Journalist Seymour Hersh says the US bombed the Nordstream pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Let’s talk about why his blog article concluding this is really bad journalism …and he should know it.
Firstly, his article is based on a single anonymous source. Any journalist or editor knows that’s weak. You can justify publishing it as a claim in some circumstances …but Hersh’s decision to write the article as a firm conclusion based on that one source is baffling.
At no point does Hersh try to weigh up the credibility of the source or even consider the possibility that he could be getting fed misinformation from that one source. That would be journalism.
Afterall, the claim is incredible. It would be a conspiracy involving many people across countries, unlikely to remain secret. The White House went all in with its credibility to dismiss the article as “utterly false & complete fiction”, a stronger pushback than many expected.
Hersh’s new fans will dismiss White House statements, of course …just like they ridiculed White House statements that Putin was planning this full scale war, which – by the way – is the reality that Hersh has built his own timeline for this story around.
It’s also funny that his new fans are emphasising how respectable Hersh is as a Western journalist. These are the same people who spend the rest of their time emphasising how corrupt and inaccurate Western journalists are.
Hersh was a successful journalist in his younger days, but has veered down a weird conspiratorial path – all too willing to repeat theories that don’t stand up to basic journalistic scrutiny.
Most hilariously, Hersh – claiming Norway’s involvement – says Jens Stoltenberg has “cooperated with the American intelligence community since the Vietnam War”.
Stoltenberg was a teenager when the Vietnam war ended & was anti-NATO as a young man. The claim is beyond shoddy.
Hersh emphasises that Russia has no motive to attack the pipeline. This is false. You can dismiss the various theories for Russia’s involvement but you can’t credibly pretend they don’t exist. It shows a total lack of understanding of the issues on our side of the world.
Hersh himself acknowledges how the pipeline would be politically unviable during Russia’s full scale war. That means the continued existence of the pipeline is far more valuable only to someone who could replace Putin and change the course he wants Russia totally committed to.
Putin’s top priority is remaining in power at all cost. He would sacrifice an incentive to replace him & end war. An added benefit is that Russia can use the attack to sow discord – such as by briefing a false story to a credible-sounding journalist now prone to conspiracies.
The problem with conspiracy theorists isn’t necessarily that they are untrusting. It’s that they are very trusting of alternative narratives that they can’t comprehend could be constructed in detail with the intention of deceiving them.
That’s why we see so many of takes in support of Hersh saying the story must be true because it’s so detailed. The fact Hersh doesn’t consider any of this while making a firm conclusion based on one anonymous source is quite a big red flag.
In contrast to Russia’s motives, the West is committed to unity & a rules-based world order. Sabotage on their part – in place of inevitable political pressure in light of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the West – makes much less sense.
This is key here. His story isn’t credibly written, but stories about his story do count as newsworthy, especially once others pile in politically. Blogs are a convenient way to transmit shoddy stories up into the news cycle.