In defence of Julian Assange

28 Sep

I’m now reading the new Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality,  available here in various formats including an e-version that’s a snip at £3.99. Highly recommended, especially to those with a healthy mistrust of capitalism but still suffering from excessive faith in liberal media.

I’m occasionally rebuked for that myself, I think  by folk well disposed toward me. Just the other day, following my response to a Monbiot piece on the irreconcilability of ‘economic growth’ with pulling back from environmental catastrophe, one of the Media Lens editors suggested I may be in the grip of Stockholm Syndrome, the way I pull my punches on George. I have to take that seriously.

Liberal media provide a vital service to imperialist agendas. Mail and Sun editorials on Monster Assad, leader of a nation pivotally placed to pipeline oil to the world’s biggest energy market, aren’t much read by the intelligentsia. The Guardian is though. And when it’s not only Jonathan Freedland and Nick Cohen but Owen Jones, Paul Mason and George Monbiot telling us Bashar and Vlad gas and bomb children for the sheer joy of it, well; it must be right mustn’t it?

Not that we draw such conclusions consciously; that’s not the way it works. Here, again, is the link to that Media Lens book …

… and here is an extract from its first chapter:

The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing. Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to the Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful, then subjected to a vituperative onslaught. With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a ‘damaged personality’ and ‘callous’. They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that ‘Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.’

His colleague James Ball wrote, ‘It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.’

Such bile appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as ‘thoughtful and progressive’. What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange and WikiLeaks have achieved more journalistic firsts than the snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be ‘one of us’ and shames those who have long sold out the independence of their craft?

Journalism students might well study this period to understand that the source of ‘fake news’ is not only the trollism, or the likes of Fox News, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a ‘liberal’ journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it.

The above is followed by reflection on Guardian coverage of Jeremy Corbyn but this post is about an Assange whose smearing, alongside that of Russell Brand and Hugo Chavez, is the subject of the book’s third chapter. It’s a mark of the relentless scale of Assange’s vilification by liberal media, and of the way even so unimpeachable an axiom as “a woman’s right to say no” can serve thoroughly reactionary ends, that few of those ‘progressive’ journalists queuing up to damn this man to Hell and back knew or cared that he’s been charged with no offence, and that Sweden’s female Chief Prosecutor “had come to the desicion [sic] that Julian Assange is not suspected of rape“.

One such being Guardian columnist Deborah Orr. Media Lens again:

The subheading above Orr’s article read: ‘Of course Assange should face the charges brought against him in Sweden’.

We and others asked her, ‘what charges’?

Orr took a short break from guffawing with the rest of her profession to apologise.

Another thing liberal media seemed not to know or care about is ‘neutral’ Sweden’s record of craven compliance with Washington bullying. As Propaganda Blitz notes:

The evidence that Assange had plenty to fear was overwhelming. But not for the great and good of liberal journalism …

The obscene haste with which ‘progressives’ and ‘liberals’ vied with one another, in calling open season on a man history will assuredly judge to have acted with great courage, leaves me spoilt for choice. But let’s run with the Guardian’s Suzanne Moore. Media Lens again:

 Moore set the tone on Twitter on June 19, 2012:

“I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd”.

Moore later complained that, after writing articles about Assange, she has suffered ‘vile abuse’. We wrote to her:

“That’s a real shame. Sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?

No she wouldn’t, it seems – though she did “advise” Media Lens to “stop sounding so bloody patronising”.

With this still fresh in my mind, I happened today on a CounterPunch piece by Ann Garrison: Standing With Julian Assange.  Here’s how she begins:

Pacifica Radio stations are known as havens for leftwing thought and action, but the Berkeley station board and the national Pacifica Network board have yet to come to the defense of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The resolution below has been submitted for a vote to the national board of directors of Pacifica  a non-commercial radio network of five high-power metropolitan stations—in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, New York City, and Washington, DC. Pacifica has over 200 affiliate stations in other cities, towns, and college and university campuses across the US.

And here’s the resolution she refers to.

