The Editors at n+1:
IS HERSH PARANOID? In some ways, the label seems appropriate. He has written about the private lives of the Kennedys and claimed that high-ranking military officials are members of the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei (although, as Greg Grandin pointed out in the Nation, a number of current and former high-ranking military officials really have been members of extreme right-wing Christian sects such as the Knights of Malta). In its unending accumulation of detail after disastrous detail, Hersh’s reporting often has the screwball plotting of a Pynchon novel. If the subject matter weren’t so upsetting, his reports would be funny.
But in other respects, the term doesn’t fit. Hersh’s stories break down complex events into chains of isolated, largely reactive individual decisions. His reporting never points back, as Pynchon’s novels do, to shadowy conspiracies; there is no titanic clash between impersonal forces, no central organizing principle, only human action churning away. Near the beginning of Hersh’s book on the Iraq war, an intelligence official complaining about the “enhanced interrogation” tactics at Guantánamo says, “It was wrong and also dysfunctional.” A few pages later, this refrain is repeated by another source: “It’s evil, but it’s also stupid.”