Julian Assange: dirty tricks or heroic leaking?

An interesting interview with David Frost on al Jazeera (English) with Julian Assange of Wiklieaks goes further to expose the continuing inconsistency and intellectual hair-splitting that Assange is masterful at.

Before analysing that, I am puzzled by the use of the term “investigative journalism” being used in the context of Wikileaks. In the interview, Assange describes the organisation as being “source driven” – i.e. they can only publish what they have had leaked to them. This implies passivity in the engagement by Wikileaks – how is the source material verified? Investigative journalism implies something active – seeking out sources, interviewing, getting to the truth. This sounds nothing more than intellectualised gossip, being spread without attribution or validation.

So, how do we , as the reader, know that the leaked information is true? How do we know that the “whistleblower” has no ulterior motive, and information is being fabricated, or manipulated for a political end? How much can we trust Assange to ensure that the information is reliable? Surely that is the responsibility of the publisher and the investigative journalist. If they are going to report on bad behaviour by government institutions which, philosophically is a worthy pursuit, then morally the journalist needs to have integrity.

The Wikileaks organisation has prided itself on maintaining the anonymity of its thousands of sources. It is only alleged that Bradley Manning, a US Army officer, who was arrested and charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of US classified information, was the source for the recent release of information. His solitary confinement may well undermine Wikileaks position.

The negative publicity against Assange regarding the alleged sexual behaviour against 2 Swedish women is the best indicator of how deep his commitment is to clarity, particularly when it applies ot him. He believes that the fact that information about his private life is in the public domain is not ironic, it is .much “deeper and dangerous than that”. The heroism in Wikileaks is that it enables the individual to speak out against the large organisation, whereas with him the reverse is the case. The alleged leaking of information from the Swedish authorities and the Guardian, Le Monde and New York Times is all “dirty tricks” – a slightly more perjorative terminology.

Frost asked Assange the direct question

“Presumably you don’t deny having had sex with them?”

Initially he stumbled in answering the question, and then hid behind cultural values, which are

“A man does not talk about his private life and a man does not criticise women…and certainly doesn’t criticise women before he knows all of the facts are in…”
A convenient cultural value for him; conveniently he doesn’t allow others to benefit from different cultural values, or for that matter different political, diplomatic, or legal values…or is the only value, the Assange value.

His last comment was :

“There are clear dirty tricks, at least in the abuse of process. How did my name get out in the first place”

Julian – it wasn’t a dirty trick, it was leaked.

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