John Pilger: Global Support for WikiLeaks is "Rebellion" Against U.S. Militarism, Secrecy
The award-winning investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger is one of many high-profile public supporters of Julian Assange and his organization WikiLeaks. Pilger has attended Assange’s court proceedings in London and has offered to contribute funds for his more than $300,000 bail. Pilger’s latest film, The War You Don’t See, includes interviews with Assange. Pilger says that WikiLeaks is revolutionizing journalism and galvanizing public opinion to stand up to global elites.
The war on WikiLeaks: A John Pilger investigation and interview with Julian Assange
The attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are a response to an information revolution that threatens old power orders, in politics and journalism. The incitement to murder trumpeted by public figures in the United States, together with attempts by the Obama administration to corrupt the law and send Assange to a hell hole prison for the rest of his life, are the reactions of a rapacious system exposed as never before.
In recent weeks, the US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Julian Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the first world war, or one of the “war on terror” conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a “deliberate set up”, pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and other pillars of American power.
“This is not good news,” Assange told me when we spoke this past week, his voice dark and concerned. He says he can have “bad days – but I recover”. When we met in London last year, I said, “You are making some very serious enemies, not least of all the most powerful government engaged in two wars. How do you deal with that sense of danger?” His reply was characteristically analytical. “It’s not that fear is absent. But courage is really the intellectual mastery over fear – by an understanding of what the risks are, and how to navigate a path through them.”
Regardless of the threats to his freedom and safety, he says the US is not WikiLeaks’ main “technological enemy”. “China is the worst offender. China has aggressive, sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China. We’ve been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site.”
It was in this spirit of “getting information through” that WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but with a moral dimension. “The goal is justice,” wrote Assange on the homepage, “the method is transparency.” Contrary to a current media mantra, WikiLeaks material is not “dumped”. Less than one per cent of the 251,000 US embassy cables have been released. As Assange points out, the task of interpreting material and editing that which might harm innocent individuals demands “standards [befitting] higher levels of information and primary sources”. To secretive power, this is journalism at its most dangerous.
On 18 March 2008, a war on WikiLeaks was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch”. US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy the feeling of “trust” which is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. It planned to do this with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising this rare source of independent journalism was the aim, smear the method. Hell hath no fury like imperial mafiosi scorned.
Others, also scorned, have lately played a supporting part, intentionally or not, in the hounding of Assange, some for reasons of petty jealousy. Sordid and shabby describe their behaviour, which serves only to highlight the injustice against a man who has courageously revealed what we have a right to know.
As the US Justice Department, in its hunt for Assange, subpoenas the Twitter and email accounts, banking and credit card records of people around the world – as if we are all subjects of the United States – much of the “free” media on both sides of the Atlantic direct their indignation at the hunted.
“So, Julian, why won’t you go back to Sweden now?” demanded the headline over Catherine Bennett’s Observer column on 19 December, which questioned Assange’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct with two women in Stockholm last August. “To keep delaying the moment of truth, for this champion of fearless disclosure and total openness,” wrote Bennett, “could soon begin to look pretty dishonest, as well as inconsistent.” Not a word in Bennett’s vitriol considered the looming threats to Assange’s basic human rights and his physical safety, as described by Geoffrey Robertson QC, in the extradition hearing in London on 11 January.
In response to Bennett, the editor of the online Nordic News Network in Sweden, Al Burke, wrote to the Observer explaining that “plausible answers to Catherine Bennett’s tendentious question” were both critically important and freely available. Assange had remained in Sweden for more than five weeks after the rape allegation was made -- and subsequently dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm – and that repeated attempts by him and his Swedish lawyer to meet a second prosecutor, who re-opened the case following the intervention of a government politician, had failed. And yet, as Burke pointed out, this prosecutor had granted him permission to fly to London where “he also offered to be interviewed – a normal practice in such cases”. So it seems odd, at the very least, that the prosecutor then issued a European Arrest Warrant. The Observer did not publish Burke’s letter.
This record-straightening is crucial because it describes the perfidious behaviour of the Swedish authorities – a bizarre sequence confirmed to me by other journalists in Stockholm and by Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig. Not only that; Burke catalogued the unforeseen danger Assange faces should he be extradited to Sweden. “Documents released by Wikileaks since Assange moved to England,” he wrote, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is ample reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”
These documents have been virtually ignored in Britain. They show that the Swedish political class has moved far from the perceived neutrality of a generation ago and that the country’s military and intelligence apparatus is all but absorbed into Washington’s matrix around NATO. In a 2007 cable, the US embassy in Stockholm lauds the Swedish government dominated by the conservative Moderate Party of prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as coming “from a new political generation and not bound by [anti-US] traditions [and] in practice a pragmatic and strong partner with NATO, having troops under NATO command in Kosovo and Afghanistan”.
The cable reveals how foreign policy is largely controlled by Carl Bildt, the current foreign minister, whose career has been based on a loyalty to the United States that goes back to the Vietnam war when he attacked Swedish public television for broadcasting evidence that the US was bombing civilian targets. Bildt played a leading role in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobby group with close ties to the White House of George W. Bush, the CIA and the far right of the Republican Party.
“The significance of all this for the Assange case,” notes Burke in a recent study, “is that it will be Carl Bildt and perhaps other members of the Reinfeldt government who will decide – openly or, more likely, furtively behind a façade of legal formality – on whether or not to approve the anticipated US request for extradition. Everything in their past clearly indicates that such a request will be granted.”
For example, in December 2001, with the “war on terror” under way, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari. They were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and “rendered” to Egypt, where they were tortured. When the Swedish Ombudsman for Justice investigated and found that their human rights had been “seriously violated”, it was too late.
The implications for the Assange case are clear. Both men were removed without due process of law and before their lawyers could file appeals to the European Human Rights Court, and in response to a US threat to impose a trade embargo on Sweden. Last year, Assange applied for residency in Sweden, hoping to base Wikileaks there. It is widely believed that Washington warned Sweden through mutual intelligence contacts of the potential consequences. In December, Prosecutor Marianne Ny, who re-activated the Assange case, discussed the possibility of Assange’s extradition to the US on her website.
