Category Archives: WikiLeaks

Stockholm Syndrome: Julian Assange And The Limits Of Guardian Dissent

Nothing happened on September 2 in central London. Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, did not initiate a protest outside the Home Office. He did not sing and play the Floyd classic ‘Wish You Were Here’, or say:

Julian Assange, we are with you. Free Julian Assange!

The renowned journalist and film-maker John Pilger did not say:

The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace – a profanity on the very notion of human rights.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the persecution of Julian Assange is the way dictatorships treat a political prisoner.

None of this happened for any major UK or US newspaper, which made no mention of these events at all. Readers of Prensa Latina, Havana, were more fortunate with two articles before and after the event, as were readers of Asian News International in New Delhi. Coverage was also provided by Ireland’s Irish Examiner (circulation 25,419) in Cork, which published a Press Association piece that was available to the innumerable other outlets that all chose to ignore it.

Four months after he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange is still locked up in solitary confinement for 21 hours a day or more. He is still being denied the basic tools to prepare his case against a demand for extradition to the United States where he faces incarceration and torture. He is not allowed to call his US lawyers, is not allowed access to vital documents, or even a computer. He is confined to a single cell in the hospital wing, where he is isolated from other people. Pilger commented at the protest:

There is one reason for this. Julian and WikiLeaks have performed an historic public service by giving millions of people facts on why and how their governments deceive them, secretly and often illegally: why they invade countries, why they spy on us.

Julian is singled out for special treatment for one reason only: he is a truth-teller. His case is meant to send a warning to every journalist and every publisher, the kind of warning that has no place in a democracy.

On the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website, journalist Paul Gregoire discussed Assange’s declining health with his father, John Shipton, who said:

His health is not good. He’s lost about 15 kilos in weight now – five since I last saw him. And he’s in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, in the hospital ward of the gaol.

Gregoire responded:

‘As you’ve just explained, Julian is being held in quite extreme conditions. He’s isolated from other inmates. And as well, his visits are restricted and so are his communications with his legal representation. Yet, he’s only being held for breach of bail, which is a rather minor charge.’

‘Yes, very minor.’

‘How are the UK authorities justifying the restrictions around his imprisonment seeing he’s being incarcerated on such a minor offence?’

‘I don’t know if they feel the necessity to justify these decisions. Their decisions are arbitrary.’

‘So, they’re giving no explanation as to his treatment.’

‘No.’

It does seem extraordinary, in fact, medieval, for such brutal treatment to be meted out to someone for merely breaching bail, with almost zero ‘mainstream’ political or media protest. This is only one reason, of course, why the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, penned an article titled, ‘Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange’. Melzer commented:

What may look like mere mudslinging in public debate, quickly becomes “mobbing” when used against the defenseless, and even “persecution” once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture.

Investigative journalist Peter Oborne courageously challenged conventional wisdom on Assange this month in a British Journalism Review piece titled, ‘He is a hero, not a villain’. Oborne described how, in July, the Mail on Sunday had published a front-page story revealing the contents of diplomatic telegrams – ‘DipTels’ – sent to London by the British ambassador to the US. The memos described President Trump’s administration as ‘inept’ and Trump himself as ‘uniquely dysfunctional’.

All hell broke loose. The May government announced an official leak inquiry. The Metropolitan Police launched a criminal investigation. The intelligence services got involved.

The Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu warned the press not to publish any further documents as this could “constitute a criminal offence”. The Mail on Sunday paid no attention. It published further leaks and other papers came to its support. So did politicians. Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were among those who criticised Basu’s comments.

Hunt, who was then foreign secretary, said: “I defend to the hilt the right of the press to publish those leaks if they receive them and judge them to be in the public interest…

Meanwhile, that leaker-in-chief Julian Assange continued to languish in Belmarsh prison, where he is serving 50 weeks for skipping bail…

Julian Assange is a controversial figure, to be sure. Many of those who have dealt with him have found him difficult. But I find myself wondering what exactly the difference is between his alleged crime of publishing leaked US diplomatic cables and the Mail on Sunday’s offence of publishing leaked Foreign Office cables.

Why is Assange treated by the bulk of the British media as a pariah? And the Mail on Sunday as a doughty defender of press freedom? After all, Julian Assange is responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together.

Oborne commented:

This looks to me like a monstrous case of double standards, even by the ocean-going standards of Britain’s media/political class.

Focusing on Other Issues

Assange was offered rare ‘mainstream’ support on September 12 when Guardian columnist George Monbiot tweeted:

Never forget: #JulianAssange is still in Belmarsh prison, facing the prospect of extradition and life imprisonment in the US, for the “crime” of releasing information that governments have withheld from us. This is not justice.

Tweeter jaraparilla was quick to spot what happened next:

George Monbiot just posted this tweet supporting Julian Assange then deleted it within minutes (before I could respond).

We asked Monbiot what had happened. He replied:

I realised that the US extradition issue was tangled up with the Swedish one, and that I don’t yet know enough about Assange’s legal situation, exactly what he is awaiting and why. I will read up and return to the issue.

In response, we recommended Melzer’s superb work in challenging the establishment smear campaign. Monbiot replied:

Thank you. Has he written a paper on the subject? I find it much easier to absorb information in writing.

We answered:

Amazed you need to ask, have you really not been following his interviews and written pieces? Mind you, according to ProQuest, @NilsMelzer has been mentioned twice in the Guardian this year – so maybe it’s not so strange. See here, for example

Monbiot tweeted: No, I’ve been focusing on other issues.

We commented again:

True enough. According to the ProQuest newspaper database, you’ve never mentioned Assange in your Guardian column. Is that right?

Monbiot confirmed: Yes, that is correct.

It was curious that Monbiot felt the need to ‘read up and return to the issue’. After all, as jaraparilla noted, Monbiot has tweeted about Assange and WikiLeaks dozens of times. Many of these comments make for grim reading. For example:

Moral line on #Assange is crystal clear: we shld support qu-ning on rape charges & oppose any extrad attempt by US. #wikileaks

In his latest piece on Assange, Oborne discussed this egregious error:

His critics attach special weight to rape charges laid against Assange in Sweden. But it’s important to remember there have never been any “charges” in Sweden.

This is a myth reported literally hundreds of times. There has only ever been a “preliminary investigation” in Sweden looking into allegations of rape.

In 2011, Monbiot tweeted:

To me Assange looks unaccountable, paranoid, controlling and prone to blame others for his mistakes. #wikileaks

As we now know, Assange’s ‘paranoia’ was actually astute awareness that ‘they’ really were out to get him.

And: ‘Why does Assange still have so much uncritical support? Seems to me he’s acting like a tinpot dictator.’

And: ‘#JulianAssange takes Kremlin’s dollar, reversing all he claimed to stand for: bit.ly/wT4PoO Love #wikileaks, not Assange’

To his credit, Monbiot subsequently tweeted the deleted tweet defending Assange a second time.

In April 2019, Monbiot won huge applause for using harsh language and calling for the overthrow of capitalism. He insisted that, to save the planet, we need to forget ‘pathetic, micro-consumerist bollocks’:

We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth…. We can’t do it by just pissing around at the margins of the problem; we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it.

