Long Reads: Condoms, nerds and Seymour Hersh

Rich Jackson’s weekly #LongReads brings us Seymour Hersh on the stuff of legend, his own article on the My Lai massacre of 1968; Allison Jones: Nerd Hunter; and condoms: the quest for the perfect prophylactic.


Latex condoms are the worst: Why, after all these years don’t we have a better condom? – LV Anderson (Slate)

Condoms! Turns out they are actually a form of sexual protection; I have just been using them as balloons for years. People always gave me a funny look when I handed them out in my party bags. Anyway this a great article from Slate. I haven’t seen many long things from them in a while, so this was really welcome (as was this, on DW Griffith’s 1915 racist The Birth of a Nation, which, interestingly, despite its content, is revered by film critics for its groundbreaking cinematography, editing and music). Basically, Anderson’s article discusses the condom; their history, which is tied into the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s; and their problems (of which, people cited in a study, for example, the inconvenience, the smell, taste, feeling and a reduction of pleasure, which detracts from the experience). So the challenge for science has been to design a condom (as it is the best form of protection from STD’s) that people want to use, or at least don’t mind using.


The nerd hunter – Stephen Rodrick (The New Yorker)

This is basically a profile on casting director Allison Jones, who is like the go-to person for finding actors who look like stereotypical “nerds” and deliver lines with realism. Jones has been responsible for casting some of the last decade’s most beloved comedy films and TV shows, helping to launch the careers of countless actors. She even found Superbad’s McLovin – “Nice!” How cool is that? A nerd hunter. Do you reckon it goes on her business cards? – “It even has a watermark”.


The scene of the crime – Seymour Hersh (The New Yorker)

The story of how Seymour Hersh uncovered the My Lai massacre is the stuff of journalistic legend. Hersh was a 32-year-old freelance journalist working in America in the late ’60s and managed to break one of the most awful combat stories from the other side of the world. He received a tip that an American solider, 1st Lt William L Calley Jr, was going to be court marshalled for a massacre of Vietnam civilians at the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. Hersh worked hard tracking down soldiers involved, lawyers, and Calley himself, to discover the true extent of the massacre. Published over a year later on November 12, 1969, Hersh showed that Calley had been made a fall guy. In fact, under Calley’s orders, numerous soldiers in Company C murdered 504 unarmed civilians, including men, women, children and babies.

In this article, for the first time ever, Hersh goes to My Lai, having never been. It is here that Hersh is interviewed on the story that will be his legacy, and the state of investigative journalism today. This is something everyone should be very concerned about, because My Lai is just what we know about in that war, and this is not a blasé statement, this happens in war, as Seymour Hersh himself says in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now:

“My Lai, yes, it was terrible. It was much worse than other incidents. But incidents killing 60, 100, 120, there was just much too much of that during the war.”

This happens. Innocents die and authorities cover it up to preserve a war’s integrity. Innocents have died due to the actions of Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq (that is not to mention the drone missiles in neighbouring countries), we just don’t know about the extent of it. That’s why we need proper investigative journalists, backed by editors and owners willing to finance often-expensive long form investigations.



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