You don’t get to say “journalism is not a crime” while literally working to criminalize journalism, writes 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.”
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 7, 2023
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.)
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.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 11, 2019
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 Patreon, Paypal, or Substack, buying an issue of my monthly zine, and following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud 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.