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Assange on RT
April 19, 2012 11:31 PM   Subscribe

The first episode of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s new TV interview show was broadcasted on Tuesday on Russia Today and online (previously on mefi). Assange interviewed Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Does the attacks on RT and Assange reveal much about the critics?
posted by - (92 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
My only experience with RT resulted in my decision to never watch any of their programming. One of the few subjects I knew very well, the Libyan revolution, was falsely portrayed on a regular basis by RT. Not just an error or some bias here and there, but outright lies and spreading of conspiracy theories. Presenting false facts about life in Libya under Gaddafi. Claiming whole cities to be under Gaddafi control, contrary to every other reporter operating out of the country.
posted by mulligan at 11:42 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


That Salon article was quite good.
posted by wilful at 11:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, Julian Assange's Debut on Russia Today - The Serious People Say it Was Really Bad!
posted by - at 11:52 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That Salon article was quite good."

Eh, I don't think so. That one paragraph comparing RT to other media outlets was disingenuous or stupid, or both. Many of the counterexamples are not like the others (Voice of America is not like NYT or NBC or Fox News), and, anyway, I wouldn't say that none of those examples inherently lack credibility the same way as RT does, whether they lack it the way that Voice of America does (the better comparison to RT), or they lack it the way that Fox News does.

I think Assange is very foolish to get into bed with the Russian government. The article makes the point that he's less leftist than he is for transparency...whuh? That makes a relationship with Putin's Russia more explicable and less hypocritical than if he were a leftist? Really?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:15 AM on April 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think the two sniggering articles you linked to say rather more about Assange and his defenders. It is uncontroversial that Russia is a practically a kleptocracy with tight control over the Russian press and other major institutions. The idea that Russia Today is in any way a force for transparency is ludicrous: it's Pravda reincarnated. Assange is now working for Putin and he hasn't just abandoned his purported ideals; he has drugged them, dressed them in fishnet stockings, and left them in an alley outside a military brothel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:21 AM on April 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


" Assange is now working for Putin and he hasn't just abandoned his purported ideals; he has drugged them, dressed them in fishnet stockings, and left them in an alley outside a military brothel."

Yeah, I agree with this.

But, let's be honest and fair: what's underlying this is that he badly pissed off the US government while doing something that needed to be done and quickly found himself ostracized from everyone the US was able to strongarm...which was most everybody. Where else was he to go?

Given his experience, I don't doubt that merely because Putin and Russia Today is willing to resist all this pressure and give him a platform, he thinks this necessarily makes them more white hats than black hats. This is how people think, much of the time. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The world is made up of friends and enemies. It's easier to think in terms of complexity and ambiguity right up until you're railroaded by numerous governments, including the most powerful government in the world, and at that point I suspect that most people's abilities to be nuanced about these things goes right out the window. Any port in a storm.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:34 AM on April 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Yeah, Assange should instead turn to the world's beacon of free press and open government, the United States of America.


(Yeah, I get it Ivan, but the point is there is nowhere he can turn to that will be perfect. Judge him on the content of the show)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:35 AM on April 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


Okay well you expanded while I was posting, but the point in parentheses is the essential part.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:37 AM on April 20, 2012


> It is uncontroversial that Russia is a practically a kleptocracy with tight control over the Russian press and other major institutions

That's exactly the point, but:

Hardings criticisms are, to put it mildly, a bit odd. First of all, note that he is not criticizing RT for what it is saying, as I’ve said before I don’t think this is particularly challenging to do as the channel is hardly above reproach, but for things that it isn’t saying. This is a basically fruitless endeavor, as you can make the same exact criticism of virtually any media outlet currently in existence on the planet. Why isn’t CNBC constantly writing about corruption and double-dealing on Wall Street? Why isn’t al-Jazeera covering the many depredations of Qatar’s absolute monarchy? Why isn’t In These Times writing about the deeply dysfunctional nature of American labor unions? ... The point of all of this isn’t to laud RT’s rather heavy editorial touch on issues related to corruption and political repression in Russia, it’s to make the obvious point that it’s meaningless, and even a little crazy, to catalog every issue not covered by a particular media outlet.

This isn’t a particularly novel observation, but media outlets have owners and those owners would prefer that their mistakes not be aired in public. That’s just how the world works. It’s far more sensible to criticize the things that media outlets actually publish, and given RT’s track record this is hardly an insurmountable task.

I feel Mark Adomanis is right on that point. For example, from my perspective a lot of coverage before the Iraq war is a total shame for USA media system, but we tend to forget those things. Julian Assange interview is interesting and well done, form me that's enough.
posted by - at 12:43 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm sure Assange would have make a show for PBS or CNN if they had asked him.
posted by moorooka at 12:51 AM on April 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


My word. Wait till people hear about the bias on Fox!
posted by jaduncan at 1:15 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was never ever comfortable with wikileaks. I love the idea of transparency, but I found it impossible to trust that Assange and wikileaks would accurately and completely release documents that they controlled.
posted by Drumhellz at 1:29 AM on April 20, 2012


"My word. Wait till people hear about the bias on Fox!"

So, your argument is that I can't think both are propaganda outlets? I have to choose? Because I'm pretty sure I don't and it's perfectly possible to think that anything coming from Fox or Russia Today is more likely than not bullshit, all other things being equal.

And, no, I'm not really that interested in judging Fox shows purely on their individual content and outside the context that I know that even ostensibly left-wing perspectives can be presented in such a way that they serve right-wing purposes. Just watching the damn network serves right-wing purposes. Because it's a propaganda organ. As Russia Today is.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:45 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that Russia Today is in any way a force for transparency is ludicrous: it's Pravda reincarnated.

