Syria

In Defense of Julian Assange and Russia Today

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Glenn Greenwald at Salon defends Wikileaker Julian Assange's new show on Russia Today from mainstream news and media criticism from the New York Times.

Greenwald points out that Times critic Alessandra Stanley sets up Assange for criticism with vague assertions that, well, no one seems to like him and everyone thinks he's crazy, and implying that the news value of an interview with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is the equivalent of Anderson Cooper interviewing Amy Winehouse's dad–or apparently even of less value.

And while Russia Today (a network on which I and many of my Reason colleagues appear) may be owned by the Russian government, why, Greenwald wonders, does that automatically zero out its journalistic value?

There is apparently a rule that says it's perfectly OK for a journalist to work for a media outlet owned and controlled by a weapons manufacturer (GE/NBC/MSNBC), or by the U.S. and British governments (BBC/Stars & Stripes/Voice of America), or by Rupert Murdoch and Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (Wall St. Journal/Fox News), or by a banking corporation with long-standing ties to right-wing governments (Politico), or by for-profit corporations whose profits depend upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. government (Kaplan/The Washington Post), or by loyalists to one of the two major political parties (National Review/TPM/countless others), but it's an intrinsic violation of journalistic integrity to work for a media outlet owned by the Russian government. Where did that rule come from?

And what did Assange do to earn the bad reputation that Stanley and the NYT both asserts and helps feed? 

Assange developed an alternative template to the corporate media — one that was far more independent of, and adversarial to, government power — and, in the process, produced more newsworthy scoops than all of them combined. As NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen once put it about WikiLeaks: "The Watchdog Press Died; We Have This Instead." The mavens of that dead watchdog press then decided that they hated Assange and devoted themselves to demonizing and destroying him. That behavior makes someone a "nut job," but it isn't Assange.

Stanley in the Times goes on, after assuring all her readers Assange is not a person, and Russia Today not a venue, that any thoughtful Times reader need respect, to admit that, hey, the Nasrallah interview was sharp and not mindlessly following the Russian line:

Mr. Assange supports the opposition forces in Syria. He took Mr. Nasrallah to task for supporting every Arab Spring uprising except the one against Syria and asked why he wasn't doing more to stop the bloodshed. 

As Greenwald sums up:

So we spent the entire article having Assange depicted as some mindless propaganda tool for the Russian government — an attack on Assange repeated far and wide ever since this show was announced — only to learn at the end of Stanley's review that, in his very first show, he was highly critical of one of the region's most influential figures for failing to offer more support for Syrian rebels, directly in opposition to a key policy of the Russian government.

Stanley's full NYT critique of Assange's RT show.

The Nasrallah interview:

Reason on Wikileaks.

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  1. He even cited reports, found by WikiLeaks, that suggested corruption and high living among some members of Hezbollah. (Mr. Assange cited S.U.V.’s, silk robes and “take-away food” as signs of decadence.)

    Like the Times doesn’t do that on a regular basis.

  2. If I wanted to see some insufferable Australian in a show then I would tune into The Wiggles. You all know which one I’m talking about, the smug bastard.

    1. Anthony? I fucking hate that guy and that narcoleptic Jeff. It’s Barney meets My Own Private Idaho.

  3. Assange strikes me as a douchebag. But you think Hezbollah “leaders” are going to show up on “Meet the Press”? So good for him for landing that interview, and hope there are many more of people from whom we’d otherwise never hear.

    Julian – can you land some Afghan “tribal leaders”? I’d be interested in hearing what’s on their minds (besides “US get the fuck out – you know you can’t change Afghanistan” – that’s a given).

    How about some Somali “pirates” – what the fuck is in their head? Assange Interview to the task!

  4. Also, odds that Assange is doing Alyona?

    1. 7:10 says yes.

      1. I hope she knows there will be no condom.

  5. One of Reason’s more baffling aspects is its love affair with Russia Today.

    You really think it helps the libertarian cause at all by constantly promoting and appearing on a propaganda arm of a rival (if not hostile) country?

    1. What the fuck are you talking about, dude? We’ve always been at war with EastAsia.

    2. Libertarian don’t only exist in one country, and even if they did, thinking: “lets not deal with people from rival nations” does not sound very libertarian either.

  6. The sheer number and volume of people hating on Julian Assange suggests that he must be doing something right.

    1. My thought exactly. I’d say great minds think alike, Hugh, but I could never say that about you. It wouldn’t be right.

    2. The best and most pointed critique I heard of Assange was on an NPR segment where they were interviewing some (as I recall) other NPR reporters about Assange who had eagerly worked with him in the early days, but had become disenchanted with him.

      I don’t recall the specifics of much of the piece, but I do remember the one reporter’s primary complaint was that during the first Wikileaks scandal(?) Assange kept demanding that he have it both ways with his relationship to the rest of the media:

      He wanted to be the primary reporter on his leaked information, but he also wanted to be protected/treated as its source.

      I’m no expert on journalism, but I’d certainly would be curious about what a professional take on this would be.

      There were other things in the critique which were interesting to me, mainly because the critique wasn’t around, “he’s creepy/he’s got funny hair” but were centered around very specific journalistic practices.

      1. I’m not sure how true this is, but I was told by a friend who works private security in Afghanistan that Assange was specifically asked by the CIA and several other military sources that there were certain very specific names of individuals who were assisting in helping the military find IED’s by spying on Taliban members. Supposedly Assange was given a list and asked to redact certain names so they wouldn’t be exposed and face retribution, which seems like a reasonable request. After all, these were Afghan citizens who were just trying to help stop people from getting murdered. Assange basically told them to get fucked. Several weeks later a handful of these individuals ended up in morgues, with messages attached saying they’d been discovered as spies for the enemy and that’s why they were killed.

        I’m not sure how much I believe this story as it sounds a little too perfect, but if it’s true than Assange is douchebag and deserves whatever happens to him.

        1. So Assange is responsible for those deaths the way Gabriella Gifford’s publicist was responsible for her being shot?

          1. So Assange is responsible for those deaths

            No, that’s not what I said. What I said was that he was told specifically not to reveal these names as these people would be in great danger. He did it anyways, and a bunch of them ended up dead.

            It was a dick move, but I don’t think he’s responsible for the deaths, and that’s not what said.

            1. So in what way does a dickmove justify indefinite detention without trial, asset freezing, and trumped up rape charges?

              You’ll note that I am working directly off of your comment that he deserves what happens to him.

              1. So in what way does a dickmove justify indefinite detention without trial, asset freezing, and trumped up rape charges?

                Because he showed no remorse or conscience in exposing people who were simply trying to save innocent people from being murdered. I have no sympathy for him at all. Sucks that he had “indefinite detention without trial” (is he still in Jail?)but it sucks worse that his actions exposed people trying to stop scumbags from murdering people.

                1. I would never assume the CIA was playing it straight in their description of those individuals. CIA is the Department of Not Playing It Straight, and that function you described sounds like nothing of which they would actually be involved. It’s the kind of grunt work they find to be beneath them.

        2. Amazing how a situation which Assange did not create and murders he did not commit are his responsibility.

          By situation I mean “a fucking war”.

          1. Amazing how you took what I wrote to mean “Assange is responsible for the murders”.

            And by amazing I mean “fucking stupid”.

            1. Amazing how you can think that writing what you did the way you did doesn’t come across as implicitly blaming Assange.

              And by amazing I mean “retarded”.

              1. I implicitly blamed Assange for releasing the names, which was an irresponsible thing to do after being warned of the potential consequences. These people might have been killed anyways, who knows. I also don’t fully believe the story to begin with, as I stated several times.

                But exposing someone like that with the knowledge that they may end up dead because of it is a dick move. I don’t see why you would think otherwise, unless you too are a dick.

                You have such a hard on for Assange because he pisses people off that you read it as if I specifically blamed him for the murders, and THAT’S retarded.

