Wikileaks Meets Guantanamo

wikileaksPublic outcry about the ongoing Wikileaks and the charges against Julian Assange, paint an interesting picture of philosophical inconsistencies on both the left and the right.  The cloud of strident invective might keep many people from seeing real substance as the reaction to Wikileaks shows us that we are entering a new era of journalism.

Consider who doesn’t like the Wikileaks revelations:  Tea Bag Republicans who have been wailing about secret documents concealing the real citizenship of the hated black President.  The Faux News pundits accusing Obama of being a secret servant of the Moslems who want to force Sharia Law on us.  The radio blowhards proclaiming that our Islamo-fascist President is actually doing the bidding of Jewish bankers.

For the first two years of the Obama administration, the Republicans have been in lockstep demanding more transparency from the White House and promising investigations, as soon as they took over Congress.  San Diego Tea Bag nutball and billionaire military contractor, Darrell Issa has promised that he will use his new chairmanship of the Committee on Oversight and Reform to hold hearings intended to examine every detail of operations in the Obama administration.

But now Wikileaks is revealing things about the Bush administration.  How Dubya and his team of tough warriors backed down from Russia, caved in to demands from Saudi oil princes, and handed shopping bags full of cash to corrupt poppy growers in Afghanistan.

So the Tea Bag Republicans have pivoted.  No longer are they demanding transparency and openness.  No longer do they want people to know what government is doing with their resources.  Darrell Issa’s ‘oversight’ hearings may well focus on how it was that the Obama administration permitted such disclosures, whose truth and exposure of past lies, greed and corruption is such an affront to national treasures like the Blackwater mercenary army.

For those who may have forgotten, some Blackwater mercenaries got themselves killed in Fallujah, Iraq, while trying to slaughter civilians.  Their wives and girlfriends then testified to Congress about misconduct by the mercenary company.  Issa was outraged that any military contractor should ever be criticized.  He launched an attack on the women, denigrating their losses and accusing them of fronting for peaceniks and other haters of war profits.

But are Issa and his Republican compatriots any worse than the ‘progressive lefties’ who claim that Wikileaks is so important that its founder should be above even an accusation of crime?

Julian Assange has been accused of sexual misconduct by or with two women in Sweden.  The charges were made before the recent wave of Wikileaks disclosures.  Assange’s legal team has acknowledged the sexual encounters, but claim that they have been mischaracterized.  Around the world, Wikileaks supporters have risen up and demanded that Assange be set free, allowed to escape the legal processes for which many of these same activists have been campaigning for decades.

Why?  What makes Assange immune from legal process?  Is the left so sure that Assange will be convicted in Sweden?  Sweden has some pretty strong laws favoring women’s rights, despite the drama of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo stories.  But should we jump to the conclusion that those laws will be ignored or misused to persecute Assange for his journalism?  Is progressive commitment to justice for women so tentative that it will fold up as soon as a progressive hero stands accused?

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-San Diego)

Why are people who have campaigned long and earnestly to convince people that civilian Courts could try any Guantanamo prisoner fairly, now so sure that neutral Sweden can’t provide Assange a fair police investigation (remember that Assange has not yet even been charged with any offense)?  Why are people who have spent decades trying to get male dominated societies to recognize the reality of sexual abuse of women suddenly so distrusting of the educated women of progressive Sweden?

Wikileaks is a piece of a wave of transformative journalism, political activism and social observation.  In the 20’s and especially the 30’s, Life magazine’s pictures of American life in cities, on farms, in factories, and in the homes of ‘regular folks’ opened public eyes to their nation in ways the newspapers never had.  In the 60’s and 70’s, television newsfilm, not yet controlled by corporate decision makers, gave every American intimate knowledge of Jim Crow and of imperial wars against undeveloped (but resource rich) nations.

Life magazine’s huge success bought its founder’s way into wealthy society, and moved the magazine away from social examination.  Life died an ignoble death when its owners were unwilling to let their photographers be as honest as the TV cameramen (it was all men) haunting the civil rights demonstrations and then slogging through Vietnamese rice paddies.