"His first show was devoted to an interview with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah .... who has not given a television interview since 2006."

And how many television interviews has Bibi Netanyanu given in the same period? I don't imagine in anyway that RT is a bastion of unbiased journalism, but if "Pravda re-incarnated" is the only agency able (or willing) to broadcast an interview with the leader of Hezbollah this says something about the already existing bias in media coverage. Assange's farcical interview has some value in that regard, but he should leave this sort of work to professionals like Katie Couric.

A much better format would be for Assange to hack into his guests' mail in advance and surprise them in on-air interviews. That would be some great TV.
posted by three blind mice at 1:51 AM on April 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Salon article is great. People aren't reading it carefully.
posted by polymodus at 2:37 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


if "Pravda re-incarnated" is the only agency able (or willing) to broadcast an interview with the leader of Hezbollah this says something about the already existing bias in media coverage

Nasrallah is notoriously reclusive, and at the same time extremely media-savvy. Believe me, a lot of bona-fide journalists would sell their soul to get an interview with him, and a lot of media would pay a lot to get the rights to such an interview. If Nasrallah hadn't granted it before, it can only have been because the time wasn't right, and the potential interviewers didn't seem fawning enough to him. That RT and Assange have got it now, truly says a lot about both.

There's currently an at least ten-side, four-dimensional chess game going on in the Middle East, involving a.o. the US, Europe, Russia, China, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf states and Iran, Shiites and Sunnis, nukes and oil, religious loonies and hard-headed realists and, above all, power and money.

The (mostly Sunni) Syrians are rebelling against their (Shiite-friendly) government, just like the (mostly Shiite) Bahreinis tried to rebel against their (Sunni) rulers. Syria is allied to Iran and Hizbollah. Israel is threatening war with Iran over Iran's purported nuclear efforts. The Gulf states aren't all too happy about Iran's nuclear ambitions either. If Iran gets mad, it can bottle up the Strait of Ormuz, collapsing a significant part of the world's energy supplies. Putin is elated about anything which pushes oil prices up, because it raises Russia's income and bargaining power.

So, Russia doing PR work on behalf of the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran alliance? Makes perfect sense.
posted by Skeptic at 2:40 AM on April 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


> So, Russia doing PR work on behalf of the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran alliance?

That’s why I say that the media attacks on Assange’s show reflect far more about the critics than about him: they assumed that he would slavishly serve the agenda of his benefactors because that’s what American establishment journalists largely do. It’s pure projection.

Assange actually was quite critical of Russia policies, like Glenn Greenwald reported:

But not only that, Assange’s questions were grounded in support for the Syrian opposition forces and were hostile to the Assad government: exactly the reverse of the Russian government’s position, which has maintained steadfast support for Assad.
posted by - at 2:55 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]




And the Salon article is ridiculous. Not only does it put the notoriously independent-minded BBC in the same boat as the Voice of America (never mind RT), but it conveniently leaves out, say, the Guardian, from its shooting gallery of compromised Western media. (And yet it spits some venom in its direction a little farther down). Then it drops this howler:

"Assange has never presented him as anything other than as an advocate for transparency and adversarial journalism"

Sorry?! Are we speaking about the same Assange who had to be taken to task by Stephen Colbert about his titling and editing of "Collateral Murder" and who then admitted that:

“the promise we make to our sources is that…we will attempt to get the maximum political impact for the materials they give to us.”

To quote Colbert's immortal reply:

"That way you have manipulated the audience into the emotional state you want before something goes on the air. That is an emotional manipulation…. That’s journalism I can get behind,"
posted by Skeptic at 2:59 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, I don't see your point. Are you insinuating that the EU's trade sanctions are the act of "madmen" who want to bottle up the Strait of Hormuz, because Iran is issuing thinly veiled threats to bottle up the Strait of Hormuz in response to those sanctions?
posted by Skeptic at 3:02 AM on April 20, 2012


As said elsewhere about another media outlet:
“It’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.”

Like it or not, RT and Assange covers things not covered by the main stream US media.

Criticism of the US by Russia has a long history which some of you didn't live through.
Russia back in the 1950 and 1960's often spoke about the way one skin color was treated by a different skin color which resulted in some changes in law in the United States. I'm rather shocked the hurf-durf-racism part of The Blue are not all over this bit of history and RT/Russia.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:23 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


RT Is Fox News for Putin Fans.

It's kind of hilarious how one sided it is when it comes to Russia. For example (2).
posted by delmoi at 3:42 AM on April 20, 2012


polymodus: "The Salon article is great. People aren't reading it carefully."

I think I'm reading it carefully enough. I don't think it's that great. I don't think the NYT article that's the main focus of critique in it is very good at all, either, but it's funny that Greenwald is bothered by the broad-brush insinuation and backhands, then spends most of the article doing the same. It undermines his valid points.

The mavens of that dead watchdog press then decided that they hated Assange and devoted themselves to demonizing and destroying him.

