Julian Assange’s fall from the heavens

June 25, 2012

Julian Assange, a fallen angel, remains, as of this writing, a guest of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. There he has sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces rape charges that he denies, and, he believes, possible extradition to the U.S., where he fears he may be tried and found guilty of espionage and sedition, for which death is still the extreme penalty.

When we talk of fallen angels, we invoke the original fallen angel, Satan or Lucifer, once beloved of God, the highest in his closest council, whose pride impelled him to challenge for heaven’s rule – and came before his fall to Hell. Assange was an angel of a sort, at least to many. They saw his role as founder of WikiLeaks and leaker of thousands of pages of cables on Iraq and Afghanistan, and then from U.S. embassies all over the world, as the act of a liberator, a rebel with a cause, one who could poke the U.S. in the eye in a new way, with only a laptop at his disposal.

He did set himself up very high. He challenged the deities and sacred texts of journalism, contemptuous of a trade that he saw as largely a handmaiden to power. In one comment, he said that the problem with the late News of the World’s hacking into people’s phones was largely non-existent. They had actually done original investigative work about people in this society that its readers were genuinely interested in.” In another, according to Guardian journalists who worked with him on the WikiLeaks material it published, he observed that if any of the informants who provided U.S. diplomats with the material in the leaked cables were to suffer retribution, they have “got it coming.” Now, he fears he does.

He saw political power as a conspiracy against the people. Mainstream journalism, describing governments’ activities in often respectful or at least neutral ways, was not exposing the conspiracy. Assange said he could.

He was, surprisingly often, taken at his own estimation. The common and confident forecast among media watchers was something to the effect of: “Journalism will never be the same again.” But for now, it doesn’t seem that way.

That’s partly because leakers have been deterred. The true angel, or devil (as you will), of the WikiLeaks’ leaks is U.S. Private First Class Bradley Manning, who passed on a huge cache of secret cables to WikiLeaks while undergoing something of a breakdown at the time. He has been in jail for nearly two years, the first nine months of which were in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He was transferred to less severe conditions at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in April 2011, and appears for a pretrial hearing before a military court at Fort Meade, Maryland, on Monday. Manning could face life imprisonment; he’s unlikely to be pardoned. The relative harshness of his punishment was meant to be, and probably has been, a sharp deterrent for others thinking of following his lead.

Those trying to emulate WikiLeaks have also come up short. Some of the most powerful criticism of Assange came from Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a collaborator on WikiLeaks, who broke bitterly with his boss. In 2010 Domscheit-Berg announced that he would found his own leak site, Open Leaks, with a more transparent and ethically grounded basis than WikiLeaks. As of now, it hasn’t appeared.

The news media are changing and will, indeed, never be the same again. But that’s nothing new. The change now is driven by technology, markets and popular empowerment. WikiLeaks played a part in all of these, but it now seems a minor one.

Throughout the past year Assange has behaved as his enemies would have wished him to. He has accused his critics of being involved with the CIA, and allegedly – this on the testimony of Ian Hislop, editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, though Assange denies it – he blamed “Jews” at the Guardian for defaming him. He contracted with the publisher Canongate to do a memoir, changed his mind when it was largely done, then sought to have its publication stopped.

He took a job on Russia Today, Russia’s world-service TV channel, as an interviewer. Russia, on any count, does not have free media. It was on one of his shows that he interviewed President Rafael Correa of Ecuador – a hugely friendly discussion, in which the president expressed his esteem for Assange and was complimented in turn. President Correa, who expelled the U.S. ambassador when WikiLeaks cables revealed that she had told her government that the president knew of the extensive corruption in the Ecuadorian police force, is not a man known for his toleration of adverse comment in the media.

Correa has launched lawsuits against journalists and newspapers, his government has expropriated opposition media and has strongly promoted state-owned publications and channels loyal to the president. In a press release earlier this month, democracy advocate Freedom House noted “the closure of another independent media outlet and numerous public comments made by Correa attacking private media,” and calls the moves “an alarming illustration of Correa’s growing attempts to silence media critics.”

Assange is in the not-unfamiliar position of one who has concluded that his enemies’ enemies are his friends. It’s a posture often taken by states, both democratic and authoritarian. It doesn’t reflect well on someone whose pitch was that his movement would transcend such grubby, often secret, deals in the name of transparency.

Journalism of any but the most anodyne sort is in the world of compromise, of grubby deals, and sometimes of frank criminality. The only justification for these is large public interest, and the only procedure is to accept punishment under the law for breaking it. Leaks are among the tools of the trade, and for all the enlightenment they bring, they are usually the fruit of someone breaking the terms of a work contract – sometimes for morally good reasons, sometimes not. However they are obtained, they are nearly always only a beginning: They have to be explained, set in context, abridged and opened for debate.

In a democracy, the revelations are often worth getting, but rarely entirely surprising. It is in authoritarian states that leaks can be really valuable, because it’s there that governments really do keep very large secrets, about which the population often knows absolutely nothing. Indeed, they are sometimes told the opposite is the case.

Assange, at the beginning of his career, said that opening the secrets of tyrannies was his mission. But the mission turned into mere anti-Americanism. The presiding genius saw himself as a global liberator. And so he fell. Journalism, as ever in constant transformation, remained the same.

PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a document containing leaked information at a news conference in London, February 27, 2012. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly


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Funny, all the tactics you mention that Assange uses – he took right out of the book of government rules of order for the USA.

You are with us or against us. Covertly supply arms to Talibans to fight the Russsians or prop up dictators where appropriate to keep the balance in the Middle East.

Assange’s popularity and deeds would not exist without direct bearing on the way the USA has maneuvered around the world in secrecy, supplying torture techniques, weapons and funding to assassinate heads of state in South America and around the world.

You live in rose colored USA bubble with a naive version of journalism. Assange and other like him are providing a reality check form of journalism.

The USA is not a democracy. It’s a entertainment brain washed population living in a “God Bless America” dream. Wake up before you sleep your life away.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

Hmmm how do American diplomats talk to other countries without being able to talk openly and candidly about issues and the situation on the ground? I guess in themagical world that Julian Assange inhabits America must come clean about everything or else he will get cranky.

All he has done is set backour ability to talk to people nothing more. Yet he has left Russia and China alone hmmm funny that eh! Mean while he has a new bff in Correa and other left wing South America leaders who say they are democratic but nah not really.

Assange is a clown and an odd paranoid one at that. His 15 minutes are up, honestly did he and Manning think there would not be consequences for their actions? Of course Manning has been in lockdown for 23 hours a day while Assange has been living it up in England and becomming a useful idiot for the Kremilin.

Posted by Sat2112 | Report as abusive

Butch, Butch, realpolitik is not for the faint of heart; all governments act the same, it’s only their capabilities that differ. What did Assange expect? If he couldn’t take the heat, he should have stayed out of the kitchen. You and he need to see the world for what it is.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

Interesting analogy here. Assange is Satan, and then who is God?? Why, the US Government! They are delighted with the role and the mantel, though when it comes to actual actions, like God Himself, their ways a little difficult to understand, especially given their Holiness.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

“Russia, on any count, does not have free media”
Neither does America you clown.
Anyone who witnessed the complete mainstream media blackout of Ron Paul over the last 12 months KNOWS this to be true.
This article is just another salvo from the powers at be against Assange. Complete propaganda nonsense.
“though Assange denies it – he blamed “Jews” at the Guardian for defaming him”
Keep slinging that mud Mr mainstream “journalist”.
I hope others don’t miss the irony of a mainstream media shill criticizing the journalistic integrity of Julian Assange. As hilarious as it is pathetic.
You should be ashamed.

Posted by RandomName2nd | Report as abusive

It is when one read the viewings of Mr. Lloyd and likes that one understands the desperate need for whistleblowers’ like Asaange in the western media. The truth is treason in the empire of lies!

Posted by SvenBolin | Report as abusive

How sad to see a smear like this on Reuters, of all sites. I can only assume that John Lloyd does not remember the Reuters cameramen Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen who were murdered in cold blood by laughing “Crazyhorse 1/8″ US pilots in the Collateral Murder video.

