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General News    H4'ed 5/31/13

We Steal Secrets, The New Movie About Wikileaks Infuriates Wikileaks

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It is very rare for an Indy filmmaker to land interviews with top intelligence honchos. Who had the juice to get this "get" as major interviews are called in the news world. (I guess when you work for the Man, you get THE Man!)

Supporters of Assange like civil libertarians, media freedom groups. Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, or critics like Noam Chomsky, are conspicuously absent.

As a result, We Are Secrets seems more like a case for the prosecution than the defense, at least in the Court of Public opinion.

The film has had a big promotional push and is already playing in three theaters in New York, a success that masks some of its editorial failings including its in your face attempt at "fairness and balance," the pretext the one-siders at FOX use as their claim to credibility.  

The promotional hype for the film initially made it seem like an endorsement of Assange until you read it closely.

"Filmed with the startling immediacy of unfolding history, Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks details the creation of Julian Assange's controversial website, which facilitated the largest security breach in U.S. history. Hailed by some as a free-speech hero and others as a traitor and terrorist, ""

So, there you are: the movie's real question:  is Assange a good guy or not? And what about Manning? Why did he do what he did?  So, at the outset, Gibney leaves the political plane for a psychological, or even, a psychiatric one.  He is out to personalize and in the process depoliticize a very political issue for what's known in the news-biz as "character-based story telling."  

The mantra; stick with people, not their passions, individuals not ideas.  

Yes, there's lots of information about the goals and methods of Wikileaks,  but, that becomes in this movie a subtext to a more Shakespearean tragedy:  the rise and fall of idealists who turn into their opposites, or are using politics to work out their twisted personal issues.

Out goes more film time devoted to war crimes and information concealment; and, in comes juicy stories about sex without condoms, cross-dressing, and gender conflicts to soften the brew.

The "worthy" appearance of investigation quickly turns into the nasty reality of exploitation with the focus on their subject's flaws, not their bravery, a theme I am sure played well in the conservative board room at Comcast

" The Village Voice asks in its review, "is a strong point of view really such a bad thing? The movie leaves you feeling lost and confused. Fix. Please."

" The Washington Post seemed to celebrate its expose, not of government secrets--but of secret-hunter Assange, writing, "At best, Assange comes across as something of a noble jerk, a man who doesn't care about embarrassing public figures who have done wrong. At worst, he comes across as a callous sociopath, someone who wouldn't hesitate to publish unredacted details of military operations that might actually get people killed, only to lie about it after the fact by claiming that WikiLeaks had "systems" in place to prevent potentially harmful disclosures. There weren't, according to several seemingly knowledgeable individuals, including Assange's former WikiLeaks colleagues."  (Doesn't this reality show how bogus the oft-repeated fears of many in the media and government were?)

" The New York Times was also a bit perturbed--not too much, given the paper's frequent trashing of Assange, (after milking the secrets he gave them)---describing it as a "tale of absolutist ideals that seemed somehow to curdle and of private torment in search of an outlet with drastic results." Again, the theme is the personal more than the political,

The message:  You can't trust anyone, much less anyone challenging power.

No wonder that Assange--who was not interviewed for this movie, perhaps sensing a hit job--has turned against the movie. Wikileaks even got its hands on a script before the film's release and annotated it to challenge its veracity. You can read it on their website at

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at See
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