Replace "dead watchdog press" with "mainstream media" and "Assange" with "Palin" and you've got a Limbaugh pull-quote.
posted by Red Loop at 3:44 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Critics should come to terms with the fact that the network is biased but yet it does produce segments that provide necessary and sharp critiques of the US government that typically do not appear on mainstream US networks. They should also note that many guests that appear on Russia Today do regularly appear on mainstream cables news. And, they should imagine what they would think if a Russian or even a Chinese dissident was given his or her own program on a mainstream cable news network. Would they ignore the content to say that dissident is on a network that refuses to acknowledge the torture, detention, war and human rights abuses that is committed by the United States?
posted by adamvasco at 4:00 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


By the way, does anyone know what's going on with Assange's case. I'd heard he'd basically lost all his appeals
I think the two sniggering articles you linked to say rather more about Assange and his defenders. It is uncontroversial that Russia is a practically a kleptocracy with tight control over the Russian press and other major institutions.
Russia became a Kleptocracy after the disastrous intervention by western capitalist 'advisors' trying to do "shock therapy" on the country by having them privatize everything in sight. One of the reasons Putin is popular is for having (or at least being perceived as having) fixed that.
Sorry?! Are we speaking about the same Assange who had to be taken to task by Stephen Colbert about his titling and editing of "Collateral Murder" and who then admitted that:
You may be shocked by this: But on Stephen Colbert's show, he plays a satirical character, and in particular he satirizes over the top conservatives by saying the stuff he thinks they might say. Andrew Sullivan seemed to think that Colbert "broke character" because this time when he was saying stuff an over the top conservative would say, he was totally doing it un-ironically.

It was one of the great many profoundly stupid things Sullivan has said over the years.

The other key point about that interview was that Stephen Colbert didn't seem to understand that Wikileaks released the entire, unedited video, as well as an 18 minute cut. As far as I know, no one has ever claimed that anything interesting or important happened during the parts of the video that were edited out of the shorter cut. it was all there for people to see. Even in the 18 minute cut there were a lot of segments of where no one was talking and nothing at all was happening. The only other editing done to the video was to add labels explaining who the people on the ground were.

It's hilarious that the 'devastating critique' Assange haters seem to love to link too was issued by someone who's mainly known for saying the opposite of what he actually believes and was apparently confused about some of the issues during the interview.

By the way, you should watch the you can watch the interview online, there's there was nothing really out of the ordinary for his show.

I don't think a question like
"Governments are elected based on what people know about the politicians, or what they would know about their government does. If we don't know what the government's doing, we can't be sad about it. Why are you trying to make me sad?

Cause you are, you're trying to bum us out about the world, aren't you? All these terrible things happen behind closed doors, and you've decided that I need to know about it"
Or
"What is the purpose of letting the audience, what is the purpose of letting the public know? It's like you're saying it's better to know, then not know. Have you not heard, Ignorance is Bliss? This Footage puts a face on war that says people get killed!"
Is a very antagonistic question to ask Julian Assange.
posted by delmoi at 4:59 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not only does it put the notoriously independent-minded BBC in the same boat as the Voice of America (never mind RT)

The BBC was right there with American media in pushing the yellowcake story in the lead-up to the illegal war on Iraq. They also worked on the Met's and government's behalf to slander student protestors last year. To call the BBC independent is laughable — the editors know who the bosses are.

So, Russia doing PR work on behalf of the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran alliance? Makes perfect sense.

The only way you could reach this conclusion is to have not watched Assange's interview, in which fairly pointed criticism of Nasrallah and Hezbollah's support of the blood-stained Syrian regime starts at 8:00 or so. If Russia is using Assange to do their PR work, they seem to have hired the wrong person.

To the extent that you are not aware of the content of the interview, it is quite ironic to cite Colbert, whose persona is all about forming impressions and reaching conclusions through a tangled web of logical fallacies built atop what corporate media and other powerful interests are instructing you is the version of the truth you need to accept. On a fairer day, Colbert might perhaps even call the ad hom.-based smear job against Assange truthy, if he wasn't so busy promoting the military on his show.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:08 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nasrallah's own TV channel (al-Manar), has broadcast such charming things as a 27 mini-series dramatizing teh Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, featuring one episode in which Jewish characters murder a Christian child to use his blood for Passover ceremonies.

Mighty savory company Assange keeps.

Neither of these men can be smeared. Each of them is himself a smear.
posted by ocschwar at 5:19 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mighty savory company Assange keeps.

A journalist might interview bigots, thieves, murderers, etc. but it is pretty odious to say that journalist endorses those behaviors. There's nothing in the interview that suggests Assange endorses any of his guest's attitudes in that respect.

But, again, we are back to the same set of logical fallacies that corporate media use to push their version of the truth: if you can't disprove the substance of the reporting, launch a campaign of character assassination and other fact-free smear tactics based on what the reporter reports on. It distracts people from the substance and validity of the content, which is the main goal.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:30 AM on April 20, 2012 [12 favorites]




A journalist might interview bigots, thieves, murderers,


a journalist will do it without blowing smoke up their asses.
posted by ocschwar at 5:34 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


if you can't disprove the substance of the reporting, launch a campaign of character assassination and other fact-free smear tactics based on what the reporter reports on. It distracts people from the substance and validity of the content, which is the main goal.

This a thousand time left. Prove Assange wrong, that's one thing. What's being done here it to damn him *before* his message goes out.

My question: Why are you so afraid of what he has to say?
posted by eriko at 5:37 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just curious, and please answer truthfully, have you seen the interview? Can you quote specifically where Assange, as you put it, "blows smoke up" Nasrallah's ass?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:39 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting career move. I hope he achieves some good with it. Ain't nearly as cool as his previous gig though.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:40 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


ocschwar how would you define all those journalists who interviewed Bush , Cheney, Rumsfeld et al.?
posted by adamvasco at 5:44 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Voice of America is not like NYT or NBC or Fox News

From a cosmetic and emotional point of view that might be correct. But from a pragmatic point of view, I don't think so. And that is exactly what Greenwald has spent years documenting. Here is how it works:

1) An anonymous administration official contacts the NYT OFF THE RECORD and makes an assertion (like Iran is plotting X, Y, and Z against the USA).

