When Julian Assange was asked on Monday “if Russia was behind the hack”, following the leak of damning emails which forced Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman to resign, he replied that “The goal of WikiLeaks as a media organisation is to educate the public, to turn a dark world into a lighter world through the process of education, and we’re doing it” (CNN 02/08/2016). Julian Assange had told CNN last week that “he timed the release of the emails for the start of the convention and also said that he had more emails he would be releasing about the Clinton campaign”. Julian’s assertion that the “The goal of WikiLeaks as a media organisation is to educate the public, to turn a dark world into a lighter world through the process of education, and we’re doing it” would have made more sense had it not been for his untimely timing. Julian Assange has been hailed as the spokesman for WikiLeaks, a controversial, volunteer-driven website that publishes and comments on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct.
To all intents and purposes, while Julian has been revered by many as one of the world’s most visible human rights activists, others see his work as reckless and does more harm than good. He has continued to prod and probe the vulnerable edges of administrative systems. His “leaks” have included graphic pictures of US strikes in Bagdad, confessions from military personnel and many earth shattering encrypted information that many would prefer remain under lock and key. Julian is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London which granted him asylum and recognised that he risks extradition to the United States for his publishing activities with WikiLeaks. He is wanted for questioning over rape allegations. Many people have their opinions about the motives of these allegations. You be the judge.
But his recent dabbling into American politics has left him exposed to a lot of criticisms and doubts from even his most avid supporters. The public has a right to know, and when the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all other forms of liberties are endangered. But the public’s demand for freedom of speech should not be seen as a compensation for freedom of thought, which is seldom used. What has brought Julian’s latest release on the Democratic National Committee into question, is the TIMING; on the EVE of the DNC convention. The added threat of releasing more damning scripts has really put his message into disrepute. Many would see this as a direct intervention to impact on the American Presidential Election. As if to buttress the notion, Donald Trump has not passed on the opportunity to score political points on the issue. Unfortunately, and true to form, he put his foot right into it by encouraging America’s sworn adversary to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails; putting party political expediency at the expense of national security. He said “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press”. And that was coming from a man who wants to “ Solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United states, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
Many pundits appear to accuse Julian Assange of leaning towards the Trump camp by way of releasing “damning evidence”; that the DNC tweaked the Democratic election process in Clinton’s favour. But why would he do that? For starters, Julian is wanted by the current Obama administration, for his leaks about the government. Hillary Clinton is a core member of that same administration. It is no secret that Assange was a regular on Russia Television (RT) until his troubles began. In his New York Times blog, Robert Mackay called RT “a strange partner” for Assange when he started hosting a TV show that was reportedly sponsored by a friend of freedom, Vladimir Putin. In view of his ill-timed release, will Americans buy into any further release of emails as threatened? Will these emails be seen in its entirety as neutral and for the good of public consumption or bipartisan? Most of his detractors would conclude that he has lost the moral high ground; especially when Trump tried to make political capital of it. Many will read into and may see through this veil of the right to freedom of information as suspect.
The emails were meant to dent Clinton’s popularity and cement the lack of trust, which is her main Achilles heel with the American electorate. It appears that rather than damage her image, she has become the benefactor of unintended outcomes. Rather than focus on the dark arts of the DNC, it backfired and the focus was swiftly switched back on to the behaviour of Donald Trump. Hillary was seen as a victim of a political witch hunt, while Trump was seen as sending an open invitation to foreign nations; especially Russia of all nations, to a cyber hacking orgy. The backlash forced Trump into a hasty back peddling, claiming that he was being sarcastic. The last time I checked, sarcasm and America’s national security don’t go together. We all know that Trump’s idea of foreign policy is banning Muslims from entering the US, getting Mexicans to build a wall between the US and Mexico, organising World Beauty contests in Russia, or telling the world that Russia will never invade Ukraine in 2016, when Russia has already done so by annexing Crimea in 2014. When it comes to foreign policy, Donald trump makes Sarah Palin look like a genius.
“The goal of WikiLeaks as a media organisation is to educate the public, to turn a dark world into a lighter world through the process of education, and we’re doing it”. But what we read in the papers should not be an alibi for ignorance. If we do, the media could be used as the right arm for anarchy. The world needs to break the machine that is imposing right-wing radicalism on the United States, but the scariest part is that the media is part of it. I once thought that WikiLeaks was the only media form that was devoid of any political affiliation; not anymore. An informed citizenry is the basis for a healthy democracy. With the media slowly making you hate the people who are being oppressed, and love the people who are doing the oppressing, independent and non-corporate media have never been more crucial today than before.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.