Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 2, 2017

When Seymour Hersh was interviewed on Infowars

Filed under: Fascism,journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 8:16 pm

This week, when a Facebook friend referred to a Seymour Hersh appearance on Alex Jones’s Infowars, I did a double-take. Could that be possible? I understand that his judgement is poor but nobody with an ounce of sense would agree to be interviewed by arguably the worst rightwing demagogue in the USA. It turns out that he spoke with Jones on December 30, 2015–timed with his LRB article about how American Generals sidestepped Obama to provide critical intelligence that the Russians and Assad used against the opposition. Not only did Hersh consent to the interview, it was about as amiable an encounter as Barack Obama being interviewed by Charlie Rose.

Is it possible that this shows signs of senility? That might be one way of explaining the inexplicable. You saw similar behavior from another elderly celebrity of the left. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Ryan Dawson did a podcast with MIT professor emeritus Theodore Postol on August 25, 2014 in order to blame the rebels rather than Assad for using Sarin gas in East Ghouta a year earlier. Much of the show consisted of Postol crediting the Syrian Girl for help on clearing Assad’s name. Also known as Partisangirl, Maram Susli is a fascist (I use the word advisedly) who has appeared on David Duke’s radio show. It’s a small world when it comes to Assadism, senility and fascism apparently.

In making the case for Bashar al-Assad as a big improvement over the opposition, Hersh says that the mass murderer was responsible for major reforms. One of them is that now “you can bank there”. There are ATM machines everywhere. There were 30 different foreign broadcasts on TV as well.

So you can understand why with all those ATM’s and foreign broadcasts, a revolution in Syria would be unnecessary. Yes, it’s true that back in 2011 there might have been some “moderate” rebels but in no time at all, the rebels became fanatical supporters of Sharia law and determined to oppress Christians and Alawites if they took over. With such an analysis, it makes perfect sense why Hersh would accept an invitation to speak on a podcast hosted by a fanatical Islamophobe.

Hersh admits to Jones that Assad was a dictator but the opposition was worse. Hersh states that ISIS executed 200 of his soldiers in one fell swoop. On the other hand, Amnesty International reported that 13,000 prisoners have been secretly hanged in Assad’s prisons but you can’t believe a word that they say since they are a tool of imperialism (except when they are reporting on rebel war crimes). Same thing with Doctors Without Borders. When they claim that Assad bombs hospitals, they are lying but when they report on Saudi Arabia doing the same thing in Yemen, they are telling the truth. How postmodern.

Hersh understood the value of Alex Jones, at least on his own terms. In the old days, it was the NY Times and the Washington Post that controlled the agenda but now because of the Internet and what guys like Jones do, the word gets out there automatically. In his view, “that’s good” because now we have more and better communications. So let’s applaud Infowars, Breitbart News, Global Research, Al-Masdar News, Duran, 21st Century Wire and SOTT for providing a much needed alternative. Along with WBAI, we can now get an alternative to the mainstream news. As far as I know, Jones does not give away Gary Null tapes.

Just this week Alex Jones made the news by both inviting and appearing to take seriously a guest who charged NASA with operating a child slave colony on Mars. Largely through his connections to the Donald Trump campaign, Jones has become infamous in the last year or so as a close ally of the emerging alt-right. But for those who have been aware of Jones for the past decade or so, the NASA slave colony stuff comes as no big surprise since Jones is a major league conspiracy theorist whose attorney even defended him as a purveyor of entertainment rather than a reporter. Taste, they say, is largely in the mouth.

Would Hersh have had agreed to be interviewed by someone like Jones if he knew in advance that he was obviously so deranged? Maybe Jones hadn’t come up with something so outrageous back in December 2015 but it didn’t take much research to find out that he had already described the Sandy Hook Massacre as “staged”.This is not to speak of Jones’s long-standing affiliation with the 9/11 Truther movement.Why would a “legendary” Pulitzer Prize winning reporter want to even take part in a podcast interview conducted with someone that detached from reality? Would he have gone on the David Duke show? I really have to wonder.