2) The NYT then runs an article mindlessly repeating those assertions. It usually sounds something like this: "Administration officials have good reason to believe that Iran is plotting X, Y, and Z against the USA". And guess what....the NYT doesn't push back and really figure out if this is real or just propaganda.

3) Then, the administration will formerly send somebody (like a Vice President) to do the morning talk show circuit (NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox). And during those interviews this politician uses the NYT article as evidence that Iran is up to no good! This completes the perfect circle of propaganda and we idiot Americans lap it up like candy.

So is Greenwald's assertion that the main stream media outlets are similar to VOA "stupid, disingenuous, or both"? They certainly would seem to be if you are not paying attention.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:45 AM on April 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Assange becoming a tool of Putin, putting his ideals of transparency aside and fawning to anyone who's anti-American regardless of what an ogre they might objectively be is the sad penultimate chapter in the public life of a gadfly. (The ultimate chapter will probably be set in a supermax cell in Colorado.)
posted by acb at 5:49 AM on April 20, 2012


I'm not sure what it says about argument when we move from ad hominem to ad-I-do-not-like-your-choice-of-publisher.
posted by jaduncan at 6:10 AM on April 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


...supermax cell in Colorado.

its amazing how the world's geography shrinks when you publish the world's diplomatic dirty laundry.

in my view the world's press outlets are the major beneficiaries of the "leaked cables"---thousands of articles printed and millions of advertisements sold and all assange has gotten is a cold (war) shoulder to cry on....
posted by dongolier at 6:14 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The BBC was right there with American media in pushing the yellowcake story in the lead-up to the illegal war on Iraq.

And The Blue was one of the 1st sites to break the 'its bull' analysis.

Today if Obama does something it doesn't make it on the front page or takes some time to make t to the front page.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:44 AM on April 20, 2012


Assange is now working for Putin and he hasn't just abandoned his purported ideals; he has drugged them, dressed them in fishnet stockings, and left them in an alley outside a military brothel.

This is the rare case where I favorite a comment I completely disagree with just because it's so cleverly written.
posted by Trurl at 6:50 AM on April 20, 2012


Ivan Fyodorovich It is uncontroversial that Russia is a practically a kleptocracy with tight control over the Russian press and other major institutions. The idea that Russia Today is in any way a force for transparency is ludicrous: it's Pravda reincarnated.

Not trying to be snarky, but how does that differ in any essential way from the USA?

All the "news" agencies here seem to do nothing but practice stenography of official announcements. Cosmetically they're different, no obvious state control, but when it comes to the actual operation the results seem basically the same. The "news" reports what the elites want and kills stories the elites don't want.

Similarly I think kleptocracy is a very accurate description of US politics. Especially in the wake of Citizens United, but even long before that. I seem to recall the big banks all but demolishing the world economy and being rewarded with bailouts and bonuses and no penalties of any sort.

I note that the military industrial complex is alive and benefiting by absorbing nearly half the federal budget.

How is that not a kleptocracy with tight control over the press? It happens in a less blatant way here, but the result is the same.

acb Fascinating the way you want to punish a person for the crime of letting you know what's really going on. Why, exactly, do you find the prospect of knowing the truth so disturbing?
posted by sotonohito at 6:57 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


The "news" reports what the elites want and kills stories the elites don't want.

Not to usurp Ivan F's right of reply, but they don't just kill stories there. They kill the journalists who write them.
posted by Wolof at 7:05 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


> All the "news" agencies here seem to do nothing but practice stenography of official announcements. Cosmetically they're different, no obvious state control, but when it comes to the actual operation the results seem basically the same. The "news" reports what the elites want and kills stories the elites don't want.

About no obvious state control, I just want to point out that also US operate at least 2 televisions (Martì and Al Hurra), and several radios (VOA, Free Europe, Free Iraq, etc) for propaganda purposes.
posted by - at 7:07 AM on April 20, 2012


Al Hurra, sorry.
posted by - at 7:10 AM on April 20, 2012


I'd agree with Wolof that the real problem with Assange joining RT and RT generally is Putin's habit of killing real journalists. You shouldn't get to play the "fair and balanced" game while you're killing journalists.. or even imprisoning them.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:12 AM on April 20, 2012


I do get tired of people calling US news agencies and journalists lackeys of the state (unless sure, whatever, VOA and the like). There are wildly varying levels of quality in journalism across the country and even within a given company, and the overall quality of journalism these days is quite poor; but being lax and lazy is different than doing what the "elites" want.
I understand there are problems with proximity to power and echo chambers among most professional journalists these days, and that it ends up boiling down to making it easy for politicians and corporations to push message, but it's complicated enough that it's a disservice to reduce it to all the media being puppets (though yes, the end result is far too close to that).
posted by Red Loop at 7:12 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd say the chances of Assange not realizing he is owned and ending up dead in a sushi bar are non-zero, but nonetheless, he *is* owned now.
posted by Artw at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wolof Yeah, the US does that too

And its prosecuting whistleblowers.

Basically if you let people know what's really going on, the US government has an ugly tendency to treat you like an enemy. And that's not even mentioning Bradley Manning, who has been subjected to months of torture before they even deigned to give him a show trial.

I won't say the US is quite as bad as Russia, it may not be. But it isn't what I'd call a shining beacon of journalistic freedom and integrity by a long shot. And it's most definitely a kleptocracy.

