Seymour Hersh––Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter who exposed the My Lai massacre––stepped on–stage last Thursday at UCI’s Crystal Cove Auditorium with only a thin yellow legal pad. Without a teleprompter or powerpoint to keep him on track, Hersh was without a safety net. For the next hour and a half, his brain scampered from idea to idea like a tweaked–out mouse attempting to navigate a maze of geopolitical topics. By the end of the speech, the whole crowd was thoroughly impressed.
Despite the spastic, unpredictable leaps from one subject to the next, Hersh sounded more like the late–great George Carlin than a journalist.
Hersh’s opening topic––which would’ve worked equally as well in a Netflix stand–up special––addressed his recent battles with editors at the New York Times and New Yorker magazine. Hersh likened his situation to carrying a dead rat full of lice (his story) into an editor’s office and dumping it on their desk. Most of these guys, he said, just wanted to go home to their families and didn’t want to deal with a lousy dead rat.
“It’ll cost you readers and lawsuits,” Hersh said, “and at a certain point you just get tired of it.”
Hersh followed that bit with this one.
“Today’s the 727th day of the Trump Administration, and do you know the best part about that? Tomorrow there’s one less day.”
Hersh had the crowd rolling, but didn’t shy away from addressing tough topics either. He addressed and defended his reporting of Osama Bin Laden’s death, which was heavily criticized by CNN’s Peter Bergen and former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell.
Most of all, Hersh hammered neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies.
“The real neocon game,” Hersh said, referring to the war in Afghanistan, “we wanted to control the world.”
Hersh laid out how the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria have been supported by a handful of neoconservatives like Mike Pompeo, and how he believes that the neoconservatives are gearing up for an all out war in Iran alongside Israel.
Democrats didn’t escape Hersh’s vitriol either, as he condemned (rightfully so) President Obama’s expansion of the U.S. security state, silencing of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, and corporate bailouts.
Although his theories occasionally brushed up into Alex Jones conspiracy territory, his arguments were sound. Nothing’s shocking in 2019, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see his predictions come true.
Overall, I give his speech an 8.5/10. Five points for addressing criticism, five points for entertainment and humor, and -1.5 points because trying to take notes while his speech ping-ponged was impossible. Seriously, I think I got carpal tunnel from that.
Also, big thumbs up to Hersh for roasting that guy from my History 166 class.