This week I have seen repeated credit given to Hersh by people who should know better. For example, Jeff St. Clair touted his Die Welt article as a “landmark piece of investigative reporting”, while the Monthly Review website has linked to the article as well as one Ray McGovern’s wrote in support of Hersh’s article that also appeared on CounterPunch. Does John Bellamy Foster, who has devoted many hours reading about soil chemistry in conjunction with his research on the “metabolic rift”, believe that it is possible to create a toxic cloud that killed 58 people and wounded 300 by dropping a bomb on fertilizer? What about Fred Magdoff, the son of the late editor that Foster replaced after his death? Magdoff is Emeritus Professor of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont. What if one of his students wrote a paper that made such a claim? What kind of scientific evidence would Magdoff expect from his student? Wouldn’t he be as exacting with a journal edited by his respected father? Would the fact that they must have deemed it a waste of time discomfit him? They must have figured that anything written by Seymour Hersh didn’t have to be read with a critical eye. As Donald Trump would say, how sad..

The other day Paul Street, a guy I have a lot of respect for, posted a link on Facebook to a CounterPunch article by Jonathan Cook along the same lines. When, probably to his surprise, a number of people became indignant over this, he understandably didn’t try to defend Hersh (which would have required defending the idea that a bomb dropped on fertilizer can have the same effect as Sarin gas). Instead, he fretted over how the left can become so divided over “foreign” affairs and urged the need for a united front against the capitalist class in the USA. Surely that will be necessary as I tried to indicate in my defense of a Jill Stein vote in 2016.

However, there is something that Paul probably didn’t quite grasp. In the six years of leftist propaganda for Assad, the truth has become less and less important. I first noticed this on CounterPunch articles about East Ghouta that motivated me to resign in 2013. It was not just disagreeing over how to assess Assad. It was how so many people were willing to argue along the lines that it was “illogical” for Assad to carry out such an attack since he was winning the war and since UN inspectors were in the area.

I always wonder why people who raise such cavils never seem nearly so interested in what was in the minds of the rebels they accuse of mounting a “false flag”. Between the two Sarin gas attacks blamed on the rebels by Seymour Hersh, Theodore Postol, et al, 1800 supporters of the rebels were killed and 5000 wounded. What are we to make of men who are so heartless as to kill their own supporters, including many family members, on a gamble? And if they are so heartless, why haven’t they used such a deadly weapon a single time in 6 years of war on Assad’s military, his government bureaucracy or his wealthy supporters who could be reached by sarin-weaponized artillery in the Damascus suburbs that Postol blamed for the East Ghouta massacre. None of this makes any sense, of course.

There’s a real danger when the left embraces such lies in order to pursue “anti-imperialist” goals. As Leon Trotsky points out in “Their Morals and Ours”, the ends do justify the means but under no conditions would a revolutionary socialist like Trotsky accept telling lies to further justifiable ends. The more we bend the truth to support a political agenda no matter how laudable (giving support for Assad the benefit of the doubt), the greater the danger it will finally break.



  1. Your ideas about truth and lies are militarily indefensible. When you are at war telling lies is an absolutely crucial tactic in achieving victory. It is true that telling lies is a terrible thing to do even in war time. It destroys the trust that people have not only in the person telling the lie but in all of humanity. This loss of trust is one reason why humanity needs to avoid war in the first place. Sadly those people who thrive by exploiting other people make avoiding war difficult. On the bright side lies can be corrected once a war is over. When telling lies saves lives of innocent (OK les guilty) people a revolutionary should be able to understand that lies are a necessary evil. Can people be brought back to life? The truth can be brought back to life.

    Furthermore if a liar such as myself writes the plain truth it will be recognized as the truth by at least some people even though I am a liar because the truth will supported by the evidence. On the other hand, not everyone is capable of understanding and weighing the evidence for any given question. So, even if you are telling the truth some people will not see it that away. This variation in human capabilities to detect accidental falsehoods and lies led me to the conclusion that there is no point in worrying about ones credibility among the masses or the elites. For example a few weeks ago was the 50th anniversary of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Pointing out that anniversary will be recognized as a truthful statement by anyone over 70 years old. But how many of these same people would believe that this attack was deliberate? How many of those over 70 would believe that the US government or at least the deep state ordered the Israelis to attack the USS Liberty? Enlightened people need to recognize something. The masses are stupid so they needed to be manipulated in the short run so that they live long enough to be educated. The elites are evil. So, they need to be manipulated in the short run so that they can be tortured to death, in a manner that would horrify Vlad the Impaler, in the long run

