The Danger of Getting Sidetracked

What this story really shows is how the corporate media derails meaningful debates and draws us all into a modern version of bread and circuses, writes Jonathan Cook.

By Jonathan Cook
Jonathan-Cook.net

I really do not wish to write about Mark Field, the British government minister who assaulted a climate change activist last week, grabbing her by the neck and violently marching her out of a City of London dinner while all the hundreds of other wealthy diners watched either impassively or approvingly. But whatever my wishes, it seems I must.

I don’t wish to write about Mark Field, because the media have constructed a debate that is limited to one matter only, even if there are apparently innumerable variations of that one issue to be raised.

Did Field behave like a gentleman or a knave? Is it reasonable that he believed the woman posed a danger? Is his apology enough? Were the climate change activists trespassing and, if they were, did that justify Field’s actions? Has he broken the ministerial code of conduct? Would we still be outraged if the activist were a man? Should he resign? Is his outburst evidence he is a wife beater? And so on.

When we engage in these debates, they seem important. As if we are fighting for the health of our societies; or upholding key values, or at the very least the rule of law. As if it shows we care. As if it can make things a little better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which is exactly why I don’t want to write about Mark Field. Because the reality is that things won’t get better while we allow ourselves to be manipulated into these kind of ring-fenced debates.

There is a reason why the corporate media quickly escalate simple stories like Mark Field’s into such apparently elaborate and polarizing public discussions. And the reason is to stop other kinds of debates, much more vital ones, from taking place that these stories would naturally provoke if we had a truly free media. We are being offered the modern version of bread and circuses.

Strip away the narrow, sectarian party politics in play here, and there is nothing debatable about Mark Field’s actions. He is caught on camera – his face full of rage, not fear – violently grabbing an activist who clearly poses no threat to him and who is, in fact, simply walking behind his chair. Field pushes her up against a wall, then seizes her by the back of the neck and frog-marches her out of the dining hall. If you feel it necessary, you can also factor in that the activist is a woman and the government minister a man.

Simple Situation

Either way, what is shown in the video is an entirely unjustified attack on a peaceful protester. Had the roles been reversed, the activist (whether a man or woman) would have been immediately arrested for assaulting a government minister. The activist would now be in jail with lawyers arguing over whether bail should be allowed. So why isn’t Mark Field now in the same predicament?

The point is that anyone who wishes to make the argument any more complex than the one I just outlined is doing so either in bad faith or because they have listened too credulously to others who have spoken in bad faith. Which includes the entire spectrum of the state-corporate media, including its supposedly liberal components like the BBC and the Guardian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the story about Mark Field really illustrates is how effective the corporate media is in derailing meaningful debates about the state of our societies. The media offer us a placebo – a public arena for largely empty arguments that we are encouraged to become deeply invested in emotionally. We are offered two easy options and must choose to rally to the cause of one of those tribes – left or right. And through righteous anger, for or against, we feel temporarily cured of a deeper dissatisfaction or sense of foreboding.

The reality is that these public debates are simply gladiatorial contests offering instant – and hollow – gratification. They have as much concrete meaning in terms of changing the substance of our societies, of addressing the injustice and unsustainability of our political and economic systems, as does cheering a football team.

That is not to argue that denouncing an assault on a peaceful protester is wasted energy, or that rationalizing it – as so many people on the right are currently doing – is not deeply ugly. The treatment of protesters by the state and its agents, or of women by men, are important matters for public discussion. But that is not why the media are so willingly fueling the row about Mark Field’s actions.

Deflecting Attention

The debate is not being used as an opportunity to clarify how our society should view acceptable behavior; it is being actively promoted by a ruling class to deflect our attention from the deeper contextual issues the Mark Field episode highlights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allowing two sides in a debate about whether he behaved appropriately is already to have conceded the progressive argument. It is to accept that there is room for discussion, that the video evidence is not conclusive in itself.

This is a contest where the stakes are so immaterial to the corporate media that each outlet can afford to take either side of the debate and know it will make no meaningful difference. They can berate Mark Field or sympathize with him, and it will make no odds to anyone or anything but Field and possibly the victim of his assault.

And the very cynical fueling of this debate by the state-corporate media, one that may last days or even weeks, can then be cited as seemingly persuasive evidence that the media truly is a pluralistic forum for public discussion, where all sides are represented, where everyone is given a voice. Contrived debates like this one will be used as ammunition to shunt media critics like myself further into sidings, showing how vigorous, relevant and on the side of the underdog the “mainstream” media really is.

This is the primary purpose of the state-corporate media. To draw our energies away from real issues hiding in plain sight towards obvious ones of only specific or marginal significance, and then persuade us that we are in fact engaged with the most vital issues of the day.

Personalities, Not Power Structures

This is precisely why the media are obsessed with individuals and personalities – celebs, sporting heroes, royal family members, actors, politicians, world leaders – not the actual power structures that dictate the patterns of our lives, that determine the chances of us gaining redress or justice, that offer the key to extricating ourselves from the economic and environmental ruin we are hurtling towards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If necessary, Mark Field can be sacrificed by the power structures that dominate our lives (though usually only temporarily – think of other government ministers who have found themselves briefly ousted from power and then quickly rehabilitated, such as Boris Johnson or Liam Fox) because the mechanisms that protect these power structures are far more important than the punishment or humiliation or any lone individual.

Consider two much deeper issues desperately struggling to gain any traction as they are smothered by the media’s gleeful furor over the Mark Field story.

One concerns the event Mark Field attended. It was an annual dinner at Mansion House, the official residence of the mayor of the City of London. The City of London is not the Mary Poppins’ way of saying “London.” It is a tiny, secretive enclave within Britain, a state within a state located in the heart of London. Seen another way, it is a kind of British Vatican, though one that worships money alone.

Corrupt Fiefdom

It abides by its own rules, financial and criminal, creating effectively a tax-haven within the UK that cannot be policed by any of the usual watchdogs. The City of London has managed to continue unreformed from its medieval origins into the modern era for one reason alone: it is the perfect way for a wealthy elite to maintain their power and privilege by bypassing the imperfect democratic system operating outside its concrete shores, in the rest of the U.K. The City of London is a deeply corrupt fiefdom inside a slightly less corrupt Britain. If the mafia were given the chance to make themselves look legit, they might create in Italy something very much like the City of London.

Those attending the dinner are drawn from either Britain’s wealth elite, or those who serve them and aspire to join them. Figures such as Field, a minister in the Foreign Office, and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, who addressed the dinner, oil some of the wheels of this exclusive club partially out in the open, through U.K. politics. But they oil other wheels in the shadows, through their activities in the City of London. What precisely they get up to in the City is difficult to know given the secrecy, and all the harder to now learn about after Field’s ruling party has worked so assiduously to hobble Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks platform that was established to help whistleblowers expose the more shadowy activities of our rulers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The City of London is the biggest weapon in the armory of the ruling elite’s class war against the British – and global – public. It is a vacuum sucking up public finances to further enrich the wealthy and leave the masses reeling from austerity policies, while using the media to bolster the impression that it is a hub of wealth creation.

That’s why you almost never hear anything about the City of London. Our supposed representatives, politicians and corporate media alike, are happy to keep the veil mostly drawn across this pocket of power. It is not just that they do not want to take it on, they are already very much part of the power structures it has designed both to preserve itself and shield itself from meaningful criticism.

As long as we are talking about Mark Field’s attitude to women, we are not talking about his and his government’s active collusion with the most regressive, secretive, unaccountable rotten borough in the UK – a city-state located geographically inside Britain, but operating outside its strictures.

Mark Field’s attack could have provided an opportunity to examine this powerful relic of medieval Britain, to consider who the City of London really serves, and to wonder why the political class are cozying up to it rather than trying to eradicate it as a dangerous behemoth of Britain’s surviving feudal order. The City of London is integral to a system of ever-accelerating wealth hording by a global elite that is economically unsustainable. But in response, the media willingly amplify a loud culture war and simplistic identity politics precisely so no other kind of debate stands a chance of being audible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other, even more obvious issue the activists were trying to draw attention to was the threat posed to the environment, to other species and to our own future by the preposterous, self-serving premise – espoused by the City of London and its politician and media cronies – of endless economic growth based on the exploitation of the planet’s finite resources.

Late Waking to Emergency

We are now facing a climate emergency – or rather some of us are finally and very belatedly waking up to a climate emergency that has been many decades in the making. We have come to it so late because the wealth elite represented at the City of London dinner have used the key power structures at their disposal – the political and media establishments – to deceive us, to keep us sleepwalking towards oblivion as they have carried on plundering the planet, destroying the biosphere, and stashing away their inordinate wealth.

The state-corporate media has not only downplayed climate change but is still doing so, as credibly as it can manage given the relentless scientific evidence that human society is hurtling towards an abyss.

In fact, many of the journalists responding to Mark Field’s attack have lost no time in using it as a way to further alienate the public from climate change activism. They have presented those prepared not simply to wait quietly for us all to be driven over the cliff-edge as a nasty, uncouth, potentially violent rabble. They have done this even as the video footage shows the women who protested at the Mansion House dinner were dressed in evening gowns and remained entirely peaceful as they sought to gain attention for the most urgent and catastrophic issue of our time.

There should be no debate that they are right, that we live in a rotten and rotting system of power that has blindly invested all its energies in perpetuating a feudal system of wealth creation for a ruling class, even as the futures of our children – all our children – hang in the balance.

Yes, Mark Field, his face red with indignation, looked like a man who had lost the plot, who was filled with an overwhelming sense of his own entitlement, and who was deeply threatened – not by violence from the protesters but by arguments he simply has no way of addressing rationally.

The real debate we need urgently to engage with is not whether Mark Field is a wife-beater or misogynist. It is how we deal with the power structure he represents, the system he is a loyal servant of. For that psychopathic system is ready to beat us all, men and women alike, into the dust, to keep extracting the last ounce of wealth from a dying corpse, to obliterate our futures.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth.

This article is from his blog, Jonathan Cook.net. 




JOHN KIRIAKOU: CIA Seeking More Impunity

The agency is trying to get a pass on crimes even before they’re committed and it represents a threat to press freedom.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

The CIA has quietly asked the Senate Intelligence Committee to include a provision in its next authorization bill that would vastly expand the definition of a “covert agent” whose identity would be protected from unauthorized disclosure. 

The current law, called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981, defines a covert agent as any intelligence officer who is serving abroad or who has served abroad in a covert capacity in the past five years.  The new bill would expand that protection to include all unacknowledged intelligence personnel even if they have never left the United States.

Let me be clear:  This measure is not at all about protecting the identities of CIA officers doing their jobs.  It is about protecting those CIA employees who have committed crimes against humanity. It’s a cover-up.  Take it from me.  I have first-hand experience with this law.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) has been used only twice since its passage. It was used to convict Sharon Scranage, a CIA secretary who had had an affair with an intelligence officer in Ghana and had given him the names of all CIA employees in the country and the identities of Ghanaians who were working for the CIA.  She was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a minimum-security prison.  My prosecution was the second and it came in retaliation for my blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program.  I never made public the name of any covert operative and I ended up with 23 months.

These two minor prosecutions aside, very few revelations of CIA identities have ever led to court cases.  Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage famously leaked Valerie Plame’s name to two syndicated columnists.  He was never charged with a crime.  Former CIA Director David Petraeus leaked the names of 10 covert CIA operatives to his adulterous girlfriend, apparently in an attempt to impress her, and was never charged.  Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the covert SEAL Team member who killed Osama bin Laden.  He apologized and was not prosecuted.

Implementation a Joke

The implementation of this law is a joke. The CIA doesn’t care when an operative’s identity is revealed — unless they don’t like the politics of the person making the revelation.  If they cared, half of the CIA leadership would be in prison.  What they do care about, though, is protecting those employees who commit crimes at the behest of the White House or the CIA leadership.

In 2011, when I was the senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a journalist called me to say that he had information that the CIA was placing officers under cover who had been prominent participants in the agency’s torture program.  I wrote the CIA a letter under John Kerry’s signature asking for clarification and saying that placing people under cover solely for the purpose of protecting them from prosecution was a regulatory violation.  Six weeks passed before a colleague came into my office and said, “The Agency finally responded to your letter.”  I told him that I had just checked my mail less than an hour earlier and that I hadn’t seen anything.  He said that the letter had been classified at the Top Secret level and, at the time, I had only a Secret clearance.  I asked what the letter said.  His response was quick.  “It says to go fuck yourself.

Former Vice President and current Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden was one of the senators in 1981 who voted against the IIPA, which he believed was unconstitutional in the first place. Biden said in an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor in 1982 that, “The language (the IIPA) employs is so broadly drawn that it would subject to prosecution not only the malicious publicizing of agents’ names, but also the efforts of legitimate journalists to expose any corruption, malfeasance, or ineptitude occurring in American intelligence agencies.”  It’s nothing more than an attack on a free press.

The CIA doesn’t care about a free press, though. The proposed provision in the authorization bill would save the CIA the trouble of having to explain itself to the likes of the media, to members of the congressional oversight committees, or even to the courts.  And it raises far more questions than it answers.  Why is such a provision necessary in the first place?  What exactly is it supposed to protect?  What was the precipitating event?

There are, of course, no legitimate answers to those questions.  No CIA officers have been exposed.  None have been threatened.  None have had their lives put in danger by unauthorized disclosures.  That’s a red herring.  This new provision is a power grab.  It is an attempt to get a pass on crimes even before they’re committed. It’s prior restraint.  It’s un-American and we have to fight it.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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Using Democratic Institutions to Smash Democratic Aspirations (the Brazil Model)

Clarity emerges around the political persecution of Lula, Brazil’s former president. But what is still blurry for many is the actual case against him, writes Vijay Prashad.

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute
for Social Research

Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has now been in prison since April 2018. More than 400 Brazilian lawyers have signed a statement that expresses alarm at what they see as procedural irregularities in the case against him. They call for the immediate release of Lula. The Asociación Americana de Juristas – a non-governmental organization with consultative status at the United Nations – has called Lula a political prisoner. Lula was convicted of corruption and money-laundering, despite a lack of solid evidence. Two lawsuits against him remain unfinished.

Now, more evidence emerges about the collusion of the lead judge and the lead investigator in the prosecution of Lula thanks to excellent reporting from The Intercept. The political motivations are now on the record: they, on behalf of the oligarchy, did not want Lula – who remains hugely popular – to be the 2018 presidential candidate of the Workers’ Party (PT). Brazil’s right-wing has begun a horrible campaign to malign the journalists of The Intercept, notably its editor Glenn Greenwald. Using the same tactics of hate, misogyny, and homophobia to defame their journalists, they hope, will distract from and delegitimise the damning evidence of their corrupt tactics.

Clarity now emerges around the political persecution of Lula. But what is still blurry for many is the actual case against him. The details of his case remain murky, with many who sympathise with Lula unsure of how to understand the corruption charges and his apparent conviction. This newsletter is dedicated to providing a primer on Lula and the case against him.

Who is Lula? 

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (73 years old), a metalworker and trade union leader, helped found the PT, Brazil’s main left party. He won two consecutive elections to govern Brazil from 2003 to 2010. At the close of his second term, Lula had an approval rating of 86 percent – the highest in the country’s history. His poverty reduction programs – particularly his hunger alleviation schemes – earned his government praise from around the world, which is why some are calling for him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Income redistribution through social programs such as Bolsa Família, Brasil sem Miseria, the expansion of credit, the increase in decent work, and the increase in the minimum wage lifted almost 30 million (out of 209 million) Brazilians out of poverty. The number of public university campuses more than doubled, leading to a 285 percent  increase in Afro-Brazilians attending institutes of higher education. Brazil paid off its debts to the IMF and the government discovered a massive new oil reserve in the Santos Basin, off the coast of São Paulo. This oil will eventually change Brazil’s strategic position in the world.

Why was Lula arrested? 

There are two narratives that exist to answer this question. The first— the official narrative, propagated by the bourgeoise— is that Lula is in prison on charges of corruption and money laundering. His cases remain pending before the courts. Curitiba’s Public Prosecutor’s Office – led by Deltan Dallagnol – was in charge of an investigation around corruption allegations at Brazil’s state energy firm, Petrobras. Because a car wash became part of the money laundering investigation, the Task Force was known as Lava Jato (Car Wash). The Task Force uncovered activity by contractors such as OAS and Odebrecht, who had – it turns out – remodelled an apartment on the coast and a farm in the interior that were supposedly owned by Lula. These firms, it was said by the Task Force, had gained concessions from Petrobras. The Task Force argued that Lula benefited from the contractors, who in turn benefitted from state largess. This was the allegation. The second narrative — further substantiated by recent reporting from The Intercept of collusion between the main judges in the case against Lula — shows evidence of political persecution and a coordinated attempt to stop Lula from winning the presidential election and put a halt to the country’s progressive social agenda. In this narrative, the corruption charges against Lula were manufactured in order to recover the right-wing’s control of the government, despite a lack of evidence against him.

Is there evidence against Lula? 

Actually, no. The prosecutors could not prove that Lula had ever owned the apartment or the farm. Nor could they prove any benefit to the contractors. Lula was convicted – bizarrely – of unspecified acts. Former OAS director Léo Pinheiro, who had been convicted of money laundering and corruption in 2014 and was to serve 16 years, gave evidence against Lula; for this evidence, his sentence was reduced. There was no material evidence against Lula.

Who convicted Lula? 