Almost six months after the sex allegations were first made public, Julian Assange has been charged with no crime, but his right to a presumption of innocence has been wilfully denied. The unfolding events in Sweden have been farcical, at best. The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, describes the Swedish justice system as “a laughing stock… There is no precedent for it. The Swedes are making it up as they go along”. He says that Assange, apart from noting contradictions in the case, has not publicly criticised the women who made the allegations against him. It was the police who tipped off the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, Expressen, with defamatory material about them, initiating a trial by media across the world.
In Britain, this trial has welcomed yet more eager prosecutors, with the BBC to the fore. There was no presumption of innocence in Kirsty Wark’s Newsnight court in December. “Why don’t you just apologise to the women?” she demanded of Assange, followed by: “Do we have your word of honour that you won’t abscond?” On Radio 4’s Today programme, John Humphrys, the partner of Catherine Bennett, told Assange that he was obliged to go back to Sweden “because the law says you must”. The hectoring Humphrys, however, had more pressing interests. “Are you a sexual predator?” he asked. Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.
“Would even Fox News have descended to that level?” wondered the American historian William Blum. “I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: ‘You mean including your mother?’”
What is most striking about these “interviews” is not so much their arrogance and lack of intellectual and moral humility; it is their indifference to fundamental issues of justice and freedom and their imposition of narrow, prurient terms of reference. Fixing these boundaries allows the interviewer to diminish the journalistic credibility of Assange and WikliLeaks, whose remarkable achievements stand in vivid contrast to their own. It is like watching the old and stale, guardians of the status quo, struggling to prevent the emergence of the new.
In this media trial, there is a tragic dimension, obviously for Assange, but also for the best of mainstream journalism. Having published a slew of professionally brilliant editions with the WikiLeaks disclosures, feted all over the world, the Guardian recovered its establishment propriety on 17 December by turning on its besieged source. A major article by the paper’s senior correspondent Nick Davies claimed that he had been given the “complete” Swedish police file with its “new” and “revealing” salacious morsels.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig says that crucial evidence is missing from the file given to Davies, including “the fact that the women were re-interviewed and given an opportunity to change their stories” and the tweets and SMS messages between them, which are “critical to bringing justice in this case”. Vital exculpatory evidence is also omitted, such as the statement by the original prosecutor, Eva Finne, that “Julian Assange is not suspected of rape”.
Having reviewed the Davies article, Assange’s former barrister James Catlin wrote to me: “The complete absence of due process is the story and Davies ignores it. Why does due process matter? Because the massive powers of two arms of government are being brought to bear against the individual whose liberty and reputation are at stake.” I would add: so is his life.
The Guardian has profited hugely from the Wikileaks disclosures, in many ways. On the other hand, WikiLeaks, which survives on mostly small donations and can no longer receive funds through many banks and credit companies thanks to the bullying of Washington, has received nothing from the paper. In February, Random House will publish a Guardian book that is sure to be a lucrative best-seller, which Amazon is advertising as The End of Secrecy: the Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks. When I asked David Leigh, the Guardian executive in charge of the book, what was meant by “fall”, he replied that Amazon was wrong and that the working title had been The Rise (and Fall?) of WikiLeaks. “Note parenthesis and query,” he wrote, “Not meant for publication anyway.” (The book is now described on the Guardian website as WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy). Still, with all that duly noted, the sense is that “real” journalists are back in the saddle. Too bad about the new boy, who never really belonged.
On 11 January, Assange’s first extradition hearing was held at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, an infamous address because it is here that people were, before the advent of control orders, consigned to Britain’s own Guantanamo, Belmarsh prison. The change from ordinary Westminster magistrates’ court was due to a lack of press facilities, according to the authorities. That they announced this on the day US Vice President Joe Biden declared Assange a “high tech terrorist” was no doubt coincidental, though the message was not.
For his part, Julian Assange is just as worried about what will happen to Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower, being held in horrific conditions which the US National Commission on Prisons calls “tortuous”. At 23, Private Manning is the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg Principle that every soldier has the right to “a moral choice”. His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.
“Government whistleblowers”, said Barack Obama, running for president in 2008, “are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” Obama has since pursued and prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in American history.
“Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step,” Assange told me. “The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States. In fact, I’d never heard his name before it was published in the press. WikiLeaks technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never knew the identities or names of people submitting material. We are as untraceable as we are uncensorable. That’s the only way to assure sources they are protected.”
He adds: “I think what’s emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too. Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment that journalists took for granted. That’s being lost. The release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, with their evidence of the killing of civilians, hasn’t caused this – it’s the exposure and embarrassment of the political class: the truth of what governments say in secret, how they lie in public; how wars are started. They don’t want the public to know these things and scapegoats must be found.”
What about the allusions to the “fall” of Wikileaks? “There is no fall,” he said. “We have never published as much as we are now. WikiLeaks is now mirrored on more than 2,000 websites. I can’t keep track of the of the spin-off sites: those who are doing their own WikiLeaks... If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, ‘insurance’ files will be released. They speak more of the same truth to power, including the media. There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and Newscorp.”
The latest propaganda about the “damage” caused by WikiLeaks is a warning by the US State Department to “hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked diplomatic cables of possible threats to their safety”. This was how the New York Times dutifully relayed it on 8 January, and it is bogus. In a letter to Congress, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates has admitted that no sensitive intelligence sources have been compromised. On 28 November, McClatchy Newspapers reported that “US officials conceded they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.” NATO in Kabul told CNN it could not find a single person who needed protecting.
The great American playwright Arthur Miller wrote: “The thought that the state… is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.” What WikiLeaks has given us is truth, including rare and precious insight into how and why so many innocent people have suffered in reigns of terror disguised as wars, and executed in our name; and how the United States has secretly and wantonly intervened in democratic governments from Latin America to its most loyal ally in Britain.
Javier Moreno, the editor of El Pais, which published the WikiLeaks logs in Spain, wrote, “I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the West have been lying to their citizens.”
Crushing individuals like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning is not difficult for a great power, however craven. The point is, we should not allow it to happen, which means those of us meant to keep the record straight should not collaborate in any way. Transparency and information, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, are the “currency” of democratic freedom. “Every news organisation,” a leading American constitutional lawyer told me, “should recognise that Julian Assange is one of them, and that his prosecution will have a huge and chilling effect on journalism”.
My favourite secret document -- leaked by WikiLeaks, of course – is from the Ministry of Defence in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favour as “subversive” and “threats”. Such a badge of honour.