And yet, as Oborne noted, Assange is ‘responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together’, ‘each and every one in the public interest’, ‘which any self-respecting reporter would sell his or her grandmother to obtain’. One could hardly think of a more powerful example of someone not ‘pissing around at the margins of the problem’.

Monbiot is hardly alone in ‘focusing on other issues’, year after year, while Assange rots. Fellow Guardian great white leftist hope, Owen Jones, last mentioned Assange in his Guardian column in 2014. In fact, this was his only ever mention in the paper, a single comment in passing focused on then Respect MP George Galloway:

his past praise for dictators and appalling comments about rape following allegations against Julian Assange have left him largely isolated.

Like Monbiot, Paul Mason – a former BBC and Channel 4 broadcaster who has somehow reinvented himself as a war-supporting, NATO-loving, Trident-renewing ‘man of the people’ (with 618,000 followers on Twitter) – has never mentioned Assange in the Guardian.

It seems likely that Guardian columnists have felt under increasing pressure to back off from supporting Assange over the last five years. As Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported this month:

The Guardian has lost many of its top investigative reporters who had covered national security issues… The few journalists who were replaced were succeeded by less experienced reporters with apparently less commitment to exposing the security state. The current defence and security editor, Dan Sabbagh, started at The Guardian as head of media and technology and has no history of covering national security.

‘It seems they’ve got rid of everyone who seemed to cover the security services and military in an adversarial way,” one current Guardian journalist told us.

Kennard and Curtis concluded:

The Guardian had gone in six short years from being the natural outlet to place stories exposing wrongdoing by the security state to a platform trusted by the security state to amplify its information operations. A once relatively independent media platform has been largely neutralised by UK security services fearful of being exposed further.

Venezuela, Gaza and Yemen

This pattern of sparse, or non-existent commentary extends to other issues. In 2018, Monbiot tweeted of the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro:

Just because Maduro claims to be on the left does not mean we should support him. There are far better ways of breaking the power of the old elites. #Venezuela

Monbiot thus simply wrote off the democratically elected President of Venezuela who had won entirely credible elections after the death of Hugo Chavez. Because Monbiot is respected by many readers as an honest, principled progressive, this will have looked to many like the final nail in the coffin of Maduro’s credibility. Many doubtless assumed that Monbiot knows and cares a great deal about Venezuela, that he has strongly supported the Bolivarian revolution. And in 2015, Monbiot did write this in the Guardian:

Between 1989 and 1991 I worked with movements representing landless rural workers in Brazil. As they sought to reclaim their land, thousands were arrested; many were tortured; some were killed…

In Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Uruguay and Chile, similar movements transformed political life. They have evicted governments opposed to their interests and held to account those who claim to represent them. Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have been inspired, directly or indirectly, by the Latin American experience.

Many readers will have hailed these comments as evidence that Monbiot is an outspoken leftist. After all, in 2003 he had written in the Guardian:

While younger activists are eager to absorb the experience of people like Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Lula, Victor Chavez, Michael Albert and Arundhati Roy, all of whom are speaking in Porto Alegre [the World Social Forum], our movement is, as yet, more eager than wise, fired by passions we have yet to master. (Our emphasis)

But according to the ProQuest media database, the single sentence from 2015 contains Monbiot’s only mention of Venezuela in his Guardian column in the last ten years. Monbiot has mentioned Hugo Chavez’s name exactly twice, in passing, in two articles. He has mentioned Maduro – who is facing relentless internal and external state-corporate attempts at regime change, not least by means of US sanctions – once, in passing, in July 2019. Monbiot has said not a word to challenge the military, economic and propaganda campaign to overthrow Maduro.

According to ProQuest, Owen Jones has never mentioned the Venezuelan President in his Guardian column. Paul Mason’s only mention of Maduro in the Guardian damned Maduro’s use of the ‘repertoire of autocratic rule’ in his supposed ‘crackdown’, being ‘clearly engaged in a rapid, purposive and common project to hollow out democracy’.

Ironically, corporate dissidents like Monbiot, Jones and Mason benefit enormously from the fact that they are published by tyrannical, monopolistic, unaccountable, power-friendly media that filter ‘all the news fit to print’. How so?

It is precisely because these systems of power function as such forensic, long-armed Thought Police that even tiny crumbs of compromised dissent – a single sentence on ‘landless rural workers’ here, a four-letter word on the need for revolution there – elicit pitiful shrieks of delight and admiration from corporately incarcerated consumers who need to believe that ‘mainstream’ media are not that bad, not that destructive. In other words, public awareness is heavily skewed by a version of ‘Stockholm syndrome’.

Consider Gaza as a further example. Again, we can find this dissenting comment from Monbiot in the Guardian in 2006:

I agree that Hizbullah fired the first shots. But out of the blue? Israel’s earlier occupation of southern Lebanon; its continued occupation of the Golan Heights; its occupation and partial settlement of the West Bank and gradual clearance of Jerusalem; its shelling of civilians, power plants, bridges and pipelines in Gaza; its beating and shooting of children; its imprisonment or assassination of Palestinian political leaders; its bulldozing of homes; its humiliating and often lethal checkpoints: all these are, in Bush’s mind, either fictional or carry no political consequences.

Again, leftists will have lapped up this rare supportive comment in a major UK newspaper. A search for further comments finds this sentence from Monbiot in November 2007:

In February 2001, according to the BBC, it [Israel] used chemical weapons in Gaza: 180 people were admitted to hospital with severe convulsions.

And a sentence from September 2013, when Monbiot wrote in passing of how Israel ‘refuses to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention’ having ‘used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza’. A further sentence appeared in September 2014:

In Gaza this year, 2,100 Palestinians were massacred: including people taking shelter in schools and hospitals.

Monbiot wrote again one month later:

Israeli military commanders described the massacre of 2,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians (including 500 children), in Gaza this summer as “mowing the lawn”.

But, remarkably, these are the only substantive comments Monbiot has made about one of the great crimes and tragedies of our time. The last quote above, his most recent, was published nearly five years ago, in October 2014.

While other progressives like Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Norman Finkelstein, Jonathan Cook and others have written whole books, made whole films, and written reams of articles about the catastrophe being inflicted on the people of Gaza, Monbiot has said virtually nothing.

According to ProQuest, Owen Jones’ sole, substantive article devoted to Israel’s assault on Gaza came in July 2014. Even this was a philosophical piece on the ‘moral corruption that comes with any occupation’, with few details about the suffering in Gaza. Stockholm syndrome ensured that the title alone, ‘How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier’, persuaded many readers that here was a stellar example of a principled journalist who really cared about Gaza, who was shouting the truth from the rooftops. Jones’ last mention of Gaza in the Guardian was also five years ago, a mention in passing in August 2014.

Paul Mason’s last substantive mention of Gaza was, again, five years ago, in November 2014, an emotive reference to a harrowing report he made from Gaza while working for Channel 4 News, with little detail on conditions. Mason referenced the same Channel 4 coverage in August 2014.

