WikiLeaks as Scapegoat for the Political Establishment

Julian Assange is in prison, indefinitely and in blatant contravention of humanitarian norms. The US national security state has spoken and put its foot down, in a show of power which has subverted the true course of democracy. Sadly, the political will to sustain the persecution counteracts the political will to terminate it, though in the fullness of time the tables may turn. The repercussions are already playing out with copycat prosecutions of journalists under draconian espionage law becoming a frightening norm through cases spanning several jurisdictions, but always following the same pattern of attacking innocent journalists for exposing government and corporate crime. Nonetheless, many are still fooling themselves with the idea we live in democracies which protect human rights and civil liberties when actually we have entered a decidedly “post-democratic” era.

The reason civil liberties are being attacked like this — and why the US Leviathan is edging closer to victory in its pursuit to silence Assange — is because the UK political establishment and its seemingly sovereign justice system has yielded to pressure from the US. Over the past few decades the US has definitively ceased to tolerate basic journalism, an activity that, at least before 9/11 and the ensuing splurge of authoritarian policy, was protected by the constitution, which held free speech as sacrosanct. Far easier than taking accountability for their actions is the effort to manage and propagate a narrative which scapegoats Wikileaks for political decline in the US and west at large, notably blaming Assange for the election of Trump. The reactionary demagoguery of the Washington hawk establishment and its class allies in the military industrial complex has inculcated mistrust and suspicion toward Wikileaks and Assange. This is the result of a cynical, calculated perception management campaign at the behest of the intelligence cartel and national security state, the true arbiters of “disinformation.”

Wikileaks dominated the 2016 US presidential election because it exposed massive wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton which was deliberately filtered out of the mainstream media. Instead of being the focal point of a progressive debate about the toxic culture of impunity in Washington, the leak was swamped with accusations and fear mongering that it was part of a plan by the Kremlin to manipulate the result of the election. The fallacious concept of a chain of command headed by Putin under which WikiLeaks was subsumed became the received wisdom and many misguided leftists fled the Assange liberation effort.

Team Hillary never wanted a sensible debate about the broad implications of the leak for US “democracy.” They resorted to a revenge strategy in which a conspiracy was concocted to trigger fear and paranoia, a common political tactic to create a misinformed citizenry whose involvement in politics amounts to a knee jerk reaction to calculated propaganda, rather than an informed choice as a reasoned reaction to facts.

Consider their tactics. The US news cartel were supplied, through an information pipeline connecting it to intelligence agencies, with a list of loaded, politically encoded labels, intended to discredit Assange as a rampant, unscrupulous “cyber terrorist.” This inflamed paranoid delusions that he is a fifth column exposing America to existential danger, in order to make it seem it would be legitimate to purge him. To this end, demonstrably false claims about seditious “collusion” between Wikileaks and Russia were circulated and gained traction. A public discourse supposed to be based in evidence and reason succumbed to basic dog-whistle campaigning.

There was a wealth of genuine arguments to make against Trump, but the wounded Clinton campaign focused on contrived falsehoods to suit their own Machiavellian purposes. It’s at best disingenuous, at worst actively evil, to scapegoat public interest organisations like Wikileaks for imagined problems in order to filter out recognition and acknowledgment of its positive contributions to democracy and world peace. Democracy is only as strong as the power of free information within it and the information economy of the US is absolutely an autocratic monopoly.

How has disdain and punishment for journalism become so socially acceptable? The establishment eagerly repeats fabricated horror stories about them having “blood on their hands” and passes off Assange as a serial offender against the law of a nation he technically can’t behave treasonously against because he is not a citizen. It is the epitome of Kafkaesque politics. Meanwhile, Twitter thrives with malicious propaganda directed through a covert community of paid trolls. Right now it seems as though Wikileaks is one of the predominant political agencies people are most emboldened to attack.

Assange and his mission are symbolic of a more deep-seated geopolitical shift in which resistance to the US empire has escalated. His persecution is intended as a broader repression of anti-imperial activism intended to disincentivise anyone with similar ideas. From Tunisia to Iceland, radical elements have been deepening their revolutionary presence and influence, galvanised by information about their governments published by Wikileaks. Precisely because it so effectively exposes the mistakes of the establishment the counter-strategy against it has been so vehement.

It is a massive problem that scientific journalism such as WikiLeaks has been politicised, when it is meant to reside in a protected realm of truth that transcends politicking. The transformation of an impartial information resource into a malicious political adversary has become the neoliberal establishment’s great crusade, epitomised by the vindictive “lawfare” of the WikiLeaks Grand Council. The Grand Council conveniently operates in an area where the demographic makeup means the jury is very likely to be predominantly composed of people sympathetic to the CIA and NSA, preventing a free and fair trial. The Grand Council is perhaps one of the most pivotal prosecutions in terms of the state of journalism and free speech since the trial of Daniel Ellsberg for publishing the Pentagon Papers. US government lawyers have tried to savage Assange as delusional for considering himself as an heir to Ellsberg but Ellsberg himself testified that he thinks Wikileaks is in the same public interest journalism tradition.

Successive administrations, both Democrat and Republican, have manipulated a residual “red scare” fear amongst the public and have tried to play it for political advantage to lessen support for Assange. As a result the terms of debate and public discourse about Wikileaks have been pulled into territory dictated by the elite and thus these malicious elements get to dictate the conventional wisdom, although journalists, academics and activists agree the real contributions of Wikileaks are far more benevolent than believed. Journalistic activity has been recast as a public security threat, specifically about crushing dissent against the War on Terror.

Anti-imperialist perspectives don’t really have a voice or platform. They are seldom represented in the legislature; they’re not the people who really get to influence policy. The establishment openly demonises them. So when they do get a rare opportunity for exposure, such as through Wikileaks, they will cry loud against the crimes of empire, but inevitably the tendency of politicians to put vital issues concerning world peace on the back burner will frustrate their ambitions.

Unfortunately the balance of power between the anti-imperial constituency and the corrupt establishment is distributed asymmetrically and most citizens have been misled into thinking a vote for Assange is a vote for terrorism as a result. In all truth a vote for Assange is a vote for democratic accountability as a progressive force to transform the civic order in accordance with principles of freedom and liberty, but instead this agenda has been sidelined by a deliberate strategy to conflate WikiLeaks with a public security risk.

But lets be clear. It is the government who have presided over gradual civic decline making society more fragmented, polarised and violent. It’s the government who feed taxpayer money behind our backs into reckless military adventurism which has led to massive loss of life in the Middle East. The government, not voters, opted for the “forever war.” The government are the source of democratic decline. So let’s not let them sit easy and pass the blame on to WikiLeaks in coming times.

Meg Sherman is an independent journalist based in the Great Britain. She is passionate about history, current events, and the intersection of cultures and media narratives. Read other articles by Meg.