Australia’s Katrina moment Corruption and the cult of the market have made a natural disaster into an outrage.
When you fly over the earth’s oldest land mass, Australia, the view can be shocking. Scars as long as European countries are the result of erosion. Salt pans shimmer where once native vegetation grew. This is almost impossible to reverse. The first to die are the most vulnerable species. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Australia’s devastation of its natural environment has caused more mammal extinction than in any other country. The iconic koala is used to attract tourists; the Queen and Oprah Winfrey, are photographed cuddling one, unaware that thus unique creature has enriched the state of Queensland for decades with its industrial slaughter and the sale of its skin to Britain and America. Today, the belatedly “protected” koala is not threatened by flood or drought but rapacious land-clearing, of which Queensland is the national champion. Each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the state effectively destroys 100 million birds, mammals and reptiles.
The land is “cleared” by fire or machinery, often with a heavy chain tied between two bulldozers: a technique developed by Queensland’s most notorious land-clearer, the late Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, the conservative state premier for 19 years, whose self-awarded knighthood was given for “services to parliamentary democracy”, such as winning gerry-mandered elections with 20 per cent of the votes. In 1992, a defamation jury found that Bjelke-Petersen had been bribed “on a large scale and on many occasions”. Two of his ministers and his police commissioner were jailed for corruption. Lucrative land became a prize for cronies known as the “white shoe brigade”. Brown envelopes of cash were handed over at a five-star hotel recently lapped by floodwaters in the centre of Brisbane.
Last July, the Queensland Labor government sold swathes of the state’s forests and plantations to Hancock Queensland Plantations, a subsidiary of a US-based timber multinational. Queensland has many low-lying flood plains on which developers have been allowed to make fortunes selling plots. The victims of the great flood have been mostly poor people, including timber workers and their families. Most could not afford insurance or discovered their policy did not include “types of flood”.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, says an ACCC report, deliberately stopped insurance companies from agreeing a common definition of flood so that “insurers will continue to compete vigorously by product differentiation” by using many definitions of “flood” to specify which risks are covered and which are excluded”. The callousness of this imposed confusion is emblematic of how the Australian elite has treated those ruined by an inland ocean the size of Germany and France combined. Flooding also struck in Brazil and Sri Lanka in December, but the disaster in Australia is far more revealing; for Australia is a “first world” country with advanced technology and communications; and yet tens of thousands of people received no emergency warning. Since the 1980s, Australia has become the model of a social democracy where the cult of the “market” has diminished public services and infrastructure budgets and divided by wealth a society that once boasted the most equitable spread of personal income in the world.
Little of this is discussed in a media of which Rupert Murdoch owns 70 per cent of the capital city press. When the leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, dared suggest that the Queensland flood was due in part to “the burning of fossil fuels [causing] the hottest oceans we’ve ever seen off Australia”, he was abused as “insensitive “ and told to apologise to the mining industry. In the decade to 2005, says the Wilderness Society, “the amount of land clearing in Australia was so extensive that the greenhouse gases produced rivaled the amount produced by cars and trucks”.
A feature of the floods has been the PR campaigns of leading right-wing Labor Party politicians, notably prime minister Julia Gillard and Queensland premier Anna Bligh, who have talked up the “Aussie battler” spirit in the face of “Mother Nature’s wrath”. The media’s relentless echo of this evokes Sir Johannes’s description of spinning journalists as “feeding the chooks”. In truth, successive governments have rejected, ignored or suppressed the recommendations of their own experts that, if acted upon, could have saved Brisbane.
In 1999, a report commissioned by Brisbane City Council warned of “significantly higher” flooding than in the last great flood in 1974. When the contents were leaked, an alleged cover-up was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, and nothing happened. “Don’t you worry about that,” Sir Johannes used to say.
Professor Andrew Short, director of the Coastal Studies Unit at Sydney University, compares the Queensland flood with the scandal of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. “This is something we have been waiting for,” he wrote “…. Why were there no levees to protect the low-lying towns? … why are major highways and railways still below flood level?”
Prime Minister Gillard has so far offered crumbs from a treasury in surplus, which subsidises the fossil fuel industry with A$ 9 billion and is currently spending A$1.1 million on Australia’s mercenary “commitment” to American wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Having sent just 13 helicopters to rescue the stranded, Gillard appointed Major-General Mick Slater to head the recovery operation: an admission that the civilian emergency services had been so depleted, they could not cope. Slater ran Australia’s colonial adventure in East Timor. His most interesting statement has been a threat. “There is no reason why we won’t have [success],” he said, “unless … the media start to become divisive within the community and then, if there are areas of failure, I think I could find the reason and track it back to areas of the media.” He was not challenged. The chooks were fed.
The uprising in Egypt is our theatre of the possible. It is what people across the world have struggled for and their thought controllers have feared. Western commentators invariably misuse the words “we” and “us” to speak on behalf of those with power who see the rest of humanity as useful or expendable. The “we” and “us” are universal now. Tunisia came first, but the spectacle always promised to be Egyptian.
As a reporter, I have felt this over the years. In Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square in 1970, the coffin of the great nationalist Gamal Abdul Nasser coffin bobbed on an ocean of people who, under him, had glimpsed freedom. One of them, a teacher, described the disgraced past as “grown men chasing cricket balls for the British at the Cairo Club”. The parable was for all Arabs and much of the world. Three years later, the Egyptian Third Army crossed the Suez Canal and overran Israel’s fortresses in Sinai. Returning from this battlefield to Cairo, I joined a million others in Liberation Square. Their restored respect was like a presence – until the United States rearmed the Israelis and beckoned an Egyptian defeat.
Thereafter, President Anwar Sadat became America’s man through the usual billion-dollar bribery and, for this, he was assassinated in 1980. Under his successor, Hosni Mubarak, dissenters came to Liberation Square at their peril. Enriched by Washington’s bag men, Mubarak latest American-Israeli project is the building of an underground wall behind which the Palestinians of Gaza are to be imprisoned forever.