Or consider Yemen – how much have Monbiot, Jones and Mason written about the blood-drenched, UK-backed Saudi Arabian war that began in 2015? Monbiot wrote in June 2017 of then Prime Minister Theresa May:

She won’t confront Saudi Arabia over terrorism or Yemen or anything else.

Ironic words, given that, according to ProQuest, this is Monbiot’s only meaningful comment on the Yemen war (in April 2019, he noted in passing that climate change ‘has contributed to civil war’ in Yemen). In the Morning Star, Ian Sinclair reported that the editor of the Interventions Watch website had conducted a search of Monbiot’s Twitter timeline in December 2017:

He found Monbiot had mentioned “Syria” in 91 tweets and “Yemen” in just three tweets.

To his credit, Owen Jones has written several substantial pieces focused on the war in Yemen here, here and here. In June 2017, Paul Mason wrote one substantial paragraph on the conflict:

Saudi Arabia is meanwhile prosecuting a war on Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, using more than £3bn worth of British kit sold to it since the bombing campaign began. In return, it has lavished gifts on Theresa May’s ministers: Philip Hammond got a watch worth £1,950 when he visited in 2015. In turn, Tory advisers are picking up lucrative consultancy work with the Saudi government.

Again, we can celebrate an example of superficial dissent, or reflect on the fact that this is Mason’s only comment on the Yemen war in the Guardian.

It is important to remember that the most popular and revered British dissidents – including radical comedians like Russell Brand, Frankie Boyle and Eddie Izzard – were made famous by corporate media. The difference between a ‘cult’ following and national fame is often the difference between popular and ‘mainstream’ support. People willing to compromise from the start, to jump through the required corporate hoops to achieve fame, are (often unwittingly) stooges of a system that must allow glimpses of dissent, a semblance of free and open discussion.

The system needs an occasional honest paragraph on Gaza from a Monbiot, a comment on Yemen from a Mason, if it is to retain credibility. Nobody is fooled by total silence, by a complete lie – a half-lie is far more potent. We are complicit in this charade when we make dissident mountains out of molehills, loaves out of corporate crumbs, and keep buying the product.

John Pilger: We Are in a WAR SITUATION with China!

On this episode of Going Underground, we speak to legendary journalist and film-maker John Pilger on a round-up of all the latest issues. John describes the current state of global affairs as in a state of world war, warning that the ‘coming war on China’ he warned about…has now arrived, he also discusses the Hong Kong protests and why they have grown, along with US involvement in the unrest. He discusses the collapse of the global nuclear arms control framework with the end of the INF Treaty and the beginning of a new arms race with Russia, amid a situation where he describes it as Washington’s goal to break up the Russian Federation under Putin. He also warns of the increased risk of nuclear war as nuclear superpowers such as Pakistan and India are also entering major tensions between each other. John Pilger also discusses his concern with John Bolton being at the ear of Donald Trump, how Brexit has created mass-distraction in the UK from the most pressing of issues at home (such as austerity and the NHS) and abroad. He slams sanctions on Venezuela and Iran and also updates us on the condition of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, after he visited him recently in Belmarsh prison.

Assange’s Persecution Rides on Feeble Lies

Remember when it was obligatory to call Julian Assange paranoid?

That changed in March when the first of 18 US indictments confirmed designs to get him. All charges pertain to Wikileaks data that made him famous in 2010. Hard proof that hounding ensued from those initial releases accordingly forced the punditry to reconsider at least one of its armchair diagnoses of Assange.

Though most are unaware of the details, such hostile pursuit has concerned more than a few countries and institutions. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently stated that in “20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.”

This follows upon the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s finding in 2015, reiterated in 2018, that Assange had been continuously arbitrarily detained in one from or another since 2010.

The official US reaction to Melzer’s report has naturally been to decry the content. It starts upon this with a certain fable of righteousness, which implies that a dog snarling into the hole of a rabbit does not confine it there:

Mr Assange voluntarily stayed in the embassy to avoid facing lawful criminal charges pending against him. As such his time in the embassy did not constitute confinement and was in no way arbitrary.

Like the term ‘confinement,’ the word ‘arbitrary’ is a weasel in this particular fable. It does not function in human rights law to imply any lack of rationale, but to identify the rationale of some authority as crucially unprincipled. Where such a fault applies it is likely to be ignored, misrepresented and/or distracted from by the culpable authority. Hence, as in the quote above, they tend to assert some righteous motive, real or fictional, as centrally vindicating.

It is common and wrong for those reprimanded to respond this way, since their place is to respect the findings of UN appointees and if necessary, reasonably correspond with them. The entire point of international law is that countries are legally held to account. In terms of the presently relevant human rights covenants, this involves a regime of independent assessment as to whether they are complying with the covenants they ratified. No brute enforcement applies here and the system should work perfectly well without it, if only the signatories abide by it in good faith.

In this primary and neglected context, the account that the US has given of itself has been a spectacular self-incrimination. The two sentences quoted above happen to assert the main premise of Assange and appointees from the UN who saw fit to defend him. For it is plainly implied in the quote that staying in the embassy was the logical means he appropriated to avoid negative repercussions intentionally prepared for him by the US in response his publishing.

The US is accordingly reduced to pretending that, as claimed above, the charges are internationally and nationally lawful. There is nothing to back this up other than legal paragraphs that have been long shunned, relentless obfuscation and a bully’s glare. The charges have been nigh universally denounced as an unprecedented threat to democracy which contradicts the letter and spirit of the US first amendment.

The response to Melzer from the US accordingly backfires and largely because its position from the outset has been foreign to reason. Its officials were obliged to reply to Melzer and apparently felt they managed to do this without committing to an abortive position. If so, they were deeply mistaken for reasons above, and also below.

The letter took exception to any notion that narratives about Assange, or indeed “commentary” in general, could be “cruel, inhuman or degrading…as defined by the Convention on Torture.”

Exclusion of the linguistic modes of relevant abuse is, however, clearly tendentious and searching the terms reveals that, contra the claim, they are nowhere defined or otherwise relevantly qualified in that convention.

This apparent chicanery culminates in the charge that, in virtue of finding fault with injurious disinformation, Melzer’s report has “dangerous implications for freedom of expression.” There is one clear sense in which that is true. An emerging sport of persecuting publishers could become endangered if human rights law had a chilling effect upon smearing them.

These positions taken by the US are in reaction to Melzer specifying concerted defamation as contributing to the debilitating and life-threatening persecution of Assange over a decade.

Without that malicious campaign, none of the gross injustice that he has endured, or which still looms, could have gained a foothold. Complicity of the press is therefore at the heart of this story.

Much has been said of the leading role taken by the Guardian here, but consider this deceptively bland token from the Washington Post which featured in its report on Melzer’s earlier statements:

Assange regularly complained about how Ecuador treated him while he took refuge in a corner room of its red-brick embassy. He unsuccessfully sued the Foreign Ministry last year over demands that he pay for his medical bills and clean up after his cat — among other conditions he said were intended to force him from the embassy. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also dismissed his complaints.

