So, it turns out that Julian Assange of WikiLeaks was running a backchannel to Donald Trump, Jr. over the course of the 2016 campaign! Journalists, do tell!
And tell they have, eliciting a collective gasp from the media that outdoes anything I’ve seen since Trump won the election. “The messages between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, which is suspected of being chosen by Russia to spread hacked information as part of the country’s alleged attempt to interfere in the U.S. election, show ongoing attempts by the organization to engage with the Republican’s son,” Newsweek hyperventilated.
Look, let’s get a few things clear here.
First, Assange has been a tremendous political flake for a while now. Somewhere in between him yucking it up via Skype with Slavoj Zizek, “the Elvis of critical theory,” and his near-messianic embrace of a Libertarian Party political ethos, it became clear that there was something very weird going on.
Second, WikiLeaks has published some genuinely important news stories (in their own Quixotic fashion) that are not diminished one iota by this recent news. The wrongdoings it revealed, including that Hillary Clinton was telling Wall Street that she would privatize Social Security if elected, are still real news. Hell, what WikiLeaks revealed about the catastrophic invasion/pogrom in Libya is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize just for showing what a creep Clinton hatchet man Sidney Blumenthal is.
Third, and tied to two, I don’t necessarily agree with Assange making nice with Trump. But it makes sense. Look, the man has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London under 24-hour surveillance because he published information seen by the U.S. as detrimental to its interests.
So why would he be enthusiastic about the election of a woman who has been deeply involved in that effort? Why would he not want her to lose? Furthermore, check out the interview he did with John Pilger on RT just prior to Election Day 2016, particularly this exchange:
JOHN PILGER: You get complaints from people saying, ‘What is WikiLeaks doing? Are they trying to put Trump in the Whitehouse?’
JULIAN ASSANGE: My answer is that Trump would not be permitted to win…Trump doesn’t have one establishment, maybe with the exception of the Evangelicals, if you can call them an establishment, but banks, intelligence [agencies], arms companies… big foreign money … are all united behind Hillary Clinton, and the media as well, media owners and even journalists themselves.
And this leads to fourth: Any mainstream corporate journalist who is now braying like sheep about ethics can go fuck themselves. Journalists play games with politicians like this all the time, be it in terms of access granted for favorable coverage or for sliming a political opponent.
Sidney Blumenthal and David Axelrod, chief strategist for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, were both journalists before they becoming confidants of presidents. And trust me, journalism is no refuge of sanctity and virginity.
In the words of the late Alexander Cockburn, journalism is the activists’ trade. The American Constitution was written on the basis of a series of nationally syndicated newspaper columns titled The Federalist Papers! Who does this outraged claque of reporters think they are kidding?
Last week, Edward S. Herman died. Back in the 1980s he and Noam Chomsky wrote a series of books, culminating in Manufacturing Consent, that taught an entire epoch of writers, including your present scribe, how to decode the newspaper and read behind the headlines. The Chomsky/Herman Propaganda Model will go down as one of the greatest nonfiction analytical methods ever devised, perhaps since Karl Marx formulated his Labor Theory of Value.
What would Herman make of this latest banal, hypocritical media moment? The idea that WikiLeaks and “the Russians” swung the election is absurd on numerous grounds, i.e. people’s opinions of Hillary Clinton had generally been formed decades ago. From Whitewater to “super-predators,” everyone knew what they thought of her long before Putin came to power in Russia.
At the end of the day, this flaccid story is ultimately yet more emission of phony outrage proffered by Democrats to avoid looking in the mirror and having to say: