Advancing Propaganda for Evil Agendas Is the Same as Perpetrating Them

Caitlin Johnstone blasts The Guardian for its belated defense of Julian Assange and its harmful coverage in the past. 

By Caitlin Johnstone

The Guardian has published an editorial titled “The Guardian view on extraditing Julian Assange: don’t do it,” subtitled “The US case against the WikiLeaks founder is an assault on press freedom and the public’s right to know.” The publication’s editorial board argues that since the Swedish investigation has once again been dropped, the time is now to oppose U.S. extradition for the WikiLeaks founder.

“Sweden’s decision to drop an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange has both illuminated the situation of the WikiLeaks founder and made it more pressing,” the editorial board writes.

Oh okay, now the issue is illuminated and pressing. Not two months ago, when Assange’s ridiculous bail sentence ended and he was still kept in prison explicitly and exclusively because of the U.S. extradition request. Not six months ago, when the U.S. government slammed Assange with 17 charges under the Espionage Act for publishing the Chelsea Manning leaks. Not seven months ago, when Assange was forcibly pried from the Ecuadorian embassy and slapped with the U.S. extradition request. Not any time between his April arrest and his taking political asylum seven years ago, which the Ecuadorian government explicitly granted him because it believed there was a credible threat of U.S. extradition. Not nine years ago when WikiLeaks was warning that the U.S. government was scheming to extradite Assange and prosecute him under the Espionage Act.

Nope, no, any of those times would have been far too early for The Guardian to begin opposing U.S. extradition for Assange with any degree of lucidity. They had to wait until Assange was already locked up in Belmarsh prison and limping into extradition hearings supervised by looming U.S.government officials. They had to wait until years and years of virulent mass media smear campaigns had killed off public support for Assange so he could be extradited with little or no grassroots backlash. And they had to wait until they themselves had finished participating in those smear campaigns.

This is after all the same Guardian which published the transparently ridiculous and completely invalidated report that Trump lackey Paul Manafort had met secretly with Assange at the embassy, not once but multiple times. Not one shred of evidence has ever been produced to substantiate this claim despite the embassy being one of the most heavily surveilled buildings on the planet at the time, and the Robert Mueller investigation, whose expansive scope would obviously have included such meetings, reported absolutely nothing to corroborate it. It was a bogus story which all accused parties have forcefully denied.

This is the same Guardian which ran an article last year titled “The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride,” arguing that Assange looked ridiculous for remaining in the embassy because “The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the U.S.”

The article was authored by the odious James Ball, who deleted tweet not long ago complaining about the existence of UN special rapporteurs after one of them concluded that Assange is a victim of psychological torture. Ball’s article begins, “According to Debrett’s, the arbiters of etiquette since 1769: ‘Visitors, like fish, stink in three days.’ Given this, it’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like, more than five-and-a-half years after Julian Assange moved himself into the confines of the small flat in Knightsbridge, just across the road from Harrods.”

This is the same Guardian which published an article titled “Definition of paranoia: supporters of Julian Assange,” arguing that Assange defenders are crazy conspiracy theorists for believing the U.S. would try to extradite Assange because “Britain has a notoriously lax extradition treaty with the United States,” because “why would they bother to imprison him when he is making such a good job of discrediting himself?”, and “because there is no extradition request.”

This is the same Guardian which published a ludicrous report about Assange potentially receiving documents as part of a strange Nigel Farage/Donald Trump/Russia conspiracy, a claim based primarily on vague analysis by a single anonymous source described as a “highly placed contact with links to US intelligence.” The same Guardian which just flushed standard journalistic protocol down the toilet by reporting on Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin” (not a thing) without even bothering to use the word “alleged,” not once, but twice. The same Guardian which has been advancing many more virulent smears as documented in this article by The Canary titled “Guilty by innuendo: the Guardian campaign against Julian Assange that breaks all the rules.”

You can see, then, how ridiculous it is for an outlet like The Guardian to now attempt to wash its hands of Assange’s plight with a self-righteous denunciation of the Trump administration’s extradition request from its editorial board. This outlet has actively and forcefully paved the road to the situation in which Assange now finds himself by manufacturing consent for an agenda which the public would otherwise have found appalling and ferociously objectionable. Guardian editors don’t get to pretend that they are in some way separate from what’s being done to Assange. They created what’s being done to Assange.