The first critical omission here is the reason his mentioned suit did not succeed. It was mindfully passed by an Ecuadorian judge into a fenced pit, previously known as Ecuador’s Constitutional Court. This had been shut down two months before Assange’s suit and was rebooted another three months later, with all-new, US-partial judges and a backlog of 13,000 cases.

So Assange’s team approached the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which did not dismiss his complaints, as misreported above by the Post. Rather, it admonished Ecuador not to violate his rights by breaking asylum law with an act of expulsion, as starkly threatened in its foisted “protocol.” The IACHR refused nothing to Assange besides precautionary measures to prevent this expulsion, which transpired a month later, to their natural embarrassment. These points only further establish Melzer’s finding of illegal abuse by Ecuador and decimate the tales from the Post.

Also unmentioned were Ecuador’s included prohibition on his free expression and a crackdown on privacy of his visitors. Instead, Assange was portrayed as whining about such things as medical bills and pet care. Yet Ecuador never paid a health bill for him and nobody ever thought to ask them to. Nor did Assange or his legal team ever protest any stipulation about his cat, except as a baseless insinuation of neglect on his part, which was strategic and virally effective.

Fidel Narvaez, consul at the embassy for the first six years of Assange’s stay, witnessed the beginning of his persecution under the new President Moreno. Narvaez describes Assange a friend whose relations with permanent staff were always respectful and abidingly positive. The media chorus that “he wore out his welcome” thus evinces horrendous incompetence or worse. He was unwelcome only to political enemies in Ecuador, and that from the day he sought asylum. Moreno revealed his position here by speaking of Assange as “stone in the shoe” and “inherited problem,” while former President Correa remains outspoken in defence of Assange and denounces Moreno for betraying his party and country upon taking power.

The informed side of this controversy is not the orthodox one and Melzer has called the bluff of a lie-infused Western establishment. Hence all that is required to win this debate is to force it. That is why he speaks up, with hard and documented facts, and why we must follow suit.

WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Decoding the National Security Commentariat

The Fourth Estate, that historical unelected grouping of society’s scrutineers, has become something of a rabble, and, as a confederacy of strewn dunces and the ongoing compromised, is ripe for analysis.  An essential premise in the work of WikiLeaks was demonstrating, to a good, stone-throwing degree, how media figures and practitioners had been bought by the state or the corporate sector, unwittingly or otherwise.  At the very least, the traditionalists had swallowed their reservations and preferred to proclaim, rather unconvincingly, that they were operating with freedom to scrutinise and question, facing down the rebels from the WikiLeaks set.

The Fourth Estate has, however, been placed on poor gruel and life support.  Gone are the days when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ferreted their way through sources and obtaining the material – leaks from confidential sources, no less – that would make them famous and lay the way for the demise of a US President.  Such energy is frowned upon these days; the investigative journalist is being treated more as an irritating remnant, a costly undusted fossil.  The way for what Nozomi Hayase calls the “Global Fourth Estate” is being well and truly paved as a result.

The corporate factor in this process is undeniable.  The Australian media tycoon and ageing tyrant Rupert Murdoch has proven to be the kiss of death to much decent journalism, though he is by no means the only contributor.  As a man who takes pride in directly intervening in the policies and directions of his newspapers, identifying the credible view from the crafty slant is a hard thing.  Political and business interests tend to converge in such an empire.  Balanced reporting is for the bleeding hearts.

Meshed in this compromised journalism is a particular type of commentator, the holder of opinions with an open channel to the national security establishment.  They are the Deep Throats turned into media judges and avengers.  They might be flatteringly called the national security fraternity, a club of the military and espionage clubbables, the sort who find it inconceivable that someone from the public might throw open the larder of government secrets to expose a state’s misdeeds.  It went without saying that such individuals would see, in WikiLeaks, the incarnation of a pseudo-intelligence service, or at the very least, its tailor for one.

The national security fraternity is typified by the revolving door.  It whirs around, not merely in oil companies, the US State Department and merchant banks, but the issue of the media stable.  The state demands its permanent loyalties; those who have served in advisory roles in the state will keep paying once they leave.  Security-trained and watered thoroughbreds are bound to see outliers and vigilantes as challengers who need to be put down.

Samantha Vinograd supplies a nice example.  The crossover into journalism from the National Security State (NSS) is made from experience as advisor to the National Security Council as the Director for Iraq.  (That could hardly have gone that well.)  Her teeth well cut on security matters and advice, her journalism is bound to be tinged and flavoured by the apparatus of the state.  Julian Assange, she argues, is “the self-anointed director of his own intel service.”

The evidence she assesses on whether Assange requires punishment is deemed self-evident; the evidence comes from a source that need not be questioned.  Vinograd exudes the confidence of one clutching to the inside of the establishment, and one with lapels suggesting patriot and defender of state.  An Assange-like figure is bound to not merely be poison making its way to the vestal virgins; it is a figure to be extirpated.

In casting her own eye over the list of expanded charges against Assange, she has taken the allegations against him of espionage to be factual. But she does so by attempting to repudiate his credentials as a publisher and journalist.  “If anyone is making the [sic] Assange is a free speech champion, read paragraph 36,” she intones.  “He knowingly endangered the lives of journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents and did incredible harm to all our security.”  This devious interpretation on the part of the drafters has the purpose of demonising Assange – self-interested, maniacal, even sociopathic, they imply – while tagging, at the end, the only issue that concerns the US security apparatus: the fictional endangering of US national security. Absent here are observations and studies by the Pentagon which claimed on several occasions that there was little in way of evidence that lives had been compromised in the leak.

The same goes for former FBI types who see the accumulating dossier against Assange as an incriminating tissue of evidence.  The issue here was pre-determined; it is shut and done.  There is no broader philosophical point, because the only point that matters is realpolitik and the beating heart of the secretly minded patriot. Curiously enough, the distinction between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, ceases to exist in such circles.  We are left with the operating rationale of the big bad NSS, decked out in all its nasty, modern tinsel.

Asha Rangappa, former FBI “special agent” and editor at Just Security, is one of the NSS’s glorified commentators, even if much of her strategy lies in cringeworthy self-advertising.  She was drooling with a certain social media imbecility at the news that an 18-count superseding indictment against Assange had been issued by the Department of Justice.  “Awwwww yeah,” came her remark on Twitter.  Don the gloves; go into action: Team America needs you.

Rangappa is a wonderful illustration of a corrupted type of journalist cum commentator, one conscious of a cop culture that is celebrated rather than questioned, paraded rather than critiqued. She is even featured in Elle Magazine, with a slush-filled gooey tribute from Sylvie McNamara.  “I’m at Asha Rangappa’s dinner table because, for the past few years, her commentary on CNN and Twitter has helped hundreds of thousands of people understand the news.”

If a certain type of blinkered understanding is what you are out for, then she is your glamorous source.  She was keen on putting away “bad guys”; she “rooted for the United States to beat the Soviet Union in the Olympics”; she acknowledges who “we had to fight for our values”.  McNamara is won over, and hardly one to question. “Rangappa knows from previous experience how the FBI handles Russian spies and disinformation; add to the mix her professional skill at explaining complex ideas, and she is ideally positioned to break down the bewildering political events in recent years.”  If you consciously avoid or fail to spot the inauthenticity in any of that, then you are well on the way to joining the National Security Club.

