I'm a "hero" and it makes me want to puke. This week I was voted a "Hero of the Media" in one of those fairly harmless polls that are little more than thermometers of face time on the idiot box, this one in the Nation.
But this Nation Magazine gong is shared with Julian Assange, impresario of WikiLeaks. Yuck. A friend just compared hero Assange to Daniel Ellsberg. Oh, please!
Ellsberg let out the truth about the War in Vietnam with a noose around his neck. He was arrested and, he told me, he expected to spend the rest of his days in prison. (Lucky for Ellsberg, this was well before Bush and Obama repealed the Constitution.)
Question: Do you remember the reporter who put his byline on the story of Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers? Of course not; because the Times reporter didn't risk a thing. Julian Assange didn't risk a thing either -- except excess TV exposure and an excess of blonde groupies. The hero of the Wikileaks/Guardian/Times/Spiegel exposure is Pvt. Bradley Manning.
NO ONE gives a fruit fly's rectum about this heroic man now rotting in Obama's prison cell, facing a 52-year sentence. That includes Mr. Assange, who did nothing to protect Bradley and is doing nothing now.
My only hope is that, when Judgment is passed, Assange will join his fellows in that ring of Hell devoted to those who wear the mantle of courage stolen from others. I imagine Julian will burn quite nicely with that white silk scarf he sports around his neck.
But it's not just the Wicked Leaker who abandoned Manning. The New York Times, happy to take the bows for printing material this soldier risked his freedom for, has not lifted one finger for this brave man.
The Times, you'll recall, spent gazillions on the legal defense of that Defense Department camp follower Judith Miller, but not a penny for Manning. The Times editorialized in high dudgeon that Judith should not be jailed, but on Manning, you hear only the sounds of complicit silence
The Times greedily feasted on Manning's information, sold many an ad, then left their source's carcass to rot in a military dungeon. IS THERE NO SHAME?
This week, I am headed off to the Caspian Sea while struggling with ways to protect the skin and blood of three sources. I have decided to cancel one of the meetings, lose the story, rather than put a man of greater character than mine on the legal gallows.
I wish to thank, sincerely, those who voted me a hero, but a hero I am not. I'm the guy with the pencil, the reporter, telling you about the truly courageous, the folks -- like Bradley and Ellsberg -- who put their careers, and sometimes their corpses, on the line.
I once reported on the slaughter of fifty gold miners in Africa. They were working a site desired by a company on whose board of advisors sat George Bush Sr.
One of my sources, Tundu Lissu, for secretly passing the evidence to me from inside Tanzania, was charged with sedition. My paper, The Guardian, faced a ruinous lawsuit by Bush's buddies. Me too. The paper was rightly frightened (me too) and hoped I would withdraw the story. But I could not, would not, abandon Lissu. I have only two jobs: to report on the heroics of others -- and protect them.
And my thanks to "Pig Man #1" and "Caspian Man" for trusting me with your stories and your safety. Pvt. Manning is a hero. Assange is a zero.
It is the Mannings and Lissus and Ellsbergs who will save this sorry world, not preening camera-philiacs.