Friday, November 05, 2010

wikileaks the smear and the denial

medialens | “Journalists don't like WikiLeaks”, Hugo Rifkind notes in The Times, but “the people who comment online under articles do... Maybe you've noticed, and been wondering why. I certainly have.” (Hugo Rifkind Notebook, ‘Remind me. It's the red one I mustn't press, right?,’ The Times, October 26, 2010)

Rifkind is right. The internet has revealed a chasm separating the corporate media from readers and viewers. Previously, the divide was hidden by the simple fact that Rifkind’s journalists - described accurately by Peter Wilby as the “unskilled middle class” - monopolised the means of mass communication. Dissent was restricted to a few lonely lines on the letter’s page, if that. Readers were free to vote with their notes and coins, of course. But in reality, when it comes to the mainstream media, the public has always been free to choose any colour it likes, so long as it’s corporate ‘black’. The internet is beginning to offer some brighter colours.

If Rifkind is confused, answers can be found between the lines of his own analysis:

“With WikiLeaks, with the internet at large, power is democratised, but responsibility remains the preserve of professionals.”

This echoes Lord Castlereagh’s insistence that "persons exercising the power of the press" should be "men of some respectability and property". (Quoted, James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power Without Responsibility - The Press And Broadcasting in Britain, Routledge, 1991, p.13)

And it is with exactly this version of “responsibility” that non-corporate commentators are utterly fed up. We are, for example, tired of the way even the most courageous individuals challenging even the most appalling crimes of state are smeared as “irresponsible”.

Thus, Rifkind describes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as “a frighteningly amoral figure”. In truth, journalists find Assange a frighteningly +moral+ figure. Someone willing to make an enemy of the world’s leading rogue state in order to expose the truth about the horrors it has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq is frightening to the compromised, semi-autonomous employees of corporate power. Assange’s courage is the antidote to their poison.

A separate Times editorial comments:
“Nowhere in WikiLeaks's self-serving self publicity is there a judgment of what the organisation is achieving for the Iraqi nation, and what it hopes to achieve... Its personnel are partisans intervening in the security affairs of Western democracies and their allies, with a culpable heedlessness of human life.” (Leader, ‘Exercise in Sanctimony; The release of military files by WikiLeaks is partisan and irresponsible,’ The Times, October 25, 2010)

Again, the truth is reversed - it is The Times, together with virtually the entire mass media, that is notable for its “heedlessness of human life”, for its endorsement of the West’s perennial policy: attack, bomb, invade, torture, kill based on any crass pretext that can be got past the public. As WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson politely told the WSWS website this week:

“The media is getting much too close to the military industry. They are not following the changing moods of the general public who are increasingly opposed to the wars.”