Facebook vs Citizens

A wonderfully written recent article on the ethics of Facebook Inc provoked me to think about my own position. It’s oft said in defence of the software that Facebook is a forum for progressive public debate, an ideal and desirable stimulus for democracy. So I was pleased the article stimulated a lively exchange of ideas on a contentious issue, the ethics of Facebook itself.

During the unprecedented, wild explosion of Facebook’s popularity, it had a revolutionary vibe. By 2018, political scandal had engulfed the company and Facebook vs The People hit the high court in the USA, stoking public concern over how much power the business has. Nonetheless, Zuckerburg is teflon-skinned, at least in the elite privilege networks he moves in, because they are acting as if, and telling us that, Facebook is socially responsible, acts lawfully, and is not a threat to democracy. In all truth, the fact Facebook successfully established the “publisher” defence in court (Wikileaks?) suggests that its primary function as corporate spyware is left unmentioned, intact, and beyond the purview of public scrutiny. In all truth, the only revolutionary thing about Facebook is it has upgraded the ability of the powers that be to repress dissent, especially powerful dissent spawned on Facebook itself.

Like every revolution, Facebook had its cadre, its battle, its legacy. Like every revolution, the cadre was purged, the battle turned downwards, the legacy? Propaganda. By stealth, the undemocratic vanguard of Facebook enacted policies to accrue more power, more wealth, and became an ossified nomenclatura that cultivate, fiercely protect class privileges. Like Stalin being bestowed praise in Pravda, Zuckerburg is given laurels in Time, his eerie face a reminder of who is officially the great man of our times. Like Stalin in the USSR, he is the primary political Titan and heavyweight behind the facile facade of popular democracy. In 1917 the revolution was red, its slogan “Bread and Peace.” In 2018 the revolution is hollowed of soul and substance by a blue collar, data age enterprise, indoctrinating people to think they care about meaningful “connection” before capital, or people, before profit.

Commentators call the data age the fourth industrial revolution. Borne aloft by the rapid global expansion of processes of digitisation and artificial intelligence, the fourth industrial revolution has had vast effects on the economy, the means of production and society at large, blurring the distinction between the digital and physical. Evidently this has had a profound effect on social relations and power dynamics. At once liberating the best and worst instincts in humanity, the means of informational production contains the possibility of liberation today, but in the hands of anti-democratic incumbent elites in politics, business and law enforcement, it deepens and broadens the vassalage relations of feudalism and capitalism by affording elites the power of surveillance, which is an easy way to regulate modes of thought and behaviour to conform to their agenda.

Such unethical psychological and behavioural manipulation was a key strategy of the well documented, but scarcely understood, partnership between Cambridge Analytica, a sordid global lobbying consultancy, and social media. The presidential and Leave-the EU campaigns represent many millions spent on completely manufactured demands: Trump’s policies and Brexit.

The sad truth of where power lies in politics today is that Cambridge Analytica didn’t work for political campaigns. The political campaigns really worked for Cambridge Analytica, because Trump’s and Leave’s roles were — perhaps unknowingly — not to be borne aloft to victory by underlings at the firm but to act as stooges to rally, recruit more and more citizens to be crunched in the firm’s matrix and spat out as a model voter, pliable citizen and captive consumer, a purpose for which corporate information management has been using political campaigns for well over a decade.

Data, advertising and social media companies already have long established and vastly more significant income revenues from the constant use of their software by other means than having to depend on single political commissions to get by. A commission like Trump’s or Leave’s merely sanctions the act of harvest, a mass reaping. Corporate data management portfolios have, over time, edged closer and closer to the architecture of political power, to the extent the two are fast becoming indistinct, a single power complex.

Silicon Valley is increasingly deployed as a strategist, and in turn campaigns enrol them to lobby us in such a way as to recreate our “psycho geographic profile” to fit their model. The idea of elections in days gone past was that, accepting of course it fast became the norm not all candidates abided to the norm, that candidates nonetheless made an earnest pledge for a mandate on which they would be judged by the public and ultimately be rewarded or punished at the ballot box, not that the electoral process would become a spectacle in which dishonest promotions to audiences would be used to nudge and steer them towards well advertised ideas.

Why has this change occurred? The advent of transnational informational capitalism meant centralised hierarchical networks of IT experts like Silicon Valley could pursue their own selfish agenda, namely self enrichment, the most direct and obvious means to that end being to sell the data we so willingly impart within their software within a culture of what I call “consensual coercion” that has taken over our lives. That is, a lifestyle of unnecessary transparency that is promoted to us through social media and, longing for acceptance, we do it, cultivated, nurtured, fed by big business. Lots of companies have high stakes in our penchant for carelessness with data and have long sought for us to give it up by latent or patent means.

To understand the raison d’être of Cambridge Analytica and, by proxy, contemporary political campaigns we have to move backwards to the inception of consumer psychology, the art and science of manipulating the minds, emotions and desires of citizens to generate intended economic outcomes.

As partisan wings of the liberal media stage manage and rehearse their response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal to get their verdict on which breach was worse in first, to best frame events to the advantage of their partisan agenda, the world becomes ever more deceived and confused about precisely how far, how deep, how rancid the rotten corruption runs. Scapegoating Trump alone for the scandal not only ludicrously attributes the misuse of the politics and economy of information management — based on complex mathematical modelling and research — to him, but moreover overlooks the social and historical context of these revelations, which implicates the politico-corporate infrastructure of silicon valley in a vast conspiracy against the people.

In a Crisis of Democracy, We Must All Become Julian Assange

The US government’s indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange marked the worst attack on press freedom in modern history. Assange has been charged with 18 counts, including 17 violations of the Espionage Act. James Goodale, former general counsel of the New York Times, who urged the paper to publish the Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administrationnoted, “If the government succeeds with the trial against Assange, if any, that will mean that it’s criminalized the news gathering process.”

On June 12, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the extradition papers. Assange’s hearing is now set to begin next February. He is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh high security prison for what amounts to a politically motivated, 50-week sentence given by a judge for violating bail conditions in 2012 while attempting to obtain political asylum in Ecuador against the threat of extradition to the US.

Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture visited Assange with two medical experts and assessed that Assange has been subjected to prolonged psychological torture by the US government and its allies for nearly a decade, and warned about his serious physical deterioration. While this multi-award winning journalist who published truthful information in the public interest about the US government, is in jail, the British government (that has been a key player in this political persecution) recently held a Global Conference for Media Freedom.

Despite its stated mission of protecting the safety and rights of journalists, the conference failed to address the degrading and inhumane treatment of Assange and the US government’s prosecution of the publisher that could set a dangerous precedent for press freedom. This total hypocrisy was best shown by the fact that this gathering was hosted by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who, last month, told US TV that he would happily extradite Assange to Trump’s America where former CIA officer John Kiriakou indicated that he would receive no fair trial and face life imprisonment.