Judge Sérgio Moro convicted Lula. He became a celebrity and is now the minister of justice in the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. It is clear that Bolsonaro won the election because Lula was not permitted to run. Moro’s conviction delivered the presidency to Bolsonaro, who then rewarded Moro with the ministry appointment. Moro not only tried Lula in his court, but also in the court of public opinion. The corporate media was on the side of the prosecution, and leaks from the court created an image of Lula as the enemy of the people. Bizarrely, the press often seemed to have information from the court before Lula’s defence attorneys. When Lula’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus petition to get him out of jail, the army’s commander-in-chief sent the Supreme Court a message on Twitter to instructing them not to grant the petition. The petition was denied.

Should Lula have been allowed to run for president? 

The Brazilian Code of Criminal Procedure says that one can only go to prison when their appeals run out. Article 5 of the Constitution notes,”No one shall be considered guilty before the issuance of a final and unappealable prison sentence.” Why Lula went to jail in the first place requires an investigation. Judge Moro argued that it was because he was found guilty in the Appeal Court based on a plea bargain. This is murky. The UN’s Human Rights Committee said that Lula should have been allowed to run for president last year because his appeals had not been exhausted. Not only did the judiciary and the prosecutors not allow Lula to run, but they also did not allow him to meet the press and so influence the election.

What has been the role of the United States in the Lava Jato investigation? 

Odd how the US Department of Justice officials visited Judge Moro during the investigation, and how US Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in 2017 that the U.S. justice officials had “informal communications” about the removal of Lula from the presidential race. On 6 March 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice said that it would transfer 80 percent of the fines it received from Petrobras to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to set up an “anti-corruption investment fund.” It is fair to say that this is a payment to the Lava Jato team for its work on removing Lula from the presidential race.

What was the real corruption in this case? 

Messages seemed to constantly be exchanged between the Moro and the Lava Jato team led by Dallagnol. These have now been revealed by The Intercept and scrutinized by a range of forensic and political analysts. It is clear that the judge and the prosecutor colluded to find Lula guilty and lock him away. The first instance of corruption is this brazen collusion between two parts of the government. The second instance of corruption is the role of the United States in this case, and the pay-out to Dallagnol’s department for services rendered.

The persecution of Lula is a story that is not merely about Lula, nor solely about Brazil. This is a test case for the way oligarchies and imperialism have sought to use the shell of democracy to undermine the democratic aspirations of the people. It is the methodology of democracy without democracy, a Potemkin Village of liberalism.

At Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we are studying this phenomenon closely. You have already seen our dossier on the hybrid war against Venezuela and our dossier on lawfare in Brazil. The arrest of human rights defenders from Julian Assange to Ola Bini as well as the arrest of whistle-blowers from Chelsea Manning to David McBridge are part of this chilling effect against the sentinels of democracy.

 

We are taking seriously this evisceration of democracy. We are going to look at the role of money in elections (test case: India) and voter suppression, as well as the reduction of ‘politics’ to the festival of elections, the allowance of states to crush the basic institutions of civil society, and the role of immiseration in the defeat of the democratic spirit. We need a new theory of actually-existing democracy.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator and a Marxist intellectual. He is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of LeftWord Books.

This article is from Tricontinental




John Pilger: The Global War on Assange, Journalism & Dissent

John Pilger talks about the persecution of the WikiLeaks publisher and the rapid crackdown on investigative journalism in a wide-ranging interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico.

By Dennis J Bernstein and Randy Credico
KPFA Flashpoints 

The muckraking work of Oscar- and Emmy-award-winning filmmaker John Pilger is revered and celebrated by journalists and publishers all over the world. While still in his twenties, Pilger became the youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, “Journalist of the Year,” and was the first to win it twice. Moving to the United States, he reported on the upheavals there in the late 1960s and 1970s. Pilger was in the same room when Robert Kennedy, the presidential candidate, was assassinated in June 1968.

His reporting in South East Asia and his subsequent documentary, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” raised almost $50 million for the people of that stricken country. Similarly, his 1994 documentary and dispatches report from East Timor, where he travelled under cover, helped galvanize support for the East Timorese, then occupied by Indonesia. In Britain, his four-year investigation on behalf of a group of children damaged at birth by the drug Thalidomide, and left out of the settlement with the drugs company, resulted in a special settlement. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in the U.K. and abroad. In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work.

In this interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico, Pilger talks about what is happening to his friend and colleague Julian Assange, founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, and how his persecution could be the beginning of the end of modern investigative reporting as we know it. Since Assange’s high-profile arrest and maximum-security imprisonment on a bail-jumping charge, journalists and whistleblowers have been pursued, arrested and have their documents and hard drives seized in the U.S., France, Great Britain and Australia.

Bernstein: Good to speak with you again, John.  Thanks for talking with us. What’s happening — not only with Julian Assange — but the future of journalism is extremely disturbing. Now we have seen high-profile raids of journalists in Australia, France, and here in the U.S. in San Francisco, where police put a reporter in handcuffs, while they searched his house and seized his hard drive. We know Julian Assange is in maximum security and Chelsea Manning is also locked down. These are terrible times for the open flow of information.

Pilger: Well, it’s happening all over the world now and certainly all over that part of the world that regards itself as the enlightened. We are seeing the victimization of whistleblowers and journalists who tell the truth. There is a global war on journalism. More than that, there’s a global war on dissent. The speed with which these events has happened is quite remarkable since April 11th when Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police. Since then, police have moved against journalists in the United States, in Australia, spectacularly, in Latin America. It’s as if somebody has waved a green flag.

Credico: I was thinking by now that Assange would be out. Didn’t you think at this point that he would be out of the dire situation that he was in when I last saw him two years ago?

Pilger: I’m reluctant to be a futurist. I did think a political deal might have been done. Now looking back, that was naive in the extreme because the very opposite was planned for Julian Assange. There is an “Assange Precedent” at work all over the world. In Australia there was a raid on the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where the federal police marched in with warrants, one of which gave them the authority to delete, change and appropriate the material of journalists. It was one of the most blatant attacks on journalistic freedom and indeed on freedom of speech that I can remember. We saw even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation attacked.

The political editor of one of Murdoch’s papers, The Sunday Telegraph, watched as her house was ransacked and her personal belongings, intimate belongings, rifled. She had reported on the extent of official spying on Australians by the Australian government. Something similar has happened in France where [President Emmanuel] Macron’s police have moved against journalists on the magazine, Disclose.

Assange predicted this while he was being smeared and abused. He was saying that the world was changing and that so-called liberal democracies were becoming autocracies. A democracy that sends its police against journalists and carries away their notes and hard drives simply because those journalists have revealed what governments have not wanted people to know is not a democracy.

CredicoYou know, John, some of the mainstream media here in the U.S. and I guess in the U.K., now that their ox is possibly being gored, have suddenly come out in defense of Assange particularly on the use of the Espionage Act and the gathering of information. I don’t want to denounce them for waiting so long but why did they wait so long and what kind of help can they offer at this point and what should they do since they are in the crosshairs, as well?

Pilger: Let’s look at who is actually in the crosshairs. WikiLeaks co-published the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs in 2010, in collaboration with a range of media organizations: Der Spiegel in Germany, The New York Times, the Guardian and Espresso. The co-publishers of the Iraq material were also Al Jazeera, Le Monde, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, Channel 4’s “Dispatches” in London, the Iraq Body Count project in the U.K., RUV (Iceland), SVT (Sweden) and so it goes on.

There’s a list of individual journalists who reported this and worked with Assange. They echoed his work; they were collaborators in the literal sense. I’m looking at a list right now: On The New York Times there is Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt, Andrew W. Lehren, C. J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Jacob Harris, Alan McLean. On The Guardian there is Nick Davies, David Leigh, Declan Walsh, Simon Tisdall … and so it goes on. All these journalists are in the crosshairs. I don’t believe that many will find themselves in the dire straits in which Julian Assange finds himself because they don’t present a danger to the system that has reacted against Assange and Chelsea Manning; but they have, prima facie, committed the same “crime,” that is, publishing documents that the U.S. government did not want made public. In other words, they are as “guilty” as Assange of journalism.

That applies to hundreds of journalists if not thousands all over the world. The WikiLeaks disclosures were, if not co-published, were picked up by newspapers and journals and investigative programs on television all over the world. That makes all the journalists involved, all the producers, all the presenters, all of them complicit. And, of course, the hounding of Assange and the intimidation of others make a mockery of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that you have every right to publish; you have every right to “publish and be damned.” It’s one of the demonstrably noble principles of the U.S. Constitution that has been thrown away completely. And what’s ironic is that the journalists who looked down on Assange, even maintained he was not a journalist, are now running for cover because not only is he a journalist of the highest order he is a far more conscientious journalist than most of them. He — and they in his shadow — were doing a basic job of journalism. That’s why I call it a global war on journalism and the precedent of Julian Assange is unlike anything we have seen.

Bernstein: John I want to sort of pick up where you left off with Randy and I want to unpack more and deepen peoples’ understanding of exactly who Julian Assange is and the, if you will, the beat that he chose for his work. How would you describe Julian Assange’s beat and the people he chose to work with?

Pilger: When I first met Julian Assange, I asked him, “What’s WikiLeaks all about, what are you doing here?” He described very clearly the principle of transparency. In fact, he was describing the principle of free speech: that we have a right to know. We have a right to know what our governments are doing in our name. He wasn’t saying that there is a right to endanger people. He was saying that in the normal business of liberal democracies, we have a right to know what our governments are doing for us, at times conspiring against us, in our name. We have the right to know the truth that they tell in private which are so often translated into untruths in public. That transparency, he said, was a moral principle.  That is the “why” of WikiLeaks. He believes it passionately and, of course, that should strike a chord with every authentic journalist, because that’s what we all should believe.

What the Assange case has shown us is that this war on journalism, this war on dissent, has yet to enter the political bloodstream. None of the candidates now running for the presidency of the United States has mentioned it. None of the Democrats have uttered it. We don’t expect the Trump gang to talk about principles like this but there is some naive hope that maybe some of the Democrats might. None of them has.

Bernstein: [What does it say when] Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning; a publisher and one of the most significant military whistleblowers of our time, are in jail and locked down?

PilgerThey want to get their hands on Julian Assange because he protected his source and they want to get their hands on Chelsea Manning because she, being the source, has refused to lie about Julian Assange. She’s refused to implicate him. She’s refuses to say there is a conspiracy between them. These two exemplify the very best of truth telling in the modern era. We’ve been bereft of the likes of Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Yes, there’s been some fine investigative reporting and disclosures but we have to reach back to the caliber of Daniel Ellsberg to appreciate what Chelsea and Julian, these two heroic figures, what they’ve given us and why they’re being persecuted. 

If we allow their persecution, so much is lost. The intimidation and suppression will work on all our lives. In the media that once abused Assange, I detect fear. You read some of these editorials by those who once attacked Julian Assange and smeared him, such as in The Guardian, and you see their fear that they may be next. You read famous columnists like Katie Benner in The New York Times, who attacked Assange and now sees a threat from his tormentors to all journalists. The same is true of David Corn [at Mother Jones] who now sees a threat to all of journalism. They are justified in being frightened.

CredicoWhat was the fear of Assange? That he would have continued to work on new avenues of exposure? Why are they so afraid of Assange?

PilgerWell, I think they were worried – are worried – that among the 2 million people in the U.S. who have a national security clearance are those whom Assange has called “conscientious objectors.”  I once asked him to characterize the people who were using WikiLeaks to release important information. He likened them to the conscientious objectors in wartime, people of principle and peace, and I think that’s quite an apt description. The authorities are worried that there are quite a few Chelseas out there. Perhaps not quite as brave or as bold as Chelsea, but who may start releasing information that undermines the whole war-making system.

CredicoYeah I spoke to Julian about this about a year and a half ago when I was in London, about trying to make a comparison to mid-19th century Antebellum South and journalists like Elijah Lovejoy and David Walker who were murdered for exposing the brutality and destinism of slavery and I said, “You know, we gotta’ start packaging you in that kind of light,” and he’s says, “You know, there’s a big difference, Randy.” He said that, “See those guys only had one, one side to deal with, that’s it; the people in the South and some of the collaborators in New York that were part of the cotton shipping business. But the rest of the North pretty much was on the side of the abolitionists. I exposed the war crimes and got the conservatives upset with me. And then I exposed misbehavior, malfeasance by the Democratic Party. So, I target everybody, I don’t exempt anybody so it doesn’t apply to me.”

And that’s what’s happened here. [You see it in the small size of the protests on his behalf.] I was at a demonstration the other day, a small little protest for Assange in front of the British embassy,  and only half a dozen people were there, a few more the previous week. He’s not generating that kind of interest thus far. And you had people walking by saying, “Assange is a traitor.” I mean, they are so disinformed and I want to go to this quote that you quoted, Vandana Shiva, in your book “Freedom Next Time,” she talked about the “insurrection of subjugated knowledge,” can you talk about that?

PilgerVandana Shiva is the great Indian environmentalist and political activist whose books on the threat of monoculture are landmarks, especially the threat of the multinational agri-power companies that impose themselves on vulnerable, rural societies like India. She described an “insurrection of subjugated knowledge.” It is a fine truism. I have long believed that the truth resides in a metaphorically subterranean world and above that is all the noise: the noise of the accredited politicians, the noise of the accredited media, those who appear to be speaking for those below. Now and then, truth tellers emerge from below. Take the Australian war correspondent, Wilfred Burchett, who was the first to reach Hiroshima after the atomic bombing. His report appeared on the front of his newspaper The Daily Express in London, which said, “I write this as a warning to the world.”  He was warning about nuclear weapons. Everything was thrown at Burchett to smear and discredit him. The New York Times correspondent was leading this: the same New York Times correspondent who denied that people were suffering effects of radioactivity: that people had died only from the blast. He was later found to be in bed with the U.S. authorities. Wilfred Burchett suffered smears over most of his career. As all whistleblowers do — those who are affronted by the indecency of something they discovered perhaps in a corporation they work for, or within a government — they believe that the public has a right to know the truth.

The Guardian, which turned on Julian Assange with such viciousness having been one of WikiLeaks’ media partners, back in the ‘80s published the disclosures of a Foreign Office official who had sent them the plans of the U.S. to install medium-range Cruise missiles throughout Europe. The Guardian published this and was duly praised as a paper of disclosure and principle. But when the government went to the courts and a judge demanded the paper hand over the documents that would reveal who the whistleblower was — instead of the editor doing as editors are meant to do, standing up for principle and saying, “No, I will not reveal my source” — the paper betrayed its source. Her name is Sarah Tisdall and she went to prison as a result. So, whistleblowers have to be extraordinarily brave, heroic people. When you look at the likes of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, it’s as if the full force of the American national security state backed by its so-called allies has been imposed on them. Julian represents an example that they must make because if they don’t make an example of Julian Assange, journalists might even be encouraged to do their job and that job means telling the public what they have a right to know.

CredicoVery well said. In your preface or introduction in your book, “Freedom Next Time,” you also quote Harold Pinter and his Nobel Prize speech in which he talked about the vast tapestry of lies that we feed on and he goes on and says that American crimes were superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged. This is something that Julian Assange has broken out of that mode, big time, and he has exposed war crimes by the U.S. and whatever kind of shenanigans the State Department has perpetrated. You talk about Harold Pinter, what a great influence he’s been.

PilgerYes, I recommend to your listeners Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, I believe it was 2005. It was a superb and eloquent testament of how and why the truth should be told and why we should no longer tolerate political double standards.

Harold Pinter was comparing our view of the Soviet Union and of Stalin’s crimes with America’s crimes; he was saying the main difference was that we know about the scale of Stalin’s crimes and know little about Washington’s. He was saying that the vast silence that enveloped our crimes — when I say, “our crimes,” I mean those of the United State — meant, as he said, memorably, “These crimes didn’t happen, they didn’t even happen when they were happening, they were of no interest, they didn’t matter.”

We have to rid ourselves of these double standards, surely. We have just had a unctuous celebration of June the 6th, D-Day. That was an extraordinary invasion in which many soldiers took part and laid down their lives but it didn’t win the war. The Soviet Union actually won the war but the Russians weren’t even represented, weren’t even invited or spoken of. It didn’t happen, as Pinter would say. It didn’t matter. But Donald Trump was there, lecturing the world on war and peace. It is truly gruesome satire.  This silence, these omissions, run right across our newspaper — right across the BB — as if it’s even a semblance of the truth, and it’s not. 

Bernstein: I want to pick it up with Wilfred Burchett and the implications, and the enormous responsibility that these big-time journalists have for allowing terrible things to go on unnoticed, based on issues of patriotism and claims of national security. I’m thinking, they had to shut down Willfred Burchett because that could have opened the whole door about how dangerous nuclear weapons and nuclear power is, exploding the myth of the peaceful atom.

Pilger:  That’s very true, Dennis, and it also undermined the moral plans of the “Good War,” the Second World War which ended with these two great crimes — the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after Japan posed no threat. Credible historians now don’t tell us the fairytales that these atomic bombs were needed to end the war. So, it’s destroyed in many respects the great moral mission of the war. 

It not only did that, it declared, the atomic bombing, that a new war was beginning, a “Cold War,” although it could very well have turned very quickly into a “hot war” with the Soviet Union. And it was saying “we”— that is the United States and its allies like Britain — had nuclear weapons and we’re prepared to use them. That’s the key: We’re prepared to use them. And the United States is the only country that has ever used them against another country.

Of course it then went on to test them throughout the United Nations’ Trust territory, which was meant to be held in trust by the United Nations in the Marshall Islands, setting off many Hiroshimas over a period of 12 years. We didn’t know anything about that at the time. And how much do we know about the development of nuclear warheads that President Obama got underway and committed something like a trillion dollars that President Trump has certainly carried on.  

And those treaties that offered some fragile defense against a nuclear holocaust, treaties with the Soviet Union such as the intermediate-range weapons treaty torn up by this administration. One thing leads to another. This is truth telling.

