Where would we be today without the relentless campaign against Julian Assange by mainstream media and unscrupulous journalists?
The public broadly support Assange, but much of this support is timid, passive and unlikely to strike fear in authorities or deter them from committing further violence against him.
This is no accident. While typical reportage on Assange in Australia is likely to include brief remarks about the good his work has done, it is regularly overshadowed by personal attacks, debunked allegations, salaciousness, innuendo, outright smears and security-establishment talking points.
The campaign against Assange has been relentless and from all sides. In the United States and Britain it has been particularly vicious over the past year:
“Julian Assange is not a free press hero. And he is long overdue for personal accountability.” — The Washington Post.
“Julian Assange got what he deserved.” — The Atlantic.
“Julian Assange: Campaigner or attention seeker?” — the BBC.
And these are no Murdoch media outlets.
In Australia, some of the biggest names in fake news and establishment punditry camouflage their smear behind a facade of disinterested academic professionalism.
For example, the euphemistically-styled Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom published a piece by Peter Greste, where he wrote: “To be clear, Julian Assange is not a journalist, and WikiLeaks is not a news organisation… Don’t confuse his arrest with press freedom.”
In other words, Assange should not be afforded a journalists’ protection and, presumably, subjecting him to the justice of a kangaroo court is acceptable.
This same organisation is also silent on the dozens of trumped-up cases facing whistleblowers and journalists in the West, who have compromised Western authorities, including Chelsea Manning and, more recently, Glenn Greenwald.
Whatever this questionable organisation does, advocating for journalists’ freedom is not one of them — unless you’re from Myanmar or North Korea. (That is some bold advocacy.)
Similarly, The Conversation features a piece by Kathy Kiely and Laurel Leff, which argues Assange is not a journalist and therefore not entitled to the protections afforded to journalists: “He [Assange] followed no journalistic practices or journalism ethics in subsequent data dumps.”
Presumably, this was unlike the establishment media that applied such “practices and ethics” in their coverage of Australia's participation in Iraq 2.0, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives?
These people have the gall to pretend they care about human welfare and loss of life in their criticisms of Assange’s methods.
Or this recent piece by Tony Walker, published on the ABC and The Conversation, where he opens with: “Julian Assange may be an odious character in the eyes of some. He may not be a journalist in the estimation of others. He may be regarded as a serial pest by his detractors, but his case in the British courts has become a cause celebre for free speech and civil liberties advocates.”
ABC’s Sarah Ferguson also offers examples of reality-denying journalism, where Russian bots got Donald Trump elected and not the wave of popular disaffection at a corrupt system that he exploited, and the allegation that Assange is a Russian agent is practically taken for granted.
Ferguson even thought it was appropriate to pose the question on Twitter: “Is @JulianAssange a tool of Russian intelligence?”
In all this smear and fake news the undeniable and principal facts take a back seat: Assange exposed real crimes committed by our own ruling class, and now the courts are brazenly subjecting him to the sort of “justice” we find in parts of the world where the law is the bludgeon of the powerful — to aid and protect their friends and punish their enemies.
Reportage like this has eroded public trust in the media, allowed corruption in democracies to thrive and fired up new incarnations of the intolerant right. These “journalists” compromise the integrity of their profession and the soundness of our democracy, to advocate on behalf of the powers-that-be, because this is the easy way to do journalism.
The aim of all this ultimately is to subject Assange to a kangaroo court in Britain and dispose of him in whatever way the authorities see fit under the circumstances, with minimal backlash. As things stand, they have mostly succeeded.
Calling out and shaming these government and military spokespeople masquerading as journalists and academics is a key first step in reclaiming the fourth estate for the people.