The fawning glitterati

Terry Glavin doesn’t think much of Julian Assange.

Julian Assange, the Wikileaks archgeek, radical-chic avatar, the Chinese
Communist Party’s nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Michael Moore’s
joint-venturer, absconding debtor, American celebrity pornographer Larry Flynt’s fair-haired boy, darling of Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Bianca Jagger…

Lo, Assange hath now been found to have released more than 1,000 cables outing individual political activists – several thousand tagged as sources who could be placed in danger – and more than 150 cables outing whistleblowers, people persecuted by their governments, and victims of sex crimes.

Such is his courage in speaking truth to power that Assange had already prompted Zimbabwe’s chief executioner to set up a commission to pursue treason charges against the dissidents so bravely outed by Wikileaks. Assange had already equipped the Cuban regime with evidences to mount investigations of that poor country’s subversive youth. In the police state of Belarus, where hundreds of journalists and opposition activists were already languishing in prison, Assange’s official “gatekeeper,” a holocaust-denying antisemite, was happy to meet with officials of the regime after boasting of being in possession of documents proving ties between Belarussian democrats and the foul American imperialist aggressor.

But lots of people thought he was great anyway, until just a few days ago. Be careful whom you admire.

Update: But see also Glenn Greenwald and Spiegel Online.


  1. luke says

    truth, just like science, is powerful and neither inherently good or bad. should truth be unavailable because assholes can use it to abuse people? what about science? why even discuss the messenger? the effort would be better spent tearing down the assholes

  2. says

    Lots of people think that Wikileaks has provided a valuable service in the past, despite the fact that many of us have a neutral-to-negative view of Assange himself. I count myself in both camps.

    Of course, I can’t possibly support the decision to release these cables unredacted, putting innocent activists at risk. But this is the first time I’ve thought that they crossed the line. If they’ve been trusted, it’s because in the past, it’s because they earned it.

    (…And blah blah blah Michael Moore, blah blah blah Medea Benjamin. Nobody with a conscience cares about mildly obnoxious left-wing personalities when you weigh them against ‘Collateral Murder’.)

    About Wikileaks itself, there are two core issues that worry me about this decision. First, if Wikileaks as an organization either cannot or does not operate autonomously from Assange, then that’s all the worse for Wikileaks. If the thing can’t run without him acting like a mother hen, then there’s no reason to expect it to persevere into the future. Second, if Assange really was behind this decision, then their association with him tarnishes their name. When you consider these two things together, there’s only one conclusion: Wikileaks either needs to cut Assange loose, or else risk alienating all their potential support amongst those who care about issues of global justice.

  3. fyreflye says

    Before you make too many hasty judgements regarding culpability read Glenn Greenwald’s comments on Salon and the Der Spiegel article he cites.

  4. Bruce Gorton says

    I still side with Assange on this one.

    Look, for all the unredacted leaks have done damage – the mainstream press acted more like a collection of propaganda rags with Iraq and the housing bubble. The former contributed to starting a war of choice and the second helped wreck the world economy.

    The general media has been extremely complicit in a lot of serious cases of abuse.

    News media doesn’t cover anything meaningful. An example of this is the London Times. They have released a story today headlined “Glamour pusses vie to be Mama Grizzly.”

    It is all just frankly disgustingly sexist horse race bullshit. And that is all the media is becoming known for. You want to know why sexism is so prevelant? It is because the media can’t take a look at two idiots and see past their boobs.

    Wikileaks – I agree it was wrong to release those cables without redacting them, but at least is covers actual news. Nobody else is really doing that in the West.

    That is the admiration is coming from. The press in the first world has taken it as its duty to protect government and corporate interests. Wikileaks acts to protect nobody’s interest – and that is honestly preferable.

    It has consequences, they will not always be pretty, but seriously look at the consequences we get from the sheer misinformation spewed out by ‘normal’ media.

    If the big news names, which claim to hold high ethical standards despite their lack of any, don’t cover the news then somebody who isn’t quite so squeamish will. And it won’t be a nice person doing it.

    And they will be respected for it even in the face of shit like this series of leaks.

  5. greg byshenk says

    From the Guardian editorial:

    But, with the well-documented rifts in the original WikiLeaks team last year, the data was not secured. One copy was obtained by Heather Brooke, the freedom of information campaigner. It now appears that last December another WikiLeaks employee was responsible for a further leak when he placed the unredacted cables on a peer-to-peer site with an old password – motivated, it seems, by the arrest of Assange on allegations concerning his private life. It is not clear that even Assange – distracted by his legal actions over the Swedish sex allegations – knew of this act.