Red Loop "but being lax and lazy is different than doing what the "elites" want."

Actually, I'd say a lax and lazy press is exactly what the elites want.

And, at any rate, as you've conceded that the results are identical in all essential respects to the more blatant forms of media control, who cares if the cosmetic differences exist? Control is control, whether exercised by stormtroopers and gulags or cocktail parties and buy outs.
posted by sotonohito at 7:31 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the US does that too

You are, of course, correct.
posted by Wolof at 7:59 AM on April 20, 2012


Why, exactly, do you find the prospect of knowing the truth so disturbing?

Because we're being presented one aspect of the truth as everything there is to it?

Sometimes I like what Assange is doing, sometimes I don't. I like how he's digging up things that the mainstream media (used here in the pejorative sense) tends to neglect. He's uncovering new perspectives to things. That's what proper journalism should be about, that's innovation. At the same time, I don't like how he's presented the things he has managed to dig up. He's put people's lives in danger with his leaks, something a proper journalist should never do. And what I dislike the most about him is the way he's presenting himself as some kind of a messiah who has come to show us things we've been too blind to see, someone who knows what the real truth is (I'll admit, though, that it's also one of his strengths, part of his charisma. I guess I hate him for being too charismatic). While in reality, none of his leaks tell us anything substantially new (but then, news rarely do), just new aspects of things we were already aware of.

I guess this last thing - him behaving/being presented as a messiah who knows what's really happening - or going to happen -, is what makes him so perfectly suited for RT with their penchant for conspiracy theories (which also purport to tell us how things really are). This, I think, is also why he wouldn't fit in at a more "mainstream" media channel. His message has nothing to do with it: the mainstream media have had no qualms about (re-)reporting the things he's leaked. It's all to do with a person who readily admits that he's fallible being more trustworthy than one who doesn't.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:09 AM on April 20, 2012


He's put people's lives in danger with his leaks

Citation needed. Even the US military has stated that the leaks have endangered no lives.

As for your messiah bit, I have no idea where you've gotten that from. I'm not a fan of Assange personally, he's conceded in court that he is a rapist just to begin with. But that doesn't make the truth he's told less valuable.

You seem to be arguing that you'd rather be lied to by people you like than told the truth by people you dislike. I find that to be a very strange position.

Because we're being presented one aspect of the truth as everything there is to it?

That seems like a very valid complaint against the traditional media and their stenography of power approach to journalism, yes. What has that to do with Wikileaks?
posted by sotonohito at 8:19 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Citation needed. Even the US military has stated that the leaks have endangered no lives.

Well, I'm glad to be wrong about this one.

You seem to be arguing that you'd rather be lied to by people you like than told the truth by people you dislike. I find that to be a very strange position.

No. I said that I like stuff he (or Wikileaks) has dug up, even though it sometimes makes me uncomfortable (the bit about putting people's lives in danger). And that it's what good journalism should be about. At the same time, I don't think he's that much different from any other journalist as he pretends to be; his truth is not any more real than theirs. And this pretense is what I don't like.

That seems like a very valid complaint against the traditional media and their stenography of power approach to journalism, yes. What has that to do with Wikileaks?

Wikileaks, despite their pretenses, is not much different from a traditional media institution. They may be able to release more documents, but this does not make them more right. It's good journalism, but it's not better than journalism.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:05 AM on April 20, 2012


YAY the transparency Assange has accomplished! Wishing him success in this new adventure. The risks he has taken in the past have benefited the planet tremendously.

Yes, I love the WikiLeaks slogan: "Governance flows better with transparency."

Wishing him well in his journey.
posted by nickyskye at 9:21 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's nothing in the interview that suggests Assange endorses any of his guest's attitudes in that respect.

I haven't seen the interview, so I don't know whether this is the case or not, but there's no way that a BBC reporter like Jeremy Paxman or John Humphreys would interview someone like Nasrallah *without* pressing him on an issue like why he screens a series on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and whether he happens to believe that it portrays an accurate historical document.

If Assange didn't hold his feet to the fire over something like this, that counts as blowing smoke up his ass by any competent journalistic standard.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:24 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I doubt Assange was hired as a way of buying him off. It's pretty obvious to anyone who's paid attention that Assange is the kind of pet that compulsively bites the hand that is feeding him. Personally I think that's his sole redeeming feature.
posted by Ritchie at 9:33 AM on April 20, 2012


I haven't seen the interview

When you do happen to get around to watching it, let us know where Assange says, "Yeah, that Protocols stuff sounds reasonable." Otherwise, attacking him because he doesn't criticize Nasrallah for this, that or the other thing makes little sense, especially given the context where he is quite openly and unreservedly questioning Nasrallah about his motives for supporting the violent Syrian regime. I'm sorry he didn't get around to your own set of questions, and, in his shoes, Paxman would very probably have been more aggressive, but Assange certainly wasn't spending those 28 minutes pitching his guest any softballs, unlike someone like, say, Jon Stewart or Anderson Cooper, or anyone else in corporate- or government-run media who very certainly would have.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 AM on April 20, 2012


How is that not a kleptocracy with tight control over the press? It happens in a less blatant way here
I do get tired of people calling US news agencies and journalists lackeys of the state


Perhaps some light reading is in order The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America

And off the main topic and unto a major expressway
Paid Lying: What Passes for Major Media Journalism
posted by rough ashlar at 10:47 AM on April 20, 2012


