Washington Says ‘Journalism Is Not A Crime’

You don’t get to say “journalism is not a crime” while literally working to criminalize journalism, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

Listen to a reading of this article:

By Caitlin Johnstone

After a certain point criticizing the hypocrisy and contradictions of the U.S.-centralized empire starts to feel too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. But hell let’s do it anyway; the barrel’s right here, and I really hate these particular fish.

Russian security services have formally filed espionage charges against Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since his arrest last month. Gershkovich reportedly denies the spying allegations and says he was engaged in journalistic activity in Russia.

This news came out at the same time as a joint statement was published by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemning Gershkovich’s detention as a violation of press freedoms.

“Let there be no mistake: journalism is not a crime,” the senators write. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released and reiterate our condemnation of the Russian government’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.” 

The use of the phrase “journalism is not a crime” is an interesting choice since the most common individual case you’ll hear it used in reference to is surely that of Julian Assange, who has been locked in a maximum security prison for four years while the U.S. government works to extradite him for the crime of good journalism.

Every pro-Assange demonstration I’ve ever been to has featured signs with some variation of the phrase “journalism is not a crime,” and any Assange supporter will be intimately familiar with that refrain.

So as an Assange supporter it sounds a bit odd to hear that slogan rolled out by two DC swamp monsters who have both enthusiastically supported the persecution of the world’s most famous journalist.

“He has done enormous damage to our country and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law,” McConnell said of Assange after WikiLeaks published thousands of diplomatic cables in 2010.

“Neither WikiLeaks, nor its original source for these materials, should be spared in any way from the fullest prosecution possible under the law,” Schumer said in 2010.

“Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government,” Schumer tweeted when Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London almost exactly four years ago. (Assange has not been charged with anything related to Russia or the 2016 election, and allegations of collusion with Russia remain completely unsubstantiated to this day.) 

These are two of the most powerful elected officials in the world, puffing and posing as brave defenders of press freedoms after having actively facilitated their government’s attempts to destroy those very press freedoms.

Their government is working to extradite and imprison Assange under the Espionage Act for engaging in what experts say is standard journalistic activity, which will allow them to set a legal precedent in which any journalist anywhere in the world can be extradited and prosecuted for exposing U.S. war crimes like Assange did.

There is no greater threat posed to world press freedoms than the one the U.S. is presenting with its persecution of Julian Assange, a persecution which has been fervently endorsed by Schumer and McConnell and all the other Washington swamp creatures who are melodramatically rending their garments about Evan Gershkovich today.

Which is of course ridiculous. You don’t get to say “journalism is not a crime” while literally working to criminalize journalism. Those positions are mutually exclusive. Pick one.

It’s worthwhile to point out the hypocrisy of U.S. empire managers, not because hypocrisy in and of itself is some uniquely grave evil but because it shows that these people do not stand for what they pretend to stand for. The U.S. empire does not care about press freedoms, it cares about power and domination, and the noises it makes in support of journalism are only ever made as a cynical ploy with which to bludgeon disobedient foreign governments on the world stage.

Assange exposed many inconvenient facts about the U.S. empire in his work with WikiLeaks, but none have been so inconvenient as what he’s exposed by forcing them to come after him and reveal their true face in their brazen persecution of the world’s greatest journalist.



My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, throwing some money into my tip jar on PatreonPaypal, or Substack, buying an issue of my monthly zine, and following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

40 comments for “Washington Says ‘Journalism Is Not A Crime’

  1. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    April 10, 2023 at 13:13

    J’espère que Moscou va exiger la libération de Julian Assange en échange du journaliste espion Yankee.

    • Valerie
      April 10, 2023 at 16:55

      Ce n’est pas si facile mon ami Georges.

  2. c
    April 10, 2023 at 12:55

    George Szamuely and Peter Lavelle (The Gaggle) have suggested asking the U.S. to exchange Assange for Evan Gershkovich.
    Is that a possibility?

    • Blessthebeasts
      April 10, 2023 at 14:05

      Good idea but how would it benefit Russia? Assange is not a spy!