The true face of Western liberal democracy

Why has Assange become a target of these Western governments’ coordinated attack? Over 10 million documents that WikiLeaks released with a pristine record of accuracy revealed the corruption of these governments, including US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is apparent that Assange is being punished for revealing these governments’ inconvenient truth. But more significantly, he has been condemned because WikiLeaks’ publication exposed the true face of Western liberal democracy, informing the public about how the structure of power really works.

What is Western liberal democracy? It is a particular style of governance that was developed in the US and exported around the world. Political theorist Sheldon S. Wolin (2008) described it as “modern managed democracy” and attributed its creation to the framers of the Constitution. Wolin described how the Founding Fathers made a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (p. 228).

The framers of the constitution wanted to have power over people. As a testimony to this, the original draft of the constitution did not have a Bill of Rights. They were added to the constitution as amendments. This didn’t come about without a struggle. The proponents of the Bill of Rights demanded them in order to safeguard individual liberty and challenged those who seek to preserve levers of control.

Even after the constitution was ratified with a Bill of Rights, the existence of this unaccounted power was never truly addressed. The wording of the First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Here, the First Amendment was aimed to restrict the governmental power. It was specifically addressing what Congress can’t do. However, the constitution didn’t ensure that corporations would not be able to circumvent laws and restrict freedom of speech.

This lack of oversight made the system of governance vulnerable to corruption, as was observed by Thomas Jefferson, when he warned American people about a time when the American system of government would degenerate into a form of “elective despotism”.

New mechanism of accountability

The managed democracy relies on secrecy and deception to control the will of the populace. With the infiltration of commercial interests and the consolidation of media, the big business class has found a way to regulate free speech on their terms. The establishment of corporate media turned journalists’ First Amendment protection into a privilege that they can use against the public.

Journalists, who have now become a new class of professionals, no longer share interests with ordinary people. They serve the agendas of the powerful state in maintaining an illusion of democracy, by restricting the flow of information and controlling narratives. For instance, the New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.

With the merger of the state and corporations, the power of private companies to influence governments and erode civil liberty has increased. Transnational corporations can now revoke and restrict basic rights at any time, crossing the judicial boundaries on the borderless cyberspace. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter censor free speech online and, without warrant, spy and invade the privacy of users.

Assange recognized the anti-democratic forces that existed at the very founding of the United States and the establishment of the constitutional republic. He also understood that within the existing political system there is no mechanism for ordinary people to check on this unaccounted power. Civil right activist Audre Lorde once wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Assange through his work with WikiLeaks provided vital tools that make it possible for everyday people to counter corporate media’s weapon of mass deception and dismantle the master’s house.

At the core of WikiLeaks is scientific journalism. By publishing full archives in a searchable format, the whistleblowing site gave ordinary people a mechanism to independently check the claim of journalists and to hold them, with their unelected powers accountable. This way, the whistleblowing site enabled a true function of free press and opened a door for democracy.

Call for real democracy

With the Trump administration’s prosecution of Assange and imprisonment of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, we are now seeing a deepening crisis of enlightenment values. In Chinese, the word for crisis signifies danger and opportunity. This attack on free press poses great threat to democracy, but at the same time, perhaps it also presents an opportunity that has never been available before.

The truths that Assange and Manning have brought forward with enormous courage have pierced the façade of democracy. They sacrificed their personal liberty in order to give us a chance to create a society that is truly aligned with our values.

Manning has now been confined for more than four months after being found in contempt by a federal judge for refusing to testify before a grand jury, and is subject to punitive fines. Assange being locked up in the notorious UK prison previously referred to as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay” has been made defenseless. He is not allowed to use a computer and has limited access to his lawyers, making him unable to adequately prepare for his legal defense.

In a message sent out from a high security prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement, Assange asked everyone to take his place. Democracy requires ordinary’ people’s participation in power. In order for us to alter this oppressive system, change ought to be made first within ourselves. Each of us needs to start exercising our right to free speech, assemble and associate with one another and organize a society, governed not by the elite few, but through networked conscience of common people.

Even after Assange’s imprisonment, character assassination and smearing designed to deceive the public continues with the latest CNN hit piece twisting embassy surveillance records against him. Assange remains silenced. He is suffering for all of us, urging us to find strength within to seize this opportunity to take back the power that belongs to us. Let us fight for his freedom. Let us complete the great work of justice and democracy he started with WikiLeaks. His plight of curtailed freedom is a call for a real democracy. We all must now take his place and claim our own significance. We must become Julian Assange, for his struggle is ours. We are all Julian Assange.

CNN: Propaganda and Disinformation

CNN abandoned journalism and became a propaganda ministry for the Democratic National Committee and the corrupt upper echelons of the CIA and FBI. After three years of telling the most outrageous lies ever associated with an alleged news organization in an alleged democracy, CNN’s viewership collapsed. CNN turned propaganda ministry saw its prime time viewers shrink by 40%. Even insouciant Americans could see that CNN was nothing but a lie factory.

One would have thought CNN would have learned a lesson. But apparently not. The scum or fools, whichever it is, that runs CNN decided instead to tell even more lies. The propaganda ministry concocted an even less believable story than the ones that had driven away 40% of CNN viewers. The story “reported” by Alex Marquardt goes as follows:

Assange, being a Russian spy, turned the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had asylum into a command post for arranging a US presidential election outcome that pleased the Russians.  Marquardt spins a fantasy of how Assange from his embassy base, undeterred by Ecuadoran President Correa or the Ecuadoran ambassador to the UK, and aided with deliveries of hacked materials and suspicious meetings with Rusians and world-class hackers, undermined the American presidential election.

This gibberish from CNN comes after US Federal District judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that Mueller’s claim in his report of Russian “sweeping and systematic” meddling in the US election is nothing but an unsubstantiated allegation that constitutes nothing but an evidence-free indictment, thereby being an invalid indictment. The judge ordered Mueller to stop making false claims.

In other words, the Mueller report came up with nothing. Somehow CNN managed not to tell its viewers this basic fact.

Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador during most of Assange’s asylum, branded the CNN story as “rubbish,” the purpose of which is to make the American people believe the obvious frameup of Assange that Washington is planning for him:

What CNN and other media are saying is rubbish, but we’re used to it. They are prepping for the show [trial]. The reason is, when they extradite Assange to the US and sentence him to life, they want the backing of the public. They are setting the stage.

Here we have two more reasons America is exceptional.  The news consists of lies, and the function of the US Department of Justice (sic) is to arrange show trials and frame innocent people.

Twitter Restores Assange Activism Account In Response To Backlash

After a week of vocal protests from online supporters of Julian Assange, Twitter has reversed its unjust removal of the prominent pro-Assange activism account @Unity4J.

After the account was suspended without any explanation being presented to its operators, Assange supporters drew a clear line in the sand against internet censorship and began making a big noise that couldn’t be ignored. The account’s suspension drew condemnations from high-profile Assange supporters like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, World Socialist Website, RT and Lee Camp, as well as a sustained social media campaign by grassroots supporters which included artwork, memes, and, of course, relentless “tagging” of Twitter Support and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Political dissidents in general, and Assange supporters in particular, can take this as a very positive sign. It cannot be denied that there is pressure being applied to new media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube to forcibly marginalize all perspectives which fall outside the ever-shrinking Overton window of approved political discourse, but it also cannot be denied that speaking out works. If enough people push back against internet censorship to make it too conspicuous and obvious, it can’t happen.

