In Defense of Julian Assange and Russia Today
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: