SocraticGadfly: Is Julian Assange a journalist? Updated with Espionage Act superseding indictment

May 23, 2019

Is Julian Assange a journalist?
Updated with Espionage Act superseding indictment

Update, May 23, 2019: Julian Assange has now received a superseding indictment on Espionage Act charges

Quick thoughts for now?


1. Whether this puts a crimp or not on the freedom of the press portion of the First Amendment (and courts have ruled the Espionage Act does not violate the free speech portion of the amendment) is a secondary issue.


2. To me, the main issue is whether or not the Espionage Act is legally applicable to foreign nationals. I argue it is not.


3. Other than the "yes, but ..." below, I still haven't — and can't — come down squarely on "yes, he's a journalist."

More thoughts at bottom.

Now, the original post:

I promised in my initial post about Assange's arrest that I would address this further. And here we are.

A simple answer is two words: "Yes, but ..."

And, that's with everything implied by folk psychology tropes by adding "but" after the "yes."

So, I'm going to break that out more, with a nutgraf of sorts kept down at the bottom.

So, here we go ...

Journalists don't just seek out, gather and collate information.

They analyze it.

Then they write about it.

Assange did little of the analysis or writing work even with the initial information he got from Chelsea Manning, when he had much greater degrees of freedom of space, time, and working space than he does now.

Writers, and even more, editors, make judgment calls with information they receive. Some of those judgments are whether the material is true or not. Others are whether it would be harmful to release some of it.

I think Glenn Greenwald, for whatever reasons, has gone overboard on what Edward Snowden information he and Laura Poitras have chosen not to release, but, they have made a judgment call.

Assange? In the past, at a point after his working space freedom started to close up but was not that tight, made decisions to dump information without redactions, and in the case of some Afghanistan material, was rightly criticized for an endangerment factor.

That's just one issue. As Wikipedia's page on Wikileaks notes, it's released Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and more. With basically no effort at redaction.

I also said in my initial piece on the actual "yes," that to the degree it's true, he's actually like a Beltway steno in reverse in some way. He's an opiner, not a news writer, to the degree we consider him a journalist, by what he gathers, and what he solicits. I've already, along with others, criticized him for not seeking and encouraging leakers inside places like Russia and China. I've criticized more his response to that initial criticism. Today, Russia has a home-grown version of something like Wikileaks — no thanks to Assange.

And, when Assange, or Wikileaks as its mouthpiece, has made editorial judgment calls, sometimes they've been off the wall. Like criticizing the leak of the Panama Papers.

Here? I suspect 190-proof red-eyed jealousy at work — as one motive.

Another? I'm still not ready to call him a Russian agent, but the Panama Papers' attacks on Russian businessmen (Mafiyya, let's be honest) is another reason Assange attacked their release, claiming the U.S. government was behind this, which is nonsense. Ken Silverstein had done some work on Mossack Fonseca even before the main Panama Papers leak and I KNOW he's not a government agent.

And? Vlad the Impaler Putin himself cited Wikileaks in fighting to defend Russkies with likely government ties. Again, Assange may not be a Russian agent, but he has certainly left himself open to accusations of such.

Worsening the case against Assange here is that, in hosting his on show on RT, per Wiki's page about RT (and yes, selective Wiki-haters when your ox is gored, there's a link at the site), he admitted he RT would be less comfortable with him if he had encouraged anti-Russia leaks or written anti-Russia items.

(Greenwald and others like him — and the likes of Mark Ames and Yasha Levine may partially fall here, though I've not seen anything explicit so far — fall into their own version, that of certain leftists and certain semi-libertarians on US foreign policy — of #twosiderism in lumping legitimate and illegitimate attacks against RT and Sputnik together.)

Jealousy is not a one-off issue with Assange, either. Edward Snowden was among those who criticized Assange for not sufficiently curating and editing leaked materials, a charge he repeats in his memoir as reason why he didn't work through Wikileaks, and Assange claimed Snowden was pandering to Hillary Clinton.

Good journalists also have good ethics. In promoting the totally base and vile Seth Rich conspiracy theory, primarily to try to cover up that the initial DNC emails came from a Russian hack, Assange has shown his lack of ethics and his willingness to outrightly lie. (Given that nobody — not Assange, Patrick Lawrence, Adam Carter or anybody else that I know of — has tried to explicitly claim that the spearphishing attack that got the later emails was not Russian-done, why the lie was engaged in was perplexing, too, and remains so.)