      • c
        April 10, 2023 at 18:10

        I know Assange isn’t a spy. Assuming Gershkovich doesn’t possess sufficient intelligence about the production of Kalibr cruise missiles to harm Russian national security, Russia might benefit from the gratitude of people who value (Constitutional) liberty for, once again, providing sanctuary for someone who has revealed government crimes.

  3. LeoSun
    April 10, 2023 at 11:52

    Agreed! Schumer & McConnell are two (2) old, gray, smelly Geezers soaked in HYPOCRISY, “don’t get to say “journalism is not a crime” (Caitlin Johnstone). TY, Mrs. Johnstone! However, sad but true, The Divided $tates of Corporate America’s “GOT” 100’s, of rabid, right-wing, rat-ba$tard Schumers & McConnells. IMO, “humans who ain’t human,” i.e., CONGRESS.

    “IT COULD PROBABLY BE SHOWN BY facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” ? Mark Twain

    Everybody, knows, the HYPOCRISY, $tarts @ the Top. Rolls down “The Hill,” i.e.,“220,000 Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this: … Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should NOT remain as president of the United States of America.” JOEY R. BIDEN, Hypocrite.

    Joey Robinette Biden was unmasked, years, “years,” ago, as a Fraud! Manipulative. Deceptive. Destructive. Perverted. Toxic. Basically, marinated in hypocrisy, i.e., Joey “dropped out of the 1988 presidential race because of a decades-long pattern of deception.” Fifty (50) Plus YEARS later, the mother lode, Biden’s hypocrisy, unlocked in his garage, in Delawhere?!?

    Gone are the days of Joey flying solo. Joey “GOT” a Do-Over, BIDEN-HARRIS, + M.I.C. + C.I.A. + F.B.I. + Treasury + MSMedia + Corporations + Congress = AN old, gray, dementia addled, truth challenged, balding “Eagle,” w/two right wings, tattered, torn & pissed on, grounded in Ireland. Joey Biden’s look’n for respite from the extreme, maga decline of animal, plant, & human life, in The Divided $tates of Corporate America; and, “that little girl’s” M.I.A.

    “A bird that is not flying cannot discover where there is harvest.”

    It’s bad; AND, it’s getting worse. Imo, the reason the “Eagle” is NOT wanted in the U.K., “For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast and breathed in the face of the foe as he passed. And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly & chill. And, their hearts but once heaved; and for ever, grew still.” Lord Byron

    The Party of War is in The House. WHO’S really in command of The Party?!? Russia rocks the Queen. Ukraine is the Pawn. Et tu, Biden-Harris?

    • Valerie
      April 10, 2023 at 17:03

      “Schumer & McConnell are two (2) old, gray, smelly Geezers”:

      Like the smelly “geysers” of Yellowstone park. Rotten eggs.

      “It’s bad; AND, it’s getting worse. Imo, the reason the “Eagle” is NOT wanted in the U.K.”:

      Lord Byron fits perfectly there. A remarkable poem.

      ” Et tu, Biden-Harris?”

      I didn’t know they speak Latin. Mmmm interesting.

      Keep your “spot on” posts coming. I love them. And they make me LOL.

  4. Sanford Kelson
    April 10, 2023 at 11:44

    It would be great if Russia would offer to return the Wall Street Journal journalist to the United States if the United States would arrange to have Julian Assange returned to Australia.

  5. Lenny Sandroff
    April 10, 2023 at 10:12

    “Let there be no mistake: journalism is not a crime,” the senators write. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Assange be dropped and he be immediately released and reiterate our condemnation of the US government’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.”

    Up is down and down is up in the nonsensical world of shifting facts and commentaries.

    Liars, baseless hypocrites and war mongers.

  6. CaseyG
    April 9, 2023 at 19:25

    Yoda was right. “Do or do not, there is no try.”

    So much of those in government , or those in areas of commercial power do seem to favor lying above Truth. And in this searching for Truth, I do find much of government does not really try. Appearance over substance
    seems to be the governmental choice .

