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Pittura infamante: The Smear of J. Assange

October 25, 2010

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad."

Didn’t I tell ya, o so long ago

The Battle Over Secrecy has shifted towards a very tantalizing phase.

Let’s take a moment and inspect the pieces peppered on the board.

We have WikiLeaks, personified by Julian Assange (the “lightening rod”), taking very bold manoeuvres. In the summer they released the Afghanistan War Logs , which, in the foggy realms of the past, was considered the “largest military leak” ever: 91,000 documents, and 200,000 pages, in total.

The Pentagon, US politicians, and US military figures were quick to lunge against the organization, saying that it “has blood on its hands” for the leak.  Their entire premise relied solely on the point that  uncensored names within the files could be “threatened” by the Evil Folks (Taliban, Al-Qaeda, or some United Alliance of Evil; I doubt they even know who they are crossing swords with anymore).

That’s right. The super-power with a levianthian-sized military-industrial complex, which has invaded Iraq (still waiting on those WMDs…) and Afghanistan,and has increased drone attacks on Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia (to name a few), and also supports dictatorships and colonialism in a number of places(you-know-who, you adorable bastards),  is actually charging WikiLeaks, an organization composed of an international union of hackers, slackers, and activists, of committing outright murder by releasing secret military files that depicted acts of murder.

Irony has not died post-9/11. I don’t care if anyone swears otherwise.

Thus we must ask: Was there blood spilled because of the Afghan leak?

Well…no. The Department of Defense and Pentagon admitted as much…There is “no evidence”  of anyone coming to harm over the leak. We also found out the embarrassing point that WikiLeaks even asked the Pentagon for help in filtering some of the names, which the Pentagon refused to do so (whoops)….

Suddenly, while the world was busy digging through all that paper and military jargon, something else happened.

The Swedish rape…er…molestation…er…”undefined” charge came about against the man representing the photogenic face of the organization: Julian Assange.

The US mainstream media, usually so brave and competent, were gobbling that whole scandal up.  Without any hesitation or journalistic scrutiny they inhaled the whole affair and vomited it out to the American public. It was pathetic to watch, really.

It was like watching a really fat person attack a free Chinese buffet – noodles and prawns flying dangerously everywhere, with no concern for hygiene nor public decency, only getting to the Kung Pao Chicken mattered.

Don’t get me wrong. If Assange committed a crime, he must be charged. But his personal crimes, if proven, does not bare any influence on the criminality of others found within the leaks.

and even more stories leaked out (a meta-moment, if you will):

Scandal at WikiLeaks! Internal ruptures of doom! Sources say Assange is a megalomaniac douchebag!

Oh yes, the American media were on a roll chipping away at the man representing the organization. They worked with such intensity and vigour (making up for 2001-2009, are we?) as if every scandal, ever greasy rumour tarnished the validity of the leak. As if the possibility of a weird sexual act (one of the worst and favourite of indiscretions one can make to feed the pop-news machine) made the numbers of civilian deaths in Afghanistan somehow less important or worthwhile to consider…

The old “shoot the messenger to get to the message” tactic, the classic character assassination, eh?

And now, in October of 2010, we have the Iraq War Leaks…nearly 400,000 secret military files. It is the largest military leak in modern human history, eclipsing the previous Afghanistan leak by a wide, wide margin. And the leak is stark, bleak, and full to the brim of filthy details.

We find that US forces deliberately turning a blind eye to torture by Iraqi forces (and even threatening their own detainees of the threat of torture). We find more information on the gun-tottin’ mercenaries (private military/security firms/corporations). We find an increase of the numbers of Iraqi civilian deaths than what the US figures are (surprise, surprise…). And we find more coming soon, as better and more patient people comb through the dark stinking pile.

As the world media analyzes the leak and what it means (such as the potentiality of war crime cases against the US and Iraqi forces), the US media is busy with the defaming game.

This is the New York Times coverage of Assange, written by John “I-supported-the-case-for-the-Iraq War-unquestioningly” Burns.

What we have here is a caricature of Assange. A paranoid, delusional, egotistical and self-indulgent man who just wants to basically fuck everything up. Here, we have hearsay and rumor passed off as truth, and we have complexity squeezed into a crude simple image (Notice, especially, what we do not have:  We have no mention of the leak itself, and how damning it is for the US, nor musings on the number of civilians dead in checkpoint killings by US military personnel, for instance).

Good old NYT…dripping with integrity as always.

And over here we have an “exclusive” CNN interview, where the reporter was more concerned with the scandals surrounding Assange, rather than on what the whole point of the interview was about. But that’s CNN, they are an embarrassed these days (Post CNN-Effect blues, I guess). It ends with Assange, after warnings, walking out. The reporter miserably calling out behind him, “I had to ask…”

Nevertheless, certain circles beyond the traditional spheres of American media, lies better, sharper journalists.

Take Glenn Greenwald, over at the nifty Salon.com, for example. Go ahead, read some of his work. He has two recent excellent articles specifically on the New York Times reportage of the leak and attempted smear of Assange. His words are far better than mine  in conveying the sheer blatant spin (a la Israeli-style) by the NYT (and other members of the American media establishment) of the whole issue (even, shockingly, to go as far as imply that Iraqi torture was worse than the torture done by Americans in Abu Gharib…Gee,  what a delightful proposition).

I quote from the last bit of his latest article, titled NYT v. the World: WikiLeaks :

The notion that the Obama administration not only should — but must — investigate the role its military played in enabling this widespread, stomach-turning torture and abuse in Iraq is simply suppressed in American political discourse, most of all by the newspaper which played the leading role in enabling the attack on that country in the first place.  It’s not hard to see why.  The last thing American political and media elites in general want is a discussion of the legal obligations to investigate torture and bring the torturers to legal account, and the last thing which enablers of the Iraq War specifically want is a focus on how we not only allowed but participated in the very human rights abuses which we claimed (and still claim) our invasion would stop.

I couldn’t have written it better, Glenn.

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