Last week’s arrest of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange by the British government on a US extradition order is an attack on all of us. It is an attack on the US Constitution. It is an attack on the free press. It is an attack on free speech. It is an attack on our right to know what our government is doing with our money in our name. Julian Assange is every bit as much a political prisoner as was Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary or Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
They, and so many more, were imprisoned because they told the truth about their governments.
Repressive governments do not want their citizens to know that they are up to so they insist on controlling the media. We are taught, at the same time, that we have a free press whose job it is to uncover the corruption in our system so that we can demand our political leaders make some changes or face unemployment. That, we are told, is what makes us different from the totalitarian.
The arrest of Assange is a canary in a coal mine to warn us that something is very wrong with our system.
What’s wrong? The US mainstream media always seems to do the bidding of the US government. That is why they rushed to confirm Washington’s claim that the Assange indictment was not in any way about journalism. It was only about hacking government computers!
As the New York Times said in an editorial, sounding like a mouthpiece of the US government, Julian Assange committed “an indisputable crime.” But was it? As actual journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote last week, what Julian Assange did in 2010, for which he is facing extradition to the US, is no different from what New York Times and other journalists do every day! He attempted to help Chelsea Manning shield his identity as he blew the whistle on US government crimes to a publisher. The information in question included a video showing US military personnel participating in and cheering the murder of Iraqi civilians. Why is it criminal for us to know this?
The difference is that what Assange and Manning did embarrassed the US government, which was lying to us that it was “liberating” Iraq and Afghanistan when it was actually doing the opposite. Mainstream journalists publish “leaks” that help bolster the neocon or other vested narratives of the different factions of the US government. That’s why the US media wants to see Assange in prison, or worse: he upset their apple cart.
The lesson is clear: when you bolster the government's narrative you are a “brave journalist.” When you expose corruption in government you are a criminal. Do we really want to live in a country where it is illegal to learn that our government is engaged in criminal acts? I thought we had an obligation as an engaged citizenry to hold our government accountable!
As long as Julian Assange is in prison, we are all in prison. When the government has the power to tell us what we we allowed to see, hear, and know, we no longer live in a free society. Julian Assange will be extradited to the US and he will have dozens of charges piled on. They want him to disappear so that the next Assange will think twice before informing us of our government’s crimes. Are we going to let them steal our freedom?