Today, the problem for the people in Liberation Square lies not in Egypt. On 6 February, the New York Times reported: “The Obama administration formally threw its weight behind a gradual transition in Egypt, backing attempts by the country’s vice president, General Omar Sulieman, to broker a compromise with opposition groups … Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was important to support Mr. Sulieman as he seeks to defuse street protests …”
Having rescued him from would be assassins, Sulieman is, in effect, Mubarak’s bodyguard,. His other distinction, documented in Jane Mayer’s investigative book, The Dark Side, is as supervisor of American “rendition flights” to Egypt where people are tortured on demand of the CIA. He is also, as WikiLeaks reveals, a favourite in Tel Aviv. When President Obama was asked in 2009 if he regarded Mubarak as authoritarian, his swift reply was “no”. He called him a peacemaker, echoing that other great liberal tribune, Tony Blair, to whom Mubarak is “a force for good”.
The grisly Sulieman is now the peacemaker and the force for good, the man of “compromise” who will oversee the “gradual transition” and “defuse the protests”. This attempt to suffocate the Egyptian revolt will call on the fact that a substantial proportion of the population, from businessmen to journalists to petty officials, have provided its apparatus. In one sense, they reflect those in the Western liberal class who backed Obama’s “change you can believe in” and Blair’s equally bogus “political Cinemascope” (Henry Porter in the Guardian, 1995). No matter how different they appear and postulate, both groups are the domesticated backers and beneficiaries of the status quo.
In Britain, the BBC’s Today programme is their voice. Here, serious diversions from the status quo are known as “Lord knows what”. On 28 January the Washington correspondent Paul Adams declared, “The Americans are in a very difficult situation. They do want to see some kind of democratic reform but they are also conscious that they need strong leaders capable of making decisions. They regard President Mubarak as an absolute bulwark, a key strategic ally in the region. Egypt is the country along with Israel on which American Middle East diplomacy absolutely hinges. They don’t want to see anything that smacks of a chaotic handover to frankly Lord knows what.”
Fear of Lord Knows What requires that the historical truth of American and British “diplomacy” as largely responsible for the suffering in the Middle East is suppressed or reversed. Forget the Balfour Declaration that led to the imposition of expansionist Israel. Forget secret Anglo-American sponsorship of Islamic jihadists as a “bulwark” against the democratic control of oil. Forget the overthrow of democracy in Iran and the installation of the tyrant Shah, and the slaughter and destruction in Iraq. Forget the American fighter jets, cluster bombs, white phosphorous and depleted uranium that are performance-tested on children in Gaza. And now, in the cause of preventing “chaos”, forget the denial of almost every basic civil liberty in Omar Sulieman’s contrite “new” regime in Cairo.
The uprising in Egypt has discredited every Western media stereotype about the Arabs. The courage, determination, eloquence and grace of those in Liberation Square contrast with “our” specious fear-mongering with its al-Qaeda and Iran bogeys and iron-clad assumptions, bereft of irony, of the “moral leadership of the West”. It is not surprising that the recent source of truth about the imperial abuse of the Middle East, WikiLeaks, is itself subjected to craven, petty abuse in those self-congratulating newspapers that set the limits of elite liberal debate on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps they are worried. Across the world, public awareness is rising and bypassing them. In Washington and London, the regimes are fragile and barely democratic. Having long burned down societies abroad, they are now doing something similar at home, with lies and without a mandate. To their victims, the resistance in Cairo’s Liberation Square must seem an inspiration. “We won’t stop,” said the young Egyptian woman on TV, “we won’t go home.” Try kettling a million people in the centre of London, bent on civil disobedience, and try imagining it could not happen.
Behind the Arab revolt lurks a word we dare not speak The people of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Libya are rising up not only against their leaders, but also western economic tyranny.
Shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I interviewed Ray McGovern, one of an elite group of CIA officers who prepared the president's daily intelligence brief. McGovern was at the apex of the "national security" monolith that is American power and had retired with presidential plaudits. On the eve of the invasion, he and 45 other former senior officers of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies wrote to President George W Bush that the "drumbeat for war" was based not on intelligence, but lies.
“It was 95 per cent charade," McGovern told me.
“How did they get away with it?"
“The press allowed the crazies to get away with it."
“Who are the crazies?"
“The people running the administration have a set of beliefs a lot like those expressed in Mein Kampf . . . these are the same people who were referred to in the circles in which I moved, at the top, as 'the crazies'."
I said, "Norman Mailer has written that he believes America has entered a pre-fascist state. What's your view of that?"
“Well . . . I hope he's right, because there are others saying we are already in a fascist mode."
On 22 January, McGovern emailed me to express his disgust at the Obama administration's treatment of the alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and its pursuit of Julian Assange. "Way back when George and Tony decided it might be fun to attack Iraq," he wrote, "I said something to the effect that fascism had already begun here. I have to admit I did not think it would get this bad this quickly."
On 15 February, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, gave a speech at George Washington University in which she condemned governments that arrest protesters and crush free expression. She lauded the liberating power of the internet but failed to mention that her government was planning to close down those parts of the internet that encourage dissent and truth-telling. It was a speech of spectacular hypocrisy. McGovern was in the audience. Outraged, he rose from his chair and silently turned his back on Clinton. He was immediately seized by police and a security goon, beaten to the floor, dragged out and thrown into jail, bleeding. He has sent me photographs of his injuries. He is 71. During the assault, which was clearly visible to Clinton, she did not pause in making her remarks.
Fascism is a difficult word, because it comes with an iconography that touches the Nazi nerve and is abused as propaganda against America's official enemies and to promote the west's foreign adventures with a moral vocabulary written in the struggle against Hitler. And yet fascism and imperialism are twins. In the aftermath of the Second World War, those in the imperial states who had made respectable the racial and cultural superiority of "western civilisation" found that Hitler and fascism had claimed the same, employing strikingly similar methods. Thereafter, the very notion of American imperialism was swept from the textbooks and popular culture of an imperial nation forged on the genocidal conquest of its native people. And a war on social justice and democracy became "US foreign policy".
As the Washington historian William Blum has documented, since 1945, the US has destroyed or subverted more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and used mass murderers such as Suharto, Mobutu and Pinochet to dominate by proxy. In the Middle East, America has sustained every dictatorship and pseudo-monarchy. In "Operation Cyclone", the CIA and MI6 secretly fostered and bankrolled Islamic extremism. The object was to smash or deter nationalism and democracy. Most of the victims of this western state terrorism have been Muslims. The people gunned down this past week in Bahrain and Libya - the latter a "priority market" for the UK, according to Britain's official arms "procurers" - join those children blown to bits in Gaza by the latest US F-16 aircraft.
