The Destruction of Freedom: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange And The Corporate Media
By David Cromwell
In 2013, US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence after she had leaked more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. Perhaps the most notorious of the releases was a US military video that WikiLeaks titled Collateral Murder. It showed the indiscriminate killing of up to eighteen people in Baghdad on 12th July 2007. The footage, taken from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, showed the slaying of a wounded Reuters journalist and his rescuers. A second Reuters staff member, employed as a driver and camera assistant, was also killed. Two young children, whose father was among those killed, were seriously wounded.
The video, together with the transcript of army exchanges during the indiscriminate US killings, shocked many around the world:
Light ‘em all up.
Come on, fire!
Keep shoot, keep shoot.
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.
The Courage Foundation, a trust set up to fundraise the legal defence of individuals such as whistleblowers and journalists, warns of the ‘Assange Precedent’; namely, the threat to all media posed by the Trump administration’s attempt to prosecute Julian Assange:
“All media organizations and journalists must recognize the threat to their freedom and ability to work posed by the Trump Administration’s prosecution of Assange. They should join human rights organizations, the United Nations and many others in opposing Assange’s extradition. They should do so out of their own self-interest given that their ability to safely publish is under serious threat.”
The Guardian had, of course, benefitted in publishing Greenwald’s work based on Manning’s releases via WikiLeaks, as well as book sales that were generated on the back of WikiLeaks’ work. In 2012, journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote that the British government’s pursuit of Julian Assange was “an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism”. He described the corporate media’s treatment of Assange as “a vituperative personal campaign”:
“Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.”
Pilger, who is well-versed in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ of the media, explained that it has already been clear for some considerable time how and why the corporate media operate in the way they do. It is now time for nonviolent direct action against the media that constantly promotes rapacious Western interests and erodes public freedoms:
“It is certainly right for us to protest – and I think our protests against the media should be more of a direct action now: occupy their spaces, occupy their buildings, confront them.”
Pilger added that “people who preserve human decency” – the majority, that is – need to ask ourselves what we are doing about the ongoing state and corporate assault on freedom of expression; and, indeed, on freedom itself:
“The Chelsea Manning/Julian Assange case goes to the very heart of everything. It is about freedom. It’s not just about freedom of expression. It is about justice. It is about the law: the use of law, the misuse of law. It is about right and wrong. If there is going to be any real debate, I think we have to confront it, and we have to do it on our terms; not through the hopeless cypher of a corporate media.”
The corporate media is institutionally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the public; that is why we reject the label ‘mainstream’. The corporate media, including BBC News, systematically promotes imperialist and exploitative state interests, together with private power in the form of big business, financial speculation, military forces, the arms industry, the fossil fuel lobby, destructive agribusiness, unsustainable food production and rampant global consumerism that is destroying ecosystems, ramping up mass loss of species and endangering human survival through climate chaos. This oppressive system, with the corporate media a vital cog in the apparatus, must be exposed, confronted, dismantled and replaced with a society that truly promotes democracy, justice and human potential. It is up to us to make it happen before it’s too late.
• Full article available via MediaLens at: https://bit.ly/2HJT6N1
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