Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 28, 2005
POLITICS: Giving Hersh the Boot

Max Boot on Seymour Hersh's record:

According to Bart Gellman of the Washington Post (a real investigative ace), Rumsfeld has created a new spy unit to make up for the CIA's deficiencies. Gellman's Jan. 23 story has all sorts of specifics that the New Yorker piece lacks, including the unit's name (the Strategic Support Branch). Hersh's contribution is to spin this into something nefarious by including anonymous speculation that military operatives might sponsor foreign "execution squads" or even carry out "terrorist activities." Umm, guess we'll have to take your word for it, Sy.

But how good is Hersh's word? His record doesn't inspire confidence. In 1986 he published a book suggesting that the Soviets shot down a South Korean airliner because they mistook it for a U.S. spy plane — a claim debunked by the opening of Soviet archives. In 1997 he published a book full of nasty allegations about John F. Kennedy that was widely panned. As part of that project he tried to peddle a documentary based on forged documents.

Few facts in Hersh's stories are checkable by an outsider, but, of those that are, a number turn out to be false. In November 2001, he claimed that 16 AC-130 gunships participated in a raid (a "near disaster") on Mullah Mohammed Omar's compound in Afghanistan. There were only nine AC-130s in the entire region, and they are never used more than one or two at a time. In a story in October 2001, he claimed that Predator drones cost $40 million; the actual price tag is $2.5 million. In the latest article, he says two Pentagon policy officials would be in the "chain of command" for covert operations; the actual chain of command runs from the secretary of Defense to military commanders in the field.

OK, anyone can make a mistake, but all of Hersh's errors run in one direction: toward making the U.S. government look bad. His November 2001 article included a quote, hilarious in retrospect, from "one officer" who claimed, "This is no war for Special Operations." That ran a month before special operators toppled the Taliban. The April 7, 2001, issue of the New Yorker contained his article quoting a "former intelligence official" who said of the invasion of Iraq, "It's a stalemate now." Two days later, Baghdad fell.

Hersh's credibility may not be zero, but it's pretty close.

And speaking of bad journalism, I had an exchange with a reader in the comments the other day that got me thinking. Whenever you cite anything from the Washington Times, you can be sure to get some lefty going on about the nuttiness of Rev. Moon, who owns the paper. Now, OK, Moon is nuts. But I really don't see what that has to do with the day-to-day operations of the Washington Times. I've certainly never heard of Moon getting involved in daily editorial decisions. Instead, it seems more like an effort to just wish away everything unpleasant reported by the Times: "Moon, Moon, Moon, I'm not listening . . . "

Don't get me wrong: I don't think the Washington Times is the greatest of newspapers; if you ranked the major dailies of national visibility in terms of credibility, I probably wouldn't rank it in the top half. But that record of credibility is based on the work of each paper's reporters and editors, not ad hominem attacks on the ownership.

What's funny about this is that the folks who rag on Moon never seem too interested in, say, the politics of the New York Times' ownership. Or CNN, which was founded and long run by Ted Turner. You want nuts? Turner's got an endless supply, witness his latest tirade as just the latest . . . Turner spoke at my law school graduation, and he was either drunk, off his meds or both, going on and on about how "we should never have split the atom. Those are dangerous little buggers" and similar rants. Certainly, Turner's left-leaning politics are no secret. At the end of the day, though, CNN, like other news outlets - and like the likes of Seymour Hersh - should be judged by the news it produces and the people who produce it. Just give the Washington Times the same respect.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:14 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Ohmigod! Turner spoke at my graduation form college as well, and the whole place thought he was drunk or stoned as well! He speech was slurred and rambling and included such inspiring and uplifting tid bits as: "it's not like your graduating ffom Harvard or anything." In twenty minutes he convinced about 10,000 parents and students that he was little more than a rich lout. Spot on, Crank.

Posted by: spd rdr at January 28, 2005 7:26 AM

Did anyone ever ask me about the NY Times or Ted Turner? How can someone be said to be not too interested in discussing these topics when the question is never posed? I think the majority of mainstream media is run by goofballs, power-hungry wealthy guys (who owns that Fox station?) with incredible agendas and those agendas are in play at all times whether anyone who works for those outlets admits it or not. Just seems these days with lots of right-wing "commentators" getting caught with their hands in the Neo-Con cookie jar (oh wait, that is actually tax payer money; my mistake) that their is a lot more explaining to be done by right wing news outlets than by the NY Times. And, hey, if they find that Marueen Dowd took money to promote Clinton's agenda or Molly Ivans took money to promote, well I guess, Clinton's agenda than I'll have it out with them, too. Ted Turner may be, at the least, eccentric and many other things I already mentioned but he ain't a Moonie and if you just want to compare those 2 outlets I'll plop myself in front of CNN and believe their half (quarter?) truths all day rather than subject my brain to anything that comes out of the WT.

Posted by: Jim at January 28, 2005 12:10 PM

Jim has somehow written an enormous run-on sentence with periods randomly dropped throughout. Maybe he could re-write this in non-Ted Turner English.
It would also be nice if he would address BC's point about the WT and news media organizations more generally (judge them on their content and the people actually producing the content).

Posted by: jm at January 28, 2005 1:21 PM

Other than a typo I failed to catch the puntuation is more than fine. No run on sentances. Sorry if I used to many words for you. I will write in shorter sentances in the future. The use of parantheses is acceptable in this format of writing. You used them yourself. This is not a thesis. Try reading it again.

How about addressing my point of how increasingly difficult it is to judge the content of writing or commentary when an increasingly large number of right wingers are being paid by this crazy government to create propaganda? If they have already identified three there are undoubtedly a larger number out there.

I believe I did address the point to which you refer. To reiterate it for you here it is: Anyone with enough money to create a media empire has an ax to grind, an agenda to address and an ego to satisfy. There is no such thing as truly unbiased reporting from mogul-style operations. All of the content is dubious either due to slant, absence of content, politics, money or whatever. The bigger the ego, the bigger the ax to grind or, in the case of the WT, the bigger the kook the more likely anything coming out of a source is to be tainted.

Hope the periods were close enough together for you.

Posted by: jim at January 28, 2005 2:40 PM

First of all, I love how the Left always tries to draw a parallel between liberal newspapers and TV networks and conservative opinion columnists. It's just one of those fallacies that won't die.

Three? To whom do you refer besides Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher - did I forget somebody? And Gallagher earned a lot less money from the federal government than, say, George Stephanopolous or Tim Russert or Lawrence O'Donnell or Bill Moyers or Pat Buchanan or Andrea Mitchell ever did.

Posted by: The Crank at January 28, 2005 4:29 PM

I love how the right is for smaller government but shrugs of $270,000 in payments for illegal propaganda. I realize in the big picture the money is small. The point is that you guys want it both ways. If you can show me the checks written to the individuals mentioned for the express purpose of propagandizing an administration's desires and position (while they were out of government) I would love to see them. Ignore and deny everything that does not fall within the ideology of the neo-cons. Lovely.

Posted by: jim at January 31, 2005 6:17 PM
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