Saturday, 18 December 2010
Yet even some of the more moderate voices in the media seem to be swayed by Assange, and are not treating him for what he is - a cyberterrorist - but instead as a legitimate contributor to American political discourse. We have seen this not only in the decisions by newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times to publish the leaked files released by Wikileaks, but also in the attitude that many journalists have shown towards Wikileaks and its founder. Take a look at the video of this interview between Assange and ABC news reporter Jim Sciutto.
Sciutto begins to probe Assange about the rape allegations that he is facing, and that are making the international news. Sciutto does not imply anything, but simply asks Assange to clarify what he meant when he described the rape accusations he is facing as little more than a hit job. It seems like a pretty obvious question, and is actually a pretty easy one in comparison to some of the questions many of us would like to ask Mr Assange. Yet Assange walks out on Sciutto. Again, this is no surprise, we are used to Assange walking out of interviews when he doesn't like a question - he has done it many times before, most notably to a CNN reporter a few months ago. The standards of "honesty" and "transparency" that he sets up for the US government apparently do not apply to him.
Yet what is interesting is Sciutto's response. As Assange is taking his microphone off, Sciutto scuttles up to him and then proceeds to grovel to the leader of the group that has put thousands of American lives at risk time and time again, and stutters, "I...I...I meant no insult by it...."
Two thoughts immediately occurred to me. The first was that Julian Assange was being treated like he was the President or a foreign dignitary, and not the head of an international anarcho-terrorist group. The second thought was more of a question - would Sciutto would have run after Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh, or any Republican figure like that if they had walked off his show? Probably not. He would have probably been lauded by his colleagues for "asking the tough questions" and then given some journalistic prize for "services to democracy and accountability" or some other such nonsense. Instead, because it is Assange, who seems to command this weird sort of respect from even the moderate of left-wing news media, Sciutto panics and feels compelled to apologize for making one of the major security risks to the Western world feel slightly uncomfortable in an interview.
Such an incident didn't anger me, instead I found it interesting. For there is certainly a complex relationship between Assange and the left-wing media. I don't believe that the media genuinely like what Wikileaks is doing, but there does seem to be a sense in which they identify him as "one of ours" and consequently they are uncertain as to whether or not they should condemn him, as if doing so would somehow harm their own rights as journalists.
This does cause significant problems. We need to be able to define clearly who the good guys and the bad guys are here. There is nothing heroic, or liberty loving to do with Wikileaks, nor does it have anything to do with "journalistic integrity." If we have a mainstream media that can't fully understand that, and treats Wikileaks' founder like he is some sort of major celebrity or politician, then there is a real problem, and it is going to make bringing cyberterrorists like Assange to justice very difficult if our media can't quite work out if they have done anything wrong!