Hmm. Yes. Therefore we can live in fanatasyland where RT is directly equivalent to the BBC. Gotcha, great. At that point i think you might as well just go totally freeform and say that the sky is made of custard, parakeets poop diamonds and the only reason people don't know this stuff is a conspiracy by The Man.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't this going to dramatically increase Assange's legal problems? Doesn't this make it easy to accuse him of being a spy for a foreign government?
posted by humanfont at 11:28 AM on April 20, 2012


Retroactively? lol
posted by jeffburdges at 3:49 PM on April 20, 2012


Speaking of RT propaganda, here's a segment of the The Alyona Show where they complain about how unfair it is that the US government gave India a pass on developing long range missiles while going after North Korea for doing the same thing.
I haven't seen the interview, so I don't know whether this is the case or not, but there's no way that a BBC reporter like Jeremy Paxman or John Humphreys would interview someone like Nasrallah *without* pressing him on an issue like why he screens a series on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and whether he happens to believe that it portrays an accurate historical document.
Do you think that's more important then asking about his support for Assad?
posted by delmoi at 8:07 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do get tired of people calling US news agencies and journalists lackeys of the state

They are lackeys of the powerful and that is more likely to be corporate power and the MIC when talking about the United States.

Respond if you will to Glenn Greenwald's critique because I find nothing to fault in his analysis.
posted by vicx at 11:32 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, Delmoi, I do in fact think pressing Nasrallah on his movement's insane beliefs is more important than asking him about his support for Assad. There are probably people who argue that Hezbollah isn't really supporting Assad, or that it's justified because of Hezbollah's many virtues, or that it's a temporary thing or whatever. It's like the way Communists supported Stalin's deal with Hitler: anyone who presses them on it is obviously an enemy, and you don't need to respond to agents provocateurs. I know for a fact that there were many people like this a year or so ago, and that's the sort of response I got when I pressed them on it.

Furthermore, let's not pretend that the Side of Good hasn't made deals with bad people. I suspect that the Syrian opposition themselves are pretty nasty. The Side of Good justifies it by saying that it's a temporary thing, that the bad guys will reform when shown a good example, &c &c. So asking about political decisions doesn't really get you anywhere - why does Hezbollah support Assad? Well, why does the USA support MEK (or whoever). It's even-Stevens, or at least too complicated to put into a soundbite.

On the other hand, if you focus on Hezbollah's actual beliefs - which are insane, vicious, and evil - then it's harder for Hezbollah's supporters in the West to justify themselves. We presently have the ludicrous situation where Quakers are among Hezbollah's most prominent fellow travelers. They know all about Hezbollah's bad associations and it hasn't moved them. I hope that focusing on the fact that Hezbollah actively promotes things like the blood libel against Jews might make some of them reconsider.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:55 AM on April 21, 2012


vicx: "I do get tired of people calling US news agencies and journalists lackeys of the state

They are lackeys of the powerful and that is more likely to be corporate power and the MIC when talking about the United States.
"


No, they're individuals working for news organizations with varying levels of quality and oversight, some of whom have an intense desire to do quality journalism, some who just churn out shit from the fun factory, and many others somewhere between. "The media" is not a monolith, it's not homogeneous. I'm not saying that overall it's not in serious need of improvement, mind you.

"Respond if you will to Glenn Greenwald's critique because I find nothing to fault in his analysis"

Okay- first, it's not all of the analysis but more the delivery. Besides the quote I have up the page, here are a couple others:

"We yet again find, for instance, the revealing paradox that nothing prompts media scorn more than bringing about unauthorized transparency for the U.S. government."

Okay, right there, he starts speaking in blanket terms about "media". He makes good points about the weakness of the NYT article, but then extrapolates that onto everyone else.

"Let’s examine the unstated premises at work here. There is apparently a rule that says…"
No. Let's not. There's no rule. I'm sure some reporters or editors from established media would discount journalism from less established ones, or certain other sources. Some do not.

" That’s because American media outlets are eager to savage those who are outcasts in Washington, but unfailingly treat its most powerful figures with great reverence. "

& cetera

I'll tell you what: if the dude just used more qualifiers in his writing, I would take it more seriously. Why not say "many American media outlets appear eager"? You may like the brash style, sticking it to the man or being blunt, however you like to see it. Personally, I think it's possible to make a valid point without making a binary out of every situation, and that's what I dislike about most partisan commentary. Things just aren't that simple.
posted by Red Loop at 7:58 AM on April 21, 2012


Not retroactively. Consider if Wikileaks obtains any classified information from any government other than Russia at this point. Is Assange counted as a spy for Russia by that other government? Are there any limits on the rights of foreign press in the UK vs domestic press?
posted by humanfont at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2012


I suspect the leaks boat has sailed without them onboard since they ultimately focussed so heavily upon mega leaks. A leaker could just publish anonymous if they aren't worried about redacting names.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:10 AM on April 21, 2012


You know, I don't think Assange gets a pass for having good intentions any more.

Julian Assange: Enemy of Internet Freedom in Belarus

Julian Assange and Europe's Last Dictator

Assange's Extremist Employees

posted by Joe in Australia at 4:19 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's some grade-A, slimy, smear-tactic bullshit, right there. Roger Ailes would be proud.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:18 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you dispute any part of it? Israel Shamir has been notorious for decades - I remember coming across his screeds well over twenty years ago. He was part of Assange's inner circle, and in fact was the source of the allegation that the Swedish women were a honeytrap. Shamir used his access to Wikileaks material to support Lukashenko - and Assange was paying him at the time.

Question: do you think the people who responded to Assange's begging letters knew where their money was going?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:27 PM on April 21, 2012


Your links are a smear-tactic in that they insinuate that Assange had any control over Shamir, understood the depths of crazy there, etc. And they certainly Assange fail to convey any information about his intentions.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:00 PM on April 21, 2012


Firstly, no decent person would associate with Israel Shamir. It would be like hanging around David Duke. We actually know that Assange himself is a paranoid Jew-hunter, but I suppose that's not really germane to the issue of Assange's knowledge of his associate's actions. On the other hand, this is:

Shamir was Assange's paid employee. Shamir was Wikileaks' representative in Russia. Shamir was given full access to Wikileaks material, which was apparently sold to Lukashenko's government. And now Assange has taken a job with the the Russian Government's propaganda arm.

Here is Wikileaks' response to the allegations which, if the Guardian's report is to believed, is clearly a lie.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:02 PM on April 21, 2012


Sigh. There are so many irrelevant/weak arguments and preposterous statements in this thread, not least from those that haven't RTFA or seen the F interview (PeterMcdermott twice comments with a position that is contradicted by the interview & JoeIA, well, i'll get to that...)

Sotonohito: Your claim that JA has "conceded to being a rapist" demands citation. Good luck with that.

On RT: Refusing to watch/trust a program because it was bought by a company that displays bias? Claiming that RT are less trustworthy than US/UK media because "Putin"? Inferring that JA is somehow controlled by the russian government because a broadcaster bought their program (after it was finished!)? Give me a break and go back into the hole you crawled out of.

Red Loop: I'll agree that this wasn't one of Glenn's better written articles, but GG's entire body of work being critical of some articles and praising others speaks for itself. The whole, "I like what they say just not the way they say it" argument merely highlights the readers' disinterest in objectively assessing the content.

Joe: That Shiram argument is so pathetic I can't help but think you're being paid to spread disinformation. According to the Guardian article you reference, Shiram turns up with hundreds of others, using a fake name, pretending to be a journalist, takes some cables in Russian that he then translates and allegedly attempts to sell back to wikileaks. The claim that Shiram worked for WL comes from a Russian newspaper to which Shiram tried to sell cables, not from Shiram himself. Where is the evidence that Wikileaks paid for, supported, or made Shiram an official spokesperson, because that Guardian extract is nothing but slandering supposition?

It's a shame that so many here are blind to the difference between evidence based reporting and hearsay, conjecture, speculation and outright disinformation. daniel_charms, to what extent is JA's character relevant to the evidence of criminality and abuse of power revealed by the documents Wikileaks have released?

It should by now be obvious to everyone that the US Government no longer holds itself accountable to the US Constitution, is not a nation of laws that apply equally to all, and does not even feel the need to deny these facts. Obfuscation of the truth has replaced denial as the primary means of controlling public opinion. In this environment, evidenced based journalism has become critical for the survival of democracy. Unfortunately, it appears that there are too many people invested in the current system to prevent the public from becoming so ignorant of the facts as to make democracy meaningless.
posted by bigZLiLk at 9:33 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shamir, not Shiram. Also, you've misread the Guardian's claim: Shamir was allegedly flogging articles in Russia and Belarus, not back to Wikileaks.

Here's what Index on Censorship had to say about the affair. And in the interests of full disclosure, here is Wikileaks' response:
A representative of Wikileaks responded, ‘We have no further reports on this “rumour/issue”. Another Wikileaks representative told Index “obviously it is not approved”.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:22 PM on April 21, 2012


The Guardian is riding a deeply unprofessional vendetta against Wikileaks, a history that includes their publishing of secret passwords and then whining about it being Wikileaks' fault. So, they found some journalist associated with Assange who is an anti-semite, what exactly does this have to do with anything?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:07 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shamir isn't a journalist: he is a notorious crank who has been peddling antisemitic slander sheets for years, much as David Duke did before he worked out how to win elections. Anyway, this "journalist" used his privileged access to the Wikileaks database to supply information to the Russian and Belarusian governments, information which has been used in the prosecution and was possibly reason for the deaths of a number of Belarusian opposition figures. Assange never disavowed Shamir, or (as far as we know) did anything to discourage him. On the contrary: he apparently paid him to ferret out the very articles which Shamir was hawking around the former USSR.

Now Assange has effectively been employed by the Russian government, an authoritarian kleptocracy that rigs elections and imprisons or kills its opposition. Assange isn't a journalist either: the deal either trades on his reputation (thereby whitewashing Vladimir Putin's regime); or it presumes that he will collaborate further; or it is at least a quid pro quo for his earlier help.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:22 AM on April 22, 2012


Shamir having ugly views does not make him not a journalist, and your personal dislike of Assange or The Guardian's butthurt doesn't make him not the guy who broke one of the biggest stories of the decade.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:14 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


bigZLiLk: "The whole, "I like what they say just not the way they say it" argument merely highlights the readers' disinterest in objectively assessing the content."

Isn't that a contradictory statement?
posted by Red Loop at 6:47 AM on April 22, 2012


Shamir isn't a journalist because he isn't a journalist. Journalism isn't what he does. He doesn't report, as such. He doesn't gather information, as such. He used to produce antisemitic smear sheets; he is now an antisemitic blogger.

As for Assange, that is precisely the point: he preached in favor of openness, but he wrapped everything in a messy web of secrecy and is now working for the bad guys. Hence my view that he abandoned his purported principles.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:54 AM on April 22, 2012


Jacob Appelbaum was on Democracy Now the other day, and talked a bit about the harassment he's received for his support of WikiLeaks.
posted by homunculus at 8:27 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Homunculus's link wasn't working for me, so here's the Google cache version.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:57 PM on April 22, 2012


bigZLiLk Actually, even a casual google search will show that what I said is factually correct.

