A century or so ago anarchists vowed to bring down the state. Modern day anarchists have a similar intention. It’s just that, at this time of advanced narcissism, they expect a little help from government along the way.
The first Dateline program of the year went to air on SBS TV on Sunday. It featured an exclusive interview with Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder received another soft interview – this time from Mark Davis. The reporter suggested to Assange that “it looks like you will be in need of a home” and that “Australia is hardly rolling out the welcome mat for you”.
Assange accepted the free kick and launched into an attack on Julia Gillard and the Labor government.
In the end, he said, Australia would “give the United States everything it wants” and went on to allege that Labor has been compromised by the WikiLeaks controversy.
The only evidence proffered in support of this claim turned on the WikiLeaks founder’s coverage of the Labor minister Mark Arbib’s purported conversations with officials in the US embassy in Canberra. Assange believes that Arbib should have been removed from the front bench. This overlooks the fact that, at best, the report of what Arbib said was hearsay. Moreover, he did not do anything that other politicians – Labor and Coalition – have done for ages. Namely, talk to an ally about national Australian politics. What’s wrong with that?
The softness of the interview meant that Assange was not asked about what the Prime Minister should do about his predicament. The fact is that, some time ago, Assange voluntarily travelled to Sweden where, among other things, he attended a party along with leftists and left-of-centre types. It is well known that Sweden has probably the most stringent sexual assault laws in the Western world. Assange should have been aware of this.
There is nothing that the Gillard government can do about Assange’s predicament. He is the defendant in a case in Britain against an extradition application lodged by Sweden. There is no evidence that the US government has influenced these proceedings and no evidence that Assange would be more likely to stop a possible extradition to the US if he remains in Britain rather than is compelled to go to Sweden.
Assange’s legal team, including Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has been putting it about that there might be some conspiracy afoot in this case. But there is no evidence to support this view. In view of this, Assange’s claim that the Gillard government is somehow responsible for his predicament is totally unfounded.
The well-known conspiracy theorist John Pilger has also joined the chorus. Writing in the New Statesman last month he traced Assange’s plight to a plan to silence and criminalise independent journalism by the “imperial mafiosi” – meaning, presumably, Barack Obama and his administration. This overlooks the fact that if Assange had not attended a left-wing party in Sweden he would not now be facing any legal proceedings whatsoever.
An irony of the Assange case is that the WikiLeaks founder is not in dispute with the right-of-centre governments but with left-of-centre administrations like those led by Obama and Gillard. Assange believes that he is entitled to reveal virtually all government secrets. Then he demands the protection of the very governments he maintains are involved in abuse of power – even to the extent of suggesting that Australia should somehow interfere in the legal processes of democratic nations.
The Assange case has already become a saga. In addition to the likes of Pilger and Robertson, walk-on parts have been undertaken by the film director Michael Moore and Ken Loach along with such celebrities as Bianca Jagger and Jemima Khan. This even though the US has not sought Assange’s extradition or even laid charges. Assange is a long way from Guantanamo Bay.
It seems that the White House is always the enemy. On Sunday Dateline also ran a piece on the film Fair Game, the thesis of which is that the White House during George W. Bush’s time revealed that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. This was done, it is alleged, to discredit Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, who was a critic of the invasion of Iraq.
The Dateline presenter Yalda Hakim travelled to Santa Fe to interview Plame. She ran a fashionably anti-Bush line and failed to question the message of Fair Game. The director of Fair Game can always claim artistic licence. But what is Hakim’s excuse? Dateline failed to mention that no one was ever charged with revealing Plame’s CIA employment. Nor did she acknowledge that the person who first let on about Plame’s occupation was the former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who was not an enthusiast for invading Iraq.
The journalist Judith Miller, the only person to go to jail as a result of the Plame case, has described Fair Game as a “gross distortion”. Miller was imprisoned for failing to reveal a source. She was not mentioned in the film or on Dateline. Nor was Armitage. To do so would have diminished the film’s anti-Bush line.
Regrettably some journalists who admire Assange and distrust the White House – no matter what party is in office – themselves fail the full disclosure test.
Credit: Gerard Henderson – Gerard Henderson is executive director of the Sydney Institute.