Thursday, July 29, 2004

Journalist As Hero

Despite the fact that by far the most plentiful kind pf publication that has appeared with my name attached is journalistic (mostly magazine-style) articles, I have never considered myself to be a journalist. In fact, when necessary I have actively resisted that label and rather advanced the counter-label "writer who does some journalism," and when a couple of people who don't know me very well have helpfully suggested that maybe I would like to go to journlism school, it has been hard not to roll my eyes. This is not in any way meant to put down those who are journalists, I just don't happen to be one of you.

Nonetheless, I have always had a certain fascination for knowing and for finding out and even, I am somewhat ashamed to say, for being known to know. Even though it shows signs of being a part of my life for at least two years to come, occasionally my imagination has turned to speculating about what I might do in my productive life once my oral history of Canadian activists project is finally completed, and I have trouble coming up with anything that does not involve me acquiring, arranging, and presenting information and words in one form or another.

This article -- a glowing portrait of Seymour Hersh, a central figure in revealing the My Lai massacre in Vietnam so many years ago as well as the more recent Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq -- relies far too much on the mythology of journalist as hero, as someone whose individual skills and choices can create meaningful change, and ignores all the systemic reasons why Sy Hersh is a rarity. For that reason, it certainly does not end my search for how I can do meaningful, political, intellectual work in the community...but even so, it does kind of get my blood racing a little, and therefore does count as input into the process.

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