The revolt in the Arab world is against not merely a resident dictator, but a worldwide economic tyranny, designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and the World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries such as Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with 40 per cent of the population earning less than $2 a day. The people's triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.
Enemy with a name
How did such extremism take hold in the liberal west? "It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity and concern for the poor and oppressed," observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago, "[and] to replace these dangerous feelings by self-centred egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that [an order of] inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved. In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is under way to convince people . . . that this not only is what they should feel but that it is what they do feel . . ."
Like the European revolutions of 1848 and the uprising against Stalinism in 1989, the Arab revolt has rejected fear. An insurrection of suppressed ideas, hope and solidarity has begun.
In the US, where 45 per cent of young African Americans have no jobs and the top hedge-fund managers are paid $1bn a year on average, mass protests against cuts in services and jobs have spread to heartland states such as Wisconsin. In Britain, the fastest-growing modern protest movement, UK Uncut, is taking direct action against tax avoiders and rapacious high-street banks. Something has changed that cannot be unchanged. The enemy has a name now.
Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom - John Pilger
'Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom' was a public forum held on 16 March 2011 at the Sydney Town Hall. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney.
How the Murdoch press keeps Australia's dirty secret
The illegal eavesdropping on famous people by the News of the World is said to be Rupert Murdoch’s Watergate. But is it the crime by which Murdoch ought to be known? In his native land, Australia, Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press. Australia is the world’s first murdochracy, in which smear by media is power.
The most enduring and insidious Murdoch campaign has been against the Aboriginal people, who were dispossessed by the arrival of the British in the late 18th century and have never been allowed to recover. “Nigger hunts” continued into the 1960s and beyond. The officially-inspired theft of children from Aboriginal families, justified by the racist theories of the eugenics movement, produced those known as the Stolen Generation and in 1997 was identified as genocide. Today, the first Australians have the shortest life expectancy of any of the world’s 90 indigenous peoples. Australia imprisons Aborigines at five times the rate South Africa during the apartheid years. In the state of Western Australia, the figure is eight times the apartheid rate.
Political power in Australia often rests in the control of resource-rich land. Most of the uranium, iron ore, gold, oil and natural gas is in Western Australia and Northern Territory – on Aboriginal land. Indeed, Aboriginal “progress” is all but defined by the mining industry and its political guardians in both Labor and coalition (conservative) governments. Their faithful, strident voice is the Murdoch press. The exceptional, reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam in the 1970s set up a royal commission that made clear that social justice for Australia’s first people would only be achieved with universal land rights and a share the national wealth with dignity. In 1975, Whitlam was sacked by the governor-general in a “constitutional coup”. The Murdoch press had turned on Whitlam with such venom that rebellious journalists on The Australian burned their newspaper in the street.
In 1984, the Labor Party “solemnly pledged” to finish what Whitlam had begun and legislate Aboriginal land rights. This was opposed by the then Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, a “mate” of Rupert Murdoch. Hawke blamed the public for being “less compassionate”; but a secret 64-page report to the party revealed that most Australians supported land rights. This was leaked to The Australian, whose front page declared, “Few support Aboriginal land rights”, the opposite of the truth, thus feeding an atmosphere of self-fulfilling distrust, “backlash” and rejection of rights that would distinguish Australia from South Africa. In 1988, an editorial in Murdoch’s London tabloid, the Sun, described “the Abos” as “treacherous and brutal”. This was condemned by the UK Press Council as “unacceptably racist”.
The Australian publishes long articles that present Aboriginal people not unsympathetically but as perennial victims of each other, “an entire culture committing suicide”, or as noble primitives requiring firm direction: the eugenicist’s view. It promotes Aboriginal “leaders” who, by blaming their own people for their poverty, tell the white elite what it wants to hear. The writer Michael Brull parodied this: “Oh White man, please save us. Take away our rights because we are so backward.”
This is also the government’s view. In railing against what it called the “black armband view” of Australia’s past, the conservative government of John Howard encouraged and absorbed the views of white supremacists -- that there was no genocide, no Stolen Generation, no racism; indeed, whites are the victims of “liberal racism”. A collection of far-right journalists, minor academics and hangers-on became the antipodean equivalent of David Irving Holocaust deniers. Their platform has been the Murdoch press.
Andrew Bolt, columnist on Murdoch’s Melbourne Herald-Sun tabloid, is currently the defendant in a racial vilification case brought by nine prominent Aborigines, including Larissa Behrendt, a professor of law and indigenous studies in Sydney. Behrendt has been an authoritative and outspoken opponent of Howard’s 2007 “emergency intervention” in the Northern Territory, which the Labor government of Julia Gillard has reinforced. The rationale to “intervene” was that child abuse among Aborigines was in “unthinkable numbers”. This was a fraud. Out of 7,433 Aboriginal children examined by doctors, four possible cases were identified – about the rate of child abuse in white Australia. What this covered was an old-fashioned colonial grab of mineral-rich land in the Northern Territory where Aboriginal land rights were granted in 1976.
The Murdoch press has been the most lurid and vociferous in its promotion of the “intervention”, which a United Nations special rapporteur has condemned for its racial discrimination. Once again, Australian politicians are dispossessing the first inhabitants, demanding leasehold of land in return for health and education rights that whites take for granted and driving them into “economically viable hubs” where they will be effectively detained -- a form of apartheid.
The outrage and despair of most Aboriginal people is not heard. For using her institutional voice and exposing the government’s black supporters, Larissa Behrendt has been subjected to a vicious campaign of innuendo in the Murdoch press, including the implication that she is not a “real” Aborigine. Using the language of its soulmate the London Sun, the Australian derides the “abstract debate” of “land rights, apologies, treaties” as a “moralizing mumbo-jumbo spreading like a virus”. The aim is to silence those who dare tell Australia’s dirty secret.
Joined: 13 Dec 2008 Location: Death Valley, California
Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:52 pm Post subject:
I just found this article on a well known U.S. website.
