Julian Assange and Wikileaks did more for public interest journalism with one leak than the mainstream media has done in its entire career.
As a journalist, the data guru told western audiences about crimes committed by their governments, doing a tremendous service to transparency advocacy. There is no moral distinction between Wikileaks’ exposure of US war crimes and standard journalistic activity ostensibly protected by the constitution.
Media policy in the West is increasingly infiltrated by the shadowy agendas of intelligence bureaucracies and the US judges media by its utility to empire’s geopolitical interests rather than its adherence to the first amendment. Julian Assange’s descriptions of news as a corrupt cartel by which psyops is enforced on the public, and his analysis of the interdependence of democracy and free journalism echoes Noam Chomsky’s analysis of the indentured servitude of media in Manufacturing Consent. His prescriptions for strong citizen journalism reflect his idealistic hopes for collective public enlightenment in an age of censorship. He sees US invasions in the middle east as a criminal tragedy, in which corporate profits are valued more than journalist’s lives.
In his calls to hold war ideologues to account, Assange has high moral standards. In other words, Wikileaks can be read as an object lesson in the value of ethics and philosophy in media. Assange’s rejection of the whole vacuous neoliberal media schtick has made him an enemy of the media-politico complex, which would rather report about his personal hygiene than talk about civilian casualties in Iraq. It’s understandable, then, that liberal pundits are content to bury the story of his extradition show trial whilst they revive McCarthyism in their disproportionate reporting of fake scare stories about Russia.
Such practitioners of stenography are fatally flawed triumphalists who conform to Washington narratives about American global leadership. They bury responsibilities to think critically about what the fourth estate ideal requires of them in a new age of authoritarianism. Critics like Assange insist that their collusion with the empire isn’t a conspiracy fiction, but an actual fact. It is unfortunate that the US has been able to realise its repressive geopolitical vision of full spectrum dominance through the complicity of journalists.
Against the CIA’s arrogant, illegitimate domination of American life – and the NSA’s disavowal of the constitution- Assange calls for restoring the US to its former Republican glory, when citizen journalists like Tom Paine played a revolutionary role in holding power to account. Assange realizes that this restoration depends on deep seated democratic reform. In recent decades US foreign policy has cheapened its commitment to democracy whilst violating the material interests of citizens. Policymakers have sanctioned vast investment in the military-industrial complex, whilst failing to provide basic health security to their most vulnerable citizens.
To counterbalance the vast errors of the establishment, Assange argues that citizens should be free thinking agents of political and social agitation, as well as finding their class interest in the 99%, rather than be brainwashed in to solidarity with the agenda of the 1%. And yet, whilst Occupy’s defiance of the corporate state is broadly consistent with the traditions of the progressive anti authoritarian left, their atomisation and disintegration testified to the totalising power of neoliberalism.
I argue that Assange’s leadership of the peace movement rests on his commitment to use Wikileaks as a tool of global justice, with Wikileaks, a pacifist research institute, being described as a “hostile intelligence agency” in Washington realpolitik. Wikileaks should not be controversial. For anyone who subscribes to journalistic ethics, the idea that the watchmen of the war on terror should involve itself in exposure of war crimes is self evident.
It is possible to contrast Assange’s enlightened, benevolent attitude with the crass stenography of media employees. At some level, most of the world knows that Wikileaks is a valuable public interest organisation. Wikileaks’ campaigning isn’t a deviation from democracy but an expression of it. The disparities between morals and power is as particularly great as during the time of Orwell. In this situation, democracy fails us as the state turns us in to the mere subjects of domination. Our real task in the coming period is to mobilise international public opinion from a position of dissent against the national security state.
The history of scientific journalism in the modern era is consistent with the view of Wikileaks as a renaissance. Assange said in a 2010 interview with The New Yorker, “I want to set up a new standard: ‘scientific journalism.’ If you publish a paper on DNA, you are required, by all the good biological journals, to submit the data that has informed your research—the idea being that people will replicate it, check it, verify it. So this is something that needs to be done for journalism as well. There is an immediate power imbalance, in that readers are unable to verify what they are being told, and that leads to abuse.”
WRITTEN BY MEGAN SHERMAN
Click here for a secure way to sign up, you will be supporting independent news. Click the button below.
Disagree with this article? why not write in and you can have your say? email us