The debate about Hersh’s revelations reveals more than his article

Summary: The Hersh affair continues to pay rich dividends of insights about our past and present. Today we look at the best analysis to date of Hersh’s revelations, and what it tells us about America’s politics.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Running In Circles



  1. The first good analysis of Hersh.
  2. Our tribalism.
  3. How do we get out of this box?
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  The first good analysis of Hersh’s article

The first two days after publication of Hersh’s “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” brought forth considerable supporting evidence — some new, some reminders of stories from 2011 and 2012. There has been little useful analysis so far, until Elspeth Reeve published “The Loneliness of Sy Hersh” at The New Republic. She opens with the reaction to the story from the Left and Right…

CNN’s Peter Bergen debunks Hersh’s “Allegations of massive cover-up.” Vox’s Max Fisher scoffs at “a story that accuses hundreds of people across three governments of staging a massive international hoax that has gone on for years.” Daily Telegraph Pakistan correspondent Rob Crilly calls it a “conspiracy theory” that will fool “the soft minded.”

… You might expect conservatives to run with the dark comedy of the Obama White House scrambling to make up lies to take advantage of the death of America’s No. 1 foe in an election year — only to watch those lies spiral out of control and create more foreign policy problems.

You might expect conservatives to use this story, but they haven’t. Some light mockery from the Right, but so far they’ve given little attention to the story. As for the Left, they’ve deployed the generic government fanboy’s defense — describing government lies as a “conspiracy”. And large groups of people cannot keep a secret! Excerpt that history shows that they can. Here are a few examples.


The secret of ULTRA (description of the NAZI’s Enigma cyphers) was kept for 29 years after WWII, despite being known by thousands of people (12,000 people worked just at Bletchley Park).

Thousands knew elements of the truth about the Tonkin Gulf incident; it emerged in dribs and drabs over the following 30 years, with definitive evidence coming to public attention in 1995-2005.

The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988. The official story shifted much of the responsibility to Iran. The US public learned the truth from the 1992 House hearings. Details here.


(2)  Our tribalism

Elspeth Reeve raises a more serious issue — the tribal nature of truth in America. The Left saw Hersh as a great journalists when he criticized Bush Jr; when he criticizes Obama they say he has “gone off the rails” and is “lost in a wilderness of mirrors.” Similarly the IPCC was the “gold standard” of climate research. Now that they advocate for catastrophic forecasts with little support in the IPCC’s work, it has largely disappeared from their writings.

As usual, the Right does it better and bigger. They’ve created their own faux economics and faux history.

It’s difficult to see the effects of each side of the political spectrum setting up their own systems of truth. Debates about values and perspectives are the nature of normal politics. Debates about facts turn our political space into a tower of Babel. I’ve seen this in the 38,000 comments on the FM website, and it is not pretty to watch.

While we bicker the 1% move to dominate both of America’s political parties.

(3)  How do we get out of this box?

We run in circles, chasing each other, unable to find common ground, with no exit in sight. How do we break out to a path leading to a better America? We need creative solutions. We need the equivalent of a solution to the 9 dot problem (connect the dots with only 4 lines). The video gives the solution.

9 dot problem

(4)  Other posts in this series.

  1. The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit.
  2. The day after Hersh: rebuttals & more evidence about the bin Laden hit.
  3. The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told.
  4. The debate about Hersh’s revelations reveals more than his article.
  5. Should we use our special operations troops as assassins? Is it right, or even smart?

(5)  For More Information

Valuable context when reading Hersh’s critics: “Lapdogs, redux: How the press tried to discredit Seymour Hersh’s bombshell reporting on CIA domestic spying“, Mark Ames, Pando, 14 May 2015.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more about the issues discussed in this post see About the quiet coup in America and Reforming America: steps to new politics. I have no useful ideas about solutions, so here are a few inspirational posts…

  1. Can we reignite the spirit of America?
  2. Should we despair, giving up on America?
  3. Is this the dawn of a new age? Two journalists see the first step to reforming America.
  4. Pirate Bay points the way to a new political reform movement.
  5. Lessons from the New Eden galaxy about reforming America.



9 thoughts on “The debate about Hersh’s revelations reveals more than his article”

  1. Have you read “American Nations: a History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” by Colin Woodard. Having put in time at university studying American history, I agree with his facts and his interpretation of these cultures seems to be spot on for the three I have been associated with: Far West by birth; Left Coast by job and South by relatives (inlaws).

    I don’t understand why people believe that there are only two political cultures in this country. The Left and the Right are both bonded to the 1%. The national news entertainment industry works hard to keep this view in front of us proles as the only view. I think the more intriguing question is how this amalgam of cultures has survived as long as it has and as peacefully as it has.

    The role of the Republican and Democratic parties in this country only seem natural, because the elementary school system spends a lot of time indoctrinating them as the right and natural way of the world. This big tent view essentially says that only those with money lots of money get heard. It has been that way since colonial times.

    Our sports are played and reported as if only certain people are important. The rest are a supporting cast to be jettison at the first opportunity. Our military rewards officers who do the least to insure that combat is successful for us and the enlisted men who actually do the fighting are given crappy benefits and pushed through the system to provide pay-raise stats for government upper management types. This litany of woes could go on forever.

    I do not think this is one country. It is a federation of several nations and if we would realize that and work at that level, there might be a solution.

    1. Dennis,

      “I don’t understand why people believe that there are only two political cultures in this country.”

      Science, like life, is a process of simplification and abstraction. A AAA map of NYC doesn’t show individual homes, but that doesn’t mean those who make and use the maps are unaware of houses. To say the universe consists of matter and energy does not deny the existence of individual elements.

  2. EEs use the Impulse Response to map out a system. (ie a sharp delta function in. ) An event like the Hersh
    controversy is like this and you are quite right to explore the response. Several comments about the response:
    1) The Right is solidly identified with the Empire and can’t attack Obama because it would weaken the pro-imperial propaganda (all those books and movies you have displayed.
    2) The Left is just as behind the Empire and .01÷ but has to defend their sources of patronage. (There is no significant Left in the old sense of being behind the non-elites).
    3) A large part of the 99÷ identify with the Empire for psychic compensation and are predisposed to believe even crude and contradictory propaganda.

  3. Tice with a J

    The funny thing about the argument that “large groups of people cannot keep a secret” is that it actually works in Hersh’s favor. He was able to find out what he found out because people didn’t keep the secret – they told it to him! And before people were talking to Hersh, they were talking to Hillhouse. As the old saw goes, “three can keep a secret if two are dead”; this is not true in all cases, but it certainly appears to be true in this case.

    But people refuse to see, which indicates a bigger problem: the oligarchs do not have to keep secrets from everyone as long as they have their useful idiots. To paraphrase another old saw (falsely attributed to Lincoln): you can fool some of the people all of the time, and as long as you’ve got their support, you don’t need to worry about the rest of the people who you can only fool some of the time.

    1. Tice,

      That’s a penetrating observation! Also, the people saying “can’t keep a secret” as rebuttal usually implicitly assume that the secret must be kept for a very long time. In fact issues tend to cool over time. Often what would have been a major geopolitical incident in 2011 is cocktail party chatter in 2015.

      Your point about “useful idiots” is imo also spot on, a key factor in the rise of the 1%. Middle class libertarians tend to fit Lenin’s description quite well.

  4. Richard Atwood

    There’s another way to connect the dots with 4 straight lines. Run three vertically and one horizontally.

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