The Default Setting
There is an explanation of ‘the law of the instrument’ that runs: “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” The analogy is not so much about a magic hammer: it concerns the mentality whereby an individual can easily be ‘instrumentalised’ and put to use while being remarkably unreflective on what they are doing and oblivious to the consequences. While feeling they are acting freely their activities may have been directed for an ulterior purpose. This has not gone unnoticed in the propaganda world: indeed a US National Security Council Directive as early in 1950 stated that: “the most effective form of propaganda is when the subject moves in the direction you desire for reasons which he believes to be his own.” We can see how the directive might have an impact on our perceptions. A good example would be media ‘pundits’ who will throw themselves into an (independent) fury of pontification once they know who or what to demonise: their trade is the tirade. Then off they go pounding every aspect of something until the next topical target is placed before them. They are as predictable as the small boy with the hammer. Such is their utility.
The proliferation of media pundits in the mainstream media impacts upon cultural freedom. One condition of cultural freedom, as has long ago been argued, is the exchange of opposing views in an open arena. This rests on the faith that sound opinions will (somehow) triumphantly survive challenge and opposition by unsound opinion; that the truth will prevail even when no one cares whether it prevails or not. The source of the power of propaganda is to harness the pervasive uncertainty of values: to use (or let) a universal defamation of character take the place of universal judgments of right and wrong.[i]
Watching the BBC news on Julian Assange’s balcony speech from Equador’s London Embassy I struggled to understand what he said, as it was not actually reported. Turning over to SKY’s press review both commentators simply heaped ridicule and abuse on Assange and I was still none the wiser. Reporting has ceased to be reporting here. Begin to look for information on what was happening with WikiLeaks and you will find a deluge of this open-season-on-Assange material and very little clear-sighted analysis emanating from the mainstream. So here is my question: how do media pundits think the US and the UK conduct a media propaganda campaign and why do they think they should act so irresponsibly—given the anomalies that surround the Assange case?[ii]
On Twitter a small predictable group of (largely inter-related) pundits like David Allen Green and Sunny Hundal became hysterical in their response to criticisms of their Assange hysteria to the point of both exhibiting contempt for their readers. No one expects much to come of it, but the Levenson enquiry’s ugly revelations revealed the mercenary, incompetent, criminally cynical character of contemporary journalists—destructive in-fighting, invective and smears are all some have to offer as journalism apart from solipsism. This is their default setting, highlighting a feature of the decay of the news media. The exhibition of a vicious hatred for Assange has clearly influenced Green and Hundal’s judgement and discernment but they unreflectively enjoy it as a type of sport.[iii] Hounding Assange is easy and pundits can also conveniently ignore analysis of WikiLeaks, or anything else that might get them into trouble.
Much of their and other commentator’s writing also serves to obscure where the issue of US national security is in relation to Assange. Questions aiming to establish the nature of Karl Rove’s influence in Sweden, or where the money for the elite government-connected lawyer/politicians who are pursuing Assange is coming from, and many others, will not be answered by repetitious mockery of Assange. These questions are made to seem like conspiracy theories amidst the acceptable expanse of ridicule—and that is the point of the ridicule, it is an open source propaganda: a good joke will travel the world. Thus while Assange may be headed to a country baying for his death we are all enjoined to laugh by the middle-class lynch mob.
The same question must be put here as was posed in France during the Dreyfus case: If the US Government is so certain of its case, why has it conducted all its inquiries in the strictest secrecy? We no longer have the intellectuals who defended Dreyfus. Their place has been over-run thanks to perverse editors who believe that whatever a pundit writes is news and analysis. The punditocracy offer news about nothing: George Galloway even feels free to use the issue to tell us his opinion on rape (without realizing that he is keeping the Assange-as-rapist narrative alive). The bandwagon trundles along within the media cycle of chewing people up and spitting them out while the big issues that question the legitimacy of government become lost in the serious treatment of the trivial and the trivialization of the serious. That is the default setting of the mainstream media.
When did it become open season on Assange? Why are left and liberal and right-wing critics offering such harmony of cynicism as if something was shepherding their thought? Why it is because they are right in their judgement; and they are right because the left and liberal and right-wing critics are offering such harmony of cynicism. It is a consensus verdict. A fair trial in the media.
David Allen Green and Sunny Hundal are just not up to puncturing the big illusion: they have minutiae to scrutinize and Julian jokes to tell, people to persecute. Their liberal practicality decrees that they find a personal fall-out with, or dislike of Assange coterminous with a motivation to explore the assassination, subversion, covert operations and public diplomacy essential to US foreign policy. This is for the purpose of evasion. There is no money in writing that unravels the meaning of the secrecy that exposes the greed and corruption that under-pin dominant social structures: the pundits all exhibit the desire to get back to traditional moaning with such aspects clearly demarked as conspiracy theory territory—they are the big time journalists who desire to be paid by big time media organizations: not all that outside irrational noise.
WikiLeaks’ position is that the Guardian has embarked on a war on WikiLeaks specifically with three attacks over 48 hours timed for 5 days before Assange’s final extradition appeal judgement in the High Court and a UK Parliamentary debate and vote on extradition abuses. Many of the Guardian’s employees (with the exception of Suemas Milne although he ignored the Guardian’s role) prefer a good old-fashioned tabloid hounding approach to reporting the issues, complete with sexual ridicule, innuendo, prurience and a snide carelessness with facts to smear Assange repeatedly. Presumably it will cease once he is dead. And so much for not influencing possible legal proceedings: we are so convinced Assange is guilty and has been charged that sub judice seems to have been breached. But hack writers like Hundal or Green or David Aaronovitch (“Julian Assange should be arrested the second he steps outside the Ecuadorean embassy”) need to keep the ball rolling to keep their money rolling in. The law of diminishing returns might dictate that with very little to say they will say less and less, but that seems no deterrent: Aaronovitch’s Times article is little more than a reference to Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame but he is no Victor Hugo. All the anti-Assange position does is remind us of anti-communism or anti-semitism; it is just a form of bias that disqualifies the person from being taken seriously. But not for the editors of newspapers: they encourage the pundits.
The anti-Assange writers do not think of themselves as useful idiots for the CIA although they level a variant of the charge at his supporters. The Guardian’s editor probably does not want to appear to mass-market idle subjective guff designed to make us come to certain preconceived conclusions. He is just being a practical liberal. Responsibility for the Guardian’s coverage lies with Alan Rusbridger—who despises Assange and seems to project his own failings on to him. But there is no authoritative voice that comes in from above that comes to our rescue on the matter—even staid outlets such as BBC’s Newsnight join in the hysteria so as not to look un-hip. The Foreign Office (after pressure from Obama) seems to be of the opinion that someone anomalously wanted for re-questioning is worth the SAS donning their balaclavas.
The Military-Industrial much too Complex for the readers
The US at its public diplomacy level has been gearing up to attack Wikileaks for some time. It viewed the organization’s stated aims with dismay in its publications:
We aim for maximum political impact. We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government, and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly—in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances—the Internet, and cryptography—the risks of conveying important information can be lowered.
