CNN tried to have a discussion about Wikileaks Sunday on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources. Only Jeff Jarvis stuck up for Julian Assange, which is still strange, considering that the panel represented the "media." It was a pretty typical example of how our media is handling the WikiLeaks story.
KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, I know you argue for a greater transparency of information, but why should "The New York Times" and "The Guardian" and others let Julian Assange set their agenda?
JEFF JARVIS, FOUNDER, "BUZZ MACHINE": It's not even Julian Assange. It's not even WikiLeaks, Howie. The world has changed. Someone can know information now and spread it for the whole world in an instant.
I think we have to look at this the other way around and say, why isn't government more transparent? Government should be transparent by default, secret by necessity.
Part of the lesson of the WikiLeaks leaks is that too much is secret, much of what is secret is done in our name, and we should know it. And also, as Fareed Zakaria said in "TIME" this week, the revelations about our diplomacy core are actually all in all good, actually say that they do a good job. And I think that what we should be doing is turning around and recognizing that this is the future. We are in a transparent age. It used to be the secrets went -- brought power. Now transparency brings power.
Howard Kurtz allegedly understands journalism so I thought it was outrageous for Kurtz to take offense when Assange refuses to out his sources.
KURTZ: Rick Stengel, let's turn now to your interview with Julian Assange. I found some of his answers to be absolutely disingenuous. For example, you ask whether secrets are ever necessary, and he says, well, his secrets are necessary, protecting his sources, but "Our responsibility is to bring matters to the public."
What's important is the information contained in the Wikileaks cables--not Assange--and when we're dealing with whistle blowers, of course their identities have to be protected.
KURTZ: Do you want to respond to that, Jeff Jarvis?
JARVIS: Well, I want to say that all of us journalists around this virtual table should be thinking very seriously about the threat that can be made to our First Amendment rights. Matthew Ingram, a Canadian journalist, wrote at GigaOm.com today -- and I think a very important post -- saying that WikiLeaks is a publisher. It, took, has First Amendment rights, and we should be defending its First Amendment rights.
We in journalism are going off, and many of us attacking WikiLeaks. We should think twice about that, I think, ,because we should be defending transparency as a principle, and defending openness as a principle. And as Rick said, we publish and be damned, so certainly has WikiLeaks.
KURTZ: Well, certainly some people are damning the profession as a result.
Some people are damning the profession of journalism because it appears to most people that your interests are tied in to protecting the ruling class elites and assisting governments to go to war with other countries so that you may continue to have access to all the powerful people. Digby has been covering the WikiLeaks story as well as anybody and she links up Greg Mitchell, who sheds some excellent light on a very important false meme about WikiLeaks the media keeps using.
For instance, in the course of conversations both online and in the real world, I've become convinced that peple do not understand something very important about this last batch of documents and the press is simply not telling them. They were not just dumped on the internet willy nilly. Mitchell explains in this post:
German mag Der Spiegel out with its 2nd issue on its access to cables. A lot on Iraq. One headline: "US Diplomats Bewildered and Bamboozled in Baghdad." Say its based on their reading of 5500 cables.
This raises key point: WikiLeaks itself has still posted less than 900 cables -- due to relying on heavy redacting by its new org partners. But the same partners do have the complete 250,000 cables. So they, not WikiLeaks, are the ones breaking news and quoting from -- even if not postings -- the cables.
This is just one of many, many misapprehensions that have been allowed to fester (if not actively disseminated) by the American news media and one I would guess most people do not understand.
WikiLeaks is working with partners in the press to release these documents, which are being reviewed and redacted before they are uploaded on to the web and published in newspapers. Right now, the only people besides WikiLeaks who have access to all the cables are the newspapers they've partnered with.
I imagine that many of the people who are threatening to imprison and assassinate Assange do know this and also understand that they are threatening not just him but the publishers of newspapers all over the world who also have these documents. Is everyone comfortable with that?
What, you mean WikiLeaks isn't giving al-Qaeda all the cables, un-redacted and letting them do what they want with them? And what about the "rape" charges?
Dana Kennedy reports that Julian Assange‘s alleged crime isn’t violent rape, but that his trouble with the law “apparently stems from a condom malfunction” and an obscure Swedish law involving continuing consent in those situations. David Cay Johnston writes: “If Kennedy is right, and at a minimum her report deserves to be checked out today, then our best news organizations are behaving more like (to borrow a hoary newspaper phrase) those ‘semi-official’ newspapers and broadcast outlets that reliably convey official government truths.”
Why hasn't the media gone to Sweden and found out exactly what the truth is instead of regurgitating what's being fed to them by people who are completely against Assange for reasons more to do with embarrassment than any ongoing question of national security?
Romenesko asks an important question:
My hope here is that the top editors at the organizations named above will immediately call or email their reporters and tell them to check out Kennedy’s story and find out the actual facts. Better yet, the reporters whose bylines were atop stories about this will act on their own.