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Busy weekend folks, blogging was low on the list of priorities.  Therefore I steal the Media Lens Email alert and repost it for your viewing pleasure.  It is a meaty one, many links and a nice take down of the corporate media.

MEDIA ALERT: WIKILEAKS – THE SMEAR AND THE DENIAL

 

PART 1 – THE SMEAR

 

 

“Journalists don’t like WikiLeaks”, Hugo Rifkind notes in The Times, but “the people who comment online under articles do… Maybe you’ve noticed, and been wondering why. I certainly have.” (Hugo Rifkind Notebook, ‘Remind me. It’s the red one I mustn’t press, right?,’ The Times, October 26, 2010)

 

Rifkind is right. The internet has revealed a chasm separating the corporate media from readers and viewers. Previously, the divide was hidden by the simple fact that Rifkind’s journalists – described accurately by Peter Wilby as the “unskilled middle class” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/dec/10/comment.pressandpublishing) – monopolised the means of mass communication. Dissent was restricted to a few lonely lines on the letter’s page, if that. Readers were free to vote with their notes and coins, of course. But in reality, when it comes to the mainstream media, the public has always been free to choose any colour it likes, so long as it’s corporate ‘black’. The internet is beginning to offer some brighter colours.

If Rifkind is confused, answers can be found between the lines of his own analysis:

“With WikiLeaks, with the internet at large, power is democratised, but responsibility remains the preserve of professionals.”

This echoes Lord Castlereagh’s insistence that “persons exercising the power of the press” should be “men of some respectability and property”. (Quoted, James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power Without Responsibility – The Press And Broadcasting in Britain, Routledge, 1991, p.13)

 

And it is with exactly this version of “responsibility” that non-corporate commentators are utterly fed up. We are, for example, tired of the way even the most courageous individuals challenging even the most appalling crimes of state are smeared as “irresponsible”.

Thus, Rifkind describes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as “a frighteningly amoral figure”. In truth, journalists find Assange a frighteningly +moral+ figure. Someone willing to make an enemy of the world’s leading rogue state in order to expose the truth about the horrors it has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq is frightening to the compromised, semi-autonomous employees of corporate power. Assange’s courage is the antidote to their poison.

A separate Times editorial comments:

“Nowhere in WikiLeaks’s self-serving self publicity is there a judgment of what the organisation is achieving for the Iraqi nation, and what it hopes to achieve… Its personnel are partisans intervening in the security affairs of Western democracies and their allies, with a culpable heedlessness of human life.” (Leader, ‘Exercise in Sanctimony; The release of military files by WikiLeaks is partisan and irresponsible,’ The Times, October 25, 2010)

Again, the truth is reversed – it is The Times, together with virtually the entire mass media, that is notable for its “heedlessness of human life”, for its endorsement of the West’s perennial policy: attack, bomb, invade, torture, kill based on any crass pretext that can be got past the public. As WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson politely told the WSWS website this week:

“The media is getting much too close to the military industry. They are not following the changing moods of the general public who are increasingly opposed to the wars.” (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/nov2010/wiki-n02.shtml)

In the Daily Mail, Edward Heathcoat-Amory’s article raised the important question:

“Paranoid, anarchic. Is WikiLeaks boss a force for good or chaos?”

After all, “The Wikileaks supremo lives a bizarre peripatetic life, with no house and few belongings…” He also has “disciples” whom “he ruthlessly manipulates”. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1297917/Is-Wikileaks-boss-Julian-Assange-force-good-chaos.html)

As for Assange’s motivation: “His critics says he’s motivated by a desire for personal publicity.”

Like Rifkind, Heathcoat-Amory is appalled by Assange’s lack of “ethical judgments”, his “cult of secrecy, with no accountability to anyone”. Lack of accountability can indeed be a problem. Heathcoat-Amory, it should be mentioned, is of the Heathcoat-Amory Baronetcy, whose humble “family seat” was at Knightshayes Court in Tiverton, Devon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knightshayes_Court

In The Times, passionately pro-Iraq war commentator David Aaronovitch recalls the main theme of his questions to Assange: “from where did WikiLeaks derive its authority and to whom was it accountable”. And from where exactly does The Times derive its authority? To whom is +it+ responsible? Its advertisers? Rupert Murdoch? Aaronovitch continued:

“And this is where something strange happened. Questioners wanted to know from Assange just how he and his team decided which documents to publish, which to redact, which to leave unpublished… Not only would Assange not answer these questions, it was almost as though he regarded them as illegitimate… I could tell that the overwhelming reaction was surprise at Assange’s refusal to engage in any discussion about himself as anything other than an uncaped crusader.” (Aaronovitch, ‘Enigmatic WikiLeaks chief keeps his guard up,’ The Times, October 2, 2010)

Strange indeed, because in fact Assange has addressed these questions numerous times (See here for a recent example: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/10/26/wikileaks_founder_julian_assange_on_iraq). Aaronovitch focused on Assange’s jacket, his shirt, his shoes – “incredibly long and pointy black winkle pickers”. The very fact of the focus suggested something was not quite right. The unsubtle implication: Assange was unsavoury, strange, sinister.

A Daily Mail reporter described Assange as “somewhat bizarre-looking”.

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1323433/Murder-rape-final-proof-Britain-fought-shaming-war.html)

An Independent news report referred to the “sometimes erratic behaviour of Wikileaks’ founder”. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/online/secret-war-at-the-heart-of-wikileaks-2115637.html)

In an interview with ABC News (Australia), the Independent’s Robert Fisk derided Assange as “some strange code-breaker from Australia”. (http://is.gd/gzdKc)

Dan Jones wrote in the Evening Standard: “Assange is slippery. He is a master of the moral non sequitur… Do we really want the definition of what constitutes the public interest resting in the hands of a highly politicised neo-anarchist like Assange?” (Jones, ’There are limits to the freedom of the internet,’ Evening Standard, August 2, 2010)

Again, the level of self-awareness hovered around zero.

The Daily Telegraph observed: “the publication of classified documents risks endangering the lives of both soldiers and those who collaborate with them.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/8084891/Wikileaks-A-very-leaky-argument.html)

+Failure+ to publish the documents risks the lives of the inevitable next target of the US-UK killing machine in Iran, or Yemen, or Syria, or Venezuela. At this point, the only people capable of stopping the “coalition” is the public they are supposed to represent.

The New York Times’ Hit Piece Read the rest of this entry »

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