The Attacks Of Wikileaks Demonstrates How "Out Of Touch" The Media Is

Here's the NYT's Bill Keller and Carne Ross on the BBC debating WikiLeaks. As you can see, Keller seems to think it's the job of the press to check with the administration before publishing information.

There are many opinions on the WikiLeaks affair coming out with lightning speed and I think for the first time since President Obama has been in office we're seeing true bipartisan agreement -- both Democrats and Republicans want to shut WikiLeaks down. It's a real win-win for right-wingers, who are openly calling for Assange's assassination (and a few are shocked that he's still breathing right now), but they are cool if the revelations do hurt President Obama.

Roy Odroso via The Village Voice:

Rightbloggers generally take a two-pronged approach to the leaks: They believe the new document dump is an unpardonable breach of U.S. security -- except to the extent that it may be used to denigrate the Obama Administration, it which case they feel it deserves wider dissemination.
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None of this altered their feeling that by leaking this info Assange was aiding the enemy, and possible guilty of murder.

"Gosh, isn't it nice that the enemy will be able to identify Iraqis who died by name and whose side they were fighting on, so they can go after their families, either to kill them or recruit them, depending on the circumstances?" said BizzyBlog. "What a guy this Mr. Assange is." "Julian Assange: Jerkoff troop killer," wrote The North Star National. National Review's Jonah Goldberg asked, "Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?" ...Last weekend the diplomatic leaks was released, and with them came the usual calls for Assange's death and/or detention. "Julian Assange, Why is He Still Breathing?" asked Paladin's Page. "Assange should be looking at the inside of a container on a ship doing lazy racetracks around the Indian Ocean," said Blackfive. "I won't think twice if Julian Assange meets the cold blade of an assassin," said Donald Douglas. Etc.

Sarah Palin shows her ignorance knows no bounds by calling Assange a "traitor." Maybe she thinks he lives in Hollyweird? A complete denouncing of Wilkileaks. but it goes farther than that. Even our media is joining in with the politicians and are taking on the same POV. Glenn Greenwald has a great post up about the reaction of CNN's Wolf Blitzer, The NY Times and other media figures who are going on record denouncing Wikileaks.

Then, with some exceptions, we have the group which -- so very revealingly -- is the angriest and most offended about the WikiLeaks disclosures: the American media, Our Watchdogs over the Powerful and Crusaders for Transparency. On CNN last night, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the U.S. Government had failed to keep all these things secret from him...

It's one thing for the Government to shield its conduct from public disclosure, but it's another thing entirely for the U.S. media to be active participants in that concealment effort. As The Guardian's Simon Jenkins put it in a superb column that I can't recommend highly enough: "The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. . . . Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets." But that's just it: the media does exactly what Jenkins says is not their job, which -- along with envy over WikiLeaks' superior access to confidential information -- is what accounts for so much media hostility toward that group. As the headline of John Kampfner's column in The Independent put it: "Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority."

Most political journalists rely on their relationships with government officials and come to like them and both identify and empathize with them. By contrast, WikiLeaks is truly adversarial to those powerful factions in exactly the way that these media figures are not: hence, the widespread media hatred and contempt for what WikiLeaks does. Just look at how important it was for Bill Keller to emphasize that the Government is criticizing WikiLeaks but not The New York Times; having the Government pleased with his behavior is his metric for assessing how good his "journalism" is. If the Government is patting him on the head, then it's proof that he acted "responsibly." That servile-to-power mentality is what gets exposed by the contrast Wikileaks provides.

Shouldn't the news journalists out there only be reporting the story itself instead of interjecting their opinion on the propriety of WikiLeaks' actions? There are plenty of opinionators to do that for them already. Glenn mentions instances where WikiLeaks hasn't been perfect in their execution and we'll have to see how it all works out, but when BushCo decided that it was just fine to illegally wiretap phone conversations, the government lost all its credibility on privacy issues.

Digby has an excellent take:

My personal feeling is that any allegedly democratic government that is so hubristic that it will lie blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade probably needs a self-correcting mechanism. There are times when it's necessary that the powerful be shown that there are checks on its behavior, particularly when the systems normally designed to do that are breaking down. Now is one of those times.

I also think that all the sturm und drang about leaks is fairly bizarre considering that the technology to transfer large amounts of secret information has been out there for some time and has shown its capability in many facets of our lives already. Privacy and secrecy are very abstract concepts in this age. I would have expected the government to have anticipated this kind of document transfer in advance and guarded against it.

As for the substance of the revelations, I don't know what the results will be. But in the world of diplomacy, embarrassment is meaningful and I'm not sure that it's a bad thing for all these people to be embarrassed right now. Puncturing a certain kind of self-importance --- especially national self-importance --- may be the most worthwhile thing they do. A little humility is long overdue.

Since the media willingly aided and abetted Bush and his cronies in the distortions of the news that led us into war with Iraq, I do understand why they are reacting the way they are -- after all, the habit of sucking up to power is a tough one to break once you get addicted to it. But it's a sad thing to witness all the same.

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