Bernstein: I want to come back to remind people of the kind of structure that Julian Assange created at WikiLeaks to protect whistleblowers. This is crucial because we’ve seen now other journalists being a little more careless and we see sources being tracked down, arrested, and facing major jail time. And I think this is the way that Julian Assange honored whistleblowers by protecting them is a crucial part of who he is and what he did.

PilgerHe invented a system whereby it was impossible to tell who the source was and it allowed people to use a letterbox drop to leak material without their identity being disclosed. The WikiLeaks system gives them that protection. It’s probably that that has so enraged those who are pursuing him. It means that people of conscience within governments, within systems, who are troubled like Chelsea Manning who was deeply troubled by what she saw, have the opportunity to tell the world without fearing that their identity will be exposed. Unfortunately, Chelsea revealed her identity to somebody who betrayed her. It is an unprecedented means of getting the truth out.  

Bernstein: John, please tell us about your recent visit with Assange at Belmarsh maximum security prison in Great Britain. How is he holding up?

Pilger:  I would like to say one thing about Julian personally. I saw Julian in Belmarsh prison and I got a vivid sense of what he has had to endure. I saw the resilience and courage that I’ve known for many years; but now he is unwell. The pressure on him is unimaginable; most of us would have bent beneath it.  So, there is an issue here of justice for this man and what he has had to take; not only the lies that were told about him in the embassy and the lies that sought a full-scale character assassination of him. The so-called respectable media from The New York Times to The Guardian, all of them have reached into the mud and thrown it at him; and today he is a very vulnerable, and I would say to your listeners:  He needs your support and solidarity. More than that, he deserves it.

Bernstein: Say a little more about the conditions there and why it’s so significant that they would treat him to a year in this kind of prison.

Pilger:  Well, I suppose because of what a threat he is. Even with Julian locked away, WikiLeaks carries on. This is a maximum-security prison. Anyone in for just bail infringement — first of all, they wouldn’t have been sentenced to 50 weeks as he was. They might have been given a fine and at best a month but of course this has now morphed into an extradition, a case with all these ludicrous charges coming from the indictment in Virginia. But Julian, as a person, what’s always struck me he’s the diametric opposite portrayed by so many of his detractors. He has a sharp intellect so he’s clever, of course. He’s also gracious and he’s very funny. He and I often laugh. We even managed to laugh the last time I saw him at the embassy when there were cameras all over the room, you could tell as we swapped notes and we had to cover up what we were actually writing on the pad. He managed to laugh about this. So, there’s a dry, almost black humor and he’s a very passionate person but his resilience has always astonished me. I’ve tried to put myself in his position and I couldn’t imagine it. And when I saw him in prison and we had to sit across from each other, I was with a couple of other people, when one of us went around the table just to be close to him she was told to go back by one of the guards. This is what somebody who has committed no crime, yes, he’s committed the crime of journalism, and this is what he has to endure.

Listen to the interview.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.” You can access the audio archives at Flashpoint.  You can get in touch with the author at dbernstein@igc.org.

Randy Credico is an American perennial political candidate, comedian, radio host, activist and the former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.




Propaganda Prospering Far and Wide

Human minds are very hackable, writes Caitlin Johnstone, and that causes a major problem for democracy.  

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Forbes reports that the CEO of Crowdstrike, the extremely shady cybersecurity corporation which was foundational in the construction of the official CIA/CNN Russian hacking narrative, is now a billionaire.

George Kurtz ascended to the billionaire rankings on the back of soaring stocks immediately after the company went public, carried no doubt on the winds of the international fame it gained from its role as a central protagonist in the most well-known hacking news story of all time. A loyal servant of empire well-rewarded.

Never mind that U.S. insiders such as Hillary Clinton had been prepping for escalations against Russia well in advance of the 2016 elections, and that their preexisting agendas to shove a geostrategic obstacle off the world stage benefitted from the hacking narrative as much as George Kurtz did.

Never mind that Crowdstrike is tied to the NATO narrative management firm known as the Atlantic Council, which receives funding from the U.S., the EU, NATO, Gulf states and powerful international oligarchs. Never mind, either, that Crowdstrike was financed with a whopping $100 million from Google, which has had a cozy relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies since its very inception.

Never mind that to this day the DNC servers have not been examined by the FBI, nor indeed were they examined by the Special Counsel of Robert “Iraq has WMD” Mueller, preferring instead to go with the analyses of this extremely shady outfit with extensive and well-documented ties with the oligarchic leaders of the U.S.-centralized empire. Also never mind that the Crowdstrike analyst who led forensics on those DNC servers had in fact worked for and was promoted by Robert Mueller while the two were in the FBI.

 

The Real Currency 

As I never tire of saying, the real underlying currency in our world is not gold, nor bureaucratic fiat, nor even raw military might. The real underlying currency of our world is narrative, and the ability to control it.

As soon as you really grok this dynamic, you start noticing it everywhere. George Kurtz is one clear example today of narrative control’s central role in the maintenance and expansion of existing power structures, as well as an illustration of how the empire is wired to reward those who advance pro-empire narratives and punish those who damage them; just compare how he’s doing to how Julian Assange is doing, for example.

But you see examples pop up every day:

  • The U.S. State Department just got busted using a $1.5 million troll farm to manipulate public discourse on social media about Iran.
  • Video footage has just surfaced of the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weaponsadmitting that the OPCW did indeed deliberately omit any mention in its official findings of a report from its own investigation which contradicts the establishment narrative about a chemical strike in Douma, Syria, an admission which answers controversial questions asked by critics of western imperialism like myself, and which the mainstream media have not so much as touched.
  • Mintpress News broke a story the other day about a new narrative management operation known as “The Trust Project,” a coordinated campaign by establishment-friendly mass media outlets for “gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.”
  • In an interview with The Canary, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer explicitly named the mass media as largely responsible for Assange’s psychological torture, excoriating them for the way that they “have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr. Assange.”
  • In a new essay, Freeing Julian Assange,” journalist Suzie Dawson reports that “Countless articles appear to have been obliterated from the internet” about Assange and WikiLeaks, amounting to some 90 percent of the links Dawson examined which were shared in tweets by or about WikiLeaksand Assange since 2010.
  • I just finished reading this excellent Swiss Propaganda Research essay about the little-known fact that “most of the international news coverage in Western media is provided by only three global news agencies based in New York, London and Paris.”

I write about this stuff for a living, and even I don’t have the time or energy to write full articles about every single narrative control tool that the U.S.-centralized empire has been implementing into its arsenal. There are too damn many of them emerging too damn fast, because they’re just that damn crucial for maintaining existing power structures.

Because whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

 

Power used to be much easier to identify in our society: just look for the fellow with the sparkly hat made of gold sitting in a really big chair and bossing everyone around. As our society advanced philosophically, however, people started fighting for ideals called “freedom” and “democracy” in their respective nations. And, as far as our parents and teachers have taught us, freedom and democracy are exactly what we have now.

Except that’s all crap. Freedom and democracy only exist within the Western empire to the extent that it keeps up appearances. Because the trouble with democracy, it turns out, is that human minds are very hackable, when they are pursued with enough resources. Wealthy and powerful people do have the resources, which means that it’s very possible for wealthy and powerful people to manipulate the masses into voting in a way that consistently benefits the wealthy and powerful. This is why billionaires and narrative control consistently go hand-in-hand.

This dynamic has allowed for western power structures to operate in a way that western democracy was explicitly designed to prevent: for the benefit of the powerful instead of for the benefit of the voting populace. So now we’ve got people in so-called liberal democracies voting to maintain governments which advance wars which don’t benefit them, to advance intrusive surveillance and police state policies which oppress them, to advance austerity policies which harm them, to advance labor policies which exploit them, and to maintain eco-cidal environmental policies which threaten the very survival of our species. All because the wealthy and powerful are able to use their wealth and power to manipulate the way people think and vote.

This is why I pay far more attention to narrative control than to politics. Politics is downstream from narrative control, which is why the 2020 U.S. presidential race is already a contest to see what level of Democratic corporatist warmonger will be running against the incumbent Republican corporatist warmonger. The narrative-controlling class does its level best to hide the fact that anything’s fundamentally wrong with the system, then when people notice it’s deeply broken they encourage them to use completely impotent tools to fix it. “Don’t like how things are run? Here, vote for our other puppet!”

The root of all our problems right now is the fact that human minds are very hackable with enough resources, combined with the fact that war, oppression, exploitation and ecocide are highly profitable. This dynamic has caused human collective consciousness to generally dead-end into a kind of propagandized, zombified state in which all our knowledge and all our thinking moves in alignment with the agendas of existing power structures. It’s much easier to continue believing the official narratives than to sort through everything you’ve been told about your society, your nation and your world since grade school and work out what’s true and what’s false. Many don’t have the time. Many more don’t have the courage.