It is because of these aims that the US secret state has been trying to destroy WikiLeaks. Its call for such freedoms, in the judgement of the US Army Counterintelligence Center, means that “Wikileaks.org represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC, and INFOSEC threat to the US Army. […] Recent unauthorized release of DoD sensitive and classified documents provide FISS, foreign terrorist groups, insurgents, and other foreign adversaries with potentially actionable information for targeting US forces.” They ignore that the documents reveal wrong-doing. The US Army Counterintelligence Center also believe that:
The Wikileaks.org Web site could be used to post fabricated information, misinformation, disinformation, or propaganda and could be used in perception management and influence operations to convey a positive or negative message to specific target audiences that view or retrieve information from the Web site.
Or it could reveal the truth that has been hidden from us (or perhaps I have read this wrong and they are telling us their plans). But this also reveals that ‘perception management’ is thought to be the US’ prerogative. In taking this position the Army document tacitly admits that the US has allied itself with the: “governments of China, Israel, North Korea, Russia, Thailand, Zimbabwe, and several other countries” who “have blocked access to Wikileaks.org-type Web sites” and (emphasis added) “claimed they have the right to investigate and prosecute Wikileaks.org and associated whistleblowers, or insisted they remove false, sensitive, or classified government information, propaganda, or malicious content from the Internet.” In a perverse form of jealousy, the US state and the private sector is formulating its response to WikiLeaks by emulating them as I will touch on below. The report also recommended: “The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistlblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Wikileaks.org Web site.” The US wants revenge—it wants its perception management back and the wall of secrecy back.[iv]
The US government itself has used the leaking of restricted and classified material for as long as the opportunity existed: it is not the act itself that bothers them, it is other people doing it without their sanction, unlicensed as it were, without their control and puncturing the illusions they foster—the perceptions they seek to manage. And here they need recipients of leaked or directed material: journalists and editors who have fostered relations with government outlets (on and off the record) and who will be able to reach a large enough audience to influence public opinion. The pundits are the people who then build up a plain — an expanse — of like opinion against which any dissent appears as a jarring anomaly—something sticking up that ought to be pounded down. And off the gang of little boys with hammers go. Traditionally this functions alongside smears, misinformation and forgery. Craig Murray has noted the construction of the sexual bad guy scam and suffered from it himself. Reuters has started in on Bradley Manning before the trial (if there is to be one). Now Reuters are an objective news agency no—just passing on the unvarnished truth?
On the level of the individual any National Security argument is specious because of the metaphysical nature of the argument—you are wrong, we are right because we are the state. But what does a state secret secure here if it covers up criminal activity or statements entirely contrary to the public record that can easily be exposed. These would be better termed as lies and deception irrespective of the classified status. This status usually constitutes a resource for a small privileged insider group of the state’s elite representatives who use the information to enrich themselves via consultancies and lobby groups.
The Military-Industrial Complex as a descriptive term has always been resisted because it conjures up such total control beyond democratic politics: if you have such a Complex you do not have a democracy (hence Eisenhower’s warning). But the desire for this level of control and domination is certainly in evidence in what is carried out under the cloak of secrecy and the war-on-terror’s vast budget. The US’ interests and the security/warfare elements of its society that drives its economy have made it into a large conglomorate that demands fealty and impunity as it plunders. Ultimately WikiLeaks’ work provides evidence of the perpetual façade of US democracy. The bureaucratic role of the state extends to taking life ‘legitimately’: but the basis of this legitimacy is long gone—from habeas corpus to whatever rights its citizens imagine they still have.
The General Default
Not all journalists leave us in the dark in the face of this—undaunted they note that Julian Assange looks like the character ‘Mister Humphries’ from a 1970s sit-com. Why is what’s on offer so bad? It is hard to operate as a practical liberal pundit when the banks are the obvious cause of social ills, when governments are the cause of social ills and when the media and its ‘journalists’ are the cause of social ills. Investigative journalism is expensive, few read it and you will lose advertising revenue: which is the whole point of a newspaper. Thus editors feel they can profitably turn our attention to mindless egotistical moralism on an acceptable target. Such winsome prose is combined with a focus on the odd ‘bad apple’ banker or politician or journalist or celebrity who is ceremonially thrown to the wolves: this means the component parts that form the main institutional structures of society can be ignored or ritually partially condemned and briskly moved on with. But amidst the clamor of the trivial we are still left with an adherence to the increasingly hollow structures in society reflected in the media. What the elite say when they brief you, that is to be clung to as the default: truth is what power says it is rather than what we find to be the case using reason. WikiLeaks’ evidence means nothing to those journalists who will not look in case they find or part of the majority who are in it purely to make money.
As ever the US’ influence on UK politics is also sublimated or guarded and here we are back to national security as the state’s invisible religion. The default here is that (despite countless documented cases of mendacity) anyone having an interest in what the CIA and/or American Embassy might be up to in the UK is obviously a conspiracy theorist: and it has long been one of the shibboleths of working for the mainstream press that you do not express an interest in these things: you merely report what that odd sounding think tank offered you again and again.
So the hand of the US is normally invisible (in the sense of unreported) because of these simple mundane media routines and predelictions. Understandably media conglomerates normally geared up for entertainment and merchandise are irked about having to translate the data dump of all that tedious WikiLeaks stuff and fill up the paper with dreary uncommercial material on targeted assassinations etc. Something like this has left a bitter taste in the minds of those who highjacked the material to tag their names on to it. Ultimately they found it better just to focus on Assange personally. Hundal even admits on Twitter that he is enjoying joining in the propaganda operation.
State secrets (all that stuff they leave on the tube on laptops in the UK) are restricted as part of the US’ reality ownership or ‘controlling the narrative’ as they call it. This kind of tactic requires a cultural apparatus to disseminate a specific campaign and on-going reinforcement and reproduction of established positions. Only a few ‘opinion leaders’ need to be influenced if they command a reasonable audience to form public opinion. I should imagine that our pundits do not think of themselves as puppets. They prefer to think of themselves as amenable when there is money to be gained; the US wants its revenge on Assange; David Allen Green, Sunny Hundal and David Aaronovitch want revenge on Assange and his supporters and other pundits and organisations that do not like their wares. Green insists that all Assange supporters are a priori deluded and offers a “brief critical and source-based guide” which consists of speculation and contradiction aimed at “common misconceptions” to restore certain minds to the default. This was constructed in a quasi-legalistic form to impress us: what you might call ‘Judasprurience.’
His other writing offers such impartial and un-leading insight as ‘The desperation of Julian Assange’, ‘Will the Ecuadorian embassy be stormed?’ or ‘Why Assange lost.’ He will probably add ‘Why Assange deserved to die’ fairly soon. Or ‘why I was completely right on everything to do with Assange.’ Green might on occasion reflect that the case has been politicized but he would rather just say the word rape a lot. He seems to have missed the point that Assange has already been questioned by the Swedish authorities—and the transcript was deliberately leaked to the tabloids by the police as Assange predicted in the interview set up. Does Rupert Murdoch own the Swedish press too, did Paul McMullan move up there? David Allan Green calls this “due process.” I call it trial by media and so does Daniel Ellsberg: this is what Nixon did to him.
For Counterpunch the CIA will “simply use his own erstwhile allies to reduce him [Assange] to a laughing stock,” particularly the ex-Wikileaks (now anti-WikiLeaks) people; but the Davids and Sunny do not see it that way. They are free to pound with their hammer. That they contribute to a climate of opinion is neither here nor there. They are free to pound with their hammer. Their chant while pounding is go to Sweden Julian everything will be fine—Karl Rove is a nice guy. Part of the apparatus creating the climate of opinion against Assange were termed ‘armchair assassins’ by Counterpunch:
The irony is that the thousands of diplomatic communications released by WikiLeaks contain no earth-shaking disclosures that undermine the security of the American empire. The bulk of them merely illustrate the well-known fact that in every capital city round the world there is a building known as the U.S. Embassy inhabited by people whose prime function is to vanquish informed assessment of local conditions with swaddling cloths of ignorance and prejudice instilled in them by what passes for higher education in the United States, whose governing elites are now more ignorant of what is really happening in the outside world that at any time in the nation’s history.
One general propaganda position can be seen quite clearly in the repetition (and provenance) of the sound bite: “He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.” This was promoted by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—in much the manner of the Pentagon Pundits operation expose. I’ll return to the ‘blood-on-his-hands’ line below—and note that it is a baseless accusation: it is being said by people in high positions to impute it with their kudos and prestige.
If we are looking for the hand of the US in UK politics and media, Counterpunch provided an example, in relation to evidence of Russian refutation of the US’ view of Iran’s missile capability in Counterpoint’s claim that the Times:
had obtained the diplomatic cables not from WikiLeaks but from the Guardian [and] according to a Washington Post story […] did not publish the text of the cable. The Times story said the newspaper had made the decision not to publish ‘at the request of the Obama administration’. That meant that its readers could not compare the highly distorted account of the document in the Times story against the original document without searching the Wikileaks website.
Why has Alan Rusbridger escaped persecution after publishing WikiLeaks’ material? The answer is that both he and the editor of the New York Times have returned to the default setting: the blasphemy has been recanted. While working with Assange the New York Times (after an attack on Bradly Manning) put a profile on its front page which said this:
Now it is not just governments that denounce him: some of his own comrades are abandoning him for what they see as erratic and imperious behavior, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.
A sort of self-fulfilling profligacy. The provenance of many accusations directed at Assange is the Guardian’s David Leigh: now if it can be established that he and the others are being paid or rewarded for these efforts I would argue that something is remiss. The explanation offered for the New York Times‘ front page was to argue that the New York Times’ denouncement and accusations were “absolutely standard journalistic endeavor”, i.e. the default setting, i.e. that which disgusts us about the mainstream media.
Both editors and media pundits pander to the prejudices of power in much the same way—but what happens when the pundit’s argument is dissolved by reasoned argument? They ignore it or spin it is the answer. Punditry is not about finding out what is really going on. It is Procrustean: all about telling us what is going on from a preset position and insisting upon this. Green’s New Statesman essay ‘Some light on a key legal issue surrounding the Assange case’ adopted its pseudo-impartial report-like structure to attack Assange supporters—since when is impartiality devoted to a partial end? But this homage to Joseph Goebbels’ work just did not wash with his readers. They provided better work in their comments—the obvious risk of punditry along with the Lord Haw-Haw/Tokyo Rose tone—and were then ridiculed as irrational. Pundits do seem perversely hostile to their readership in a manner which reveals they want them to uncritically consume their work and that failure to do so is an aberration on their part. There are several forms of rationality, Green is demonstrating a functional rationality in that he finds others who do not agree with his preordained ends irrational. So eager is Green to spread dirt about Assange that he passes on satire as reality without noticing it on Twitter; and when he does realise it he passes it on again like a lost driver reversing up and down and round and round.
When articles appear in the Guardian not to his liking, such as Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff’s debunking of the rape ‘charge’ as a “smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks” he describes the work as odd, and attacks the writers, again they are irrational: mad. As Axelsson and Longstaff also observed, to Green’s chagrin, the US has not presented a demand for Assange’s extradition at this stage: there is no wider charge of criminality. This would only emerge on the basis of an elastic ‘terrorist’ charge being created ad hoc largely to dispense with due process. Because of the First Amendment the US does not have an Official Secrets Act. This is based on the principle that the government should not control what people think. The evidence of previous ‘rendition’ from Sweden (which I will turn to below) means there is no guarantee that the US will not abduct Assange in Sweden or in transit. Given that our Guardian and New Statesman writers present him as evil personified ultimately the climate of opinion they are helping to create enables this—once a form of imaginary justice pops into existence they feel Assange should be subject to.
The Guardian, via Glen Greenwald, has entered into a split personality and noticed (as it does when it gets up to its elbows in smear campaigns) the campaign against Assange by Green (viewing it as occurring elsewhere in the New Statesman) and it also noticed how his tactics dovetail with the US’ (but imputing that their own do not now that it is garnished by the fresh fig leaf of Greenwaldry). Greenwald functions to let the Guardian eat and have their liberal cake. Here Green’s “blatant ideological agendas masquerade as high-minded, objective legal expertise,” and Greenwald quotes a journalist revealing (as if we did not know): “Nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” But hey the Guardian is just an impartial forum for everyone…? Greenwald insists that Green’s misinformation be corrected:
It is simply untrue that it is Swedish courts, rather than the Swedish government, who are the final decision-makers in extradition requests. It is equally untrue that the Swedish government has no final decision-making power regarding extradition requests that are legally sanctioned by the Swedish judiciary. These are not matters for reasonable debate. The law is clear. Green’s claim is false.
In response Green made some jokes about people thinking he works for the CIA—but really some just see the same lines of approach: an elective affinity towards smear; the same attitude, a parallelism that always appears in the press: usually in the form of a useful small boy punditing away.
The Anti-American Default
To understand why the default setting has been set against Assange we need think of only one concept that will summon all practical liberals, herd them and provide and prescribe their vocabulary of motive and that magic word is anti-American. The simplest place to see this is in the funded right, but it is a cross-party default setting and one for the ex-communists too. WikiLeaks also published an outdated, unclassified copy of the “standard operating procedures” at Guantánamo Bay and it is a dependence on outdated standard operating procedures we see used here.
Website attack dogs such as The Commentator (run by Robin Shepherd) are undoubtedly fronts with several ideological targets that tend to be rolled into one; it finds that Assange broke laws and that “heroes of the left get good mileage on law-breaking activities” and that:
Assange’s anti-Americanism is well-documented, and so are his associations with disreputable regimes, characters, and ideas. What’s amusing is that every time Assange crosses a line, someone steps out to announce “buyer’s regret”.
Are we not supposed to believe all his supporters turned against him? Mr Bad Ass will have to go some to rival the US in respect of law breaking and propping up regimes, but here we go, we are told he hangs around with: “Holocaust denier and occasional Counterpunch contributor, Israel Shamir.” Two for the price of one there. Shamir has been smeared largely because of statements in Counterpunch that assert that the US secret state are operating in Europe:
The moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service.
