I’ve been following the story of Julian Assange’s arrest and of course the US government reaction to the cable leaks. I wasn’t going to bother with a post about this, but the more I read, the more it seems to occupy my mind. It’s going past the typical "amusing antics of the US government" and delving into Orwellian territory.
Now this goes beyond the concept of respectable or responsible journalism. Whether or not WikiLeaks falls into the above categories or is simply out to embarrass governments in the same way that tabloids seek to embarrass celebrities and other public figures is not the issue. What is at issue is the freedom to distribute information. In Western culture are we not free to discuss and inform anything we feel has importance, or might be important to other individuals? It’s becoming apparent that this is not so.
We have high profile public figures calling for Assange’s assassination. Large media outlets such as the New York Times are being blocked for publishing a few of the the leaked cables. The "rape" charges against Assange seem more and more like an attack on his character in hopes to discredit him rather than any kind of serious allegation. (Here is a detailed account of his crime and arrest. This is a very interesting assessment of the charges by acclaimed author and feminist Naomi Wolf.)
This whole situation is getting out of hand. Is this the death of real journalism? Depending on what is being reported, it seems that journalists soon may find themselves in a situation where their profession necessitates operating outside the law. I’m sure that Julian Assange would say that this situation is already here. It’s exasperating.
I find myself wondering how Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who uncovered the Nixon-era Watergate scandal) would have fared in today’s political climate.
This is a video from October 22 discussing the (then upcoming) Iraq War Docs leak that brings some perspective. Daniel Ellsberg, the famous whistle-blower of the Vietnam War in 1971, speaks. Part one of two.