“The capacity to do stupid fucking things in America is just fucking scary.”
By Elon Green
Columian Journalism Review (6/4/18)
When a reporter has covered 50 years of American foreign policy disasters, the last great untold story may be his own.
That, more or less, is the premise behind a new memoir by Seymour Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been revealing secrets and atrocities—and often secret atrocities—to great acclaim since he exposed the My Lai Massacre in 1969.
Hersh’s book, economically titled Reporter, is focused on the work. “I don’t want anybody reporting about my private life,” he once said, and Hersh abides by his own request. In lieu of the personal, we’re treated to the professional: Hersh’s rise from the City News Bureau of Chicago to the United Press International to the Associated Press.
What I find pernicious now about cable television is that, at any given moment on any given day, the White House can give the networks the leak and they get right to it. No one verifies it.
His breakthrough, however, was as a freelancer: Hersh, famously, received a tip about William Calley, a court-martialed Army lieutenant accused of killing 109 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in a village nicknamed “Pinkville.”
Calley was elusive. Hersh drove into Fort Benning and found him under house arrest. For the resulting dispatches, Hersh was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting in 1970.
Hersh continued to report—most notably, perhaps, for The New Yorker—on post-9/11 activities; the Iraq War; Iran; and, contentiously, the killing of Osama bin Laden.
He is now at work on a book about former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Hersh and I recently met at his office in Washington, DC, where I found his desk covered in stacks of files. We talked, and kept talking over lunch, about myriad topics, including protecting sources, self-care, Gina Haspel, and revealing secrets. …