Thursday, 9 December 2010

Defending Assange - real and feigned

The empire is surely striking back.  Julian Assange, leading figure behind Wikileaks and the current US cable releases, has been arrested and refused bail despite reasonable surety pledges from John Pilger and notable others.

"It stinks", says Pilger.  Despite a prior decision by the head Swedish prosecutor not to proceed with sex-based allegations against Assange, fresh efforts have seemingly been initiated by another more politically-motivated prosecutor to have him extradited to Sweden.  It's likely that the US, relying on friendly Sweden, will seek his further extradition on espionage charges.   

But while mainstream journalists and editors pore over the detail and significance of the cables, where is their serious defence of Wikileaks and Assange?  Where is the outright, campaigning support for a figure and organisation ready, unlike them, to challenge Western warmongers and expose their grubby 'diplomatic' secrets?

In one of his fine interviews on the matter, Pilger not only exposes the slurs and collusion behind the Assange arrest, but gives a model tutorial to would-be journalists - including his ABC interviewer - on how serious reporters should be conducting themselves.  

As he says, if journalists are not at the centre of such hostility from the establishment, they need to think about their own roles and output:  "If you don't incur the wrath, you're not doing your job, are you?" 

There should, as Pilger describes Assange's motives, always be an "ethical dimension, a moral dimension" to journalism.

For most journalists, the 'ethical' issue has been dutifully fitted around the default question of whether Assange and Wkileaks have been "endangering national security."  Unlike Pilger, rarely do they see the releases as a moral effort to expose acts of state barbarism and the machiavellian manoevrings behind policies directed towards the mass taking of lives.  

The Guardian has readily-dispensed most of the cable information, to date.  But where, beyond the carefully-tempered words of editorial 'support', is their crusading defence of Wikileaks and Assange?
"Under technological, legal, financial, corporate and governmental attack from all sides, Assange has managed to keep his subversive website, WikiLeaks, staggering on, spilling classified secrets around the globe. Will WikiLeaks be floored by the arrest of its driving inspiration? Or will its actions, ethos and notoriety prove it to be indestructible and thereby demonstrate that there are new forces in the world which can effectively challenge established patterns of power and control of information? Is it the end or the beginning?
So coy, so middling, so Guardian.  

Editor Alan Rusbridger basks in the Wiki limelight, enjoying the 'radical' kudos - and boosting circulation - of being a designated publisher of the cables, while maintaining a safe distance from Assange and "his subversive website".   

Is this the kind of unreserved, moral journalism Pilger speaks of? 

On which related theme, here's an illuminating circular from David Peterson on the stark hypocrisy of the US when it comes to the upholding of 'press freedom':
"Friends: How can one not feel stomach-punched when one reads in yesterday's press release from the U.S. Department of State that "The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington," and that the "theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers"?

"In its December 7 press release, the State Department added:[1]

"At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age."
Where, one wonders, is the Guardian's serious deconstruction of that shameless release?



Anonymous said...

Hope Obama can handle WL Change?

We NEED transparency for our global society that we created an cannot control.To many crises.
We'd never gone to Iraq if we read the cables first?

Redesign democracy now. It's E-government, not E-commerce tat changes our world (stupid!).
How can a few wise leaders alone solve complex global issues pending ?
Come on free press, write about the roadmap to E-power-democracy-morevote!

James Nelson said...

very good post, john! however, i would go a bit further and actually question the sense of dumping all of this information on a mainstream media, which can carefully select, present and, indeed, even interprete the information at will.

of course, if we agree with that, your criticsm of most journalists and their inability, or unwillingness, "to see the releases as a moral effort to expose acts of state barbarism and the machiavellian manoevrings behind policies directed towards the mass taking of live", because most relevant.
... and apropos "pilger"; it is his stance, which has gone some way to convince me that julian assange is not some sort of osama bin laden alter ego .... a creation of the forces of darkness.
nevertheless, when i was writing on wikileaks last week only some 1,100 documents from a total of some 250,000 had been released. possibly this week the figure is closer to 2,000, which, of course, means that wikileaks is going to be almost as ongoing as the perennial "war on terror".
no bad thing, perhaps, but like you, i am far from happy at how this information is being dissemenated by its "guardians". indeed, we are almost back to, "according to officially israeli sources ........" keep up the good work!