It was with no sense of satisfaction that I witnessed the points made in my recent blog posting about the smearing of Wikileaks and Occupy proven depressingly correct in the slew of 'reviews' of Julian Assange's first show last week on Russia Today (RT). The aims of these articles can be summed up best in two high-profile ones: this bitchy little piece, in which Luke Harding of The Guardian meows impressively, and this one from The New York Times, allegedly a serious publication and so-called newspaper of record.
The opening lines of the latter piece deserve to be singled out: 'When Anderson Cooper began a syndicated talk show, his first guest was the grieving father of Amy Winehouse. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, unveiled a new talk show on Tuesday with his own version of a sensational get: the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah'.
Is there a clearer example of the state of modern journalism than that? Proper journalists interview the parents of dead singers; self-promoting, upstart propagandists, or even worse, bloggers, talk to a leader of an important and influential group that is central to one of the world's most serious conflicts.
These reviews, gleefully spread by hordes of people on Twitter and in other media, contained almost no information about the actual content of the interview - only four out of eighteen paragraphs in The New York Times article contained any reference at all to the interview and only three out of twelve in The Guardian one. Instead, readers were treated to the usual snide comments about Assange's personality and behavior along with righteous speculation on the connection of Assange to RT. In other words, this interview, which attracted a huge amount of media attention, was seized upon as yet another opportunity to focus on the perceived flaws of Assange, as well as the too-good-to-miss chance to link Assange with a channel that is widely viewed and ridiculed by the West as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.
Memo to establishment journalists: to focus on such peripheral issues and smears in a piece which is supposed to be a simple review of a television interview makes you at best ignorant, at worst a propagandist. And given the history of bad blood between Wikileaks and these two famous organs of journalism, any reader who is even slightly awake will most certainly believe the latter.
This is not to say that exploring the connection between Assange and RT is wrong; on the contrary, it is in the public interest. However, in a supposed review of an interview, any discussion of this connection beyond initial setting of the scene (along with date, time, location and participants) is a clear attempt to negatively influence the opinions of the reader, and reinforces the personality cult carefully constructed around Assange. And it works. Witness the disdainful reaction of thousands of people focusing on the RT connection and Assange's behavior. The actual content of the interview was an afterthought.
Which is exactly what happened with the release of the US diplomatic cables. The actual abuses ignored, the messengers shot to pieces.
Misconceptions about Assange and Wikileaks propagated by the media are undoubtedly a combination of both ignorance and design, but whatever the reason, they must be challenged. I therefore urge all readers who think they know everything they need to know about the Assange case to read this article with an open mind, and I guarantee that you will learn something you either did not know, or have been misinformed about.
In short, it addresses four major misconceptions:
First, that Assange has been charged with a crime. He has not, in any country, been so charged. Sweden is attempting extradition for questioning in relation to allegations of sexual misconduct.
Second, that Assange is accused of rape in the normal sense.
Third, that Assange fled Sweden to avoid questioning. In fact, he stayed in Sweden to face questioning but all attempts to face interviews made through his lawyer were refused, and Assange in fact left Sweden after receiving approval from the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny. Further, Assange has offered himself for questioning via telephone or video link from London, all legal methods under Swedish law, but has been rebuffed. This fact alone rings alarm bells about the ulterior motives of sympathizers within the Swedish administration of the US government. Why would they refuse these interviews if their motives were simply wanting Assange for questioning?
The fourth misconception is too complex for a simple summary, so again, I urge those readers who can't be arsed to follow the link.
A neutral, honest and well-meaning media is absolutely vital to the health of a democracy. True democracy depends in a major part on the citizenry being informed of the truth, not lazy reporting or misleading information that could lead to people voting against their interests. In a direct democracy, any media outlet reporting false information or misleading by omission for whatever reason could be punished with prohibitive fines and/or other serious punitive measures because such reporting is a direct attack on the public's right to know the truth, an attack on democracy itself.
It is essential that the relentless propaganda of establishment media against any who step outside 'acceptable' (as defined by the establishment itself) boundaries of comment or behavior becomes a thing of the past. And the only people who can bring this to pass are the people themselves, via a grassroots movement towards true democracy, that of the people, by the people and for the people.
'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for FREE download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.