By the 1980s, corporations had solidified control of television news.  Independent news and competition for stories was stamped out as corporations consolidated all the stations in every city under a few big Wall Street owners.  As with newspapers like USA Today and The NY Post, and magazines like Life, TV was tamed and reined in from presenting stories that challenged the messages that corporate America wants us to hear.  And as with the evolution from newspapers to picture magazines to TV and radio, the closing of the corporate fist around the means of expression simply caused people who wanted to tell the truth to find new ways.

In colonial days, independent newspapers ran riot with information, made up ‘facts’, crazy libels and myriad voices and opinions.  In the early days of broadcasting, independent radio operators and a few TV stations broadcast myriad opinions available to all listeners.  And for the first decades of the internet, countless people attempted to use the internet to express opinions and share information that isn’t available elsewhere.

It is no coincidence that Wikileaks has become famous and a target of politicians and established corporate media at exactly the same time as both major political parties are working feverishly with the most conservative corporations to find ways to exert editorial control over the internet.  Whether they let corporations block unwanted content, or give preferential rates to favored commercial interests, the intent to control is what it has been since Gutenberg printed the first Bible that everyone could read.

Wikileaks is as much a threat to today’s establishment as NBC was to the military-industrial complex that Republican Dwight Eisenhower warned us about in 1961.  Wikileaks threatens something new and uncontrolled.  It is doing for government operating secrets what newsfilm did for government support of colonial puppets and Bull Connors.  No one yet knows where this will lead.  Uncertainty is terrifying, particularly for those in charge.

That’s why the attacks and calls for murders are against Wikileaks and not against the New York Times and other mainstream newspapers that also published the Wikileaks documents.  Governments know that the Times will always have Judith Millers to prevent real threats to power.  They don’t know, yet, how to contain what Wikileaks does.  But they do know that Wikileaks is just the tip of a new wave of icebergs.

The knee-jerk defenses of Julian Assange may be similar reaction to fear of the unknown.  Progressives are more likely that conservatives to be educated and to know that, historically, any new media will be subject to attack and attempts to control it.  But rather than reflexively defend Assange, progressives should realize that history also provides patterns for the evolution of new media.

Tom HallWikileaks is only one manifestation of a new approach, which will have the democratizing effects of the Life magazine pictures of the 30’s and the newsfilm of police dogs and napalmed children.  While gaining control of print and broadcast, the corporate world has been outflanked by the next wave.  Let’s celebrate, rather than denying that Assange can get a fair hearing.

Tom Hall

Comments

  1. says

    If you believe in total openness on all information, tell me your home address, phone number, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, social security number [if you have one], the name of your favorite pet, and your date of birth. I will show you all the journalistic integrity Assange did by publishing it all over the Net. You will get the same redaction as 77,000 Afghans did that are now at risk.

  2. Jason says

    @Tom. A “fair trial” for Assange? For what? Which rape? The only thing being raped here is freedom of speech. Is it now the case that after sexual intercourse, a person can claim that he/she did not give consent, or was sleeping during the act, and have Interpol issue a warrant for the other person’s arrest? This trivialization of “rape” is a danger to people who are raped.
    “How often is Interpol asked to go after people for a broken condom? Or even “rape-rape” as you term it?. . . How often do numerous countries get actively involved in a headline-making hunt for a man accused of a single sexual crime?. . . What is odd here, however, is the “international community” suddenly jumping on a bandwagon to freeze the personal finances, cut off legal assistance, swear out arrest warrants, and act quickly on those warrants – all over accusations that were already dropped once for lack of evidence.” Calgodot, in Salon, Tuesday, December 7, 2010

  3. -Nate says

    John ;

    please keep on lying and trying to re write the facts as this way , people will soon realize just how corrupt you and your neo-con tea baggers really are .

  4. says

    ASSANGE IS A CRIMINAL:

    In Presidential Order 12958 it is clear Julian Assange is in violation in, Part 1. Original Classification, Sec. 1.1. Classification Standards that: (b) Classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure of identical or similar information.(c) The unauthorized disclosure of foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security.

