The smear campaign against Bradley Manning took off the moment he was arrested, with professional snitch Adrian "I Have Asperger’s Syndrome" Lamo detailing how he supposedly ensnared Manning in his web and adding that the young intelligence analyst was merely vying for "attention" by "vacuuming up" all the secret data he could just for the hell of it. The "patriotic" Lamo, who had been fined $60,000 for his hacking crimes — i.e. breaking into the Lexis-Nexis web site — may not have been paid for his snitching, but then again we don’t know that, now do we? (Although one wonders how someone who lives in his parent’s basement, as Lamo apparently does, managed to pay off such a hefty fine….).
But that was just the beginning of the effort to discredit a very brave and idealistic young man: next came a flurry of purely speculative articles in which the writers went after Manning’s alleged sexuality. A number of "gay" web sites — one called, appropriately enough, "Queerty" — asserted that Manning is a "transsexual" undergoing the "transition" from male to female. This was just gossip, however, based on the flimsiest tissue of "fact," i.e. some of the phraseology he used in the (extensively edited) transcripts of conversations allegedly held between Lamo and Manning.
The sexual innuendo continued, however, and reached its apotheosis with the publication in the New York Times of an extensive article detailing the course of Manning’s personal life, entitled "Early Struggles of Soldier Charged in Leak Case." These "early struggles," the piece implied, were responsible in large part for Manning’s courageous act. It wasn’t his expressed outrage of the criminal goings on he discovered in the thousands of incident reports and diplomatic cables – "incredible things" — it was the fact that he had a hard time as a kid:
"He spent part of his childhood with his father in the arid plains of central Oklahoma, where classmates made fun of him for being a geek. He spent another part with his mother in a small, remote corner of southwest Wales, where classmates made fun of him for being gay."
Having abandoned the Judy Miller School of Journalism, the Times is now indulging in the Oprah Winfrey School — but it isn’t much of an improvement. The entire piece consists of gossip about Manning from some of his alleged "friends," from which we are supposed to infer the following:
"And now some of those friends say they wonder whether his desperation for acceptance — or delusions of grandeur — may have led him to disclose the largest trove of government secrets since the Pentagon Papers."
Now there’s some real objective reporting! Somehow this "reporter" – one Ginger Thompson – was too busy filing her nails to discover Manning’s real and clearly expressed motives for revealing Washington’s crimes to the sight of the whole world. It’s been widely reported that Manning saw the content of those 250,000 diplomatic cables and other secret materials to be "almost criminal political back dealings." These "incredible things, awful things," he averred, "belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC."
Manning’s motive should be obvious, even to a New York Times reporter, and yet the Times ignores his own words in favor of amateur psychologizing. We are treated to endless stories, retailed by Manning’s "friends," of what an outcast he was, how he had trouble at home, and how he supposedly was teased for being "gay." Or, at least, the students at his school in Wales – where he had gone to live with his mother after his parents’ divorce – thought so. Back in America, he lived with his father in a small town in Oklahoma until his (alleged) homosexuality was discovered. The Times alleges Manning "fell head over heels" for "a self-described drag queen," and …
God help me, but I can’t continue. Just relating this nonsense is enough to drive anyone over the brink, and I’ve about reached my limit. Really, one has to ask the "journalists" over at the Times, how is any of this relevant? Isn’t this piece just a compendium of rumors. anonymous backstabbing, and pure speculation?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that this vicious campaign of sexual innuendo and rumor-mongering is part and parcel of what may very well be a government-orchestrated campaign to drag Manning’s name through the mud. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Especially when the issue of gays in the military is getting the yahoos redder around the neck than usual, this is a way to mobilize a hate campaign against the "traitor," who’s a fag to boot.
Sickening, isn’t it?
Speaking of sickening, Michael Moynihan, Reason magazine’s cold-warrior-in-residence, has joined the chorus of voices, both neocon and left-liberal, calling for WikiLeaks to be prosecuted. Oh, of course, this being a "libertarian" magazine, he doesn’t quite come out and say it in so many words: that would require a degree of honesty that neither he nor his editors could muster, even on a good day.
What he does is make the case that WikiLeaks is not a "legitimate" journalistic enterprise, and Julian Assange is not a "real journalist," but rather an "activist." Not being a journalist, of course, could have ominous legal implications not only for Assange, but also for any of his American collaborators, who are currently being investigated by the feds. When the Nixon administration tried to prosecute the New York Times for publishing the leaked Pentagon papers, they were slapped down by the court, which found that such a prosecution was impermissible so long as the first amendment to the Constitution is in force. Attempts to prosecute WikiLeaks would presumably meet the same deserved fate – but not if government lawyers can take a page from Moynihan’s book and redesignate WikiLeaks as an "activist" site, rather than "real" journalism.
So why isn’t Assange a journalist, and WikiLeaks a valid journalistic enterprise? Well, says Moynihian, because a New York Times reporter – Bill Keller, who was given a copy of the Manning leak documents before they were posted on WikiLeaks – says so. Keller sniffs that Assange was "simply a source," but of course one’s fellow journalists are an important source for any reporter worth his salt. Moynihan goes on to cite (with a straight face) Keller, averring: "And unlike the Times, ‘they are an advocacy organization. They have a point of view, and an ideology…’"
Does Moynihan – not a libertarian, by even the loosest standard, but a garden variety conservative – really believe the Times has no point of view? Somehow I doubt it.
But of course Reason magazine, which published Moynihan’s screed, has a very definite ideology: they are self-proclaimed "libertarians," although they’re just Republicans who like to smoke weed and approve of gay marriage. But never mind all that inside baseball: the point is that Reason is an ideological magazine, with a very definite point of view. Does that mean Moynihan isn’t a "real" journalist?
Okay, so a big wheel at the New York Times, who probably sits down the hall from Ginger, doesn’t think Assange is a legitimate member of the Fourth Estate, and WikiLeaks is just "activism." So what?
Well, in case there are any remaining skeptics, who fail to be impressed by Keller’s interdict, Moynihan cites another excommunication from the other side of the political spectrum: none other than Eli Lake, of the Washington Times.
Formerly of the New York Sun, and now the "national security correspondent" of the chief Moonie mouthpiece in America, Señor Lake is a bit of an "activist" himself. The Sun, after all, was an explicitly ideological rag, founded by a couple of neocon millionaires with an explicitly stated agenda: support for the invasion of Iraq and George W. Bush’s "war on terrorism." It’s not known whether Lake authored a Sun editorial calling for the banning of an antiwar demonstration on the eve of the invasion, but you just have to Google his name to see where his inclinations lie.
In any case, Lake, unsurprisingly, is of the opinion that
"Assange is ‘an activist who understands computer code,’ not a journalist. Incidentally, Lake describes himself as generally ‘pro-leak’ and complains that Assange ‘will now be the poster boy for everyone who wants to create an official secrets act in the United States.’"
It looks like Lake is only "pro-leak" when the leak involves an AIPAC official who was receiving top secret information from the Pentagon’s top Iran analyst and handing it over to Israeli government officials – but not in Assange’s case. We don’t need an Official Secrets Act to prosecute spies from "friendly" Israel: laws against espionage aren’t directed at keeping the American people in the dark about the immoral and possibly illegal actions of their own government. Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman were spying on behalf of a foreign power: Manning and Assange are "spying" on behalf of the American people, who have every right to know what their government is doing.
Moynihan goes on to promote the canard that the WikiLeaks documents compromise and endanger the Afghan government’s spies, and our own informants, but neglects to note that Assange offered US government officials a first look at the materials he intended to post, so they could expunge any such incriminating evidence. There was no response to his offer. That’s how much the US government cares about the safety of their Afghan quislings.
"In its four years of existence," Moynihan pontificates, WikiLeaks "has produced a handful of interesting and impressive scoops, but the dreaded ‘mainstream media’ has done far more."
Balderdash. Go here and read the long list of WikiLeaks scoops – and scoops, I might add, of a particular sort, i.e. the sort the "mainstream" wouldn’t touch for fear of legal action and/or offending the powerful. From the looting of Iceland’s banks by insiders, to the emails written by government scientists revealing a coordinated "cooking" of the "science" to support the theory of global warming, to the "Collateral Murder" video, WikiLeaks has given us the raw truth, unmediated by interpretation or spin. It’s simply stupid to deny WikiLeaks has made a valuable contribution, but that’s the kind of "journalism" Moynihan represents: journalism in the service of Power.
"So by all means, Julian," snarks Moynihan, "stump for more openness, publish more leaks, continue your attempts to ‘achieve justice.’ But stop calling yourself a journalist." Yes, stop calling yourself a journalist so the feds can prosecute you, crush WikiLeaks, and take you down. That’s what a "libertarian" like Moynihan wants to see.
There is only one possible response to this transparent attempt to set up Assange for prosecution, but since this is a "family"-safe web site – and since there are laws against inciting a lynching – I will refrain from being any more explicit.
What is clear to me is this: there is a coordinated campaign to defame both Assange and Manning, and I have no doubt the US government is directly involved in this effort. Just as they tried to destroy Dan Ellsberg, so they are unleashing their agents (paid and volunteer) on these two very brave people. They want to divert attention away from the content of what is being exposed, and direct it back on the whistleblowers: they don’t want people debating the wisdom of the Afghan occupation, they would much rather talk about Assange’s journalistic credentials and Manning’s sex life.
It won’t work. The American people are waking up, and the online antiwar community is a major factor in this awakening – perhaps it is the major factor, at this point. And I would point out to Moynihan that "achieving justice" – with or without scare quotes – is not entirely incompatible with reputable journalism, although it is apparently not a factor in his own career as a scribbler. To each their own.