It seems that John Pilger's newest film has been pulled from being shown at a festival in New mexico - I'll let John's letter to Noam Chomsky speak for itself:
Published on Saturday, June 11, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
'The War You Don't See': A Film You Won't See
An Open Letter to Noam Chomsky and the General Public
by John Pilger
I am writing to you and a number of other friends mostly in the US to alert you to the extraordinary banning of my film on war and media, 'The War You Don't See', and the abrupt cancellation of a major event at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe in which David Barsamian and I were to discuss free speech, US foreign policy and censorship in the media.
Lannan invited me and David over a year ago and welcomed my proposal that they also host the US premiere of 'The War You Don't See', in which US and British broadcasters describe the often hidden part played by the media in the promotion of war, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film has been widely acclaimed in the UK and Australia; the trailer and reviews are on my website www.johnpilger.com
The banning and cancellation, which have shocked David and me, are on the personal orders of Patrick Lannan, whose wealth funds the Lannan Foundation as a liberal center of discussion of politics and the arts. Some of you will have been there and will know the Lannan Foundation as a valuable supporter of liberal causes. Indeed, I was invited in 2002 to present a Lannan award to the broadcaster Amy Goodman.
What is deeply disturbing about the ban is that it happened so suddenly and inexplicably: 48 hours before David Barsamian and I were both due to depart for Santa Fe I received a brief email with a 'sorry for the inconvenience' from a Lannan official who had been telling me just a few days earlier what a 'great honor' it was to have the US premiere of my film at Lannan, with myself in attendance.
I urge you to visit the Lannan website www.lannan.org. Good people like Michael Ratner, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are shown as participants in discussion about freedom of speech. I am there, too, but my name is the only one with a line through it and the word, 'Cancelled'.
Neither David Barsamian nor I have been given a word of explanation. All my messages to Lannan have gone unanswered; my calls calls are not returned; my flights were cancelled summarily. At the urging of the New Mexican newspaper, Patrick Lannan has issued a one-sentence statement offering his regrets to the Lannan-supporting 'community' in Santa Fe. Again, he gives no reason for the ban. I have spoken to the manager of the Santa Fe cinema where 'The War You Don't See' was to be screened. He received a late-night call. Again, no reason for the ban was forthcoming, giving him barely time to cancel advertising in The New Mexican, which was forced to drop a major feature.
There is a compelling symbol of our extraordinary times in all of this. A rich and powerful individual and organization, espousing freedom of speech, has moved ruthlessly and unaccountably to crush it.
Brainwashing the polite and professional way In Britain as in America, the object of training professionals in everything from banking to the media is to produce a class of “managers” who instinctively muffle dissent — even if no one tells them to do so.
One of the most original and provocative books of the past decade is Disciplined Minds by Jeff Schmidt (Rowman & Littlefield). “A critical look at salaried professionals,” says the cover, “and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives.” Its theme is postmodern America but also applies to Britain, where the corporate state has bred a new class of Americanised manager to run the private and public sectors: the banks, the main parties, corporations, important committees, the BBC.
Professionals are said to be meritorious and non-ideological. Yet, in spite of their education, writes Schmidt, they think less independently than non-professionals. They use corporate jargon - “model”, “performance”, “targets”, “strategic oversight”. In Disciplined Minds, Schmidt argues that what makes the modern professional is not technical knowledge but “ideological discipline”. Those in higher education and the media do “political work” but in a way that is not seen as political. Listen to a senior BBC person sincerely describe the nirvana of neutrality to which he or she has risen. “Taking sides” is anathema; and yet the modern professional knows never to challenge the “built-in ideology of the status quo”. What matters is the "right attitude".
A key to training professionals is what Schmidt calls “assignable curiosity”. Children are naturally curious, but along the way to becoming a professional they learn that curiosity is a series of tasks assigned by others. On entering training, students are optimistic and idealistic. On leaving, they are “pressured and troubled” because they realise that “the primary goal for many is getting compensated sufficiently for sidelining their original goals”. I have met many young people, especially budding journalists, who would recognise themselves in this description. For no matter how indirect its effect, the primary influence of professional managers is the extreme political cult of money worship and inequality known as neoliberalism.
The ultimate professional manager is Bob Diamond, the CEO of Barclays Bank in London, who got a £6.5m bonus in March. More than 200 Barclays managers took home £554m in total last year. In January, Diamond told the Commons Treasury select committee that “the time for remorse is over”. He was referring to the £1trn of public money handed unconditionally to corrupted banks by a Labour government whose leader, Gordon Brown, had described such “financiers” as his personal “inspiration”.
This was the final act of corporate coup d’état, now disguised by a specious debate about “cuts” and a “national deficit”. The most humane premises of British life are to be eliminated. The “value” of the cuts is said to be £83bn, almost exactly the amount of tax legally avoided by the banks and corporations. That the British public continues to give the banks an additional annual subsidy of £100bn in free insurance and guarantees - a figure that would fund the entire National Health Service - is suppressed.
So, too, is the absurdity of the very notion of “cuts”. When Britain was officially bankrupt following the Second World War, there was full employment and some of its greatest public institutions, such as the Health Service, were built. Yet “cuts” are managed by those who say they oppose them and manufacture consent for their wider acceptance. This is the role of the Labour Party’s professional managers.
In matters of war and peace, Schmidt’s disciplined minds promote violence, death and mayhem on a scale still unrecognised in Britain. In spite of damning evidence to the Chilcot inquiry by the former intelligence chief Major General Michael Laurie, the “core business” manager, Alastair Campbell, remains at large, as do all the other war managers who toiled with Blair and at the Foreign Office to justify and sell the beckoning bloodbath in Iraq.
The reputable media play a critical often subtle role. Frederick Ogilvie, who succeeded the BBC’s founder, Lord Reith, as director general, wrote that his goal was to turn the BBC into a “fully effective instrument of war”. Ogilvie would have been delighted with his 21st-century managers. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the BBC’s coverage overwhelmingly echoed the government’s mendacious position, as studies by the University of Wales and Media Tenor show.
However, the great Arab uprising cannot be easily managed, or appropriated, with omissions and caveats, as an exchange on the BBC’s Today programme on 16 May made clear. With his celebrated professionalism, honed in corporate speeches, John Humphrys interviewed a Palestinian spokesman, Husam Zomlot, following Israel’s massacre of unarmed demonstrators on the 63rd anniversary of the illegal expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes.
Humphrys: ... it’s not surprising that Israel reacted the way it did, is it?
