by Martin Jay, Strategic Culture:
It’s time for Assange’s team to play the same dirty game which they have fallen victim to and forget about the foibles of journalists and the media.
Assange will battle on now with an appeal against the UK decision to extradite him to the U.S. It’s time now for his own team to play the same dirty game which they have fallen victim to and forget about the foibles of journalists and the media
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Is Julian Assange a journalist or a publisher? It’s a divisive question which usually draws the wrath of an entire legion of on-line haters, mainly in Australia, who assume the author is attacking the founder of Wikileaks and so rationale is lost to nationalistic vitriol and score settling. The so-called supporters usually fail to see how if that energy was put into campaigning rather than just letting off steam on Twitter against total strangers, then Assange might have a chance of attaining something akin to justice.
A gripping interview recently between George Galloway and the former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who I seem to recall on Twitter once used to call himself a journalist based simply on writing blog posts, is worth a watch. Murray points out like an erudite hack he yearns to be, a number of pertinent issues which might have escaped the attention of media who are apparently incapable in the UK of reporting on the Assange affair diligently – namely that the U.S. spied on Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy and then, amazingly, stole all of his evidence which he was keeping with him, the moment the UK police went in and arrested him. This alone he argues, would be enough for any court in the free world to throw the case out. He also argues that in the past decade or so the relationship between the British press and the establishment – read intelligence community – has never been so partisan which is another reason why Assange’s case is not being treated correctly. Yet Murray refers to Assange as a “publisher and a journalist” which is interesting as the case against Assange, if he is to be deemed a journalist, will have wide ranging implications to regular journalists if won by the U.S. – i. e that the Americans win their legal battle in the UK to extradite him on what they believe are essentially spying charges. If Assange is to be called a journalist by his supporters, then does it follow that the legal basis against him will be one of a journalist who has brought the profession into disrepute? Shouldn’t the journalists on the Guardian who published the polemic material that Assange and Wikileaks gave them, also be facing U.S. extradition for being partisan to publishing material, which in a third world country, would no doubt be deemed “likely to threaten the stability of the state”.
But the U.S., although a young country, is not a poor one and we are led to believe a great democracy. The case against Assange, no matter how vile it is, we should not forget is about his role in obtaining and disseminating state secrets. Journalists will no doubt follow the case with eagerness as many will wonder if they will face the same treatment if they handle a document which is protected by the UK’s official secrets act, which is why so many are part of the hue and cry about it being a dark day for journalism. They will reflect on how they will be arrested and extradited if they handle such ‘documents’ even if they are British subjects living in the UK.
Yet the case against Assange is surely about more than merely publishing the incendiary cables which exposed America’s dirty wars but in the role that he played in assisting Chelsea Manning in obtaining them. It is also about point scoring with Russia as the U.S. believes that Assange also leaked the Clinton emails, which played a decisive role in Trump winning the U.S. presidential race in 2016 against the odious former First Lady and Secretary of State.
The problem that Assange – or his supporters have – with the ‘journalist’ argument which points out the harm the case will do towards the fourth estate is flawed twofold. Firstly, the fear has already been installed by the UK and U.S. governments towards journalists who handle contentious documents which reveal state secrets about conflict, for example. And secondly, the respect and reverence that people placed on the profession of journalism is so little that it is hardly surprising the shameful role that the UK press has played recently in failing to rally behind Assange.
Assange’s people almost put the final boot in, when it comes to destroying the credibility of the press by calling him a journalist (out of respect) when even his own wife calls him a publisher. The distinct ubiquitous lack of respect towards bona fide journalists and their work, which is more often than not tedious, repetitive and pretty mundane, perhaps is linked to a more modern idea that anyone with a laptop who writes a blog can call themselves a journalist – and underlines the lack of credibility that media has in general, which we can see when its workers come under fire.
Of course the arrest of Assange in the first place is wrong on so many levels. As one of his many journalism awards he won by media institutions points out though he is not a journalist but more an enfant terrible of the media bubble who delivers the explosive brown envelope with the grainy photographed photocopies of documents which can easily bring down a government or even the neo-liberal new world order. It is more about the thief who breaks into the house and cracks the safe, rather than the actual items he has taken, in the U.S. mindset.