for today’s journalism. His anger is well justified. Managed news misinformation substitutes for truth and full disclosure.
On September 27, London’s Guardian headlined “Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘pathetic’ American media.”
Hersh is a Washington-based Pulizer Prize-winning investigative journalist/author. He won numerous awards. In 2004, he was a George Orwell Award recipient. It’s called the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language.
It honors writers who’ve made outstanding contributions to critical analysis and public discourse. Hersh has been the nemesis of politicians for decades. Republicans once called him “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist.” He believes fixing the deplorable state of US journalism requires major surgery. He favors closing down TV news bureaus. Sack 90% of print editors. Get rid of all the liars.
The great Seymour Hersch is absolutely justified in his frustration and suggestions, but he does not go far enough, and there’s an idealistic/liberaloid tint underpinning his assumptions. Firing the current crop of editors and scoundrels in top media positions would not eliminate the problem because those promoted would soon do exactly the same. The issue is one of sacred property rights under capitalism: who OWNS the media? Who must these journalists please to keep their paychecks coming or fulfill dreams of career advancement? He who pays the piper calls the tune. If they are prepared to serve billionaires to climb in the profession as currently established we can never expect real change for the better. The problem at the end of the day is one of class, and, much too often a cozily shared consciousness between journalists and the plutocracy calling the shots.—P. Greanville
[/pullquote]Get “outsider(s)” involved willing to speak truth to power. “Don’t get him started on the New York Times,” said the Guardian. It spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would – or the death of Osama bin Laden,” said Hersh.
“Nothing’s been done about that story. It’s one big lie. Not one word of it is true.”
In May 2011, Obama lied saying:
“Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
Media scoundrels regurgitated the Big Lie. Bin Laden died naturally. He did so in December 2001. He was very ill with kidney disease and other ailments. In July 2002, The New York Times said he’d been dead for “almost six months.” He was “buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.”
The story was buried, forgotten and ignored. On May 1, 2011, The Times headlined “Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says.”
“(T)he mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan, President Obama announced on Sunday.”
Bin Laden had nothing to do with 9/11. Times writers, commentators and editors never explained. Lies substituted for truth. They still do. Even its own July 2002 story was ignored. It’s buried down The Times’ memory hole.
Hersh has a bin Laden chapter in a new book he’s writing. It focuses on national security. He commented on a so-called “independent” Pakistani commission report. It discusses life in the Abottabad compound where Obama said bin Laden was killed. “The Pakistanis put out a report,” said Hersh. “Don’t get me going on it. Let’s put it this way. It was done with considerable American input. It’s a bullshit report.”
Obama and those around him lie. They do it repeatedly. They do it consistently. They do it disgracefully. Nothing they say holds water. One lie follows others. Media “leviathans” don’t challenge them. “It’s pathetic,” said Hersh. “They are more than obsequious. They are afraid to pick on” Obama.
“It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative. You would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight.”
“Now that doesn’t happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.”
Finley Peter Dunne (1867 – 1936) believed journalism should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Today’s major media journalists follow polar opposite standards and guidelines. They don’t speak to power. They lie for it. They betray their readers, viewers and profession in the process. Hersh retains hope. “I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever,” he said.
“Not that journalism is always wonderful. It’s not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity.”
He won a Pulizer Prize for exposing the Vietnam era My Lai massacre. He did it the old-fashioned way. In 1969, he learned about platoon leader William Calley. He was charged with the crime. Hersh sought him out. His efforts paid off. He got what he wanted. He wrote five stories explaining it. The first one headlined “Lieutenant Accused of Murdering 109 Civilians.”
He did so “deliberately in a search-and-destroy mission in March 1968 in a Viet Cong stronghold known as ‘Pinkville.’ “
“Calley was formally charged on or about Sept. 6, 1969, in the multiple deaths, just a few days before he was due to be released from active service.”
He was tried. He was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. He got off easy. Nixon ordered him transferred to house arrest at Fort Benning pending appeal. He remained there for three and half years. He petitioned for release. A federal judge granted it. In late 1974, Nixon granted him a limited pardon. His general court-martial, conviction and army dismissal were upheld. His sentence was commuted to time served. He remains a free man.
Decades after Hersh broke the My Lai story, he exposed Iraq’s Abu Ghraib torture and abuse scandal. His message to aspiring journalists is “put the miles and hours in.” He knew about Abu Ghraib months before he exposed it. “I went five months looking for a document, because without (one), there’s nothing there,” he said.
He’s adamant in calling Obama worse than Bush. “Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards,” he asked?
“Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq?”
“Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now.”
“What the hell does he want to go into another one for? What’s going on?” Why aren’t journalists discussing this?
He believes US investigative journalism is succumbing to a crisis of confidence. Resources are lacking. Digging out hard truths takes time, patience, supportive editors, and willingness to fund the effort. Too much today “is looking for prizes,” said Hersh. Journalists want a Pulizer. They’re not pursuing it the right way. They practice “packaged journalism.” They write about unsafe “railway crossings and stuff like that.” They avoid hard issues mattering most.
“Like killing people. How does (Obama) get away with” drone wars? “How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence? Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings? Why don’t we do our own work?”
“Our job is to find out ourselves. Our job is not just to say – here’s a debate.” (The old “he said, she said,” etc.)
“Our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough.”
“It costs money. It costs time. It jeopardises. It raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would.”
“It’s like you don’t dare be an outsider any more. The Bush era (was) much easier to be critical” about. Obama gets away with murder. Most editors are cowards, Hersh believes. Fire them, he says. Start promoting subordinates not beholden to power. Get ones you can’t control.
“Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say ‘I don’t care what you say.’ “
“The republic’s in trouble,” Hersh stresses. “We lie about everything. Lying has become the staple.” It’s what passes for major media journalism today. It’s biased, irresponsible and duplicitous. Propaganda substitutes for real news, information and analysis. George Seldes called irresponsible journalists of his day “prostitutes of the press.” Paul Craig Roberts calls them “presstitutes.”
The New York Times is the closest thing in America to an official ministry of information and propaganda. The self-styled “paper of record” has a sorrowful history. It fronts for wealth, power and privilege. It backs corporate interests. It spurns populist ones. When America goes to war or plans one, it marches in lock step. [But it does so more subtly than other media.—Eds]
It lies for power. It does do disgracefully. It’s not alone. America’s entire major media establishment supports what demands condemnation. Growing numbers of people object. They’re tuning out. They want reliable sources. They’re available online. What better way to stay informed. It’s more important now than ever.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com. His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.