We will remain in this collective dead-end, hurtling toward either Orwellian dystopia or extinction via climate collapse or nuclear Armageddon, until we find a way out of it. It won’t come from the tools our rulers have given us, and it won’t come from repeating any of the old patterns which got us here. In order to escape from the increasingly adept narrative control matrix that is being built around our collective mind by the powerful, we’re going to have to change our relationship with narrative altogether. We will either pass this great test or we will fail it, and we absolutely have the freedom to go either way.

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.




Cover-Ups and Truth Tellers

Lawrence Davidson finds a reversal of values — in who gets punished and who does not — when whistleblowers and publishers expose immoral behavior by governments.

By Lawrence Davidson 
Tothe PointAnalysis.com

In a May, 22, 2019 appearance in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump declared that “I don’t do cover-ups.” Various news outlets immediately started to enumerate a long list of bona fide cover-ups associated with the president.

What can one say about this bit of Trumpian nonsense? Can you accuse a person of lying who actually seems not to know the difference between truth and untruth? Trump’s inability in this regard is demonstrated daily, and The Washington Post fact checker puts the running count of presidential lies at 10,111, with no end in sight. When it comes to reality, the president appears to be a malignant version of Walter Mitty

Unfortunately, Trump’s behavior is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cover-ups. One can surmise that just by virtue of being the head of the U.S. government, the president — any president — must be directly or indirectly associated with hundreds of such evasions. That is because, it can be argued without much paranoia, that every major division of the government is hiding something —particularly when it comes to foreign activities.

Of course, being cover-ups by the government may make them appear acceptable, at least to a naive public. Many of them are rationalized as necessary for the sake of national “security.” And, of course, everyone wants to be “secure,” accepting the notion that “people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

The fact that much of this violence is done to other innocent people trying to get a peaceful night’s rest is “classified” information. So woe be it to the truth tellers who defy these rationalizations and sound off. For they shall be cast out of our democratic heaven into one of the pits of hell that pass for a U.S. prison—or, if they are fleet-footed, chased into exile.  

Melodramatic, Except … Assange and Manning

Well, that sounds a bit melodramatic — unless you happen to be Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks, or his notable informant, Chelsea Manning, or, taking one step back from the firing line, the Freedom of the Press Foundation. 

The Trump administration is now seeking, via the “Justice” Department, to destroy Assange and Manning. Both are truth tellers or, if you want, whistleblowers who, by revealing the truth about government behavior during the Iraq War, badly embarrassed Washington. The rush to punishment is being carried out with a maliciousness for which this president and his bureaucratic minions seem temperamentally well-suited. Always keep in mind that there are plenty of unethical professionals, in this case operating in the guise of government lawyers, available to serve the disreputable purposes of disreputable bosses. 

Julian Assange has been charged with an 18-count indictment alleging that he “unlawfully obtained and disclosed classified documents related to national defense.” It goes on to allege that Assange accomplished this when he “conspired with Manning and aided and abetted her in obtaining classified information … to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation.” Manning’s sentence for these “offenses” was subsequently commuted by President Barack Obama, but she is now in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Assange.

The attack on Assange and Manning has brought into question the viability of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the notion of a free press — seminally important matters. Here is how the Freedom of the Press Foundation describes the implications of the indictment against Julian Assange:

“Put simply, these unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century. The Trump administration is moving to explicitly criminalize national security journalism, and if this prosecution proceeds, dozens of reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere would also be in danger. The ability of the press to publish facts the government would prefer remain secret is both critical to an informed public and a fundamental right. … Anyone who cares about press freedom should immediately and wholeheartedly condemn these charges.” 

Given these circumstances, one might be surprised, and very disappointed as well, to know that a concerted opposition to this threat from the so-called Fourth Estate (the press and news media) has yet to materialize. 

Too Few Protecting Journalism 

The truth is that, beyond fact-checking the statements of a pathological president, too few journalists are willing to go out on a limb on the issue of a “free press,” or, if you will, for the integrity of their own profession. As it is, most of the American mass media more or less toes a government line and has done so for a very long time. They do this because their owners and editors are either in agreement with the government, see it as economically necessary to appear as traditionally loyal Americans to their readership, or have selectively hired reporters and other staff who are too passive to resist government pressure. Thus, episodes such as the 1972 reporting about the Nixon-inspired break-in at the Watergate and the revelation of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, along with the occasional local investigative expose, are exceptions rather than the rule of journalistic behavior. At best, if a newspaper or TV station wants to appear politically risqué they will confine the effort to a supposed “balanced” editorial page or segment. 

If the journalistic establishment appears hesitant, civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU readily agree with the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The ACLU Director, Ben Wisner, notes that “For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information.” The key words here are “publisher” and “truthful information.” Wisner goes on to say that “It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets.” In other words, Trump and his minions are taking a step in the direction of dictatorial censorship. 

Two Opposing Issues

Wisner’s comment suggests that there is often a real tension between what the government wishes to keep secret and issues of public morality and common decency. Indeed, Manning’s stated motive in dealing with WikiLeakswas to “remove the fog of war and reveal the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.” Hence, in 2010, Manning, after being rebuffed by The New York Times and The Washington Post, sent WikiLeaks some 750,000 classified or otherwise “sensitive” military and diplomatic documents. Much of this material showed the U.S. waging a cruel and lawless operation in Iraq that any normal American should find troubling. This is probably part of the reason why this revelation was judged by Washington to be injurious to the U.S.

We have two issues here and they are in opposition.

First, there is the formal issue of the government (actually all governments) having made it illegal to acquire and make public, in an unauthorized fashion, classified information. However, it is clear that information is often classified not only because it might be militarily or diplomatically harmful but because it is likely to be found repulsive by a government’s own citizens. This proved to be the case with at least some of Manning’s revelations.

That brings us to the second issue — what are the proper behavioral standards to which we want to hold our government, our military, and our diplomatic corps? How are we to know if they are meeting those standards when they have the advantage of legally keeping official behavior secret? 

So it is a conundrum. As libertarians like to put it, “all that which is immoral for men acting individually is equally immoral for men acting in association.”

However, no one seems to have both the legal clout and the courage to demand moral standards for the government, at least not when it comes to foreign policy. Oddly enough, there are domestic laws that make it a criminal offense to withhold incriminating information from the police. But those laws have no application here, though they really should. So the entire situation is managed for the sake of one side of the dilemma — the government. On the other side, the casualties continue to pile up. 

Most of us are told that our government is the best, most progressive one in existence — a model for all the world. And, if you go along with the likes of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. government takes a seat at the right hand of God.

However, what happens when truth tellers who notice starkly immoral U.S. government behavior reveal that fact to the public? With but rare exception, what happens is that you get a reversal of values. To name the operatives of the U.S. government as criminals, you often must reveal “classified” evidence. It is that revelation that instantly becomes the primary offense. What the revealed information might say about government wrongdoing recedes into the shadows, and it is the truth teller who becomes the primary criminal. 

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.




The Death of a Foreign Correspondent

The death of freelance journalist Arnaud Dubus symbolizes the demise of his beloved profession. 

 

Le Club de Mediapart

Our colleague and brother Arnaud Dubus is dead. On Monday, 29th of April, the former journalist, recently turned spokesperson for the French embassy in Bangkok, stepped out of his office, leaving his bag and phone behind.

He rode a motorbike-taxi to the nearest sky-train station. Then, after taking the escalator to the platforms, he jumped onto the street below. A few minutes later, he was dead.

We, his friends, a small community of French journalists in Bangkok, are devastated by his suicide. We lost a precious friend, a true fountain of knowledge on the culture and mysteries of Southeast Asia, and a sensitive and kind man. We are also shocked because his death is symptomatic of the struggles thousands of foreign correspondents are facing around the world.

Of course, nothing can ever fully explain Arnaud’s pain and the personal reasons that pushed him to make such a final decision. But we all know that his financial difficulties, especially in the past decade, affected him severely. Even as he contributed to major French media outlets including Liberation, Radio France Internationale and Le Temps for several decades, he could no longer make a decent living and was forced to change career last year.

Pitches Left Unanswered

Arnaud had to take this step despite being a reputable expert on the region: he produced many excellent pieces on the Khmer Rouge, army politics in Thailand and Burma, power games in Buddhism, and he had recently uncovered a major corruption scandal in Malaysia. Simply put, Arnaud Dubus was considered one of the best French language writers in South East Asia.

Yet the story pitches he sent to newspapers were often left unanswered. During annual visits to his employers’ offices in Paris, he felt that some editors barely acknowledged him – a middle-age exiled reporter, skinny, discreet and modest, writing about an exotic part of the world few media still care about.

The print media crisis, the routine use of agency content by newspapers had made his income dwindle, a little more every year, but he didn’t dare to complain. He was too humble, too isolated, too humiliated by the downgrading of his living conditions so late in life, to ever mention this to anybody outside his circle of close colleagues.

