Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 7, 2010 1:34PM

As Assange is arrested, US celebrates "World Press Freedom"

Rate: 19 Flag

 Swat the Fly
Swatting the fly:
World War I-era caricature
(Click to enlarge)

 

SOMETIMES TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Today, just hours after embattled Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange was arrested on a dodgy rape charge in London, and with the possibility looming that the US government will attempt to file charges against him and even extradite him for leaking diplomatic cables to the world press and the Internet, word came from the State Department that “The United States is pleased to announce that it will host Unesco’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from 1-3 May in Washington, DC.”

The announcement says:  

The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression.  

The State Department goes on to say that  

At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

  

Regarding the event itself, the Unesco website tells us the following:

 

Every 3 May World Press Freedom Day represents an opportunity to commemorate the fundamental principles of press freedom around the globe and to pay solemn tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

 

Public figures in the US, including likely presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, are calling for Assange’s prosecution, execution, and even assassination. In an editorial for the Wall Street Journal today, US Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote that Assange “should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage” under the Espionage Act of 1917, calling him “an agitator intent on damaging our government, whose policies he happens to disagree with, regardless of who gets hurt.”

 

 

Destroy this Mad Brute  
They hate us for our freedoms:
World War I recruitment poster
 

    

The Espionage Act grew out of the hysteria and red-baiting of the First World War era, and was used to prosecute such antiwar activists as the Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debbs, the poet E.E. Cummings, the novelist William Slater Brown, and later Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, and to silence countless others. Both this law and the subsequent Sedition Act of 1918 legalized snooping through the US Postal Service as well as the Palmer Raids against alleged subversives, in the course of which some 3,000 persons were arrested for the crime of holding and expressing a dissenting opinion. Hardly a triumph for "freedom and democracy."

 

So let’s all stage a party on May 1-3 and celebrate our freedoms, for which, we are told, our enemies hate us so much. I’m sure glad the US government is protecting my right to free expression and the “free flow of information” by any means necessary – including a ninety-two year-old law designed to terrorize opponents of the insane and murderous First World War – even if it has to “censor and silence individuals” to do so. Aren’t you?

Julian Assange 
Julian Assange on the cover of the
current
Time Magazine


For more on the Assange case, see my essay Assange and Co.: A Brief History of "Honey Traps"

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Comments

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Well, the problem is that there is never any such thing as free speech anywhere, because in the real world, speech has consequences, and then they do what they do.
Been there, done that, in "liberal environments."
In the case of the international system, the argument is always going to be made "propaganda" or more politely "international perceptions" matter, and so there are manipulations by everyone, and I mean everyone, to try to put the spin on things that The Usual Suspects-Powers that Be want put on things, and then, you get intelligence agencies, and folks get all jammed up, like Assange.
I think he didn't have a freaking clue about what his dumb ass was getting into trying to save the world, and I actually feel sorry for him, even if I also think his "backers" mean he needs to take up residence somewhere else, or name them.... . :)
Better than a Predator strike, and it is all the Powers and their Games, and there are no virgins, and Nothing Shocking.
@Don
Thanks for stopping by. Yes, the Wikileaks is indeed a complex one, and there is plenty to be said for and against Mr. Assange. What disturbs me is how "the free and the brave," as exemplified by Feinstein, Lieberman, Huckabee, Palin etc., consistently reach for the "Destroy this mad brute" cliché as the first line of defense, using it as a kind of intellectual valium. Bloviate first, think later is their MO.
Alan:

Excellent post and juxtaposition of the lyin' hypocrites to the heroism of Assange.

I've written about this contradiction too here as has Alexander Cockburn here.
I am still chuckling over the irony of the parallels between this and the Stieg Larsson books. We can only shake our heads in relative disbelief anymore. Is there an Emperor's New Clothes allegory coming soon?
@Oryoki
Yes, it's pure Larsson all the way. Makes me wonder once again if he really DID die of natural causes, as claimed.

