Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 17, No. 3, 2018
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Howard Richler
Oslavi Linares
Chris Barry
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors Serge Gamache
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

seymour hersh



Nick Catalano is a TV writer/producer and Professor of Literature and Music at Pace University. He reviews books and music for several journals and is the author of Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, New York Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham and A New Yorker at Sea. His latest book, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor, is now available. For Nick's reviews, visit his website:


Truth comes to us in fits and starts; it is never complete and always challenged. We may think we know reality but are constantly deceived. Great dramas (Oedipus, Hamlet) and distinctive films (Charlie Wilson’s War) teach us that the appearance of truth and the reality of truth are constantly at war, weaponized by powerful ironies that repetitively befuddle us. And, if we follow the most intellectual truth seekers who relentlessly strive to examine all sides of an issue, we can still fall short; their queries are frequently unpopular, usually controversial, and often indeterminable.

The phenomenon of uncertainty about truth has caused fear and trepidation in humans for eons resulting in their acceptance of false logic or bizarre beliefs from leaders/regimes seeking to increase power and influence (c.f. my essay “Demagogues: The Rhetoric of Barbarism”). Clever rhetoric, statistical distortion and outright lies have always proven expedient tools to manipulate cultures so eager to escape the fear of not knowing that they reach out to accept only versions of truth that will assuage their anxieties; i.e. some will only watch Fox News while others will only watch MSNBC. Sober reasoning gets thrown to the wolves with bigotry, racism and intolerance abounding in our imperfect world.

Therein lies an existentially bleak fate of humanity. Because of the elusiveness of absolute truth, Jean Paul Sartre viewed the earth as an irrational, meaningless sphere; existence was absurd, life had no sense, no purpose, no explanation.

However, for those unwilling to sit passively in a Paris café as did Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir and drink themselves to death because they can never know absolute truth, society does provide paths, however imperfectly, to some truth. One path resides in the U.S. Constitution whose first amendment in the Bill of Rights is freedom of the press.

This decree is perhaps the greatest achievement of democracy and has heretofore been totally unachievable in totalitarian governments. But even here there is no perfect yardstick to truth; defects arise from yellow journalism, ‘fake’ news, false assertions and blatantly biased commentary.

Nevertheless, in this sphere there is a source that can lead to high attainment of truth, despite all attempts at quashing or distorting it – that source is the investigative reporter. While all reporters are human and often victims of unintentional bias, once in a generation one comes along endowed with honesty, focus, determination, intellect and courage.

In our time that figure is Seymour Hersh. In his half-century of uncovering lies, exposing deceits and rectifying distortions, Hersh has achieved an unmatchable record of rendering shocking truth whenever he writes. And now, we have the long litany of his revelations in one volume.

His new book Reporter: A Memoir (Knopf) is unlike any book you’ve ever read or are likely to read. Page after page of taut fact will have you squirming with frustration because you were absolutely sure you knew the truth about someone or some event and now you discover you were wrong.

How did Hersh become this beacon of light? Well, he’s an indefatigable street reporter (Chicago) with a superior intellect and uncanny ability to see all sides, and never be emotionally swayed from the truth no matter that God himself is doing the talking -- everyone’s’ account of truth must be fact-checked. One of his favourite shibboleths: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Although he admits to a liberal bent in his political beliefs, he fills his book with accounts of deception from the entire political spectrum. Conservative falsehoods from Nixon, Cheney and Kissinger (who “lies like most people breathe”) are laid bare as are untruths from liberals McNamara (“a psychotic liar”), Clinton and Obama. He reveals deceptions hidden from the public by mendacious political officials and military leaders of stature with pinpoint accuracy (his reporting of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam won him a Pulitzer and his stories about our military violence in Abu Gharib turned the Pentagon upside down). In his efforts to objectify he often stands alone (he actually explains away some actions by Syria’s Assad).

His take on the Trump situation is another case in point. While dismissing Trump and his panoply of faults, Hersh points out how cable news media is playing his game of exposure mania by flooding their programming with his face while garnering huge ratings and profits as a result.

Although a star on the high altars of journalistic excellence and integrity (The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine), Hersh’s loyalty to these media saints never prevents him from calling a spade a spade. When legendary editors such as A.M. Rosenthal and David Remnick fall short of the mark he always fights for his diligence and most often prevails. And when the most prestigious beacon of journalistic truth (The New York Times) waffles on his astounding accounts of corruption at the corporate giant Gulf and Western, he quietly resigns. On occasion even the NY Times surrenders to corporate power just as CBS once did when cigarette producers quashed the 60 Minutes story on smoker addiction. Hersh ominously declares that the corporate world always wins.

His amazing dedication to objectivity and truth is notably illustrated in his writings about the CIA. He unwaveringly reports on the horrors committed by the agency in undermining Allende’s Chilean government, and in orchestrating the Daniel Ellsberg break-in plot together with other misdeeds. However, at other times when the agency achieves altruistic goals, he is quick to issue praise. He credits CIA intelligence during the India-Pakistan crises in averting nuclear conflict, and he heaps praise on Robert Gates for courageous activity during his tenure as director.

The apparent vacillation in that reporting and in many other issues reflects the insidious history of truth. What many fail to note is that truths of every kind undergo evolution and change. There are many examples: Ptolemy’s heliocentric theory of the solar system was modified by Copernicus after a millennium of acceptance; Newton’s laws of gravity have unquestioned validity in our solar system but Einstein’s theory and other astrophysical research indicate that they may not be absolute in a black hole universe.

Apart from the importance of verifiable scientific truth, Hersh’s reporting is conspicuously valuable for us because it deals with the world of biases, opinions and subjective attitudes. The digitalized media, the tweeting and the rhetorical hyperbole of the present day have misinformed, deluded, hoodwinked, and deceived even well-educated citizens in a manner unmatched in history.

Ever since rhetoric evolved in the ancient world, liars and dissemblers have victimized human society. Perhaps one day science will give us liar-proof technology but until then our best bets are dedicated truth seekers like Seymour Hersh.



Email Optional
Author or Title


By Nick Catalano:
#Me Too Cognizance in Ancient Greece
Above the Drowning Sea
A New York Singing Salon
Rockers Retreading
Polish Jewry-Importance of Historical Museums
Sexual Relativity and Gender Revolution
Inquiry into Constitutional Originalism
Aristotle: Film Critic
The Maw of Deregulated Capitalism
Demagogues: The Rhetoric of Barbarism
The Guns of August
Miles Ahead and Born to Be Blue
Manon Lescaut @The Met
An American in Paris
What We Don't Know about Eastern Culture
Black Earth (book review)
Cuban Jazz
HD Opera - Game Changer
Film Treatment of Stolen Art
Stains and Blemishes in Democracy
Intersteller (film review)
Shakespeare, Shelley & Woody Allen
Mystery and Human Sacrifice at the Parthenon
Carol Fredette (Jazz)
Amsterdam (book review)
Vermeer Nation
The Case for Da Vinci's Demons


Help Haiti
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
2016 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 05-16st, (514) 844-2172
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal World Film Festival
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Photo by David Lieber:
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis