Is Julian Assange a wicked computer-hacking Russian conspirator who worked to put Trump into power?
If you are watching the American press or listening to most establishment politicians, you’d likely believe so.
Chris Matthews on his MSNBC show Hardball, for example, takes great pains to cover the details of collusion here, while the Democratic congressman Rohit Khanna can’t help but repeatedly smile.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin perhaps best summarized the sentiment held by the establishment on Thursday proclaiming, “We’re going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.” The establishment is foaming at the mouth to interrogate Assange.
The Federalist’s Ben Domenech tweeted a compelling counterpoint to the establishment’s sentiment:
The arrest of Assange last week was predicated on technical evidence gathered in 2010 surrounding his work with Chelsea Manning to reveal truths about the American military. As James Blake puts in in The Atlantic, “By filing computer-misuse charges rather than relying on the Espionage Act, prosecutors are apparently trying to hive off free-speech and free-media concerns.”
Meanwhile, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, a man who lied to congress multiple times regarding the mass surveillance of Americans, and leaked information to CNN about the now infamous Steele dossier, is still hailed as a principled national security expert, appearing on CNN and MSNBC almost nightly.
Let’s be real: what Wikileaks revealed to the world up until the 2016 American election cycle were truths that the highest levels of journalism deemed to be in the public interest. If you’re a journalist and the arrest of Julian Assange doesn’t concern you, that’s fine. You don’t have to be concerned. But just remember: you’re next.
Yet many journalists like the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb smugly declare that Assange is no journalist.
This has a special significance.
When journalists proclaim that “Julian Assange is not a journalist,” what are they really saying, and what are the consequences?
Like many others in the establishment press, they make such a statement while ignoring the actual precedent it sets. Specifically, that individuals worldwide who publish the secret information of governments could be persecuted (unless they fit the organizational background put forward by the establishment media).
Now, this kind of response has obviously not come from just the establishment liberals. Some in conservative circles have taken a hardline stance on information leaking.
But it is the positioning of mainstream liberals here that truly baffles us.
If you think back just a few years, liberals loved whistleblowers and had a deep mistrust of the security apparatus of the state. Asking them to trust the intelligence community would instantly be met with responses of Iraq and WMDs. Liberals used the inconvenient truths WikiLeaks revealed as compelling evidence to not trust the intelligence agencies. Now these same people swoon over James Clapper.
The left loved Assange when he was merely putting American soldiers’ lives in danger. But when he thwarted Hillary Clinton’s political fortunes, that was going too far.
It seems we are meant to believe that WikiLeaks is not a publisher and Assange is not a journalist because he released information at an inopportune time in an election cycle as if that claim shouldn’t be outright laughable to any journalist.
There is a reason that “the October surprise” exists. It’s because the media, in collusion with political powers, coordinate the most damaging time to release a major story. We may pretend we act otherwise, but we all function much the same in the grand scheme of things.
The fact that Assange released the DNC hacks at a damaging time for the Clinton campaign is probably the most mainstream journalistic thing he has ever done!
Yet we suspect the media’s specific hate towards him comes for a far deeper place than just his publication of DNC documents or the use of information which put lives at risk. It may be because in him they catch a glimpse of themselves at their most craven.
We’re not suggesting that Assange shouldn’t be punished at all, but we are suggesting that the journalists and traditional liberals who are salivating at the thought of Assange paying a heavy price might want to think about the kind of precedent a severe punishment would set for other aspiring truth tellers in extremely sensitive work zones.
Assange showed America and even Canada the truth about itself and its political institutions. Sometimes the truth hurts.
So is he a supervillain or a journalist? Is he a troll or a truth teller?
To both questions, the answer is yes.