I'm finishing up volume 3 right now - devastated that there are (probably) none tto follow. But who needs Larsson when you've got the Guardian and Glenn Greenwald?
Perhaps the Swedes will charge Assange for murdering him as well.
I believe there is a fourth book in the works, it had been half completed, and his brothers have assumed his estate and writing domain. He died before any were published, and had no idea of the impact they would have. (I believe, I could be wrong on that). By the time the American versions are filmed, all sense of urgency and allegory will be very past tense.
@Oryoki
I read that there is a fairly workable draft of volume 5, but there is no word on when - if ever - someone else will complete and publish it. But for all we know, the Assange case might BE a further volume in the series. It'll make a good movie plot in any case.
Unfortunately, Larsson's family who took over his unfinished works and the rights to the proceeds to his books are not of the same worldview as Larsson was. You folks probably know the story about why his intended survivor, his long time lover, didn't get married to him - because in Sweden married couples have to register for public access their residence and fascists had threatened to kill Larsson.
@Dennis
Yes, Larsson's entire life was a novel. This was one author whom you didn't have to ask where he got his ideas from.
Let's not be naive. Secrecy is essential in foreign policy. That's how deals are made. Even domestically, if Harry Reid has to punch John Boehner in the face to get a good deal made, I don't need to hear about it.
I motion that the United States recuse itself from World Press Freedom Day. That'll show us!
Perhaps he is safest in Swedish hands. Here from the front page of the NYT, the lawsuit to block the US from having the right to assassinate someone they claim is a terrorist has been thrown out. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/world/middleeast/08killing.html?_r=1&hp
Free speech is only acceptable as long as the target is the Muslims. Salman Rushdie became an instant darling, because some Iranian issued a fatwa for his assasination.
Huckabee, Palin and the assortment of Israel firsters are the most evil people in the world.

What is really disturbing is that Palin and her family are the kind of people whose rightful place is the Jerry Springer Show, not the White House.
Assange is not a "Traitor" or "Terrorist." He is the world's most dangerous and successful whistleblower. Assange poses a real threat to the status quo. The State Department can wipe their butts with the press releases for World Press Freedom Day.
What kind of a world is the U.S trying to shape?

Telling lies is not a crime, but revealing the truth is?

I mean all those scoundrels, in the American mainstream media, who lied about WMD's, are still the talking heads on NBCBCABC,. These guys are calling for Assange to be tried. Is there anyone in America who can ask these people to STFU.
Revealing truth is not criminal, but if it genuinely puts lives in danger, that gets sticky. How shall freedom be protected?

I wonder which country's "cables" will be spread around the world next? R
What evil things have slept since long ago
It is not sweet to waken...
-"Oedipus at Colonus"

The old man was right. They'll be sorry.
rate
see also my latest post
Johan Hari's new article about this points out that there is not any evidence that a single person has been harmed or endangered by the leaks made, and that Wikileaks took great pains to redact names and work with the State Dept to protect people (rebuff). On the flip side, it shows 10's of thousands of people being casually murdered by the same people they are supposedly "endangering". Interesting who is the terrorist here. Who knows about the rape charges, anyone is capable of it, and it's a different issue.
My favorite part of the Wiki Saga is the convenient list they posted of installations that anyone with an axe to grind could hit to harm the United States:

A list drawn up by U.S. officials of companies and installations around the world regarded as "critical" to the security of the United States has been published online by controversial website WikiLeaks.

The list includes factories, ports, fuel companies, drug manufacturers, undersea cables, pipelines, communication hubs and a host of other "key resources."

A Danish insulin plant, a company making anti-snake venom in Australia and a Cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo are also included.


http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40526224/ns
/us_news-wikileaks_in_security/

Freedom of the press forever, and let's all help Julian to crush those bastards! (A)
To Natalie and Others:

If revealing the truth is putting people's lives in danger, so be it.

In fact, if you have knowledge of criminal activity, under the law, you are supposed to inform the authorities. In this case the appropriate forum was the world at large; exposing the U.S, a bully on the world stage to all those who are bullied.
" Don't reveal the truth, because it puts our lives in danger". Say to this the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans; those who had their doors kicked open in the middle of the night; their families humiliated and shot and murdered. And to the thousands of Palestinians who daily suffer the same indignities, because of American backing, encouragement and support.

America will be involved in perpetual wars, until it frees itself from Zionist control. See how that Zionist scoundrel Lieberman is after Assange's blood.
I meant " Say this to"

From Assange: “In 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: ‘In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win”

This is the same guy, who today favors total censorship of any information that might jeopardise the war and Zionist agenda.
Alan -- Yes, the State Department's timing makes the ironies abundant, and I'm also tired of the rhetoric from the likes of Palin and Huckabee (though it is depressing that even Dianne Feinstein has leapt on the"enemy of the state" bandwagon).

I do think the whole Wikileaks case is complex. What it really points to is the bankruptcy of the American press. In a news void, what sorts of stuff gets sucked in? We either get leaked information with little context or punditry with no information. Rated.
Of course you have freedom of speech! Just as long as you something that's agreeable.