Shamir argues that Wikileak’s material shows US political infiltration of even supposedly neutral states such as Sweden and Switzerland, with US embassies and agencies penetrating the media, the arms business etc. as “they lobby to put US companies at the head of the line.” I will return to this to conclude.
Thanks to the New Statesman et al’s work something as rabid as The Commentator can insist on a consensus of condemnation: “Britain’s New Statesman, exposing, documenting, and detailing Assange’s contribution to the stability of Belarus’ dictator through, among other things, the good services of Israel Shamir.” What! the irrefutable and entirely trusted voice of the left has spurned Assange—well me too! Why it is almost like we are back to the days of old Paul Johnson or John Lloyd and of course now we have Standpoint and Prospect and the American Prospect to offer lockstep identical hatred of Assange that leaves their readers perplexed as to why the magazine’s editors publish such trash. Include the related think tanks and we more or less have the cultural apparatus whereby the propaganda is propounded. Here The Commentator argues that Assange is rivaling the banks in his immoral dealings:
Prior to these exposés there was Assange’s casual association with Iran which probably still bothers no one, and his later professional engagement with Russia Today with a friendly interview with Hezbollah’s Supremo, Hassan Nasrallah, as the opening shot.
OK so there is no hidden hand of the US agencies reaching over to influence the punditocracy—right? This was written for The Commentator by Standpoint Magazine’s Emanuele Ottolenghi who is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (who also writes on “President Obama’s overtures to Iran”). Now what could the Foundation really be—a funded propaganda organisation designed to on occasion smear people with the usual ideologically hysterical line-up that might include: Michael Ledeen, R. James Woolsey, William Kristol, Richard Perle and Jeane Kirkpatrick, who are past masters at the propaganda game? Yes it could. I will quickly put together an outline of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ directors, largely through their own words, that anyone could quickly do, then come back to Standpoint.
Foundations For Defense of Democracies — Ker-ching, Ker-ching, Ba-bling Ba-boom!
R. James Woolsey, the chair of the Foundation is a former Director of the CIA: he said: “I consider Mr Assange a handmaiden of terror and he definitely has blood on his hands as far as I’m concerned,” the same line we have already seen. Woolsey is with a host of lobby-fronts and organisations including private equity war exploitation fund, Paladin Capital Group, that includes a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi Investment Council in the Middle-east and whose advisory board includes leading figures, such as former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, former Senior White House Advisor Richard Clarke, and former Chairman of the US Democratic National Committee Terry McAuliffe. Paladin has made money out of the war on terror via companies that provide products and services in the “broad homeland security marketplace.” If the war ends the broad profits end. Its work also extends into cyber security so WikiLeaks are of particular concern.
Amb. Richard Carlson is the former Director of the (formerly CIA-funded now Soros-funded) Voice of America. The Foundation tell us he was also responsible for Radio Marti beamed at Cuba and led all the US government overseas TV broadcasting, including the USIA’s Film and TV Service and World Net (an early form of propaganda satellite TV) from 1985 to 1991. That was the hey day of cold war public diplomacy and psychological operations: Carlson is a co-ordinator for US propaganda. He is still doing this as chair of private propaganda organisation InterMedia (which has a London office and whose trustees include Sir Peter Middleton of Barclays Bank and a governor of the Ditchley Foundation discussed below as a commonality). The staff are open about their Public Diplomacy work and their clients include US Department of State, USAID and the UK Foreign Office. They are trying to normalise propaganda via the The Public Diplomacy Council advised and run by the US’ arch-propagandists.
Dr. Paula J. Dobriansky was Under Secretary of State for ‘Democracy and Global Affairs’ (meaning all the US’ ‘democracy building’) and now Thomson Reuters senior vice president. Spot the connection. She is also with Freedom House, the journalistic part of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) propaganda network of which she is vice chair—the NED was set up to openly do what the CIA did covertly under the name of ‘democracy building.’
As for its other Advisors: Steve Forbes is the CEO of Forbes Magazine and numerous US propaganda outlets such as the Heritage Foundation and the Project for the New American Century; Judge Louis J. Freeh is the former Director of the FBI, Max M. Kampelman was an Ambassador, now with a range of war lobbyists, such as Committee on the Present Danger (with Steve Forbes); Bill Kristol is the Editor of The Weekly Standard who would like to see Assange murdered in what he takes to be the normal default:
Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are? Why can’t we disrupt and destroy WikiLeaks in both cyberspace and physical space, to the extent possible? Why can’t we warn others of repercussions from assisting this criminal enterprise hostile to the United States?”
When the people who work for the US government reveal that the work they do for it includes criminal enterprise things do get a bit too complicated for Kristol: hence his advocation of what might be termed ‘Kristolnacht.’
Joseph Lieberman is a former US Senator who keenly told FOX TV that WikiLeaks is “the most serious violation of the Espionage Act in our history.” As a FOX pundit he is perplexed as to why the Justice Department has not charged Assange with treason. That is because he is not a US citizen—Lieberman was an US Attorney General believe it or not. According to Glen Greenwald through political action committees Lieberman was behind the moves to deny WikiLeaks funding.
Robert ‘Bud’ McFarlane is a former National Security Advisor, known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair and is now with the British private military company Aegis Defence Services as a Non-executive director, another one of the companies that makes millions out of the war in Iraq through carrying on the US military’s role.
Now I could go on, but the point is Standpoint is one of the gateways for US propaganda via noticing nothing unusual about the Foundation’s operatives and other fronts. The Foundation team are key players in US Public Diplomacy and Ottolenghi is running propaganda in Standpoint—it is as simple as that. To establish Assange’s “well-documented” anti-Americanism the Foundation’s ‘Senior Fellow,’ Ottolenghi’s Commentator essay cites a short meaningless article in the National Review (which itself becomes anti-American whenever a Democrat is elected and half way through the term when a Republican is elected). This said:
If electing a black president with the middle name Hussein was supposed to assuage anti-Americanism around the world, Julian Assange didn’t get the message […] Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, proposes designating WikiLeaks a terrorist organization. That won’t happen. In his left-wing nihilism, though, Assange shares something of the spirit of the Red Brigades or the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the leftist European terrorist organizations of the 1970s. His propaganda of the deed is malicious exposure.
The article documents nothing, it quotes from Tom Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the only documents it alludes are twisted statements drawn from WikiLeak’s documents:
Our leaked diplomatic cables again do more to vindicate a hawk’s view of the world than Assange’s juvenile leftism. The Gulf Arab states are as eager as Israel, perhaps more so, for the United States to strike Iran’s nuclear program. North Korea is transferring missile technology to Iran, in a concrete expression of the Axis of Evil. Syria is arming Hezbollah. And on it goes.
So Assange is to be encouraged then? After calling for the execution of Bradley Manning it argues for some law breaking:
Surely, the same Justice Department that sued Arizona for daring to enforce the nation’s immigration laws can find a creative way to harry and shut down Assange.
Sunny Hundal and David Allen Green’s work are harmonious with, and could easily be published by, these crackpot right-wing publications, and they would be up for it; but even that will not make them question the point of being a little boy with a hammer.