The Liberation newspaper cut off his digital subscription, with the excuse that “you don’t work enough for us”. Radio France Internationale, a state-owned broadcaster, recently decided to stop providing social security and pension benefits to their freelancers abroad.

Arnaud was struggling with depression and followed medical treatment for the past decade. As he could no longer afford medical care, he had to interrupt his treatment.

Apparently, he should have been content with his meagre freelance salary –between $700 and $1,600 a month, that is, in the good months. Let’s briefly talk numbers: international newspapers today pay less than $100 for a short 250-word article, around $700 for a longer piece that will require a week’s research, field work and writing. This rate has not increased in the past fifteen years.

If one has to pay one’s own expenses including hotels, transportation, translators (Arnaud spoke and read Thai, unlike most foreign journalists in the country), reporting is no longer financially viable. Like many of us, Arnaud could simply not afford to report anymore. We are called “foreign correspondents”, on paper or on air, but in reality, the majority of us are freelancers without a fixed salary, without healthcare, and without the resources needed to investigate.

Big Footed

With his soft and ironic smile, he would welcome the “special envoys” sent by his employers for big events, even though they were coming to take those jobs from him that should have allowed him to set a bit of money aside in anticipation of slower times of the year. To be a “foreign correspondent” today often means editors expect you to contribute new perspectives and crucial expertise in little known parts of the world, but they will send a staff journalist to represent the brand for important media coverage.

Fortunately, Arnaud was well-versed in Thai history and culture and he was always keen to learn more. He published several scholarly books, including the remarkable “Buddhism and Politics in Thailand” (“Institut pour la Recherche sur l’Asie Contemporaine”, 2018). But that was still not enough to make a living.

Today, many foreign correspondents have to take other jobs to make ends meet: translation, teaching, public relations, whatever will cover the next rent. This kind of journalism becomes a side hobby, as it was when the profession was born in the 19th century, only possible for those who have the means and opportunities to live on other resources.

The precariousness of the freelancers’ situation is not merely financial, it’s also legal. For the past thirty years, in December, Arnaud had to go through the painful ritual of renewing his media visa. As freelancers don’t have a work contract with their employers they have to justify their activities to local authorities as best as they can.

Some employers refuse to even provide a letter acknowledging they sometimes use the journalist’s services, for fear it will be used later in a legal battle. Every year, correspondents may be asked to leave the country or to stop working as journalists, whether they are newcomers or long-time expatriates with local families.

Freedom Matters Most 

Secretly hurt by the indifference shown by some editors, exhausted by decades of running after assignments, and disgusted by the lack of financial recognition, Arnaud Dubus finally abandoned journalism, like many of his peers, and accepted an offer from the French embassy in Bangkok: to become an assistant spokesperson, on a local contract for a monthly salary of $1,600.  

At 55, Arnaud and his wife Noo longed for stability, wishing to buy an apartment, which he could never afford as a free-lancer.

But the transition from press to diplomacy, and the thousands of small, daily humiliations of office life, were too much to bear for this gentle and sincere man, who was unwilling to engage in official discourse. His close friends say he never recovered from leaving journalism. “I realise that freedom is what matters most,” he wrote to one of his colleagues a few weeks before his death.

Arnaud the story-teller, a true bridge of intelligence linking Asia and Europe, has left us. We remain to watch part of our profession’s spirit and ethics die along with him.

His friends and colleagues members of the Union de la Presse Francophone (UPF), Thailand :

Christelle Célerier, Christophe Chommeloux, Yvan Cohen, Olivier Cougard, François Doré, Charles Emptaz, Thierry Falise, Loïc Grasset, Didier Gruel, Carol Isoux, Olivier Jeandel, Olivier Languepin, Régis Levy, Thibaud Mougin, Olivier Nilsson, Patrick de Noirmont, Roland Neveu, Philippe Plénacoste, Pierre Paccaud, Bruno Philip, Jean-Claude Pomonti, Pierre Quéffelec, Vincent Reynaud, Laure Siegel, Stephff, Catherine Vanesse.

25 professionals working for the following media are members of UPF-Thailand: Le Monde, Libération, Arte, Mediapart, TV5, France Télévision, TF1, RTL, BFMTV, L’Express, Gavroche, RFI, Lepetitjournal.com, Thailande-fr, Latitudes, Ouest-France.

The UPF was founded in 1950 and gathers over 3000 journalists in 110 countries. The association aims at defending press freedom and promoting French language in the media.

Thanks to Tom Vater for helping out with the translation from the original version in French. 

This article originally appeared in Mediapart. Reprinted with permission of the authors.

Le Club est l’espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n’engagent pas la rédaction.

 




US Media Spreads False Claims About Purging of North Korean Official

The episode exposes non-existent editorial standards on official enemies, writes Ben Norton.

By Ben Norton
Grayzone

The corporate media’s editorial standards for reporting on official enemies of the U.S., especially North Korea, are as low as ever. Blatantly false stories are regularly circulated by leading news outlets without any kind of accountability.

In the latest example, virtually every major media outlet reported that a senior North Korean official named Kim Yong-chol was supposedly forced into a “labor camp,” as part of a larger deadly “purge.”

Two days later, that same official turned up alive at a public art performance, seated next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Bloomberg kicked off the frenzy on May 30 by publishing a report claiming, “North Korea executed its former top nuclear envoy to the U.S. and four other foreign ministry officials in March after a failed summit between Kim and Donald Trump.”

Bloomberg’s source was South Korea’s far-right newspaper Chosun Ilbo, which has a long history of fabricating stories about North Korea. Chosen Ilbo’s story was based on a single unidentified source.

That is to say, the false report obediently echoed by the Western press corps was based entirely on the claims of one unnamed person.

This obvious lack of evidence did not stop credulous reporters from jumping on the sensationalist propaganda. The story was circulated by The New York TimesReutersThe Wall Street JournalThe Hill, The Daily BeastFox News, CNBCTIME, ABC News, The Financial TimesThe TelegraphVICE NewsRolling StoneThe Independent, The Washington Times, The New York Post, HuffPostFrance 24The Japan Times, HaaretzThe Times of IsraelDemocracy Now, the U.S. government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and many more.

Twitter even went out of its way to create a shareable Moment based on the false report.

Careful readers (only a small percentage of total readers) might have noticed that Bloomberg quietly admitted in its original report, “Previous South Korean media reports about senior North Korean officials being executed following the talks have proven false.” But this concession didn’t stop the rest of the corporate media from running with the story.

On June 2, the commentariat’s favorite fable fell apart: North Korea’s nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol showed up on state media, sitting a few seats away from Kim Jong-un at a musical performance.

The Associated PressReuters, The New York Times, and CNN quickly published new reports making light of the news  — but none of these contained mea culpas or official retractions.

As of June 3, the vast majority of blatantly false reports published in dozens of outlets remain uncorrected.

Grayzone has documented the long history of U.S. corporate media printing cartoonish lies about North Korea (officially known as the DPRK), especially in the form of execution stories that are quickly debunked. (The New York Times once even cited an obvious parody Twitter account as if it were the DPRK’s real state media.)

A few actual experts on Korea did raise concerns about the latest hoax. Among them was veteran reporter Tim Shorrock, who has spent decades reporting on Korea, and who joined prominent peace activists Christine Ahn and Simone Chun in questioning the story.

Shorrock cautioned on May 31, “It’s important to keep tabs on this one, which if uncorroborated could turn out to be one of the biggest fiascos in journalism history.”

As usual, Shorrock was right — but he was an outlier whose critical thinking was drowned out by a mob of mainstream pundits.

Below is a list of some of the top journalists in the U.S. corporate media and political class, including ostensible “progressives,” who spread this blatantly false story. Many of these self-styled progressives promoted the hoax in hopes of embarrassing Presdient Donald Trump for embarking on a historic peace process with the DPRK.

Journalists and Activists Who Spread the Story

-Chris Hayes, a media celebrity and MSNBC host who used the fake news to get in a cheap joke about Trump

-Julia Ioffe, a prominent journalist, GQ Magazine correspondent, and so-called Russia expert

-Yashar Ali, a contributor to New York Magazine and The Huffington Post and liberal mini-celebrity

-Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times and an analyst for MSNBC

-Jon Cooper, the chairman of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, which proudly boasts, “We help run #TheResistance”

-Katie Phang, a legal contributor for NBC and MSNBC

-David Roberts, a reporter for Vox

-Caroline Orr, a neoliberal “Resistance” influencer who rose to prominence by pumping up the Russia-gate narrative

-Oz Katerji, a rabid pro-military intervention regime-change activist dedicated to harassing anti-imperialists online

-Josh Smith, a Reuters senior correspondent covering North and South Korea

-Vivian Salama, a White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who previously worked as AP’s Baghdad bureau chief

-Matt Bevan, the host and writer of ABC News Australia’s Russia, If You’re Listening podcast

-Kaitlan Collins, a CNN White House reporter

-Geoff Bennett, a White House correspondent for NBC News

-Andrew Desiderio, a political reporter at Politico

-David Nakamura, a Washington Post reporter

-Amy Siskind, a prominent liberal anti-Trump activist and former Wall Street executive

-Steve Silberman, longtime writer for Wired magazine

Rare Exceptions

There were a few exceptions to the norm. Some reporters who specialize on Korea did raise concerns, pointing out South Korean media outlets have a long history of publishing false stories about the DPRK.