    If this is correct, then, whatever one might think of Assange, the current events are not about him personally, one way or the other.
    I would also suggest that, if the information has already been available for nine months, then making this public is at least arguably the right thing to do. Even if one is a person who has been named, and might therefore be at risk, it is better than one knows that such is the case, than to think that one is safe when one actually is not.

  6. says

    Before passing judgement, I would like to read any response from Assange regarding these charges: which are very serious.

    It looks like he is in one helluva hole.

  7. Egbert says

    Julian Assange seems to have become the very thing he’s been fighting against, by gaining power and seeing himself as a legitimate moral authority, it has corrupted him and does not seem to recognize his responsibilities with such power.

    I think his theories about truth were interesting and may have done some good, but he naively forgot to take into consideration his own growth in power.

    Perhaps his ambitions were not so noble, that he secretly held a craving for power and a resentment of those who had it.

    Human nature is odd like that. No matter how noble or good a person appears to be, it’s when they have power that really exposes their motives and character.

  8. Peter Beattie says

    Why exactly do you think it’s a good idea to highlight a post by somebody who obviously (at least to anyone familiar with the matter, and judging by the guy’s writing) isn’t interested in fairness and who, for example, uncritically repeats the simple, brazen lie that the decision to make the cables public was Assange’s and his alone? Would it be too much to ask to do a little background reading first?

  9. Alain says

    Wikileaks once had an honourable mission but Assange himself has become a great liability. There was no excuse for his use of the loathsome Shamir character in Belarus. I’ve read Greenwald and other defenders of Assange and they are weak and unconvincing. Glavin has it right. What a disaster!

  10. says

    Hey fyre, thanks for the mention of Greenwald. That puts a slightly different perspective on things. The front-page release of the unredacted cables was an understandable decision, in light of Leigh’s irresponsible and unintentional dissemination of the password, and pre-release of the documents.

    But the Wikileaks release was not the best or only means of achieving that goal. They could have released the *redacted* cables, and hence put the burden of the release of unredacted cables on the shoulders of Leigh and Domscheit-Berg. Or Wikileaks could have contacted the activists directly (though granted, this would be difficult).

    Their tactical decisions really make a difference, at least to my mind, and it’s not clear that this move protected activists as much as it put them at risk.

  11. Sheesh says

    Wikileaks still has an honorable mission, but full release was the only safe and fair outcome of the Guardian’s David Leigh revealing the decryption password for the complete collection of diplo cables.

    Literally thousands of people both in government and media have had access to these for months, actual people who think they are safe BUT ARE NOT ACTUALLY safe can now have that knowledge and take steps to become safe. Additionally, since the governments of the world have known about these leaks for months they have had time to appropriately secure any individuals that may be harmed by their diplomatic cables. I would think that good governments, by definition, will have done so. (And maybe the shitty governments haven’t or didn’t bother or didn’t care to bother.)

  12. Sheesh says

    A widespread unredacted release is the only way for little people in harm’s way to locate their own names and then move to provide for their own safety — again assuming their governments have not used the last months since the leaks were publicized to provide for their safety already.

    As usual though, the discussion will not be about the shitty stuff that governments do to put little people in harm’s way, but will be about how the powerful were harmed by transparency. Want to stop hurting people? Great! Stop doing shitty stuff!

    Think U.S. diplomats have talked about you in a way that might get you hurt or killed? Start looking for yourself, so you can get safe:

  13. Alain says

    Start looking for yourself, so you can get safe.

    Sorry, Sheesh, but there is no possibility for human rights activists in, for example, Belarus to get out of harm’s way once they are known – via leaked cables – to have sought foreign help. The onus is not on the activists, it is on the wikileakers and their correspondents in the media. If you think otherwise you are on the side of despots.

  14. Sheesh says

    Really, Alain, blaming the victim? (In this case the publisher and the alleged leaker are also victims.)

    I am absolutely not on the side of despots. I’m on the side of the little people who get put in harm’s way by the powerful people that basically don’t give a shit. I think I said that over and over so it would be clear.

    The onus is on governments to not do shitty stuff to people. If you’re only safe because you’re trusting thousands of people to keep your secret you are not really safe. If that means bad guys are coming to kill you if the truth gets loose then you were already fucked. “Security” through obscurity is not security. (Hopefully many people got some actual security when they heard about the leak, e.g., firepower, defensible positions, early warning systems/intelligence or leverage).

