Of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and the Selectively Curious Media – Opinion

Back in 1996, a year known as the one when people should have voted for Bob Dole but didn’t, Tracy Bonham made her big splash on the music charts with a song featuring a chorus detailing personal woes, concluding with her sardonically screaming, “Everything’s fine.”

This song was brought to my attention while I was reading Edward Snowden’s post on Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Infamity.

After a lengthy and somewhat rambling preamble regarding bad faith’s meaning, Snowden gets to his point, namely that the U.S. attempt to extradite Assange is a direct attack on freedom of the press.

I agree with my friends (and lawyers) at the ACLU: the U.S. government’s indictment of Assange amounts to the criminalization of investigative journalism. As do my many friends and colleagues around the world, I believe that criminalization stems from a strange paradox. It is the fact that many activities that the U.S. would prefer to conceal are carried out in other countries. These foreign journalists will now have to answer for their actions before the U.S. justice system. All manner of dictatorial leaders around the world will exploit the precedent set here. What will be the State Department’s response when the Republic of Iran demands the extradition of New York Times reporters for violating Iran’s secrecy laws? How will Britain respond to Recep Erdogan and Viktor Orban’s requests for extradition Guardian reporters? The point is not that the U.S. or U.K. would ever comply with those demands — of course they wouldn’t — but that they would lack any principled basis for their refusals.

One can make the argument that Assange isn’t a journalist but rather a cyberspace raconteur seeking whatever potentially embarrassing information — against whichever government or institution strikes his fancy — is obtainable through any available means for self-aggrandizing purposes. The question is, “When, if any, can journalists use illegally obtained material to write a story?” The answer shouldn’t involve whoever is in office and thus may be hurt by such revelations. But let’s get real. Hunter Biden’s laptop, anyone?

In Snowden’s view, by not fully supporting Assange, the media is declaring itself guilty of the same crimes for which Assange is charged, thus worthy of the same punishment.

Obfuscation, withholding, meaning-manipulation, meaning-denial — these are just some of the ways in which some journalists, and not just American journalists, have conspired, yes, conspired to convict Assange in absentia, and, by extension, to convict their own profession — to convict themselves.

While the thought of seeing any given CNN or MSNBC reporter being hauled away in handcuffs because they reported something they weren’t supposed to know–this as opposed to their specialty of reporting that about which they know so much that isn’t so–is delicious it also brings up a chilling point.

Our government’s taste in going against people reporting inconvenient truths is most selective. James Rosen and Obama, their inability to control his own affairs. The 2021 edition of the FBI harassing Project Veritas reporters in general and James O’Keefe in particular. The Trump administration hurting White House pool reporters’ feelings. (One of these things is not like the other, but don’t tell Brian Stelter and company that.)

We would rally around Julian Assange if we had an honest media that focused on the truth, not the story. However, this is not true. Instead of being infected with the omicron variant of COVID, the media is infected with omertà. The cost of infecting the media with omerta will rise if the worm becomes hostile to the worms. In ignoring Julian Assange’s plight because the Democrats were the ones embarrassed by his actions, the media sets itself up to have no one to blame but itself when the government comes down hard at the release of classified (read: embarrassing) material.

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