To the Telegraph: a message in Morse code.
[ Image Source: Unknown ]
As virtually everyone knows by now, there was never more than one serious candidate for Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2010. You have five seconds to name him/her. Please don’t read another word until you answer.
If you didn’t say “Julian Assange,” then I’d like to know how you’ve been enjoying your holiday on Algol Three. For months now, a single compound word has appeared in headlines on the front pages of newspapers, the covers of magazines, the teasers for radio and television “newstainment” programs, the main pages of internet “newspinion” sites, in daily conversations around the world: WikiLeaks. And in every item about WikiLeaks appeared at least one mention of its founder and editor-in-chief.
A spectre haunts the government-corporate complex of America, Europe and Asia: the spectre of Julian Assange. Not without help, not without crucial and indispensable assistance from many others whose names have never made the news, but by his inspiration, a new kind of medium was born. With it was reborn the lost art of investigative journalism.
There was a litany of complaint, voiced by the government through most of the press, thirty-odd years ago, about how an “adversarial” press had ruined the US’ chances in Vietnam by bringing home images from the war that turned public opinion against continuing the fight. Added to this was the imputed disgrace of having destroyed the presidency of Richard Nixon. All of this so-called “investigative reporting,” it was more than suggested, was really tantamount to treason: It was the function of a good American free press, after all, to report the truth as told by the people in authority.
And so such investigative reporters as Bob Woodward (who broke the Watergate scandal in the Washington Post) and such disclosers of government secrets as Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers) live on in US popular history as both hero and villain: those people who dared stand in the face of the powerful and corrupt, and also those people who diminished the authority of the United States by discrediting its leaders and its policies.
Meanwhile, the corporations that owned the major media harkened and obeyed: “Adversarial” reporting disappeared from most of the US’ news coverage, replaced by important news about scholar-athletes and cute pets stuck in trees and of course the latest wrinkle in celebrolatry. And so it stood until a new Daniel Ellsberg released new documents that the Pentagon wanted kept from the public eye: an army specialist, in this case, named Bradley Manning, who is being held in near-solitary confinement and is expected to remain incarcerated for 52 years, although he has not been convicted of any crime. And a new Washington Post, in the form of WikiLeaks, has published those documents. For this crime of adversarial reportage, it has been denied services, with no semblance of due process, by corporation after corporation, while governments rumble threats to destroy it and one has charged Assange with rape in what many speculate is an attempt to discredit him, and by extension WikiLeaks.
Apparently, Time is part of the pack. But what else could we expect from a product of the Time-Warner communications empire whose business might be impaired by some future revelation, and which depends upon the goodwill of government officials for access to “facts” to report?