Assange, through his lawyers, conceded that all of the accusations against him are completely true. His defense rests on asserting that the act of holding a woman down and sexually penetrating her while she struggles not to be penetrated is not, in fact, rape.
The appellant [Assange]'s physical advances were initially welcomed but then it felt awkward since he was "rough and impatient" … They lay down in bed. AA was lying on her back and Assange was on top of her … AA felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … She did not articulate this. Instead she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … AA tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. AA says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.
That's not what the prosecution says, that's Assange's own lawyer describing the events in question. From the Guardian's live coverage, relevant quote at 2:02PM

So yes, Assange has, via his lawyers, conceded that he is a rapist.

That doesn't make Wikileaks any less important, but it does make Assange personally a scumbag and a rapist.
posted by sotonohito at 7:14 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sotonohito: I think that your quotation may be taken from (one of) the complainant's accounts, and that Assange's lawyer is arguing that this complaint - which is outrageous if true - does not justify the charge laid in the warrant for Assange's arrest, which should therefore be dismissed. I.e., he's saying "even assuming she's telling the truth, you still don't have grounds to extradite him." This might be because the account goes on to say
after a while Assange asked what AA was doing and why she was squeezing her legs together. AA told him that she wanted him to put a condom on before he entered her. Assange let go of AA's arms and put on a condom which AA found her.
Assange's lawyer is presumably arguing that she ultimately consented to penetration. Of course I have no idea whether the account is correct or whether it satisfies the technical and legal standard required of the extradition warrant, or in fact whether Assange is technically and legally a rapist.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:06 AM on April 23, 2012


@Joe: Legalities to the side, he's enough of a rapist for me to loathe him. Wikileaks == good. Assange == not good.
posted by sotonohito at 8:20 AM on April 23, 2012


@Red Loop: You're making the tone argument? Really? You seem to be saying, in essence, that what Greenwald says is true, that his arguments are valid, but you really don't like the way he said it so you'll disagree. Please tell me I'm wrong.
posted by sotonohito at 8:22 AM on April 23, 2012


Homunculus's link wasn't working for me, so here's the Google cache version.

Ugh. Salon has just done a redesign, that might have been the problem. Anyway, here's Friday's episode of Democracy Now with Appelbaum and others, and here's part two from today: More Secrets on Growing State Surveillance: Exclusive Part 2 With NSA Whistleblower, Targeted Hacker
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


sotonohito: "You seem to be saying, in essence, that what Greenwald says is true, that his arguments are valid, but you really don't like the way he said it so you'll disagree. Please tell me I'm wrong."

Well, it's certainly not right. I said he has some valid points that are undermined by his extrapolation. I don't agree with everything he says, because, as I mentioned before, I don't believe the "media" to be a homogenous phalanx of corporate bots, just like I don't believe they're a bunch of hard workers in the pits with their sleeves rolled up working long hours in the relentless pursuit of the TRUTH, dammit!
I'm sorry if I was somehow unclear in saying that I don't believe that the issue is a binary and I don't think he's being helpful or truthful in basically acting like it is.

And the whole, "I like what they say just not the way they say it" argument merely highlights the readers' disinterest in objectively assessing the content." was contradictory because if someone is liking what is said, then aren't they assessing the content (objectively or not)? It's a condemnation of how it's said, or the style. See? Style. content. Two very different things that can work together, or at cross-purposes (or somewhere in between).
posted by Red Loop at 5:18 PM on April 23, 2012


To all of those mocking Assange: He's two steps ahead of the lot of you.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:31 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


He's a lot funnier than this thread too.
posted by Wolof at 1:54 AM on April 24, 2012


JIA, I think you're assuming more than is possible by the facts. Immediately following your quote, the lawyer points out that:
"..crucially, Emmerson said, there was no lack of consent sufficient for the unlawful coercion allegation, because "after a while Assange asked what AA was doing and why she was squeezing her legs together. AA told him that she wanted him to put a condom on before he entered her. Assange let go of AA's arms and put on a condom which AA found her."
So penetration did not occur and JA claims as soon as he became aware that sex without a condom wasn't consented to, he acquiesced. Think what you will about what happened, the statement that he admitted rape cannot be deduced from that statement.

RL: Point taken and as I said, I agree that GG did not attack the right targets, nor qualify his statements as well as he often does. I still think it's unfair to expect journalists to qualify everything they say in every article. I GG is certainly better than most in doing so on a regular basis.
posted by bigZLiLk at 2:57 AM on April 24, 2012


@bigZLiLk I'm going to quote something from Yes Means Yes
A boy and a girl run around on the grass at the park. The boy tackles the girl. The girl laughs. She gets up and runs away. She loves to run. He chases, she turns and they grab eachother, tumble and land in a pile, giggling. After a few minutes, he tackles her again and she lands a bit hard. She is bigger and physical, but he more than holds his own in roughhousing. She pauses for a second. Then she laughs again; she’s still having fun.

Dad gets his attention, and says, “If she’s not having fun, you have to stop.”
As the writer of that essay points out, the same applies to sex. If your partner isn't having fun, you have to stop. And if you don't then you're a rapist and a scumbag.
posted by sotonohito at 7:19 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm not trying to troll, really, you're just not reading the evidence:
..told him that she wanted him to put a condom on before he entered her. Assange let go of AA's arms and put on a condom..
posted by bigZLiLk at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2012






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