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Assange's Media Allies

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

On Dec. 7, the notorious radical mastermind of WikiLeaks turned himself in on a sexual assault charge in London. But in the liberal media, the condemnations are few. There are no real enemies to the media elite's left, especially if they can be (very loosely) identified with journalism. Julian Assange may be highly motivated to cripple American "imperialism," but his relentless efforts to disrupt American foreign policy is a good thing when the media are manipulating the government's reaction by choosing which leaks they will publish and promote.


Time magazine editor Richard Stengel, for example, told Charlie Rose on PBS that Assange is an "idealist" that "sees the U.S. since 1945 as being a source of harm throughout the planet," but he's not really opposed to him. He put Assange on the cover of Time with an American flag gagging his mouth and feigned a position of balance. In his "To Our Readers" letter, Stengel conceded Assange is out to "harm American national security," but there is a public good unfolding, in that "the right of news organizations to publish those documents has historically been protected by the First Amendment." Our founding fathers, Stengel huffed, understood that "letting the government rather than the press choose what to publish was a very bad idea in a democracy." He tapped the reader on the chest: "I trust you agree."

Americans the world over could die because of these intelligence betrayals. But hip, hip, hooray for the freedom of speech that got them killed?

Some might ask, on the people's behalf: In our democracy, whom do you trust to defend you from another terrorist attack? Time magazine? The New York Times? Who elected them to act as our guardians against terrorist violence and mayhem?

Time hailed Assange, Australia's "information anarchist," with the headline "The Wizard from Oz." (No question mark.) There's even buzz that they're considering Assange as their 2010 "Person of the Year." For their cover story, Stengel interviewed Assange over the Internet and provided a welcoming American forum for his boasts.


Stengel asked about the "unintended consequences" of Assange's massive leaks, causing the U.S. to "make secrets more impenetrable." But apparently, this is an intended consequence. Assange shot back that a government clampdown on secrets is "very positive," since government can either be "efficient, open and honest" or "closed, conspiratorial and inefficient." His goal is not to make the U.S. better; it is to harm this country.

Stengel can hear all this talk of a vast and evil American conspiracy, and the plot to make it "inefficient" in responding to enemies, and still can tell Charlie Rose that this whole scandalous mountain of leaks is really our own fault. "We make Julian Assange possible because we're hiding things that shouldn't necessarily be hidden. And we're using technology that's penetrable. And so, in effect, we were creating him by our own policies."

So if our intelligence is penetrable, it's our fault. If it's impenetrable, we're inefficient.

In other words, Time still can't find its way out of a paper bag to identify our evil enemies, so fixated is it on us being the enemy.

Stengel went on CNN and asserted the media's role is to "publish and be damned," which is the journalist's way of saying, "The public be damned." He added: "I believe on balance that they have been detrimental to the U.S. But our job is not to protect the U.S. in that sense."


The government doesn't take that approach when reporters get taken hostage, as in Iran (Newsweek's Maziar Bahari) or Afghanistan (David Rohde of The New York Times). They don't icily ape Stengel and boast, "It's not the government's job to protect journalists in that sense." U.S. officials work to get them released. But those same journalists can easily turn around and side with Assange -- who would probably have felt no remorse over leaking that potentially deadly news.

For its part, The New York Times published a pro-WikiLeaks piece by left-wing British writer Misha Glenny. He cooed that "WikiLeaks spews forth unvarnished, sensitive truths." The Pentagon suggested that the release of field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq's past, to which Glenny snapped: "But if they do not bring new understanding to the past, why are they damaging at all? Is this not the curse of power, forever compelled to conceal and dissemble?"

In this good vs. evil narrative, the Pentagon is forever lying, and the idealistic liberals and leftists are forever exposing them with the "sensitive truths." It doesn't even matter if the government is now operated with the "Audacity of Hope." If someone is being "gagged by the flag," as the Time cover of Julian Assange artistically implies, journalists can't really be opposed to him.


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