    Under 18 U.S.C. § 793 : US Code – Section 793: Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, a ten year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine are the sanctions, “(g) If two or more persons conspire to violate any of the foregoing provisions of this section, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be subject to the punishment provided for the offense which is the object of such conspiracy.”

    Interfering with military operations and supporting America’s enemies during wartime, promoting insubordination in the military, or interfering with with military recruitment are prohibited .

    In 1919, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Schenck v. United States the act did not violate the free speech rights of those convicted under its provisions.

    While a great deal of caselaw on free speech has evolved since then, the k.ey feature of the US Code is those involved intend or know “… information is to be used to the injury of the United States…”

    That the names of Afghan individuals who have been allies of the US were revealed, injuring US military and diplomatic mission there, is a fact. In the text of the US Code, the onus is put on those who released the information to prove they did not intend that.

    Those 77,000 Afgans who reported the Taliban for rapes, robberies, kidnappings, extortions, and murders are the first victims of Assange and they are being victimized all over again.

    I have zero respect for anyone who minimizes the chaos and destruction he has done to individuals, as well as to the US military mission and international diplomacy.

    • Tom says

      “While a great deal of caselaw on free speech has evolved since then, the k.ey feature of the US Code is those involved intend or know “… information is to be used to the injury of the United States…”

      This really is a problem for your legal brief for imprisoning the messenger, isn’t it? The Law requires an intent to injure the United States. Assange may well argue, persuasively, that his intent was to stop illegal war crimes and social crimes BY the U.S. or some of its corporate beneficiaries. It is going to be quite interesting to watch the Obama administration argue that telling the truth of illegal activities during the Bush administration evidences an intent to injure the people whose laws were broken.

      “That the names of Afghan individuals who have been allies of the US were revealed, injuring US military and diplomatic mission there, is a fact. In the text of the US Code, the onus is put on those who released the information to prove they did not intend that.”

      Here you go again, rewriting reality. The problem with this lie is that the Pentagon and the State Department have testified to Congress that they know of NO ONE who was injured by the October leaks, except the reputations of generals and politicians who rake in profits from their war profiteering investments.

  5. says

    ASSANGE IS NO HERO:
    If you believe in total openness on all information, tell me your home address, phone number, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, social security number [if you have one], the name of your favorite pet, and any other information considered useful to some.

    The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and three other groups have sent a series of e-mails to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange calling for the names of Afghan civilians to be removed from the 77,000 classified military documents published by the online whistle-blower last month.

    Members of the Taliban were studying the documents to retaliate against any informants cooperating with the U.S. military long before Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission spokesman Nadery said, “There was no consideration about civilian lives,” after noticing a rise in assassinations of Afghan civilians seen as government collaborators.

    Those 77,000 Afgans who reported the Taliban for rapes, robberies, kidnappings, extortions, and murders are the first victims of Assange and they are being victimized all over again.

    Do you think Assange is a magnanimous leader himself when he says, “‘I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off.”

    When WikiLeaks was set to release the Iraq trove on Oct. 18, which was, according to ex-staffers — far too early, in the view of some of them, to properly redact the names of U.S. collaborators and informants in Iraq.

    For someone so proud of divulging secrets, I wonder how Assange feels about this:
    “The release date which was established was completely unrealistic,” says 25-year-old Herbert Snorrason, an Icelandic university student who until recently helped manage WikiLeaks’ secure chat room. “We found out that the level of redactions performed on the Afghanistan documents was not sufficient. I announced that if the next batch did not receive full attention, I would not be willing to cooperate.”
    “You are not anyone’s king or god,” wrote Domscheit-Berg in the chat. “And you’re not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader.”

    “You are suspended for one month, effective immediately,” Assange shot back. “If you wish to appeal, you will be heard on Tuesday.”

  6. Leonard Krivitsky, MD says

    You can call me any names you want, but the only thing that I will say to you is this: “Teabaggers” and “Christian Conservatives” are a much greater threat to democracy than WikiLeaks! But wait!!… Those are the true “base” of the Republican Party! WOW!