We know that @twitter can and does reinstate accounts after suspension in the wake of a public outcry: @caitoz was suspended only to be reinstated after multiple journalists spoke out against it. @twittersupport @jack reinstate @Unity4J, an account that never broke Twitter rules. https://t.co/ltyGEfedcz

— Elizabeth Lea Vos (@ElizabethleaVos) July 12, 2019

Unity4J co-founder Elizabeth Lea Vos called this from the early hours of the account’s suspension, tweeting, “We know that Twitter can and does reinstate accounts after suspension in the wake of a public outcry: @caitoz was suspended only to be reinstated after multiple journalists spoke out against it.”

“@caitoz” is my account, which was indeed reinstated after I was suspended from Twitter for expressing political wrongthink last year. A bunch of high-profile journalists and activists helped voice objection to my unjust removal from the platform, not necessarily because they liked my work but because they understood that the direction the platform was headed posed a grave threat to all politically dissident speech.

So we see a pattern here where censorship can only happen in the unseen margins. In a society where our rulers must maintain their nice guy image of free speech and democracy, censorship only works when it’s invisible. The social engineers cannot operate in an overtly totalitarian way without shattering the free democracy image and thus losing the ability to effectively propagandize the masses, without which they cannot rule. We can use this weakness of theirs to our advantage by continually ringing alarm bells and shining a spotlight on any overtly totalitarian behavior yelling “What’s this? Why are you doing that? Hey everyone, come look at this weird thing they’re doing!” Internet censorship in its current form can’t operate under such conditions.

Though Twitter’s opaque and unaccountable moderation process makes it impossible to ever know exactly what happened behind the scenes, from my own experience it’s probably safe to assume that @Unity4J was conducting itself in the same way thousands of other Twitter accounts behave every single day without issue, but it got singled out (possibly via establishment-friendly mass reporting) due to its dissident political speech. Some admin ruled that if you squint at the account’s behavior and the Twitter rules in just the right way, removing the account was warranted. Then a bunch of loud complaints began coming in, prompting an investigation which found that by golly, it turns out that we don’t have to squint at the facts of the matter in that weird way after all. After which the account was restored.

#Unity4J Announcement

The @Unity4J Twitter Team would like to announce that we have been officially restored!

Thank you to @jack and @TwitterSupport, along with our many, many supporters around the globe for taking action to get this account restored. #FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/i6zUdQ9upA

— #Unity4J (@Unity4J) July 18, 2019

Whenever there’s a spate of iron-fisted censorship from a large online platform, I see many dissidents talking about vacating that platform in favor of fringe sites with a more tolerant attitude toward dissident speech. Please do not do this. If you want to spend time on a much smaller platform like Mastodon or Minds then by all means go ahead and do so, but please remain active on large, mainstream sites as well.

Remember, the goal of all political dissent is to get dissident ideas into mainstream consciousness. If we all vacate the areas where the mainstream public are spending their time, we’re doing the social engineers’ job for them by quarantining ourselves to some isolated fringe sector of the internet. That’s exactly what they want us to do. They want us to remove ourselves so we can’t infect the mainstream herd with wrongthink.

So don’t do it for them. If they’re going to keep clamping down on dissident speech online, force them to do it out in the open where everyone can see. As we’ve just witnessed, they have a much, much harder time conducting censorship while under the light of public scrutiny.

Our job here is very simple: if we can get the mainstream public to start paying attention to the actual mechanisms of empire, oligarchy and oppression, we win. If we can’t, we lose. Everything that doesn’t help us toward this end is a frivolous distraction. The social engineers understand all of this quite clearly. We need to understand it too.

Stand in the center of the public stage, and keep infecting the herd.

Spying on Julian Assange: UC Global, CNN and Russian Couriers

History’s scope for the absurd and tragic is infinite.  Like Sisyphus engaged in permanent labours pushing a boulder up a slope, the effort of making sense of such scope is likewise, absurdly infinite.  To see images of an exhausted and world-weary Julian Assange attempting to dodge the all-eye surveillance operation that he would complain about is to wade in the insensibility of it all.  But it could hardly have surprised those who have watched WikiLeaks’ battles with the Security Establishment over the years.

Assange is not merely an exceptional figure but a figure of the exception.  Despite being granted asylum status by an Ecuadorean regime that would subsequently change heart with a change of brooms, he was never permitted to exercise all his freedoms associated with such a grant.  There was always a sense of contingency and qualification, the impending cul-de-sac in London’s Ecuadorean embassy.

Between December 2017 and March 2018, dozens of meetings between Assange, his legal representatives, and visitors, were recorded in daily confidential reports written by an assigned security team and submitted to David Morales, formerly of special ops of the marine corps of the Spanish Navy.  The very idea of legal professional privilege, a fetish in the Anglo-American legal system, was not so much deemed non-existent as ignored altogether.

The security firm tasked with this smeared-in-the-gutter mission was Spanish outfit UC Global SL, whose task became all the more urgent once Ecuador’s Lenín Moreno came to power in May 2017.  The mood had changed from the days when Rafael Correa had been accommodating, one at the crest of what was termed the Latin American Pink Tide.  Under Moreno, Assange was no longer the wunderkind poking the eye of the US imperium with cheery backing.  He had become, instead, a tenant of immense irritation and inconvenience, a threat to the shift in politics taking place in Ecuador.  According to El País, “The security employees at the embassy had a daily job to do: to monitor Assange’s every move, record his conversations, and take note of his moods.”

The revelations of the surveillance operation on Assange had had their natural effect on the establishment journalists who continue taking the mother’s milk of conspiracy and intrigue in libelling the publisher.  CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Kay Guerrero and Arturo Torres seemed delighted in finding their éminence grise with his fingers in the pie, making the claim, with more than a whiff of patriotic self-importance, how “surveillance reports also describe how Assange turned the embassy into a command centre and orchestrated a series of damaging disclosures that rocked the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States.”  Rather than seeing obsessive surveillance in breach of political asylum as a problem, they see the quarry obtained by UC Global in quite a different light.  The WikiLeaks publisher had supposedly been outed.

The trio claimed to have obtained documents “exclusive” to CNN (the labours of El País, who did the lion’s share on this, are confined to the periphery) – though they have not been kind enough to share the original content with the curious.  Nor do they make much of the private security materials as such, preferring to pick from the disordered larder that is the Mueller Report.

The CNN agenda is, however, clear enough. “The documents build on the possibility, raised by special counsel Robert Mueller in his report on Russian meddling, that couriers brought hacked files to Assange at the embassy.”  Suggestions, without the empirical follow-up, are made to beef up the insinuated message.  “While the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland, an embassy security guard broke protocol by abandoning his post to receive a package outside the embassy from a man in disguise.”  The individual in question “covered his face with a mask and sunglasses and was wearing a backpack, according to surveillance images obtained by CNN.” So planned; so cheeky.