Julian Assange courageously leaked that file to the world, after WaPo had the video in their possession for a year and did nothing. And how did the mainstream media respond? Did they demand court martials for those responsible for the murders? No, they went after Assange, questioning his motives, calling him crazy, etc.

And now they stay silent on the trial of Bradley Manning, the brave young soldier who allegedly leaked those files. This is why we don’t take you seriously, John Lloyd. This is why your industry is dying. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Posted by NemoSum | Report as abusive

It will take some sort of a revolution or a huge ‘sacrifice’ of sorts, at least initiated by those in power but disillusioned for good, to even attempt at setting the wrong mechanisms right. Assange was never nearly close to being that important and was easy to brush under the carpet, more so due to the criminal tag.

Posted by almi | Report as abusive

Ain’t it great – we can speak our minds and not be arrested for it. Good thing that constitution.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

Goodness me, he blamed “Jews.” Julian, Julian—that is the one thing you cannot do.

Posted by mustafaspeaks | Report as abusive

SvenBolin gets it right.

The mainstream media can’t be trusted to report even accurately, let alone truthfully as they are owned by the same entities that own international banking, America’s two dominant political parties and by extension, the United States government.

Mr Lloyd being just another amoral shill for the PTB.

Posted by Roanman | Report as abusive

“The USA is not a democracy. It’s a entertainment brain washed population living in a “God Bless America” dream. Wake up before you sleep your life away”

This is one of the best lines ive heard of yet! It is so true, we a truley dumb population. We are feed anything that the likes of John Lloyd feeds us and we are suppose to believe it as the infallable truth.

Reuters, you are stooping to a new low. Julian Assange never made any comments about Jews. Just another made up story, like the thousands of pounds of anthrax in Iraq, or how TARP will solve all of our problems, how the rebels in Syria are freedom fighters and not terrorists….

Just look at the reporting on Iran. Iran is the number 5 oil producer, then the next day it is the number 3 oil producer, then two days later is in the number 4 producer. I didn’t know a countries export status of a commodity can change so rapidly????????

Posted by KyleDexter | Report as abusive

This is pure BS, John Lloyd, which Satan do you work work?
Are you describing Reuters and Fox news? “Journalism of any but the most anodyne sort is in the world of compromise, of grubby deals, and sometimes of frank criminality.”
Journalism has been long dead, around the time of 2004 when the BBC caved in and became nothing more than a propaganda machine for the Goverment.
Fox news is just an alternative source for Comedy Central.
To be called a journalist you have to do fact finding, analyze some of the Embassy cables, see what how all these Ambassadors were doing their dirty deals in their respective countries, then shook hands with the politicians, smiling as if they really meant what they said. No suprise that many of them were fired.

Where is the explanation for all that material? …”set in context, abridged and opened for debate”…Not a word… Mr Lloyd
Any new information you are trying to convey here? ..”Could.., ..unlikely.., ..probably… on what basis did you make these affirmative conclusions?

You need to do dilligence.

Until then, you are just an propaganda errand boy.

Posted by Renox | Report as abusive

satan didn’t fall into hell, he is roaming the earth as of this day

Posted by msoto | Report as abusive

Here’s another point of view:

“The theatre of deception is the only reality that matters in the game of high politics, and Assange’s real sin is that he sought to challenge that monopoly with his insolence.”
http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/06/26/e veryones-assange/

I tend to be very thankful to Assange for his contributions to exposing the nefarious goings on of our “leaders”. Seems like something we could use more of, from the MSM. (Nevertheless, I do also appreciate Reuters provision of these Comments, even if their talking points are off base.)

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

Assange has NOT been charged. That you can conveniently overlook that fact in your smear shows why we need whistleblowers, Wikileaks and real journalists in this world.

Posted by Amonaghan | Report as abusive

From paragraph one onwards, your work is as prejudicial as Gillard’s comments declaring Assange a criminal.