Resolution In Support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks Presented for a Vote at September 20, 2018 Meeting of the Pacifica National Board (PNB)

Whereas, Assange and Wikileaks have released a vast trove of primary source material unlike anything that journalists have ever had such ready access to,

Whereas, Wikileaks releases have made evidence-based journalism more possible than ever before,

Whereas, Julian Assange and WIkileaks have helped expose the role of the US and other governments’ war crimes and violations of international law and,

Whereas, Assange and WikiLeaks have, in the Podesta emails, Vault 7, the Trade in Services Agreement, and many other releases, exposed the collusion between government officials, politicians, oligarchs, and corporations against the public interest, including even the survival of life on earth,

Whereas, the US government along with the UK government are seeking to push Julian Assange out of Ecuador’s London Embassy to be arrested by Theresa May’s government in the UK and then most likely extradited to the United States for criminal prosecution and,

Whereas, the US government and the UK government refuse to prosecute any of the war criminals that have been exposed by the whistleblowing of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and,

Whereas, there is a systematic effort by the US government to harass, repress and jail reporters and whistleblowers who exposed corruption and criminal activities by government officials and,

Whereas, US politicians have called for the murder and torture of Julian Assange to silence him and,

Whereas, KPFA and Pacific network is also under attack and threatened by the US government and corporations that the US government represents and,

Whereas, the Australia Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA) union made Julian Assange an honorary member for life, waived his fees, and called for the defense of his rights,

Whereas, leading intellectuals and whistleblowers including Daniel Ellsberg, John Kiriakou, Ray McGovern, and Coleen Rowley have called for unity in support of Julian Assange,

Therefore be it resolved that the Pacifica National Board [and the KPFA Local Station Board] call for the freedom of Julian Assange and an end to the harassment including the halting of internet and media access at Ecuador’s London Embassy, an end to efforts to jail Assange by either the UK government or US government, and call for KPFA and Pacifica to launch a campaign on our website and our programming to defend Julian Assange and all journalists and whistleblowers who are coming under increasing attacks by the US government and the corporations who control the government.

Lastly, be it resolved that both boards call for national publicity and programming by all Pacifica affiliated stations for the defense of Julian Assange and all journalists and whistleblowers who face threats to their democratic rights.

*

8 Replies to “In defence of Julian Assange

  1. It must be getting on for around ten years ago, maybe more (?) when I came across the (then) recent case of a professional security analyst at SY Police in Sheffield who had been sacked because his superiors were unhappy with conclusions of a threat review he had been tasked to produce.

    I can’t recall his name but I do recall he was a practicing Christian. His ‘crime’ was – having used his professional training, experience and expertise to assess threats to the UK in the aftermath of Iraq, 9/11, 7/7 etc – concluding, with evidence, that the biggest threat to the UK was its own ‘Deep State’. Security Services, Government establishment etc.

    Back then, post David Kelly & Campbell’s spiteful destruction of the BBC but pre financial crash, the biggest example of this was the denial of the obvious blowback from Iraq. Since then, we have had the financial crash, too big to fail banks, austerity, Libya, Wikileaks, Syria, Greece, Brexit, hostile environment, the mardy arsing of the so called ‘ liberal left’ getting into bed with the deep state because the sainted but criminal HC lost to the biggest numpty on the planet, the near break up of the UK with the Scottish Referendum (which is now only a matter of time), Grenfell, Windrush, rise of the ultra right, Tommy Robinson and Rod Liddle on prime time TV and the biggest and vilest campaign against a politician in British history.

    Whatever his name was he must be waking up every morning with a wry smile and a shake of the head as every news bulletin proves his conclusions were spot on.

    On the subject of the Guardian; watching the self appointed liberal intelligentsia get its knickers in a twist over the current boycott by LP activists is comedy gold on a par with Monty Python simply because the boycott itself is playing catch up with the reality that most people with an operational brain cell have been increasingly voting with their feet for a considerable period of time. As I often observe on Twitter, the Guardian cannot even be compared favourably with rags like the Mail because at least you know the Mail does what it says on the tin.

    • Excellent as ever Dave. I particularly enjoyed “the mardy arsing of the so called ‘liberal left’ getting into bed with the deep state because the sainted but criminal HC lost to the biggest numpty on the planet …”

  2. Dave, his name is Tony Farrell and I had the pleasure of meeting him around 2012. A very intelligent, articulate and plausible character. He had been Principal Analyst at South Yorks Police for 15 years before he was sacked for refusing to change his opinion (and resulting report) that people’s lack of faith in the establishment posed more of a threat to social cohesion than Islamic extremism and local jihadis. He was first ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and subsequently fired resulting in him losing his pension and any prospect of getting another job.

    Book ordered Phil, thanks for the recommendation, looking forward to reading it.

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