                1. Spare me the projection. You posted about him. You’re the one who is spending time wondering whether you should hate on him based on various apocryphal stories that you’ve heard and cannot verify. And you’re the one saying that being a dick is enough to warrant all the shit he has faced and is potentially facing.

                  What I don’t see is you hating on the CIA and military shits who put these people in their situation in the first place. No, your anger is directed at the guy exposing it. Why is that?

                  1. You’re the one who is spending time wondering whether you should hate on him based on various apocryphal stories that you’ve heard and cannot verify.

                    So if what he did was true you think it’s a-ok?

                    And you’re the one saying that being a dick is enough to warrant all the shit he has faced and is potentially facing.

                    Exposing people in the way he did is not “just being a dick”. You can be a dick sometimes but I don’t think you deserve everything that happens to you.

                    What I don’t see is you hating on the CIA and military shits who put these people in their situation in the first place.

                    So if I said “The CIA shouldn’t put these people in this position in the first place, but that’s a dick move” that would make it ok? I wasn’t aware I had to live up to your moral compass.

                    No, your anger is directed at the guy exposing it. Why is that?

                    My “Anger”? I said the guy is a dick and deserves whatever happens to him if what the story I was told happens to be true. I’m not angry I just think he’s a douchebag who doesn’t care about the real life consequences of his actions.

                    Talk about “projection”.

                    1. You still haven’t answered my question, and you keep turning it away from the authority figures you clearly accept without question (CIA/military) and back to Assange. You want to hate him, because you don’t like what he did. But it’s not “getting some guys killed” that you hate so much; that’s just your cover. You hate that he said “fuck you” to the authorities, even when asked (supposedly) nicely.

                      Yup. Projection. And being called on that clearly bothers you.

                    2. Wow you sure like your strawmen in this post. First you say that I think he’s responsible for the murders-which I never said, and now you say I trust the CIA more than Assange which I also never said. I said -twice- in the original post that I’m skeptical of the story to begin with.

                      And if you think this makes me “upset for being called out” that completes your strawman trifecta. Well done.

                      So do you honestly think Assange is some hero because he stood up to the CIA and exposed some goat herders for telling troops where they were planting IEDs? I’m not assuming you think this, I’m asking the question.

                      Of course I think I know your answer which is “we shouldn’t be their in the first place” which isn’t an answer.

      2. He wanted to be the primary reporter on his leaked information, but he also wanted to be protected/treated as its source.

        That’s kinda weird. I’m not actually sure what that even means.

        I’ve also heard that he can be a doucher, but people who do important things sometimes are.

        So long as he keeps publishing the dirty deeds of wicked men, he can be as big a dick as he wants.

        1. I was preparing to answer the question myself, admitting that I was also a little confounded by the meaning of that (being a non-journalist), and to my shock, I found the piece in one google search.

          I’ll let you read it. It’s actually interesting.

          I’m not sure if it’s the original piece that I heard air, and the critique isn’t exactly stinging, but I think it’s a good read:

          http://www.npr.org/templates/s…..=128870288

          1. It reads to me like he sees himself as a journalistic editor-in-chief, which makes sense because ‘wiki’s’ are all about the editorial process.

            He acts as a ‘source’ when he’s collaborating with the NYT et al. to glean a little respectability from those institutions.

            So I think it’s fair to say he wants to play both roles, but not necessarily at the same time.

            Even if it is at the same time, Wikileaks is a different kind of thing than other nooz outlets in that it doesn’t have to lick boots in order to get access to stories.

          2. This part of the story raised my hackles:

            Journalists for the Times authenticated documents, selected relevant ones for publication, and presented their findings to Pentagon officials. The paper withheld elements that editors felt might endanger American military personnel, Afghan civilians or the war effort more generally

            I never realized that “supporting the war effort” was part of the journalistic ideal.