And, related, Silverstein thinks Snowden, if not originally a Russian agent, got compromised at some point, so who knows?

Wikipedia also raises the issue of whether or not Assange is anti-Semitic. First, to the Assange nutbar fanbois, I know well myself the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and the use of the latter as a weapon against people calling out the former. As with Russian agent questions, at a minimum, I think Assange has left himself open to anti-Semitism claims.

And, per Andrew Stewart at Washington Babylon, Assange is definitely anti-feminist, which ties back to his troubles in Sweden (which have now been opened legally AGAIN!) He's also, weirdly but openly, anti-atheist, at least on Tweets that Stew collated. And his call for more births in Europe make him come off a bit like an Anders Breivik, or other white nationalists in Europe and America.

Per the Intercept in 2016, right after the DNC hack, how Assange chose to frame the hack, as well as claiming they're absolutely not from Russia, which he actually couldn't know if Wikileaks does actually have as robust of source anonymity as Assange claims, means that if he IS doing journalism, it's not news reporting — it's as much or more op-ed only as the Gnu Media, Beltway stenos division.

Assange is also an idiot at times. In the link above, I mentioned his previous issues with lack of password protection. His belief that Trump would give him a pardon or something for all the DNC leaks further shows this idiocy. By the way, to riff on Janice Joplin, schadenfreude is just another word for someone else who arrogantly still has plenty to lose.

Journalism is also a collaborate effort in some way. Even at a small community newspaper, the managing editor will bounce ideas off other staff. A publisher will be a check, if the editor doesn't voluntarily include the publisher in his or her advisors.

Assange is managing editor and publisher all in one, with a sycophantic, perhaps even cowering, editorial board, even if Kristinn Hrafnsson is listed as editor in chief.

Whether it is, if not autism, being "on the spectrum" somewhere, as the man hired to ghost Assange's autobiography details in writing about a six-month nightmare, or simple narcissism, or both, Assange simply doesn't play ball except on his terms.

Journalism is an art or a craft, not a science. It will always have a demarcation problem, per philosopher friend Massimo Pigliucci and his writings (in the sciences) on demarcation issues.

I wouldn't put Assange outside the bounds of journalism. But I would put him in the borderlands.

And I'm comfortable with saying that.

And if we stopped calling him a journalist, I'd be OK with that, too. We don't call Snowden one, nor has he ever presented himself as one. We didn't call Daniel Ellsberg one 40 years ago, and he doesn't call himself one, today, either. And, that's that buried nutgraf.

So, why IS Assange a journalist, if he is one, and Snowden is not? Is it anything other than Assange having an organized backing behind him and Snowden not? Is it Assange-generated PR related to that?

Here's option three — we call Wikileaks a journalistic organization but don't call Assange a journalist. For my personal value, this has the petard-hoisting factor of, on paper, forcing Hrafnsson and others to defend Wikileaks separately from defending Assange. Judging by Hrafnsson's comments — and many others — this ain't happening.

==

Sadly, the whataboutism and twosiderism on this issue, beyond the question of "is Assange a journalist" is ramping up.

Should Mueller be faulted if his Internet 12 indictments are based only, as far as computer evidence, on Crowdstrike mirrors of DNC servers? I'd argue yes.

But, that doesn't mean that the case is flimsy, let alone that by default, Seth Rich (or even a non-Seth Richer at DNC) stole the initial set of emails.

I've covered ALL of this in depth before. I'm sure Consortium News and others are still going to peddle the Patrick Lawrence BS, since Ray McGovern is a chief peddler. AND, the two-siders should stop trying to claim that a burden of proof exists with the VIPS minority plus Ritter et al. Beyond that, I specifically commented on this related to Assange's arrest six weeks ago.

AND, if you're going to criticize Mueller, you need to criticize this Forensicator in spades. Or, Adam Carter, I should say. If you want Mueller to interview someone, toady Craig Murray, it's "interesting" how you want him to interview Bill Binney from VIPS, but not Thomas Drake, the man who said Binney and McGovern found their own "Curveball."

And, sorry ... going down conspiracy theory lane in general?

Some mutes or blocks might be coming up. It's who I am.

It's why I continue to call myself a skeptical leftist.

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