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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 4/7/19

"Assange Is Not A Journalist!" Yes He Is, Idiot.

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Julian Assange could soon leave Ecuadorian Embassy in London
Julian Assange could soon leave Ecuadorian Embassy in London
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As we discussed yesterday, whenever Assange is in the news and people are defending him you always see a bunch of hyper-emotional empire loyalists running around online trying to manage the narrative about him. One of the most common talking points which comes up is that Assange is "not a journalist."

The reason this talking point comes up, of course, is because the WikiLeaks founder is besieged by powerful forces who are attempting to imprison him for publishing inconvenient facts about them, and his defenders often voice their concerns about what this means for the future of press freedoms. The completely baseless claim that Assange is "not a journalist" is used in an attempt to defuse the argument that his prosecution by the US government could lead to the same fate for any news media outlet which publishes leaks on the US government anywhere in the world. If he's not a journalist, then his prosecution sets no precedent for real journalists.

This argument, if you can call it that, is fallacious for a number of reasons. For starters, as The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald explained last year, there's not any legal distinction in the US Constitution between news media outlets like the New York Times and an outlet which solely focuses on publishing leaks. If you set the precedent with any publisher, you're necessarily setting it for all of them. Greenwald writes the following:

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"To begin with, the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment isn't confined to 'legitimate news outlets' whatever that might mean. The First Amendment isn't available only to a certain class of people licensed as 'journalists.' It protects not a privileged group of people called 'professional journalists' but rather an activity: namely, using the press (which at the time of the First Amendment's enactment meant the literal printing press) to inform the public about what the government was doing. Everyone is entitled to that constitutional protection equally: there is no cogent way to justify why the Guardian, ex-DOJ-officials-turned-bloggers, or Marcy Wheeler are free to publish classified information but Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are not."

Secondly, anyone with a functioning brain can see that Julian Assange is indeed a journalist. Publishing facts so that the citizenry can inform themselves about what's going on in their world and what's happening with their government is the thing that journalism is. Duh. The need for an informed citizenry is the entire reason why press freedoms are protected so explicitly under the US Constitution, and publishing facts about the most powerful institutions on earth indisputably does create a more informed citizenry.

You can look at any conventional dictionary definition of the word and come to the same conclusion. Merriam-Webster offers "the public press" and "the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media." The Oxford English Dictionary offers "The activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast." Your Dictionary offers "The work of finding, creating, editing and publishing news, or material written and presented for a newspaper, magazine or broadcast news source." These are activities that WikiLeaks is undeniably involved in; they collect and publish newsworthy information to be circulated by themselves and other news sources. The fact that they do their part differently (and better) than other outlets doesn't change that.

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Which explains why the WikiLeaks team has racked up numerous awards for journalism over the years, including the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism (2011), the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (2011), the International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize of the National Union of Italian Journalists (2011), the Jose Couso Press Freedom Award (2011), the Brazillian Press Association Human Rights Award (2013), and the Kazakstan Union of Journalists Top Prize (2014).

The claim that Assange is "not a journalist" is both an irrelevant red herring and a self-evident falsehood. It is made, not by people with an interest in maintaining a small and specific linguistic understanding of what the word journalism means, but by people who want to see Julian Assange imprisoned by the same government which tortured Chelsea Manning because he made them feel emotionally upset. It's a fact-free argument made entirely in bad faith for inexcusable motives: the desire to see a journalist imprisoned for telling the truth.

When someone says "Assange isn't a journalist," they aren't telling you what Assange is. They're showing you what they are.

 

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Caitlin Johnstone Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Caitlin Johnstone is a brave journalist, political junkie, relentless feminist, champion of the 99 percent. And a powerful counter-propaganda tactician. Rogue journalist, poet, illustrator, utopia prepper, and proudly 100 percent reader-funded through Patreon (more...)
 

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3 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments  Post Comment


b. sadie bailey

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well said - though you may be preaching to the choir.

Submitted on Sunday, Apr 7, 2019 at 8:02:32 PM

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Daniel Geery

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I find nothing wrong with preaching to the choir. In truth, I encourage it. Doing such further sets one's roots in reality, almost always, along with the choir itself, and there are many things the choir doesn't know or see the same way, due to brainwashing at the deepest levels.


Also, in Caitlin's case, she has a deservedly wide audience, and even if a few new ears or eyes come upon her eloquent and timely articles, I'd call it worth it.


Speak truth to power, who I can guarantee are listening in...

Submitted on Sunday, Apr 7, 2019 at 8:31:18 PM

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Maxwell

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Technically not a journalist, but a disseminator of information, more like Daniel Elsberg. That doesn't mean he deserves the life of a fugitive. For the purpose of freedom of information he should be treated as one.

Also, while I disagreed with his decision to release the email dump (stolen, hacked, whatever) from the campaign of the "Queen of Chaos" and remain silent on Trump, it was his right as an information broker. Whoever hacked or stole the DNC emails broke laws for which they will probably never be punished, but even if they were, it's doubtful they would warrant a life imprisonment or life in exile sentence. The Supreme Court found Elsberg to be not criminally culpable and that ruling should apply equally to Assange. Other countries in which he is charged should follow suit. I see the Swedish dropped their case against him anyway. It's primarily extradition to the US he fears. So I rest my case.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 8, 2019 at 2:25:41 PM

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