Internet has changed global communication completely: Hersh

January 24, 2011

The Internet and the development of new media for disseminating information have led to a complete transformation of global communication, Seymour Hersh, the New Yorker investigative journalist, said.

Journalists today have an increasingly important role to play in providing information to people around the world and they, rather than world leaders or government officials, offer readers, viewers and listeners the most important access to the truth, Hersh said in an interview with Qatari daily Gulf Times.

The journalist who was in Doha to deliver a lecture on US foreign policy said that people in the region were very political, “because they have to be.”

“It’s a tough place here – on the one hand you give bases to the US, and on the other you support Al Jazeera,” he said, adding that there is still a lot of hostility from the US towards the Qatar-based news broadcaster.

Having worked in Washington for many years, Hersh has seen numerous changes in the world of the media, but none was more important than the Internet.

“It is so fascinating – the Internet has changed everything,” he said. “The Internet is changing the way we think – OK, a lot of stupid stuff gets out there too, but the Internet is changing the way we find out about news,” he said.

Although slightly reluctant to discuss the furore surrounding WikiLeaks, Hersh argued that when nations are involved in “unjust wars” then there are leaks as a result of the disillusionment of people affected by their government’s actions.

“He has made it a bit too much about him and his character, which I think is a mistake,” he said of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He is nevertheless “very smart and very driven.”

He noted that Assange released the leaks through newspapers and has only revealed a small amount of the information and documents he possesses.

“It amuses me that US diplomats will find it harder to get people to speak to them,” said Hersh, noting that big stories usually cause a similar effect for journalists.

Despite uncovering some of the biggest scandals in US history, including the My Lai massacre and the torture at Abu Ghraib, Hersh admitted that there are certain ‘unwritten rules’ governing the appropriateness of subjects for news stories.

“In the US, we have the First Amendment which protects freedom of speech,” he said. “In my opinion, it is the government’s job to keep stuff like this a secret – it is my job to find it out,” he told the daily.

Despite being accused of terrorism and of hating the US, Hersh said he is patriotic and openly expresses his love of his home country.

There are many stories he could have written but chose to keep under wraps because of possible consequences, Hersh said. Protecting national security and intelligence operations is important.

“It isn’t as if you write everything you hear about,” he said. “I want my country to get good intelligence!”

“The reality is that I get a good story and then I talk about it with the government and the people concerned and make sure that it could not significantly hurt anyone,” he said. “I love America – I’m just sad about what we are doing around the world,” he said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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