    • Randal Marlin
      April 10, 2023 at 09:36

      In keeping with the spirit of exposing hypocrisy, I suggest meditating on the following adaptation of Mason Locke Weems’s famous story of George Washington as a young boy.

      “George, said his father, do you know who killed that beautiful cherry-tree yonder in the garden?” “I can’t tell the truth, Pa; you know I can’t tell the truth. Farmer Brown did it. An alien from outer space did it. You know that if I am to become president of the future USA, I can’t be seen to be eco-unfriendly.”

  7. Marc
    April 9, 2023 at 15:43

    Hypocrisy is not unique to the US. In Poland, a country of the very democratic European Union, the Spanish journalist Pablo González has been detained for more than a year, with no prospect of a trial and in conditions befitting a third-world dictatorship:

  8. rgl
    April 9, 2023 at 14:18

    If hypocrisy were a liquid, most of official washington would drown. It is unbelievable that DC mouthpieces spew this stuff and keep a straight face like they do.

    And people berate me for not voting.

    • Bob Martin
      April 10, 2023 at 01:55

      Agree completely. And the greatest proof that the corporate media is bereft of all value (or, I should say, that it has negative value) is that it does not point out such incredibly obvious hypocrisy.

    • April 10, 2023 at 10:52

      Like beauty, journalism is in the eye of the beholder. If a report about me is good, it’s good journalism. If a report about me is bad, it’s a crime.

    • Blessthebeasts
      April 10, 2023 at 11:25

      They don’t even see their hypocrisy. They count on the ignorance of the population to allow them to get away with it. Sadly, it works.

  9. Henry Smith
    April 9, 2023 at 05:32

    Western politics is currently so corrupt that these monsters can literally do and say whatever they want with no fear of criticism or being held to account. The rot in the system is now too deep. If they are not constrained, free speaking sources like CN will be under threat. Assange really is a test case of where we are going – Freedom or Hell.

    • Carlos A Torres Martinez
      April 10, 2023 at 10:53

      Henry: I’m absolutely agree with you! ‘Journalism Is Not A Crime’

  10. Anon
    April 8, 2023 at 21:45

    So…the 2 BOSS Senators Chose to be our nations spokesmen… Issue: Press Freedom…
    Considering that US Senators were Appointed by State Legislatures until the Same Exact Year in which US Treasury became Privatized…
    Surely Coincidence!

  11. Vicente Miguel Molinero
    April 8, 2023 at 21:25

    ¿¿¿¿ Who/What generated the “common wisdom” which you speak of ????

    Please provide substantiation of the claim that Assange’s work put people at risk. You can’t provide that; all you can do is wave your hand toward some anomalous “common wisdom.” Phony.

  12. RWilson
    April 8, 2023 at 20:33

    “Hypocrisy” is too mild a world for th Empire and its con-artist courtiers. The vast amount of suffering these people cause or enable, through their manufactured wars and economic crises, from which they reap “record profits” and lavish lifestyles, are so heinous as to boggle a decent person’s imagination.

    The massive deception by the army of corporate “journalists” enables the slaughter of millions and the theft of trillions. This Empire is an enemy of America. It does not deceive the public, rob it, and slaughter it in the public interest. The public is its victim. America has been infiltrated and captured by a most dangerous enemy.

    The RESTRICT Act is an attempt to control and censor internet news outlets as has been done with corporate outlets. Any member of Congress who supports this obvious attempt to gut the 1st Amendment, the foundation of our liberty, can only be supporting such a betrayal of America due to bribery, blackmail, or some treacherous motive.

  13. michael888
    April 8, 2023 at 19:59

    Ukraine just murders the journalists they disagree with (such as Vladlen Tatarsky).
    “Since [Regina] Martínez was slain in April 2012, at least 86 other journalists and media workers have been killed in Mexico.” That will soon be the norm in the US as well, which does not tolerate dissention from Official Narratives.
    The US is rapidly becoming a Banana Republic, which has no place for investigative journalists who speak truth to power.