    • says

      The proper name is T.E.A. Party. It is a movement whose only collective motivation is self governance. They have more in common with T.Roosevelt Progressivism than they know.

      The one engaging in name-calling is you by using the term “teabagger” which is a vulgar reference to a sexual act. It is used by Trolls attempting to evoke an emotional response.

      I do not know any Christians that have what I consider a conservative tradition. They do not advocate putting people on reservations as a step toward extermination like Jacksonian Democrats, nor slavery like Jackson’s appointments to the Supreme Court. They do not advocate concentration camps for US citizens like FDR. None of those are traditions Christians would want to conserve.

      I am not a Christian in practice nor a conservative in politics, so if you are going to engage in yet another ad hominem argument you are avoiding the topic with useless fallacies rather than reasoned arguments.

      • Tom says

        “The proper name is T.E.A. Party. It is a movement whose only collective motivation is self governance. They have more in common with T.Roosevelt Progressivism than they know.

        The one engaging in name-calling is you by using the term “teabagger” which is a vulgar reference to a sexual act. It is used by Trolls attempting to evoke an emotional response.”

        Mr. Scharf: There’s another article in today’s LAprogressive dealing with the way you Republicans work hard to rewrite history, not merely ignoring but explicitly denying well documented facts (sort of like denying science).

        Dick Armey’s army of dicks was originally sent out with the suggestion that they staple tea bags to their hats, clothes and signs as a way of pretending that they were following in the steps of the tea partiers in colonial Boston. The armey of dicks was apparently unaware of the sexual connotations of the symbol THEY CHOSE to adopt.

        They adopted the symbol “attempting to evoke an emotional response” as you say. It carried some baggage. But they chose it. Don’t rewrite history to pretend that it was in any way foisted onto them.

  7. Leonard Krivitsky, MD says

    I wish someone would have “leaked” the true racist and anti-Semitic motives of those who made Cannabis “illegal”, including Richard Nixon and Harry Anslinger, so that all those thousands of lives that were destroyed because of this ridiculous “law” could be preserved unharmed.
    When Nixon blatantly disregarded findings of the Shafer Commission which recommended immediate decriminalization of Marijuana, he said to his then-Chief of Staff that “Everyone of the bastards advocating for marijuana legalization is Jewish”. So, here we go: the whole “illegality” of marijuana was imposed on the American people basically by two racist, anti-scientific individuals – Harry Anslinger and Richard Nixon. And now, when our government is telling us that we should just “accept” Cannabis illegality, I say, “You’ve got to be kidding”!

  8. brian says

    Great topic. A bit scary as the various governments of the world try to contain, capture, shut down, and otherwise control the flow of information that reveals emperors without clothes while on the other side are those who see the ominous threat of more government control over our “free and open” internet. The tension between the two brings back memories of the Viet Nam era, except it may be more difficult and lonely to stand for individual liberties in 2011 than in 1968.

  9. Bruce says

    There appears to be a great deal of confusion here. For example, the persecution of Julian Assange has nothing to do with women’s rights. It is simply a variation of a Honey Trap Operation. Assange has, on numerous occasions offered to cooperate with the investigators, but was ignored. He left Sweden with the prosecutor’s permission, but an arrest warrant was issued despite his continuing offers of cooperation. The original case was closed, but was later reopened in another jurisdiction for political reasons. Sweden is a client state of the U.S., and will do whatever the U.S. wants, given sufficient “encouragement.” Don’t be surprised to see Assange in the U.S. for persecution and possibly a show trial. The government already has almost total control of print and electronic media and wants to extend that control to the Internet. At that point, the U.S. will officially be a closed society.

  10. JKR says

    Oh, come on. The Tea Parties are 41% Palin, 41% Ron Paul, and a mix of other.

    You show me a single Dem elected official in DC who has come out as much for free speech regarding wikileaks as Ron Paul has.

    Calling names is not persuasive against facts.

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