The Ambassador and The Internet In A Suitcase
In London these distanced and convoluted channels also work alongside that which the US Embassy’s media apparatus routinely provides and on occasion imposes. The present Ambassador, Louis B. Susman (Vice Chairman of Citigroup Corporate and with Salomon Brothers, Inc.) was known for his fund-raising for the Democrats (hence the Ambassadorial appointment). How clean was the money? Well Susman was specifically named as: “among 27 top campaign cash-raisers who are current or former managers of companies punished for trading with Iran or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq” (The Associated Press, October 20, 2004). This included a top Bush fund-raiser and chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. All that “axis of evil” and “state sponsors of terrorism” stuff is for the public; private interests design the propaganda—not listen to it. When I say Susman and Citigroup were singled out as prime examples, let me be clear on this: the reports state Citigroup were cited for: “Funds transfer involving a terrorist entity,” for which they were fined $2,925 in 2003; and also for intransigence in the matter by “Extending credit to and refusing to block funds of a terrorist entity” which cost them a fine of $6,500 in 2001 (The Associated Press, October 20, 2004). The other companies fined included: JPMorgan, UBS, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Morgan Stanley and so on. The same activity continues to this day.
Susman was appointed by Ronald Reagan to the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy back in 1988: this looked after the US Information Agency back in the days of doing in CND, the enemy within, and its flip side, the funding of the British American Project to take care of the fealty of the UK’s ‘Successor Generation’ towards the US which included the key players in New Labour to a certain extent. The Guardian let Susman sound off on Assange with the ‘blood-on-your-hands’ line—but it might have mentioned that it was his money work in providing funds for the political establishment that was repeatedly traced to terrorism by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. But to my knowledge it did not.
The US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy is a co-ordinating centre for US propaganda and includes Paula J. Dobriansky, mentioned above, and has contained the key players in US propaganda including Richard M. Scaife (who paid for the more covert end of things) and the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin J. Feulner, Jr down through the years. Susman is also with the Council of Management of the key UK Atlanticist co-ordination and meeting arena, the Ditchley Foundation: Alan Rusbridger is one of their governors who are appointed by the Council.
Susman’s cables were leaked by WikiLeaks including those concerning the extradition of alleged hacker Gary McKinnon—who says he was looking for information on extra-terrestrial life and UFOs. The issue exposed the US/UK extradition treaty as badly flawed resulting in successive changes, and it remains unfairly balanced against Britons. It was also one of Susman’s cables that quoted Mervyn King’s view of Cameron and Osborne as out of their depth, tepid and laughable.
Assange wrote to Susman at the US Embassy telling him that WikiLeaks were releasing the cables and offered to work with the Embassy prior to their release to prevent: “individual persons at significant risk of harm that has not already been addressed.” It was after this that covert surveillance began on Assange and his lawyer and then the fresh Swedish warrant arrived despite Assange being told that there was no case for him to answer.
There are other Foundation-funded journalists/propagandists who have set their sites on Assange: The Guardian’s Evgeny Mozorov is with the New America Foundation a CIA front. This includes Rita E. Hauser of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Its advisory board members include: Eric Schmidt from Google; David Bradley the chairman and owner of Atlantic Media Company; two representatives of Morgan Stanley and one from Lazard Frères & Co.; others from McKinsey & Company; the ubiquitous government stooge Francis Fukuyama; Bernard L. Schwartz of the Loral Corporation, a leading defense electronics firm; Jonathan Soros of JS Capital Management; Anne-Marie Slaughter of McDonald’s Corporation and Susman’s Citigroup (Slaughter was the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department), with almost everyone in the Council on Foreign Relations or Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (something of a propaganda hive). It receives millions from the Ford Foundation and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a long list of other large multinationals such as BlackRock, Inc.
It openly employs CIA agents, such as Philip Mudd as ‘Senior Research Fellow‘, on their Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative, who after leaving the US National Security Council after the September 11 attacks, was: “the CIA member of the small diplomatic team that helped piece together a new government for Afghanistan.”
This ‘Foundation’ is noted for its government funded $70m “Internet in a Suitcase” project to infiltrate social networks. It is a venture capitalist approach to internet freedom which claims it has trained 5,000 activists. The US State Department is funding what it terms “stealth wireless networks” in Iran, Syria, and Libya, among other countries via the Foundation.[v] This (and other projects) are part of the US’ tactics to subsume ‘hacktivism’ within its foreign policy apparatus. Here any risk to activist/agents is put to one side in the calculus:
…others believe that the risks are outweighed by the potential impact. “We’re going to build a separate infrastructure where the technology is nearly impossible to shut down, to control, to surveil,” said Sascha Meinrath, who is leading the “Internet in a suitcase” project as director of the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group […] The implication is that this disempowers central authorities from infringing on people’s fundamental human right to communicate.
So the US has created its own version of WikiLeaks and Anonymous’ networks of activists now defaulted as US agents, as they would be better termed. The chutzpah level is beyond measurement here. The idea of using the Foundation rather than the CIA is so exposure looks better: but are not these youngsters being put at risk? The states that they are targeting will be just as vicious as the US is in pursuing what will be termed ‘cyber-terrorists.’
The Foundation also includes CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen who produced a graph claiming that no civilians have been killed in Pakistan this year by US drones. His views were criticized as the running of ‘bogus data’ i.e. propaganda and quickly found out. Not that such exposure inhibits the pundit propagandist. The Foundation has also mounted an anti-Assange campaign. And it is much the same with the Heritage Foundation as everyone goes to the default setting. There are indications that cold war propaganda outlets, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, are being rebranded as friends of leaks sites as the US tries its capture of WikiLeak’s narrative.
“A Dangerous Crank”
So it is with these organizations that David, Sunny and David find common cause. Neither can bring himself to write intelligently on Assange by being dispassionate: they can do fraudulent dispassion but just do not have the emotional depth as individuals. Is Assange a unique case? is he uniquely supercilious—not in the company of Sunny and the Davids and the many other bellowing pundits. Professional mud-slinging magazines like Private Eye have preferred to print lengthy accounts of their falling out with Assange at the expense of covering and analyzing what WikiLeaks leaked: this effectively marginalized its discoveries because (hypocritically) they find him not sufficiently politically correct.
The neo-conservative volunteer policemen of all un-American activity, Nick Cohen seem almost challenged to bellow something cruel the loudest among the chorus of David Leigh, James Ball or Sunny Hundal.[vi] The Guardian and other mainstream media’s attempts to mediate WikiLeaks failed, but according to John Pilger a clear lucrative usurpation was in place that would make us question its journalist’s motivation. Remember the New York Times front page and its assertions based on David Leigh’s testimony—and my question as to what if he was rewarded for making them; Pilger said this:
On March 3 the Guardian announced that Stephen Spielberg’s DreamWorks was to make “an investigative thriller in the mould of All The President’s Men” out of its book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy. I asked David Leigh, who wrote the book with Luke Harding, how much Spielberg had paid the Guardian for the screen rights and what he expected to make personally. “No idea,” was the puzzling reply of the Guardian’s “investigations editor.” The Guardian paid WikiLeaks nothing for its treasure trove of leaks. Assange and WikiLeaks—not Leigh or Harding—are responsible for what Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger calls “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years.” The Guardian has made clear it has no further use for Assange. He is a loose cannon who did not fit “Guardianworld,” who proved a tough, unclubbable negotiator.