He has not been charged. You have made a fundamental error of journalism here which should see you kicked out of the profession. You are not a professional, you are a spinner.

There’s a good L7 song which your article has triggered and set to repeat in my mind.

Posted by Radguy | Report as abusive

Truly pathetic stuff. And this is the Director of Journalism at this Institute. Repeats the current corporate-media echo-chamber lie about the non-existent ‘charges’ against JA. There are NO charges, John. Take a look at the facts. Get it right, if you’re going to teach others how to do journalism.

Standard sloppy inaccuracy for corpohacks, I guess: facts can be treated with slipshod indifference as long as you toe the necessary lines-de-jure that your corporate owners prefer; and think the necessary right-thinking thoughts that they like, spontaneously, without censorship.

No wonder a new breed of independent genuine journalists, represented very well by JA, is appearing to supersede these useless, blinkered, over-paid, over-promoted, line-toeing, craven, shagged-out time-serving mediocrities.

This comment posted both on MediaLens Message Board and below the original LLoyd hatchet job — well wooden-spoon job really; too blunt and weak to amount to a hatchet.

Posted by RhisiartGwilym | Report as abusive

Allegations, not ‘charges’. There is quite a big difference.

Posted by KDaltas | Report as abusive

Shame on you, Mr Lloyd!

I have long admired the professionalism and accuracy of Reuters reports – until now. The entire content of this article – which is based on a mix of personal speculation and the regurgitation of half-truths – is so short on facts. Shame on you and for lowering the standards of quality journalism at Reuters!

In case you have forgotten, Mr Lloyd, please take a good look again at this video of Reuters staff. Do you recall how the US military claimed that ALL the dead – including your two colleagues – were “insurgents”? Why did Reuters not uncover this story, may we ask? Would the truth behind the deaths of your colleagues have come to light without Julian Assange?

Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3 G0

This next report, provides actual factual evidence that counters your entire argument, Mr Lloyd. Please note that this work is based on exposing the activities of the Chinese government which, based on your logic, should be a friend of Mr Assange. Clearly, the exposure of these particular cables is NOT on the scale of the leak of 400,000 classified Iraq war documents. However, during this past decade Mr Lloyd, has China been involved in any war that has resulted in the death of 100,000 – 110,000 civilians? Or does Reuters know something that we don’t on this matter? And is China involved in the longest war in US history: Afghanistan? Indeed, is China involved in any of the biggest wars of our times? Perhaps Reuters knows something that we don’t on these matters?

WikiLeaks, Chinese Soft Power & A Small Amazonian Country:

Would you and Reuters kindly reflect on whether the “journalism” as expressed in this piece reflects well either on Reuters or on your own profession? The journalism created, to my mind, looks very much like, to use your words – “full of compromise” -and your entire argument is indeed the very opposite of what Assange and WikiLeaks stands for – to use your words again: “a handmaiden to power”.

Posted by ShameReuters | Report as abusive

Shame on you, Reuters.

Posted by Benobo | Report as abusive

I love Reuters.

Posted by Benobo | Report as abusive

john loyd, do you have an iq of 50? or are you so completely indoctrinated you can’t tell the truth from fiction?

Posted by Shukla | Report as abusive

I cannot believe this bloke is the director of journalism. There is not one comment which is not lambasting the BS that this chut has written.
How does somebody like this become the director of journalism?

Sure makes me think ANYTHING is possible.

Posted by Shukla | Report as abusive

I never saw Assange as a hero, but as an American, I am a bit put off by any bland anti anything. I don’t know what Assange has against my country, but I understand why Arabs do. Asians also. Africans, forget about it. My security was not treatened by anything Assange did, or Private Manning for that matter. That government lies can be exposed and the expose’ prosecuted, I don’t like. If he raped someone, he deserves to be held accountable. That he shared some secrets that embarrassed my country, Bravo, those are secrets that needed to be told. No Americans died because of it. It was embarrassing to a Republican president that had been lying to Americans for years. It seems like there are large, huge even, financial interests that don’t like him. That means he’s probably on most of our sides, as the 1% would never admit.

Posted by mikek53 | Report as abusive