Another line in the same report also serves to highlight the less than remarkable stuff in the pudding.  “After the election, the private security company prepared an assessment of Assange’s allegiances.  That report, which included open-source information, concluded there was ‘no doubt that there is evidence’ that Assange had ties to Russian intelligence agencies.”  Not exactly one to stop the presses.

CNN, in fact, suggests a figure demanding, unaccountable, dangerous and entirely in charge of the situation.  It is the psychological profile of a brattish historical agent keen to avoid detection.  (Here the journalists are keen to suggest that meeting guests “inside the women’s bathroom” in the Ecuadorean embassy was a shabby enterprise initiated by Assange; the obvious point that he was being subject to surveillance by UC Global’s “feverish, obsessive vigilance”, to use the words of El País, is turned on its head.)

He is reported to have “demanded” a high-speed internet connection.  He sought a working phone service, because obviously that would be unreasonable for any grantee of political asylum.  He requested regular access to his professional circle and followers.  Never has such a confined person been deemed a commander, an orchestrator and master of space.  “Though confined to a few rooms inside the embassy, Assange was able to wield enormous authority over his situation.”

The account offered by Txema Guijarro García, a former advisor to Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and an important figure dealing with the logistics of granting Assange asylum in 2012, is decidedly different.  In general, “relations between him and the embassy staff were better than anyone could have expected.  The staff had amazing patience and, under difficult conditions, they managed to combine their diplomatic work with the task of caring for our famous guest.”

The language from the CNN report suggests the mechanics of concerted exclusion, laying the framework for an apologia that would justify Assange’s extradition to the United States to face espionage charges rather than practising journalism.  It is a salient reminder about the readiness of such outlets to accommodate, rather than buck, the state narrative on publishing national security information.

It is also distinctly out of step with the defences being made in favour of publishing leaked diplomatic cables being expressed in the Tory leadership debate in Britain.  While it should be construed with care, the words of Boris Johnson in the aftermath of the publication of British cables authored by the now ex-UK ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, are pertinent.  “It cannot conceivably be right that newspapers or any other media organisation publishing such material face prosecution”.  Even Johnson can take the pulse of history accurately once in a while.

Top Assange Defense Account Deleted By Twitter

One of the biggest Twitter accounts dedicated to circulating information and advocacy for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, @Unity4J, has been completely removed from the site. The operators of the account report that they have been given no reason for its removal by Twitter staff, and have received no response to their appeals.

Any Assange supporter active on Twitter will be familiar with the Unity4J account, which originated to help boost the wildly successful Unity4J online vigils in which well-known Assange defenders would appear to speak out against his persecution. As of this writing, the account has been gone for a day and a half.

“About 8:45am CST on Thursday July 11, one of our Unity4J Twitter team members went to retweet on the account and noticed that the account was no longer accessible,” reports pro-Assange activist Christy Dopf, one of the operators of the account. “When each of us also attempted to access the account we all received the same message ‘Account Suspended’. Twitter did not send us a reason or violation for the suspension. So an appeal was submitted. We did receive correspondence that Twitter got our request and the case is currently open. Unfortunately we do not have a timeline on how long this could take.”

I’m back on Twitter after the outage but @unity4J is still suspended – we did not receive an email or a reason for the suspension. Appeal process started. #FreeAssange #Unity4J pic.twitter.com/a14DqZaoGt

⏳ Christy Dopf ⏳ ✨🌓✨ (@ChristyMKD84) July 11, 2019

Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules.

This account’s deletion is just the latest in a long string of apparently biased actions against WikiLeaks and Assange by the immensely influential social media platform. That bias was made abundantly clear with Twitter’s ridiculous refusal to verify Assange while he was posting from his own account despite his undeniably being a significant public figure, and despite the fact that Twitter was well aware that the account was authentic. The platform has been receiving consistent complaints among Assange supporters of using shadow bans to marginalize their voices, as well as unfair posting locks and restrictions.

“It seems that Assange supporters have been targeted for suspension over the last few days and weeks, including the suspension of individuals (Yon Solitary, Monique Jolie) as well as accounts like Unity4J,” Unity4J co-founder Elizabeth Lea Vos told me today. “All of these suspensions are unacceptable, but I find the Unity4J suspension especially egregious because it was an amplifier of events across the board, not only actions run by Unity4J. It never broke the twitter rules and it was an activist account supporting a journalist who’s been silenced or ‘disappeared,’ so this suspension is an extension of that suppression. Assange asked us to become his voice, and platforms like Twitter appear to be actively working against the possibility of that effort.”

The main Twitter account defending Julian Assange, and therefore press freedom & freedom of speech, has been suspended.@Unity4J – suspended for defending a hero.#Unity4J

— Lee Camp [Redacted] (@LeeCamp) July 12, 2019

Pro-Assange activists have been speaking out against @Unity4J’s removal.

“The main Twitter account defending Julian Assange, and therefore press freedom and freedom of speech, has been suspended,” tweeted comedian and Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp. “@Unity4J – suspended for defending a hero.”

“HELP!! Twitter suspended @Unity4J The global #FreeAssange supporters account!” tweeted Assange’s mother Christine Assange. “Its a central point for updates, interviews and actions re my son politically persecuted journalist JULIAN ASSANGE! Please demand @TwitterSupport and @Jack re-instate it. Many thanks #Unity4J”

“I have no doubt that @Unity4J’s twitter account was suspended because it was a hub of useful information on solidarity events and actions in support of Assange, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and more. Horrendous censorship to suspend the account, @TwitterSupport,” tweeted Elizabeth Lea Vos.

“If @Unity4J is not restored, it is proof that Twitter would have sided against the Free Mandela movement, and every other mass liberation movement of a ‘terrorist’ turned Nobel nominee,” tweeted Unity4J co-founder Suzie Dawson.

Many other Assange supporters have been flagging the attention of the Twitter Support account and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey objecting to the unjust silencing of a perfectly legitimate activist account, to no avail thus far.

HELP!! @Twitter suspended @Unity4J

The global #FreeAssange supporters account!

Its a central point for updates, interviews & actions re my son politically persecuted journalist JULIAN ASSANGE!

Please demand @TwitterSupport & @Jack re-instate it.

Many thanks #Unity4J

— Mrs Christine Assange (@AssangeMrs) July 11, 2019

The censorship of political speech on online media platforms is a large and growing problem. Twitter has been better about this than the far more sycophantic Facebook and Google, but the discrimination against anti-establishment political speech is undeniable at this point. I myself was removed from the platform last year just for saying the world would be better off without warmongering US Senator John McCain in it, and was only restored after protests from high-profile Twitter users.

In a corporatist system of government, in which there is no meaningful separation of corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. With giant Silicon Valley corporations aligning themselves with shady state-funded propagandistic think tanks like the Atlantic Council, being admonished on the Senate floor that they must help quash political rebellion, and being targeted for narrative control influence by the US military, there’s vanishingly little difference between what’s happening more and more to political speech with these tech giants and what happens in overtly totalitarian governments. The only difference is the stories people choose to tell themselves about it.

The time to speak up about this silencing is now. Your voice is next.