Julian Assange will find no help from the mainstream media

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Despite being an inspirational figure to independent journalism, the mainstream media has turned on Julian Assange, writes Daniel Safi.

I ONCE MET a cybersecurity analyst and programmer who worked for PwC in the U.S. He was on “a few hundred, not including bonuses” in his words, holidaying in Sydney with his girlfriend and staying at one of Sydney city’s prominent five-star hotels. He was twenty-two or three, and a former small-time hacker who “switched sides”. This is the life that awaits any competent hacker, if they so wish.

Julian Assange would certainly have known his personal life could become the great disaster it has many years ago, when his trade and craft began directly compromising the military secrets and war crimes of the U.S. particularly and the machinations of deep state workings internationally. He would have known that if you deal them a blow, they will strike back hard, not only to punish the specific threat, but aggressively enough to deter future would-be hackers and leakers. Right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, principles of journalistic independence? Empty words to the dangerous interests Julian Assange exposed and embarrassed. 

Julian Assange would have known this better than most people, but he continued to risk his life and freedom – which he has long since lost – to do that invaluable work that has benefited our democracies, that is, if we still believe information is the currency of democracy. One should think, these certainly are not the actions of a person “who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests”.

But such character assassination of Julian Assange has been the go-to strategy for years now, subtly undermining his case and trumpeted by the now mostly corrupt media institutions who should be out fighting tooth-and-nail for his freedom.    

The successful smearing of Julian Assange over the years by mainstream media has probably done significant harm to his case, whittling away at the once greater and more vocal public support he received. If more people were willing to publicly recognise that the case against him represents a very serious attack on democracy and an independent judiciary, the justice system would be less willing to follow the implied directives of the government agencies who want to exact revenge on him.

It is truly frightening to observe the campaign being directed against Julian Assange, interestingly, by many personalities and institutions that would identify themselves as progressive and Left-leaning.

The line being taken by these personalities and institutions is that Julian Assange is not a journalist or a transparency activist, but a Russian agent whose ‘work has hewed closely to Putin’s agenda,’ according to CNN contributor Frida Ghitis

‘Julian Assange is not a free-press hero. And he is long overdue for personal accountability,’ reads a Washington Post opinion article by the editorial board. So, presumably, the editorial board are all of the same opinion?

WikiLeaks is run by an anti-Semitic alt-right troll,’ reads a tweet by Daily Beast contributor, Michael Weiss, who went on to publish a piece in The Atlantic titled, ‘Julian Assange Got What He Deserved’.

‘Oh please, Assange is no journalist, we know who he works for,’ writes Alexia Campbell of Vox.

Vox, a publication considered almost extreme Left by the Media Bias/Fact Check site, produced this piece in 2017, writing:

‘Throughout WikiLeaks’s existence, the allegedly pro-transparency group has had strange, shadowy, but very well-documented connections to the Russian state.’

As ever, these pieces and authors do not seem interested in the actual findings WikiLeaks brought to light, exposing, for example, America’s corrupt electoral system that deprived Bernie Sanders of the Democratic nomination, but in attacking the source. One can only surmise they would have preferred this corruption to remain a secret. Who is putting American democracy at risk?

It is extremely important to note, Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. is not being sought for connections to Russian intelligence, but for conspiring to hack into a secret Pentagon network. But this crucial bit of information hardly matters to the organisations out to destroy him and WikiLeaks. 

Of course, one will find more nuanced and even some supportive pieces alongside these broadsides, but the smear pieces are enough to sow doubt in people’s minds and significantly dampen his support.

All this muckraking may have a considerable impact on how Assange’s case unfolds over the coming period. Indeed one has to interpret the District Judge Michael Snow’s remarks as proof of an already successfully waged media campaign against Assange. If establishment media and therefore a unanimous and passionate public were standing behind Assange, the very serious defences raised by Assange’s legal team would not have been allowed the brushing off they received by Judge Michael Snow, not to mention the personal attacks Snow levelled, even telling Assange to “get over to the U.S.”.

It is worth mentioning, one of the defence points raised by Assange’s team for skipping bail in 2012 was the then presiding judge Lady Arbuthnot had a conflict of interest in presiding and should have recused herself. The reason? Her husband, who has held multiple private and Government defence posts spanning decades, had been directly targeted and impacted by WikiLeaks’s activities. This very serious and credible defence was called laughable and shameful by the judge.

Again, if the media were doing their job and investigating these issues as they should be, it is unlikely the judge would have been able to carry on in the manner he did and dismiss such serious matters.

With zero institutional support, Assange’s case looks grim, but public opinion may just be the deciding factor in all this — I emphasise, a passionate public opinion, not just token or lukewarm support. If his case is treated as the attack on democracy, free press and a free judiciary that it is – and general public opinion is aware and vocal about this – those trying to destroy him may think twice.

Therefore, over the coming period, it will be the uncompromised and ethical and usually small media organisations that will have to do all they can in the way of this, covering his case closely and reminding people what a major assault on the core values of our free societies Assange’s case represents.  

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