    Those who aren’t fucked yet better be checking to see if diplomats (and soldiers and intelligence agents aka spies and allies and reporters) — the supposed good guys — were putting them at risk, making them unsafe, by putting their names and whereabouts in plaintext on a network with hundreds of thousands of users.

    It’s not fair to blame the victim, and just as dumb to blame the messenger; you have to blame the ones that do shitty stuff to actual people. As usual though, the discussion will not be about the shitty stuff that governments do to put little people in harm’s way, but will be about how the powerful were harmed by transparency.

  15. Alain says

    Hmm, so a human rights activist in Belarus who seeks foreign help is at fault for seeking such help?! Meanwhile, Assange’s deputy in Belarus (a loathsome character if there ever was one) was having cosy conversations with what is probably the most ruthless regime in Europe. Oh, I forgot, it’s all about “transparency”!

  16. Bruce Gorton says

    Alain says:
    September 5, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    One of the details revealed in the leaks was that the US military murdered an entire family, including a few month old baby, and then bombed the house in order to cover that murder up.

    That was a story you would not get out of US news media without Wikileaks because US news media isn’t so much “news” as “propaganda.”

    Instead of holding your government to account however, you would much rather shoot the messenger.

    Further the more I read into it, the less harm there appears to have been given that upwards of 500k people had access to the emails in the first place (including one Bradley Manning), and more once the Guardian’s writer published the password to access those emails.

    Wikileaks was negligent in handling the emails – they should have redacted them before releasing the encrypted files. However it was not malicious – unlike the behaviour not only of the US government but the US press.

    It was largely a media driven campaign that silenced critics of the Iraq war. Huge protests went almost totally uncovered because they did not fit with the message the US media wanted sending on that subject.

    The same happened with derivatives. It was actually surprisingly common amongst economists to point out that they were not sustainable and that the ratings agencies were worthless. The people who were wrong just before the financial crisis are still being quoted by the exact same newspapers.

    It is important to note that the US news media does not quote for orthodoxy but for availability. The availability of quack economists is no less than the availability of quack healers. Thus you end up with one Paul Krugman, to ten Ben Steins.

    The church of the savvy has long been a part of the US propaganda machine that masquerades as political news reporting. Who is likely to win or be able to claim what identity is debated hotly, while the actual effects of their policy and their past competence are treated as minor details, if they are brought up at all.

    Wikileaks for all the harm it has done, particularly to the powerful, has highlighted stories that are otherwise ignored. Not because those leads weren’t available, not because the media could not cover those stories, but because the US media would not cover those stories.

    Much as the media avoids taking criticism of the current financial buzz-word, austerity, seriously.

    The trouble with the US media is not conservative or liberal bias, but a US centric bias which fails to serve the US public. Instead of criticising the US government on real issues it avoids those issues while focussing on fluff.

    Thus a politician can significantly depress the powers available to the public, for example by crushing unions. That deprives workers of the right to organise in order to argue for higher wages. The politician can outright pledge to do less for the public – this is what cutting medical care and public education funding amounts to. A politician can send America’s young adults off to kill or be killed in a war which was totally optional.

    But the real career killer is consentual sex with an adult who that politician is not married to. Incompetence is neither here nor there, heck outright malice is neither nor there, but marital fidelity is all important.

    Because the news media in America treats that as being all that is important.

  17. Sheesh (as seen on Sadly, No!) says


    The church of the savvy has long been a part of the US propaganda machine that masquerades as political news reporting.

    Yes, exactly, and I would add that a functional, that is impartial, factual, rational, fourth estate is necessary for American democracy to function.

    That’s why our government is getting away with so much shitty behavior — low-information voters are un- or mis-informed because or media can’t (won’t?) do its job, it’s required function as part of our civilization.

    It is in this respect that I claim that Wikileaks still has an honorable mission for as long as our own corporate media will not do real, actual investigative reporting. Which I guess will be as soon as speaking truth to power becomes profitable again.

  18. 4theist4narchist says

    I’ll always choose the leaks over the lies. Ya’ll can keep your love for the State, I’ll keep my love for my friends and family.

  19. says

    It is extremely helpful for me.Amazing post and everyone has submit their mature views regarding this,I very interested in the article,people pay more attention to high quality life style.

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