Zomlot: ... I am very proud and glad [they were] peacefully marching only to... really to draw attention to their 63-year plight.
Humphrys: But they did not march peacefully, that’s my point...
Zomlot: None of them... was armed... [They were] opposed to Israeli tanks and helicopters and F-16s. You cannot even start to compare the violence... This is not a security matter... [the Israelis] always fail to deal with such a purely political, humanitarian, legal matter...
Humphrys: Sorry to interrupt you there but... if I marched into your house waving a club and throwing a stone at you then it would be a security matter, wouldn’t it?
Zomlot: I beg your pardon. According to the United Nations Security Council resolutions, those people are marching to their homes; they have the deeds of their homes; it’s their private property. So let’s set the record right once and for all...
It was a rare moment. Setting the record straight is not a managerial “target”.
Amid the Murdoch scandal, there is the acrid smell of business as usual
In Scoop, Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant satire on the press, there is the moment when Lord Copper, owner of the Daily Beast, meets his new special war correspondent, William Boot, in truth an authority on wild flowers and birdsong. A confused Boot is brought to his lordship’s presence by Mr. Salter, The Beast’s foreign editor.
“Is Mr. Boot all set for his trip?”
“Up to a point, Lord Copper.”
Copper briefed Boot as follows: “A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colourful entry into the capital. That is The Beast policy for the war... We shall expect the first victory about the middle of July.”
Rupert Murdoch is a 21st century Lord Copper. The amusing gentility is missing; the absurdity of his power is the same. The Daily Beast wanted victories; it got them. The Sun wanted dead Argies; Gotcha! Of the bloodbath in Iraq, Murdoch said, “There is going to be collateral damage. And if you really want to be brutal about it, better we get it done now...”. The Times, the Sunday Times, Fox got it done.
Long before it was possible to hack phones, Murdoch was waging a war on journalism, truth, humanity, and succeeded because he knew how to exploit a system that welcomed his rapacious devotion to the “free market”. Murdoch may be more extreme in his methods, but he is no different in kind from many of those now lining up to condemn him who are his beneficiaries, mimics, collaborators, apologists.
As former prime minister Gordon Brown turns on his former master, accusing him of running a “criminal-media nexus”, watch the palpable discomfort in the new, cosy parliamentary-media consensus. “We must not be backward-looking,” said one Labour MP. Those parliamentarians caught last year with both hands in the Westminster till, who did nothing to stop the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and stood and cheered the war criminal responsible, are now “united” behind the “calm” figure of opposition leader Ed Miliband. There is an acrid smell of business as usual.
Certainly, there is no “revolution”, as reported in the Guardian, which compared the “fall” of Murdoch with that of the tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1989. The overexcitement is understandable; Nick Davies’ scoop is a great one. The truth is, Britain’s system of elite monopoly control of the media rests not on Murdoch’s News International alone, but on the Mail and the Guardian and the BBC, perhaps the most influential of all. All share a corporate monoculture that sets the agenda of the “news”, defines acceptable politics as maintaining the fiction of distinctive parties, normalises unpopular wars and guards the limits of “free speech”. This will only be strengthened by the allusion that a “bad apple” has been “rooted out”.
When the Financial Times complained last September that the BSkyB takeover would give Murdoch a media dominance in Britain, the media commentator, Roy Greenslade, came to his rescue. “Surely,” he wrote, “Britain’s leading business newspaper should be applauding an entrepreneur who has achieved so much from uncompromising beginnings?”. Murdoch’s political control was a myth spread by “naïve commentators”. Noting his own “idealism” about journalism, he made no mention of his history on the Sun and later as Robert Maxwell’s Daily Mirror editor responsible for the shameful smear that the miners’ leader Arthur Scargill was corrupt. (To his credit, he apologised in 2002). Greenslade is now a professor of journalism at City University, London. In his Guardian blog of 17 July, he caught the breeze and proposed that Murdoch explain “the climate you created”.
How many of the political and media chorus now calling for Murdoch’s head remained silent over the years as his papers repeatedly attacked the most vulnerable in society? Impoverished single mothers have been a favourite target of tax-avoiding News International. Who in the so-called media village demanded the sacking of Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie following his attacks on the dead and dying of the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy? This was an episode as debased as the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, yet MacKenzie has been frequently feted on the BBC and in the liberal press as the “witty” tabloid genius who “understands the ordinary punter”. Such vicarious middle-class flirtation with Wapping-life is matched by admiration for the successful Murdoch “marketing model”.
In Andrew Neil’s 470-page book, Full Disclosure, the former editor of Murdoch’s Sunday Times devotes fewer than 30 words to the scurrilous and destructive smear campaign he and his Wapping colleagues waged against the broadcasters who made the 1988 Thames television current affairs programme, Death on the Rock. This landmark, fully vindicated investigation lifted a veil on the British secret state and revealed its ruthlessness under Margaret Thatcher, a Murdoch confidante. Thereafter, Thames Television was doomed. Yet, Andrew Neil has his own BBC programme and his views are sought after across the liberal media.
On 13 July, the Guardian editorialised about “the kowtowing of the political class to the Murdochs”. This is all too true. Kowtowing is an ancient ritual, often performed by those whose pacts with power are not immediately obvious but no less sulphuric. Tony Blair, soaked in the blood of an entire human society, was once regarded almost mystically at the liberal Guardian and Observer as the prime minister who, wrote Hugo Young, “wants to create a world none of us have known [where] the mind might range in search of a better Britain...”. He was in perfect harmony with the chorus over at Murdoch’s Wapping. “Mr. Blair,” said the Sun, “has vision, he has purpose and he speaks our language on morality and family life.” Plus ce change.
The ‘getting’ of Assange and the smearing of a revolution
The High Court in London will soon to decide whether Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct. At the appeal hearing in July, Ben Emmerson QC, counsel for the defence, described the whole saga as "crazy". Sweden's chief prosecutor had dismissed the original arrest warrant, saying there was no case for Assange to answer. Both the women involved said they had consented to have sex. On the facts alleged, no crime would have been committed in Britain.
However, it is not the Swedish judicial system that presents a "grave danger" to Assange, say his lawyers, but a legal device known as a Temporary Surrender, under which he can be sent on from Sweden to the United States secretly and quickly. The founder and editor of WikiLeaks, who published the greatest leak of official documents in history, providing a unique insight into rapacious wars and the lies told by governments, is likely to find himself in a hell hole not dissimilar to the "torturous" dungeon that held Private Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower. Manning has not been tried, let alone convicted, yet on 21 April, President Barack Obama declared him guilty with a dismissive "He broke the law".
This Kafka-style justice awaits Assange whether or not Sweden decides to prosecute him. Last December, the Independent disclosed that the US and Sweden had already started talks on Assange's extradition. At the same time, a secret grand jury - a relic of the 18th century long abandoned in this country - has convened just across the river from Washington, in a corner of Virginia that is home to the CIA and most of America's national security establishment. The grand jury is a "fix", a leading legal expert told me: reminiscent of the all-white juries in the South that convicted blacks by rote. A sealed indictment is believed to exist.
Under the US Constitution, which guarantees free speech, Assange should be protected, in theory. When he was running for president, Obama, himself a constitutional lawyer, said, "Whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal". His embrace of George W. Bush's "war on terror" has changed all that. Obama has pursued more whistleblowers than any US president. The problem for his administration in "getting" Assange and crushing WikiLeaks is that military investigators have found no collusion or contact between him and Manning, reports NBC. There is no crime, so one has to be concocted, probably in line with Vice President Joe Biden's absurd description of Assange as a "hi-tech terrorist".
Should Assange win his High Court appeal in London, he could face extradition direct to the United States. In the past, US officials have synchronised extradition warrants with the conclusion of a pending case. Like its predatory military, American jurisdiction recognises few boundaries. As the suffering of Bradley Manning demonstrates, together with the recently executed Troy Davis and the forgotten inmates of Guantanamo, much of the US criminal justice system is corrupt if not lawless.
In a letter addressed to the Australian government, Britain's most distinguished human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, who now acts for Assange, wrote, "Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions... it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged."
These facts, and the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice, have been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Deeply personal, petty, perfidious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet held isolated, tagged and under house arrest - conditions not even meted out to a defendant presently facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife.
Books have been published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the assumption that he is fair game and too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive. On 16 June, the publisher of Canongate Books, Jamie Byng, when asked by Assange for an assurance that the rumoured unauthorised publication of his autobiography was not true, said, "No, absolutely not. That is not the position ... Julian, do not worry. My absolute number one desire is to publish a great book which you are happy with." On 22 September, Canongate released what it called Assange's "unauthorised autobiography" without the author's permission or knowledge. It was a first draft of an incomplete, uncorrected manuscript. "They thought I was going to prison and that would have inconvenienced them," he told me. "It's as if I am now a commodity that presents an incentive to any opportunist."
The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has called the WikiLeaks disclosures "one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years". Indeed, this is part of his current marketing promotion to justify raising the Guardian's cover price. But the scoop belongs to Assange not the Guardian. Compare the paper's attitude towards Assange with its bold support for the reporter threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for revealing the iniquities of Hackgate. Editorials and front pages have carried stirring messages of solidarity from even Murdoch's Sunday Times. On 29 September, Carl Bernstein was flown to London to compare all this with his Watergate triumph. Alas, the iconic fellow was not entirely on message. "It's important not to be unfair to Murdoch," he said, because "he's the most far seeing media entrepreneur of our time" who "put The Simpsons on air" and thereby "showed he could understand the information consumer".
The contrast with the treatment of a genuine pioneer of a revolution in journalism, who dared take on rampant America, providing truth about how great power works, is telling. A drip-feed of hostility runs through the Guardian, making it difficult for readers to interpret the WikiLeaks phenomenon and to assume other than the worst about its founder. David Leigh, the Guardian's "investigations editor", told journalism students at City University that Assange was a "Frankenstein monster" who "didn't use to wash very often" and was "quite deranged". When a puzzled student asked why he said that, Leigh replied, "Because he doesn't understand the parameters of conventional journalism. He and his circle have a profound contempt for what they call the mainstream media". According to Leigh, these "parameters" were exemplified by Bill Keller when, as editor of the New York Times, he co-published the WikiLeaks disclosures with the Guardian. Keller, said Leigh, was "a seriously thoughtful person in journalism" who had to deal with "some sort of dirty, flaky hacker from Melbourne".
Last November, the "seriously thoughtful" Keller boasted to the BBC that he had taken all WikiLeaks' war logs to the White House so the government could approve and edit them. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the New York Times published a series of now notorious CIA-inspired claims claiming weapons of mass destruction existed. Such are the "parameters" that have made so many people cynical about the so-called mainstream media.
Leigh went as far as to mock the danger that, once extradited to America, Assange would end up wearing "an orange jump suit". These were things "he and his lawyer are saying in order to feed his paranoia". The "paranoia" is shared by the European Court of Human Rights which has frozen "national security" extraditions from the UK to the US because the extreme isolation and long sentences defendants can expect amounts to torture and inhuman treatment.
I asked Leigh why he and the Guardian had adopted a consistently hostile towards Assange since they had parted company. He replied, "Where you, tendentiously, claim to detect a 'hostile toe', others might merely see well-informed objectivity."
It is difficult to find well-informed objectivity in the Guardian's book on Assange, sold lucratively to Hollywood, in which Assange is described gratuitously as a "damaged personality" and "callous". In the book, Leigh revealed the secret password Assange had given the paper. Designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables, its disclosure set off a chain of events that led to the release of all the files. The Guardian denies "utterly" it was responsible for the release. What, then, was the point of publishing the password?
The Guardian's Hackgate exposures were a journalistic tour de force; the Murdoch empire may disintegrate as a result. But, with or without Murdoch, a media consensus that echoes, from the BBC to the Sun, a corrupt political, war-mongering establishment. Assange's crime has been to threaten this consensus: those who fix the "parameters" of news and political ideas and whose authority as media commissars is challenged by the revolution of the internet.
The prize-winning former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook has experience in both worlds."The media, at least the supposedly left-wing component of it," he writes, "should be cheering on this revolution... And yet, mostly they are trying to co-opt, tame or subvert it [even] to discredit and ridicule the harbingers of the new age... Some of [campaign against Assange] clearly reflects a clash of personalities and egos, but it also looks suspiciously like the feud derives from a more profound ideological struggle [about] how information should be controlled a generation hence [and] the gatekeepers maintaining their control."
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