  14. Piotr Berman
    April 8, 2023 at 19:13

    Journalists and spies collect information, and at times on the same topics. At times the occupations may overlap. Gershkovich arrived in a city with at least two major factories of military equipment, and performance of those factories is of high interest to readers of WSJ and to American intelligence agencies. If twits about Gershkovich are correct, he started by interviewing members of the city council, and learning from them that the information he seeks is classified. That pretty much guaranteed that he was tailed afterwards. And afterwards he tried to get the same information from people on streets near the factories.

    Overtness of his behavior point to the behavior of a journalist. The topic he pursued point to spying. I wonder what would happen to a Russian reporter doing the same with factories of Raytheon and similar companies.

    That said, Assange was not doing any “field work”, and his disclosures had hardly any impact in military operations, so it is clear that he was not a spy in an ordinary sense of the word, although expansive laws and even more expansive “legal theories” may cover his behavior — but it is hard to see how they could “catch” Assange and not Gershkovich.

  15. shmutzoid
    April 8, 2023 at 18:03

    The equation here is simple ,and and it goes way beyond hypocrisy ———–> If you are a foreign affairs reporter/journalist employed by a corporate news outlet, whatever you write is as good as gold. The political elite/imperial war managers will grant you access so as to spoon-feed you the official empire narrative to be faithfully conveyed to the public. You’ll have a career that pays VERY well. You’ll be rewarded with various accolades and share prestige with fellow presstitudes.

    On the other hand, if you are an independent journalist who embarrasses the US empire with those inconvenient truths, you will be spied on, vilified and portrayed as a Russian or Chinese agent! ….or, as anti-American ….or, any number ways to ‘disappear’ you. The range of consequences for truth-telling can vary from the way Assange has been persecuted to the now ubiquitous de-platforming and/or algorithmic downgrading of your work online.
    …….. Assassination is not out of the question. Gary Webb comes to mind. Michael Hastings’ death seemed very suspicious. And, let’s not forget those 10 or so unfortunate reporters for Al Jazeera in Baghdad who were killed by a US missile/drone that targeted the very floor of a building from which they were working.

  16. Realist
    April 8, 2023 at 15:51

    The matter all comes down to the concepts of hypocrisy and shame. The two rapscallions you mention from the American “all star” political lineup are surfeit in the former and totally absent the latter, as are most of their institutional colleagues who mainly just butt sniff and trail after these two miscreant carnival barkers. Unlike high intelligence and fastidious integrity being essential to a credible journalist, being a shameless hypocrite seems absolutely de rigor for election to the US Senate.

    • Cerena
      April 8, 2023 at 23:01

      Schumer is the most glaring example of dishonesty and hypocrisy. This “guardian of Israel” has no honest bone in his old limp body. Schumer is thoroughly corrupt and enjoys it. And yes, he is a staunch supporter of the followers of Stepan Bandera in Ukraine and their openly fascist policies based on supremacist genocidal ideology.

      • Lenny Sandroff
        April 10, 2023 at 10:15

        Marx writes, “As for the individual bureaucrat, the purpose of the state becomes his private purpose, a hunt for promotion, careerism.”

  17. Richard Romano
    April 8, 2023 at 14:54

    It should have included not only the US government but the whole crew media and corporate hacks.

  18. rosemerry
    April 8, 2023 at 14:19

    Chuck Schumer is even worse than I thought. His LIES about “meddling in our elections” and of course the Russiagate nonsense of Russia/ Putin which has been flogged to death and shown to be false lets us know his complete hatred and lack of any legal context. Anyone bothering to read /watch any of the thousands of hours of interviews since Putin came to power (and rescued Russia from US-induced disaster ) can see that the aim of Russia is to be sovereign and secure, NOT telling others how to run their countries. Look at the recent international peace agreements Russia and China have been involved in (if the US press bothers to mention them). Allow real journalists to work freely.