The deployment of a bomb or missile doesn’t begin when a pilot pushes a button, it begins when propaganda narratives used to promote those operations start circulating in public attention. If you help circulate war propaganda, you’re as complicit as the one who pushes the button. The imprisonment of a journalist for exposing U.S. war crimes doesn’t begin when the Trump administration extradites him to America, it begins when propagandistic smear campaigns begin circulating to kill public opposition to his imprisonment. If you helped promote that smear campaign, you’re just as responsible for what happens to him as the goon squad in Trump’s Department of Justice.

Before they launch missiles, they launch narratives. Before they drop bombs, they drop ideas. Before they invade, they propagandize. Before the killing, there is manipulation. Narrative control is the front line of all imperialist agendas, and it is therefore the front line of all anti-imperialist efforts. When you forcefully oppose these agendas, that matters, because you’re keeping the public from being propagandized into consenting to them. When you forcefully facilitate those agendas, that matters, because you’re actively paving the way for them.

Claiming you oppose an imperialist agenda while helping to advance its propaganda and smear campaigns in any way is a nonsensical and contradictory position. You cannot facilitate imperialism and simultaneously claim to oppose it.

They work so hard to manufacture our consent because they need that consent. If they operate without the consent of the governed, the public will quickly lose trust in their institutions, and at that point it’s not long before revolution begins to simmer. So, don’t give them your consent. And for God’s sake don’t do anything that helps manufacture it in others.

Words matter. Work with them responsibly.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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40 comments for “Advancing Propaganda for Evil Agendas Is the Same as Perpetrating Them

  1. Frederike
    November 25, 2019 at 14:17

    “If they operate without the consent of the governed, the public will quickly lose trust in their institutions, and at that point it’s not long before revolution begins to simmer.”

    I think we have arrived at that point, and they know it. In the US, the UK, and Israel attitudes are shifting and making it impossible to maintain those deliberate lies. If Corbyn becomes premier because BoJo is rather unstable, and Israel looses Benjamin due to corruption, and Trump possibly gets ousted for whatever reason, many of the lies can no longer be passed on. It did not require courage by the Guardian to speak out in the past, but honesty. They did not have courage then and do not now.
    They are trying to cover their arses, because too much of the truth is known and too many people are speaking out in defense of Assange and other whistle blowers. The Guardian and other worthless outfits are being ridiculed and are loosing their audiences.

    Caitlin, all your writing is beautiful, to the point, courageous, and … ……..I read every article you write, and look forward to more. Thank you.

  2. Linda Lewis
    November 25, 2019 at 12:22

    Another brilliant analysis by Ms. Johnstone. The linked 2012 Guardian article was very revealing, proving how drastically ‘facts’ can change as establishment needs change. As evidence that Assange supporters are paranoid, the Guardian alleges there can be no indictment of Assange because Wikileaks is a publisher. Quote: “The authorities can threaten the wretched Bradley Manning and hold him in solitary confinement because he was a serving soldier when he passed information to Assange. But WikiLeaks was in effect a newspaper. From the 1970s, when the New York Times printed the Pentagon Papers, to today’s accounts of secret prisons and the bugging of US citizens, the American courts “have made clear that the First Amendment protects independent third parties who publish classified information”. (unquote) That ‘fact’ changed as the US drew closer to extraditing Assange. Now, WikiLeaks is a “hostile intelligence service” and NOT a publisher. [ ] Thus the establishment narrative spun around like the head of demon-possessed Regan in “The Exorcist.”

    • Frederike
      November 25, 2019 at 14:21

      Yes. The hypocrisy of the Guardian is unbelievable. If Trump had a vocabulary, not even he could outdo them.

  3. Tim Hart
    November 25, 2019 at 12:11

    Am excellent article cataloguing The Guardian’s shameful record on Julian Assange! Thank you for writing it.

  4. November 24, 2019 at 19:46

    Who among us would not lose their mind if held in the same conditions as Julian Assange !

    Not for days, weeks, months but for years, it is absolute torture of another human being.

  5. November 24, 2019 at 16:26

    the MO is universally the same: infiltrate/bribe/threaten the opposition after it has developed a favorable image, leave the name on it and start the shift, subtle at first. Whether its media, white helmets, amnesty intl., all of it.

  6. SteveK9
    November 24, 2019 at 13:07

    The campaign to ‘get’ Assange began under Obama, the king of whistle-blower prosecution. That could be mentioned as well … along with all the references to Trump.

