How Seymour Hersh’s article showcased mainstream media failing its duty to the public.
When the Nordstream pipeline was damaged last September, fingers were pointed to the likely culprit. The United States and Russia were blamed in equal measure. The answer to the question remained elusive but the story itself was extensively written on. This culminated in Seymour Hersh’s bombshell report on the United States being the culprit behind the attack. Despite how feverish the media were to place blame, once Hersh asserted that it was the United States responsibility this fever broke. We were welcomed by the sound of silence and a seeming refusal to entertain or acknowledge Hersh’s article.
After the publication of the article about the United States destroying the Nord Stream Pipeline in collaboration with the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish intelligence services, it is a wonder how such an endeavour is not international news. Hersh has previously undertaken bombshell reports exposing US government activities going way back to 1969 when he reported on the My Lai Massacre.
For the conspiracy theorists among you, Hersh’s article is a perfect example of the less than savoury ambitions of the US. Hersh included a list of the (alleged) actors: Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Undersecretary of State for Policy Victoria Nuland and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Blinken commended the “tremendous opportunity” that arose out of the now decommissioned pipeline. Additionally, Nuland was proud that the pipeline was now “just a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.” The destabilisation of the Russian energy infrastructure is a win for the West.
Hersh’s report exposed some vital questions that need to be asked around the mainstream media. Has mainstream media remained largely silent because Hersh’s report was, as Biden’s government asserts, “utter and complete nonsense”. Is the mainstream media silent because they are unwilling to touch a reporter whose work has had considerable controversy around it for many years now. At the very least it seems very poor work ethic by journalists who seem to have made no attempt to follow up on the story. An attempt either to discredit or corroborate what Hersh has claimed is crucial. It would be terribly easy to dive into conspiracy theories here and it is difficult not to point the finger at something darker taking place.
Seymour Hersh has an extensive and, quite frankly awe-inspiring, set of credentials. For more than 40-years he was one of America’s leading investigative journalists. This is one of the main reasons it is quite alarming that the discourse around Hersh’s report has been focused on the author not the subject matter. Responsible Statecraft argued mainstream media was “killing the messenger, ignoring the message.” This is the more reasonable discourse around Hersh’s work. Feel free to doubt the veracity of the article but you can’t stop there. It is key to the profession to either completely corroborate the article or prove that the piece is extensively inaccurate.
Silence is not golden. Hersh’s allegations are mammoth in their size and scope, and as such require the work to be done to investigate them at government and citizen level. There is significant criticism being levelled against his use of anonymous sources. I see little consideration for the potentiality that his source could be opening themselves up to a world of trouble by coming forward. As of right now Hersh’s article is 2 weeks old, I have seen no mainstream efforts to deny or corroborate, just rhetoric and whataboutisms.
Reporters for Bellingcat, an Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigative journalism group, have denied Hersh’s report. Consistently providing many examples of gaps in Hersh’s story and even stooping to personal attacks. The majority of these stem from logs they have obtained highlighting that many of Hersh’s assertions are misleading or false. One of the glaring ones being his assertion that the “Panama City boys” would dive from an Alta Class ship. In spite of Hersh’s single anonymous source, Oliver Alexander has debunked this claim and proved that “no such Alta-class ship was in the area during the time frame” that the planting took place. The fact that Bellingcat, an award-winning investigative journalism page, but by no means mainstream site, are producing the most discourse and fact-checking here is quite alarming. Alexander himself, expressed his wish for mainstream media to interview Hersh on his assertions and press him on the inaccuracies in his piece. This is a problem. If Hersh’s story is as inaccurate as OSINT investigators are alleging and they have the evidence to back it up why has there not been a peep about the article.
Legacy media is failing its duty to the public. There is a necessity to understand and acknowledge how many stories get taken at face value here. Mainstream media has a duty to dive deeper for the publics benefit. Hersh is portraying himself as the lambasted outsider, the rugged beat-up journalist doing the dirty work and combatting an over-reaching government. Many who wish this portrayal of the government to be true will take his article as gospel. This is just negative all-round. While not all of Hersh’s article has been discredited, the verifiable details have been. This isn’t to say that the US was not responsible for the attack but mainstream journalists using their resources to corroborate or deny his story are crucial and these contributions must be given to the discourse.
This silence will always be more damaging than engaging in lengthy debate around the article. Allowing the public to formulate their own narrative around Hersh’s assertions is a bad move. These kinds of articles are necessary ammunition to keep the propaganda machines on both sides running. Regardless of your politics, Seymour Hersh’s reporting is either accurate or genuinely dangerous. Hopefully the larger news agencies will see that their input is a necessity to help formulate a cohesive narrative around his story. The alternative is a devolution into unsubstantiated conspiracy and polarisation. Two things which are at complete odds with what journalisms present day mission should be.
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