    Of course this baloney about Assad’s forces not having launched a chemical attack is an example of a lie that has no (or very little) military value because it is so easily exposed and I also suspect because those people who have been following events in Syria are not going to be persuaded to switch their allegiances regardless of what really happened in this case. Some people might not agree with that assessment and therefore find the lie as the lesser evil. Especially if they think that if the lie gains enough traction it could prevent US military attacks against Assad’s forces.

    Another thing that troubles me is the accusation that anyone who would appear on an Alex Jones program is senile. I see this situation as more of a dilemma. How are people on the left supposed to change the minds of people on the right if they do not talk to each other? Sadly even if people on the left do talk to people on the right they have almost no chance of converting them to the gospel of _____________ without a huge investment of time such as a deprogramming process. Then there is this stupid cultural trait that has become common on the internet that if you go to a site to present an opposing point of view you are labeled a troll and if you are tolerated you are often censored. Heck my own comments on leftist and centrist sites often do not pass the moderator’s approval when they can not be argued with. Under such circumstances a leftist can not win if s/he does not talk with rightists. If s/he does talk with rightists the chances of winning are less than winning the grand prize of the lottery. Winning is defined as persuading someone to switch sides.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — July 3, 2017 @ 12:22 am

  2. “Your ideas about truth and lies are militarily indefensible. When you are at war telling lies is an absolutely crucial tactic in achieving victory.”

    The obvious fallacy here is that we are talking about bloggers who claim to be independent. Not representatives of the military.

    The notion that the left ought to use the same tactics (ie tell lies, cover up) as the ruling class rather neglects the fact that the strategy and tactics of minorities clinging on to power and the tactics of majorities wishing to over turn them not only need not be symmetrical but cannot be symmetrical. That would be to play to the enemies strengths and our sides weaknesses. Its a great mistake of the left to overestimate the symmetrical nature of social revolution (it is in my view the worst side of the Leninist legacy-there are of course better sides).

    Its perhaps not a co-incidence that as the left has become more and more obviously a minority its tended to ape the language of those other more powerful minorities. Emphasising its realism, cunning and ruthlessness.

    This is tragicomic.

    Comment by John Gamey — July 3, 2017 @ 8:45 am

  3. The purpose of lying in warfare is deception–for example, to make the enemy think you’re going to invade at Point A when your target is really Point B. The purpose of lying in America today is to revel in the consciousness of forcing the innocent to repeat your lies.

    Donald Trump’s lies, Jones’s lies, and the lies of their allies and co-religionists are a form of rape or a form of lynching. The more everyone repeats the lies, knowing they are lies, the stronger and more important the liars feel and the more they are admired by their followers.

    There’s no need to provide clear beliefs about actual states of affairs. America’s liars in power do not wish to mobilize the masses toward clear objectives but to put them to sleep. For that purpose, it suffices merely to confuse or distract.

    There is a kind of ecstasy in this–a consciousness of Breaking Bad–that comes close to being the whole point, though of course it isn’t really quite that simple.

    If there were an organized left with a strategy, it might be legit under some circumstances to lie in furtherance of the strategy. But there isn’t. And what strategy could justify lying on behalf of Assad anyway?

    As to the alleged senility of Hersh, Postol, and the rest of those liars, I can only say as a fellow Old Fart that there are plenty of young assholes who are taken in by this shit. “Senile” as a term of abuse should probably be, you should excuse the expression, retired. But this is beside the point.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 3, 2017 @ 9:24 am

  4. Just to clarify: Donald Trump lies incessantly. Nevertheless, Assad used Sarin. If you can’t handle that, go back to kindergarten or just duck under a desk and cover your head.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 3, 2017 @ 9:27 am

  5. Alex Jones wasn’t so bad a few years ago. He was wild, but now he’s crazy. It started about the time Trump started campaigning. I think he simply sold out and went full Trump. Never go full Trump.

    Comment by libertyoryourdeath — September 13, 2017 @ 1:53 am

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