            1. The paper withheld elements that editors felt might endanger American military personnel, Afghan civilians or the war effort more generally

              Understandable Hugh. However, I would add that since the objective was not clearly defined (which would have been much more helpful when Congress authorized Operation Enduring Freedom), its hard to see where the story endorsed the war effort or repudiated it. Just because the Times wasn’t flinging poo doesn’t mean they are/were pro war, and I think it is responsible journalism to report facts with minimal amount of harm (read: try not to get them killed) to others.

              The journalistic ideal is to report facts. What we tend to get is editorializing.

              Assange throws out facts, and lets the readers sort it out. It is a shame that those elements led to Afghani citizens getting liquidated, but I don’t see how that is his fault exclusively. That blame rests with Congress and the CIC for executing (IMO) a just war in a really, really shitty way (read: no defined goal with a specific objective as opposed to “winning hearts and minds of Afghanis”).

              1. Assange throws out facts

                Better choice of words is ” presents facts”. I didn’t mean to imply his reporting was dishonest.

    3. You know who else is hated by a lot of people, including all of the establishment of both parties?

          1. I fully endorse this with complete vim and vigor. Grand Coif Tarkin is a putz.

          2. Disagree. Mitt Romney is loved by the establishment of the GOP. It’s those scruffy Paultards that don’t like him, and if they’d get out of the way and quit screaming at our caucuses, we could get on with the business of nominating our presumptive nominee.

            1. Minor quibble. I don’t know about “loved” but he is clearly the choice of Establishment types. I think they would prefer someone with a bit more star power and Q factor, like The Corpulent Jesus, or someone like Mitch Daniels. Dragging Flopney over the finish line is not going to be an easy task, if it can be done at all.

            2. What the Doc said. ROMNIAC 1000 is the nominee because he has paid his dues and TEAM RED has no interest in people with ideas. Nobody, including his house slave wife actually likes him.

              1. What the Doc said. ROMNIAC 1000 is the nominee because he has paid his dues and TEAM RED has no interest in people with ideas.

                Which is why the love him. The GOP is playing not-to-lose, and so they fell in love with the not-to-lose candidate.

                Why can’t you two just agree with me already?

                Can we agree that the capitol of France is Paris? If we can, then we’re back in agreement.

                1. Actually, I don’t even agree that the Capitol of France is Paris. The Capital of France is Paris. Big diff.

      1. Osama Bin Laden?

  7. I’m a consistent daily Reason and RT reader/watcher… As far as giant international networks go, RT most definitely gives a perspective that pisses me off the least, even in US related news.

    I think having a long interest in Russian people and Russia helped toss me over any initial barriers I might’ve had otherwise… but regardless, if you grouped a weeks worth of articles from all the major networks and removed their branding, I find it hard to believe that Reason readers wouldn’t appreciate their news. People who are biased against Russia are probably ancient with a foot in the grave already anyways.

    Also, Julian Assange is pretty fucking cool… I don’t know why it’s so popular to say he’s a douchebag… and even if he WAS, that’s a meaningless ad hominem attack completely irrelevant to the fact we have more amazing revelations from wikileaks than like all other world media put together the past 20 years…

    1. Plus, Alyona.

      Also, Assange IS a self-absorbed douchebag.

      That is all.

  8. Also, Assange IS a self-absorbed douchebag.

    True. But then, just because he’s a pasty, translucent pseudo-albino narcissist doesn’t expunge his bringing to light many a thing that I believe we should know.

    Alyona, meh. And this is coming from someone with a penchant for the beauty of the Slavic woman.

  9. I’m pretty Russia Today is more interested in embarrassing the US government by having the likes of Assange, Rockwell, Welch and company on their programs rather than trying to promote libertarianism or trying to get libertarians to become Putinite lackeys.

    I find it interesting that Greenwald ignores NPR and PBS when it comes to US government owned stations that are acceptable to join.

    I also read somewhere that Assange wants to run for office as a Libertarian? I guess that means he is actually a libertarian rather than a guy that just doesn’t like the US government.

  10. That makes no sense at all dude, I am talking none.

    http://www.Anon-Data.tk

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