  7. November 24, 2019 at 11:20

    When a media outlet has been functioning as such an obvious sewer spigot for baseless MI6 and CIA propaganda, well, it is a bit difficult to try to retreat backwards to the level of now being simply a limited-hangout for these intelligence services. The Guardian, like the rest of Western MSM, has done a rather impressive job of completely discrediting itself. And no, some cosmetic backtracking isn’t going to somehow restore their now long non-existent credibility.

    • James
      November 25, 2019 at 11:57

      Nicely put

    • Michael Leigh
      November 25, 2019 at 14:26

      It is my humble opinion, that following former GUARDIAN newspaper Editor, Alan Rustbridgers, His actions at the time of the MI5 intrusion into the Guardian’offices to destroy without a warrant, and signifantly without the Editor appeal his Editorial situation to the whole of Newspaper’s governing trusf, and their widely establised supporprters whoe have been able to bring the propsed or actual invasive act, to the highest authorites in the UK and worldwide.

      Ok I know my view is only in the what if category.

      But, in that case of a response it would have; “Been a case of nothing ventured is of course a case of nothing achieved “

  8. Austin Hook
    November 24, 2019 at 10:53

    Does anyone out there understand what transpired so that the Guardian joined the Assange smear campaign, instead of exposing it? We know it is incredibly wrong to have done so, and there is really no need to keep proving it over and over again, but what in heaven and earth caused the change in attitude? Who got paid off, or who got threatened?

    • Rob Roy
      November 24, 2019 at 22:13

      When Alan Rusbridger left The Guardian, the quality, honesty and truth left, too. The downhill slide became obvious quite rapidly.

    • anon
      November 25, 2019 at 12:04

      It would be nice to have whistleblowers in the mass media themselves, but likely they are selected for agreement or opportunist conformism. A look at their ownership and management will show that they are 100% corporate opportunists, and are largely managed by zionists et al.

  9. ElderD
    November 23, 2019 at 21:32

    Thanks, Caitlin! The only thing there is to add to your condemnation of the Graun’s shameful history of Assange coverage is that its assaultive behavior manifested long before any of the incidents cited here and has constituted a long series of betrayals after relying upon WikiLeaks revelations for literally years of featured reporting.

  10. robert e williamson jr
    November 23, 2019 at 18:29

    So Caitlin you and I would agree that if the Guardian doesn’t survive this “Trump Thing” it might be because they gave far too much support to CIA.

    Is this the result of CIA unlimited black budget that allows for CIA to buy space for it’s disinformation campaigns?

    This CIA thing of creating what ever news headlines they want may be running it’s course to a dead end. We can only hope.

    Thanks Caitlin.

  11. Sam F
    November 23, 2019 at 18:29

    A beautiful presentation with excellent reasoning by Caitlin Johnstone. Very true that “before they launch missiles, they launch narratives” and the Guardian “cannot facilitate imperialism and simultaneously claim to oppose it.” Yet their change of stance might indicate a UK government policy shift of unknown cause. No doubt it would be in vain to hope that the UK oligarchy at last sees or cares about the utter corruption throughout the US oligarchy and its bought government and mass media, but perhaps they both realized that this persecution is not accepted by their people.

  12. Tristan
    November 23, 2019 at 16:45

    Thank you for this great article which advocates for independent thinking in the face of a willful manipulation of the truth by powerful institutions and their proxies. It is indeed the duty of the informed to try to dissipate the stench of propaganda, yet so many aren’t even willing to delve into the basic causes of the failure of the so call “Democracies of the West” under auspices of Capitalism as it is currently practiced.

    As it is commonly understood, by independent thinkers, the present form of Capitalism as practiced in the West/United States is an antithesis to the actual promise of democracy. Thus we have this profit making eternal wars, where doesn’t matter really, the locations of these interventions are only the result of who has the pull in Washington DC at the time to get the funding.

    Inverse taxation in the U.S. to pay for Pentagon contracts, great! Legalized bribery in the U.S.? Get yer’ weapons! Sanctions? Game on! War? Who cares! We have X???gate here to distract. Gotta love a X???gate.

    Thanks again for a good article which then caused me to drink too much and write this response.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    November 23, 2019 at 13:31

    Thank you Caitlin but there is one adjective that you didn’t use – hypocritical. I still read the Guardian but not for the news which is frequently biased and slanted.

    • Austin Hook
      November 24, 2019 at 10:59

      Just curious what you still read the Guardian for, if not for news.

    • Jeff Harrison
      November 25, 2019 at 09:49

      Human interest stories, archeological news, stuff that has no politics in it. Finding Richard III under the car park.

  14. Paul Spencer
    November 23, 2019 at 13:28

    Excellent commentary, as usual.

  15. Lois Gagnon
    November 23, 2019 at 13:16

    Thank you Caitlin for your continued focus on the power of narrative the imperialists use to convince the population to accept the need to carry out its criminal policies. We should all start organizing seminars on the disastrous outcomes of official narratives and arm people with the skills to see through the real agenda behind them.

  16. Dario Zuddu
    November 23, 2019 at 13:09

    What can one say, very sad but all true.
    The Guardian did cross the pass me-the-sick bucket line.
    It is outrageous enough that such an ostensibly prestigious newspaper overlooked the most basic consequences of the Assange persecution for press freedom. A newspaper that originally published Assange’s Wikileaks material itself!
    Yet, it is the new lows attained by the MSM coverage of the ludicrous assault on Assange that sets a depressing just as much as a dangerous precedence.
    When media sources on which the public has to rely so much for information go to such lengths to INTENTIONALLY distort- how else could you describe it? – the factual record on such a sensitive issue, time has come for a robust popular response.
    We need to reestablish a true democratic control of the press.
    Solutions for subtracting the media to corporate control and intelligence manipulation are not easily enforceable, but are possible and have been envisaged.
    These are turbulent times indeed, but they are also open to refreshing as well as truly effective grassroots movements – before the Great Recession Sanders would have never got as far as he has in the past years.
    The fight for enhanced press independence should be at the forefront of this new beginning.

  17. Piotr Berman
    November 23, 2019 at 12:32

    I guess Caitlin can identify the source that I have forgot, but The Guardian was a bit better in not-so-remote pass. After all, the business plan was to be a preferred read for a wide spectrum of English speaking leftish readers, not just those who swoon at the name of Tony Blair etc. Some courageous journalism was required, so a small but visible group was in the ranks and making splash from time to time.

    But after Snowden revelations, the deep state got into veritable frenzy and The Guardian felt wrath like an overt heretic in the time of counter-Reformation. Merciful soul shepherds of the Inquisition would give ample opportunity to recant and abjure the errors, but for the obstinate, sadly, only purifying flames could bring the salvation. The computers of The Guardian were wrecked, the top ranks were summon for frank discussions with deep deep state, and they figured that emulating Giordano Bruno is lacking as a business plan. So the courage was purged, replaced by sober self-preservation.

    Still, some simulacrum of courage is still needed. Something that MSM handlers from deep state appreciate too.

  18. Dfnslblty
    November 23, 2019 at 11:33

    Keep writing and keep showing the hypocracy of imperialist plutocracy.

  19. November 23, 2019 at 11:03

    Brilliant article which I will share with my children and grandchildren. Let them think about what this tough lady has to say . To Kaitlin, take care with your documentation because one slip up and “they” will be all over you.

    From the article: “Before they launch missiles, they launch narratives. Before they drop bombs, they drop ideas.”

  20. November 23, 2019 at 10:46

    Free Assange and Manning!

  21. Nathan Mulcahy
    November 23, 2019 at 09:56

    Yes. Outlets like Guardian, and NPR at home, are much more effective propaganda organs of the empire than Fox, NYT, Washington Compost, MSDNC, CIANN, etc. And that’s because, as opposed to the latter, and in spite of contrary evidence, they have a veneer of objectivity in the minds of the mass. Therefore, Guardian and NPR are much more insidious.

    • Rob Roy
      November 25, 2019 at 00:39

      Well said, Nathan, and throw in PBS.

      Excellent article again, Caitlin, thank you.

    • AnneR
      November 25, 2019 at 07:48

      Yes – these two (plus, I would add, the BBC World Service as heard over here on the western side of the Atlantic) are exceedingly effective imperial propaganda organs *because* they all have (undeserved, mind) the reputation of being unbiased, almost neutral. And *because* (I think) they have – for the leftish side of the political equation over here – a “progressive” patina. And for the “progressives” among the electorate *that* counts enormously.

      Mind you, were the adherents to these organs of propaganda to really listen, parse the wording, take serious note of how much effort these particular media expend in really presenting (and in an equal, completely bias free manner) all sides to any given report they might reconsider their adherence, their belief in the “reportage”provided by NPR, BBC and the Graun. (E.g. the HK riots – termed “protests” always even as the violence of them is seriously underreported, downplayed and when reported, always done so in such a way as to smear the HK police rather than the “protesters”. Such bought and paid for “protesters” as Joshua Wong get to give their viewpoint in interviews, while we *never* hear any like interview from the Beijing angle.)

      Regarding the atrocious and illegitimate treatment of Julian Assange, aside from a brief mention regarding his continued detention following his recent hearing, absolutely NOTHING about his case, the torture, the illegality and illegitimacy of the whole affair, the parts that Sweden and the UK have played and are playing in ensuring that he will die in prison, either in the UK or the US – for revealing the *truth* about our governments and their employees, agencies, militaries. Certainly NO other mention, discussion, consideration on NPR or the BBC World Service (don’t, won’t read the Graun – bad enough getting the Newspeak from the radio).

      Meanwhile – we hear on and off about the plight of the Uyghurs and how dreadfully China treats them (but how can one believe anything these media report/say about *anything* when for the most part they are simply government, corporate-capitalist-imperialist, Russo/Sino?Irano phobic loudspeakers?), about the dastardliness of the Russian government and its “annexation” of Crimea, its invasion of the Donbass….and on and on.

      So my thanks to Caitlin for helping to keep this real for us. And to CN, too, for the same.

  22. Jan Wijninckx
    November 23, 2019 at 06:55

    I totally agree with this. The Guardian has acted more than disgracefully. Question is why.

  23. john wilson
    November 23, 2019 at 06:42

    I saw this article a couple of days ago on Yahoo where I comment extensively. Almost without fail the Guardian publish a couple of articles which can be summed up as slurry and effluence from their very own garbage machine. However, when I read their article on Assange I gave a cheer and praised the Guardian and gave credit where credit was due. I agree with Caitlin, of course, in that it’s a bit late in the day to be coming round to the fact that Julian’s incarceration is a crime which shows the judiciary in a very bad light. Nevertheless, let’s be thankful that one newspaper has now seen the obvious injustice against Assange and had the courage to speak out.

    • Robert Sepi
      November 25, 2019 at 11:19

      “. . . one newspaper has now seen the obvious injustice . . .” is a presumption because if someone should see the error of their ways, first thing coming would be “Oops! We were wrong!” with a cogent explanation, otherwise it’s just gibberish and extremely misleading if you don’t even mention your previous positions.

  24. Brendan
    November 23, 2019 at 05:39

    The Guardian knew at the start of last year that the UK put pressure on Sweden not to drop the case. A lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service wrote in an e-mail to Sweden:
    “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

    The Swedish director of public prosecutions wrote back apologetically, trying to explain how hard it was to keep the case going.

    This was a case where the UK was supposed to be helping Sweden to solve an alleged crime committed in Sweden that involved no British citizens. But the way that UK officials were giving orders to Swedish officials shows that the alleged crime was just a pretext for detaining Julian Assange for some other reason.

    That was clear even then, long before the US arrest warrant was made public and Sweden dropped the charges. But the Guardian only realises now that Assange must be defended against extradition to the United States.

  25. jmg
    November 23, 2019 at 05:17



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  26. Phil Smith
    November 23, 2019 at 02:50

    Great article.

  27. David Thompson
    November 23, 2019 at 01:52

    From a fellow Melburnian, Caitlin, again, bravo.

    A likely Grauniad motto;

    “It is easier to fool the people, than to convince them they have been fooled.”

    Mark Twain (allegedly).

  28. Fran Macadam
    November 23, 2019 at 01:38

    I began reading The Guardian when Greenwald was their reporter. When they turned on him and Snowden, I stopped. It seems the destruction they allowed of the Snowden evidence they held was the beginning of their further compromise as they morphed into an intelligence asset and propaganda mouthpiece. I laugh when I see them claiming they need support to tell the truth. That backbone ought to start with themselves.

  29. November 23, 2019 at 01:12

    I don’t understand why anyone even looks at this rag, The New York Times, Washington Post, and a long list of propaganda outlets that should be left to die.

    The author exempted, for so clearly showing us why they need to die, sooner than later.

  30. firstpersoninfinite
    November 23, 2019 at 00:40

    Another excellent article! The media’s whitewashing of our memories is purposeful, and lucrative to their business model. The only difference between Fox News and “real” news outlets parading as arbiters of reality is that they are both shining opposite sides of the same coin.

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