  19. IJ Scambling
    April 8, 2023 at 11:58

    Hypocrisy “in and of itself some uniquely grave evil” is essentially creatures swimming in their own ordure and offering it to the public with a smile on their faces. Words pale in an effort to phrase its harm in misleading and beguiling (“representing”) from supposed “leaders.” THIS double-speak should be criminalized.

    Incidentally, Russian MPs at first suggested Gershkovich be swapped for Trump and then another MP stepped forward to suggest Assange instead of Trump.


    The problem is not so much silencing Assange for what he has already done, but for what he might do if released–especially sequestered in Russia. Let the swamp creatures froth and swirl about over that prospect!

  20. April 8, 2023 at 10:16

    Hey there Caitlin,

    This is a question, and please take it as such – not a rebuke, or some sort of dickhead comment. The comment “wisdom” on Assange was that the sources he used knowingly put US operative’s lives at risk… So it felt a whole lot more like espionage than it did like journalism. true story or propaganda? I’m open minded.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      April 8, 2023 at 13:51

      The US government allegations against Assange are that he put US informants at risk. But U.S. General Robert Carr testified at Chelsea Manning’s court martial that the US had no evidence that a single informant was harmed by WikiLeaks releases. Australian journalist Mark Davis, who spent the entire weekend with Assange before the publication of the State Dept. cables, said Assange alone among his mainstream media partners took seriously redacting names of informations before publications and worked through the weekend to redact them. The unredacted cables were not published first by WikiLeaks but by others, including Cryptome, whose founder told the DOJ they should also arrest him as he published those names before Assange did. The unredacted cables became available because the secret password was published in a book by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. The US has also never accused Assange of stealing any of the material he published. He received them as any journalist and publisher does. He is not accused of espionage but of having unauthorized possession of defense information, though the First Amendment certainly authorized him to have them.

      Gen. Robert Carr on no informants harmed: hxxps://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/31/bradley-manning-sentencing-hearing-pentagon

      Mark Davis on Assange redactions: hxxps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZkyLoaMvRg&t=2s

      John Young on Cryptome publishing first: hxxps://consortiumnews.com/2022/11/30/cryptome-founder-asks-to-be-indicted-with-assange/

      John Young on CN Live!: hxxps://consortiumnews.com/2022/12/02/watch-cn-live-john-young-indict-me-too/

      • JonT
        April 8, 2023 at 15:56

        Well said CN…The details still need drumming in!

    • Eddy Schmid
      April 9, 2023 at 00:53

      If you had kept up with such issues, you would be aware that issue was put to rest, by none other than the U.S.’s own Congress who openly admited NO U.S. OPERATIVE WAS HURT/DAMAGED/KILLED by the release of that information. I repeat, the U.S.’s own Congress made that finding.

  21. Dfnslblty
    April 8, 2023 at 09:27

    >> It’s worthwhile to point out the hypocrisy of U.S. empire managers, not because hypocrisy in and of itself is some uniquely grave evil but because it shows that these people do not stand for what they pretend to stand for.<<

    Hypocrisy is indeed "…in and of itself some uniquely grave evil…" full stop.

    Thus humans —especially un-indoctrinated children — wince at those who say one thing and do another thing.

    It s the wilful inability to honestly live in the world.

    Thus, in times past, we rejected and prosecuted leaders who lied.

    Hypocrisy is the modus operandi of oppression; and now of congress and southern states government.

    Keep writing, C.J.

  22. Cynic
    April 8, 2023 at 06:28

    USA is an exceptional country indeed. Exceptionally hypocritical.

    • Richard Romano
      April 8, 2023 at 14:51

      You are right the US Government is an empire built on lies. Keep up your great work.

  23. Valerie
    April 8, 2023 at 03:20

    What a sick joke these politicians are.

    • Bob Martin
      April 10, 2023 at 02:03

      Or a sick tragedy, given the immense harm they do. They are leading humanity and the biosphere off the cliff. Our days, in their hands, are numbered.

      • Valerie
        April 10, 2023 at 17:18

        A “tragicomedy”. A serious play without a happy ending.

Comments are closed.