Cohen is quasi-religious in his denunciation: “The treachery of Julian Assange: The WikiLeaks founder, far from being a champion of freedom, is an active danger to the real seekers of truth.” The evidence here might as well be a test for witchcraft, the opening line tells us we do not need to examine the evidence to examine the evidence:
You did not have to listen for too long to Julian Assange’s half-educated condemnations of the American “military-industrial complex” to know that he was aching to betray better and braver people than he could ever be.
If you have already come to that conclusion. Or you could test the hypothesis and read Eisenhower’s 1961 condemnation and betrayal of the people Nick admires. Or look at each country’s military expenditure and notice the huge spike in the graph above the words ‘USA’ and a total put at $1735 billion (not counting who it funds). Nick does not do anything that can be construed as critical of the bravery of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Haliburton, Blackwater, the Rendon Group, CACI and Titan Corp., Aegis Defence Services, DynCorp, Custer Battles, ITT, Northrop Grumman, Dow Chemicals, Stratfor and on and on—they get his ‘Lynndie salute.’ If he is forced into discussion on uncomfortable positions on atrocities Cohen will use the occasion to exculpate those at the top:
The disgrace of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo begin with a permissive culture at the top. It’s not that Presidents and generals authorised torture; rather, they created a climate in which it didn’t feel such a shocking breach of discipline.
That makes no sense to me but compare it to Jimmy Carter’s analysis. US history is interspersed with glimpses of its presidents and generals and their cronies’ decision-making that are given the suffix ‘gate’ at the end of it in memory of Watergate (although obviously numerous covert activity such as the Bay of Pigs, the Iran coup, Guatemala, Iran-Contra and so on pre-date this: ‘Pig Coups’ would be better). These ‘gate’ episodes are all about how governments systematically lied, covered up the specific record of what they did, destroyed or hid the record of decision-making that included criminal techniques and activity, obscured the alliances they had—how they traded with or funded their ‘enemy’ and so forth. Cohen offers a metaphysical pathos: he believes in this ghost-like climate that runs human affairs so it must come to pass all the time to the exclusion of other forms of analysis. Britain managed to screw the lid on things by pretending and denying that MI6 existed—hey presto no reporting. But the people who make up MI6 come from somewhere and they are not remote from journalists, editors and anyone who might influence public opinion.
Cohen’s idea here is that we are to be convinced that—contrary to the evidence in the letter to Susman and elsewhere—Assange wants “to hand death lists to psychopaths.” This is the standard ‘blood-on-hands’ message with no substantive attribution for its claims. The message is actual targeted assassinations from drones or air strikes need not concern us: once again Cohen’s task is to create a climate whereby Assange being handed over to the US seems permissible if not desirable. His essay is entirely based on, and repeats, the things other paid anti-Assange journalists, specifically David Leigh and Luke Harding’s “history of WikiLeaks” have told him, along with James Ball’s denouncements which provided him with a job at the Guardian. This group’s enmity is the provenance of the tales offered to liven up their writing—they have a material interest in aspects of their story and refuse to acknowledge it—David Leigh must know the ‘blood-on-his-hands’ label was the routine in the Philip Agee case. The real question is why editors of newspapers publish such hate-mail that refuses to set out its case. What also bothers Cohen is that someone on WikiLeaks is “Israel Shamir, a dangerous crank”. Now that Cohen has established that Assange was in proximity to a crank (and Nick has been near a few in his own war efforts as I will turn to) it is time to turn to put people off those who worship the Devil and who have committed the crime of aging:
Once we have repeated Orwell’s line that “so much of leftwing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot”, there is work to do. First, there needs to be relentless pressure on the socialist socialites and haggard soixante-huitards who cheered Assange on. Bianca Jagger, Jemima Khan, John Pilger, Ken Loach and their like are fond of the egotistical slogan “not in my name.” They are well-heeled and well-padded men and women who know no fear in their lives. Yet they are happy to let their names be used by Assange as he brings fear into the lives of others.
Why is he turning his attention to these people? What does he mean by relentless pressure here? Is he doing this? Who would be doing the harassment and intimidation: MI5, the CIA, Nick’s friends in the Judean Popular Front; sorry Popular Front of Judea? And note that this is exactly the same statements as Bill Kristol in The Weekly Standard quoted above. Jemima Khan is not haggard; John Pilger and indeed Bianca Jagger are not unacquainted with personal danger. It is an editor’s job to correct such false assertions—it is Alan Rusbridger’s to leave them in. Again: why is such meaningless rubbish being published: what is its purpose other than to smear and bait and lie in the name of some perverse ‘higher immorality’. The purpose of Cohen’s small-boy-pounding even extends to question the motives of “the wider transparency movement.” All on the basis of puerile invective—and editors print it. He focuses on Anti-Americanism as “one of its driving inspirations” that “helps explain its perfidies” via the straw man logical fallacy:
If you believe that the American “military-industrial complex”, Europe or Israel is the sole or main source of oppression, it is too easy to dismiss the victims of regimes whose excesses cannot be blamed on the west. Assange’s former colleagues tell me that the infantile leftism of the 2000s is not the end of it. Never forget, they say, that Assange came from a backwater Queensland city named Townsville. He’s a small-town boy desperate to make the world notice.
OK so a certain underclass are sub-human—if you say so. But on the facts: what apologia on behalf of such regimes is he referring to here? What is the appropriate extent of its extrapolation to a general tendency or syndrome? What is the main source of oppression then? Cohen would have to state on the basis of evidence whether the US’ activities dominate others sufficiently or insufficiently to prove the term adequate or not: but he has not availed himself of outlining where the MIC has taken the world. No one I know is selective like this—who he is talking about is a mystery and after the straw man fallacy it is back to ad hominem using language borrowed from TV and films (Assange is a ‘grass’ and a ‘nark’). The unproven blood-on-his-hands line is not placed in comparison to evidence the US kills people routinely, as does it torture and imprison, oppress and exploit. The way Nick looks at it is that we should just focus on all the good the US does: the food aid and all the money going to assist Israel. And that seems to include going along with the flow of the propaganda. But why the focus on Assange’s celebrity supporters—here we are into black propaganda techniques. Adolph Hitler explained it thus:
People have an entirely mistaken notion of what propaganda is. Open influencing of the masses is only one side of it, and a perfectly innocent side. The masses have got to be worked on in order to prepare the ground. But the real problem is to get hold of prominent people, and whole sets.
Hitler also insisted that the results at which he (and anyone else who copies him) had to aim were only to be attained by: “systematic corruption of the possessing and governing classes.”[vii] So there’s a price to be paid here. This is why twins like Cohen and Melanie Philips move the issue away from Assange into his ‘governing’ supporters, prominent people, and whole sets: if they are detached from him and vilified as sub-human or in need of (or even the subject of) harassment the influence of their support is potentially neutralized. Then the prodigal reader will come back to the nourishing bosom of acceptable opinion as conceptualised by Nick and Mel.[viii]
Cohen’s work is appreciated by The Propagandist organisation. Cohen’s connections to the propaganda world can be seen in his position on Just Journalism which includes representatives such as Robin Shepherd, an ex-‘Senior Research’ Fellow at Chatham House with the Henry Jackson Society and the CSIS (a CIA front) who also runs The Commentator. Just Journalism also had Shell’s Tarek Heggy from the Institute for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence and John Lloyd. Just Journalism’s work finds its way into Prospect Magazine to carry the anti-Assange message. I will continue with this in the footnotes.[ix]
The influence of these networks is unattributed because celebrity pundits are all about talking about themselves, they are a brand, their desire to parade on TV is their goad here—to grandstand on Newsnight in between David Starkey and Shirley Williams—to become regular sound-biters on News 24 with a seat on SKY’s sofa, with, I suppose, Piers Morgan as the acme of achivement here. The US everyone has a fealty to is an illusion, as far as foreign policy has went; it is a PR image; and the pundits have to maintain this illusion. So as far as the public are concerned we are made blind to certain things by the pundits: we are made aware of certain things by WikiLeaks—these are the type of things the journalists should have known and spoke of but do not. It is unlikely that the small boy with a hammer will pound a much bigger boy with a much bigger hammer.
The hollow men of liberal practicality would rather demonstrate how cynical they are. They want us to think like them while demonstrating that they are not thinking. That the target of their hate also finds an outlet in Assange supporters is analogous to the use of ‘communist sympathizers;’ and the process is capacious enough to include some of their rival sounder-offers—its an excuse for saying someone like Tariq Ali is a complete idiot? I am quite happy for David, Sunny and David to demonstrate how unprincipled they are for my entertainment, but I cannot take them seriously because they are not open to defending their views. They prefer to offer abuse and go back to character assassination by passing round articles that cleverly liken Assange to Charles Manson on Twitter. Campaigning journalism at its best.
The problem looming for them is that their activities may taint the next time they pretend to stand up for something—here they will be remembered as tools (either unwitting or merely too cynical to care) rather than men of conscience. There is something irredeemably craven about mounting and prolonging a hate campaign. Their simplistic explanations and smears stick in people’s minds much more than careful exposition such as Greenwald’s and others and they know this: that is also their propaganda function: the pseudo-reality they create will be reacted to in the real world—when the curious try to test their opinions on others the pundits voice will be repeated.
So after using and making money from Assange and WikiLeaks he has been dispensed with and is now out of favour with those who decided the going was getting rough. If it is a question of listening to Daniel Ellesberg and Chomsky or Hundal and Green I am with the Americans—just what have either of the pundits written of any consequence that they can be trusted to be able to unravel the Byzantine modus operandi of the US covert machinations? Nothing is the answer—they correct specks in others’ eyes while refusing to listen to any criticism or debate of their own pronouncements.
There is evidence that the original charges against Assange were let go by the Police until they were picked up by the accuser’s lawyer (a former Government minister):
The case appears anything but clear-cut. A chief prosecutor in Stockholm dropped the rape complaint shortly after the case began, and it would most likely have ended there had it not been for [Claes] Borgstrom.
Claes Borgström successfully appealed the decision to a more senior prosecutor who relaunched the investigation. He runs a law firm with Sweden’s former Justice Minister, Thomas Bodström. Borgstrom argues: ‘He [Assange] doesn’t risk being handed over to the United States for torture or death penalty. He should be brought to justice in Sweden.” He cannot see any grounds for asylum. The argument here is most certainly a lawyer’s truth: and extends to pretending it has “nothing to do with WikiLeaks or the CIA,” Assange should not be given asylum because (emphasis added): “There is no risk… but if there is its even greater risk when he is in Great Britain if there is if he is in Sweden.” Indeed that is why he is in the Embassy—so how is the transit effected? There is no demand for extradition from the US he tells us—yet. How does he know the US have no interest in Assange? They do—as can be seen from their internal documetation—this is a continued pretence.
On the eve of the extradition judgements in London, the Swedish mainstream media produced a barrage of articles on WikiLeaks and personal attacks on Assange. The seeming coordination has been contrasted with a previous near silence in Sweden and judged to have been sanctioned from the top including Carl Bildt’s shameless claim that WikiLeaks was planning an attack on Sweden and then making a statement they were “still refusing to release the documents they plan to use in their ‘smear campaign’ against Sweden” that he knew was fictitious.
When the press was friendly towards Assange the Independent reported that “informal discussions have taken place between US and Swedish officials over the possibility of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange being delivered into American custody.” In other words off-the record discussions. Borgström and Bodström (who is now based in the US) could easily gain access or hear about, or be party to these discussions. In 2001, when Sweden’s Minister of Justice, Bodström, helped to secretly turn over to the CIA two asylum-seekers suspected of terrorrism, according to the Justice Integrity Project and others. Bodström is the primary advocate in the complaint initiated by the firm Borgström & Bodström. Some reports say a previous rape case involving a Swedish-Chilean opera singer Tito Beltran, was not put forward by the alleged victim but instead by an associate of Thomas Bodström: UPI (October 19, 2009) stated that Bodström improperly announced publicly before the trial he considered Beltran guilty.
They have also been the subject of WikiLeaks material:
Wikileaks disclosed concrete secret agreements between Swedish government officials and the CIA or the FBI on the transference of private, political or sensitive information about Swedish citizens to the USA. These agreements were purportedly hidden from the Swedish Parliament and the Swedish public. The disclosures also evidenced the subservient role of Swedish rulers towards as series of USA initiatives in the military as well financial and corporative spheres. There was the secret active Swedish help during the bombardment of Iraq shelters while Sweden boasted receiving as refugees victims of the Iraq war.
Other accounts of rendition present a similar story.
Bodstrom stated that (AP Worldstream, June 19, 2005) “We know that we will deport suspected terrorists in the future, but even with suspected terrorists you have to act correctly.” The two terrorists he refers to we sent to Egypt before the uprisings: the two suspects were convicted by Egypt’s Supreme Military Court on April 27, 2004, of belonging to and leading an outlawed group aiming to overthrow the government. The Swedish police handed them over to US agents at Stockholm’s Bromma Airport. Wearing black masks, they took them into a small room, cut off their clothes with scissors, replacing them with prisoner uniforms, handcuffed them and fettered their ankles and placed hoods over their heads, and placed them on a US-registered jet, according to a report by Sweden’s chief parliamentary ombudsman, a ‘watchdog’ (now bystander) of state agencies. According to the Government of Sweden’s website, “Prisoners shall, according to Swedish law, be treated with respect for their human dignity and with understanding for the special difficulties connected with a sojourn in prison.”
Bodström was also said to have left his parliament seat to move to the US for six months and reporters have also insisted that Karl Rove is suspected of a role in the Swedish WikiLeaks probe having long (if rather peculiarly) advised Sweden’s governing Moderate Party (Moderate meaning compliant with US global neoliberalism); and Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt. Bodström has minimized his role authorizing the 2001 rendition. He and former Prime Minister Göran Persson have said that decision-making was a group-effort, with the key choices being blamed on then-Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was assassinated in 2003. Which hardly clears the matter of murk. More like a Nordic Noir. But the facts presented by these investigators takes us back to WikiLeak’s revelations: that the Swedish government’s cooperation with renditions contrasts with the Sweden’s bureaucracy’s assertion that its justice system is beyond US political pressure. It argued that Bodström and Borgström initiated the sex charges “that obscured Bodstrom’s dealings with US authorities, as well as scandalous sellouts by officials since then of Swedish business interests.”
Just what these foundations and organisations do is obscured by all this Russian Doll-like interpenetration—what they are is easy to understand if we look at C. Wright Mills’ ‘Letter to the New Left’ written at the comencement of these moves. They are NATO intellectuals—a residue of the past looking for new enemies. Editors such as Rusbridger know all these connections and games and go along with them: Rusbridger is the person who gives his small boys the hammer.
Wikileaks.org supports the US Supreme Court ruling regarding the unauthorized release of the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, which stated that: “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” This is what WikiLeaks is trying to do. For Daniel Ellsberg “every attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian assange was made on me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.” Then, Nixon’s tactic was to attempt to ruin Ellsberg in the press together with covert operations break-ins and so forth. His ‘Plumbers’ were employed to stop the leaks. So how did Nixon think he was going to get his smears into the press? Who did he think was going to run his line: here we turn to the default setting—there are lots of people in the press who do this sort of thing because they have an elective affinity with power. Pundits do not discover Watergates or Iran-Contras they maintain the shroud around them by attacking people like Ellsberg and Assange (and anyone who supports him).
The middle-class commentators are deployed to howl about democracy or legality so that the old ways are returned—this alliance of liberals, the military and the elite is part of what Assange is complaining about: Italy and Greece have handed over the running of the country to bankers openly. Capitalism and democracy do not necessarily go together.
Remember that David Cameron (and his Liberal allies) found nothing wrong with Rupert Murdoch’s effect on UK society: they tried to become one with them until the dam burst. Murdoch is distanced and immune from prosecution for what he does—Assange is personally responsible down to the last iota.
The liberals’ emotional reaction against the previous environment they offered to Assange keeps them in its grip and excuses them from understanding the drama in which they were involved or half-involved. The picture of WikiLeaks they now draw is that of a gigantic chamber of intellectual and moral horrors. Viewing it we are transferred from politics to pure demonology: this is politically unreliable and even dangerous.
This emotionalist quality of mind dominates the evolution of many an anti-Assange pundit. Its logic of opposition-at-all-cost has carried many far from their starting points, politically these are now forgotten or abandoned. Having made the discovery that the root of all evil was far closer than they at first imagined, all that digging for information was a waste of time. They no longer defend WikiLeaks, Assange and the supporters from unscrupulous abuse; the liberals now discover that their baby is a monster which must be strangled—we know: you always do, you will always do so: you will go so far and turn back. The heretic becomes a renegade and so they are are back to easy Stalinist heresy-hunting and similar extremes. The pundit ex-supporter ceases to oppose capitalism and unaccountability, often rallying to its defence. They bring to their job the lack of scruple, the narrow-mindedness, the disregard for truth, and the intense hatred with which envy and loathing of Assange has imbued them. They are inverted Assangists who continue to see the world in white and black, but now the colours are differently distributed. Their role is intellectually and politically barren. The liberals return to accept without scrutiny official definitions of reality—in this case the silence and secrecy of the US empire. Behind this form of practicality lies opportunism.
Tariq Ali talks of the extreme middle and liberal practicality has always been straining under its former accommodations—for example the insistence on attacking minor features of corporations rather than capitalism—thus while numerous liberal pundits have been engaged in making concessions to liberal forms of practicality, the actual class (percentage) struggle in even the US has heated up. The attempts to embrace liberal thinking are a retreat from the possibilities now offered of breaking out of its ideological straightjacket—the eternal yesterday—that dominates politics.
[i] Wilson, Francis G. (1943) ‘Tradition and Propaganda,’ The Journal of Politics, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 391-406.
[ii] The wilful ignorance is of course compounded by the fact that WikiLeaks is putting out material on how the CIA manipulate public opinion: for instance this one on PR-strategies to encourage public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan through a quasi-feminist perspective.
[iii] It would be of interest to set out how the Guardian’s treatment of Assange modulated over time: in Nick Davies’ (2010) ‘Julian Assange profile: Wikileaks founder an uncompromising rebel,’ Guardian, July 25, he is a “Nomadic crusader for ‘just reform.’” This is almost identical to The Daily Telegraph (2010) July 27. The Guardian (2010) July 26, ‘Afghanistan war logs: Wikileaks founder rebuts White House criticism’ defended the charge of placing troops in danger. It even quotes a mild response by Pauline Neville-Jones which says nothing on Assange. Negative stories emerge around August 11, 2010 quoting CIA sources and Reporters Without Borders. The Guardian (2010) August 21, stated that Swedish authorities issued the arrest warrant on the 20th. The initial warrant was withdrawn on August 21 by Chief prosecutor Eva Finne who said: “I don’t think there is reason to suspect he has committed rape” (Sunday Mail, August 22).
[v] This was widely promoted in the press and clearly states the subversive nature of the project: “The State Department, for example, is financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable activists to communicate outside the reach of governments in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya, according to participants in the projects.”
[vii] Meaney, John W. (1951) ‘Propaganda as Psychical Coercion,’ The Review of Politics, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 64-87.
[viii] Philips’ title is “This monstrous narcissist is playing Britain’s governing class for suckers,” her language includes: “a manipulative, melodramatic, malodorous circus;” and Philips can actually say: “all he addressed was a few bedraggled if noisy supporters” while the Daily Mail uses a picture of the huge crowds at the scene and actually uses the phrase again as the caption for a photo that shows the crowds (pictured below). Philips also joined in the attacks on Equador: “It takes quite something to enable a tyrannical banana republic, whose sole previous claim to fame was the export of the Panama hat, to prance and posture on the international stage as the upholder of freedom and international law.” Philips also argues that “The left is at war over Julian Assange” meaning the Guardian writer’s internecine back stabbing.
[ix] Shepherd believes that no journalists (literally none) whatsoever in the UK are objective about Israel and that neither “Amnesty, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Human Rights Watch or the UN and its agencies” are “trustworthy, authoritative and rational.” These should be replaced by pro-Israeli sources to achieve ‘balance.’ Just Journalism was more or less an offshoot of the Henry Jackson Society and was set up to engage in McCarthyite witch-hunts of journalists. Cohen resigned from it, unsurprisingly, after it failed to acquire funding. It was mostly noted for its attacks on the London Review of Books (or ‘The London Review of Bigotry’ as Melanie Phillips termed it in her contribution to the project in The Spectator). One has to wonder how much of British society would be left if Just Journalism and Phillips’ and Cohen’s views held sway. Picture the bonfires of literature.