These warnings, however, were ignored.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article is from Grayzone.




More Police Raids as War on Journalism Escalates Worldwide

A centrally-planned conspiracy is not necessarily behind this trend, writes Caitlin Johnstone. It may simply be the reflex of an ailing empire. 

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

The Australian Federal Police have conducted two raids on journalists and seized documents in purportedly unrelated incidents in the span of just two days.

Yesterday, the AFP raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst, seeking information related to her investigative report last year that exposed Australia’s discussions of giving itself unprecedented powers to spy on its own citizens. Today, they raided the Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, seizing information related to a 2017 investigative report on possible war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan.

In a third, also ostensibly unrelated incident, another Australian reporter disclosed that the Department of Home Affairs has initiated an investigation of his reporting on a story about asylum seeker boats which could lead to an AFP criminal case, saying he’s being pressured to disclose his source.

“Why has AFP suddenly decided to carry out these two raids after the election?” tweeted Australian Sky News political editor David Speers during the Sydney raid. “Did new evidence really just emerge in both the Annika Smethurst and ABC stories?!”

Why indeed?

“If these raids unconnected, as AFP reportedly said, it’s an extraordinary coincidence,” tweeted The Conversation’s Chief Political Correspondent Michelle Grattan. “AFP needs to explain ASAP the timing so long after the stories. It can’t be that inefficient! Must be some explanation – which makes the ‘unconnected’ claim even more odd.”

Odd indeed.

It is true that the AFP has formally denied that there was any connection between the two raids, and it is in fact difficult to imagine how the two could be connected apart from their sharing a common theme of exposing malfeasance that the government wanted kept secret. If it is true that they are unconnected, then what changed? What in the world could have changed to spark this sudden escalation of the Australian government’s assault on the free press?

Well, if as I suggested recently you don’t think in terms of separate, individual nations, it’s not hard to think of at least one thing that’s changed.

“The criminalization and crack down on national security journalism is spreading like a virus,” WikiLeaks tweeted today in response to the ABC raid. “The Assange precedent is already having effect. Journalists must unite and remember that courage is also contagious.”

“The arrest and espionage charges against Assange was just the beginning, as many in the media, even those who hate Assange, feared,”  tweeted Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria in response to the News Corp raid. “The home of a mainstream Australian journalist was raided Wed. morning by police because of a story she worked on.”

“Shameful news from Australia as the police raid journalists’ offices and homes,” tweeted legendary Australian journalist John Pilger. “One warrant allows them to ‘add, copy, delete or alter’ computer files at the ABC. The assault on Julian Assange was a clear warning to all of us: it was only the beginning.”

If you think about it, it would have been far less disturbing than the alternative if there were a connection between the two raids, because the alternative is vastly more sinister: that Australia’s attitude toward the free press has changed. And that it has perhaps done so, as Australia has been doing for decades, in alignment with the behavior of the rest of the U.S.-centralized empire.

In an article for Consortium News, titled “After Assange’s Espionage Act Indictment, Police Move Against More Journalists for Publishing Classified Material,” Joe Lauria reminds us that Australia is not the first nation within the Western power alliance to see such an escalation since the paradigm-shifting imprisonment of Julian Assange in the U.K.

“Police in Paris arrested two journalists who were covering Yellow Vest protests on April 20,” Lauria writes.  “One of the journalists, Alexis Kraland, said he was taken into custody after refusing to be searched and to turn his camera over to police at Gare du Nord train station. The largest journalism union in France demanded an explanation from police.”

“And on May 10 in San Francisco, police using sledgehammers to break down the door, raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist, to get him, while handcuffed, to reveal the source who leaked him a police report into the sudden death of the city’s elected public defender,” Lauria added. “Police took away computers, cameras, mobile phones and notes.”

So we’re seeing a pattern already. You can choose to ignore it or dismiss it with a pleasant story, or you can acknowledge that we appear to be in the midst of a rapidly escalating shutdown of the free press in the western world.

There does not necessarily have to be any centrally-planned conspiracy behind this trend; it can simply be the natural result of an ailing empire seeing that it’s going to need a lot more war, lies and deception in order to keep from collapsing, and responding accordingly. Once the Assange line was crossed, it could simply have served as a precedent for the other governments within the empire to begin doing things they’d already wanted to do anyway.

Julian Assange is the dot of a question mark at the end of a historically important question which we are all being asked right now. That question reads as follows: Does humanity wish to create a society that is based on truth and holds power to account, or does it want the exact opposite?

So far, the general consensus answer to that question has been going somewhere along the lines of “We’re actually fine with a headlong plunge into Orwellian dystopia, thanks.” But as the implications of that answer become clearer and clearer, we may yet see some stirrings in the other direction before it is too late.

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.




After Assange’s Espionage Act Indictment, Police Move Against More Journalists for Publishing Classified Material

Less than two months after the arrest of journalist Julian Assange, and two weeks after his indictment under the Espionage Act, emboldened governments have sent the police after journalists who’ve challenged the state.  Joe Lauria reports.

By Joe Lauria
in Sydney, Australia

Special to Consortium News

Following the arrest and Espionage Act indictment of Julian Assange a number of police actions against journalists for publishing classified information and other journalistic activity  has heightened fears among mainstream journalists  that they could be next.  

Police in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday raided the offices of the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, copying thousands of files related to a 2017 ABC broadcast that revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.  

Three Australian Federal Police officers and three police technicians entered ABC’s Sydney headquarters with a search warrant that named two ABC investigative journalists and the network’s news director.  The police demanded to look through the journalists’ emails, ABC reported.

David Anderson, the ABC managing director, said it was “highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way”.

“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters,” he said. “The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”  John Lyons, ABC’s executive editor and head of investigative journalism, tweeted:

Lyons said the federal police were going through dozens of emails with the authority to delete or even change their content. Protagonist Winston Smith’s job in Orwell’s 1984 was to rewrite news archives.

“I recall writing ages ago about Australian legislation giving the Australian govt power to ‘add, alter or delete’ targeted material,” Australian psychologist and social critic Lissa Johnson told Consortium News. “The msm barely batted an eyelid at the time. Now that power is being wielded against the ABC.”

Gaven Morris, ABC’s news director, said: “Journalism is not a crime.”

“Our journalists do a really difficult job, I’m proud of what they do, they do it in the public’s interest,” he said. “I’d say to all the journalists at the ABC and all the journalists across Australia, don’t be afraid of the job you do.”

Marcus Strom, president of Australia’s journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, called the raid  “disturbing.”

“It should chill the public as well as journalists,” he said.”These raids are all about intimidating journalists and intimidating whistle blowers so that mistakes made by the Government, including potential crimes, by the military, remain covered up, remain secret, and don’t fall in to the public domain.”

Political Editor’s Home Raided

On Tuesday morning in an unrelated case, Canberra police entered the home of the political editor of the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph “Journalist Annika Smethurst opened her front door to find seven AFP officers waiting for her. All because she dared to do her job and keep the nation informed on what its government was doing,” the Telegraph said in an editorial.

Ironically, the Smethhurst article in April 2018 that raised the ire of the government “revealed the departments of Defence and Home Affairs were considering new powers allowing Australians to be monitored for the first time,” The  Telegraph reported. “Her original article included images of top secret letters between Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty.”

French Journalists Arrested 

Assange was arrested in London on April 11. Police in Paris arrested two journalists who were covering Yellow Vest protests on April 20.  One of the journalists, Alexis Kraland, said he was taken into custody after refusing to be searched and to turn his camera over to police at Gare du Nord train station. The largest journalism union in France demanded an explanation from police.

SF Police Raid Journalists’ Home

And on May 10 in San Francisco, police using sledgehammers to break down the door, raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist, to get him, while handcuffed, to reveal the source who leaked him a police report into the sudden death of the city’s elected public defender. Police took away computers, cameras, mobile phones and notes.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said initially that Carmody had “crossed a line” with his report.  After a public outcry and demands that Scott resign, the police chief issued an apology.

Fears Justified

While there is no direct connection between Assange’s arrest and indictment for possessing and disseminating classified material and these subsequent police actions, a Western taboo on arresting or prosecuting the press for its work has clearly been weakened. One must ask why Australian police acted on a broadcast produced in 2017 and an article published in April only after Assange’s arrest and prosecution.

Within hours of Assange’s Espionage Act indictment on May 23, major publications and media figures, who have harshly treated Assange, began lining up in his defense out of self-interested concern that the government could apply the same prosecutions to them for also routinely publishing classified information.

Their fears are beginning to be realized.

 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .